Monday, December 22, 2008

Limits of Emulating Real Life

In the making of any game, the developers have to ask themselves how much some things have to be emulated, or how much they have to be real. Be it physics, lighting, spawning or AI, everything is important, and often a middle ground must be found, because usually no single concept offers the whole answer.

Take monster spawning, for example. The traditional way of handling respawns is to have creatures pop out of thin air, with no explanation as to why or how they do it; and the harder it is to explain something, the harder it is to suspend one's disbelief. At the opposite end of the scale, however, every spawn is explained in details (and education videos), which takes more hardware to run than all the players together; not really a position in which you want to find yourself, unless you consider the players to be a background upon which the NPCs play their carefully-orchestrated masterpiece.

Finding a middle ground, you want to spawn creatures within growing groups, away from a player's eyes. The circumstances surrounding the addition to a member - or more - to that group should be good enough that the birth of that creature should be obvious and predictable, so that total immersion into the game world can be achieved. You also want the nature of the spawned creature to fit with the game world; should it spawn a member of a species which starts young, then it should be young. Should it spawn within a species with castes, it should belong to a caste, such that the group will be better off with it. And, of course, you should apply a generous amount of randomness in the new creature's abilities, so it can be differentiated from other members of its group, within the capacities of the species and group, of course.

However, there's still plenty of room for deciding how to do things. Do creatures age at a continuous rate, such that you can observe it changing slowly over time, or they they hit stages of life and pop to their new form? Are the capacities of a member decided randomly, or are they affected by its environment? And, of course, do its belonging appear upon birth, or does your creature acquire them through hard, virtual work?

You might also want to compare with the current games on market. People are used to enemies popping into existence, and would probably not look twice if creatures appeared to change before them, without visible reason. The idealism of a realistic virtual world is laudable, but it serves little purpose if it takes you a month to create something the players will never see. Balance in all things also applies to game creation, it seems.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Laws

Countries have laws. That's how you make people behave because, seriously, half of them are savages. How you uphold these laws depends on your available resources. With magic, it's kind of easy; just make sure anyone who enters your country accepts a law spell, binding them to the laws of the country, with unlawful actions resulting it automatic penalties upon the lawbreaker.

That being said, what can laws cover? Murder and thievery, of course, at least as applied to lawful citizens of the territories. You'll want to make sure people feel safe in your country, otherwise you might have trouble getting citizens to want joining your country. If you want to establish global or specific taxes, that's entirely in your right. You also want laws which establish your system of beliefs, so that like-minded people prefer your country to allies' or rivals'.

Of course, nobody is forcing you to have fair laws; if you want thievery and murder to be legal (at least against people who aren't YOU), then by all means make them legal. If you don't want goody-two-shoes entering your country, then make it illegal for goody-two-shoesians to do so. Or tax the heck out of them; who said you had to be fair? You're the king (or president, dictator, comrade, what have you), and whoever finds it a good idea to argue with you will find themselves quite acquainted with the meaning of "full extend of the law".

Perhaps more importantly, however, you want to consider the laws of neighboring states; should one of them have strict beliefs regarding certain aspects, you should at least acknowledge them, otherwise no alliance would be possible. With conflicting laws, you will have to actually pick your allies, and it's never possible to satisfy everyone. Enemies will grow of former allies, and wars will be forced upon pacifists, stuck between enemies fighting over trivialities; war is never pretty, but it rarely gets worst than good people fighting for no reason than upholding arbitrary laws.

Yes, laws are important, even when there are none. They define the country and, ultimately, they define the people who live within it, from the humble peasant to the mighty rulers. It's what you believe in, it's the laws you decide to obey that show who you are, and determine your overall experience - be it as a noble paladin or cunning rogue, you will obey the laws, or suffer the consequences.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mood Swings

You know you're an adventurer when you can go from the wildest berserker rage to a cowardly retreat within the beat of a heart. The way things work, your mood is affected by what you need to do to react correctly to your environment; how you feel at the moment has no effect on your overall disposition.

What if it was different? (Yes, I know, how unexpected of me). States of mind are not something people can normally easily manipulate; doing so requires monk-like training of both the mind and body. Better to just go with the mood.

But what ARE moods? Moods are anger, fear, love (or lust), hatred, sadness, and all other feelings that make the palette of human emotions. Moods also affect how you act; if a warrior manages to make you angry because of his taunts, then it's normal to want to hurt him. When affected by a fear spell, you'll probably want to run away, because your attacks will be slow and clumsy. Likewise, charms can be dispelled by reminding yourself that that thing over there has tentacles and mouths where they don't belong and are these bones and I'm going to die help me please...

Essentially, moods should move only slowly and over time. A fear spell might not be your best choice against a berserking warrior, just as trying to freezing the mage in his track would be a less than temporary impediment to your opponent, who would most likely not hold back on retaliations. Applied correctly, however, it can prevent the squishiest members of you group from losing the internal part of their favorite organs. Know your targets, and know your capacities, and you will succeed where the best would falter. Let the moods always swing in your favor.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Basics of a Game World

It's all in the crystals. Really, it is. Crystals have the intrinsic ability of being associated with magical powers, and nobody will ever question a crystal's abilities, because hey, you don't know what they can do.

So if I decide that, say, crystals have the ability to store energy, nobody will question it; it's such a basic concept that it would actually be accepted without any complain. With this, you can make energy your currency - it is transferred easily from crystal to crystal, taken as life energy from the bodies of slain foes, even discharged from items with magical potential.

Once you've established that crystals hold energy, you can make them do plenty of things with it. Want to travel to a remote location? Use energy. Want to enchant an item? Use energy. Died and need to be transported someplace safe? Use energy, if you have any. Every action could have an energy cost or benefit, and it would make a lot more sense than magically converting gold pieces to labor or materials.

Now, we're back to the crystals. See, crystals can do more than store energy - they can be your essential traveling accessory and companion. The crystal provides the game interface, opening holographic windows in front of your character in response to your keystrokes. It contains its own dimension, allowing you to store items as if it was a proverbial hero's almost endless backpack; better yet, with the proper training, material and, of course, energy, you can increase its capacity to suit your growing needs!

Your life crystal is what lets you send messages to far away people. It shows you direction and your surrounding. It records every location to which you have been so that you may travel there again. It knows the name of all your friends and records every last bit of information you might need - not to mention having access to an exhaustive library containing every relevant information one could want. It is your crystal that first greets you in the morning, and the last thing you will see and hear before falling asleep is what you programmed your crystal to show and sing to you.

Do you see the beauty? It's a simple system that encompasses concepts of MMORPGs that have stayed with us so long but which always seemed a bit out of place, as if they were added without much forethought about the impossibility of their presence. With a single concept, a single word, you can have a world that makes sense, from the first shiny to the last dragon; it's a self-contained world, all ready to be explored.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rebirth of the Thoughts

So it was two years ago that these humble ramblings first appeared, and it is only appropriate that they should come back on the same day.

I could have posted sooner, but that would simply have resulted in a few sporadic posts. I don't think too many people would want to show up to see a post every month, so I instead kept ideas aside for a grand re-opening. Or something like that.

The point is, the Thoughts are back, and not much has changed, so I hope you keep enjoying my writings!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Exploring the Genres

The thoughts so far have talked about an MMORPGs of the fantasy genre, by far the most common genre in the current market, but it would also be possible to use the concepts exposed with other genres. Let's take a few of the most popular genres for comparison.

Science-fiction is, of course, the obvious first, being both popular and fairly common. The skill tree of a combat-oriented science-fiction game would be somewhat different, with less emphasize on melee combat, and more on ranged and mechanically-assisted fighting. Crafting wouldn't use many hammers or needles, instead relying on automated mechanics, of both the micro and macro kinds, and the portable and industry sizes, taking instructions from the crafter. Vehicles become more important, ranging from portable impulse generators to space stations rivaling the sizes of inhabited moons. Whether you're planet-side, hunting exotic animals in no less exotic terrains, or fighting the good fight against alien invaders in your rental space ship, you're bound to have the time of your life in a science-fiction MMO.

Next in line is an MMORPG striving for realism, and here you have some problems, because MMOs being what they are, people are bound to get hurt; and if you push the realism too far, you'll find customers quite dissatisfied at permanently losing limbs, or worse. Every forward push of the fun takes away from the realism, until your game has more rule and loopholes than a poorly-worded NDA. Not to say that it's impossible, of course, but I'm not holding out for The Sims 3 to rival World of Warcraft's combat experience just yet.

There's also science-fantasy, where psionic capabilities rival microgravitic field generators. This is the realm of jedi knights saving helpless princesses from multidimensional dragons. You might not have mighty wizards wielding arcane powers and fireballs, but you can be sure the ill-defined laws of the supernatural will offer just the same experience. Like the science-fiction world, the science-fantasy universe will offer multiple planets to explore and conquer, but they will have a greater emphasis on personal capabilities; people with supernatural powers are of little help in ship-to-ship combat, but they will offer great support during close-encounter fights, leading to much different tactics.

Finally, there's steampunk, the oft-forgotten child of history and realistic fantasies, where one can build autonomous androids with a coil of wire and the right Swiss army knife; here, there aren't many machines of mass destruction (not that it'll stop some from trying), so close combat is again important, but you will see a significant number of pseudo-technological objects, from pistols and blunderbusses to esoteric devices affecting the world in every way imaginable. There's no lack of things to do here, so it's probably from a lack of awareness or desire that a world of steam-powered mechanical animals hasn't risen up to the glories of MMORPGs yet.

These is just beginning to scratch the surface of different genres, of course. There could be a lot more to say about those genres (and maybe more will actually be said), and other genres are also possible. Fantasy is king, yes, but even lowly pawns can overtake the mighty king.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Is Procedural The Key?

First, read this fascinating article at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Done? Good. Then, at this point, you can't but be as excited as I am about a game that actually tries to make a dynamic MMO. I believe that Love, as it is called, can be a revolution in MMORPG; granted, a man working alone has significantly limited possibilities, but even with one hundredth of the current subscribers of WoW (10 millions, if you need to know), Love wouldn't fail to attract attention from deep-pocket corporations, and some of them might actually want to do more than a me-too game.

With a world that is different every time you visit it, and players who do not feel threatened by a game that tries to be more than the rest and deviates from the norm, you will see in Love nothing short than a new age of MMOs, something that will take gaming, in all its forms, leaps forward, in an era of player-driven worlds and compelling stories. Until then, mister Steenberg, we are waiting. Please don't go Duke Nukem Forever on us...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Remember Ultima Online

I remember UO. I was a tamer, yessir, best there was. Anyone needed a mustang, they knew they'd come to me, best tamer, best prices. Of courses, animals were next to useless in combat, but that didn't matter much. Taming was great for me, and that's all that mattered. How this matters is, of course, that I'm going to be talking about animal taming; specifically, the training part of the taming.

In UO, a tamed pet is expected to know all commands. It will understand your speech and attack, follow, move or fetch the newspaper at a word's command. A more interesting concept would have the tamer teach commands to the pet.

A pet would have a base intelligence, which indicates how many commands it can learn. If the pet age is to be a factor, then we can assume an old dog will have more command slots available. These slots are to be filled by a tamer with the appropriate skill learned, through interaction with the pet (Hey, another potential minigame there!). Assuming the taming was successful, the new command can then be used by the pet's master.

Before learning new tricks, however, the pet would need to fulfill some requirements. Besides having enough skill slots, and the intelligence to understand the command, it would need to have trained with the master before, understanding and forming a bound with them. That bound allows a pet to want to perform tricks for the master, in a mutually beneficial fashion. Pets that get transferred to new masters retain their skills, but are unable or unwilling to use them until the new master's bound is high enough.

In other words, taming a colossus of a pet is nice, but you will need to invest lots and lots of time into training it into something decent, and don't even get started on the cost of A-grade dragon meat; feeding a humongous creature is always a costly matter. On the other hand, if all you want is to give a friend a cute puppy, then you've got it easy; dogs are smart and loyal, and not only will they learn cute tricks very easily, they will also form bounds with their new master quickly. New tricks can even be taught by a new master, allowing for tamers specializing in taming or training of particular creatures.

All this can, of course, be adjusted for other forms of companionship. Golems can adapt their positronic brains to suit new tasks, or simply assimilate magical elements that explain new behaviors. Skeletons which go to combat often can actually learn the tricks, and zombies that eat enough brains might start to think better. With evolving allies, one could keep the same pets around for very long periods, without having to worry that their followers would start lagging behind their own development. Of course, you don't have to train them, if you don't want to; piles of bones and stacks of rocks will crush opponents pretty well without training, but sometimes it's the little extra length that makes all the difference. That, and seeing the puppy dance. That's a lot of brownie points right there.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Currency

Forget gold pieces, platinums, dollars or even buckazoids; give me shinies.

That is all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mabinogi Review

Mabinogi is an MMORPG developed by the Korean game corporation, Nexon (Also responsible for the popular platformer MMO, Maple Story). The medieval-fantasy setting of Mabinogi is certainly nothing to write home about, but where the game shines is with the core game mechanics, which lie a long step ahead of the competition in term of player interaction. One's success in the game is actually largely influenced by the skills and knowledge of the player.

Taking combat as the first example, by picking the correct skill to use against an enemy, a skillful player can overcome an enemy much more powerful than themselves; conversely, one who does not understand or has not mastered the combat system will often fail, even against enemies of a fraction of their level. The combat system itself is quite complex, and requiring a lot of time to fully understand, but it revolves around a rock-paper-scissor system, which is shared by the players and enemies alike - although some enemies do enjoy some natural abilities outside of the normal combat skills. Magic is done in a similar manner, and choosing between fire, lightning and ice, each having their own distinct effects, can determine the positive or negative outcome of a battle.

Player advancement takes the form of levels, skills and attributes. Levels are what could be expected of an MMORPG, with the exception that level alone does not determine much of a player's survival abilities. While gaining a level does grant increased attributes and the highly-coveted ability point (AP), it is not, by itself, a one-way trip to great power and adulation. Levels simply help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. The second form of advancement, skills, are simply a more advanced form of skill levels from other MMORPGs. One advances skill by spending the aforementioned AP, available upon leveling, completion of some quests and aging (More on that later). Skills, however, must be trained before being increasable, either through usage, studying, or both, where appropriate. Characters have no strict classes, and are given the choice of picking as many or as few skills as they like; increasing skills, in most cases, requires exponentially more AP, meaning that mastering many skills (getting the rank 1, with ranks going from F to 1, in a reverse hexadecimal numbering system) would require lots of dedication and knowledge from the player. Finally, attributes are the stats that determine the exact outcome of most actions; high strength means more melee damage, high intelligence better magic, high luck more item drops, etc. Attributes are increased through leveling, increasing skill levels, aging and dieting... well, food consumption, at any rate. You can eat meat all day, and it WILL increase your strength - by a small amount - but it will also most likely make you fat, with your character's appearance matching the part. Luckily, gaining or losing weight does not otherwise affect a character.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the 'life' skills, skills not directly related to combat. You can gain skills like cooking, smithing, enchanting, campfire and resting (which allows you to sit - you don't otherwise have the knowledge of the arcane magic of "sitting"). Of these, the main production skills include a small minigame, using the player's skill to determine, in part, the outcome of the production; cooking, for example, requires that the player select the proportions of the ingredients, using a fuzzy and somewhat unpredictable minigame, meaning that more skillful and experienced players will create better food, which allows for better temporary attribute boosts and, in the case of exceptionally good food, short cutscenes showing the character's level of appreciation for the food.

Players also have access to musical instruments, allowing them to play music in the game; in conjunction with the music composition and music theory skills, the instrument playing skill allows the player to play whatever song they can create, from great classics to the anime-du-jour's theme song.

Also interesting to note is the character's age, which plays a great part in determining the type of game the player will be confronted with. Characters can start between the ages of 10 and 17, with 10-years-old characters having lower starting attributes, but gaining them faster over time; this means that experienced players who start at a younger age will end up stronger than their older counterparts. However, attributes increases on leveling up are not flat, but dependent on a character's age, so starting at age 10 might be better for, say, increasing one's luck, but their intelligence will not increase upon leveling up until they get older, meaning that mages will be at a disadvantage if they decide to level up at a lower age. Age also determines a character's height, from short 10-years-old to adult characters (those of age 18 or above).

There would be much more to talk about here, but I believe the point is made; this game is, I believe, along the path of evolution for the MMO genre, propelling the genre forward with convention-shattering mechanics which would make gaming philosophers red with shame. Any real MMO enthusiast owe it to themselves to try this game at least once, and with the coming of the 'first generation' (G1) update, there is now much to do in Mabinogi (Although we can only hope that the game will be able to catch up with its Korean counterpart, which has been enjoying more advanced features for years now).

On a final note, the game is free to play, with additional features available through the cash shop. Pets and fluff items are planned, but most importantly, the characters cards are available, which allow one to either create an additional character on an account (Limited to one initially), or rebirth an existing character, re-setting their age and attributes (Except attributes from skills) and optionally changing their appearance, but keeping the character's skills. At high level, rebirthing is the only viable way to increase skills, since APs are slower to come by the more your character gains age and levels. This way, one can pay to increase their character's power, which acts similar to an optional monthly cost that increases the rate of power gain.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Concentration as a Resource

Last time, I mentioned that getting hit could temporarily reduce your concentration. One is in their right to ask; what, exactly, does concentration do?

In the Real Life MMORPG, concentration is what allows you to keep track of what's in your head. Better concentration will allow you to solve more complicated problems, avoid distractions and ignore annoying people. In an MMORPG trying to emulated this all-time favorite, concentration would be a resource, which gets filled with what you do.

Say, you're a sword fighter; a barbarian. You don't have much to think about... The foe is over there, try to hit him while he doesn't hit you. If you start fighting defensively, you start concentrating on your opponent's moves, trying to find an opening. Your concentration is fully taken by your opponent. But what if some idiot starts throwing rocks at you? You can either ignore them, or try to avoid them; either way, it's going to start eating at your concentration. Fighting more opponents means you have less time to dedicate to beating them to a pulp.

What if your barbarian is also a tamer? You can send your pet panther at the village idiot, but that would mean you have to give orders, and you have to make sure the pet isn't doing anything bad. Overseeing minions does take away from your concentration.

What if you also have a friend with you? Your trusty mage sidekick is behind you, tossing pain and destruction at your mutual opponent, while relying on you to defend him. You have to keep between the friends and the foes, lest the friends start looking for a new meat shield. Concentration is taken away, once again, by having to worry about something. A tank you may be, but you're a tank with lots on his mind. Now you really wish you had paid more attention in those meditation lessons.

The concept would be the same for a magic-user. The spells you cast will take away at your concentration, and gosh forbid you should cast a continuous spell; simply keeping into effect would take parts of your concentration away, not to be recuperated until the spell is gone. Of course, you can always customize the spells you use to fill exactly as much concentration as you need them to, but that doesn't mean the system is any easier on you.

Keeping track of every effect affecting concentration may be more complicated than what the average gamer is used to, and with today's attention spans at an all-time low, one would be better off picking one role, and sticking to it. Sure, you can learn all the skills you want, but don't expect to marsh in the middle of armies, completely invincible. Sooner or later, your concentration will be overwhelmed, and you will fall. Hard.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Value of Pain

There you have Samron, the warrior. Samron is a tough guy; he will take hits from his foes all day and never feel the least bit of pain. He doesn't expect his foes to feel any, either. Why would anyone want to stop fighting to feel pain, anyway? That would just be silly.

Of course, Samron does have kind of a point. If players get hit all day, it doesn't make any sense to have them feel pain. A warrior who feels pain would fall to the ground after the hundredth stab (Or perhaps go insane and enjoy the pain, but that's another story). What we need is a game where hitting someone isn't so trivialized. Pirates of the Burning Sea had something like that; attacks aren't directed at the opponent's health, but at their balance. When the opponent's balance is lowered enough, you can start shoving pieces of metal through their bodies, with lots fewer chances of the opponent avoiding the attack somehow.

What happens, then, when people start feeling pain? Well, for one, players will have a much greater respect for willpower. Typically, those who have high willpower in role-playing games are the wizards and mages, who are expected to put lots of efforts towards their craft. Personally, I don't really see a wizard take a few punches and keep dishing them, which would be a pretty good standard for willpower if I ever saw one.

No, those who need willpower the most are the front line soldiers, people who are expected to stand between the squishies and the squishers, shields high, blocking and taking hits so that people who can't take care of themselves still get their share of the loot at the end of the day.

So what would pain do to those who aren't tough heroes of the front lines? Why, it sends them to their knee, of course. Few people could take a sword or a mace to the face and stand proud before their enemies. Since they are adventurers, however, we will assume that they are not totally unaware of pain, and have come somewhat prepared. For those who can take pain, however, it's not as if there is no penalty. Concentration, for one, suffers greatly. Tossing spells and shooting projectiles is not something you want to do when you have your mind preoccupied by the large, bloodied crack in your skull.

With concentration as a resource, players would be much warier of getting hit. The damage may be a few inconsequential, quickly healed hit points, but the loss of concentration from the hit and pain might mean the difference between a well-placed fireball and a misfired fire bolt.

So next time you stand behind your favorite tank, dishing out your favorite mass-murder incantations at unsuspecting mobs, take a moment to thank the warrior for taking the hits for you. He might be wearing thick armor with more spikes than a hedgehog on speeds, but no one likes to take a club across the face. He's doing it to protect you, so be nice to his still diminishing IQ points now, will ya?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Let's Go Cray

If you've been reading these rantings for a while, you know that I want more from an MMORPG than what is offered today. I want realistic advancement. I want a realistic world to explore and conquer. I want fun trade-skills, and generally fun at every corner. But there's also lots of things that I think would be fun, but I haven't mentioned because they aren't practical, due to hardware or social limitations. So I'm going to go crazy now, and name all the pretty ponies I want for my birthday.

First of all, what about a full character customization? Having lots of options is nice, and the Elder Scrolls series has a nice character customization, but what if we could get more? Say, going clay modeling for the face, or opening 3D studio to design the character; or maybe picking hair style by combining many styles into one. This would certainly be leaps forward compared to current MMO trends.
Chances of this happening : We won't see anything this advanced because people can't be trusted with full openness; I'm still holding out for something that makes me go 'wow' the way Oblivion did.

What about a nice social network? You could rate the people you interact with in-game, and the game would tell you how much it expects you to like other people. People with similar beliefs would be registered by a state-of-the-art AI and could more easily find each other, thus enhancing their game experience.
Chances of this happening : I'm not holding my breath; socializers are usually the first ones to suffer from budget cuts.
(For those who are more programming-savvy, I've been told that friend-of-a-friend software is O (n^2), so it probably won't happen for a while)

If we're going crazy, why not add destructible environment? With real world constraint calculations? And realistic physics, thrown in for good measure? Of course, the ability to interact with the environment and leave a lasting mark would be nice, but what we all know we want is to see what happens you we toss fireballs around like maniacs. Show me a gamer who doesn't like explosives and I'll show you someone in denial.
Chances of this happening : Cold day in heck. Aside from the fact that MMORPGs of today are static games, we also have to remember that the system needs to do all of those things simultaneously for all those people connected. It's nice to dream, but unless they invent infinite computational power tomorrow, I won't be holding my breath too long...

Could be more, of course... What about growing up as a child? The ability of a game to interact with the real world in a meaningful way, such that real work can be accomplished in a more relaxing atmosphere? Or a smart, unpredictable AI? Heck, any AI at all would be nice. Just toss us an AI bone. We'll take anything, really.


What else have I forgotten? Aside from virtual reality, or mixing all the genres into one large mega-game, what else could be done, in a perfect world, to move the MMORPG genre forward, and help the cause of boredom-deprivation?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Reverse-Engineering Crafting

Wouldn't it be nice to find a nice Sword of Everlasting Pepper, and be able to tell how it's made? Check out the blade and learn about the crafting process; cut out the leather hilt to tell where it came from; or maybe analyze the enchantment to know how you, too, would be able to create spicy, delicious condiments at a moment's notice, astounding friends and foes alike with your culinary prowesses.

You would first go to your trainer, of course, asking if he, or any of his colleagues, knew how to create the desired ingredient-spawning magic. Learning that such an art is only known to a currently hostile population, but knowing that your life would have no meaning without the capacity to summon the indispensable treat at will, you would venture in a long trek along snaky roads and pointy mountains, braving dangers unknown to sentient-kind, only to yet again face death in the hands of the spicy masters. Claiming your prize, you would go along disassembling it, hoping you would be skillful enough to pinpoint and understand what, exactly, makes deadly arsenals create such a delightful supplement.

Playing a minigame of difficulty varying depending on the power of the knowledge or knowledges you seek proportional to your own, you hope that you can understand the mysteries of sharp and blunt seasoning before you completely ruin the weapon; should you fail, you would be forced to find another similarly powered item to once again attempt reverse-engineering the peppering process. Should you win, of course, you would be covered with glory; you would sell the final products to rich warriors hoping to add a little spice to their fights (horrible pun intended), and masters of the arts would travel from distant lands in hope of trading secrets with one such as you.

This is the only thing keeping you going, of course. Through freezing tundras or fiery volcanoes you march, with the only thought being of the power and glory that would be rightfully yours should you manage to bring the knowledge of such power to your undeserving homelands. Be proud, my friend, for your goal is noble. We will await you here, knowing, with each bland meal, that you are working hard to deliver us from our culinary impediments. Forward!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Magic-Intensive World

Everywhere you look, it's pretty much always the same things... You've got the throng of medieval-fantasy worlds on one side, then the ones trying something different on the other... There's science-fiction, modern, science-fantasy and a few others, of course, which should be praised for at least not introducing even more orcs and elves to an already Tolkien-saturated market, but beyond those few gems of varying shines, there's little to keep a fantasy enthusiast entertained.

An idea I had is of a fantasy world not unlike those swords-and-fireballs me-too clones out there, but with the distinction that magic is a prevalent and abundant power. Most people, no matter their profession, are expected to know their own share of magic, and science, for the most part, is relegated to hobbyists looking to pass the time between their magic-using jobs and watching the magic TV. That is not to say that people of the magical world are still using flint stones to skin the Tarrasque, of course, since an abundance of magic means a lot of potential for growth that do not require knowledge of fission. Buildings are built by taking the raw materials and shaping them in the desired shape; food is grown and harvested by highly specialized agricultural spells, and whatever tools a magical society does need are created by telling the otherwise obedient laws of nature to shut up and do as they're told.

Barring external forces, our magic society would evolve towards an utopia at an alarming rate. A powerful and common magic means most actions are easier to take than within a non-magical world, so fewer people are necessary to do the basic maintenance, leaving more people to advance the arts of the crafts even further. In an advanced magic society, sustenance is assured, work loads are light and movement is trivial. All that's left is to create greater and greater things. That, or finding an opposing force, of course, which is somewhat typical of an MMORPG.

So yes, strictly speaking, it might be a medieval fantasy game, but you'll have to search long before you find a sword to swing, or a dragon that isn't friendly or dead. People might still need help, though. Now where did I put this 'summon exclamation mark' scroll, already?