Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Games Made Me: InQuest Gamer Magazine

Games Made Me is a series of posts where nostalgia gets the best of me and I dip into my gaming past for things that have made me the gamer that I am.  One of those items was InQuest Gamer magazine.  InQuest Gamer started in 1995 and ceased publication in 2007.

InQuest felt like it was tailored for me as a gamer.  It covered the range from board games, to collectible/trading card games, and then into the realm of MMORPGs.  The magazine grew up through the early days of Internet gaming (aka the golden era of MMORPGs with Everquest and Ultima Online) and overlapped the rise of games like Magic the Gathering and Pokemon.  As a young gamer I could ask for nothing more.

My journey with InQuest started when I was working at a grocery store and the magazine caught my eye on the rack.  It hooked me and I was mailing out one of the cards for a subscription the same day (some of you young folk may be surprised to learn we had to write on a piece of paper and put it in the mail to get things done).

While I was mostly interested in the coverage on games like Magic the Gathering (MtG) and the Pokemon TCG which InQuest covered in detail the magazine also became my primary vector into news and information about some online games called Ultima Online (UO) and Everquest (EQ).  At the time our potato of a home computer could handle running text MUDs (multi user dungeons), but games like UO and definitely any sort of 3D game like EQ were out of the picture.  Fortunately, there, in full color and glory, were stories from these online worlds for me to enjoy in InQuest Gamer.  

The articles, like the Bad Boys article featured in the magazine cover above, warped my mind about the possibilities of online games (so much so that over 20+ years later I still remember reading them!). The Bad Boys article covered a player from UO and one from EQ.  The UO portion focused on a player named Redkiller that hunted down red players (aka player killers) to protect their player built city while the EQ portion covered a player talking about the big bad dungeon and losing their stuff in it's depths.  To be honest, hunting down players who killed other players and managing a player built city, sounded way cooler than fighting in a dungeon.  I've been a PvP focused gamer ever since.

Reading the tales of Redkiller in that Bad Boys article convinced me that I had to play Ultima Online and the moment I had the chance to buy a non-potato computer for myself I did so and a short trip to GameStop and I had a copy of Ultima Online (which I still have that box and materials today - except the cloth map).  My gaming existence has never been the same.

InQuest Gamer magazine made me the gamer I am today.

Monday, September 26, 2022

MyMMORPG: Let's dream one up!

 Listening to various podcasts about Ashes of Creation and listening to folks overlay their hearts and dreams on the game has made me think about what I'd want out of an MMORPG.  Combined with my recent "a post a day" commitment to get back into blogging I figured it was time to start my long awaited series on "My MMORPG" and the game I'd make if I was Steven-rich.

The question is where do you start this quest?  Do you come up with a long list of things to do?  An outline of the entire thing?  Define the business model; is it free to play or a subscription?  Write the story first?  

Personally I have a saying I like to use in my career "If something is worth doing it is worth doing WRONG." What does that have to do with where to start?  Fair question. I bring this up here because I want this to be a start but not the only start.  We may be back here again in the near future.  Maybe feedback makes me change course.  Maybe a brilliant idea later down the road requires something earlier on changes.  Regardless I have a couple goals to get started here.

  1. This first post has to set the framework
  2. Keep it simple

So where do we start?  Simple: the world and setting for the game and to keep it simple and set the framework for future conversations this post would be better titled as "The Not-Star-Wars MMORPG". Follow along to find out why.

When I look back on any MMORPG I've played (or wish I could play) the first thing that always catches my attention is the world and setting.  Ultima Online?  Basically took every medieval text MUD I had ever played and put it on screen.  World of Warcraft? Warcraft where I get to play that orc on the battlfield!? Count me in!  Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning?  Duh (and sigh).  Star Wars Galaxies?  Ummm; duh x2!  New World? A cool setting that hooked me before I ever hit log in.

So why "Not-Star-Wars"?  Simple: Star Wars has everything in a setting that I'd want in my dream MMORPG, but I would never want to put my chips into a game that can be ended on the whim of an intellectual property owner.

Let's work through what "Not-Star-Wars" brings to us:

  • Melee combat
  • Ranged combat
  • Magic 
  • Not-magic
  • Mounts
  • Vehicles (aka multiplayer mounts)
  • Houses
  • Spaceships (aka space houses)
  • Varied planets (i.e. zones and instanced content)
  • Multiple races
  • Multiple classes
  • Crafting

Probably the biggest benefit of this setting that pays off the most is the "varied planets".  Planets and space travel between them is the ideal contextual reason for zones and instanced content to exist without turning the game into hub and spoke and thus losing the M for Massive.  While the world setting doesn't need to explain everything the more it is able to justify for mechanics to exist the better the game will feel.  It would make immediate sense to a player that they are jumping in a space ship, zooming through space, and ending up on a unique alien planet that only they and their group are present on.

This also allows this MMORPG to target the "mega server" model instead of "single server" and have it all make sense with the way the universe is set up.  All players need to be in one single universe with the chance at any time to interact with any other player.  This eliminates problems such as scaling up single servers to deal with population growths and eliminates the follow on problems of having to merge servers down.  The universe just exists and it makes sense when you jump in a space ship and fly off to a planet that you are off by yourself and then joining back on a busy core planet with thousands of other players.

Another benefit that some old school MMORPG players will welcome is that space travel, inside a fully customized player ship, can bring back the social aspect that has been missing due to the "get you directly into a group and into content" model of "group finders" in most MMORPGs.  Don't get me wrong; I want games to connect players via in game tools but what I also want to ensure it drops players into the opportunity to socialize and not just at the starting point a sprint.  Sitting around in a space ship, making preparations for the content, and socializing with your fellow players is huge.  Scale this concept up to core planets and ideas like space stations: the core of setting should be places for players to interact socially.

As my bulleted list shows there is a lot of pieces that fit with Not-Star-Wars and give context to game systems and mechanics MMORPG players are familiar with.  Again the most important aspect is that the setting gives context to many MMORPG staple systems such as zones, instanced content, socializing and more.

More to come on MyMMORPG!  Have thoughts?  Think I am starting in the wrong place or heading in the wrong direction?  Leave a comment.  I love to argue socialize.