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  1. #1
    Senior Member Mirviriam's Avatar
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    Sideprojects: Birthright utility / Game

    Bear with me, I'm a horrible writer, a beginning programmer(self taught till last year), & a pompous ass sometimes (though not intentionally) - for all of this I beg your forgiveness & patience. I sat down from six today until eleven writing this piece (yes I'm also slow sometimes too).

    I have seen a huge growth of games that resemble Birthright: The Gorgon's Alliance, minus the map feature.

    Mainly PHP & some AJAX pages right off the website. They really are not much too look at & there is no use of boundaries, travel time, etc.

    Still they point out that we could potentially remake the Gorgon's Alliance. Of course to avoid trade marks the game name would have to change. Same with all the intellectual property (Yes it HAS to change, the only way to support these sites cost is to advertise down the right side of the page & I lost one site to blizzard legal dept. already).

    If we approached it with the expectations of a year & a half development time to flesh out a real system, we could reach the level of play held in Birthright to some degree.

    Phase 1: Form the basic system to build the game

    Identify the technical DM(s), the reference gophers, the story/plot/NPC writers, the website manager, programmers, the meeting times, how much we delegate versus debate in the meetings, some sort of voting system in regards to issues, the communication medium, the final arbitrator of all issues. I would also love to see artists recruits, maybe off deviant art or some place & offered free advertising if they allow us usage(they decide the link that will show in bottom corner of art, nothing more - lookup War3: DoTA to see examples of this arrangement).

    Phase 2: Decide the scope

    This is our project goal - Deciding if this game is going to be targeted to everyone in the way that Gorgon's Alliance was or towards the forum goers here.

    As I would put it a game operating at the domain level using core rules for 3 nations each with 5 provinces. Also, what unit types, holding types, domain actions, magical items, realm spells, types of checks, npcs to be used in here. One player per realm or multiple players one for each holding type possible? Lieutenants as npcs only or capable of being played? Language to program the game. Will the game be website based or program that is ran on the computer at home. Will it be mac or pc. Does this program include network features to allow players to connect over the internet etc. etc.

    Phase 3: Setup the logical structure

    We are writing the engine of the beast here. Decide if turns will have a week, day, hour, minute limit on their length or be real time. Find how we want lieutenant actions to go. How spies will work. Visibility of armies. How much information trade guilds can pass/find/hold. Anything to do with the mechanics of the game has to be written here. It all happens before we begin to code the game. Setup of trade routes etc. I figure we have most of this information here - its a matter of you guys deciding if optional rules are better to use in a computer game than board game style. We need to pay close attention to army movement & spells here.

    Phase 4: The coding of said structure into a working game engine

    This phase turns all the rules from collection of excel files into a set of inheritable files we can apply to this game or any other birthright games we create. The realm spells, army movements, creations of holdings need to be translated from rules into actions the program can use when needed.

    Phase 5: Then using fake dice rolls we check to make sure all the elements communicate together, none of the turns are out of order, all the players get their prompts to do their things. At this point if all goes well, we can even have someone create a visual side to the game as in menus etc. All of these tests are done with a file of values that never changes.

    Phase 6: More stubbing (phase 4)

    At this point we need to have a few test realms setup with their respective holdings. The game is ran just to see if there are holes in our logic when bringing the realm values together with the engine. Basically testing high & low values, what happens if a player disconnects if we do this over the net sort of thing.

    Phase 6: Generation system for data

    We know the game runs at this point we just have to flesh out the realms/domains/npc/player traits etc. Instead of having a programmer sit down with a writer, we have the programmers write a program which allows as many writers as have to all create realms, npc, items, magic spells within certain limits, new domains, random lists of names & stats. Finally we include an agreed upon format to store all of this & program a method of reading the information so the others of the community can point out weakness. For the first run we just need some core rules & small test zone.

    Phase 7: Connecting the engine to the data

    Once final proofs & decisions on the game data is finished. We look over the data & figure out checks the program has to make before accepting data as valid. A method to load only certain parts of the realms needs to be in place. We need some way of making sure any visual elements line up with the data provided (one of the hardest parts of making it work with expansions). Then load this information the engine.

    Phase 8: Play testing

    [Obviously we play the game we made] Two months of testing(debate this in phase 1 or 2).

    Phase 9: System verification

    If we have one version made, we need to ensure our campaign creation or 'expansion maker' is well oiled. So future writers can create new territories. We also brainstorm everything possible for future problems based on the non-core rules you guys are writing on the wiki.

    Phase 10: By the stroke of luck it takes to reach this place & this phase we will have to fly out to International Falls, MN to savor some of the best home brew ever made (not mine of course) in celebration of our child.


    Any thoughts or feelings on this? My main concern is the length of the project losing people & trying to accomplish too much on the first time. I kind of see an hour session or so a week to work out anything questionable for each of the groups we setup. Then every third week or fourth week for everyone to just make sure we are all on task. Probably later in the night - but any schedule can be made to work.

  2. #2
    Site Moderator Magian's Avatar
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    Count me in.

    Credentials: Data entry for Birmail and co-concept designer.

    I'd like to suggest to invite the creators of that program if that's cool. I am in contact with them. I like the idea of using the whole community at BR.net.

    I'm in I'm in I'm in I'm in I'm in.
    One law, One court, One allied people, One coin, and one tax, is what I shall bring to Cerilia.

  3. #3
    Well, I know I haven't posted before on these forums, but if there's anything I can do to help, count me in. Other than being a roleplayer for more than half of my life, I am an amateur writer (with two novel drafts in submission to publishers) and have studied both academically and on my own C++. With Java I have to admit I'm not so current, but I'd still like to help in any way I can.

    Oh, and hello, forums!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Mirviriam's Avatar
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    Lucius:

    Right on, I'll have formal java done this summer - probably before the group is ready to start coding.

    My instructor for C++ is actually who suggested I finally do this project. I will not have data structures out of the way until next spring, but I have an sql hosting active - unused of course

    I'm down for doing anything the group decides on, just my familiarity is mostly in C++ on the windows side. I have used the gcc compiler before, but not well. I used to help take care of IIS/asp/coldfusion/php/apache/linux boxes for 3 years - so I can probably make any of that dance to our tune depending on what our guys are familiar with using.

    Magian:

    That sounds awesome, while I wrote all that stuff out above - I've only accomplished one project with another friend for diabloII. We mainly got it going through brute force & time spent on it. This is my first run trying to organize & plan something thoughtfully. The chance to chat with them or even get them in on any segment of the process would be better than I had hoped.

    BTW: Welcome back


    Here's my take on what we need for manpower...


    This is rough, there is no limit to how many people we can have - as we can divide out the labor & move faster.

    Game mechanics - Probably 3 or 4 people, unless we are better off than I expect or we limit the game this will probably take the largest chunk of our time.

    Campaign/Expansion group - 2 or 3 people, these guys setup the rules with the first group for what sort of character levels, realm resources levels, number of lieutenants in pool for availability, magic items allowed, realm spell effects needed. Once we know how the mechanics go, then these guys can start up working out balancing formulas & rules for keeping realm power within normal. These guys should be examining the current realms to find the power structure used by the original makers for balancing several realms to create semi-stable territories.

    Miscellaneous - 1 or 3 - Someone needs to be our impartial judge between the DM's and maybe help out on campaign group too. Having a player perspective here would probably help flag for us issues we might not see being too close to the project.

    Developers - 2 or 6 - This really depends on who we get. We'll need a database, an interface & of course the actual engine driving the game mechanics. Per methods I can think of:

    Web Application -
    • Web designer / Administrator (preferably css capable)
    • Translator for PHP or AJAX or JAVA (preferably w/database exp) - 2+
    • SQL server guy - at least for the initial setup
    • JAVA or C++ programers - 2 or 3 - If we decide to use the website as a portal to our program, otherwise our Translators have a bigger load.


    or we need ...

    Stand alone game -
    • Program Designers - 2, maybe 3 - setup of algorithms, sorting out work load, function prototype lists & descriptions
    • Data group - 2+ - we'll need someone to work with designers to decide variable storage; odbc/sql/flat file if we go with a daily run of the program. Then we need to have at least one other person who is going to learn as an understudy & work with the Campaign/Expansion group to adapt the database months & years down the road.
    • Network programing - I've seen some things on source forge for the tcp/ip stacks - but if we decide to have multiplayer on the non-website based program - one of these guys is a must.


    EDIT: Inserted "or" between the lists of labor we need.
    Last edited by Mirviriam; 04-15-2008 at 11:22 PM.

  5. #5
    Moo! Are you happy now? Arjan's Avatar
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    Over the years i have done several tries to build an automatic webbased BR game engine.

    Last try was a couple of months ago when i was trying out the Zend Framework.
    Generally thats a good framework to work with, although somehow i never really got it to work smoothly on my wintel machine.

    i did however made an interactive map like the one in gorgons alliance. able to zoom in on the map. click on the units folding out a DIV with commands. (based on the AJAX map used in inferno RPG.. really worth looking at btw)

    so basically i got bit and pieces lying around, waiting to be used
    Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.

  6. #6
    Site Moderator Magian's Avatar
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    I know its wishful thinking, but the ideal map would be like the one for Battle for Middle Earth. Its just that I am playing that game right now and I can't get it out of my head thinking how wonderful a Cerilian map like this would be. Just a thought.
    One law, One court, One allied people, One coin, and one tax, is what I shall bring to Cerilia.

  7. #7
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    Mirvirian:

    Just so I am on th same page. You are talking about creating a game that has the Birthright feel but uses none of the published material or rules?

    If this is the case I have some original material of a campaign I was making up before Birthright was published that was set around running your own Kingdom. I have a full color map already created with some base Kingdoms, which were like City States but can be easily adapted.

    I don't have any programing experience but would love to be involved in the creative/rules side of things. Sounds great.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mirviriam's Avatar
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    Heyas guys - I've got a big test tomorrow so I'm limiting myself to an hour of free time

    This is not really going to be ran by myself alone guys. The programing end will swamp me. I am just the most recent voice. I hope 'we are legion!!'

    Below is my short answer - I know everyone has a pipe dream they are working on - this short version is a test to see what life is left in Birthright resources. As it stands we could be at it for a year before we have a true fully working 10 nation world & that would make us the fastest developers in the world...some companies never release a single game before collapsing - most take 2-3 years.

    If we swing this standard rules version & see how the BCRS works into it. Then the "Fellowship of Brave & Hardy Souls" can vote on what happens next. You have got to keep in mind this is an epic undertaking. Save all your ideas, take photo's, blog it, brag it, walk it.

    Three goals,
    • Standard Birthright playable domain turns
    • A tool to get the information off the wiki for npc, weapons, armor, units, domains, realms etc
    • A way of creating new expansions either thru wiki upload or a separate program(The data has to all be in the same format or it is just garbage).


    or

    For example, If you look at Blizzard, who makes Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft - they break their games into chunks & delegate responsibility out from there. Briefly the breakup looks like this (with many subparts)
    • Game engine - a driver that handles how players interact with world & relays what is happening in the world around us back to our screen
    • Setting files...
      • World file - this is a data file called .mpq which is like a blizzard propriatory zip file basically, all the terrain shit not related to the npcs or players & physics goes here.
      • NPC file - another mpq holding the creatures & our toons
      • Skills file - all the things as actions that interact (spells, lockpick etc)
      • I believe there are a few others, but in the past 5 years blizzard is using inheritance which is messing with the old tool I had for reading their files. I know there is at least 3 of these because that's how many I had to download to host my on wowserver.
    • Then in some of their games they release the files they use to create the Skills, World, NPC file, & call it a campaign editor. These campaign editors allow anyone in the world to make their own version of the game. Think about that Hellfire expansion for original diablo - that's made with the campaign editor...some of the basic stats were changes, but mainly they were able to add more world.



    Arjan:

    NICE! We don't have an AJAX guy yet - are you thinking of volunteering some time?

    [u]Magian: [u]
    The style of map Arjan is talking is like goodmaps minus the satellite view. It's sweet, if he's our man we're a long way towards making a very good looking game. Our project is more directed towards the world system side than the visual - we need the game rules clear & the engine that drives the domain turns perfected.

    All interested parties ... keep posting, we might need to organize this thread & I haven't cleared using this portion of the forum as the idea is still a 'twinkle in the eyes of the parents'
    Last edited by Mirviriam; 04-15-2008 at 11:20 PM.

  9. #9
    Moo! Are you happy now? Arjan's Avatar
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    err i am in no way an ajax guru

    i am the briliant creator of ideas and foremost stealer/ripper/adjuster/twister of other people techniques

    over the years i have been tossing with this, the main thing i really learned about it is to keep it as simple as possible. the biggest lesson if you want to make things too big and too good you WILL loose interest in programming for it over time (like the 2-3 years you already mentioned.. way too long)

    my idea is/was to create a simple webbased rts game like the gorgons alliance. no fancy moving images.. just simple forms to do your turns. the only spiffy thing would be the interactive map to move troops etc.

    with 2-3 people on the PHP/MySQL a working basic framework can be done in a few months... from where we can see if we still got the interest and want to move on to something bigger. (imo)
    Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.

  10. #10
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    I agree with Arjan, the project (webclient + pc client) is too ambitious and requiers a big team with a lot of knowledge (and free time).

    A web-based Birthright is a much better approach for a start (I would even take out the graphic map). It's not going to be easy but it has more posibilities of having a happy ending (it needs less people, less skill,...).

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