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 Post subject: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 6:17 pm 
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I started working on The Chipped Dagger 97 days ago. That's when Krumple started doing the artwork for the game. The tale begins long before that however.

A long time ago...
Both krumple and I have very fond memories of the original "Gold Box" TSR AD&D games. Curse of the Azure Bonds was a great game! I think it came on 6x double-sided 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disks. Fire up the Commodore 64 with the 1541 floppy drive and we were ready to go! This was back in the late 1980s. Things have been pretty much downhill since then. Even though the game had rudamentary graphics and itwas turn based it is more compelling than most modern RPGs that i've played.

I remember seeing the advertisements for the original Neverwinter Nights on AOL. I'll admit I didn't get what the fuss was over playing an RPG online with other people rather than just playing an RPG all alone. That changed though in 1996.

Around 1991 ish, I got ahold of a copy of Ultima Underworld 2. I still have very fond memories of that game. It was a great RPG. It ran like crap on my 386sx20 with 2mb of ram, but it was an awesome gaming experience.

A friend and I both bought warcraft. Not World of Warcraft, but warcraft. We lived about 30 miles apart and we would play all night long over a phone line. Back in those days used to cost about 28 cents a minute for "local long distance" in our area. We made the telco rich. He always played orcs, and I always played humans. It was my first experience with a online multiplayer game and it was great fun.

At some point in 1996 my friend (let's call him "Joe" to protect the innocent) got hooked on crack. Not that normal crack that they talk about in school DARE programs, but the cardboard crack variety.

Thankfully I never got hooked on crack. Since he was my friend though we still hung out despite his addiction. At one point he started dragging me along to this non-descript office building outside of Seattle. He said there were other crack addicts there. He was right. It was WoTC (wizards of the coast) office building and they had an area where players could play magic the gathering. That really didn't interest me. They did, however, have about 16 networked computers there. These were like 486 or maybe first generation pentium machines. Not much by todays standards. :lol:

While he hung out doing lines with the other addicts, I started hanging out in the computer lab. One day -- and again this was in 1996 -- someone was playing a game that I had never seen before. It was a dark and eerie dungeon crawler. I was blown away by it. Sure it was only a demo, and there were only two levels, but I was instantly hooked. The demo was for Diablo!

After that I waited feverishly for diablo to be released. It was slated to go gold in December 1996, but it missed the date. At the time I had a Compaq 386 SX20 with 2mb of ram and a newer Compaq 133 pentium with like 16mb of ram. Finally on January 4th 1997 it launched. I remember buying my copy at a local store that day. I even bought a brand new Pentium pro 200 with 32 mb of ram with a 17" flat screen CRT just to play diablo!

Those were great times. I played diablo for months on end. Not only was it a great game, but the battle.net was a really nice service.

A number of months into playing Diablo people started telling me about a new online game that was ever better than diablo, but with player-owned housing and a totally graphical world. Just like Diablo but better? sign me up!

So in September 1997, krumple, will (who is also the chipped dagger server admin), crack-addict Joe, and a couple other friends all started playing UO! Just like Diablo I was there on launch day. Nothing like being the first one to the party.

Mind you this was still when you had to pay by the hour for internet access. I remember krumple sitting in my office redailing AOL for hours on end just to get connected to the internet so he could play UO!

The game was _very_ rough when it started. There was no comparison between Diablo and UO. It was very buggy, and extremely laggy. The rubberband effect was infuriating.

I remember when I first start playing (I had not played the beta for UO) and one of the first things i ran into outside of town was either a rabbit or a cow. Whatever it was it quickly killed me. I'm not sure how either a cow or a rabbit dispatches a hearty adventurer, but it happend. After a fre unsuccessful attempts, I figured it was time for something else.

Since I was new to UO, I didn't know that the "tank mages" just sat at the outskirts of town and blew up everyone who dared leave the safety of the town guards. After getting PK'd numerous just trying to leave town I figured another career was in order.

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 Post subject: Re: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 6:18 pm 
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Skull caps anyone?
UO had a totally broken economy. The guys who made it (Garriot, Koster, et all) didn't understand the first thing about economics. One of the best way to make money was to buy some cloth for the tailor, sit at the tailors shop and create as many skull caps as you could. Of course I wasn't the only person doing this. The skull caps had no use whatsoever to players, but the NPC tailor would buy them up as if he had recently won the lottery. Soon they changed it such that the tailor only had so much cash and when he was out of cash he wouldn't buy anymore junk. This new system worked until the first guy sold a truckload of skullcaps to the tailor thus removing all NPCs gold.

Then it was changed such that they would still run out of gold, but every ten minutes their gold amount would refresh. This meant that you spent about 9 minutes and 50 seconds making skull caps, then you spent the next 10 seconds trying to be the first guy to spam all your stuff to the NPC to drain all the gold. This was the economy in UO.

Then we decided en mass to become rogues. It was too hard to kill anything, and too dangerous to leave town, and too much of a pain to craft, so the next best thing was to steal stuff from others! IIRC you could have 7 skills maxed in UO (each skill went from 0 to 100). We only needed three kills: Grandmaster Rogue and Grandmaster Hide In Shadows and pickpocket (i think that's what the last one was called). This was the fast track to riches.

There was a bank in town, and players would swarm around the bank to do deposits and withdrawals. Originally you had to walk inside the bank, but it was so damn crowded you could never get through the door. Eventually they changed it so you only needed to be close to the bank in order ot interact with it. Back in those days you could actually snoop inside another players backpack. If someone noticed you snooping or trying to steal something they could say "Guards!" and the town guards would insta-appear and insta-gank you. Plus, rogues generally didn't bother wearing any gear since they were often being killed by the guards. We just wore our gray "death robes."

Players eventually noticed that the guys standing at the bank wearing death robes were up to no good and eventually no one would stand near you if you idled at the bank. This is where hide in shadows came into play. You could hide next to the bank so others couldn't see you. Then you would sit patiently and wait for your prey to show up to deposit whatever goodies he had in his backpack. You could snoop while hidden which was nice, but if you tried to steal something, you would turn visible again. Stealing often resulted in someone witnessing your crime, which also resulted in near instant death. The trick to making this profitable was to have your backpack and your bank open before doing any of this. If you found something in the player's backpack worth stealing, you could attempt to steal it. The item would appear inside your backpack, and then you had to drag and drop it into the bank before you were ganked by the guards. This took practice but it was very doable.

The game mechanics were so horribly broken -- and remember this was an already released game that you bought down at the store -- and they were constantly making radical changes in the gameplay. I remember at one point you took something like a 10% skill reduction in all skills just for stealing once. Then they removed it again. I think at one point they even removed the ability to snoop inside containers within containers.

It was a great game, but it was very frustrating to play.

Dialo 2!

I think D2 is probably my favorite game of all time. I have some nitpicks with it, but overall it's a great game. I only over played softcore mode just long enough to unlock hardcore mode. I've lost many lvl 90+ characters over the years in Diablo 2. Permadeath sucks, but when you almost die (but survive) it's a great feeling! I blame my severe carpel tunnel in my mouse hand on Diablo 2. >:(

EVE, UXO, EQ2, and WOW:

By 2004 I was looking for another MMO to play. I ended up at EVE Online along with krumple and will. This was back when EVE was still very new and had about 20k total subscribers. It was quite different then than it is today. I started a corp and we had about 100 players in it. It was lots of fun. It was a lot of mindless grinding and eventually all three of us burned out on it. 2004 was also the year that UXO, EQ2, and WOW were to launch. I was pretty sure at least one of those would be the MMO for me. During the summer though UXO was cancelled. EQ2 launched late in the year.

Graphically EQ2 seemed impressive at first glance. I showed krumple the nice water reflections of a tree in a lake I was standing by. He quickly pointed out that there was no tree on the other side of the lake. Then I decided to walk into the lake. I was promptly attacked by some sort of small fish. It started to kill me so I back out of the lake. The fish folowed me a bit and was hovering above the ground. I figured the collision detection was a bit off and back up a few more paces. The fish followed. I backed up some more, and the fish kept attacking. Eventually I backed up through the entire zone and the fish was still following. I logged out of EQ2 and never played it again. I think I used 1 of my 30 days playtime.

Then came the world of warcraft. Again I was there for launch day. I was actually quite impressed by the high polish of the game. Blizzard has always done a bang up job with their games. I really like the music, and the graphics, but the gameplay left me very wanting. I didn't like how they designed crafting to be a money sink -- instead of a primary way to play the game. I didn't like the instanced dungeons. I didn't like the fact that 20 newbs cannot kill 1 veteran. I didn't like that I had to go kill boars in order to raise my crafting ability. I also didn't like that when I went to complete the princess pig quest in the Brackwell pumpkin patch that there was a line of players already queued up waiting for the princess pig to respawn so they could also complete the quest.

When my first 30 days of gametime ran out, I didn't renew.

Don't get me wrong, I think WoW is a great game and I understand why so many people like it, but it wasn't for me. I want to be able to attack stormwind and burn the place down, or to only play as a crafter, or to build a castle. I wanted a sandbox game, and wow is the definition of a themepark game.

At the end of 2004 I was pretty bummed about the lack of a good MMO to play. I had tried many others, but still couldn't find one I liked. At that time I decided that I wanted to make an MMO.

I wasn't new to programming by any means. I think my first programming experience was on a Commodore Pet when I was in gradeschool. I had also done some programming on my Commodore 64. I think my first "game" was a monopoly game I made in about 1992. I had bought a copy of Borland C++ my first year of college and I used the borland graphics library to make the game. Good times. I finished the gameplay for hte game, as I wrote that first. I didn't ever finish the graphical front end.

In the late 90s I was playing around with directX and wrote a breakout clone (a pretty close copy of (Arkanoid II). Krumple did the artwork and sound for me. It was nearly complete and even included a level editor. It was a pretty polished game.

I've also worked as a professional developer at a number of software companies over the years including microsoft. None of it was game related. It was all very boring stuff. Back to games!

So at the end of 2004 Will, Krumple, and I (and a couple other friends as well) decided to make an MMO! We eventually decided to make a sci-fi game. I registerd the www.rebelfactions.com domain name. I even formed a corporation named "Trailer Park Software." We spent some time looking after different technologies. We bought a copy of the torque engine. I spent some time talking to venture capitalists. After awhile it became pretty clear to me that it was going to be a long, uphill battle. I spent months just working on a design document and a business plan. I think the business plan is something like 50+ pages long. I think the DD is probably 100+. It was a lot of time to spend without actually making a game.

Early in 2005 I decided I needed to make a tech demo/mockup to show potential investors. I quickly got bogged down with how extremely difficult making an MMO is. At one point I started working on a browser-based prototype. Along with krumple and will it actually got to a point where it was pretty playable. It had very granular movement and even had realtime terrain updates! This was 2005 and all this was running in a broswer. I had written most of a UI system including resizable windows, drag & drop, etc. Pretty advanced stuff for css/dhtml/javascript. Eventually it was clear that I was trying to use the browser in a way it wasn't going ot work and gave up.

During the next 5 years I've built a number of half-finished MMOs that have never seen a single outside player log in. There are various 2D sci-fi MMOs. Playable ones, but everytime I got to a point where it was just too overwhelming to finish without an entire team of people to get it done. I've given up many times. One of the last times I built a text-based mud. After months of working on it I showed it to will. His response was something to the effect "I think you should finish it, and I think people will play it, but i'm not sure if anyone would pay for it." That was about the last time I looked at that code.

About 3 months ago, I had basically given up on ever actually making an MMO. I had been trying off and on for 5+ years and failed everytime. The barriers to entry for MMOs is getting very high now.

So about 3 months back I was chatting with Will and talkig to him about his browser-based MMO that he had been working on. It was a fairly simple top-down, 2D, tile-based game, but it actually had people playing it! I thought that I could actually make something similar in Java, so I set out to see what sort of MMO I could create if I simplified the graphics engine.

This is where The Chipped Dagger came from. As of this writing I started working on this project 97 days ago. At this point I estimate i've put about 1,200 hours into this latest project. I started letting players in on day 83. Actually that first day I think only 1 or 2 people showed up and neither stayed for more than about 2 minutes iirc. I just about gave up then. Both krumple and will said to give it time.

I've had a running joke with a another friend Tom -- who's also helped on my various MMO projects over the years -- who would talk about "What if you build an MMO and no one showed up to play." At least now I know someone showed up. :)

I think I finally have a game concept that will work. My plan is to work on The Chipped Dagger full time and see where it goes. It would be much easier and far less stress just to go back to work for a big software company where my paycheck always shows up at the end of the week. I would prefer to do what I love instead.


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 Post subject: Re: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 1:01 am 

Joined: Fri May 07, 2010 1:40 pm
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Location: East Oakland
Nice history. I remember early MMOing, good days. haha


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 Post subject: Re: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 5:36 am 
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looking at u'r history don, if u've seen the nickname i'm using b4 it's more than likely the same 1...lol

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 Post subject: Re: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Tue May 11, 2010 2:14 am 
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You're very persistent, and hard-working. I do hope that The Chipped Dagger last long.

Also, now you have players that stay for more than 2 DAYS. :P, no reason to quit now ^^


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 Post subject: Re: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:31 am 

Joined: Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:22 am
Posts: 21
The barrier to entry thing with MMOs is depressing. It depresses me. Your historical overview is great, but it just reminds me that it was almost "blink and you miss it" - as far as the opportunity for a small team to get out a viable commercial MMO.

When I was at University around 1990 my friends had written commercially successful games and utilities. They had done this literally in their bedrooms, in teams of one and two. By the time we all graduated this was no longer possible. They went on to work for companies that ultimately got bought by the likes of Disney, as game design became a parallel activity to feature film production, with similar budget and staff levels. All this was the case, before the first MMO ever came on to the scene - game design was already a mega budget industry. So the window for an amateur team to make a breakthrough with an MMO was very, very brief.

Of course if you are a category-killer, or a brand new category no one has and everyone wants, you can do it as long as you can move fast, market fast, grow fast, find and spend money fast.

I do think it's just about possible, but you need a game that has gameplay so compelling that everyone drops what they are doing to play it, and ignores the simplistic graphics or other low production values as being a non issue.

It's also possible that it's a generational thing. You and I and our friends were brought up on 8bit games. In fact I played AD&D as a paper and pencil game before there were any desktop PCs. So we are acclimitised to low production values. I wonder if anyone under about 35 is ever going to be interested in playing a game that doesn't look like it was made by LucasFilm?

But I hope the same thing that you hope, that good gameplay will triumph over everything else. Good luck Don!

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 Post subject: Re: How this game came to be (warning: extemely long post)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 31, 2010 12:41 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:03 pm
Posts: 4
Ha, kind of sounds like me in a way. Except I didn't get into the RPG genre until I tried Final Fantasy 4 (Back when it was known as Final Fantasy 2 in the US since Nintendo decided against releasing FF2 and FF3 for the NES since the NES era was about over). Ever since then I got great interest in RPGs and when I had my first experience with an MMORPG in middleschool(Runescape) I was hooked and after awhile screwed around with my own concept.

However unlike you I don't have any programming experience. I took a year of TrueBASIC Bronze during my senior year of high school and then at the start of the year tried Visual Basic. However haven't done a lot since then since right now my top priority is trying to find work in this messed up economy.

Anyway hope you have sucess with the game. Sucks those people left so fast, however modern gaming is a pile of trash IMO.

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