The End Game game…..


I am not trying to start a controversial thread here so hope you will bear with me. I know that the vast majorities of folks here who also play games, especially MMOs, are motivated by the very things that we see in most games, the achievement, the rewards, the progression, etc. However, I want to talk about another way to play an MMO.

Recently, we have seen more games attempt to change the grind that goes along with these games. Crowfall seems to be adapting the passive skill features from Eve Online where players gain skills without actively participating in raising that skill and even when they are offline.  When my son drew my attention to a video of Crowfall’s passive skill methods and it made me think….deeply.

So when do you have fun playing a game? Is that early grinding period enjoyable for you? What about the mid-level grinding, when the monsters and NPCs you encounter are more challenging. Or maybe it is when the game puts out the new zone for those who have reached the top so they can start over again…or the next new zone?  Or do you prefer the end game, when your character has reached the top and there is nowhere else to go.  Is this when you quit the game or is this when you begin to play?

I guess if you accept Bartle’s taxonomy of player types, those that like to achieve may not enjoy a game where they achieve by doing nothing. The grind may be the chore one must do in order to deserve the reward.  Those who have the time to spend hours upon hours in-game might feel especially cheated when others drop by casually and can still keep up.

So that group of players may not like passive skills and prefer the grind. I imagine in most MMO’s out there today the achievers make up a huge segment of the gaming population. Since many games focus on that part of the mechanics, it could be a big loss.

But are there other ways to measure achievement? Does it have to come from the constant grinding and repetitive behavior over and over again, for months or even years in the case of many WoW players.

What about the end game? What happens when a game actually does not continue to add more and more levels and zones with harder creatures?

I often use a particular game as an example, mostly because it is a very good example of a tedious grind as well as an example of an end game that succeeded, until developers changed the game.

I played Star Wars Galaxies for three years, actually more since I started during the beta testing. The game allowed you to choose a profession and then grind up through the skills to until you had mastered them all. At that time, you could take a second profession if you wished.  You were limited after that and would be required to remove skills if you wanted to learn new ones outside your currently chosen professions.

However, for many of us, the grind was just the mud you had to wallow through to get to the end game. Fortunately, we had macros available so we could park our avatar somewhere and write a macro to allow our characters to acquire skills while we were offline. It mostly worked, although often you were disconnected in the middle of the night to come back and find out leaving your computer on all night long was all for nothing.

Eventually, your character would become a top level dancer, or musician, or bounty hunter, or resource collector, or tailor, or whatever profession you chose. Then the fun began.

In my case, it meant I could form a band with some friends. I ran a business, where we would rent out to parties and events, getting paid in lots of credits. I was courted by organized crime, who I guess thought I could add something to their group…but the fun was in resisting even though the crime boss was sure he could convince me to turn to the dark side. I started a factory to supplement tips and had clients who bought stuff from me. I received a discount on clothing so I would “model” the clothing when I danced and advertised for the tailor.

I owned several houses on different planets. Had several ‘romances’ (fun, not real ones since I am married after all), made lots of friends, and felt completely immersed in the world. While I obviously made no difference to the mechanics of the game, the look of the world, etc., I did make a difference to the community and many others made a difference to me.

The achievement was not in XP anymore, but in acquiring fame, riches, friends, developing my character, roleplaying, and simply enjoying every moment in the game. My culminating experience was when a friend and I put on an opera in one of the local theaters and filled the place. Years later, someone found me on the internet and remembered that performance.

Of course, the game changed, and when Jedi’s became playable, the game required one grind 10 professions to be a Jedi and suddenly the vibrant world turned into robot avatars, all grinding away. No one talked anymore. No one had parties. No more chit chat with the gals in the cantinas as we danced away and flirted with customers.

The end game was reset and the joy was gone. One by one my friends left and so did I. To this day I run into people, many of them like me, older, a mother or even grandmother, and we find out we played SWG…and we talk about those glorious golden days.

So…the end game.  Maybe the end game can be as much fun as the rest of it for many of us. Maybe achievement could be measured in other ways. Maybe the grinding could be replaced by player directed game play.

You may be interested in the mysterious of the world and travel to collect artifacts, compare with others, and figure out what may have happened in the past. Maybe you will even publish a book on these mysterious, with your ideas out there for others to see. Could be that you wish to join a religious organization, rise to power, go on pilgrimages, dedicate a new cathedral. Or you may want to own a ship and be a merchant or a pirate, becoming well respected or infamous.

Possibly you may achieve through becoming rich through your business, whether that be a series of taverns, a party planner who throws extraordinary parties, or a politician, who uses his oratory skills to gain votes in the local election.

Of course, you may want to be a notorious criminal or an assassin, or a judge who likes to see others hang. Or maybe you will run a secret organized crime syndicate, like my friend in SWG.

Do we really need to grind the same thing over and over again to succeed in a game?  Do we have to play hours upon hours to keep up with everyone else?  Can we just trop in to have an ale at the tavern, tell some tales, listen to some tales, make friends and then go have dinner with the family in real life?

You may one will want to play this game. Maybe that is true. But what if there is a large number of people out there who do want to play this game.  Who is going to make it?

I would love to hear your thoughts, even if you want to say…you crazy old lady!


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Si Fi detour…

We took a little side job to create a character system UI and one of our demos for the project is a Sci Fi version of the UI. The challenge was to make it from all original art and whatever was available in the UMA package. This system will be used in our game with a few extra features and our own artwork.  We plan to show off our UI at a Unity User Group meeting in the near future.

Anyway, two artists, a programmer, and me, the designer have spent a couple of weeks trying to make a simple functional UI. We want it to be simple enough for a new Unity User but to look nice enough that someone could use it in their game. The goal is something they can easily replace with their own art. With a little knowledge of working on Unity UI’s, they can even make changes to the interface.

First version is Sci Fi, which is a big detour from our original medieval world. But we have had a blast!

Here is a sneak peak at the design. I would to hear your opinion, good or bad. Like I said, we are going for simple, minimalist, but aesthetically pleasing.

Screen Shot 04-30-17 at 06.51 PM


We will be making a bit more content, including facial marks, tattoos, scars, a few original pieces of clothing, and some aliens to add to the mix.

Here are few examples of the facial and body marks. There are many more and they have been so much fun to make.

These are also a sampling of more customization features that will be in our game. We want players to be able to make the characters in their stories, whether a beautiful noble lady, a veteran of a war, covered in scars, or even a poor beggar with bad teeth. A world of only the beautiful is boring. A real story, full of conflict and challenge creates characters whose lives are branded on their body and soul.

Stay tune as we reveal more information about the Science Fiction UI and the upcoming Fantasy UI…and then finally, more information bout LoA’s UI.

A backdrop for the front page of the UI made by one of our fabulous artists is below. Wait until you see what will be in front of it soon!

sci fi doorWM

Don’t worry about LoA. While the artists and I are getting this ready, the programmers have been working on various aspects of the game and getting everything ready to move to our cloud server. Then we can invite more folks to join us in testing the world!

See you soon!















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Roleplay makes games more fun!

Found this and thought I would share!

Shared from

via Dungeons And Dragons Changed The Way I Game — Falcon Game Reviews

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Emergent Gameplay and Role Play



All this talk about Zelda, Breath of the Wild, has brought out some great discussions of emergent game play.  I thought I would muse a bit about what some are calling “the future of rpgs”.

As a role player, I have seen emergent game play in many games, especially MMO’s, over the years that I have been playing games. I decided to do a little research to find out how emergent play is defined and I have listed the first four I found.  They are similar but some focus on mechanics and how they allow the player to create new game play and others on how the players change how they use the mechanics to create new game play.

Emergent Gameplay: A title where the mechanics afford the player to create new strategies and utility beyond their original intent or utilization.

Emergent gameplay refers to complex situations in video games, board games, or table top role-playing games that emerge from the interaction of relatively simple game mechanics.

Emergent gameplay is a game design term that refers to video game mechanics that change according to the player’s actions.

Emergent gameplay is the concept of placing tools around the player and encouraged them to explore creative strategies or interactions and exploit them toward victory or goal achievement.

The first definition, I think, defines the emergent game play you see in Zelda, BotW. There is no real story but the player is allowed to use almost everything in his environment to create new game play through experimentation. This creates a fun, casual type of game play that can change as one explores and finds new ways to interact.

The last definition seems to me to best describe a pure role playing game, where the tools are there, but the players drive the game play.  Mechanics are important, as they are what provides the tools which the player can use to create their own stories, but it is the creative application of those tools that make the game fun. So rather than using objects in the environment to create new experiences, such as in Minecraft or Zelda, BotW, the player uses events in the environment as the impetus, or force, to drive their own game play or stories.

Emergent game play is really a requirement for a role play game. Much of it can come simply through interactions with other players, or player directed game play.  As villages grow, characters evolve, communities emerge and what happens in those communities creates many stories involving many players. However, mechanics, if done well, can also create situations, maybe a crisis, a danger, or even something exciting, good or amazing like a traveling caravan entering the village.  The game mechanics might drive the environment, creating a drought that affects the village. Or it might drive the animal or npc AI that can create new experiences. The revelation of hidden resources through mechanics can drive a gold rush or cause conflict between those trying to exploit this resource.

In LoA, we are currently testing a dynamic ecosystem that will drive events. These events will in turn create seeds for role play.

An example we have tested in our game is documented below:

Our test world contains specific animals with their own AI. The woods and grasslands contain deer and rabbits. The wolves occupy the same area but have their own specific hunting grounds.

In the valley below, the villagers raise chickens and sheep as well as their own fields of grain along with vegetable gardens. The villagers enjoy a nice venison steak and rabbit stew so they also hunt the animals. They also on occasion crave a nice wolf skin.

Wolves favored food is deer but they will eat rabbits as well if they see a rabbit before they see a deer.The rabbits’ and deer’s favored foods are the herbs of the grasslands and forest. Like any ecosystem, there is a balance between food available and number of animals. So during a drought, there is less food for the rabbits, so less rabbits, and the same with the other animals. Seasonal and weather changes create certain needs for both the villagers and the animals.

Now, let’s look at this as a drive for emergent game play.

Most of the time, the wolves stay in their preferred hunting grounds, far from the human village. They happily cull the deer population and catch rabbits. However, it is fall and the humans have decided to go on a great hunt so they have extra meat to smoke for the winter. They lay out traps, get out their bows, and have a successful hunt.

Unfortunately, the wolves have a difficult time finding food after the hunt. The deer population has moved out of their hunting grounds and the rabbit population is scarce. The wolves move a bit further down the valley, looking for food. If they fail to find food there, they finally move into the village at night, seeking sheep and chickens.

The villagers awaken to find the remains of their livestock. In anger, they go after the wolves, killing some and driving the rest out of the hills above the valley. All is well for a while, but then the rabbits overpopulate. The wolves are gone and they have few other predators in the area.

The rabbits now invade the village gardens leaving much less food for the villagers.

What kind of emergent play arises from this example in a multiplayer/MMO experience? How does this drive role play?

Simply the fact that the villagers need food and furs for food or trade drives the big hunt. A change in the foods available in the winter creates a need for preservation of food. The hunt creates an event that brings together a community with a goal. The “Great Hunt” becomes a story. The interaction between the players before, during and after the hunt can seed more stories.

After the hunt, when their livestock is killed by the wolves, the players must band together to protect their stock. Again, stories are created, this time based on protecting what belongs to them. Once they realize that the ecosystem has been affected by their actions, the next story will be to solve the problem. This means seeking out solutions that will maintain the balance.

Solving problems in a community can bring out all sorts of emergent events, such as new leaders, conflict between those with different ideas or views, and possibly creative solutions that go beyond anything the developers considered.

The game play is no longer about killing for experience or eating for buffs, but about maintaining their community. It becomes personal rather than just a game.

How does this drive role play?

Let’s start with a definition of roleplay that I think embraces how the majority of players actually role play. I do not include the script type role players in this.

A roleplaying game is a game in which the participants assume the roles of characters and collaboratively create stories.

When you consider the best sort of role play is one that emerges from the experiences the of the players, then you can see how the above example can enhance the role play. In a pen and paper game, the best moments happen when someone suddenly discovers a way to solve a problem that is unexpected, or difficult to find. The players get excited, their voices raise, and in the end a cheer erupts from the table.

The same is true in a video game environment. Experiences change the dynamics of the players’ communities. It creates villains, heroes, victims, and innovators. While the mechanics are certainly a huge part of what drives the game, the players reactions drive the role play. I can imagine all sorts of emergent play from the ecosystem example. Some players may defend the animals, fighting to protect them. Others may be angry about the loss of their own stock and fight to kill or chase away the wolves and/or rabbits. Others may use this as a way to earn money, offering to guard the sheep or the gardens from predators. Still others may become player quest givers, hiring other players to help out.

Stories can emerge from this type of game play, stories that impact more than just the tiny village. Maybe the wolves head off to find chickens in other villages. Possibly, the lost grain that might occur from a similar situation, such as an explosion of the deer population, might change the price of wheat or flour or even affect trade.  Areas with an excess of grain might be able to charge higher prices to sell to the suffering villages.

Wars over food resources could erupt. Bandits, both players and npcs, could find it worth attacking wagons carrying food or grain and then sell for more on the black market, so one might find an increase in highway crimes. Entire villages could migrate and even animal populations might migrate to areas with more resources.

This is just one example. Emergent game play driven by players’ reactions to mechanics could include all sorts of scenarios. The important thing is to make sure those mechanics are tools that encourage players to explore and interact with the world and each other instead of an impediment to creativity and innovation. As long as the players are the ones who are creating the emergent game play, the world will be vibrant and dynamic.

Not because of physics, not because of flashy mechanics, but because of mechanics that make sense and give players the ability to use them to create their own stories. Stories emerge from the game play, not like Zelda, BotW, but through the players themselves, the role players.

The video at the top of the screen is a developmental video showing the AI creating a situation where the players can react. Wolves avoid fire but will attack when the fire goes out. Players react by lighting torch to chase wolves. A story emerges.






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Medieval Monday: What’s to Drink?

Another great Medieval Monday blog from Allison Reid. Hop over to her site to read it. #writing #indiedev

Allison D. Reid

Much of what we drink today on a daily basis would not have been available in the Middle Ages. Coffee wasn’t brought to Europe until the 1600s, and was met with suspicion—even sometimes condemned by the local Church. And though Britain in particular is now known for his proud heritage of drinking tea, it was not introduced until the 16th century, and did not gain popularity until the 17th.  Anything that required refrigeration was difficult to keep, and only consumed fresh, when available. So what did medieval people drink on a daily basis?

drinking-brawlThere is a persistent rumor that water was avoided due to widespread contamination of waterways by pollutants and bacteria. This is actually not the case. While plain water was certainly nothing exciting enough to sing songs about, it was regularly drunk by itself, or used to water down other drinks. Even though they had no…

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UMA Dynamic Character Sytem

During my Twitch session this afternoon I decided to show off the customization aspects of the UMA character system. This time, I remembered to record the session and you can find it on our YouTube station, below or if you prefer to check out the raw version before I cleaned up the video, you can find it at our Twitch Channel at

While I did want to show off how one could customize a character, I also wanted to show developers who might want to use UMA how to create a base character recipe and a wardrobe recipe.

Those of you following Ryan’s ICE videos will soon see a Twitch on ICE where he shows the AI working with the UMA characters as well as how he put the character into the game. So stay tuned!

Hope you enjoy the video!


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The various versions of Unity…Why we use the free version

I was reading some posts on the Unity forums today and thought I might explain to people following our game why we use Unity Personal. I am sure you will see it pop up in our test builds so you may have some questions or concerns.

When Unity 5 was released, a decision was made by the company to make some changes to the free version of Unity. Unity 4 had a very under developed version of Unity 4 with some server limitations. Shadows were hard, render to texture was not included, image effects did not work with the free version, there was no profiler to optimize, etc. While it was a great tool for learning Unity, it quickly because very limiting as our game development needs grew.

With Unity 5, the company decided to provide for free the fully featured engine, with every single feature included in Unity 5 Pro, except for a few services, some which are available to us as a separate purchase.

Unity did make the unfortunate decision to name it Unity Personal Edition, which provided fodder for many jokes on the Unity forums but also caused many players of games made with the free version to think the games were made with a non-commercial version of Unity. Unknown to them, Unity Personal Edition is a commercial version and can be used by companies who make less than $100,000 in revenue from games/applications created with Unity.

Obviously, most of us in the development mode, unless we have previously used Unity to create very successful games, have less than $100,000 revenue with Unity. Over $100,000, we will be required to purchase Unity Plus and over $200,000, we will be required to purchase Unity Pro. Again, the differences are minor.

For a small team like ours, using a paid version of Unity would actually limit us more than using the free Personal Edition. We now can add or subtract team members easily, without any licensing issues. Since teams cannot mix licenses, with Pro or even Plus, we would have to purchase a version for a new team members or ask them to provide their own. At $125 a month for Pro, that can add up. The only thing we would get that we don’t have now that could really affect our game would be a custom splash screen, which honestly, we can do without until we publish.

I see Unity forum posts every day where new Unity users complain about the high cost of Pro and honestly believe that the free version will limit them. It makes me sad, because I am so sure some walk away without realizing the potential of this free, fully featured option. Even worse, some risk legal action by pirating the Pro version for a splash screen…and a game that could be removed after months of hard work because it is using an unlicensed copy of the engine.

Every business needs to make decisions that impact their viability. For our company, using Unity Personal during our development period makes sense. Unity has been generous in their efforts to democratize game development for all, solo developers, small teams, hobbyists and professional studios who are just starting out. By putting our money into new assets, hiring artists and programmers, and upgrading our technology instead of paying for the same engine we can get for free, we feel as though we are maximizing our chances of finishing our game. Unity doesn’t require royalties, like some engines and if we make over $100k from our game, we will be more than happy to share the wealth with Unity.  In my opinion, it is a win-win situation for both companies like ours and Unity.

So, when you see Unity Personal Edition on upcoming builds, know that we are making good fiscal decisions with the best potential for the development of our game.

Small Update: We are finishing up our cooking skill and it is awesome. We are starting on the weaponsmith skills and I think you will like the unique mechanics we are adding. The character system is ready to go and we will start making new clothing for the less medieval-looking cultures. Terrain is becoming more and more amazing, with a future update adding growing fields that can be harvested, trees that can be chopped down, and beautiful terrain textures that should increase immersion.

I have volunteered some time to help a little bit with the UMA project before it’s release. Those amazing developers have given so much to an open source project, I feel at least I can give a bit back..even though it is a fraction of what they do. I do love the Unity community. 🙂

I will post more soon, but in the meantime, Enjoy!


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