tag:jetbolt.com,2013:/posts Jetbolt Games 2014-04-19T11:31:05Z tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/679118 2014-04-19T11:31:05Z 2014-04-19T11:31:05Z Build 94 Changelist for build 94 of Grid12:

  • Remove crystal splinters and power crystals
  • Remove some outdated /help info
  • Remove total fortress kills leaderboard
  • Lower minimum item price to .00001 coins
  • Restrict prices to maximum 3 significant digits
  • Replace all module recipes with simpler versions
  • Remove recipes for housings, generators, regulators
  • Rename cosmolyte to masstek
  • Rename metacrux to betadyne
  • Add new icons for uncommon and elite materials
  • Sort items more logically in inventory and store screen
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/662674 2014-03-11T14:29:37Z 2014-03-11T14:29:38Z This is fixed now After a year or so of being broken, jetbolt.com is up again. Our private alpha testers for Grid12 mostly use the forums to interact. But now that I've fixed the one-character typo in our A record, we can start using this site again.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/583691 2013-06-11T17:45:51Z 2013-10-08T17:26:18Z Build 53 Changelist for build 53 of Grid12:

  • Coin Indicator no longer updates until poof hits
  • Replaced buttons in various dialogues with new, shinier buttons.
  • Make Convoys travel town-to-town
  • Added a new Convoy: Flux Barge.
  • Adjusted speeds of older convoys
  • Adjusted Convoy drop tables.
  • Moved Crystals to be behind Long-Term Storage when it is open.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/582036 2013-05-31T16:30:08Z 2013-10-08T17:25:59Z Build 52 Changelist for build 52 of Grid12:

  • Add indication of current augment/storage level on the use button
  • Give new colors to protomod, storagespace and tankunlock items
  • Change victory region count to 10
  • Add liquidate button to inventory menu
  • Add buy offers
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/580615 2013-05-23T01:35:32Z 2013-10-08T17:25:42Z Build 51 Changelist for build 51 of Grid12:

  • Add coins
  • Reduce Spectre's Rotational Overcharge rate of fire bonus from 300% to 100%
  • Subtract 12 hours from short term storage time remaining at death
  • Show max prism level and count on folded up prism display
  • Add six new augment item types
  • Eliminate protomod drops
  • Add new triggers for Valkyrie: Quasonic Fire, Petacharge Reservoir, Ionic Flame Ejection, Stasis Web

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/579196 2013-05-15T20:06:29Z 2013-10-08T17:25:24Z Build 50 Changelist for build 50 of Grid12:

  • Reskin the town teleport and tank menu buttons
  • Add storage space items
  • Add tank unlock items
  • Add item melding
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/578174 2013-05-09T17:05:46Z 2013-10-08T17:25:12Z Build 49 Changelist for build 49 of Grid12:

  • Buff Valkyrie, Spectre, Hurricane; nerf Fury, Wildfire, Avenger
  • Have convoys properly recover from immobilization
  • Support multimember convoys
  • Add flanker and more tankers to antimatter convoy
  • Add baryon transport convoy
  • Start and end convoys a little bit off the map
  • Don't start a convoy immediately on game start
  • Fix bug where the presence of multiple players could lead to multiple loot drops
  • Improve server performance a little
  • Cap Corsair gamma blast to 1500 hp of damage
  • Fix "can't log in bug" which happened on 1 in 16 accounts
  • Eliminate the pause to paint enemy icons on zoom out
  • Implement long-term storage of items (2 slots per account)
  • Allow protomods to be "used" to create a fireworks display
  • Make z and ESC teleport you to Origin, not the closest town
  • Have GCTs toss a bomb every 3 seconds at the closest player
  • Upgrade GCT minion bombs
  • Make enemy AoE explosions match the actual explosion radius (GCT, Watchtower)
The buffs and nerfs are detailed here.
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/576811 2013-05-01T17:41:49Z 2013-10-08T17:24:55Z Build 48 Changelist for build 48 of Grid12:

  • Save items (eg. protomodules) in the database for up to 24 hours
  • Add per-item popup menu with delete option
  • Make each level of protomodule twice as rare as the level below it
  • Reduce small fort protomod drop rate to 25%
  • Add enemy convoy: antimatter tanker
  • Revamp prism indicator
  • Try some different colors for trigger buttons
  • Lengthen chat fadeout time to 12.5 seconds
  • Fix bug where new enemy icons were not displayed until after a zoom
  • Fix bug where clicking an affordable but unpurchased tank outside of a town seemed to buy the tank
  • Fix typos in Phantom and Hornet trigger tooltips
  • Fix tank rendering in the tank menu
  • Spawn up to four supertanks at each cross building
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/484350 2013-04-24T18:36:11Z 2013-10-08T17:05:12Z Build 47 Changelist for build 47 of Grid12:

  • Improve resource (texture, memory) reclamation, especially at death
  • Improve framerate by putting all lasers in a single nd2d cloud
  • Add first type of item: protomodules
  • Start on short-term item storage (no actual saving, just display)
  • Add glassy background to chatbox & text input box
  • Fade out chatbox after a period of idleness (pgdn to show it again)
  • Make tank stop on menu open (we may undo this eventually)
  • Revamp trigger UI to match item/protomodule UI style
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474234 2013-04-17T18:06:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Build 46 Changelist for build 46 of Grid12:

  • Use batches to speed up vehicle drawing
  • Don't draw enemy icons of far-away regions
  • Use static per-region enemy icon textures when zoomed way out
  • Don't draw the world when zoomed way out
  • Have Drill Station drop only one big prism
  • Buff Predator's main gun damage and shields
  • Nerf Avenger main turret overdrive (rotation rate and cooldown)
  • Buff Phantom damage and shields
  • Remove "external poofs" when others pick up prisms
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474235 2013-04-16T18:42:52Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Build 45 Changelist for build 45 of Grid12:

  • Fix some broken disarm visuals
  • Fix bug where some augments were not working when newly purchased
  • Add new stats widget that shows Stage3d draw calls and triangles
  • Batch ground panes into shared textures
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474236 2013-04-05T13:41:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Build 44 Changelist for build 44 of Grid12:

  • A new test client produced by the Flash Builder 4.7 compiler
  • Adjust Silver shields
  • Buff Mustang shields
  • Buff Corsair damage
  • Reduce Wildfire lightning range while buffed; reduce rate of fire
  • Increase Wolverine shield regen trigger cooldown; decrease DoT damage
  • Attempt to improve server performance by ticking offscreen objects less frequently
  • Adjust width and height of healthbars based on amount of health and minion vs building
  • Remove lenses
  • Recolor some loot bags
  • Log Stage3D driver info to chat at startup
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474237 2013-03-21T23:31:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Build 43 Changelist for build 43 of Grid12:

  • Add VP tank unlock system
  • Remove Cobra, Scorpion, Pegasus & Peacekeeper
  • Reset everyone's victory points and augments
  • Remove XP indicator
  • Rearrange HUD just a bit
  • Reduce Hurricane's "infinite" target limit to 8
  • Take target radius into account when deciding what target is closest
  • Make shotguns work even if center of target is not hit
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474238 2013-03-13T18:35:47Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Build 42 Changelist for build 42 of Grid12:

  • Add health bars (enable/disable them with 'J')
  • Add Fury triggers: Micronova, Differential Grav Mine, Chronoton Hyperboost, Mass-Energy Transform
  • Add Wildfire triggers: Mass Projection, Positive Target Lock, Dimensional Shift, Plasma Injection
  • Fix bug giving Wildfire infinite lightning targets
  • Add more info to region tooltips including personal stats
  • Fix bug that was causing hangs in login/register screen
  • Preserve HP & cooldowns, and deplete shields, on tank change
  • Restrict /leave and /tutorial to tutorial and overworld respectively
  • Fix turret spin bug, I hope
  • Require that all /choosename names be alphanumeric
  • Add cooldown on /choosename
  • Add /help command
  • Update title screen to reflect closed alpha status
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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474241 2013-03-06T21:06:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Grid12 Today we at Jetbolt would like to introduce the project that we've been working on for the last few months, a co-op Flash MMO called Grid12. In Grid12, you and lots of other players drive tanks, battling the enemies who've taken over the world. You collect loot, discover bases, unlock new tanks, build facilities and work together with your friends to reconquer the grid.

Since our initial launch last August, we've enjoyed working with a terrific group of pre-alpha testers. These folks have really helped us out. Thank you!

Grid12 now moves into its "closed alpha" testing phase. You are welcome to help us! If you would like to playtest the game, you'll need to get an invite code from an existing tester. Try asking for a code in the Grid12 forums.

We hope to see you in the grid sometime soon!

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474244 2012-10-07T14:31:42Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Game Dev Start-Up Summit I'm heading to Austin this week for GDC Online, where I'll be a panelist at the all-day Game Dev Start-Up Summit on Tuesday.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474246 2012-08-23T13:22:32Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Seeking testers We are putting together the first batch of external testers for Jetbolt's co-op indie MMO project. If you are interested, please drop an email to testers@jetbolt.com.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474249 2012-07-26T15:01:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z RotMG award nominations My previous project Realm of the Mad God was nominated in two categories at the 3rd Annual Game Developers Choice Online Awards: Best Online Game Design and Online Innovation. The winners will be announced at GDC Online in Austin this October.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474251 2012-07-24T18:02:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Autoaim, autofire Aiming and firing a weapon are fundamental actions in most combat games. It's pretty much all you do in first person shooters. Certainly my previous project Realm of the Mad God relied heavily on aiming and shooting. On the other extreme, Gratuitous Space Battles gives you no control at all, over anything!

In my current project at Jetbolt, players have vehicular avatars: tanks and other heavily armed vehicles. Some of the tanks have forward-mounted guns, but other weapons may point to the sides or rear. Some weapons are turreted, rotating a full 360 degrees. Some guns can hit only aerial targets, some can hit only ground-bound enemies, while others can target anything. There are single-target laser beams, area-affect shotgun sprays, delayed-blast mines and more.

Although Jetbolt's MMO has plenty of guns and shooting, players can neither aim nor fire. We are striving for a mouse-only control scheme that lets players operate the game with one hand free. We'd also like the control scheme to scale up to big vehicles with 10, 20 or more guns. Rather than make the player control all of that, we're having the computer do the aiming and firing, while the player concentrates on positioning and orienting the vehicle, bringing the biggest guns and the thickest armor to bear on the situation at hand.

There is risk in this approach: it may not work at all, or it may work but be unappealing to an audience used to aiming and shooting manually. But in some sense we have no choice but to try strange new things. Small indie projects can't compete with big-budget studios on quantity of 3D assets, dialogue voiceover coverage or cut-scene fidelity. Innovation is the only viable strategy for a small team in a field dominated by giants. So I hope it will work!

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474254 2012-07-17T13:53:33Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Class customization My introduction to role-playing games came from Dungeons and Dragons, the red box. Of course I was captivated. You could be a fighter, a magic-user, even an elf. What an awesome concept!

A few years later, I played another pen-and-paper game called Champions. This was a superhero game, and the amazing thing about it was that you could be any kind of hero you wanted. There were no rigid character classes; instead, you bought your hero's abilities with character points. There seemed to be no limit to what type of character you could make.

These days, most people experience role-playing games on a computer. But the old "fixed classes vs point-buy" debate still goes on. Some games make you pick from a menu of predefined classes, while others let you heavily customize your class through skill trees or even build your own class from scratch.

Although the number of choices in a point buy system seems limitless, in reality, dedicated players quickly figure out which builds are the best ones. As these builds get published on wikis and message boards, the community converges on a very small set of viable character types. Meanwhile, newbies faced with a near-infinite set of choices shrug and just pick something, and that something tends to have sub-par effectiveness.

With fixed classes, the game designers carefully curate the types of experiences that the players will have. Designers make each class unique, and they carefully balance them to achieve the target gameplay. By contrast, the designers of a point-buy system essentially leave the set of classes up to the vagaries of emergence. And so I think predefined classes are better.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474256 2012-06-20T06:12:45Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Wild Shadow acquisition Earlier today, Kabam announced its acquisition of Wild Shadow Studios, the company Alex Carobus and I founded a few years ago. Wild Shadow's only real product was Realm of the Mad God, which started as a contest entry, but grew into so much more. Alex is a tremendously gifted and hard working engineer and a good friend, and I'm really glad that I got to spend so much time working with him on something that touched so many people's lives in a positive way. Congrats Alex!

Coverage: Venture Beat, PC Gamer, Gamasutra, Massively, The Escapist, Marketwatch, Gamezebo

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474258 2012-06-08T17:52:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Ad-hoc grouping Groups are a pain.

To party up with other people, you have to find a group that is:

  • nearby
  • of your level
  • of your faction
  • doing something you want to do, and
  • looking for help from a character of your class.

Next you have to risk rejection by asking the group leader if you can join. How often do you approach stangers in real life and ask to hang out with them?

Things don't get a lot better once you're in a group. Members with below average effectiveness generate hate from the pros. There are arguments over loot. Any single member's bio/food break halts progress. Everything tends to slow down: xp gain, quest progress, loot acquisition. To put it in mathematical terms, everyone in an n-person group gets one nth of the rewards, but the group is not n times as effective as a solo player.

In Realm of the Mad God, Alex and I used ad-hoc groups to address these annoyances. There are no group leaders; there is no way to add or kick members. When a monster is killed, the game gives XP to everyone nearby. And instead of dividing the XP by the number of players, it's duplicated for everyone. For any kill, a five-person "group" earns five times the XP a soloer would.

The goal was "the more the merrier:" playing with other people should always be more fun and rewarding than playing alone. Realm has not fully achieved this goal, as players still compete with each other for loot drops. But as Jetbolt's new MMO project begins to take shape, this ideal is looking more and more attainable.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474260 2012-06-02T15:10:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Click play Flash games have developed a great feature: to play, you click "play".

The best ones don't even give you other choices—the big "Play!" button is pretty much the only thing on the screen. When you click it, the game starts up right away. You start having fun immediately.

Most online games don't meet this ideal. Sure, there may be a big fat "Play Now!" button on the game's website, but it doesn't do what it says. Instead, it leads you to a registration page where you enter your email address and choose a password. Whoops, it needs to include a capital letter and at least one number. And by clicking "Submit" you also agree to be bound by an enormous legal document that you haven't read. Then you check your mail and click a link in the message to get to a download screen. You spend several hours downloading, then another 30 minutes installing, and finally you are ready to click "play" again. But this launches an updater which downloads patch after patch, requiring you to click "OK" at odd intervals for another 45 minutes. When this is finished, another "Play" button appears. When you click it, you see a server selection screen. After puzzling over your choices—role-playing pvp?—you eventually choose a server at random and log in with the password you created hours ago on the game website. Next you are told to create a character, which involves choosing a faction, then a race, then a class. You haven't played the game yet, so you have no experience to guide you, and after fruitlessly trying to figure out which of the options would be most fun for a newbie to play, you eventually just guess. Next, you must pick a name that nobody else is already using. You start off trying cool names ("Gandalf") but eventually settle for something containing numbers or punctuation. Then you design your avatar: gender, height, weight, face shape, hairstyle, hair color, eyebrow type and a million other appearance details. You have to be super careful here because you're pretty sure you won't be able to change your mind later. Finally you click "play" one more time only to be confronted with an unskippable cutscene in which credits roll while a mediocre voice actor reads off the game's backstory in a British accent. At long last, you see your character, briefly, standing in a town. But he is immediately obscured by a large assortment of dialog boxes full of notices, instructions and tips.

These frustrations scare off all but the most committed gamers. But ordinary people want to play games too, and we designers should let them click play to play.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474261 2012-05-27T16:59:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Grind I think of "grind" as a not-particularly-fun, not-very-challenging activity that players do anyway in order to advance their characters.

For example: walking into town, getting a quest, walking to the zone with the monsters, fighting the monsters, walking back to town and turning in the quest. I suppose it's fun at first, but soon enough this pattern gets repetitious, then boring, then tedious, and after a while it's more work than game. So why do it? Rewards -- in this case, XP, gold, equipment and levels.

Rewards are powerful incentives. There is something about the "get task, do task, get reward" loop that human brains find irresistible. As long as the task is fun, it's a game. When it's no longer fun, it's grind. But players do it anyway, to get the rewards. Eventually they realize they hate the game and quit, disgusted at how much time they wasted on it.

But there is another way to look at grind. Sometimes, after a long day of work, people want an easy, semi-mindless project to help them relax: quilting, whittling, raking leaves, waxing the car. There's a reward at the end (a new quilt or a shiny car), and it's even better when they do it with friends. Grind can provide this relaxing activity; combined with guilds, grind serves as a virtual knitting circle or fishing hole -- a way to relax with friends while working on a task that isn't particularly hard.

So is grind good or bad? It's bad when the developer uses it as a crutch for phoned-in game design. But it's good when it builds community. As designer my goal is to make the "do task" part as fun as possible, and if I've done that then maybe I don't care if you want to call it grind.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474264 2012-05-21T20:39:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Indie MMOs To many the idea of an indie MMO seems daunting or outrageous. Typical MMO games such as World of Warcraft or Star Wars: the Old Republic have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars and staffs of several hundred people. How can a little indie team possibly compete with that?

But there have been indie MMOs, and some are still going strong after many years. The most famous and successful of these is RuneScape, which began as a bedroom project of two brothers. Others include the granddaddy of them all, Meridian 59, built by a five-person team in the mid 90s, Andrew Tepper and Josh Yelon's A Tale in the Desert, and Gene Enrody's Sherwood Dungeon. In 2010 Alex Carobus and I built Realm of the Mad God and launched it after only one month of work.

When building an MMO in a small team, it's important to avoid competing head on with big-budget games. You will never out-WoW WoW, so don't try. Instead, be different. Meridian 59 was faster; it beat the big games to market. A Tale in the Desert stood apart using innovative co-op gameplay and server-wide cooperative story arcs called "tellings." Sherwood and Runescape ran in the browser, making it easier for people to play while lowering expectations for graphical detail. Realm of the Mad God used all of these techniques: it was one of the first Flash MMOs, it used unexpected mechanics such as permadeath and bullet dodging, and it used low resolution 2D sprites to keep asset costs down.

So yes, it's possible for a small team to have success in a field traditionally dominated by giants. But it requires some nontraditional thinking.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474266 2012-05-15T18:41:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Vehicular avatars Most of the time, MMO avatars are people: humans, elves, dwarves, taurens, undead, Vulcans, Ferengi, Corellians, Kryptonians, etc. However, there are a few examples of MMOs that use vehicles as avatars.

Auto Assault was (by most accounts) a spectacular disaster of a game in which players drove cars around a post-apocalyptic landscape grinding out WoW-style quests using some very boring hotbar combat abilities. It was put out of its misery in 2007 after a year and a half of operation. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum is EVE Online, a complicated PvP sandbox game set in space. In EVE, players fly spacecraft -- miners, freighters, fighters, battleships. EVE has been up for almost a decade and keeps getting more and more subscribers.

There are pros and cons to using vehicles as avatars. A disadvantage is that it's harder for people to relate to a machine -- players connect better with humanoid avatars. On the other hand, games using vehicular avatars have an easy way to let players change what their "character" looks like -- just jump into another vehicle.

I'm interested in vehicular avatars for a different reason -- they're easy to draw. My current MMO project uses vector art and a top-down camera view. Drawing humanoid avatars from that perspective means that players would only really see the tops of their characters' heads. But vehicles like tanks, helicopters and hoverbikes can look really good from that viewpoint.

Artistically, I would like the game to evoke top-down vehicular vector classics like Asteroids, Space Duel, Star Castle and Geometry Wars. This look is really different from what you'd typically see in an MMO, but I'm excited to try to make it work.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474267 2012-05-09T12:45:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Free to play It's pretty clear by now that the old MMO subscription model is not viable for most games. Back in the day (say, 2004), there were only a few games to choose from. They charged about $50 to get started, and $15 or so per month thereafter. That was a lot of money to try out a game you've never played before, but with such limited competition, what choice did you have?

These days, there are bunches of online multiplayer games, and with greatly increased competition, something had to give. Just as before, a few games could get away with the subscription model -- the biggest, most life-consuming, all-things-to-all-people games like World of Warcraft. There is enough to do in WoW that many who pay the subscription don't play any other games. But not every game is as big as WoW, and these smaller games need a different model -- free to play.

Of course "free to play" doesn't mean you can't pay; it just means you can play "some" before paying. And that's about all you can say in terms of a clear definition of free-to-play; there are enormous numbers of variants of the model, and the industry is actively experimenting with new ones all the time. Someday there may be some convergence, but we haven't hit that point yet.

Alex Carobus and I had great success with free to play on Realm of the Mad God. We let everyone play the whole game for free, but we gave our most fervent fans the ability to pay us as much as they wanted for extra storage space, extra character slots, clothing, pets and more. We were not comfortable with selling outright game advantage, but we also wanted to avoid the commonly seen model of making the game painful and annoying until the player ponies up some cash.

Jetbolt's new MMO will use the free-to-play model. I'm not sure yet what types of things players will be able to buy, but my goal is to strike a balance between fun for everyone and the ability of true fans to spend as much as they like on their gaming hobby.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474269 2012-05-03T21:05:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Levels Could leveling up be the most well-worn trope in all of gaming?

Levels began as a shorthand for keeping track of progress in pen-and-paper roleplaying games. When RPGs made the leap into computer form, levels came along, and then they started leaking out into other genres. These days it's tough to find a game that doesn't include levels in some form or another.

One reason the level-up mechanic is so omnipresent is that levels represent a reward that the game can hand out to the player at regular intervals. Human brains absolutely love getting praise, even for trivial accomplishments. It is not a joke -- adding level-ups to a game pretty much always makes it more attractive, at least in the short term.

While levels are an effective (if overused) mechanic in single player games, levels have at least one tremendously negative repercussion in multiplayer games: levels separate you from your friends. The whole point of playing a multiplayer game is to play with others -- your friends, your guildmates, even the random Internet people who'll become your friends later. When the level difference between you and the people you want to play with is too great, you can't play together, and that's terrible.

Jetbolt's new MMO project employs a territory capture mechanic that has all the players working together to secure land from the enemies. Everyone fights on the same battlefront against the same foes. There are no level-appropriate zones -- only a combat front that shifts over time as territory is won or lost.

This mechanic lies in direct opposition to the levelup system. In traditional games, a character increases its power by 10 to 50 percent at each level. A high level character is hundreds of times more effective than a first-level character. Obviously, this sort of progression prevents characters of different levels from working together. One simple way to fix this is to compress the progression scale, so that high-level characters aren't that much more powerful than low-level characters. Another method is "horizontal" progression, in which levelups unlock new weapons, abilities, classes, vehicles, etc, without necessarily increasing character power. Another way is to treat levels as achievements, awarding badges, titles, costumes and other non-combat perks for leveling up.

One mechanic I'm considering is giving out the most powerful level-up rewards server-wide based on progress made by the playerbase as a whole on that server. That is, as the players capture territory on a given server, all players on that server level up together, giving them the ability to take the fight further. This means that everyone on a server can work together at all times.

I'm hoping that a judicious combination of these techniques will allow Jetbolt's MMO to retain some of the benefits of levels while mitigating the drawbacks.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474271 2012-04-27T17:14:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Territory capture I am hoping to explore territory capture in Jetbolt's new MMO project. Many games use this mechanic, from the ancient game of go to real-time strategy games, first person shooters, and sandbox MMOs.

Original

Territory capture in MMOs is normally a PvP thing. In theme park games, factions typically battle over a designated region, with some type of buff or other reward given to the side that holds the objectives. In more complicated sandbox games, guilds or clans hold regions of the game world against all comers, building infrastructure and defenses while trying to profit from their holdings and gain even more land.

As I'm less interested in PvP, I'm planning to try co-op PvE territory capture. In this idea, the game world starts out completely overrun by enemies, and it is up to the players to take it back. Players work together to defeat the enemies, destroy their structures and decontaminate the land. Then they build structures of their own and exploit resources in the newly-recaptured area to continue the campaign.

There are a lot of question marks in a game like this. Can the players "win"? What happens then? Do players level up? If so, how will they cooperate if they are at vastly different levels? How do zones, stories and quests work? Can newbies or griefers ruin things for others by building inappropriate structures in critical spots? I think I've got answers for a lot of these, but the only true test is to build something and let people play.

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tag:jetbolt.com,2013:Post/474239 2012-04-22T17:09:00Z 2013-10-08T17:03:06Z Protocol buffers Clients and servers communicate with each other by sending messages encoded in a protocol. When we wrote Realm of the Mad God, Alex Carobus and I made up our own protocol. We designed it by hand to be small and fast, and it worked very well. But there was one major drawback: every time we wanted to augment or change the protocol, we had to go in and hand-edit a bunch of code in both the client and the server, and then record what we did in the protocol definition documentation. If we neglected to update one of the three, or if the changes did not match exactly, we were in trouble.

Google has built software called Protocol Buffers to help with exactly this problem. The protobuf system lets you write one file (the proto file), which serves as definition and documentation for the protocol. The system uses a "protocol compiler" to read the proto file and generate the client and server code. When you need to change the protocol, you edit the proto file, run the protocol compiler, and you're done.

Google's protocol compiler generates C++, Java or Python code. Although Jetbolt's MMO uses C++ for the server, its client is written in Actionscript 3 (AS3). To make the protocol compiler emit AS3, I had to track down an open source plugin called protoc-gen-as3 and massage it gently until everything worked. But once that was done, protocol changes were super fast and easy to make. Hooray!

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