Questing party from DragonlanceQuest is a project.
I always wanted to create a game that was essentially something to dip in and out of at will and the content would be different. Since it’s a game I also wanted to be able to present varying challenges and puzzles.
All of my games to date have been arcade games with the kind of action and pace that I was so fond of as a kid. Indeed the 3 recent games were very much an exercise in rewriting my favourite type of games from my youth.
But with Quest I wanted something different. Something a lot less hands on and a good deal more, well, thought provoking.

In essence I wanted to create a game in which I was very much a spectator. I wanted a level of interaction naturally but above all I wanted to feel as though every time I “played” the game I was being told a story.

In order to make this happen I knew that I needed a good deal of depth. Each character, location and inventory item needed to be represented by a wealth of numbers and flags in the background. So I set about crafting a database to store it all.
My research for all of this took me off to AD&D headquarters at Wizards of the Coast. Well, in that I studied their web site and trawled forums to get a feel for what was important to genuine pencil, paper and dice RPG enthusiasts. What struck me most was just how much detail these gamers rely on. It’s quite overwhelming.

So finally after about 6 weeks of assembling, testing, tweaking and administering I have a database and fully functional editor such that I can create and administer everything from Monsters and Characters to Locations, Inventory Items, Combat Situations and Treasure Chances. I even go to the trouble of weighting each entity such that I can calculate the probability of having such items reappearing or indeed their abundance within their environment. There are relationships throughout the system to allow me to create a realistic world with logical inhabitants based on class, temperament, religion and a whole host of things. Even though I say it myself my world editor is beautiful.
I’m that sad I’ve spent the past week just tinkering with the base class of a few monsters to see how it affects the world around them and the behaviour of potential nearby NPCs. To have this level of control over a world is my dream. And it’s all text. I’ve deliberately steered clear of creating graphics since it’s just not necessary right now.

So I moved on a step in the last couple of days and actually put the world to test. I created a party of 6 members (all of whom are my friends with suitably appropriate statistics, e.g. the big guy is the muscle man, the athletic guy is the thief etc) and placed them in to a logical starting point – a town. The system is set to take what I refer to as snapshots over a set period – currently 15 minutes but most likely 1 hour in live. With every snapshot I assess the situation of the party based on a set of instructions handed to them by the player.
For example: if the last instruction was to travel to a given location I assess how far they have traveled based on the world they’re traveling through. Fairly basic stuff. If at any point en route they encounter hostilities or anything for that matter that requires intervention, I alert the player (me) via email and send a link to the controlling web page.

What’s so satisfying about this is that it hooks in to something that I enjoy in web browsing – the potential for someone to have contacted me or responded to a post or query on a forum. The Facebook phenomenon epitomises this. How thrilling to receive a number in a red circle. Who or what is after me ?
I wanted this in Quest. The potential for something different with every visit. But I also wanted something that prodded me. Something that said “hang on, something’s changed in this virtual world and you really need to come and address it”. Better still I wanted to regress and enjoy the same kind of adventuring thrills that I had as a child with my hopelessly overactive imagination. Quest is allowing me to do this. It is allowing me to not only be Dungeon Master and adventurer but also, and I hesitate in saying this, God.

Once I’ve adapted the front end a little I will talk in more detail about the design of the game system and where I think the real thrills (for me) of Role Playing lie.


3 Responses

  1. I love a bit of procedural content generation, so this looks like interesting stuff!

    After 6 weeks of development there must be some things that were tried and abandoned for better methods?

    I’m looking forward to the future articles to learn more…

    • Hi,
      yes very much. Mostly in the use of stats though.
      I started off using very few database fields but now have hundreds ! Nothing left to chance. I want as realistic (albeit fantasy) a world as possible.
      It’s satisfying my inner geek just now to have such control :-)

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