Making the greatest game that ever was… or not.

Partly out of the sheer heavy practice I’ve been dedicating towards BYOND lately, my project has taken an ambitious turn.  The other day, I came under the realization that if I can make a suitcase you can drop which releases a bunch of nanites which then assemble a base (and I did) then I can pretty much make anything.

The fundamental truth of the matter is that you can do anything in BYOND you want to do — well, anything involving a tile-based engine and reasonable technical limitations, that is.   Consequently, all my previous self-imposed limitations have fallen away, and I’ve become that much closer to really building something that is my own net dream.

I’ve mentioned Sentinel Worlds recently, a game I fondly remember from my childhood that remains a pretty good experience even today.   It’s a game from the late 80s that has your rolled up group of five loyal space police getting to the bottom of a space raider plot.  It had three main parts consisting of traveling through space in your ship, traveling planets in your rover, and traveling about maps on foot.

As a game designer, what is it about this game that so excites me?  Is it all nostalgia?  After all, Sentinel Worlds is not the only game that lets you travel a universe in a ship, land on planets, and poke around: Starflight, Star Control 2, or Mass Effect could be said to do the same.  (Although each were excellent games, and only Mass Effect had a marine component.)

The answer is perhaps not what Sentinel Worlds has done well, so much as what I can do with this background and a larger scope that attempts to introduce a powerful dynamic content generation engine to the multi-player mechanics the BYOND platform offers.

In bridging the gap from single player scenario adventure to persistent-world multiplayer, you lose that nice handcrafted story.  However, what if there was a way to preserve that feeling of wonder?  That’s where something like Left4Dead’s Director (which I interpret as a Virtual GM) excites me: with enough programming and effort, perhaps I can make a game with the triple-depth of a good universe exploring game and yet possessing the “different every time you play” mystique of a Roguelike.

Yes, what I’m currently developing is less in the vein of Starflight and more in the vein of a small-scale massively multiplayer Roguelike with a space theme that supports dynamic content.

At this point, a lot of ifs enter the picture: If I can design it; If I can balance it; If I can finish it; If I can host it.   Should all those ifs be resolved in a favorable fashion, what we have here is the potential for the greatest game that ever was.  (At least if you’re into this kind of game – some people don’t like sci-fi, and others are fixated on whiz-bang graphics.)  Or maybe one or more of those ifs won’t be resolved in a favorable fashion, in which case this game will be nothing more than a forgettable experiment.  Well, in that case, at least I can say I got a good deal of practice in making it.

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