Golemizer v2.0 … What I would do differently
Ok I get it that some of you are tired of my pessimism. To my defense just realize that if I was throwing away all my efforts done in the last 3-4 years that I wouldn’t care to post on this blog anymore. I’d be busy kicking some ass on Quake Live instead while searching for a day job I really like and the only thing you’d see here would be a 404 error. This blog is about what I experience about game development and I post about what’s happening, what I feel, what I see. News are just not great recently so I post about that. It kinda helps me in a way to get some stuff out of my head. Some can relate to that and some are just annoyed by it. The day I’ll get exciting news (like the release of some Flash game) I’ll also post about it too! Don’t worry!
So to get something positive on here for a change I decided to put some thoughts about something I’d like to happen in the future. When? I don’t know. I just know that I’d like it to happen.
No I’m not currently working on version 2.0 of Golemizer. Yes like I said I’d like to do so later. I feel the IP is rich and still have much potential. I think the IP itself can do well if some things are done better and to be fair Golemizer is still online after 2 years so it’s not a total disaster. It still have done better than some other big MMOs that didn’t last more than a few months. No version 2.0 wouldn’t please all current players of Golemizer 1.0 and there’s some good reasons for that … Keep reading to find out why.
This means I would probably use Flash for the client. I’m not a Flash fanboy but right now it’s the easiest way to distribute web games. It’s true that a game like Golemizer should do well on its own website without any distribution on portals but considering how poorly I’ve been able to spread the word about Golemizer (and how great were some blogs to ignore my calls) using Flash and distributing on other websites could give me maybe 1% more chance.
I would seriously evaluate the possibility of using an engine that already handles some of the headaches servers need to take care of. Golemizer isn’t an intensive game on the server (when there’s no obscure bugs that is) but my lack of experience in the matter consumed a lot of time. A lot… lot… lot of time. Being able to get something done for Golemizer 1.0 just convinced me that I should at least take the time to check what’s around.
It’s no magical solution of course as using 3rd parties always have downsides but I’ve spent so much time on figuring out how to not make the server explode that spending some months on some existing technology still would be a benefit. Developing a server is no joke and often no fun. I’ve done it once but I’m not sure I’d like to repeat the experience.
Maybe I would end up coding it from scratch again (as what I learned should in theory help me this time) but I would still take the time to look what’s available before jumping in it right away. The bottom line is that I would do some research before deciding which way I’d go.
No direct PvP
Boom! Some players from Golemizer version 1.0 will hate me. At first I imagined Golemizer like some kind of mini EVE Online. Ambitious yes but so cool. I just didn’t know how to do it very well. Mostly because it wasn’t what I was really aiming for I guess. I wanted a crafters heaven and expanded my idea to a sandbox heaven. I just couldn’t do both at the same time very well.
I’ve spent way too much time on figuring out how I could interest PvPers in Golemizer and I’ve lost focus. I’ve coded a lot of gimmicks that were badly planned and I’ve even convinced myself that it NEEDED that. I developed too many mechanics in some ridiculous time that it was doomed right from the start.
And don’t get me started on community management … The most time-consuming concerns I had were related to PvP and community management related to it. Drama … Banning … Abusing … Hate mails … Threats … It was just way more than I could handle and it wasn’t even what I wanted to start with. At some point I was desperate to get more players and I tried way too many things which lead to more troubles.
And another shocking fact … PvPers don’t spend much money on the game. Dedicated crafters were always the most important supporters of Golemizer while PvP mostly only brought people who were requiring me to spend a lot of time for little money. So the most time I’ve spent on Golemizer was for people who didn’t help me to get any profits out of Golemizer … bringing me further from my goal of making a living out of games. That was my mistake. I shouldn’t have let PvPers take so much place in Golemizer as I know for sure that I’ve lost some of the people I wanted to play Golemizer in the process.
So how would I handle PvP? Through PvE player content … Where Golemizer really shines. Crafters become some kind of GMs and this provides and incredible amount of content. Way more than a single person could ever design and good content too. Want to fight another player? Well you’ll have to do so by fighting his content. The golem mechanic works perfectly for that and it’s really the idea behind Golemizer. For example one of the thing I’m really not sure why I added is the weapon system. That would be out. That means some people wouldn’t like the new version but I bet that it would please other people who didn’t enjoy being chased while harvesting flowers.
Yes PvP could be done much more better but the truth is that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do for Golemizer. Call it bad planning or some kind of panic attack on my part. Yep the whole open PvP is probably something that interested a lot of players but also know that it pushed away others. Those others I’d focus on for V2.0.
Self-running quests system
The current quest system in Golemizer is bulletproof meaning that all quests need to be approved by a GM before being available. It is however a lot of work to manage. I’d rather give more autonomy to players with the quest system and let them handle some kind of rating system. Sure it would create a lot of crap so it means I’d have to imagine a system that makes it easy for players to spot the good content.
Maybe I could promote some players to “quests judges” and their ratings would be the official rating of each quests. Players who have produce themselves good quests. That would open the door to some weak stuff but I’d be ready to accept that instead of having to manually check every single quest created. The current system makes sure crap is not introduced in the game but requires way too much work which means a player can wait several days/weeks before seeing his quest approved. And the end result is often frustration and players quitting. I’d say it was particularly true when I was the only one able to approve each quests.
More rewarding resource hunting
Simple stuff. When players are digging to create a dungeon they are gathering resources at the same time. They don’t see anything they just order their golems to dig. What if you get in a room you just created and found that rare metal lying on the floor.
Instead of picking up a flower and hoping that your dice roll is good what about going after that special rare high quality flower only found at a particular time in a certain region.
What about being able to expand the world! Players can already do so through their dungeon and cities but what about the actual world. And having them as the owner of this part of the world. This last idea could probably be available through microtransactions to keep things under control but I can see how some players would enjoy that.
Better logs for players and me
Players just love to know what happens in-game when they’re not online. Who killed their golems? Who completed their quests? Who just bought something from their merchant? Who just joined their city? And so on. It also helps to debug non-bugs. My golem disappeared!!! No… it was killed by Mr GolemKiller. It happened more than once and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find bugs that were not bugs.
Wiki right from the start
When I added a wiki for players to document the game it helped a lot. A lot … I would never release another game of this scale without a wiki. Besides because of the nature of Golemizer a lot of players are enjoying updating it. Just take a look at the current wiki for Golemizer. It’s amazing to see the love that have been put in there.
I tried to have a lot of tools but most of these tools were too complicated for GMs to use. For version 2.0 I would design the whole world through tools GMs could understand and use. I’d say I did that to some extent but it still wasn’t enough. That way it would force me to build decent tools that could be used to expand in amazing ways the game. The less I have to manually manipulate the code and the database the better. It means that new stuff can be added faster and with less risk to break something. And I did break things while updating Golemizer and it did cost me players. If I would have taken a slower and safer path (meaning a path GMs could also follow) I would have allowed me to add more things to Golemizer and more things faster. For a game like Golemizer it means everything since everything is about giving players more items, more clothing, more power. This is how Golemizer was able to survive for over 2 years and counting.
Of course back then I was learning how to create this weird MMO idea so I didn’t have all the knowledge required to make efficient tools I guess and I underestimated what kind of tools I’d need. I’m hoping I have learned enough to fix that in version 2.0.
More stuff to buy with real cash
I’ve said before that my planning to monetize Golemizer was all wrong (non-existing would be more accurate) so I wouldn’t make this mistake again. One thing I learned is that players will pay for cool stuff even if that cool stuff doesn’t have any impact on the game itself. The most popular item sold for real cash in Golemizer is some “Exotic rug”. That’s right. An item that doesn’t have any impact on the game. It’s just cool to have and nice to decorate your house. The second most popular item sold for cash in Golemizer? A plant … Yes those items are fairly cheap but I’ve made more money with those than with any other items in the game. So with version 2.0 I would offer more items of this type. Give enough to make crafters relevant but have regular exclusive items in the store. Those sell and it often doesn’t need to be quite fancy to be popular.
At some point I went into some intensive programming for new mechanics available through the store and it just wasn’t worth it. The GPS system is a good example. In the end I just ended up offering it for free as I thought it was a neat system for players but it just didn’t work that well as a paid service.
It would remain 2D but I wouldn’t use any free graphic libraries. It got the job done for version 1.0 and people have been good at remembering me how not so great the graphics are … That means that I would get everything done from an artist and wouldn’t even think of doing it myself.
Of course paid work means a lot of upfront money. Blimp Wars cost me nearly $2,000 for the art and I never got a cent back for it. In a game like Golemizer one of they key feature is that there is so much to craft, to use that I can’t think of how expensive it would be. Some stuff could be cut and added later but it still means a lot of art to be done.
There’s of course the option to work with an artist who is ready to take the risk of working on the project and would be paid later … Easier said than to find though. A lot of people underestimate the work to be done and it means to remain focused on a single project for a very long time. Having someone to go away after two months just because of a lost of interest can’t cut it. It’s true for artists, coders, writers, … everyone. And finding people ready to commit until the end is hard. Really hard. I even had some hard times with some paid artists so someone who would accept to get done work for no immediate money would need to be damn good at convincing me he wouldn’t quit mid-project.
That brings me to the next point …
I would get funds for the development of the game. Or at least I would try. Again easier said than done. It was pretty hard for me for version 1.0 to even talk about it as I’m no business man and my project just sounded like some silly adventure that wouldn’t last more than a few months. So the funding came from my own pocket.
Now I have a damn good demo to show what I want to do. Why not just get money to improve the current iteration? Past some point things just can’t be fixed and some problems are too deep down at the root of the code to make it a valid alternative. I built Golemizer while I had no experience at all in game development and it shows. I’m far from a pro but there’s a few things I learned since then that would greatly help me to build a solid base for the game.
Just asking people to support a project can work to some degree. I surely didn’t expect the kind of support we received for The Fae’s Wyrd for example. There’s also things like Kickstarter (which I cannot use as last I checked it required a US bank account) and Indie Fund.
Why money? Well first for graphics (see above) and second because I’ve already built 1 MMO part-time at nights and I’m not interested to repeat the experience. It’s hard to create something of this scale when the only coding time you have is after a full day of coding. I’m still putting money from my own pocket in the sense that I do take at least 1 days off per week to only do game development but it’s still not a lot.
Of course there’s still some hope to make some money out of smaller Flash games that could help to fund bigger projects but let’s not bet on money that’s not in my wallet yet.
Again something else that requires money. I can code websites but I can’t create pretty pictures for them. And pretty pictures are important. The first version of Golemizer’s website did a terrible job selling the game so I would make sure to have something nice to show visitors. The current one is better but it’s still far from looking like a game’s website.
Release early, release often
With a big BETA tag on it. I did released often with version 1.0 but I surely didn’t release early enough. Golemizer isn’t about out-of-the-box content. Players are building content. It means that a new version of Golemizer could be released pretty quickly and could benefit from the input of version 1.0 players which could probably be the first to adopt the new version (besides PvPers of course…). It could also be a nice way to fund the development of the game.
In version 1.0 I made the mistake of trying to develop some content and some content before the quest system was created. It took way too much time and the content was poor anyway. I should have spent this energy on a better introduction to the game. A better tutorial.
But what’s the point of playing a game with not much in it? Well if you’re asking the question it’s probably because you wouldn’t play Golemizer anyway. If you enter Golemizer and wait for something to happen then nothing will happen. Pretty much like Minecraft in fact (besides at night monsters will attack you but I could add that if that’s what you want).
All it needs to be released is the crafting system. Golems don’t even need to be there yet as I’ve found that a lot of players are not even bothering about them. They’re too busy decorating their house or some fancy settings. So an early public beta release would be possible and would benefit the game I think. I’ll admit that Minecraft being still in Alpha is helping me to think it would work. When you think about it the core of Golemizer is quite simple: Crafting.
Do less but better
That’s just to complete the previous point. Focus on improving what’s appreciated instead of rushing to develop new stuff that might just not work. Introduce new systems slowly to test them and plan better expansion.
This IP is very important for me and I’d like to be able to visit it again with the experience I’ve gained. Out of everything I tried it’s still the most successful project I worked on even if it didn’t match my expectations. There’s no way of knowing for sure how a new version of Golemizer would do but I still believe it could do well someday. Not so long ago numbers were telling me that it could do well with a bigger crowd and now I have to figure out how to get that bigger crowd. I think I outlined some stuff here but there’s surely more to it. Otherwise I would probably be busy working on that new version right now.
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