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A Real "God-Game" & World-Generator
As I've said before, I think the computer RPG has eclipsed the paper & pencil variety, at least when it comes to the player's experience. (I know this doesn't hold for Narrativist RPGs, but I don't like Narrativist RPGs. They're supposed to be collaborative story generators, but I see them as dull games that create bad stories.) Sadly, this leaves wannabe Game Masters without a creative outlet. Minecraft creative mode can serve as an adequate dungeon maker -- see Vech's Super-Hostile series to see some great examples -- but it isn't a good world-making tool.

Here's an idea for a game that would create a CRPG world as you play. Ideally it would start with a small multi-player group -- three to a dozen, perhaps -- which would expand as the world grows. I imagine it progressing in two or three phases:

Phase One: The War Against Chaos, Darkness or Evil

The players start out in world dominated by sinister monsters: Giants, Titans, Dragons, the forces of the Dark Lord ... Ideally there would be many options, and the player that reserves the server space could choose one. The object of the Phase One would be to defeat the Evil Overlord(s) and rule the world in their stead.

A key part of this phase is that once the Dark Force leaders are defeated, their minions would flee and hide from the big bad PCs. They'd withdraw into caves, dense forests, mountain passes and the margins of the world. They would become important later.

Phase Two: The Golden Age

In Phase Two the PCs are the new gods. (New players can become "young" gods in this Phase, with limited opportunities for monster-fighting.) They can build their Olympus/Asgard/Valinor and, more importantly, can create the first mortals. There can be only a single mortal race, or several, and in the latter case the general rule will be (a) the first races have the best magic and craft skills, but (b) each later race will be more numerous and will push the earlier ones to the world's margins. Once the last mortal race is created you can move to the third Phase.

Phase Three: The Heroic Age

In the final (?) Phase, players can take the roles of mortal heroes. For old players, these could be the children of their god-characters (in which case, they would have to be from the last mortal race, i.e., humans). These heroes would battle the monsters left over from Phase One, and fight for or against the kingdoms established in Phase Two. In this Phase the gods would only be able to intervene in extremely limited ways (and those playing demi-god descendants wouldn't be able to intervene at all). The game would be much like a standard fantasy RPG at this point.

So, what do people think?

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For maximum evil/profit, link server idle time during Phase 3 to encroaching forces of Darkness; too low server pop/much idle time results in apocalypse and server resets to Phase 1.

While I like the idea, unfortunately the server pop is almost guaranteed to not grow past phase 2 as you describe it. There's very little incentive to join a server where you can never attain the power and strength of older players, let alone be told that you joined too late to have any notable effect on a game world whose primary initial draw is that players can be Gods, even temporary new ones.

I would suggest that players in any phase can never attain godhood, just the power to be affecters and minor creators. Let them found Thuria, Lemuria, and Atlantis. Then take it away from them into the next phase and say, "here is what you have wrought". Then destroy the world and let only a few random things (that have the power to be affecters themselves) survive on reset. Maybe the players in the best shape at the end of phase 3 leave the most behind in the new world, they'll just start on the same level as anyone else in the next phase.

I see what you mean about older players having all the fun. Note you can effect the game world quite a bit in Phase 3, you just do so on a smaller scale. So you can defeat the dragon and win the princess, you just can't defeat Ymir and build Olympus, which would be reserved for earlier phases.

One way to handle this: It could cost $ to play in Phase 1 and 2, but free-to-play in Phase 3.

I see what you mean about older players having all the fun. Note you can effect the game world quite a bit in Phase 3, you just do so on a smaller scale.

You still have a built-in unsurmountable inequity of agency, and it cuts people off from what makes your idea unique. Why would someone play phase 3, which you described as like a standard fantasy RPG, if they're not able to play phase 1 and phase 2?

One way to handle this: It could cost $ to play in Phase 1 and 2, but free-to-play in Phase 3.

It's a novel idea, but "rewarding" people who pay money upfront with the actual unique features of your game (the thing they'll actually want) which you then plan to take away is not a great way to build an audience.

If you want to go this route, you really should be making two separate games, with separate pricing and audiences, that can interact with each other on a minor level, such as EvE and Dust 514 (which may flop completely).

I think you need to check out some OSR blogs (either "Old School Revival" or "Old School Renaissance", depending on who you ask. ) Start with Zak Smith's Playing D&D with Porn Stars and then work out from there, following links in his posts and sidebar.

The particular style of RPGing that Zak (and other OSR gamers) are into is one in which characters are free to go about interacting with the game-world (rather than having pre-plotted adventures), and free to solve problems by improvising crazily using the resources they have at hand (rather than mastering a tactical combat boardgame). Usually they also prefer the old D&D-style of character design, where you start out as a noob and gradually become a hero, and probably die a whole lot of times, and make up a lot of new characters.

You might also find value in an essay on EN World about the difference between Combat-as-Sport and Combat-as-War.

Yep, Zak's approach is more or less what I've been advocating for years (since I wrote about it the last time I was in A&E), although I think his vision is better developed. The only problem with a "picturesque" RPG though, as I've said, is that CRPGs seem much better at it! I would just like to see tools that would take them out of the exclusive hands of programmers and into the hands of laypeople.

Are CRPGs really better at it? How well does World of Warcraft handle players who come up with novel approaches to problems? If the players want to wander off and explore some not-yet-created part of the map, do they just have to wait a few minutes for the GM to roll some dice and improvise some encounters, or till next week's session for a new town and dungeon, or do they need to wait months or years for a development team to generate new CGI models and code new scenarios?

Yeah, hard to see how the present generation of CRPG's is better. Even the best ones tend to use "conversation trees", which while inventive, does limit your options somewhat.

Granted the branches of those trees are probably more immediately fleshed out from the beginning, which is what I assume you were referring to?

Referring to when? I don't think I said anything about conversation trees.

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