Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Player participation to game development
One thing which is unique to A Tale in the Desert is that the code can be changed while the game is running. There is no scheduled downtime for maintenance like in other games, the servers are basically always up. I was told that through the history of the game the servers have been down less than once per year. Now that is a feature I'd love other games to introduce!
Being able to change code while the game is running, and there being not many players, also means that the developers can discuss changes to the game with players, and implement them on the spot, or run tests with the participation of the players.
So last night Pharaoh announced that they were working on a new event, which consisted of a mining competition. And to test that out, he ran a test event with us, with around a hundred players participating. There were several different categories, rewarding players for the amount of ore produced, the number of puzzles solved, the number of players they grouped with while mining, and a combined score, plus a lottery for all participants. While the real event will take place on the weekend and have major prices, we still received useful resources as rewards for participating.
But the really interesting part was that before, during, and after the event there was a moderated chat channel to discuss the event with the developer. We first discussed what prices to give out for the test event, and some rules. During the event the way how the combined score was calculated was modified, taking into account player input on what was perceived to be most fair. And after the event further rules modifications were openly discussed between players and Pharaoh, for example on how to exclude sand mines, not built on a vein, or whether it was fair to have a "owner of the most productive mine" category when so many mines were public or guild owned.
While participating in game development and seeing the results implemented while the game is running is extremely cool, that of course is something that is only feasible for small games. A Tale in the Desert has only one server running the 5th telling right now, with a few hundred concurrent users, while World of Warcraft has over a thousand servers, and over a million people playing at any given moment. It would be kind of ridiculous to even imagine Ghostcrawler popping up on WoW general chat and asking all players simultaneously on how they think some WoW holiday event should be modified to be more fair.