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Faith Lost; Rebuilding

ArcheAge is turning out to be a rather poor use of $162: the game is being undermined by catastrophic security flaws, with no less than ten kinds of hacks running rampant at this time.  While hacks are not uncommon in online games, to have this magnitude of security flaws is downright criminally negligent, especially in what is implied to be a secure persistent-state universe game.  If there is a class action lawsuit brought against Trion Worlds and XLGames, my name would probably be amongst the plaintiffs: I want my $162 back.
Technically speaking, I suppose that is what you get for porting over an earlier version: all the hacks that were patched out of the South Korean version are getting a second airing over here, except without any impediment of the time that was needed to create them in the first place.  Either that, or Jake Song's company absolutely sucks at security, and they never got around to plugging those holes... if that is the case, I am never buying into a game developed by him or his company again.

As a relative gaming zealot, I find cheating in online games abominable.  When you cheat in a single player game, that is fine, you are defining you preferred game experience, you are cheating no one but yourself.  When you cheat in a multiplayer game, you are physically forcing other players to be the foils of your preferred game experience, and that is truly vile.  Say what you will about the problems of the world overshadowing anything to happen in a game, I would reply that virtual wrong-doing has the potential to be just as malicious as the real.

To me, cheating in an online game is pretty much wearing a big sign around your neck reading, "I am an ignorant misanthrope who thinks nothing of cheating others, I might not get to do that as much as I would like in real life, but I can certainly do that as much as I want here."  Some would say they are should be allowed to misbehave so they can let off steam and not commit these crimes in real life.  In the imaginary realm my own megalomaniacal fantasies, I have more permanent solutions in mind.
I suppose it does not matter much: my involvement in ArcheAge has pretty much fallen to logging in once every 1-3 days, spending my labor points, maybe making a trade run or two, and logging off.  I have not done battle in weeks, not against players, not against mobs, and I feel as though I hardly even know how the moves in my hotbar work anymore.

I am attempting to shift more priority into my game development endeavors because, as I have noted many times before, I have been a gamer so long that very little of what game developers come up with can really surprise or entertain anymore.  If my recent finishing of Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is of any indication, I can certainly enjoy a good visual novel, but the appeal was probably more about a story than gameplay.

My target game remains the same as it has been for quite some time: Minecraft, with Civilization on top.  Or so I said.  Actually, it seems what I want is a survival game where the goal is not just to survive, but rather to build something of lasting purpose.

Purpose is the keyword here, and it is a damn hard one to nail down.  Games are, in a way, a microcosm of life itself.  Just as life has its goals and its rules, so do games.  You can bumble your way through life, accomplishing little, you take little purpose to the grave with you, but you at least have that.  When you design a game, there can be no bumbling about, you are responsible for adding a good purpose to the game.  What is the meaning of the game I mean to make?  Well, if they're microcosms of life, then what is the purpose of life?  Uh oh.
Like most problems in life, I am probably over-thinking it; truth of the matter is, I know the answer, I am just having a hard time deciding.  If you have ever written a story, you may come to realize that good stories communicate purpose.  To add purpose to the game is to add a good story.  The whole Civilization level can be completely supplanted with a story; I have been looking at Civilization as an advanced procedural story generator.  What I am having trouble deciding is what story I really want to communicate, within a framework of being a survival game.

It has occurred to me that both Planet Explorers and The Sims Medieval are actually pretty close to the game I want to make.  Planet Explorers is Minecraft with a story added via quest hubs, but I find I am thoroughly tired of questing.  The Sims Medieval would be excellent... if the world building were not too abstract to feel virtual worldly, and I was allowed to focus on a single hero instead of jumping around from hero to hero... and it was not a The Sims game.  Animal Crossing is actually pretty close, but it stops short with deliberately insignificant subplots and making the junk collection mechanic the primary goal.  The point is that I have enough near misses to ferret out where I want to be... granted, it's still a fairly wide aperture.

In any case, I am showing renewed interest in the GameMaker platform after discovering that YoYo Games is planning on bundling the YoYo Compiler for free soon.  If it really does provide significantly better performance for games made in it, then it seems like a natural choice for my lofty ivory tower game concepts.  Even without the benefit of the compiler, I have tested the A* pathing routines and found them to be remarkably fast, certainly faster than the soft-coded version I made in BYOND.   I could see simulating a whole 2D world as a viable possibility in that engine.
Further, I think perhaps the more code-centric approach to much of what GameMaker does may be better off for me.  Technically, you are writing code in Construct 2 and Clickteam Fusion when you use their event builder, but while this visual approach certainly makes things easier, it can be potentially impeding once you know what you are doing.  When I was looking down the list of games made for the three engines during the benchmark entry, I could not help but notice many of them utilized some degree of procedural generation.  Excellent: procedural generation has great potential, if done right.

I realize that the main thing holding me up is not the platform at all, although power will be an important consideration down the line.  The main holdup is I need a complete design document.  More, I need a complete design document that looks good enough that I am excited to want to produce the game.  If I could do that, much like writing a great story concept, perhaps my muse will be committed enough to make it happen.  It is tricky, though - I am better at programming than I am at making design documents.  I am also a lousy artist, which might cause trouble down the line.  In any case, sitting here blogging about it will not get it done.

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