Series Info...I'll Be Back

by Sam Witt
July 4, 2001

It's been around eight months, give or take, since I started working on this weekly column. I've put quite a few words up that I hope some of yhou have found interesting, and in doing so I've learned a few things about games that I otherwise might have ignored.

Having said all that, it's time to (temporarily!) put MetaStatic on hiatus. I'm getting close to releasing the first stage of Horizon Station, and I need to focus my creative energies solely on that task. It's not going to be the finished game, but it will be there to give those of you that are interested a taste of things to come.

Once the first few runs of Parts, the initial stage for HS, are over, I'll start writing MetaStatic again. Phase Two of this column will be much more tightly focused on the problems and challenges encountered in implementing Horizon Station, and will serve, I hope, as a sort of guidebook for future storybuilders. Skotos has given us some powerful tools, and I think a look into the process of their use will be useful for all concerned.

That said, I'll give you a short list of the challenges that myself, and the Horizon volunteers, are going to face. Brace yourself, this could get ugly.

The Environment

There are, at last count, more than eighty types of room in Horizon Station. This does not include the miles of corridor necessary to link all those rooms together. Or the fact that each room will have to appear more than once, and that each time the room will have to be slightly different, so as not bore the audience.

On average, each type of room will have five elements that can provide interaction. A well-designed room will also have another ten or twenty details that are there for only for flavor. So we're up to, let's see, at least 400 interactive elements, and at least 800 descriptive elements. But wait, there's more.

Because the entire game environment is built to be repaired (and to break down) each of the 400 interactive elements I've discussed above will be constructed out of even smaller pieces. To be conservative, I'd say there are going to be at least a thousand of these, and perhaps as many as twice that number.

And that's just the core environment.

The Game

Into this detailed environment I'm going to have to build the game rules. Most of this is going to be constructed out of scripts that are embedded in the various objects of the game. Which means one mistake in a 'parent' object, can quickly become a thousand mistakes scattered across many 'child' objects. Kinda spooky.

This is not rocket science, but it is going to involve some fairly tricky scripting and a lot of planning to make sure things work right. It's going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, I am planning on deploying the game in a number of phases, each of which will add another gameplay element to those that have gone before. The first phase will involve repairing the station, and phases after that will cover combat, space exploration, and whatever other wacky ideas cross my mind in the dark of the night.

Putting the game into the environment is the hardest task, and one that I'm as excited about as I am nervous. Mainly because of all the happy players that I'm likely to irritate. Which brings me to ...

The Audience

The environment and the game are difficult, no two ways about that. They both involve a lot of work, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of troubleshooting. But these two things are nothing compared to what will happen when the players appear on the scene.

Players have it easy. They show up and have a good time. And if they don't, they break out the flamethrowers and start lighting up the screaming developers. Developers hate flamethrowers, they sting. And I don't have that much bactine.

Which is why I spend days and nights thinking about what players do, what kinds of things they look for, and how much they love to break games. It's an exhausting exercise, but it's the only way to get things done.

And with that said, I leave you for now, to go and put together the first stage for your enjoyment. See you in a few weeks. I'll still be checking the forums, of course, so feel free to click that little link below.

your opinion...