Series Info...Storms on Cloud Nine #1:

Hello From Cloud 9

by Scott Holliday
January 10, 2003


Welcome to the first column of Storms on Cloud Nine. My name is Scott Holliday and I'm very happy to be here. As you see in the blurb above, I'm the newest external developer for Skotos Tech, leading the Orphan Crown project. On the forums and in games, I go by Holday or (more often) Fyth. This column, although related to Orphan Crown, is aimed more at overall game design. Especially topics specific to online design philosophy and mechanics.

Like any breathing human, I have my own opinions and preferred solutions on how things 'should be'. Some of this will be blatantly obvious, some will be goofy or old-fashioned, and some will be simply wrong. None of us can honestly claim that we have all the answers, though at least I can hope to make some valid points to help or maybe inspire the next person in line.

Orphan Crown?

Since this is my first column and since many of you are probably wondering about Orphan Crown, I've decided to do an overview of that this week. Next time, I plan to branch out to more general topics that would be useful to any game designer.

First, Orphan Crown is going to be set in a world based directly on traditional fairy tales. Often just the feel, but sometimes the specific items/events too. One point though... in this day and age, most folks only remember the Disney version(s). The originals are another beast entirely. Yes, the stories are similar, but all too often, the original is simpler, more visceral, and not at all cute. The bad guys don't just lose gracefully, or perish in tragic accidents. They put on red-hot iron shoes and dance until they die. I won't talk much more about this. Suffice it to say that my team has lots of fun stuff in the works...

Second, Orphan Crown is going to be a life-sim game. Your character has needs and feelings. Your character can starve to death, get sick, become afraid, or just stop obeying if you treat them badly. Many of you are probably now thinking of "the Sims", however the life-sim genre has a much older and more varied history.

Regardless, I certainly don't want to make a game that centers on the mindless ennui of everyday life. It sounds boring, and in my experience, it is. I've played too many games where the player has to swing the pick-axe (or sword) for hours and then drudge back and forth. I've had enough of that nonsense. So, my motto is, "all the hardships of life with none of the work." Sounds great doesn't it? =D

How you ask? Basically, the plan is to take an ongoing trend in online games to its obvious conclusion. If you follow the newest batch coming out, you've seen phrases such as, "craft while offline" or, "learn skills in real-time." I'm taking this idea one step further to say, "do everything boring/repetitive in real time (even while offline)." My goal is to design a game where all the level grinding, all the repetitive tasks, and all the mindless clicking is subsumed into the background.

In other words, your character can effectively be two places at once. In the background, he/she is baking bread, enjoying the theatre, eating fine roast beast, and sleeping in your sweet middle-class house that you built. Meanwhile, in the foreground, you have the time to concentrate on the "important" stuff. Role-play. Socialize. Make friends. Participate in events. Get involved. Go questing. Solve that nagging puzzle. Do what you WANT to do. Isn't that the real point of a game?

Frankly, I've been involved in a lot of different games. I'm tired of being forced to perform repeated bunny murder in order to "get to the next level." So, I guess my second motto is, "No bunny murder required." Of course if you WANT to go slaughter defenseless computerized animals, feel free, but you'll gain nothing from it (except maybe getting out your aggressions). In any case, MY bunnies are smart enough not to be caught so easily in the first place.

A last rabbit... err, tidbit...

I think I'll end by giving you a sneak peek. This is the theme/opener text that is planned to welcome new players into the game. I hope you'll be able to see the real thing soon.

"Once upon a time, there was an enchanted kingdom between the Dreaming Forest and the Sea of Windless Storm. Its ruler was kind and fair and loved by all the people, both noble and common. One day, an heir was born, and the entire kingdom rejoiced as never before. Even the Fae Queen came to bless the child, saying, "As long as the stars shine I will protect you as though you were mine."

But that night, after all were sound asleep, an evil curse fell over the whole kingdom. All who had seen more than one winter were taken in the night, never to be seen again. When the Fae Queen learned of the tragedy, she flew to the castle to rescue the heir. However, in the madness, all was confusion. She could not remember what the baby looked like! You see, to faerie, humans, with our bland faces and boring colors, are often hard to tell apart. However, she was especially at a loss, for she could not even remember whether the child was a boy or a girl!

She wept bitterly then, for she knew that she must still keep promise of guardianship. Thinking quickly, she bid her retinue to raise all the children in the palace. But faerie, with their flitting thoughts, often go too far, and soon they were caring for all the children in the city. And soon after, they began to bring lost and unwanted children from all over the world, even from outside the enchanted realms.

Years passed, and the children grew...

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