Over the years, we’ve tried our hand at architecting many a grand, multiplayer tile-based gaming universe!
Battle Mines (v2.0)
“ Yawning you awake, stumble from your bed to the window of your tiny metallic apartment, and gaze into the wasteland beyond. The eternal clanking and whirring of heavy equipment shares the air with wisps of dust dancing as far as the horizon, where an ominous, alien outcropping punctuates the view.
The camel-mounted merchant beneath your windowsill has begun discoursing with vigor on the abnormally low cost of unprocessed bauxite, when a shrill sentry cry cuts your collective breath short. Tiny black pinpoints have struck out from the dark lump at the edge of the earth, a linear trajectory making their target only too clear. Warning sirens blare, the earth trembles, and the world becomes a deafening roar as your own cannons return fire. ”
Garish, abstruse, uncompromising… And utterly magical to the few souls that brave its hardships.
The paragraphs above are what started it all, a blurb thrown together with a few lines of code upon discovering the simple fact that bauxite is the primary ore of aluminum. Alongside that centerpiece grew the other base materials of coal, sand, pig iron, and uranium ore, each with their own refined counterpart. A decidedly steampunk atmosphere surrounds this post-apocalyptic fairy tale, born of a young programmer’s idle years while learning the ropes of at-scale server engineering.
Battle Mines is the hard-won encapsulation of your humble author’s core tenets, and represents the fruition of a desire to combine fantasy, strategy, an arbitrarily large player base, and nearly unlimited scope of gaming interaction given the elements at hand. An impossible behemoth of a game, twice realized and twice overlooked by the world at large, Battle Mines stands resolute as a monument to the needless ubiquity of the conventional gaming experience.
Dare you face its grim, whimsical majesty?
Samsara was born of the desire to answer a simple question: How closely could a game mimic the real world, and still be a game? Oddly predictive of Overworld, it seemed to articulate some inborn desire to plant logical underpinnings within every aspect of reality. In an unjust world, what could be more fair than a mathematical engine balancing interaction and meting out calculated privilege to all participants?
Its scope was more ambitious than Overworld’s, indeed, impossibly so. Create a complete world from poles to equator, and fill it with all manner of elevation and vegetation. Follow up with a good cross-section of the Earth’s creatures (and many more imagined), as well as the full ranging artifice of man. Such a project would seem doomed to fail, but that didn’t hold me back. By my reasoning, a proper framework could appear at first grainy and unfocused, then with iterations of labour (and a healthy encouragement of emergent gameplay), it would improve over time. This was not to be as third party interest proved even more difficult to hold than usual, and fresh employment shook me from my design reverie.
Samsara still holds a certain magic, as I look back on it. Perhaps it was hubris that drove me to declare half of any proceeds would go to charity, or perhaps the sublimated knowledge that it would never go anywhere. A hidden karma system truly baffled and dissuaded folks. Surmising every action the player took and replanting them on the earth after death in the appropriate form be it human (for builders), horse (for travelers), or grasshopper (for the small of spirit). A towering diva (healers), pitiful preta (the selfish), or a raging asura (for the bellicose). An invisible scoreboard, and scanty rewards for progression, is a death knell of all but the most immersive worlds. The spirit realm made a return from Game of God, but this one was sealed off from the living in Naraka, the Buddhist hell. Although internally all actions were still considered and measured, it must have seemed empty and pointless. For neither the first nor the last time, I had made a game still-born from the start. Intriguing, but too punishing to appeal to all but the most dedicated fans.
Battle Mines (v1.0)
The game that happily consumed many a waking moment over a decade, this first incarnation introduced most of the ideas in the finished product. Trade, espionage, changing weather patterns and the four horsemen. Refining and manufacturing, food to change governments: All concepts carried over from the original. The biggest differences between the two are of spatial perception: While the idea of the city was fleshed out in v2.0 to allow actual positioning of buildings (original BM had essentially a second inventory for your constructions), the world contracted somewhat with the wheel map, allowing easier scaling of the player base. The old world map was less abstract and more literally geographic. This would make it hard in a world of thousands of players to get close to your friends, but afforded entertaining aspects such as the democracy quest, Godzilla, and Tetsujin! roaming the landscape. Perhaps most thrilling of all was observing the terrifying creep of radiation across land masses on the fallout map. Do I regret my decision to remove such amusement and create a firmer neighbourly alignment for the inhabitants of Battle Minia? Perhaps, but what of it! I shall learn, and pursue greater things another year!
Game of God
Before all this battling and mining broke out, legions of holy men roamed the countryside, claiming territory to augment their biblical powers! Game of God (or Theocracy) had a map that grew as players roamed outward exploring the world. The further afield they roamed, the less hospitable the terrain culminating in the wastelands, demesnes of deadly ninjas and terrifying monsters. Actions were allotted over time; this regeneration could be boosted with certain abilities or by resting in a friendly church. Godzilla first reared his head in this title, featured alongside teleportation, quantum monks, the shiny orange ball, and (in early versions) actual permadeath! My then-girlfriend was first to fall prey to this unforgiving state of affairs. As such, the threat was quickly replaced by banishment to the nether realm as a ghost, haunting other players until resurrection at midnight. Remembered fondly by many, this quirky number cut my teeth in MMO design, and its influence can be seen on my work to this day.