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Discussion on Future PBEM Style Gaming
#1
This can kind of be a free-ranging discussion on not the past of PBEM style games, but how they can go into the coming years.

Second, what kind of game would you like to see other than where we have taken Alamaze?  First, some may know I have a decade long aversion to "PBM" and "PBEM" as descriptive of what Alamaze is, as to call something "play by mail" doesn't send thrills through the spine of someone under 50, and obviously we aren't doing anything by mail.  We still use email for correspondence, but turn results and all game functions except receiving invoices (I know, you would be fine without that part) isn't by mail, although we stil let players access turns that way.  I prefer Episodic Games, as in each turn is an episode in an unfolding story of adventure and conquest.  

Anyway, I have thought about what next game design to do and the feasability of a new undertaking at all similar in scope to Alamaze, in a design, development, and player intensity sense (the learning curve, etc.).  

To be direct:
  • Is Alamaze in its current form the best PBEM style game?  If not, what is and why?
  • What is the best way to find new players and what are the obstacles faced by new players that Alamaze hasn't addressed?
  • Is Alamaze too complicated for a new player? 
  • What is missing in PBEM style games that is needed for a bigger audience?
  • Is the price fair?  I would bring up history, competition, etc, but am always told that is irrelevant.  Meanwhile the gamble on the last 50% price decrease did not generate a lot of new players, but made it so there isn't really an income from running Alamaze.  In fact, when it was $7.50 a turn instead of near that now for a month or ten turns, there were more players in a then inferior game, both design and obviously in interface.  This is the heart of the dilemma of possibly a year of effort in a new design and development.  
  • Do players beyond PBEM players just need animation to even consider a game?
  • Then, the other main question, if there was to be a new design by yours truly, what should it be about, like, involve?  What is the concept that players wonder, "wouldn't it be great, or why isn't there a game that is about/does X?"
On that last, the two ideas I have worked on the most are a streamlined Alamaze-style that in design notes is mostly called Build Your Own Kingdom, where you would expend points both to establish your kingdom culture, ala the Alamaze cultural traits redefined and others and your character, and perhaps a system to attract other characters, with more focus on character traits including loyalty.  This might be called Kingdoms of Arcania.

The other is more of a RPG kind of inspired by the Starz series Black Sails, being a smaller world pirate adventure competing against other pirate captains where your core group of about 30 characters all have maybe 20 skills and traits and each is important in sailing, fighting, trading, negotiating, and the ships are specialized.

Anyway, just to start a new discussion.  What would be the most interesting that is not too complicated to attract new players and that with that important consideration that its not just a personal dream but something potentially 1000's would want to play?  What is absolutely required and what absolutely has to be avoided, and all the above.

Looking forward to your thoughts, there are no wrong answers other than an idea that only you and 10 other people would want to play for years.
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#2
Maelstrom is superior, however it is incomplete. My opinion as to why it is not doing well.
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#3
(03-09-2019, 12:46 PM)RELLGAR Wrote: Maelstrom is superior, however it is incomplete. My opinion as to why it is not doing well.

What would you do to improve it?
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#4
I have lots of ideas for this thread. A pirate game probably won't do well - too specific for a general audience. Wasn't that the problem for Fall of Rome, of it being too specific? Same for a WWII-like game that you mentioned some years ago. My opinion, need a cool sci-fi game. Lasers, missiles, space ships, harvest planets, enslave worlds, control galaxies!
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#5
(03-09-2019, 02:27 PM)unclemike Wrote: I have lots of ideas for this thread. A pirate game probably won't do well - too specific for a general audience. Wasn't that the problem for Fall of Rome, of it being too specific? Same for a WWII-like game that you mentioned some years ago. My opinion, need a cool sci-fi game. Lasers, missiles, space ships, harvest planets, enslave worlds, control galaxies!

What about an apocalyptic WWIII game with zombies and mutants as additional races?
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#6
Complete it. There are new spells that are made to help with maelstrom, such as increasing the capabilities of emmisaries. Buildings that don't work as intenfed. New brigade abilities are missing. All aspects of the game are not yet tested. Remenants of 3rd cycle are still in place, most are cosmetic like group names reversing to oakendell as example. Formerly dispersed kingdoms still getting ESO bonus. A couple new kingdoms would be good.

I think the interactive map and order input is top notch. If it could all be intergrated into an app. It would take off very well.

I'm at CoastCon now. Fantasy and gaming conventions would be a good place to promote Alamaze.
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#7
(03-09-2019, 02:43 PM)RELLGAR Wrote: Complete it. There are new spells that are made to help with maelstrom, such as increasing the capabilities of emmisaries. Buildings that don't work as intenfed. New brigade abilities are missing. All aspects of the game are not yet tested. Remenants of 3rd cycle are still in place, most are cosmetic like group names reversing to oakendell as example. Formerly dispersed kingdoms still getting ESO bonus. A couple new kingdoms would be good.

I think the interactive map and order input is top notch. If it could all be intergrated into an app. It would take off very well.

I'm at CoastCon now. Fantasy and gaming conventions would be a good place to promote Alamaze.

Agree with you.. have fun at CoastCon
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#8
Rick- It's all about the user interface/experience. To take to to the next level you need:

1. Everything should be built into the game creator/order checker
-Including the map, orders, general rules and drafting. Ideally, you hover over something and find the pertinent info. Hover over order 123 and that order definition pops up...

2. All rules should be set within the game creator
- Including communication or any other ones

3. Communication should occur within the Order Checker or Game Creator
- Depending on the communication rules, all should occur in the tool and not the forum. This should include the generation of personas unique for each "anonymous" game, as well as restricting communication based on rules for that game.

4. The map should be interactive and allow click to move units, etc...
-People need visuals!

5. Pricing may seem fair, but today's general market has changed. Even online games which once thrived on a subscription now struggle to sustain a population willing to pay $15/month for unlimited access 24/7. I don't know what the solution for that is. People today hate subscriptions and then there is a game fee on top of the subscriptions. I get plenty of value from Alamaze, but I think there is just a general resistance to stuff like that today. As I said, I do not know what the solution is... but it needs one.

Personally I would play any of the games you suggested, but honestly... fantasy is by far the most popular genre followed by sci-fi. It's not the setting that is keeping folks away. It's exposure, difficulty starting out, and pricing IMHO.

I have always felt that this screams for a Kickstarter. Even if it failed to raise the ultimate monetary goal it would get a ton of eyeballs on the product. I have seen boardgames literally raise 6 figures. Here is one that just popped up on the main page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tri...mendations

There is an art to creating a good Kickstarter campaign, but if you put the time into designing it well, it can be well worth it. That link above apparently hit their goal of $13k in a mere 42 minutes and now sits at $122k raised with 22 days left in the campaign.

Just think what you and Uncle Mike could do with $100k to invest in developing the website and game tools! You guys have done an amazing job with limited resources, but you need more exposure.

PS: Here is one boardgame about to end that raised $1M
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/103...mendations

PPS: These forums need an uplift. The 90's called and they want their forums back!
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#9
Those look cool Smile
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#10
(03-09-2019, 02:43 PM)RELLGAR Wrote: Complete it. There are new spells that are made to help with maelstrom, such as increasing the capabilities of emmisaries. Buildings that don't work as intenfed. New brigade abilities are missing. All aspects of the game are not yet tested. Remenants of 3rd cycle are still in place, most are cosmetic like group names reversing to oakendell as example. Formerly dispersed kingdoms still getting ESO bonus. A couple new kingdoms would be good.

I think the interactive map and order input is top notch. If it could all be intergrated into an app. It would take off very well.

I'm at CoastCon now. Fantasy and gaming conventions would be a good place to promote Alamaze.

Rellgar, a fair set of observations at the development side of things.  These developers, they expect to be paid.  As do artists.  And others.  So it gets back to the problem of player base and pricing or more simply, revenue.  I am not greedy, and I doubt at this point anyone familiar with Alamaze thinks otherwise.  But to invest say a year of time and to pay for the development and infrastructure and other assets, there has to be a chance for some tangible benefit besides possibly a third Game of the Year. 

As to the particulars, yes, I have admitted as much the way Maelstrom went from a grand design to mothballs to quick like a bunny get it out in a couple months, and at a cost that sets me back.  So some things are not perfect, but again, what is actually out there that is better?

Does there need to be an AI aspect to Alamaze and progeny to allow the game to be sold on Steam and start / run turns at an individual player's pace?  In other words, is the PBEM format no longer viable if we have no chance to get 1000 players that do think it is worth paying in a month for what it costs to go to a movie?  Why do players not bring in other players, as you might teach a friend or relative a board game?
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