Something new

November 01, 2009

So here are a few facts about me that I'll bet you didn't know...

I wrote a one page document about how "we" need to expand our thoughts on first person games, I wrote about how characters don't all have to be men... a few months later Tomb Raider appeared on my desk at US Gold, which became EIDOS. I have NO doubt that it was a coincidence, and in no way am I implying that the game was my idea or came from that document.

In 1984 I was programming in BASIC on an Apple II+.  I was using a third party language extension that had a limit on the number of variables, 256.  I passed that in just the first few weeks of development so I needed a solution. I devised an idea of having a text file that had various values in it and I loaded them in order that they were saved in the file.  Quickly I forgot the order and decided that it was best to label them IN the file itself.  I used a slash to start and end the variable names.  Some of you might recognize this as XML.

In 1983 I was working for Broderbund and I had just finished writing a conversion of Serpentine for the C64 and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. I wrote a short letter to my boss about a job I thought I would be good at.  In this position I would help the programmers with their titles.  I would coordinate with the artists and guide the team to a better product.  I didn't use the title but I was describing what EA would later call "Producer".  (Side note, my boss said: "Why would we ever need anyone to do this job?"  They're out of business now, btw)

In 1982 some friends of mine and I were at a game convention and we were running people through a "live" dungeon. We used the hallways of the hotel and various rooms as our dungeon for the adventure.  A couple of people stopped me in the hallway and asked me what we were doing.  I explained the basic premise of the game.  They mentioned that they run a big convention in Houston and wanted to run the game there.  They asked  me what I call it...  I made it up on the spot but it sounded good: "I call it... Live Action Role Playing". Yep, I coined the term LARP.

I have no doubt that you dear readers have many such insights as well.  And you might be asking yourself, why I am bringing all this up now.  The truth is, I have something else in mind and I want to announce it here now.

    I have what I believe to be a new genre of video games.

I call it the combo game.  All combo games are multiple player, co-op games. The combo game is a game where all the players have a common goal but they use different established game genres to achieve that goal.  Lets use the example of a car racing game. One player is the driver... this is more of a twitch game.  The second player is the crew chief. His version of the game is more of a puzzle game that involves the fuel mix, the foil design and shape, and when to pit stop to change the tires.

This example combines two genres, racing twitch game and puzzle.  Both players win or lose together but what they do to win is completely different.  You want mom to play a game with you but you can never get her to drive a race car?  Not a problem, she can do a puzzle game and help you win the racing game.

Of course, I have a game in development for the iPhone that fits this combo model.  It can be played with 2 players, but best with 6.  Think I'm crazy to design and develop a 6 player game? I’ll just refer you to my bosses comment above and please do look for my game in App Store sooner than later.

And while I’m at it… in 2007 I suggested that a future MMOG will embrace distributed processing.  While the company would have the main servers, users would have sub-servers that they control.  These servers are like small “neighborhoods” that players can play on and control.  They can take the same characters and play on the main company servers, but they can also enjoy the intimate gaming of a smaller area that might be limited to just people they know.

These are not shards of one big server, but together they make up the entire huge world. 

More to come…