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Text Based MMORPGs

I have spent some time over the last week playing the various “Text Based MMORPGs” on the iPod Touch.

Invariably, they are variations on Dope Wars, and remind me more than a little bit of Kingdom of Loathing.

I found three companies that make them for the app store, and the basic designs are practically identical, but the implementations vary in the smoothness of the user interface.

I would put storm8 above the others, then playmesh, then godfather games.  All games are about the same. The business models are identical. Storm8 is better because of presentation and clean user interface, and they get some points for actually trying to make their reskinned games a little different than the others.

Deep down, these games are simply Hamurabi on crack, with the ability to “attack” other players and take their resources.

Oddly enough, there are elements of these in my two game concepts Island Interloper and Midieval Micromanager, as well as the branch of Dungeon Delver games entitled “Text Quest Lite”.   My original Dungeon Delver spun off into HamQuest, and will live its life as a roguelike.

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Resource Micro-Management Games

Yesterday I posted about PlayMesh games.

I’ve taken a more intense look at the games they put out.

Originally, I thought the idea of taking exactly the same game, reskinning it, and attempting to foist it off as something new was stupid.

And yet I downloaded every version and played them.

I admit I did so mainly to find out what the equivalent of buying land in the vampire game was, or what the equivalent of the Godfather was in the robot wars game.

So, obviously Playmesh is not an innovator. It is a company like Blizzard, which takes a solid game concept and refines it to an enormously polished game.  There is another company, Storm 8, doing the same thing and with the same business model.

It is the business model that is absolutely brilliant. The game is a relatively fluffy abstract game of limited resource management. The limited resource is “energy” (or mana, or fuel, or whatever), which is spent to perform money making activities which can then be used to upgrade equipment or purchase income generating properties.  The reason that energy is the limiting factor is because when it is depleted it takes a certain amount of time to recharge.

Which shows once again that the only real commodity ever is time.

So, the business model is this: sell exactly the same game. Have a free version that gets you a very few cheat points, or a more expensive game that gives you a lot of cheat points.

If you buy cheat points, you don’t have to spend time doing the mundane tasks early on in the game, and you can do more advanced mundane tasks.  In essence, you trade “real” money for time, and you got the “real” money in the first place because you spent time in real life doing something to earn it.

So,  a very smart business model, although from what I’ve seen in their reviews is that they are rather polarized. Lots of people think the games are stupid, and lots really like them.

However, if they are going to go with themes, then they should really go further.  The most “disturbing” one was Vampire, but culture has made Vampires completely campy long ago.  Same thing for Mafia.

Be bolder, I say.  Be edgy. Make an evil cult theme. Make a porn star them.  Make a serial killer/rapist theme. Make a corrupt politician theme.  Make a drug addict theme.  Make a homeless person theme.

Even better, make a “freedom fighter” theme, and release it along side the “terrorist” theme.

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Procedural Rhetoric of PlayMesh Games

So, I was using my iPod Touch today, and decided to take a peek at whatever new free games were available.

I find a Wizard themed game from PlayMesh.  I download it.  I go through the tutorial.  It is something like a Harry Potter-esque themed push button RPG, the like of which I’ve seen plenty of times before.

So I then download PlayMesh’s pirate game.

It is exactly the same game, with different graphics and different labels on the statistics and the character classes.  Except this time it is a Pirates of the Carribean theme.

And I downloaded the super hero theme.  Same game again.

And a mafia game.

And a robot war game.

I’ll be doing a more in-depth critical analysis of this game (I will refer to it as one game with many masks) another time.

Apparently the procedural rhetoric of PlayMesh is that your fantasies of being a wizard, a super hero, a pirate, a ninja, and a wild west outlaw can all be accomplished in precisely the same manner.