BYOG: More Research

I’m still really interested in the concept of a dynamic gaming platform that would allow you to build your own game. After spending some time in Second Life I’ve seen some pretty interesting examples of how folks are using the Second Life platforms to create what are basically 3D live action role-play scenarios.

Granted these range from the good to the bad and to the just plain ugly, but each kind of add to the picture of just what can be done using something like the Second Life platform.

In one RP Island I was able to see multi player pvp combat including arial combat between players. It was pretty cool to see. It also lagged the area horribly as the player’s viewers where trying to keep up with one another. I’d love to see something like this repeated in a zone where folks took off the flappy wings, twitchy tails, and thier animation overrides to see if that was part of what lagged out the combat, but that’s for another day.

On Erie Island (Second Life’s role play Island of the year for 2009) Game Master Van Reinard answered some questions for me about their home brewed combat system the RCPS (now called Osiris) and even let me try out some melee combat. I could see damage received on my heads up display and I could see damage given drop health points on my oppenent. Thanks again to the Erie folks for letting me lurk around and get a feel for how things work.

Non spell/ability based combat in Second Life, at least for the RCPS (Osiris) and DCS2 systems rely on zooming in to mouse look and kind of puts you in a first person shooter mode. Then you just use the mouse and arrow keys to shoot or slash depending on your weapon choice. Oh and there’s an infinite number to choose from too, hehe.

But combat doesn’t end with physical combat (melee/ranged/etc), nope there are also spells/abilities that the players can use to buff, debuff, or attack other players. One thing I did like about the DCS2 system coming from an MMORPG back ground is that it includes a spell bar much like you’d find in a standard mmo. So if a player didn’t bind an a bility to an F key, they’d be able to click away happily with thier mouse. The RCPS (Osiris) system didn’t have a graphical spell bar, but it does let players bind abilities to their keyboard. It also has a smaller screen footprint which is pretty nice.

As in all things there are trade offs.

The concept of creating a game using the Second Life platform is totally possible. Folks are actually doing it all of the time. Granted these games aren’t the same as walking into WoW or LotRO. The combat movements are a bit choppy (sometimes better or worse depending on the developer). There’s also some pretty severe lag issues. Sometimes though this has just as much to do with the players lumping as much useless goodies on themselves as possible, but I won’t go there.

For the most part, the biggest problem with building in Second Life, is well, Second Life. Technology wise the platform is little behind and it’s really expensive to cobble together enough land to build on. In fact the prices now are high enough that only folks looking to build businesses or ‘rent out’ land can really afford Islands in Second Life.

A lot of developers, educational institutions, and the curious are starting to work with OpenSim. The OpenSim project started in 2007 when Linden Labs released an open source copy of the Second Life engine. While missing some of the bells and whistles of the current Second Life engine, some of the current OpenSim based distributions include integration with gaming engines, include server side scripting for more dynamic resources, and even the inclusion of Skype for voice communication.

Not too shabby for a two year old project. I downloaded and worked with the realXtend distribution last night. Once I stopped facepalming over the Vista permissions systems, I had a stand alone virtual world. I added a region, played built a couple of things and really liked some of the stuff that realXtend has added to the OpenSim platform.

I’ve also visited OSGrid which is a live grid running the OpenSim platform. I really didn’t see a lot of diffrence between the OpenSim client interface and the Second Life client interface (yes I was using the OpenSim viewer, not the Second Life viewer). One of the first things I noticed (that bugs me to no end in Second Life) is a tab that displays what’s currently equipped on my avatar. I can’t tell you how much time it takes to sift through my inventory to find what I’m wearing. That or I end up bald because I yanked my hair off on accident…. hehe, that’s just funny to watch really.

While my adventures in Second Life have been a lot of fun, I don’t think I’ll invest a lot of time and energy building on thier platform. For testing purposes it’s not remotely cost effective, even for a crazy person like myself. I don’t think I’ll stop logging on to the grid for a bit though, there’s still folks I want to see there.

I do think however I’m going to get started on my own little experiments in open source via creating a personal mini grid and seeing just what I can do with it.

2 Comments

  1. Gareld August 11, 2009 1:17 pm 

    My primary interest when it comes to video games is the telling of a story. It can be mostly anything but I want a sense of direction, a purpose.

    This is what keeping me from liking open games like SL. The whole purpose is just to be there. Most players are content to stand there, do dance emotes and look cool.

    However the day I can build a game with a storyline and all I’ll be all over that. But right now it hasnt yet happened.

    • Creep August 11, 2009 1:30 pm 

      Yeah the underlying story can be the easiest and the hardest part of the whole system. From what I’ve seen there are very few Second Life RPG’s that have not only a good base storyline, but have a building storyline. Usually these rpg’s also employ a wiki or other offline website to record events that have happened as well as give them an offline way to work on where they want the story to go.

      One of the reasons I liked the realXtend viewer & server was that it includes the ability to create bots or npc’s. Having things like these that can be added to the landscape and scripted would go a long way. The only problem remaining for folks in Second Life is that there’s not really an easy way to set up npc’s. It’s totally do able, but it’s not a drag and drop sort of thing. This would keep the story going even when the player characters where offline.
      Also with a dynamic world, if say I wanted to build one, I could say have one continent totally destroyed by a natural disaster, then I could actually change the region to reflect that event.
      In the end it all comes back to the work put in, if there’s an idea set to start with, it makes it easier to go from a to b. The problem with a dynamic lasting game would be having an open ended story with set a to b elements. Well maybe.

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