View Full Version : 11/11/2013 - Game Design: Fall of the Dominion

11-11-2013, 08:36 PM
Hello everyone,

We will be doing mechanical updates again once we are far enough along to deliver meaningful content, but for now we’re going to be taking a look at the core aspects of the milestone, and why they are the way they are. This first update is going to detail the reasoning behind the milestone itself, and the events that led up to the decision to create it.

An Argument

I’ll begin this update by talking about the argument that started us on the path to the milestone. The thought process that eventually led to the milestone was based on an argument I witnessed between two players. Panic and Radish Gamma were discussing the role of players within the game.

Radish believed that it was entirely up to the players to create all of the content in the game. It was the responsibility of the leaders to fill the void that game mechanics left, and create stories that did what mechanics did not. This was the way I had always felt, so I was compelled to read their conversation.

Panic believed that he shouldn’t have to work a job after getting home from work. The game mechanics should provide the means for interaction, and it shouldn’t be up to the players to fill that void. Both of these two embody the heart of motivation within the game. Panic was an extrinsically motivated player, like a vast majority of those that play the game. Radish was an intrinsically motivated player, simply seeing what the game had to offer and creating more because he wanted to.

In the “golden age” of the game, players like Radish were in charge of the factions. They viewed it as their responsibility to do what the mechanics did not, and worked together with staff to create stories that gave the game character and life. The mechanics were not boundaries, and they used everything that existed to further their goals.

However, the majority were still players like Panic. They were players who only did what the game mechanics and staff supported. This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just a different type of player. They followed the rules and stories created by the high command, as it existed as an extension of the game mechanics.

The question then, is what happens when the sides are changed? When the stories and rules change, and the game falls back on the core mechanics? This is where the fault of the game’s design shows, and is responsible for the instability that has repeatedly led to failure. The game lacks any meaningful ways of interaction, and so there is no motivation to do anything but war and afk eco.

The Genesis Project

In September of last year, I was given control of the development and management of the game. It was up to me to make the game successful, so I crafted an experiment that would decide the path the game would take. “The Genesis Project” was a period of time wherein the faction leaders were given near-infinite funds and told to use them in a specific way.

The point was to forcibly re-create the kind of environment that existed before, and give the current faction leaders the tools necessary to accomplish anything. The point was simple; if they could cooperate to make the game fun and interesting, a different path would be taken.

At the end of the experiment, my mind had been made up. The game needed to be changed at its core. This was very depressing for me, as it meant that the game that I had always loved could no longer exist as I remembered it, and something had to change.

The earliest ideas that were floating around weren’t anything like the Face of Mankind we have come to know. If it hadn’t been for a revelation at GDC Online, we would be working on a very different game right now. Imagine it: a lobby-based combat shooter instead of a socially driven sandbox game.

GDC Online 2012

When October came around, a design document for the game had been crafted. It was nothing like the ♥♥♥ that we had grew up on, but it was a game that would certainly be more successful. We went to GDC Online that year, and it was there that the design was changed again. I went to a lecture called “The Other White Meat: Design Architecture for Sandbox Games” by EVE Online’s Senior Game Designer, Matthew Woodward.

He talked about the three pillars that EVE used in the design of all of its game mechanics, and I had an epiphany. As the lecture ended I was euphoric, as I had finally felt some level of validation. I learned nothing about sandbox game design, but I learned that I already knew everything I needed to make the game successful.

The moment I got back to the hotel I began putting all of my thoughts to paper. I wrote down every idea I had ever had for the game but never had the time to implement. It was a full redesign of the entire game from the ground up, throwing out almost everything in favor of something better. I began thinking about every aspect of the game and what was wrong with it, and what I had to do to fix it. I had realized that I wasn’t a bad designer, I just hadn’t gone far enough. The issues with the game sat deeper, and this was the last chance to fix them.

Fall of the Dominion

Upon returning to the office, I organized all of these thoughts into what is now titled, “Face of Mankind: Fall of the Dominion.” A 66 page game design document detailing everything that was to be put into the milestone, and why it needed to be the way it was. After carefully considering every aspect of the game and discussing many aspects of it with others, it entered full production in November.

On a personal note, it’s a very interesting feeling. Eight years ago I joined this game as a bright eyed player. I gave myself a silly name, “Naruto Uzumaki,” and never thought I’d ever be anything more than a low ranking LED with authority issues. Here I am though, somehow responsible for the future of the game and the Fall of the Dominion milestone. It’s an eerie feeling to look back across the history of the game and see all the people that have influenced it over the years. Perhaps me becoming Lead Developer is just an embodiment of the concepts upon which this game was created; “Player Freedom” of the highest degree.