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TUG is a multiplayer open-world sandbox-RPG using new technology and social sciences to directly involve players in the game’s design.
7,231 backers pledged $293,184 to help bring this project to life.

Efficiency In Development

Posted by Nerd Kingdom (Creator)
In a single player world -- let’s use Fable for example -- there is a lot of focus on the design of the narrative, on the world itself, on event scripting, and on TONS of statistical balancing adjustments that happen manually behind closed doors over long periods of time. This process, in traditional form, can take years to refine -- especially when things like stats are often built as separate systems and are constantly tinkered with (often ad hoc) by entire teams to make it “feel right.” Add publisher pressure and deadlines to hit, and you have a lot to consider when things go wrong.

Ultimately, designers need to make calls in a game’s design to decide what to leave in the game and what to strip out. The disappointments everyone likes to point at in Fable were most likely less on Molyneux’s shoulders than people are really aware of -- and the truth is that this has as much to do with the unfortunate disconnect between gamer and developer as it does a stronger connection between gamers and publishers’ marketing dollars.

On the other hand, an open world, single or multiplayer, allows us to focus more specifically on game systems -- on how your character’s appearance matches the actions they’ve taken, on how NPCs and mobs behave to players and each other, and how economies and everything else interact with each other in the web of data. Because we’re not attempting to create a scripted narrative or a pre-built world, we can save the money a game like Fable would otherwise spend on scripted narrative or level design. What’s more, we have the advantage of constantly having lots of players at once playing in our world, helping us to understand what works best via their information and their feedback.

But what’s most important about being efficiency and math/science nerds is that we rely on webs of information and interconnected data sets, not a bunch of unrelated data that might get hooked together much later, and only after a clumsy back and forth discussion between designers and QA that could take months or years to resolve.

So let’s look at what these systems are, fundamentally: they’re a series of algorithms that indicate a change in the world via a value. That value can be visual or statistical -- and for us, they’re often the same. This does come down to art, however, which is part of what brings us to Kickstarter to begin with: to get some additional support for all those art assets!

Now since these balancing systems are what math nerds (merds?) do best, this multiplayer world is a playground for the merds on our team. Defining the rules that describe how those systems change is the part of the game’s development that comes directly from play -- and that’s why we’re making our development process OPEN to gamers. Taking a step back, it's a bit silly to think that any one team can create a virtual world that feels good for an entire horde of players, with only a very few people on that team deciding arbitrarily what “feels best.” It’s difficult to even know what values are relevant in making that assessment without a REALLY massive flow of feedback.

But this is the perspective of the current game development industry: they’re busy manufacturing an experience for you to try to control (a controlled experience?) based on their preferences. On the other hand, what we’re doing is making subtle changes to an open environment that allows a player to be challenged by other players or the environment based on their behavior, not by providing an artificial PVE or PVP experience.

The difference in our approach is tied CLOSELY into the common social science problem of understanding resource distribution and scarcity -- something the academic and science communities have been researching for YEARS, while most publishers or devs look at these issues as a plug and play solution. Look at how amazing the world of Eve online became! And with credit to economics alone! We want to add other scientific fields to the mix and be even more efficient in that process.

We’ll be sharing other complex topics as we go, and if you’re interested in reading more about them, we’re MORE than excited to share those formulas and systems in depth

- Ino

And check out our first industry interview... pretty exciting for a group of eggheads who have always wanted to be a part of it ;)

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    1. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Lorenzo, unfortunately, the topic of gods and in-game religions in TUG isn't really something we can go into too much without running the risk of spoiling some major lore elements.... sorry!! But we hear your concerns... and have taken such things into consideration in our lore design. Check out our latest update if you're curious about the lore and narrative design!!!

    2. Lorenzo Gaetani on

      @Nerd Kingdom oh cmon you don't have to apologize that much, you make me blush now, it's just a little advice i even didn't think you would answer me, but ok.
      Another thing is the god incentives. It is a cool idea but with gods i ever had problems with gods' principles, i mean i almost never find the right god to follow when in a game, i would like i can choose the principles to follow singularly, examples: (protect animals; protect plants; fight demons; create new things; ecc ecc), do you think of this (if you use the gods' incentives idea ofc)?

    3. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Andy, thank you for setting a foundation for which we can build upon :)!


    4. Andy Howell on

      hearts for using Fable as your reference, happens to be the first game i ever worked on. Thanks guys, that made me smile. Good to know the first AAA game i worked on has not been forgotten :) Unless you mean fable 2 or 3... then neener neener 1 was better... heh.)

      Cant wait for the Alpha, i do so love "breaking all the things".

    5. CashWiley on

      Ah...+1 to Nerd Feudalism.

    6. CashWiley on

      Went to send a message to Raph (we should have been in a band together, but capos confuse me), and looks like he tweetered about your game two days ago! I really should get down with the kids and their twits.

    7. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @ Cash, OH (strange having conversations in comments btw :P) this also kind of part of the fun of testing different variations of single worlds, but allowing for consistency of world lore/mythos. These things also prove as amazing studies to share as design variations with the industry. That data can be adapted and shared with aspiring modders, academic institutions and other developers!

    8. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Cash, not to worry, we are much aware of all of it... we would be at a loss if we were gamers before scientists id think ;). The one thing to take into consideration for this, is the web of variations and rules that exist to offset experiences. One thing can be offset by a system that is not traditional to design. A subtle change, like an encumbrance system can impact trolling, with proper world systems in place. But again, this comes from mapping social systems :)

      All stuff we will pick apart bare bones to share with you guys, assuredly! Its all data drive stuff, but we have actually tested it all before and do test these things (in little worlds that already exist consisted of blocks ;) ).

    9. CashWiley on

      I suggest you guys do a VERY intensive research on the early development of Ultima Online (say from inception through the implementation of the pve mirror map). This sounds like a page out of Koster's design book from that era.

      I'm going to go give Raph a nudge and see if he'll get in touch with you folks. He knows a LOT about the pitfalls you guys are going to run into with this concept. I'm excited for your project but I think it will be more than worth the time spent investigating the lessons of UO's development since they directly impact the kind of things you're shooting for.

    10. Missing avatar

      Tyler Funk on

      So, a bit off topic, will there be NO music in the game, and only the sound effects creating the score? Or will there be music, say, during a boss battle or hectic fight against multiple enemies?

    11. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Nick, right, you are speaking of direction/responsive motivational incentives. This sort of stuff does directly apply to this project, however we have a balancing act to take into consideration and studies in areas of "presence" to consider. These changes, logic, must be consistent, there need to be cues, or information that exists within the world (first part of world narrative) that articulate that change. We will share those systems and formulas soon, when we can make them into more palatable formats and graphics. But some idea of that system in action would be, player engages challenge of gods (activate buff), demons spawn to attack player and adapt to progression / end sequence => player is rewarded by god in recognition of their actions. With the data driving that system, it allows those things to exist, and still feel relevant to play... again, this is an example, but its the general idea of its application with our balancing narrative/data/design, one does not move without the other.

    12. Nick Hanson

      In an open world single player experience should it not be possible for the system to balance itself? What I mean by that is the system could generate for example combat opponents that has various variables. If the players takes little or no damage against that opponent then one or more of the variables are increased and the system tries again. If the player get pwned the variables are decreased for future encounters but the encounter is left for the player to work up to (for a sense of accomplishment). This means each player would have a different experience as each of the enemies defining characteristics were tweaked to their particular play style. They would always be challenged as they system learns and adapts with them. And if the rewards match the difficulty there would be no point in tricking the system into thinking you were weaker then you are because that would mean worse rewards.

    13. Nerd Kingdom Creator on

      @Carakav, tough to flex the brain meats if we cannot be a LITTLE confident ;)

      @Lorenzo, I am SOOOO sorry, forgive my ignorance and inconsideration. Assuredly, we are swiping that term from our mouths... I've been calling my colleagues bad words all day... lots of apologies to go out >.<


    14. Missing avatar

      Carakav on

      Love the ideas presented here. Tiny amount of arrogance, though. I look forward to seeing your design theories proved out. :)

    15. Stephen Ringer on

      I'm a software engineer myself, and all the projects I've been in - from HR software, to console/mobile/pc/web games, to music streaming sites - have all been heavily data-driven. From my perspective, nothing has been more valuable than a fantastically detailed and flexible data model in terms of development. It saddens me that more game devs don't take this approach, and makes me EXTREMELY happy that you guys are driven by this as well. Seriously stoked to see what you guys are planning, and hope I can somehow contribute in some small way on your journey.

    16. Bryan Bessette on

      Love! Love! Love!

    17. Daniel Roy on

      With a game like this that encourages such open-world style gameplay, is it going to be hard to ensure you have a strong narrative but also the skills and tools available to create your own unique world? I think that is what will truly make or break this game, is the limitations to our imagination because the less we have, the more we can imagine beyond our wildest dreams.

      Loving the updates guys and gals, keep it up!

    18. Missing avatar

      Verbal Kint on

      I don't play Eve because I don't care to be 7 years behind, but I have been searching for a game that puts an emphasis on economy. Great to hear you guys get it!

    19. Lorenzo Gaetani on

      O.O i think what you wan to do is very complex and hard to accomplish but ireally like your ideas, i really appreciated the economy article on your site, i hope you can get to the goal and do something new in game industry, but please never use again the word "merds" it's sound very band in my language, like a bad word, to next update!