Apr 262011

I’ve been digging through some old archives, and came across an old, old design of mine for a game called Implosion. The general idea was that it handles up to twenty-four (!!!) players, and can be scaled down to work with factors of twenty-four; so, twelve, eight, six, four, three, or two. The board is twelve concentric rings populated by a series of connected nodes, with the players’ starting nodes on the outer ring, and a single scoring node in the center. Each node can contain a number of units belonging to a player, and the further out the node is, the more it can hold – twelve for the ones on the outside, and only a single unit in the middle. Moving and attacking is very simple, and there are “spawn” nodes in the rings about two thirds and one third the way in to generate new units.

The game was originally designed to be played asynchronously online, over a long period. Say, one turn per hour, one hundred sixty eight turns over the course of a week. As the game goes on, the rings start disappearing from the outside in. The board implodes, one might even say. When a ring vanishes, all the units on those rings vanish as well, until the entire board disappears on the last turn, and the game is over. (Actually, that part isn’t in the original version of the rules, which I’ll post below, but I know that was part of the design from the beginning. Weird.)

Anyway, you can see that this is a relatively primitive game, and it would be ridiculously unwieldy to play on a regular board, and probably still clunky and kind of a drag to test out in an online multi-player setting, as well. But it still feels like it has potential, and I think that with some futzing about and iterating over a few rounds of playtesting, something neat could come out of it. I don’t have anywhere near the bandwidth to do any of that right now, but it struck me well enough to give it a little think again, and maybe set it to simmering on the back burner of my brain…

Here are the rules from the original text file; I’d seriously revise these before attempting to play, but for the sake of posterity, enjoy:


The game is played by 24 players, on a board made of interconnected nodes in twelve concentric circles. Each player begins with twelve units on their starting node on the rim of the Implosion board. Moves are submitted over the course of a turn (maybe an hour, when played online), and are executed in the order received. A move consists of a player transferring one or more units from an occupied node to a node that is connected to it. Nodes are connected to anywhere between three and six other nodes on the board, and units may only move along these connections. If the target node is empty, or contains units owned by the moving player, the units just move into the new node. If there are units belonging to another player in the target node, it is considered an attack – a battle occurs, and the winner’s remaining units are placed in the node. Units owned by more than one player may never occupy the same node without conflict. Units may only be moved once per turn.

When a node containing one player’s units is attacked by units owned by another player, the conflict is resolved by unit-to-unit battle, until only the units belonging to one player remain. The defending units attack first, then the invading units, and continue back and forth as long as both sides have at least one unit remaining. When an attack is made, there is a 50% chance that the attacked units will lose a unit, regardless of the size of the attacking or defending forces. For example, Player A uses three units to attack a node which contains two units belonging to Player B. Player B goes first, and succeeds, so Player A’s attack force is now two units. Player A also makes a successful attack, bringing it down to two units against one unit. Player B’s next attack fails, but Player A’s attack in return succeeds again, clearing out the node. Player A now moves their remaining two units into the node. If another player has submitted an order to move units into the same node after Player A’s move, battle occurs again, this time with Player A playing the defender, and attacking first. Moves are resolved in this manner until all conflicts are resolved, at which point the moves for the next turn may be submitted.

A node’s capacity is determined by its distance from the center of the board. The outermost ring of nodes, the twelfth one out, may contain a maximum of twelve units per node. The nodes in eleventh ring out (second ring in) have a maximum capacity of eleven units, and so on, until the center “ring” is reached, which consists of a single node that may only hold one unit. There are four different kinds of nodes on the Implosion board – normal nodes, starting nodes, spawn nodes, and the center node. Normal nodes have no special qualities, beyond their regular maximium capacity limit. Spawn nodes are distributed around the seventh and tenth rings – if a spawn node is occupied by a player at the beginning of a turn, they receive an additional unit in that node (up to the normal limit for that node’s ring), before movement occurs. Starting nodes are where each player begins the game, and are considered to be spawn nodes, with the additional advantage of creating one new unit per turn even if the node is not occupied by one of the player’s units, unless another player has occupied the node themselves. The center node is the method by which points are scored – if a player occupies the center node with a single unit at the beginning of a turn, they receive a point. Needless to say, this is a very precarious position to hold.

A standard game of Implosion is played for 168 turns, or one week if the turns occur once per hour. A game may end early if there is only one player with units remaining, in which case, they are declared the winner. Otherwise, the player with the largest number of center points wins. Ties are broken by the number of units left at the end of the game, number of spawn points occupied, and, in extreme cases where two or more players have equal numbers of all of those measures, number of inner nodes occupied.

May 272008

Back in the earlier Internet days, about a dozen ago (that’s 1996-97-ish, for those of you who are either math-addled or from the future), I had fancied myself a bit of a web game developer. I had a website with couple medium-sized multiplayer online games, your standard strategic exploration and combat and tech tree stuff, one about cavemen and one about nanotech spaceship-clouds. Maybe had fifteen thousand registered users, give or take, which for the time was pretty decent. It was all old school play-by-web, with frames and javascript and database-driven Perl CGI backends and whatnot – all pretty gnarly and poorly maintained, and it all eventually collapsed under its own weight after I lost interest after a business deal fell through and I started to focus more on my day job, which was basically the same thing, only for clients who actually paid us.

I’d never try to resurrect those exact same games – the designs were clunky, the code wasn’t anything to be proud of, and the old player base is long, long gone – but I’ve still got design documents in various stages of decay sitting around for a good half dozen totally decent web-based games that could be thrown together, given a bit of care and time. A little bit of playtesting and polishing here, a chunk of content generation there, spray the Rails hose at it, and voila. Sounds reasonable enough. Unfortunately, as a freelance developer, overbooked stage performer, and relatively new father, most of my billable and non-billable hours are spoken for, and most of my game design time is directed towards the tabletop side of things. Also, the landscape is much different now than it was then – there are hundreds of browser-based games out there, many of them possessing much greater polish and love than I could ever hope to give them, unless I quit my life or something. Still, the projects are on the stack, and someday, they might get gotten to.

But, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about something that I don’t think I’ve seen yet, and if I’m not able to make it happen right now, I’d love to see someone else try it out. So, off into the collective consciousness we go: I’d like to see a set of web-based games that are totally different play-wise, theme-wise, and other-wise, but all their players operated on the same set of data that described the world, and the resources in it. So, say, you’d have one set of players flying around, mining asteroids and fighting aliens and space pirates in your typical 4x/Elite-style galactic trader game, another set of players hacking away at monsters in a fantasy world based dungeon crawl, another bunch of players fighting over city blocks and illicit businesses in a gang war game, and maybe another set doing something interesting in some stock market financial simulation thing. Or whatever.

But! When players do stuff in one of the games, it doesn’t just affect their game world, it becomes part of all the others, too – all the games work on one big database, but they all provide radically different views and available actions on that world data. So, your gangland activity in one game generates the monsters that the dungeon crawlers fight. The trading of goods in starports across the galaxy and the selling of loot in medieval towns are reflected in the stock exchange in the financial sim. The players that become leaders of the Mages’ Guild in one game are portrayed as mob bosses in another. A shrewd investor cashing in a bunch of hot commodities in one world causes a medical emergency for an outpost on the galactic rim. You could even hook generated game data into real-world sources like weather patterns, the actual stock markets, RSS feeds, twitter chatter, all kinds of fun stuff. There are so many ways to weave totally different game worlds together, and the really fun part is, you really wouldn’t have to tell anyone about it. Players on one web game are the alien menace in another, and nobody knows except the admins – until the day that the master plan leaks, which leads to all kinds of awesome.

Sure, there are some technical and design challenges involved with a scheme like this, but in my mind, totally worthwhile ones. Who knows – maybe this is already happening, and the veil hasn’t been lifted yet. And I guess I’ve blown my cover already, so if I ever do get around to doing something like this, it’ll come as no surprise. Still, potentially fun times ahead. Keep watching the skies.