Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Forumwarz is looking for a great new moderator to help our team with day-to-day activities.
It’s a fun, responsible position and it’ll give you access to the secret, inner bowels of the Forumwarz engine.
If you’re interested, read this thread and tell us why you think you deserve the gig!
Today I’m delighted to announce the launch of itembuildr, our latest system for players to create content in the Forumwarz world. Whereas forumbuildr allowed players to create forums, itembuildr allows you to create items that your player can actually equip!
Here’s how it works:
Step 1. The itembuildr gnomes come up with an item type and stats.
This is done automatically, and is mostly random. The item will either be an equippable item or a junk item. It can be anything from a .moar file (in fact, our first build is a video .moar file) to a tattoo or even a special item. Pretty much anything that can be equipped can be designed by our players.
The stats for the item are generated by marrying two existing items together from a particular class, plus a little random mutation thrown into the mix. So you don’t have to worry about designing some kind of super item that’s better than anything in the game. Everything should be within the limits of what we consider acceptable.
Step 2. People submit names and descriptions
Any character on Forumwarz can submit a name and description for the item. They are told what type of item it should be and what it’s stats will be, and they can submit exactly one idea. The submission period lasts 24 hours.
Step 3. People vote on the names and descriptions
On the second day, people will anonymously vote up and down other people’s ideas. Again this lasts 24 hours. After the voting period ends, the winner is picked as the official name and description of the item.
Step 4. People submit images for the item
Now that the item name and description is known, people can submit images for it. Each character can submit one image for consideration.
Step 5. People vote on the images
Again, a new voting period occurs and people can vote on the best images. After 24 hours, the best image is picked and..
Step 6. The item is published!
The item will end up in an itembuildr store at first for a limited time, along with recently published items. People can purchase the item and begin trading it on Kyoubai (or just stockpile it for their collections.) The best items will also be moved (at the discretions of admins) into the actual game stores, so anyone playing the Forumwarz storyline can purchase them.
Working in Parallel
Now that we’ve explained the pretty straightforward flow of the itembuildr process, you’ve probably figured out that it takes 4 days for an item to go from concept to the store. That would mean about 90 new items a year, which isn’t nearly enough for our rabid users.
Instead we’ve designed the process so that we’re designing two items in parallel!
The way this works is that we’ve broken it into a two day cycle of submitting and voting. During the submitting day, you can submit ideas for items, but you can also submit images for the previous winner. Then on the voting day, you vote for both. So it still takes an item 4 days to be created, but there are always two on the go. Cool huh?
How to access it
You can start using itembuildr right away by logging in and clicking on the multiplayer tab. Today we are only submitting item ideas since it’s the first time it’s being run.
As always, we welcome feedback on the process, the interface and the integration into Forumwarz as a whole. Let us know what you think and how we can make itembuildr a great piece of the Forumwarz universe!
Today we’ve added scullyangel to our moderator team.
I think having a woman on our team will ensure that Flamebate remains the most intelligent and respectful forum on the Internet for many years to come.
For those who have finished Episode 2, we have partnered together with Celerysteve to build you a new mission that parodies one of our infamous forum members. The quest is only available for a limited time, so be sure it check it out sooner rather than later. You can access it on top of your character’s page.
We’ve also added some new E-Peen(tm) to the game:
A bunch of people showed interest in the conversation editor I showed off in the screenshots of our admin section.
I decided to record a screencast that shows off how the tool works. It’s un-rehearsed and rough around the edges but it’ll give you an idea of how we write the conversations that you play out in sTalk.
I wrote up this article for Building Browsergames, a cool site for people who are interested in building games like Forumwarz. I’m cross-posting it here.
For most retail computer and video games, once your game gets shipped into stores, the job is done. Sure, there may be bug fixes or future downloadable content, but those require a skeleton staff and minuscule budgets compared to the development of the initial game.
On a browser game, the process is a bit different. Since there is no physical product shipping out in flashy boxes, you can deliver new content with virtually no deployment costs. However, in this sense, it means the job is never quite done. It becomes a constant effort to continuously improve the product. It also becomes trickier to try to sell it.
So this article will be a little different than a “post mortem” on a typical console or retail game, as I am still actively working on the project. Forumwarz is my full-time job. At any given time we have a lengthy list of enhancements we want to add to the game. In a given week, I typically deploy 10 to 30 updates. Most of them are small bug fixes or enhancements to streamline the process, but sometimes they are larger features that make up entirely new components of the game.
Forumwarz is a parody role-playing game. You play it in your web browser. The hook is, instead of playing as a knight battling orcs in dungeons (or whatever), you role-play an Internet user “pwning” fake internet sites. Yes, that’s right: Forumwarz is an Internet game where you simulate an archetype of an Internet user. You can play as a Troll, Emo Kid, Hacker, Camwhore or Permanoob. Within the game’s universe, there are hundreds of fake internet sites that you navigate to, leveling up, gaining new abilities and employing new equipment. You also meet and interact with all sorts of interesting and sometimes bizarre characters along the way. We like to call it “the Internet — in game form.”
Our team is quite small. I’m Robin “Evil Trout” Ward, the only full-time employee and I’m responsible for the programming. I came up with the initial idea for the game. Our head writer is Mike “Jalapeno Bootyhole” Drach and our third partner is Jason “BINGEBOT 2015″ Kogan. I’d say at this point all three of us are game designers and heavily involved in every aspect of the game’s development.
It is awesome to have created something from nothing (okay, nothing but a high-speed internet connection and healthy dose of caffeine). A few years ago, Forumwarz was just an idea, and now it’s a game that players enjoy every day. I remember the first few pieces of fanmail I got and how awesome it was to hear people gush about it.
My professional background in programming before Forumwarz was J2EE and PHP, although I’d dabbled in many other languages in my spare time. For Forumwarz, I decided to try out Ruby on Rails because I’d heard positive things about it. I quickly fell in love.
Ruby made all other programming languages look ugly to me. Rails made complicated web tasks simple. I found it easy to jump in and start learning, but hard to master. I am still learning to this day and it’s a huge privilege to be able to work with it.
Before I worked on Forumwarz, I was a web developer who implemented other people’s ideas. This sometimes meant doing things that I thought were wrong for the products I was working on. Don’t get me wrong: I understand that I was building software for other people in exchange for their money, and I was happy to build things however they wanted it. But there was always this feeling in the back of my head that, “Wow, if that was my money I would do things differently.”
It’s one thing to constantly tell yourself that you wouldn’t make the same mistakes that other people make. It’s something completely different to step up and start putting your money where your mouth is. In fact, it’s downright terrifying.
I remember when I first started telling people about the game. Some were friends and family. Some were members of the local Ruby/Rails community. I must have explained the concept several dozens of times. I am not exaggerating when I say that, save one or two exceptions, I always received a blank stare. It wasn’t hard to read their reactions: They either didn’t understand the idea or, worse, thought it was stupid. The honest ones even told me so (and I appreciated it)!
If I could go back in time and give myself only one piece of advice it would be: Doubt is normal. If you are investing your time and money in a new venture or project, you will doubt yourself.
I worked for over a year on Forumwarz before we opened it up to the public. I kept up a furious pace of development, working 10-12 hours a day, usually taking one day a week for rest. I was investing an enormous amount of time in something that I couldn’t even explain to people properly! Before we launched our beta, I’d tell myself on sleepness nights that at least it was a blast to learn, and it gave me the opportunity to fall in love with Ruby on Rails, so it wouldn’t matter if only five people ever liked it. Still, I knew there was someone out there who would get the joke.
We launched the game in an invite-only beta on Halloween 2007, through the popular Something Awful forums. Hundreds of people played that day, and we watched them post their responses. Our entire team was blown away at how much positive feedback we received right out of the gate.
To this day, it remains one of the most positive experiences of my life. I learned a valuable lesson: Just because other people don’t get excited about your idea doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. I’m not sure if I was just terrible at delivering the pitch. Or maybe Forumwarz is a game that’s simply better experienced than explained. It’s likely a bit of both.
We took off the “beta” tag and opened our doors to the public in early 2008. We quickly grew to 30,000 accounts. In October, we launched our second episode of the storyline which had a small fee ($10) to play. Shortly thereafter we hit 100,000 accounts and have been growing aggressively since. Word-of-mouth recommendation and positive feedback from influential sites like Wired.com and Gawker gave us the initial boost in membership, and we’ve followed up by advertising wherever we think we have a chance of being noticed. Now, after about a year of being open to the public, we’ve seen more than 130,000 people sign up for the game. I can finally say with confidence that more than a few people do get the joke.
Scaling from 1,000 users to 100,000 users in one year presents a great deal of difficulties. When I say “scale,” I am not simply referring to the site’s performance (although we underwent several major hardware and software upgrades to sustain the load). I am also referring to the infrastructure you need to deal with a community that large.
If your forums get 1,000 posts in a day — especially on a site that’s essentially “about” flaming forums — will you have the resources to moderate them?
What about bug reports? Would you expect that many users will submit a bug reports just because they can’t solve a puzzle in the game?
A small percentage of your users will try and hack your site. Most people are smart enough to avoid SQL injection, but is your site safe against XSS or XSRF attacks?
And there are other, less immediate issues related to having a suddenly large community. Some users will simply email you with personal comments and you’ll seem ungrateful if you don’t reply. In a given day, I receive hundreds of emails related to the site (errors, correspondence from users, bug reports, etc). If I responded to each one I wouldn’t have any time to work on the game at all!
This is something we are still very much working on. We have elected a couple of moderators who are doing a great job maintaining our forums. We recently launched a knowledge base to help people find answers to their questions, but it’s far from perfect. I know that we’ll never be able to help every user through the game, but we want to make sure that people have as close to a painless experience as possible.
Having a Thick Skin
Gamers are awesome because they’re often intelligent, focused and passionate. However, that also comes with the side-effect of them often being quite opinionated.
Gamers will criticize just about every decision you make. A certain percentage of it can be ignored as trolling, but sometimes I’ve made decisions that I thought were in the best interests of the game and it wound up upsetting many people.
Forumwarz has evolved to encompass many different gameplay styles that all interact in one game ecosystem. As I mentioned before, our team is small. We do our best to think things through, and we often solicit our users for feedback on upcoming features. However, in my experience, no small group can effectively predict how tens of thousands will use a new gameplay feature. We do our best when we launch new content, but the real testing is done when all those eyeballs fall upon the page.
If there is a major problem with something, it shows up immediately. Fortunately, since the game is web-based we can deploy updates quite quickly. In fact, I have gotten somewhat used to only launching a feature when I’m sure I’ll have a couple of days set aside to throw up patches to address any initial issues.
As I said, most of our users are passionate because they truly love the game and want it to be the best game on the web. Their feedback is invaluable. Others, however, can be quite mean. If your project ends up attracting any kind of sizable community, be prepared for nastiness. People will say hurtful things, and they will make it personal. Sometimes I find it hilarious (like when they Photoshop my head onto images) but other times it does sting. So make sure you have a thick skin!
The Road Ahead
I recently read a comment on the Hacker News that resonated with me:
I asked Jessica Livingston to speak at the business of software conference, and I suggested that she talk about all the ways Y-Combinator startups fail. “That would be boring,” she told me, “it’s always they same thing: they just stop working on it.”
As someone who has started hundreds of software projects in my lifetime (most of which only lasted a few hours of development), I fully understand this. Keeping a web business online involves working hard through many periods of doubt. Most people don’t stop because they are starving to death and can’t feed their family; they stop because they have grown tired of it or have been discouraged by some kind of recent event (perhaps income drops, a new feature was a disaster, etc).
I’m quite proud of Forumwarz and the community it has spawned. It is worth the occasional sleepness night or headache to keep it going. Ultimately, it’s been quite rewarding to work on and I will continue doing it as long as I possibly can. If I hadn’t persisted through the doubt when this started two years ago, I’d still be developing other people’s ideas and wondering if anyone would get the joke.
There’s a short interview with me up on Building Browsergames. I think it’s a promising site that’s geared towards helping out develoepers who are interested in building their own games like Forumwarz.
(I’ve also agreed to do a Forumwarz “Post-Mortem” for them. It should be live shortly and I’ll probably cross-post/link it on this blog too.)
So Kyoubai has been quite the success! Since it launched just over two weeks ago, we’ve hosted over 40,000 auctions with 150,000 bids. At any given time, there seems to be over 1,000 auctions to peruse for stuff like rare .moar files.
Thanks to all our users who offered input and helped us tweak the system so that it’s easier to use and less prone to exploits.
Up Next: ItemBuildr
Last night during our weekly brainstorming meeting, we discussed our next project: ItemBuildr.
ItemBuildr is to items as ForumBuildr is to forums. Every week there will be a competition where items are created by our users for the community.
The beauty of ItemBuildr is that it will mean a steady trickle of new equipment, junk and collectible items into the game economy. And unlike other popular MMOs, each item in our game will have a hilarious blurb of text inside it.
ItemBuildr is kind of the yang to Kyoubai’s ying, in that it guarantees that there’s always fresh new items to be traded back and forth.
We’re delighted to announce that Kyoubai, the official Forumwarz auction house, is live!
To celebrate its birth, we’ve seeded it with two special auctions. Note that for the following links to work, you must have a bookmark to Kyoubai. The quest begins around level 5. All players who meet the criteria for Kyoubai should have a tubmail that opens up system.
Wireless Headset – Currently the most powerful item in the game.
Custom E-Peen(tm) Voucher – Whomever wins this auction will have the ability to create a custom E-Peen(tm).
As always, we’re looking for feedback to improve this product over time. Give it a whirl and let us know what you think.
We’re getting pretty close to launching our first major feature since Episode 2 was introduced back in October. It’s called Kyoubai, and it’s an auction house that allows player to auction their items to each other for Flezz.
The mascot of Kyoubai will be BidSquid (a cartoon squid with a cowboy hat and a gavel). He’ll be the one who corresponds with you when you are outbid or when you win an auction. He’s going to be designed by the talented artists at Dooomcat. They’re the ones who designed the awesome homepage for Forumwarz, as well as the player class portraits you get when choosing your class.
How the auction house will work:
- You can select virtually any unequipped item from your inventory and put it up for auction.
- You set the starting price, as well as a length of time to run your auction (12, 24 or 72 hours).
- Optionally, you can set a buyout price or a reserve price.
- The auction house will charge you a listing fee based on the parameters of your auction. Generally speaking: the longer the auction, the higher the fee.
- Other players can then bid on items. There is a minimum bid amount based on the current bid on an item. However, you can choose a maximum bid that is much higher than the minimum. In this case, your maximum price remains hidden, but you will automatically outbid any bids that are less than your maximum.
- At the end of the auction, the highest bidder wins the item. If the item does not sell, it is returned via tubmail.
New Items to Trade
- We plan to introduce new and rare items via the auction house. So keep an eye on it from time to time to see if there’s something you’ve never seen before. You’ll never know what you might find.
- We are going to be introducing more rare .MOAR files soon. For those with lots of excess flezz but no patience to grind for Pink Floyd type of files, the auction house will be a great tool!
- We are planning to introduce ItemBuildr in the future, as a way to get a constant feed of new and awesome items into the economy.
When’s it coming out? What’s next on the Forumwarz agenda?
Most of the coding is done. We are mainly waiting on the artwork. If things go well, it will launch by the end of the week. If not, next week for sure!
Afterwards, we’re going to focus on enhancing Forumwarz Domination. There are plenty of discussions going on in the Domination Forum, and we plan to go a long way to address the major issues as well as to make Domination much more fun and open to all players.