MMORTS

MMORTS

Back in early 1997 I got a magazine with an article on Total Annihilation by Cavedog. I was enthralled by the units marching in line and the idea of building large armies. It was released later that year, and I still own my original copies (I purchased multiple ones for friends to play). This was the first RTS where I could build thousands of units and go from "tactics" to full "strategies" in games lasting hours.

In college, in order to save money by being a shut-in, I started playing MMORPGs (Ultima Online, Everquest, Anarchy Online, and Dark Age of Camelot in that order). I loved MMOs, the sociology behind them, the customer service within them. I've studied them, written a thesis in college on the topic, got a degree in Communication and Sociology, and attempted to play all that I can find (current favorite is Elder Scrolls Online). I made my life goals to 1) Work as customer service in an MMO, 2) Help build an MMO, 3) Design my own MMO, 4) Get my MMO built. I'm proud of my time as a Guide in Everquest, so goal #1 done.

For goal #3 I started writing and putting any thought to paper.

The original design I came up with is called "Hidden Glory" (copyright TXu001069801 / 2002-07-23) and was a futuristic dystopia setting. I had planned to release a smaller RTS based on it, but in 2005 I merged the two together and switched the setting to high fantasy. I have been refining the design document ever since. Goal #3, Accomplished! The design is so robust that if I die tomorrow this game can still get made.

Until 2015 I was biding my time developing as I was not confident in my own skills. I was missing something to show me I knew how to build this behemoth. Then at a python training I reproduced Craig Reynold's Boids in a server-client architecture (I was bored). Then I started splitting the server into nodes to get more and more boids alive. That was my answer! I proved that I knew how to horizontally scale an AI engine. That was the catalyst I needed.

Fast forward I now have the core server and client done; at least enough for a demo. My current work is better scaling out my AI using Redis and Docker. A lot of it is spinning up and down nodes as needed. Goal #2 and 4, in progress!

The challenges of an MMORTS are numerous. It is like stitching together a Frankenstein Monster trying to fit the various aspects of each genre together. What has helped me the most is understanding that a player in an MMO isn't the Hero, but a soldier; one cog in the greater war machine. I want to get legions of unit in conflict; hammering away at each other in the chaos of a full scale war. My design decisions follow that path and hopefully prove successful. Future posts will go more into my design choices. Stay Tuned!

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Christopher Axthelm

Creator of Mad Hatter Worlds games. Facinated with logic, world building, and software systems.

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