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Community. If I had to use one word to sum up my love of gaming, that’s it: community.
That may sound obvious to many as, notable exceptions like Solitaire notwithstanding, for the most part games are designed to be played by multiple people, creating a temporary community for the length of the game. Whether it's cooperatively or competitively, together or against one another, games have largely been designed to be played by multiple people. I have always loved the way a game can bring a group together and give them the tools, the ability and the opportunity to create something larger than the sum of the parts - a collaborative story produced directly from the imaginations and interactions of those involved.
Like a lot of folks, many my childhood memories are of playing games. Whether it was enjoying lazy and loose board games with sister or cousins or, later, the buttock-clenching terror of playing Trivial Pursuit with my parents and grandparents (if you have ever seen Rob Zombie's "House of 1000 Corpses", imagine that with a game of Triv being played by the Firefly's), games were like a constant backdrop. However, it wasn’t until high-school that games took on a whole new meaning for me, for two very different reasons.
The first was being given a computer, a ZX81, as a Christmas present back in 1981 when I was 12 years old. The ability, albeit limited, to write my own games was mind-blowing. I spent hours transcribing and programming in the games of others, first in BASIC and then later in Machine Code, so I could learn from the genius and mistakes that other people made and make myself better. It was extremely invigorating and even liberating. Being able to create something that wasn't just a picture with crayons or a house of LEGO made me feel like I was filled with magic.
The second thing that happened was, the following year, I was introduced to Role-Playing Games and had my horizons further expanded. I still remember how I felt playing my first game of Dungeons and Dragons, taught to me by a classmate at his house at the weekend. I remember how hooked I was after only an hour or so of play. The game seemed to be filled with endless possibilities and, for the first time, I felt like my imagination had an actual outlet that wasn't just me writing stories that no one, myself include, had any interest in reading.
I also very vividly remember being so entranced with various the hand-drawn maps on this weird, esoteric paper - WTF were these hexes for? When my classmate showed me the maps of the world he had drawn, the forests and deserts and mountains and caves and castles and strongholds and started telling me the stories that he had made up to go along with each place, I knew I was hooked, even though I didn't realize I would be hooked for life.
I begged my classmate to let me take the basic rules home with me and, for the remainder of the weekend, and I proceeded to create roughly 7 million characters and a unique background and setting for each.
I continued to play with my classmate and anyone else we could get interested. I quickly realized that the thing I loved most was the creation aspect - putting things together for others to try out and, if I was lucky, revise it and try it out for another group. My love of the genre outgrew D&D (which I haven't played in probably 35 years) and I voraciously consumed as many rulesets as I could buy or borrow. I was lucky enough as a teen to be able to work in a game store at weekends where I could leaf through various books when the shop was quiet.
My love of computers and computer gaming never waned and when MMORPG's progressed and advanced, I had a deep admiration for not only the world-building but the community-building that would take place. I had tried EverQuest and a few others but it really wasn't until Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) released Star Wars Galaxies that I found a game that sucked me in, and man, did that game pull me in. Not only was it Star Wars but it was a game that really appealed to me - a sandbox where the players were driving the narrative and building the community. I played that game for too many hours and had the honor of being permanent mayor of the first player city on the server I played upon. I also found out how to make my character look like Santa Claus. Still unsure if that was a positive or not.
That game went off the rails and was closed down but over the next decade I tried most of the MMORPG's that got released but the only other one I ever went beyond the free, indtroductory month with was another sci-fi sandbox game, EVE Online.
Nothing else ever really held my attention and over the years, my ability to invest time and energy in MMORPG's has diminished (a family and career will do that to most people) and my interest in RPG's has risen again, as the time investment is more manageable and my gameworlds are less persistent and have a very easily accessible Pause button in the form of real life.
But I have always felt the two things could have - and should have - way more overlap. And that's where XeroSumGames comes in.
Committed to the evolution of the hobby, XeroSum intend to bring the first MMTTRPG (Massively Multiplayer Tabletop Role Playing Game) platform to market that combines a robust and enjoyable ruleset that ties to a digital back-end designed to enhance the game and expand the player experience.
How we get there will be the subject of several blogs going forward but this all starts with the RAPID Ruleset, a universal ruleset that can easily be tailored to any environment and is the backbone we will be using in all future game development work. The stand-alone version will be available for free download in Q3 2020.
Tentatively planned for released in Q4 2020, After is the first game that will use the RAPID Ruleset and will be tied to The Tapestry, our online platform.
All XeroSum Games are built on the simple "Make3" design philosophy:
Make it fun. If it’s not, people won’t play no matter the setting or adventures. This rule is so important that it’s called out as the eponymous Rule Xero in all of ou gaming systems.
Make it simple. I love crunch in games but I have read too many rulesets that get confused between complexity and cohesion and this chisels away at the fun. Simple doesn't mean simplistic, but intuitive.
Make it memorable. Players have got to want to come back and play again or you failed in your mission.
These 3 principals are central to everything we are building, and over the next few posts I will be talking more about The Tapestry, our overarching vision for development, and also the specific development roadmap for After.
Thanks for reading. Fun times ahead :)