Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Small Update

I have started working on the main website for Fleet Combat Online where you will go to sign up and actually play the game. I have all kinds of ideas for player ranking and factions and such things, but I am trying to keep it simple to start with. Also, I am not a graphic designer by any means, so it will be pretty spartan :) When it is ready, this blog will move to a new url and the main website will appear here instead.

I also finished the mechanism for submitting turns in the game and I am pretty happy with how it turned out. In the game interface, you will see the list of players with a "traffic light" icon next to each one. The traffic light indicates that players "readiness" for the next turn. Red indicates that they are not ready and they are not currently online, so it may be a while before they are ready. Yellow means they are not ready, but they are currently online and logged into the game, so it won't be long. Green means they are ready and waiting for the turn to be processed. Clicking on your own traffic light icon will toggle your status between ready and not ready. This is similar to how all XBox Live games work.

As soon as all players have set their status to ready, they will get a 5 second count down and the turn will be processed. When the turn is processed, the game board refreshes and you see all the ships move and all players status is automatically reset to "not ready".

If you are playing in "near real time" mode, then all players status will always be "ready". As soon as a turn is processed, you will see all players traffic lights will still be green and there will be a countdown to the next turn. The length of time between turns in this game mode is configurable. You will still be able to set your status to "not ready" if you need to pause the game.

This brings up an issue that it will be interesting for me to see unfold. Fleet Combat Online can be played "live" with all players logged in and playing at the same time, or it can be played "offline" as in a Play By Email game. PBEM (or PBM) has been around since long before the Internet. The idea is that each player plays their turn when they have time and once all players have submitted their turn the game progresses. VGA Planets is a classic play by email game (one that I still play to this day). If you've ever seen Blade Runner, the scene where J.F. and Roy are debating about his next chess move is a form of PBM game. He and his opponent never get together to play, they just send their moves to each other. (A game mode that Dr. Tyrell should have stuck to...)

During the game, you will be able to switch modes. So you can start the game with all players online and then when someone has to go, you can switch to offline mode where turns are processed by the players whenever they have time to login and play. Email notifications can be set up so that you are told when you need to submit a turn.

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