[MUD-Dev] MMORPG Construction Kit

Koster Koster
Thu Jul 26 16:42:22 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Well, here's what looks like the second graphical mud kit available
commercially. (Firts one I know of was Catware's _Shattered
Light_). Next one is of course the much-followed _Neverwinter
Nights_ from Bioware.

A quickie look at the features seems to indicate that the scripting
is not very robust, and that some key design choices are made for
you, much like a Diku but without the ability to dive into the code
to change things. But that's what you get for only $14.95.

  Game's site:

    http://www.trinityofdarkness.com

An interview:

  http://rpgvault.ign.com/features/interviews/mmorpgkit.shtml

MMORPG Construction Kit Interview
July 26, 2001 

Surveys conducted from time to time on various gaming sites
including this one consistently show that quite a few gamers harbor
thoughts of following careers in game development. This certainly
isn't surprising. Indeed, for those who love playing games, wanting
to make them may even be a pretty natural progression. After all,
it's difficult if not impossible to play a game without thinking of
something you'd like to add, remove or modify. And there can be no
doubt that despite widespread reports of the long hours developers
put in, especially during so-called crunch times, the industry as a
whole has gained and is continuing to gain a profile and an image
that focus disproportionate attention on its eye-catching aspects
rather than presenting a more complete picture.

During the past year or two, developers have started to make editing
and development tools available to players, either shipping them
with the games themselves or providing them afterward, usually over
the Internet, as separate Software Development Kits. However, these
instances have been pretty much limited to standalone games, so when
we recently learned about the release of a product called the MMORPG
Construction Kit <http://www.trinityofdarkness.com/> that is
described as including everything you require in order to build,
edit and host your own persistent online world plus a full game,
Trinity of Darkness, we were immediately interested to learn
more. Fortunately, we found that David Ullman, President of
developer Past Tree, was willing to answer our questions, the result
being this MMORPG Construction Kit Interview.

Jonric: Let's start with the obvious basic question. What is the
MMORPG Construction Kit and what kinds of things will it allow
would-be world builders to do?

David Ullmann: The MMORPG Construction Kit was designed to allow
anyone easy access to making their own online RPG game. The kit
allows players to build their own world and populate it with custom
spells, monsters, NPC's, quests and treasure.

Jonric: Before we discuss the actual product, please tell our
readers a bit about Past Tree and the team that was involved in the
project.

David Ullmann: Past Tree is located in the suburbs of Chicago. We
had about 20 different people that helped us through the life of the
project, but there was really our core team of about 14 people that
made the game.

Jonric: When did the idea for MMORPG Construction Kit arise, and
when did work actually begin? What were the notable milestones, both
positive and negative, during the development period, and when did
you release it?

David Ullmann: Work began on the kit around January of 2000 and
wrapped up in May of 2001. The game was made available through our
web site in June 2001. As for milestone, we, like any software
development project, had our share or bumps in the road. The game
ended up taking longer than expected but we managed to put more
features in than planned as well, which I am sure the players will
appreciate. We began beta testing the product in January 2001 with
the help of some very dedicated players around the US.

Jonric: What were your main goals in developing the product, and how
did these goals affect its development in terms of feature selection
et al?

David Ullmann: Our main goal with the kit was to provide a way for
fans of pen and paper RPGs a place online to build and host their
own worlds. We tried to make a very well rounded set of tools to
allow players to fully customize their worlds however they see fit.

Jonric: What are the Kit's main features? What's included in the way
of tiles monsters, weapons and other items, and other components?

David Ullmann: The Kit's main features include the server and
mapmaker. The Server allows the player to set hundreds of different
options to make his world just the way he wants it, including
spells, chests, items, monsters, quests, NPC texts and much
more. The mapmaker includes well over 4000 unique tiles, over 20
monster graphics, hundreds of item graphics, four different races
(both male and female), tons of ambient sounds and a lot of other
cool stuff the player can customize.

Jonric: How much flexibility do users have when developing their
worlds? Are they limited to using the supplied assets and modifying
their stats, or is it possible to add completely new ones including
their own art?

David Ullmann: Users have complete flexibility when creating their
worlds, we tried to make the kit to allow players to do this
easily. At the current time player can chose from any of the art
provided with the game and customize the stats, if things go well
there may be some "expansion packs" of art and more server options
down the road.

Jonric: What kinds of monsters are included, and to what extent is
it possible to modify their various characteristics?

David Ullmann: Creatures can be modified in many respects. Their AI,
experience, stats and spells they can cast can all be customized in
the monster tab in the server application.

Jonric: How about weapons, armor and other items? What kinds are
included, and what characteristics can be modified by the users?

David Ullmann: All weapons can be fully customized. We provide a
wide variety of graphics and base weapons for the players to
use. Weapons can be modified to have their damage changed, graphic,
what race can use them,

Jonric: Please describe the magic system including how spells work,
how many are available, etc. Again, what can users change? Can they
add completely new spells and spell effects?

David Ullmann: The magic system is very open ended. Players can
chose a graphic, set its damage, radius, effect, mana cost, range,
level required to cast it and what class is required to cast
it. Players can create their own spells but must use the supplied
graphics.

Jonric: To what extent can users script NPCs in terms of
conversations, branching dialogue, movement and other behaviors? And
how do users script or create quests?

David Ullmann: NPCs can be either general or quest related. The
system allows the player to assign NPCs a text message. If a player
has a certain item in his/her inventory that the NPC needs, the NPC
can be instructed to say different things and give players items
and/or gold as a reward. NPC text can easily be modified through a
simple text editor. NPCs can be given text to hint to a quest or ask
for players to bring them an item. Chests can have items placed in
them also.

Jonric: What are the hardware requirements? And as a practical
example on the server side, how many simultaneous users could a
system such as a 1-gig processor, 256 mb of RAM and a cable modem
handle?

David Ullmann: System Requirements (from web site)

  Windows® 95/98 
  233 MHz Pentium II 
  32 MB of RAM 
  4 MB video card 
  16-bit sound card 
  650 MB of free hard drive space 
  Multi-Player: TCP/IP, 56 kbps modem (Internet Service Provider
  required for Internet Play)

With that type of computer and connection you should be able to get
50 people playing on your world.

Jonric: What type of communication system have you included in the
Kit? Are there private channels for groups?

David Ullmann: The chat system is rather simple. It is placed in the
bottom of the interface and allows the player to use many different
commands. Some of the commands include; /reply, /tell "player name",
/kills (tells you how many monsters you've hacked to bits), /pkills
(how many players you have killed), /location and /info to name a
few.

Jonric: What amount of control does the world builder have over
player versus player combat on his or server?

David Ullmann: The host of the world can chose to have his would be
PvP or non PvP. If the world is PK then each player will be prompted
while logging on weather on not he/she wished to be PK.

Jonric: How do players go about finding worlds to play in? Are
characters portable between worlds? What security precautions are in
place to prevent cheating and hacking?

David Ullmann: Currently to find worlds to play on the players must
know the server's IP address. We had hoped to make a matching server
that would provide a list of all the worlds but we did not have time
to finish it before release. If a world is PvP then a prompt will
come up asking the player if they wish to be a player killer before
they enter the world. No, Characters are not portable between
worlds.

We took several measures to stop cheating. Maps are checked to make
sure they are the same as the ones on the server, if you do not have
the map, or it is different, then you will download it before you
can play on that map.  All calculations are made server side and
then sent to the client. If there is a mismatch the client will be
updated to reflect what the server actual sees.

Jonric: Please tell our readers about the game that's included in
the Kit, Trinity of Darkness.

David Ullmann: Trinity of Darkness is a huge world, with over 100
maps, dozens of quests and tons of monsters. Originally Trinity of
Darkness was going to be the entire product, but we felt that one of
its strong points was the tools and thus decided to release them
along with Trinity of Darkness. Trinity of Darkness is a very good
example to people of how to build worlds, quests, spell systems,
monsters and all the rest. But Trinity of Darkness is in itself a
full game due to its size. It would take most people weeks or months
to solve all the quests in Trinity of Darkness.

Jonric: What are your plans in terms of providing on-going support
for players and world-builders?

David Ullmann: We try to help people as much as possible with our
e-mail based support. We will be adding a forum for the game shortly
to allow players to share idea and solve problems. We will try to be
very active on these boards.

Jonric: How has reaction to the Kit been so far? Where can they find
information on ordering? Is there any plan to release a demo?

David Ullmann: Reaction to the kit so far has been very
good. Ordering information is currently available through our web
site for $14.99 plus shipping and handling. We have no plans for a
demo at this time.

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