A Direction for Pokéngine
At the moment, development for Pokéngine is focused on the content creators, and not the players. My view of Pokéngine (I'm not sure if this aligns with everyone's views, but I'd bet it's fairly close for the most part) is that there are two main features to it. One is the design tool, content-creation, side of things—letting anyone build up their own Pokémon, and making that process as easy-to-use and convenient as possible, like a game-design tool, à la RPG Maker. The other is the actual engine on which the games are run—and with that, the multiplayer aspects such as chatting, exploring together, and so on. In recent time, the former has been the focus, with a new mapbuilder being planned, along with a new site to make everything more cohesive.
I think this is the wrong way to go. The most important aspect of Pokéngine is the game itself: it is that—not the boards, or development, or anything else—that the community built up around. What do people get excited about when they see a new fan-game, or a screenshot someone has posted on dA? It is the prospect of a new adventure—the story, the Pokémon, and all that goes along with that. Sure, the community is an integral part of Pokéngine, as it is with any project, but that comes after and along with the game itself.
What do new players see when they come to this site at the moment? A big image telling them they cannot play. This has been the state of the game for over a year now. And with signs like that, what's going to make someone stick around? Recently, someone posted on the main board asking for reasons this site is of any interest
. And the truth is, at the moment, for someone with no access to the game, there is
no reason to stay. The community isn't worth joining simply because it's there. It's something that is built up around something.
So what do I propose? Why point these things out, which are probably already very clear to everyone?
I think Pokéngine needs a change of direction. Not a change that anyone would have disagreed with before—maybe one that people already think is being done, but it needs to be an official, recognised direction, with a community-wide effort to realise it. If we do this together, then we can bring Pokéngine back to what it was before, and far exceed it too.A new direction
First, on the programming side of things, the features related to the game are the ones that need to be worked on first. That means:
• The bag system. The actual mechanics of this is already mostly done for the battle system—it just needs a UI. Once that is done, already far more functionality is opened up, such as capturing Pokémon, and using Potions and other items in-battle.
• The Pokémon Storage System (PSS/PC). A limit of 6 accessible Pokémon is far too little. Again, we just need a UI for the PSS, and once that's done, players will be encouraged to go around collecting Pokémon.
• Multiplayer battles. Yes, I'll need to do a bit of work on this too, but multiplayer battles add a whole level of enjoyment and replayability to the game, especially once they get competitive.
• Encounters—this is the sort of feature that I would
class as a tool, but this one is actually necessary, so is valuable to be worked on. It shouldn't take too long to finish though, which makes it different from a large rewrite as has been the trend as of late.
• Story variables—again, a content-creation tool, but vital in order to allow the story to progress. Something as simple as a load of flags would work and would allow for proper stories / side-quest, etc.
• Small features such as an indoor map flag, to stop it growing dark as night, and any other little bugs that are breaking the immersion of the game world.
to the game-play has been finished, only then
should the creation tools be worked on. There are far fewer content-creators than players (or there certainly would be if there was a proper game to play). This means a rewrite of the site should not be worked on until after everything else is done
. Sure, it's useful. No-one will disagree with that. But the game is undeniably the most
important part of Pokéngine, so we need to focus on that
Then, on the content-creators' side. This is just as important as the actual game-play features. Previously, people work on their own things, with maybe some help from a couple of other people. Everyone has their own region, and that is their primary focus. It has led to some fantastic maps over the past few years, but even now, none are close to completion (and by this, I mean not just the mapping, but also NPCs, battles, the game story, etc.). This is partially due to working battles having not been implemented until quite recently, but even so. When a player starts a new game, they want to be able to play through what they know and love—a full, proper Pokémon game. They don't want to get to the first city, and then realise from then on out, there's not that much to do.
It's obviously too much to ask to tell people to "finish your regions, ASAP!"—people have only as much time as they can commit, and a region and story is a big task. They're competing with entire development teams working on the actual official Pokémon games. How can
they compete? Well, there's one way that has been shown to be very effective in certain areas so far—working together in larger teams (just like the professionals). We have so many talented people, and yes, making something of your very own is fantastic, but think how much we could achieve if everyone worked together on a single
region and story for a length of time—maybe up until the 4th Gym or something like that. Plan out a story, the basic layout of the region, then assign people to map different parts, or write some of the dialogue. We'd make far more progress, and we could drop the new players into that region, where they'd be able to experience a "full game" without interruption for a prolonged time. Once we have a significant portion of that game done, then people can go back to working on their own stuff, for when players complete the main (initial) story.A roadmap
So, in summary, here's what I think we need to do to get Pokéngine back on track and get it opened up, and attracting a new influx of players, in as little time as we can:
1. [Programming] Complete the Bag widget and the PC box system.
[Content] Decide upon a name for a region. Plan out the basic structure (climate, shape, etc.). Maybe open up a new thread group for it (or a Google Doc or something for easy collaboration). Work out who's going to work on what (e.g. someone may map the starting town, and first three routes; someone will balance the Pokémon and trainer battles for those areas; someone will do the next town; etc.).
2. [Programming] Add multiplayer battles and all those little features necessary for actually playing the game (choosing a starter, the Pokédex widget, etc.), as well as anything else that is shown to be missing while developing the region.
[Content] Start planning out the basic story, the characters, etc. as well as the locations in the game, so everyone's working towards the same goal.
3. This is the stage where things are worked on—I'm sure there will be problems popping up from time to time, but nothing we can't sort out. This is where we're working towards a working, fully-fledged game. Again, programming should focus on actual game-play, not content development apart from
those things which have been shown to actually be slowing down development of the region. This means small
features, not rewrites of any major components.
4. When we've got a decent way, it's time to start opening the game up to new people. Either through invitations, or just sign-up for anyone, I don't think it really matters at this stage. Just some way to get new people into the game. This will be a sure way to find new bugs, or confusion in the story, etc. However
, this is still the beta-testing stage, and players must be warned that their progress may not be permanent at this stage. This is important, as described in a later step.
5. When everything's been ironed out and the game is significantly progressed (maybe up to 6th Gym, or even further), we should initiate the reset. This means that proper security has been implemented on the programming side, so players cannot get hacked Pokémon, or anything like that (this shouldn't be too difficult to ensure—I think almost everything like that can be moved server-side). All players' Pokémon, items, etc.
should be reset. There are just too many people with illegitimate Pokémon, and it will spoil the game if it's kept on into the new game. It's like Gen VI was before hacked Pokémon finally started getting into the system—a real joy. The power to spawn Pokémon and items should be removed from all but the highest staff levels (probably Developer and Admin, or maybe even more limited than that). Can you think of a legitimate reason to spawn items or Pokémon? We want to keep this game as legitimate as possible. (Thought will need to go into other regions, but for now I'm just thinking about this confined to the main region.)
6. And then let's see where that gets us.
Additionally, on a slightly different note, I'm not sure what the setup with GitHub is at the moment, but if it's not the case already, it'd be great if the GitHub code was the code actually used for the game (maybe pulled at the end of every day or something, so it's always at-most a day behind). That way, people'd be able to submit little fixes more easily. I might have 20 minutes or so free, in which I don't have time to work on a major issue (such as those that are left with the battle engine), but want to fix a small issue with the main game, and if I can just go in and commit that change, and have it automatically appear in the game, that makes development a lot less of a hassle, and encourages more rapid iterations. Then the issue tracker on GitHub can be used for all the bugs in the game, making it far easier to spot what needs to be done.
This means both the main game code and
the code for things like Tilefuser, Mapbuilder, etc. needs to be on GitHub (possibly as separate projects under the same group), so all of them can be worked on when need-be.Your thoughts
I've just noted how much smaller our regular community is nowadays. Sure, there are many reasons, but one is undoubtedly the fact that game has a wall around it, with no-one new being let in, and the fact that the game does not have the potential to be a full Pokémon game with its current feature-set. This is just a brief outline of my thoughts, but I'd like to hear what you think. With a dedicated movement from the entire community, I think we can build something we're proud to show others, and lets people experience that excitement of a new Pokémon game, in less than a year and finally get to the place we all want Pokéngine to be. I thought I'd let the staff talk over it first, before we share it with the whole community (if, indeed, others agree, that this is
a way we can make Pokéngine truly great). Give me your thoughts.
Last edited on 17th March 2015 at 17:14 by DarkMatter