After Deathrace, I decided to go back to just writing games for myself and selling what sold and playing what didn’t. Defeatist, maybe, but you’ll go crazy otherwise.
Years ago I’d played this load-from-tape game called Hammurabi. It was the old play of the Malthusian equation where population grows faster than food production. For mine, I envisioned a hot seat multiplayer game. The time frame was the just after some cataclysmic disaster to some nearby city. Each player represented a farming community just off this target zone. Instead of just people, you had Lieutenants, Warriors, Farmers, Techs, and Drones (i.e. middle manager sorts with no real skills). There were four seasons and some basic rules – you planted in spring (one farmer could farm eight or so plots), you maintained in summer (a farmer could maintain twice as many plots) and then the fall harvest (again, eight plots). Winter was pretty cold so everyone hunkered in and maybe hunted some. This meant you had a campaign season in the summer, a natural occurrence in medieval times.
The game was a lot of fun. Un-winnable, but fun. You got points for the number of people you had times their morale level, added to your grand score each season. So the idea was to live as long as you could, as happy as you could.
If you’d lived under a dome, this might have worked. However, something always went wrong. Someone would raid you or you’d have a bummer harvest or something. And then people would start starving. Inevitably, you’d find yourself in the end-game state: three warriors living in a ruined hut, hunting nonstop to stay alive. But man, it was a lot of fun. We’d laugh about it for hours.
This game had our first occurrence of “God Variables”, which are hidden computer variables that you only learn as you play and which are reset each game. This means the game will not play exactly the way it did before. Maybe in one game, farmers can farm a lot more fields. Maybe in others, warriors aren’t really that much better in combat. You just didn’t know until you played. It worked pretty well. We used it all over the place in Solar Trader.
We never did get the tech angle worked out – it just didn’t feel right. And it never went anywhere: we just played it a lot and then Jesse went off to college in Atlanta and that was that. But still, we’ve been talking about another game, a true multiplayer. And this might be our next project…