|Ship's manifest for the Bootlegger "Serenity", a modified Corvette|
with a small, hidden cargo area supplementing the main cargo.
Civilization ended three centuries ago. No one knows why.
Mankind spread throughout the galaxy but was attacked en masse everywhere we lived in an event known as The Catastrophe. Planetary defense systems were turned on the planets they were defending. Stations across the galaxy had their air vented, life support systems shut off and databanks purged. Reactors went critical on ships. Humanity, across the galaxy, was about to be extinct in the space of just a few hours.
Then the attack stopped. No one knows why. Planets were uninhabitable. For every station with survivors, there were at least a hundred more without. Most human knowledge was destroyed. Books were an anachronism, so the databank purge wiped out most of what humanity needed to continue surviving. Those with skills were quickly called upon to spread their knowledge, but it was piecemeal. Without the massive databanks, human technological advances came to a halt. We are even unsure of the year.
Today no one knows how to build a starship or one of the massive wormhole jump gates that many star systems have. However, we've enough knowledge to at least repair them — if we can scavenge parts from dead stations or ships.
This is humanity today. Most of human history has been lost. Much of our existence is a hard-scrabble lot, trying to simply stay alive. Mankind's reign has been reduced to a 40 light-year sphere, centered on Sol. Humans still take pilgrimages to Sol to view the remains of Earth — and to hope that one day we can regain our former glory.
But who attacked humanity and why? More importantly, are they coming back?So, think "Mad Max meets Star Trek", minus aliens (unless it turns out that aliens were behind the attack, one of the prevalent theories of the survivors).
|An archive page describing one of the four affiliations in the game.|
The cockpit background indicates that we're on board a ship.
The intent behind Veure was nothing short of creating a text-based MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), running in a browser, but with the richness of gameplay of a graphic MMORPG such as World of Warcraft or Everquest. I've always had an interest in games and written some, but about four years ago, I read about Joe Chedburn. He's the creator of torn.com, one of the largest text-based games in the world. At the time of the article I read, Joe's site was earning £50,000 ($82,000 US) a month and the his company was valued at around £1,000,000 ($1.65 million, US). And it's gotten even bigger since then.
Game play in torn.com is simplistic: choose crimes from a list to commit and see if you succeed. Take classes at university, get a job. Work out in a gym. Beat people up. That's the vast majority of the game play (aside from social interactions with other players) and this company was valued over a million dollars five years ago when it was smaller!
|A view of a port at a jump gate. You can go to other|
stations or take a wormhole to another star system.
So how do these "free to play" games make money? When you start looking at successful MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games), average revenue per user (ARPU, in industry jargon) works out to around $1 to $2 per month per player. Garner 25,000 dedicated players and you have a successful business model. However, that seems to assume in-game micro transactions. There's another model where you play for free, but can donate a small amount of money per month to be able to develop faster as a player. I haven't found any decent stats on them, but Torn City was earning its $82,000 a month from players donating $5/month per player. While there are other factors that impact this (paying less per month by buying an annual donation), this suggests around 16,000 paying players for Torn City, with many more playing for free (as of this writing, there were over 22,000 users online in the past 24 hours).
|Traveling to a station you haven't visited earns you experience.|
"Credits" are N/A in this screenshot because the character has his own ship.
My research also revealed something else: there's a huge amount of money to be earned in text-based MMOs, but most of them are, well, dull. However, I initially thought that the reason people keep playing them for the same reason they obsess over Minecraft or 2048: it's fun to think about strategies and how to "win". Further, because these are text-based games that run in the browser, when you're at work, you can quickly switch to the game tab, play a bit, and then get back to work. You can't do that with Eve Online.
|Threaded forums. Note that I put accidentally put IDs in the URL structure.|
That's a mistake from both an SEO and site design standpoint.
- Explorer – how much of the game can I discover?
- Achiever – how far can I advance?
- Social – how can I interact with other players?
- Griefers – how can I hurt other players?
|The rotating star map shows where you are in the game.|
Click here to see a working version of this star map.
My initial strategy to attract devs was to offer a top-notch development stack (sadly, I turned down one after my roster was full, sorry Ian!). Currently it's:
Veure sits there on a private github repo with gobs of documentation, plenty of tests, a few open bugs and roadmap to nowhere. My company has toyed with the idea of hiring a developer to work on it, but that initially becomes a money sink instead of a money source. I believe in Veure and in investigating the market, I know I have something unique and compelling, but we're not yet ready to hire people to work on it. There's a lot more to be done and I can easily see throwing money at it for a year (for a single dev) before the alpha. That's a lot of money; even more so when you realize we can have this developer earning us money instead of simply consuming it. Thus, my struggle to figure out another model. I've considered a kickstarter or crowdtilt campaign, but without even the alpha ready, that seems like a non-starter. Plus, who wants to throw money at Yet Another Browser Game?
|Most stations have training areas (gyms) where you can work out and|
build your stats. Work out too hard and you have to rest (and hope you
don't get into combat). Note that the background is now a space station
because you've left your ship.
I still need to implement.
- The Elite-style trading system
- Missions and jobs (repeatable missions)
- Salvage runs on abandoned stations
- ... and much more
One interesting thing is that many aspects of the system were generated randomly via software rather than me sitting down and doing significant design. For example, the station players start out on is called "Lost Dreams Station", but that's the only station I've manually named. Originally, the software assigned it the name "The Death of Baghdad." Oops.
Another example is the wormhole routes. My algorithm created more routes to a star the closer it was to Sol. However, it also generated several route networks that don't connect to the other networks. I thought about this and decided this was a feature and there are gameplay aspects: some wormhole gates are broken and enough players with engineering skill working over time can try to repair them. What's in those "hidden" star systems? That's actually been fun because then I use the randomness of my game generation algorithms to open up my thinking and let me consider ideas that had never previously occurred to me.
Another interesting feature of the game is time. You may have noticed on the screenshots above references to things like 304.219.59.586 GCT. Or the "traveling" screen which shows the character arriving in 491 units. What does that mean? From the archives:
Galactic Coordinated Time
The exact date in the galaxy is unknown, so time is measured in years since The Catastrophe (AC). Years before The Catastrophe are not tracked as humanity is uncertain of what happened beyond scattered documents.
Time across the galaxy is measure as GCT — Galactic Coordinated Time — and is loosely based on old Earth years. It has four components, year, day, segment and unit:
This is the number of years since The Catastrophe, a year being roughly 365 days.
The number of days in the year, a number from 1 to 366. Every fourth year (roughly) is a leap year, but the origins of this practice are unknown. However, so many time systems have this built in that this practice has been retained.
The day is broken up into 100 segments. Each segment is almost a "quarter hour" of old Earth time.
Each segment is broken up into 1000 units. Each segment is slightly less than a second of old Earth time.
The official format of GCT is year.day.segment.unit:
The above example represents 304 years after The Catastrophe, the 219th day, 59% of the day has gone by and a bit over half that segment has transpired.
|Traveling via wormhole to another star system.|
Note that the background has changed to stars.
Time's also important because traveling to a different in-system station is instant (a concession to gameplay), but traveling between star systems is not. Thus, if someone put the nanochondrial boosters for up for auction and you've desperately been wanting them, you might be in the Ross 154 system when the item is located in the Tau Ceti system. You could bid from Ross 154, but your bid will be delayed (as would be your seeing the item up for auction) and if there's a bidding war, you could never win unless you bid an outlandish amount. Thus, you might need to frantically travel to Tau Ceti to ensure that you could bid in time — an expensive proposition.
I also wanted immersion in this game, hence the changing backgrounds, skipping the traditional time system, and numerous other tiny things. All forums, except the "off topic" forum would require players to stay "in character", so if you wanted to call someone 笨天生的一堆肉 (a stupid, inbred sack of meat), that was fine, but calling someone a "liberal faggot who sucks Obama's ****" would not be OK. It's not because it's insulting: it's more likely to kill immersion.
So I still have hope to get Veure launched some day, but right now I don't know how to get from here to there.