GBW1: Teifion Jordan – How to Start Your Own Turn Based Strategy Game
This is the first ‘Guest Blog Week’ to be run on Dreams in Vitro – click the banner above to find out more about it. Third up this week is computer programming genius Teifion Jordan from the fabled isle of Albion. Teifion is the creator of a very successful online game known as World of Arl which I cannot recommend enough.
How to start your own turn based strategy game
By: Teifion Jordan
My name is Teifion and this post will hopefully explain how to setup and run a turn based strategy game through a web board. I have my own turn based strategy game which has been running for several years. This guide will be light on specifics as each game is different and I’m not here to tell you what your game needs to be. I am here to tell you what you need to know about starting it.
What sort of a game is it
My game WoA will be the example that I use to explain each point, each player is a member of a team, each team is a nation within the game and they then do stuff. “Do stuff” is pretty vague and in this case justifiably so, the joy of making a game like this is that you can allow it to be exceedingly open, so open that there is no single objective for a player. The game is as the title implies, turn based, each turn is a year of game time and in that time each nation performs actions of their choice, most often the invasion of somebody they don’t like.
Step 1: The big picture
Before you create a site or even tell anybody about the game you need to do something. You need to know what the game will be, what will it be focused on? In WoA’s case this was the idea that you could create whatever nation you wanted to, for it to be your nation and it’s nature be shaped by your choices. Other examples include very detailed military simulations, extensive and deep magical systems. Once you know what you want your game to be in a rough manner you can proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Your house
Your next port of call is to setup a forum or board somewhere. When WoA started I signed up for an invisionfree board and it worked well. I later upgraded to having my own site and installed phpBB on it. Hosting for phpBB is not as easy as Invision but there are places that do it for free. When I moved to phpBB I paid for hosting with siteground and have used them for several years now and been very happy.
Step 3: Bare bones
Once you have your forum and possibly a site next to it you need to start putting up the game rules. Start small and don’t go into detail just yet. Separate your rules into sections for ease of browsing and then get some friends to proof-read them for you. Setup some forums on your board and work out how the admin CP works for each of them. If you can I suggest applying a design to your site to help it stand out. As you can see if you visit my board, I’m well behind on skinning my board.
Step 4: Beta testers
It’s time to party. You need beta testers, get some friends and ask them if they’d like to play, if you visit blogs such as this one then email the blog owner and ask them if they want to play or if they’d like to give you a shoutout. Of course you are missing out on the big goldmine of possible players that are games like yours. Of course, if you came to WoA and posted “I have a totally cool game at xyz.com, come and play it”, your post will be marked as spam so fast your screen will spin (there maybe some exaggeration there). The best plan is to sign up and message the GM of that game, tell them about your game and how you’d love if they could look at it and if possible tell their players about it. A good GM will not expect you to play their game before they look at or link to yours, if they are snotty and uptight then simply move on and forget them.
Step 5: First round
Stuff will go wrong, it’s a fact. With WoA I didn’t give the players enough solid information about what they actually had. As would be expected this caused some confusion. The key is not preventing mistakes but reacting to them, you need to be responsive, polite and admit that you are at fault. If you can do all those three then you are off to a great start and your game will probably go far.
Step 6: Launch
It’s up to you to work out how many players you can cope with in your game at once, you still need to flesh out the rules and probably change some based on how they worked for the beta testers. I’ve helped you get started but it’s up to you as to how you continue. Feel free to drop by Arl and join in, everybody is welcome.