Hegemonie is Back!
I am proud to announce that your favorite RPG between 1999 and 2003 will be back soon!
The spirit of Hegemonie didn't vanish. As a new year's resolution for 2020, I decided to reboot the game engine. I admit... it happened in a moment of nostalgia. While reconnecting with old players, I noticed that nobody forgot the experience. I was aware that a few of them continued the effort during one or two years after the official game ended. But I discovered that even 10 years after, some aficionados had rewritten an entire world. And you know what? They lack the skills to write a game engine.
Game Masters made Hegemonie so special
Hegemonie had Game Masters. Each GM was in charge of a game instance and its few non-player characters. He/She ensured a coarse narrative frame and stimulated the instance.
In its history, Hegemonie had 3 kinds of instances. The first was populated with players actually knowing each others in the real life. This was probably the most active but also the easiest to control. The second kind of population was 40% inactive, and the 60% remaining moving at a slow pace. The third instance was mostly active, 100% remote and prone to declare the war against the all local NPC. And the magic happened on all of those instances, sometimes with deviant behaviors, sometimes with more or less success. Many lessons have been learned, many feedbacks have been gathered.
A new game engine
The current effort focuses the game engine. It of the world and its internal logic. It includes representing cities, learning science, raising troops, assaulting or defending, trading resources.
The previous version of Hegemonie had major lacks that prohibited it to scale. A general lack of tests that caused the highly flawed code to ship in production. Many players silently benefitted some bugs, others suffered. A complete absence of reporting on the activity on a game instance made that it was not possible to spot inactive zones or fake accounts. Hegemonie provided no tool to the animators to trigger technical actions, spread rumors. The only lever was text-based Role-Play. It was just a nice game for communities of max 40 players meeting in the real life. And worst of all, it was a full-time job to animate such a community. This is a sign: it is not sustainable and it could not last long.
The new game engine will address these limitations. I plan to provide the meaningful reporting to make unbalanced situations obvious. Representing the relationships between the characters is a must-have. The stimulation of the game requires to check the RP is respected. I must have only one goal in mind: to make the animation becomes fun and hassle-free.
Toward the State of the Art
The original game was all made of PHP logic entangled with HTML generation, plus a burden of stored procedures in a PostreSQL database, old-style authentication based on session tokens, etc etc.
20 years later we learned the benefit of well documented API, the benefits of test-driven development and CI/CD, micro-services architectures, the needs for standard middlewares like gRPC, OpenAPI, OpenTelemetry and OpenID Connect, techniques like JWT for authentication and authorization purposes, etc. We also have tools like Consul, Docker and Kubernetes, as well as languages like Go giving much higher expectations and shipping with a rich ecosystem, etc etc.
No need to say that the new game engine should encompass all this.
What will happen after the development phase? Many things because there are many challenges. As an example there is a high risk that the system will adopt a new name because of trademark constraints. Only few items are on the roadmap. Only those who are certain yet.
Step 0: Content Creation
A game engine is cool but when it pushes a valuable content, it is much better! Then we will focus on creating a content like in the old days of Hegemonie. It won't be possible to recreate it as is because everything has been lost. Instead, we'll target the core configuration of the world and a scenario frame for a few empires that could be a sequel for Hegemonie VII.
Step 1: Friendly user test (Alpha Test)
The first step will start with players already aware of Hegemonie, i.e. the old players or their friends. Why? Because I am one of them, because I also do reboot the game for myself. All of us were college students with plenty of idle time. 20 years later we turned into a workers and family guys & gals. So I have to check how the system must evolve to fit our current rhythm.
Few assumptions need a validation. I have in mind the partition of the users into autonomous regions. I also think to the exchanges between compatible regions, etc. And the list is not exhaustive. This is the goal of this Alpha test: a technical validation of the design. The KPI is simple: do the players enjoy the experience?
Step 2: (Beta Test)
It is time to test the game on a pseudo-random population of players. They should be unaware of Hegemonie but simple RPG players and masters. My expectation is that the population will contain inactive citizens, fake accounts, remote players, etc etc.
The benefit I expected from the Beta is a measurement of the time spent in game mastery. During the Beta we should be aware of lacks on the admin side. We should know more about the expected skill of the game masters. I expect a set of guidelines about how to populate game instances to ensure a constant activity. In terms of number of players, of variety of characters.
Sustainability as a long term goal
All the burden described here-above has a cost. I am happy to pay it with my idle time for the initial development phase. But as soon as it is testable (a MVP), Hegemonie will require resources I do not have.
Creative talent is my major lack. I cannot manage content creation. Here will I need the help of the community. Many ways are possible. It may take the form of crowdfunding for well-bounded projects. It can also be a direct participation, artwork produced by the community itself.
And there will be moments where financial resources will also be required for the hosting itself. Here do I imagine two options. Either a yearly fundraiser or a minimal subscription. But honestly... I don't know. This is way too early.