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The Art of Magitech Wars

Today, I would like to introduce you to the art of Magitech Wars and the Techno-Fantasy styled character images by Widodo Pangarso. The art was planned for a project named “The Magitech Wars” utilizing our “Archon Core System” (that will be explained in a upcoming blog-post in detail).

Widodo is from Indonesia and graduated at an art and design school at Jakarta, he resides in Malang. Widodo was fresh from school back in the days and therefore his paint skills where not up on par with his nowadays skills. The artworks where our very first commission ever and have been created sometime around 2003.

The actual Magitech Wars project took much longer to develop, as many changes and a lot of playtesting went into it. We went back and forth several iterations with and without using cards and/or dice, using tokens and even miniatures at some point (this design process is also mirrored in the various Archon Variants that have been created using the Archon Core System).

The final incarnation of this project was planned to be printed at the game crafter or a printing company that allowed for small batches. We even started a collaboration with a board-game magazine and website in our area for marketing and public relations.

From a business point of view, the idea was to produce a highly enjoyable game with a minimum of financial input. While making the finished product look as good as possible. Overall we decided to go with an amateur artist (thats what Widodo was, back in the days), and only cards. With no other components like a full fledged game-board or even miniatures.

Linked are the first 20 artworks for the iconic characters of Magitech Wars, each of them has a few Science-Fiction influences. Its like fantasy characters dis-placed into a cyberpunk future:

Stay tuned for the full release of the Magitech-Wars project (including all rules and cards of the core-set) on our sister site sometime later this year (and yes, it will be free)!

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What is Dragon Dice?

Dragon Dice is a collectible dice game published in 1995, developed by TSR, Inc. (now defunct). The game’s franchise (including the game itself and the IP etc.) was later acquired by SFR, Inc. and is still active until today. Dragon Dice was created during the big CCG (Collectible-Card-Game) hype era and can be seen as a creative answer to trading card games (like Magic: The Gathering). Although the trading dice game genre was far less successful and has seen way fewer games released. I think it is save to say that Dragon Dice was (and is) the most successful collectible dice game until today.

Dragon Dice is strategy game where players create mythical armies using dice to represent each troop.  The game combines strategy and skill as well as a little luck.  Each person tries to win the game by outmaneuvering the opponent and capture 2 terrains.  Of course eliminating your opponent completely is another acceptable way of winning.

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What is the BGDF?

The BGDF (short for “Board Game Designers Forum”) is a traditional, uncommercial web-forum that has been around on the internet for more than a decade.

The “Board Game Designers Forum” is one of the few places of the game related internet sphere that Im checking regularly for news, ideas, feedback and help. It has been around for so long that a trustworthy community of board-game designers gathered who are not only showing off their own creations but are also willing (and capable) to help.

Contrary to some other forums out there, that are either commercial, dead, spam-infested or full to the brim with newbies, the BGDF has been growing its niche since the beginning. Game designers posting their ideas, concepts and even prototypes there are not only showcasing it to a game-insider audience, they are also able to gather valuable feedback from people who know what they are doing (because most, if not all, forum members are designing games since years as well).

The BGDF is maintained by game enthusiastic individuals with no commercial goal in mind. The forum does not rely on big-business sponsors and has no contract with the big-players on the market. This creates a very indie friendly atmosphere and supports the “open-source” body of thought the internet is based on.

I for myself am a member since a decade on the “Board Game Designers Forum” and recommend it to anyone who is interested in creating a “unplugged” board- and/or card-game.

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What is Battleground Fantasy Warfare?

Battleground fantasy warfare is a miniatures game without miniatures, developed by Your Move Games. Units are represented by cards portraying the warriors and their characteristics. Battleground can be played on a kitchen table and each faction box includes a variety of units, more than can be fielded in any one game.

This game is quick to set up, easy to store and requires no assembly or lengthy painting of your armies. Battleground is also a very tactical game, where maneuver and marshalling your limited command resources are the keys to victory.

Battleground currently features fifteen different armies (factions), with more in production. Some of these factions are based on traditional fantasy archetypes, while others are unique. In addition, the game also comes with a bunch of historical factions that allow to replay the grand battles of history.

In order to play the game, both players build their armies from their chosen faction with a point limit in mind. After deploying your units, you give each of them a standing order to represent their default behaviour/command.

The players units will follow that order until it changes or the player takes direct control of that unit by using command actions. As you will never have enough command actions available, careful tactical decisions have to be made throughout the game.

Battleground is a tactically rich game, where players must use their limited resource wisely in order to outmaneuver their opponent and break through their lines. And when you are victorious, your army can fit in your pocket!

One of the possible use cases of our Fantasy Stockart, is a game similar to Battleground – where you use cards instead of miniatures to represent the armies on a battlefield. Instead of computer rendered artworks of several soldiers on one card, it would display just a single warrior represented by a hand-painted illustration.

Take a close look at the available factions on Fantasy Stockart, you will see that there are Dwarf units, Human units, Elf units, Orc units and more. Each one of the factions features rank-and-file troops, heroes, close-combat as well as ranged-combat units, war-machines, spell-casters and more. Perfectly suited to start your own a card based war game!

Image from the cancelled Gods & Minions fantasy warfare card game (similar to Battleground)
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What is miniature wargaming?

Miniature wargaming is a form of wargaming in which players enact battles between opposing military forces that are represented by miniature physical models.

The use of physical models to represent military units is in contrast to other tabletop wargames that use abstract pieces such as counters or blocks, or computer wargames which use virtual models.

The primary benefit of using models is aesthetics, though in certain wargames the size and shape of the models can have practical consequences on how the match plays out.

Fantasy Stockart artworks are perfectly suited to illustrate a miniature (or table-top) war-game. Many of the available images have been designed with medieval military orders and weaponry in mind.

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What is the Unity3d Game Engine?

In simple words, Unity3d is the world’s most popular game creation engine. It packages a ton of core features together and is flexible enough to make almost any game a designer can imagine. Unity started it’s path to glory with unrivaled cross-platform features and the engine is popular among both hobby developers and triple-A studios. The Unity3d game engine has most recently been used to create games like Pokemon Go, Hearthstone, Rimworld, Cuphead and many more.

While most often used for 3d games (hence the 3d in the name), Unity 3D also comes with lots of tools for 2D game development. Programmers have always been in love with this engine because of the C# scripting API and built-in Visual Studio integration.

Artists also enjoy Unity3d a lot because it contains a range of powerful animation tools that make it simple to create your own 3d cutscenes or build 2d animations from ground-up. Nearly anything can be animted in Unity (even without the use of additional Assets).

Finally, Unity3d features a free version so indie developers can release games made with the engine without actually paying for the software, as long as they earn less than $ 100,000 from their games (quite a benchmark to reach for a indie dev).

Computer Games and Mobile Games require decent art as well, and Fantasy Stockart is ideal to be used as icons, textures, backgrounds and decorations for those games.

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What is The Game Crafter?

The Game Crafter is a print on demand board game publisher. Their website allows anyone to create their own board game, card game, or custom playing cards. Game designers have a lot of flexibility and can build out their game with playing cards, game boards, tiles, game pieces, rules documents, and custom packaging.

When the game is ready the designer can purchase one copy or as many as they’d like and The Game Crafter prints and ships the game. Since we are a print on demand game publisher, there are no minimum orders and you only have to purchase what you need.

In just 8 years, The Game Crafter community has grown to over 240,000 users and it continues to grow at over 2000 new users each month! Their users have been very busy creating over 85,000 different game titles on their servers, 7,000 of which are self-published and available for purchase in the online shop.

Watch a video interview below with the CEO of The Game Crafter, JT Smith. He talks about The Game Crafter’s print on demand game publishing service and the awesome game design community that surrounds it.

Of course, all images offered at Fantasy Stockart are 100% compatible with The Game Crafter and can (and should!) be used to improve your projects look & feel. As both, Fantasy Stockart and The Game Crafter use large PNG24 images – it’s a perfect fit!

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CCG Resource Systems

The resource system is an integral part of CCGs and can often also be found in ordinary card games, board games and computer games (albeit in a modified form such as “gold coins” in RPGs or the various building materials in “The Settlers of Catan”). In CCGs in particular, virtual resources are used to “buy” cards that can then be played. The role of the resource system is to generate the different types of resources in a certain amount, using different mechanisms. The main reason for such systems is to guarantee a basic game balance, because generally more powerful cards are also more expensive to play.

Before we look at the mechanics in detail, a more detailed analysis of the resource system is necessary to clarify its meaning and purpose.

Resource growth
The vast majority of resource systems as found in CCGs are based on a growth model. No matter how this looks in detail, it can be assumed that the available resources of all players tend to increase in the course of the game. The number and variety of available resources for all players is usually rather limited at the beginning of a game. As the game progresses, resources continue to grow, opening up new options for players.

Card Power
Trading card games have an extremely high number and variety of cards, but it does not fail that some of these cards are significantly stronger than others. It is considered the supreme discipline to make the cards balanced and often, given all the circumstances, this is either not possible or not desirable. Because of this, it seems logical that stronger cards should also be more difficult to play. Otherwise, competitive players would only insert the best cards into their decks and ignore everyone else, which would ultimately degenerate the game.

Resource costs
The resource system takes effect here and prevents the misuse of this natural imbalance by resource costs. Each card is assigned one or more resources in a certain number, whereby the stronger cards are generally more expensive. Of course, players can still fill their decks with the very best cards, but they would not be able to play them straight away, which is a not inconsiderable disadvantage. In addition, resource costs open up completely new creative freedom when designing the cards: Cheaper cards can be of great importance during the first moves, but will lose them later in the game. Meanwhile, more expensive cards can dominate the last third of the game and decide whether to win or lose.

In conclusion, it should be noted that resource systems are indispensable for CCGs for several reasons: on the one hand, they are an important balancing factor, on the other hand, such a system and the associated mechanics open up an expanded horizon for the design of the game. A trading card game entirely without a resource system dispenses with a cornerstone which is necessary for the game balance and also gives away a large amount of playful freedom and balance. This statement applies not only to duel games but also applies to less competitive concepts such as CCG role-playing games or even solo games. These concepts also benefit from a resource system, as this helps to balance the cards and relate them to each other in a realistic manner.

You can learn more about trading cards games in various blog articles on the internet, of course this kind of games also makes heavy use of Fantasy Stockart.

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Building an Indie-MMO (2/2)

More Information about how to build an Indie MMO can be found at our friends website: Indie MMO

4. Don’t twist and turn the asset (beyond its original use)
Im now with uMMORPG for almost a year and met a lot of new and interesting people on the forums, as well as the official uMMORPG discord server. Every now and then I come across somebody who wants to use the asset in a way it was not intended by the original author. For example by adding dynamic,  destructible terrain, custom playerworlds, realtime action combat system, level- and classless systems and so on. Basically, all of these changes are possible if you have the proper skills, time and resources at hand. But those changes are also major modifications that make the asset do something it was not designed for. This is also referred to as a total conversion and is a daunting task, especially if you are lacking high grade coding skills.

I strongly disadvise such an undertaking unless you are 100% dedicated, willing and competent enough to do so. Your plan might start well, but after a while you will run into serious issues as well as the impossibility of receiving official updates, the usage of AddOns and a whole lot of maintenance and compatability problems. Just imagine the amount of content you can create using the time spent on a total conversion in a different way.

If you want to actually finish a game using uMMORPG, stick to what you get and expand the core asset via AddOns (your own, free ones and maybe a few commercial ones). But keep the core aspects like movement, targeting, combat, the world itself, class and level system – as they are. If you plan to re-design any one of these sensitive areas – you might be better writing your own asset from scratch instead.

Warcraft 3 Digimon Total Conversion

5. Don’t get AddOn greedy (use a few selected ones instead)
Another lesson I learned in almost one year of uMMORPG projects, tests and writing AddOns: Some people out there are not satisfied with the number of features the core asset ships with. Of course I agree with that fact, but I also understand that the author is not able to provide each and every feature the community wants to see. Vis (the author of uMMORPG) is in fact adding features to the asset in regular intervals, and a sprawling scene of AddOn developers emerged as well, trying to fill the gaps and expand uMMORPG wherever possible.

This particular situation: “We don’t have every feature we want yet, but we might get that in the near/mid/far future” has lead to a form of AddOn greed that took toll on several developers out there. AddOn greed on the one hand makes you scavenge the web for all kinds of AddOns to put into your project. Trying to get as close as possible to the “next WoW killer” in terms of feature quantity. On the other hand, it causes a stalemate to project development because you go into a “I can’t continue to develop my project unless feature X becomes available” endless loop. By playing the famous MMOs out there (look – so shiny!), some Dev’s become even more AddOn greedy and completely cancel out their own development cycle. Waiting for better days instead of advancing the development of their projects.

My advice: Don’t get AddOn greedy, as you will never ever gonna catch them all. And there will always be new stuff on the market. There won’t be that “golden 1.0 version” you are waiting for. Limit yourself to a few selected AddOns and maybe one unique feature. AddOn greed will put your project into eternal stalemate. Development is the exact opposite of standstill. It means you have to take the destiny of your project in your own hands in a pro-active way.

Comic by

6. Don’t think of “development” as a simple asset flip (understand what dev means)
Another thing I’ve encountered several times over the course of the last months is that many people think that game development using Unity 3d is just a simple asset flip. But exactly the opposite is the case – the more assets and technology you have at your hands, the more complex development becomes as all parts must work together in harmony. Just think of every asset as an instrument in an orchestra, your job as a developer is to conduct them to work together in terms of rhythm, harmony, length, volume and pitch.

Amost every day, I encounter people who saw just another asset on the store and want to combine that said asset with uMMORPG. Multiply this by the number of subsystems found inside the uMMORPG asset like inventory, combat, ingame shops, npc dialogues, networking, character progression, enemies and so on and you get a massive list of assets that seem to fit your needs at first.

But you should be aware, that all of those assets are standalone and where not designed to be used as part of the uMMORPG asset or a networking environment. This means, all assets require professional coding to integrate them into your uMMORPG version. Now each and every asset was written by an individual, with individual goals and a individual coding style.

If you go that route, your job as a developer will be far more than just a simple “asset flip”. You have to understand (that means “learn”) each asset as well as the uMMORPG assets code in order to bring the loose ends together. As 99% of those assets are not plug-and-play-able in the unique “MMO client/server networking environment that uMMORPG is” – you will need a solid skill set and a couple of hours per asset to make that work with uMMORPG.

In theory, it sounds so cool to simply dump the “Third Person Controller” into your uMMORPG3d project and have immediate access to all of its features with 0 coding involved. In practice it’s more like opening the gates of hell (alongside a 75$ waste)…


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Building an Indie-MMO (1/2)

More Information about how to build an Indie MMO can be found at our friends website: Indie MMO

Time for some myth busting – in this new blog series I would like to share some personal thoughts on the process of creating an Indie MMO using Unity and the uMMORPG asset. It’s all about realistic game design and how to manage such a project – things you should do and things that you should better not touch (not even with a stick). Please note that the following pages represent my personal thoughts and are in no way representative for all opinions out there. Also note that I write exclusively about creating indie games using Unity and the famous uMMORPG asset (but I am not the author of uMMORPG).

Summary: The purpose for this blog series is to give advice to game designers who are set for one single thing: To create and finish a game using Unity within a reasonable amount of time, using a reasonable amount of resources and still generate a reasonable amount of joy/revenue.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

SamuTale Unity based Indie MMO (Unity Client + Custom Backend)

1. Do Not…switch to MySQL (if you are not a programmer)
uMMORPG was built with simplicity in mind and therefore uses SQLite as it’s database system. SQLite is a subset of MySQL with reduced complexity and stripped down features. It also has several advantages as it does not require you to setup a database server and can therefore be run locally and on a dedicated server without further configuration. The uMMORPG core scripts and all of our AddOns where built around SQLite, if you want to switch to mySQL now, that means replacing each and every database script in your project. Now imagine you add a new AddOn (that will most probably also be based on top of SQLite): You have to replace that script syntax with a proper mySQL syntax as well. This goes on and on for every AddOn you add and everytime the core uMMORPG version is updated.

Of course you can still do that, especially if you know how to program both in C# and mySQL. But if you can’t – I highly recommend you get a programmer on board of your team or pay a freelancer. Otherwise just keep your hands off. SQLite is not bad at all. The only problem are networked databases and multiple databases. But do you really need that? Do you have one server up and running – and how about three? Do you? Do your game and your community allow for such a complex setup already? Furthermore imagine all the content and features you can get done in the amount of time that is required to switch uMMORPG over mySQL.

Finally, there are several Indie MMOs out there that rely on SQLite for years – and they are still alive and kicking! Just do a quick google search or check out Wurm Online for example.

Wurm Online (SQLite)

2. Do Not…aim for MMO (aim for MO instead)
Unity (and especially UNET) was in fact not built for massive multiplayer games. There is not a single MMO out there that utilizes Unity as it’s server backend. Of course there are several Unity MMOs on the market (not just Indies – check out Crowfall for example) but they all use a highly sophisticated and very powerful server backend written either inhouse from scratch in C++ or C# or using professional 3rd party software. What Unity is used for in terms of MMOs is the client. And just the client (Summoners War is another example). There might be exceptions, but thats what I observed in the past years.

Im not saying that a MMO is not possible, just ditch that “massive”. In my eyes, any Indie game will always have to struggle for players and you will have a hard time attracting thousands of online players to your game. If you do your job right, you will be able to have hundreds of players online. Thats not MMO, thats MO – and thats absolutely perfect both in terms of revenue and technical limitations.

Just imagine how much marketing power is required in order to attract 10.000 players – and how many servers and people who manage those servers must be paid (or be very dedicated to your project). It’s a nice dream but nothing realistic. Instead you should aim for a small but tightly knit community and good content. Content that offers your players areas to explore, quests to complete, monsters to fight and items to acquire. And all that represented in a appealing and polished way, with a special care to the details. You won’t be able to populate a world with content, that is capable of satisfying 10.000 players – but if you work hard, you will be able to create a world with enough content to keep 1k players around.

Project Gorgon (Indie MMO)

3. Do Not…alter the core beyond recognition (use AddOns instead)
I tell you the story of my very first uMMORPG project: After getting used to Vis coding style and a bit of knowledge about the asset, my first thought was: This is lacking so many features – I have to add as many of them as I can! Said and done, new features where tacked on and stuffed into the core asset. A few days later, Vis released the first update on the store that contained only minor changes. I was able to update by hand and did setup a GIT repo for the future. Several tiny updates followed that where all easily manageable, but the process got slower and more tedious each time. This made me skip one update or another, leaving a gap in my personal series of uMMORPG version numbers.

After a while I wanted to start a side-project based on the same uMMORPG asset and realized that I cannot move my features from one project to another. Then – all of a sudden – Vis released a new AddOn that allowed parties. This rendered my own party code obsolete and I had a hard time A. removing the old code and B. updating to Vis new code. A period of smaller changes followed that I spent stuffing even more features into my Frankenstein core, updating turned more and more into a chore. I was so happy when everything worked that I skipped a few of Vis official versions. You should know, that when you do – catching up to the newest available version becomes even more difficult. My little frankenstein engine was only missing a proper pet script now, the code was all spaghetti like but it worked. And then Vis released the Pets update. And I jumped around, screaming and pulling my hair out!

My advice: It’s OK if you want to modify the uMMORPG core system, we all want to add our own features and make the asset unique. But do by using the AddOn system. Because that is was the AddOn system was made for. That system also allows you to sell your AddOns, but thats not it’s primary use. The AddOn system enables you to add more or less extensive modifications to the uMMORPG core system (using partial classes and hooks) while the core scripts remain intact. This means you can update your uMMORPG asset, you can import/export AddOns, you can move them to other projects and share them with your team members. The AddOn system will make your life easier and your project much more manageable. Think about it!