In my history on BYOND, one of the things that derailed a lot of my projects was my desire to make many different sorts of games. I wanted to make hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers, and serious roleplaying games, and social/building games, and competitive resource games.

Another thing that derailed them was my tendency to bite off more than I could chew, try to do things that were at the limits of what the system of the time (DM in 2001-2003 was a very different animal than DM in 2011) or past the limits of what my ability and discipline could manage.

All of this is part of why I think that RetroQuest is coming together so well and (on a conceptual level, anyway) so quickly. I feel like a whole game is coming to me out of the ether, but even though I just started working on it not even a month ago in a very real sense I've been working on it for years.

I've never really stopped thinking about game design. Sometimes it's pen and paper, sometimes it's been hypothetical or quickly abandoned forays back into BYOND, but I'm always kicking around ideas and picking them apart.

So this game has elements I wanted to put in LexyMUD (the very first BYOND game I ever made and hosted), it's got bits from Hedgerow Hall, it's got bits from my short-lived RPG/Harvest Moon-hybrid Mr. MUD, it's got bits from my shorter lived generic MORPG Arpeji, it's got bits from games I planned or started but never hosted, it has design concepts from a long-simmering pen and paper RPG project of mine (specifically, the idea of make-your-own-character-class, and some of the concepts about game balance.)

And it's got things that owe their existence to my tinkering with and running Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, both in the sense that I saw some things the devs did that I liked and wanted to learn from and in the sense that I saw some things that I wanted to avoid emulating.

I haven't done much coding in the past day or so. I put in the Stealth system, which is pretty darn cool now that it's tied into the encounter system, which has also inched forward a little bit. The fact that I don't have a lot of time for coding and direct development is allowing (or forcing) me to be deliberate in implementation, which is a good thing. A lot of the stuff I'm keen about adding becomes a lot better, a lot more fully thought-out, before I'm able to sit down at the computer and open Dream Maker.

What I've been "working on" mostly is fleshing out the concepts behind each of the twelve Primary Skills. My goal is for each of them to have a fairly distinct sphere of influence/effect, a unique aspect of the game that they interact with. I want even a single point in a given PS to fundamentally alter the playing experience, but I also want there to be a world of difference between someone with a single point and someone who's specialized in that direction.

And to avoid another long rambling post, I'll just say: I think I'm succeeding. If you stack all three points in a single Primary Skill, you begin at level visibly masterful at something and you basically have the ability to be playing a different game than somebody who lacks that PS, and if you keep your character in that level then by the time you reach the end of the currently planned content you will be freaking godly in your chosen area.

(More diverse characters will not be slouches, either. But they should be more generally competent, less dramatically impressively great at one thing.)

The side benefit of looking at the game through the lens of the 12 primary skills is that it helps bring the rest of the system into focus. Figuring out how Stealth works in and out of combat gave shape to other elements of the encounter system. Figuring out what Luck means and how it works... how to make it more exciting than just a set of generic bonuses... has given me what I think will be one of the more interesting parts of the system and the setting. Trying to make Survival and Healing into their own distinct things that aren't just the same one with a different focus (self vs. group/others) helped me redefine what healing, damage, defeat, etc., means in the game, in a way that's more in line with my goals anyway.

Mechanisms is the PS that's the least well-defined in my head. It first came into existence because I was looking at locks and traps and things and trying to decide to put them under Exploration or Stealth. It seemed to make more sense in Exploration, since circumventing barriers isn't particularly stealthy, but it felt like it should be its own skill. I started thinking about the high tech elements in the Ultima Trilogy and decided that there would be a place for a technologically oriented character.

(The first Ultima game had flying cars and lasers, and eventually you had to go into space and you could pilot the Starship Enterprise against a punch of Tie Fighters... no, seriously. It was a simpler time, a time when nobody cared what people who made computer games did. Except the Tolkien Estate, of course, which is why your Bobit might have ended up fighting a Balron before taking the Starship Enterprise to blow up Tie Fighters.)

In D&D 4E, the skill used for picking locks and disarming traps is called "Thievery", and it's also the skill used for stealing things... that much to me would fit more under Stealth. Because Thievery is the only defined skill 4E has that deals with anything mechanical, it gets thrown in sometimes as a repair skill or a figure-out-the-weird-gearpunk-device skill. That sort of thing seemed like a better fit with locks and traps than picking pockets and sleight-of-hand.

So, Mechanisms. Back when Stealth was just a bunch of bonuses, being good with locks and guns that seemed like enough to go on with. Now? Not so much. I have some disparate ideas in my head that makes Mechanisms a semi-parallel system to Magic, and an adjunct or enhancement to Crafting. Hmm... as I was typing that, I think I've figured it out. The existing uses I'd come up with will be in the game. It will be useful for dealing with traps and locks. When you find anachronistic techy weapons, Mechanisms will work as an attack score, and Mechanisms will add to Crafting when Crafting a technological item (a similar feature exists for Magic and magical items... it's not so much a bonus as it is a chance to overcome a higher difficulty, though). Ultimately, none of those things are a unique system or facet of the game for Mechanisms to interact with... but I think I have that now, and I like this idea.
No bits from Miner League? There should definitely be some little circle mobs digging into the earth somewhere in this game, yep, definitely.