Re: Ultimate Goals in Olympia

David desJardins (
15 Jan 1995 00:35:57 -0500

Thomas Hudson <> writes:
> Even though I'm one of the little guys in Olympia, getting pounded on at
> the moment by some of the big guys, I have to disagree. If you CAN'T
> grow to overwhelming size, the game is pretty limited.

Warning: This message contains "spoilers," I guess. If there's anyone
playing who doesn't know this stuff.

Even though I'm one of the big guys, I have to disagree back. There has
to be a lot of capacity for advancement, or improvement, or accomplish-
ment, to keep the game interesting. But I don't think that has to mean
growing to overwhelming *size*.

The 1st-place player currently has 45 characters. Now, that lets one
player accomplish a lot, but it seems to me that it does so at the cost
of playability. Personally I don't find having to write orders for a
zillion units every week all that much fun. I'd rather advance in other
ways. Perhaps have only a few units but have them be more powerful in
various ways.

I can think of a lot of ways in which units could improve in capability,
that aren't well represented in Olympia. Currently there are only a few
types of magic items. There are plusses to attack/defense/missile,
which are worthless. There are plusses to aura, which are of marginal
value. There are miscellaneous items like books and orbs, which may
help the player who owns them, but don't help any particular unit. And
then there are control artifacts, which let one player flood the map
with characters.

I can think of lots of items which could be added. Items which add to
the attack/defense/missile of the _men_ belonging to a unit. Items
which increase the carrying capacity of a unit and its men, or its
movement rate. Items which allow the casting of various spells without
requiring mana. Or which make the owner invisible or hard to detect.

Similarly I can think of lots of ways in which long-term strategies
could be made more interesting. Researchable skills which allow one to
train more powerful fighters. Or build improved defenses. Special
hidden locations, or "quests", which provide powerful allies. Powerful
NPCs with special treasures, which would give players with big armies an
incentive to do something other than pick on poor old Oleg.

I'm not trying to design a game here. That's not really my strength.
All that I'm saying is that I believe that a good open-ended game should
have the property that the _power_ of a player's position can grow for a
long time, but not necessarily the _size_.

I think there should be significant differences between one player who's
been playing successfully for some time, and built up a strong position,
and a bunch of beginning players. By making the former stronger but not
*bigger*, you can promote coexistence between the two: the stronger
player could wipe out the weak players, but not all at once, and it
would not be worth the time to chase them all down; while the weaker
players can't effectively band together against the strong one because
they don't have the advantages that player has developed over time.
Which it seems to me is exactly what you want to have happen.

> I'd expect an open-ended game to include provisions for players
> getting wiped out.

Some successful open-ended games seem to make it possible but rare. I
certainly think it would be good if player positions weren't so fragile
as they are in Olympia. Again, there are many ways to do this. Big
combat advantages for the non-attacking player come to mind. Or a
combat system where one can only do a relatively small amount of damage
at any one time, so it takes both a long period and a large force to
really hurt someone.

> the world stagnates, Rich opens up a new campaign, and the guy who
> became dominant in the previous one either starts collecting enough
> stone to build an orbital beanstalk, or stops playing.

But isn't stagnation worse than non-stagnation?

David desJardins

Copyright 1994 David desJardins.  Unlimited permission is granted to quote
from this posting for non-commercial use as long as attribution is given.