After talking to a developer, I’m switching to a turn-based format for Deme. I probably should have done this to begin with, and my reasons for not doing so earlier owe a lot to my own misconceptions about myself.
I don’t think of myself as a turn-based game fan. When I find out a computer game is turn-based, I tend to stop reading the description and look for something else. Somehow, this notion of myself as a real-time game guy persists despite my whelming affection for several turn-based games. These include computer games and tabletop games alike. Of course, many tabletop games are inherently turn-based.
The new concept I’m pursuing is fairly simple, drawing mechanical inspiration from games like Battle for Wesnoth and Heroscape. These games, likewise, are derived from other systems (turn-based tabletop strategy games, in general, have an interesting genealogy that includes H.G. Wells). One benefit of a turn-based system is ease of balancing and modification. Real-time games require finer simulation, which means more complexity. I want people to be able to modify Deme in the future, so this process should be as painless as possible. Initial development will also be much faster and simpler.
Another big bonus is the ease with which the game can be prototyped and balanced on pen and paper. I have hauled out my 20-sided die for this purpose, just in case. Fortunately, HMSC is a pretty good place to find nerds, ecologists, biologists, computer geeks and gamers. I only learned recently that my minor advisor is an Age of Empires fan. At some point I may have to pit him against my wife, whose historic conquests in that game’s campaign mode have filled many a night with the din of clashing steel.
Meanwhile, I have rejoined the husbandry team. I’ve switched gears a couple of times to focus on one area of my career or another, so it’s interesting to walk between worlds. I find I miss the FCL Lab when I’m working on aquarium systems, but I miss the animals when I work on interpretation and design. I think—or rather, I hope—this is a good thing. I want to do everything. I find it very motivating, but it could become paralyzing without the proper focus.