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VeritasGames
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The Ogre Cave Audio report...

http://www.ogrecave.com

... just did a show on Volity.Net.

It's a new open source driven website for playing games online. They are looking for games to be translated to the Volity platform. Games can either be free-to-play or pay-to-play.

It may be a good publishing platform for people who have a game but don't have the cash to publish it by some other means.

I'm not associated with Volity in any way. I just heard about them on Ogre Cave and happened to find out that they, like Your Move Games and my company, Veritas Games, are operating out of Somerville, MA.

FastLearner
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Volity.Net

I caught mention of it at Boardgame News. It looks really great, though I haven't tried it yet.

VeritasGames
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What made me excited was the fact that they are trying to do the project using a fairly open architecture. Everyone else who does this kinda stuff does it with closed door proprietary software that you have to sign NDAs to even see. From the sounds of it, and I haven't investigated thoroughly, it sounds like they are trying to encourage lots of developers to work on the project, and so are making it a bit more open.

phpbbadmin
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Volity.Net

VeritasGames wrote:
What made me excited was the fact that they are trying to do the project using a fairly open architecture. Everyone else who does this kinda stuff does it with closed door proprietary software that you have to sign NDAs to even see. From the sounds of it, and I haven't investigated thoroughly, it sounds like they are trying to encourage lots of developers to work on the project, and so are making it a bit more open.

Unfortunately it's in Java. I understand Java is platform independent language, but the UI isn't the best and it always runs slower than a platform dependent client application would run. I wish they would develop it with a platform independent language and then compile it for each platform type. Either that or just make a windows platform. I don't want to exclude Mac or Linux users, but I would say that 99% of the people have access to a windows PC or with the case of the Linux users, have the technical know how to emulate a windows PC to run the software.

Oh well. Just my rant.
-Darke

Anonymous
No Java programming needed

Howdy, this is Jason McIntosh from Volity Games. Lee @ Veritas told me about this forum just yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that he has beaten me to the punch in posting about Volity here. :) So anyway...

Darkehorse wrote:
Unfortunately it's in Java.

Actually, if I might clarify: the client application, Gamut, happens to be a Java application, but that's as deep as the Java goes. Individual Volity games themselves are not Java programs.

Game UIs meant for Gamut are written in SVG and JavaScript. (SVG is an open, XML-based language for interactive vector graphics. It can be thought of as "open Flash".) Game servers - "parlors", in the Volity lingo - are another matter, and are written in Perl or Python. Same story with game bots.

Quote:
I don't want to exclude Mac or Linux users, but I would say that 99% of the people have access to a windows PC or with the case of the Linux users, have the technical know how to emulate a windows PC to run the software.

Alas, the people at the core of the project (myself included) are Mac people, so we have been keenly interested in the outset at maximizing cross-platform friendliness. We do keep a PC around to make sure that our Windows and Linux packages work just as nicely. :)

Anonymous
Volity.Net

To reply further (I'm another Volity person -- Jason and I are both looking at this thread):

The UI is pretty good. (We're using Swing.) I haven't had better luck with other cross-platform UI APIs, and they haven't been spectacularly faster either. Gamut may be slower than a native app, but it's not too slow, which is what matters.

It is, of course, possible to write a platform-native client using our API documentation. We would welcome this, but it would be a big job: the client is a big piece of software. It has to have full support for SVG and Javascript. Good open-source Java libraries exist for those -- that's a major reason we went with Java in the first place. It enabled us (a few programmers) to get this off the ground in a couple of years.

rellekmr
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Volity.Net

I am not at all skilled in game programming. Although I took some javascript/c classes years ago, that knowledge is long forgotten and really the only thing I can program in now is Oracle's PL/SQL. How difficult would it be for me to learn this well enough to make a version of one of my prototypes? How much time would I have to invest?

Anonymous
Volity.Net

To make an entire Volity game yourself using our existing tools, you need to be comfortable programming Perl or Python in order to create the server-side game logic, and well as SVG and JavaScript to make the graphical user interface that players see and interact with.

SVG tends to be the trickier part, since it is new to most folks approaching Volity for the first time, and they tend to learn it on the fly. We've got two games running now (Hex and Y) that were made in just a few days each by someone who had never used SVG before; we've got an offline UI development tool (called Testbench) that makes this process relatively unstressful, if you're willing to put the effort into learning.

The real trick of Volity is that it doesn't do anything "special" with these languages or technologies. A game UI is simply an SVG document, so if you learn the basics of SVG from a book written by someone who has never heard of Volity, you'll learn almost everything there is to making a Volity game UI anyway. Then it's just a matter of programming according to our API, and off you go.

Now, to actually answer your question, ha ha: yes, you'd have to learn a couple of new programming languages. But they are neither obscure nor particularly hairy languages, and you'd have the full support of volity.org's mailing lists and wiki, and the devchat on the Volity Network.

VeritasGames
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Jason, does the Volity team offer programming for games (even if we have to pay for it) for people who program but don't have the time (like me) or for people who just plain don't program?

Would I host the game on my own computer or on the Volity server?

What are the costs to me (for both the above questions) if I offer the game free of charge for play?

What if I offer the game for a fee? How does that work?

Since this is the board game designer's forum, does Volity offer any specific pre-programmed libraries for helping us to put board and/or card games online? Does it have a polyhedral dice rolling engine?

Does it have the ability to zoom in on part of a board (since boards can be big and might seem tiny if viewed on a computer screen all at once).

Toss out some of the programming discussion (since focusing on computer game programming is not what BGDF is about) and focus on what you have to offer us with Volity as a publishing platform for those of us who design card and board games.

Anonymous
Volity.Net

VeritasGames wrote:
Jason, does the Volity team offer programming for games (even if we have to pay for it) for people who program but don't have the time (like me) or for people who just plain don't program?

Yep. Sorry if I went a little overboard on the techiness with my earlier reply! Volity Games floats in the twilight zone between the tabletop game market and the digital "casual game" market, and I've lately been talking to so many people that I sometimes forget which of the two audiences I'm addressing. I'll start to babble excitedly about SVG or whatnot even as everyone's eyes start to glaze over...

Quote:
Would I host the game on my own computer or on the Volity server?

You can do either. Two of the games we have running how (Hex and Y) run on their developer's own server, but we are in the midst of setting up a system where you can host games with us.

Quote:
What are the costs to me (for both the above questions) if I offer the game free of charge for play?

What if I offer the game for a fee? How does that work?

The reason this thread is in the Game Publication forum is that the Volity Network is, beyond all else, a publishing platform for digital multiplayer games (whether or not these games might also happen to have print versions as well). We are trying to make it as easy as possible for a developer with programming resources - theirs or someone else's - to create and publish a multiplayer game that will become immediately visible to the system's userbase.

Anyone can publish free games with the tools and resources we have online now, and this costs nothing. Support for pay-for-play games is among the things we're working on right now, but I'd rather be demure on the specifics until we actually have the hosting and revenue-sharing systems up, and the fee structures in place.

Quote:
Since this is the board game designer's forum, does Volity offer any specific pre-programmed libraries for helping us to put board and/or card games online? Does it have a polyhedral dice rolling engine?

Does it have the ability to zoom in on part of a board (since boards can be big and might seem tiny if viewed on a computer screen all at once).

The focus of our present libraries and tools tends more towards helping game hackers adhere to the Volity protocols, so they write game code without having to write all the boring stuff that isn't game code. Everything else is up to the developer.

Recent conversations are starting to englighten us that, while this makes the hardcore game hackers salivate, it can end up looking a bit too flexible to print-based publishers who might not know Python or JavaScript programming. So I suppose all of this is a very roundabout way of saying that we don't currently have any easily modular UI libraries for components like dice or zoom/pan controls, but we can have them, and we are starting to recognize it as a high priority. (You can actually see die and zoom/pan controls in action in games that we currently have online.)

Volity has a very different approach to being an online game platform than systems like Vassal or Lackey or Cyberboard. Beyond its higher flexibility, its offers a lot that they don't, like server-side rules enforcement, game recordkeeping, and automatic ELO-based player rankings. However, those other systems have the advantage of being a lot easier to get started with. We are very interested in increasing Volity's accessibility to all kinds of independent game developers, and truly appreciate the chance to learn about ways we can accomplish this.

VeritasGames
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jmac wrote:
Beyond its higher flexibility, its offers a lot that they don't

I think that this is not strictly necessary for a lot of games. In fact, it would be nightmarish to implement for certain types of games.

I think you'll actually get more total supported games online when you have closer to a plug-n-play platform for game developers.

I personally think you also need some old fashioned paper documentation (or at least PDF documentation). Wiki documentation can be painful to work with when you are trying to hunt around for some things. And including documentation in POD format is not particularly convenient either.

Well written documentation in PDF format with cross-links, etc. will probably be more convenient.

Overall, though, I think you need to focus on creating modules that give people the option to use your system like Cyberboard, Lackey CCG, or some of these other platforms that are designed to work with some configuration but with less coding. You'll get no rules enforcement that way, but I'm not convinced that all game players particularly need online rules enforcement via a computer for all games.

Currently Volity looks like an excellent idea and an excellent publishing solution for people who can't get their game to market via traditional means. However, the barriers to entry are currently extremely high.

Even if I didn't have the vision problems I have, I can't imagine that I'd want to wade through a lot of disconnected documentation about all your component system parts to construct a game. And I'm a guy who programs in about 4 to 6 programming languages. I would, if I had the vision to do so, be more likely to work on a platform like Volity if it had integrated documentation. I'd be even more likely to work on Volity if it allowed me to build games with little or no coding that didn't have rules enforcement or a robot player.

Here's my thinking. Why the hell do I want to spend an extra 200 hours coding an AI plus a rules enforcement mechanism if I don't even know whether people are wanting to play the game online? I'd personally rather have a quick and dirty way to get people online to play, and then have options to add rules enforcement, robot players, etc. as I had time and interest to do so.

Particularly for people on BGDF who aren't programmers for them to publish on Volity it may require that there be a non-programmer's route to publishing a game.

Anonymous
Volity.Net

VeritasGames wrote:
jmac wrote:
Beyond its higher flexibility, its offers a lot that they don't

I think that this is not strictly necessary for a lot of games. In fact, it would be nightmarish to implement for certain types of games.

I'd be interested to hear an example of what you'd consider a nightmarish ruleset to implement.

I'll note that the role of the Volity referee extends beyond rules enforcement, though that is its primary role while a game is active. By knowing the game's rules, it also acts as any game table's local authority for when and how a game has come to an end, making for cheat-proof (or anyway cheat-resistant) game records. The automatic production, storage and analysis of meaningful game records and player statistics are part of what makes Volity so cool, in my opinion.

Quote:

I think you'll actually get more total supported games online when you have closer to a plug-n-play platform for game developers.

I personally think you also need some old fashioned paper documentation (or at least PDF documentation). Wiki documentation can be painful to work with when you are trying to hunt around for some things. And including documentation in POD format is not particularly convenient either.

Well written documentation in PDF format with cross-links, etc. will probably be more convenient.

Agreed. Monolithic documentation is something I've wanted for a long time, but the core team's been too busy with other stuff to make the long doc file that I'd like to see. We do have something in the works with a couple of volunteers, but again I don't want to advertise features that we don't already have yet. (If anyone out there in BGDF-land wants to help with this, though, drop me a line...)

I must, however, defend the POD documentation as what Perl programmers will expect to find when learning a new library. Its is only the stuff specific to Perl programming that has attached POD stuff. Same argument applies to the pydocs attached to the Python libraries.

Quote:

Currently Volity looks like an excellent idea and an excellent publishing solution for people who can't get their game to market via traditional means. However, the barriers to entry are currently extremely high.

That really depends on your point of view. To a programmer, the Volity tools dramatically lower the barriers to getting a multiplayer game online; all you do is write the game logic and plug it into the framework that handles all the hairy network and player-handling stuff. Poof, you have a networked game.

I recognize, however, your point that a non-programmer, even a technically savvy non-programmer, may quickly feel overwhelmed at trying to grok Volity's technology.

Quote:

Here's my thinking. Why the hell do I want to spend an extra 200 hours coding an AI plus a rules enforcement mechanism if I don't even know whether people are wanting to play the game online?

200 hours?! Now I'm really curious what game you're thinking of!

Hm. Actually... given Veritas's forte, I be you're thinking of a CCG, aren't you? If so, this is an interesting problem, mostly because it presents a fascinating puzzle about how to break down all the cards' possible actions and effects into programmatic categories so that it doesn't take a month to get them all in.

We have already faced this with our implementation of Looney Labs' card game Fluxx, which (to use an increasingly cliched but in this case true description) is rather like a non-collectable CCG, featuring over 80 cards that all have different effects on the game's rules. It took maybe five days to create (though zarf would be the authority on this). The UI was what was really tricky.

Quote:

Particularly for people on BGDF who aren't programmers for them to publish on Volity it may require that there be a non-programmer's route to publishing a game.

Yes, that's the moral of the story I am taking away here.

We've had lots of success pitching the Volity idea on the digital side of the fence, where (unsurprisingly) there are a lot of gamer/programmers, and we've also found fans among code-savvy fans of print games (a group of which I count myself as a member). It makes sense that increasing our accessibility to non-programmer game publishers would be a good next step. And we're already starting to kick some ideas around...

FastLearner
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Volity.Net

We've been talking here for a long time about having a tool better than VASAL for implementing online games for playtesting purposes, and I must say that Volity looks really great for that purpose. I haven't written any Perl in a long time, but it looks like it's time to brush up on it. :) Thanks for such a great tool.

-- Matthew

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