How to Make your Game 'Major'
Throughout the years in Empire history, there have been minor games and major games. There are times when a deity wants a game to be a 'major' game, but things pan out poorly, and only a handful of people sign up. The following tips should be useful to deities wanting to make their game into a 'major' game.
Please note: There's absolutely nothing wrong with 'minor' games. These are very important to the vitality of Empire. This document is only intended to help deities have a 'major' game if that is their goal. If you want to have a 'minor' game, that's great! 'Major' games are not the end-all be-all of Empire. A large number of 'minor' games have been run over the years, and players have enjoyed them. In fact, some players even prefer the 'minor' games, as it sometimes produces a less kill - everything - in - your - path - to - winning environment. Even if you want to run a 'minor' game, the following suggestions can help you be successful.
So, without further ado, here are some suggestions on how to make your game into a 'major' game if you so desire:
First, so we know what we're talking about, here are some examples of 'major' games...
...and 'minor' games:
The distinction between the two general types of games lies mostly with the number of people who sign up for the game vs. typical number of sign ups for 'major' and 'minor' games for the time period. As of Spring 2004, a 'major' game of Empire usually has 25-40 countries, and a 'minor' game has something less than that, usually in the 10-15 range.
This is somewhat chicken vs. egg. 'Major' games are usually run by well known deities with a history of deitying games, or otherwise well known people within Empire. Why? Players are fickle creatures. The best players are also very intolerant of deities who screw the game up. A fledgling deity, especially one who produces a radically different game concept (see changing code section), is something that doesn't tend to draw the big time players.
Deity mistakes are not well tolerated. Players invest far too much time in their nations to tolerate mistakes. Thus, a newbie deity has to cut his teeth a bit before he'll get the experienced players to devote serious time to a hoped for 'major' game by a deity. Thus, it might take a few games of deitying before the more experienced players will regard your next game as 'major'.
You can also shorten the amount of time before experienced players are willing to devote themselves to your game by being a good player. A deity who is not a good player generally (not always, but generally) does not make a good deity. Experienced players know this. So, if they know you're not an experienced player, they're not likely to sign up for your game.
Deities can and have screwed up a game by making well intentioned changes to the server code. Unless you are an experienced deity and/or player, it is unwise to do this if you want to have a 'major' game. Experienced players know how tricky the server code can be, and how sensitive the game balance can be. Playing with those can cause havoc in a game.
There are plenty enough options available to the fledgling 'major' game deity to screw up a game setup without having to get into modifying the code. Messing with the code simply flirts with disaster. Asking players to trust you to not screw up the code is asking a lot if you are not an already experienced deity and/or player. Your best intentions could cause them to waste countless hours creating a country only to see it vanish in a puff of bits and bytes. Games have fallen apart before due to severe server crashes.
More reading: See "This should be easy to code"
If you begin a series of games, and only a handful of players register for the game, it's not necessarily bad. It can be an opportunity for you to gain experience as a deity and earn a solid reputation for good deitying. The next game in the series, you will probably get more registrants because of your growing reputation. It's important to retain the series by way of naming. For example, Lanny Andelin has run a very successful series of Newbie games (example). These have never been intended to be 'major' games, but they have drawn a following because of the continuity of the series and Lanny's strong performance as a deity.
Deities get a reputation for a series of games just as much as they get a reputation as being a deity in general. A series of games is often remembered even more so than a deity. Imagine a player thinking, "Hurricane II is being announced. There was a lot of buzz about Hurricane I, and how everybody who played it liked it. I think I'll sign up this time".
If you try to start a 'major' game right after one has finished, it's unlikely you'll get the winners and other countries that made it to the end of the last 'major' game. Empire is consumptive. It takes time, effort, and resources. It's a fantastic game, but people get worn out by the effort of trying to win. There are few people who will blithely throw themselves into another game right after another 'major' game has completed.
There's got to be an appropriate spacing between the last 'major' game and the game you want to be 'major'. Players need a chance to recover, and find out the names of their wives and children again. Empire can be that consumptive... forgetting the names is of course extreme. Yet, things have happened in the past. This is what Empire does to players. They need time between games to recover.
Another element to consider in the timing of your game start is the calendar. 20 years ago, Empire was populated mostly by college students. There's still quite a few college students playing the game today. However, the player base is more diverse now. Starting a game right at the typical end of semesters for most colleges in the U.S. and Europe will probably reduce your registrations. Similarly, starting one a few weeks before the Christmas holiday season will have a negative impact as well. As a result, 'major' games usually end up starting in the January-March and August-October time frames.
Part of marketing (see market section) is putting a professional face on your efforts. Recently, the bar has been raised on this; game websites are now important to have that facade of professionalism. Over the recent years, a number of Empire games have made websites. The Ice World series of games is one such example, as is the Lord of the Rings series. You can visit these sites for an idea on what to include on the website. In essence, you want to have a clearing house for information relating to the game, and any news regarding the game. rec.games.empire is good, but some news articles do not get propagated. Also, while every effort is made to keep the Wolfpack Empire website up to date, it might not carry the latest information. Keeping your site up to date with the latest information is an important resource for players. For example, in Lord of the Rings II, the update schedule was regularly modified during the game to reflect outages or changes in periodicity of updates.
Wolfpack is not always aware of every game that is about to happen. But, we usually know about upcoming games before the general Empire public knows. We use this information to try to coordinate deities to have successful games. It would be bad to have several games all start at once. However, staggering the starts such that one game starts three to four weeks after another will yield better results.
The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Syrius Cybernetics corporation as 'a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes', with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applicants from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondant.Curiously enough, an edition of Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Syrius Cybernetics Corporation as 'a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came'.
Think marketing managers are all mindless jerks? Ok, they are. But, if you want to have a successful 'major' game, you're going to have to do some of the things they do.
It is important that you make two or three announcements to rec.games.empire. For example, for Lord of the Rings Empire II, there were three game announcements:
Letting the players know the host of the game helps them in determining if they want to play. They can 'ping' the address and see how much lag time there is from them to the server. If the lag is bad, a player may decide not to play. This information should be included in your game announcements.
Let Wolfpack know about the impending game. We'll announce the game on the "new thematic games" page of the Wolfpack Empire website, the main page of the site, and also in Empire News. We'll also help you coordinate the start time of your game such that other games do not interfere with the start of your game.
Try to directly e-mail players whom you would like to have play in your game. If you're deitying your first game, keep track of e-mail addresses used by your players. You can use this as a mailing list to notify those players of your next game when you are ready to start the next one.
Also, Wolfpack can help you with a "yourgame.wolfpackempire.com" domain. If you would like this service, just ask us.