Golemizer Interview: What's Up Doc?
Questions by Vincent Haoson
Answered by Dave Toulouse
OnRPG: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Dave Toulouse and I'm an independent game developer from Canada. I'm the creator of the browser based MMORPG Golemizer. At day I'm an analyst programmer working for a small company and at night I transform into Dr. Altus, this crazy but friendly scientist behind the sandbox world of Golemizer.
I started to work on Golemizer in 2007 in need of a challenge and I've been served with Golemizer. I had no background in game development so it was a risky bet to work on an MMO for a first game. Many thought I was just passing by but I prove a lot of people wrong when I released Golemizer in 2008. While it may look like a modest game at first people are surprised how deep it is and how vast are the possibilities in this world.
OnRPG: Golemizer has been around for a while now and the game seems to be growing on a steady pace, so how is the game faring now?
The game has now reached what I would call a mature status. Of course things weren't always easy at first as I had to learn everything on how to run an MMO. It too lot of work but now the game is firmly established and provides an incredible platform to work with.
So the game is really solid right now which is now allowing me to put more efforts on promotion to reach more people. Marketing is never easy for independent developers as we don't have huge marketing budgets like the big companies. Still, each day new players are joining Golemizer and there is now a very solid community core shaping the soul of the game.
OnRPG: With the amount of player content being created in an almost daily basis how do you keep them all?
When I wrote the first line of code of Golemizer I knew that player content could easily increase at a very high speed so I considered this issue right from the start. So far players have created more than 3,000 quests, 26,000 zones (dungeons, houses, cities), 27,000 golems (pets that are the main weapons in Golemizer) and crafted over 2 million items.
All this content is not loaded all at once though. The content of a zone is only loaded when a player enters it for the first time since the last server reboot. Even though Golemizer's players are great explorers there is no way they could visit all 26,000 zones in a single day so the server is able to remain stable. The game requires very few resources actually and you could easily run it on your home computer.
OnRPG: Is there a time limit for the items to stay within the game database? Why or Why not?
We (me and the GMs) rarely delete anything. With all the quests created by players it would be too risky to delete something required for one of them. We do clean deserted houses every 3 months around the dock to free space for new players that are looking for a spot to build their house. But again we do not delete these houses. We simply send them back to their owner's inventory. When the player comes back to the game he can simply deploy his house to another spot.
OnRPG: Can you give us a little history on how the game was like when it started its operations?
Empty! Being the only developer on the project there was no way I could build enough content to keep players busy. That's why I built Golemizer to be a sandbox game. You're not only playing the game but you're building it for the next players as well.
So was the lack of content boring? Well the first players didn't thought so. They had a huge playground to add their personal touch to the world. New players are still able to do the same but the first people that got to play in Golemizer definitely helped to build the core of the world.
A lot of the popular features were not included right from the start. For example quests created by players came a bit later (but still before major MMOs like City of Heroes). So the first players were really hardcore builders and I made sure to offer some of them the opportunity to become GMs. With their helped the framework I worked on slowly started to look like an actual virtual world. It might sound trivial but things like adding rocks, flowers, roads were things I could not spare a lot of time to add to the world (too busy fixing bugs and improving the code) so the first players played a huge role to make what Golemizer is now today.
OnRPG: What was your inspiration for making a game like this? Where did you get your ideas on the game systems you included in Golemizer?
I discovered MMOs quite late and back then I played only a few of them. By biggest inspiration is definitely Star Wars Galaxies. Not for the Star Wars part but for everything surrounding it like player housing, player cities, player merchants and so on. I thought that the freedom given to players was amazing so I wanted to expand the theme a bit.
OnRPG: Out of the many golems created by players what was the most interesting for you? Why?
The most interesting one is probably one that was recently added to the game and was entirely designed (graphics included) by a player. I ran a competition to design a golem and this one was so weird and so different that it won the first prize. It is called Bedside-Manner and it's made of furniture. Its purpose is only to carry stuff around which really sets it apart from other golems mostly designed to attack enemies.
This player wanted to expand golems in other ways than combat. Some players completely avoid it in fact as they just like to craft or decorate their house so that kind of golem can become useful for them.
OnRPG: Can you give us an idea on how Golemizer gives players the capability to make quests of their own? How complicated can their quests be?
Building a quest is as simple as buying a "quest NPC" for some gold coins, dropping it in your house, city or dungeon and setting a few parameters. These NPCs can be used to only say something to players or they can send players to hunt a particular target, gather some items or answer a question. Each quest can reward players with gold coins, items or prestige points (used to buy some specific items).
Players can link quests together by setting prerequisites. Each quest has a unique identification number so if you want players to first complete a given quest before speaking to your NPC you just need to put the identification number of the prerequisite quest and type some text so the player receives proper instruction on what to do first. You can link an infinite number of quests together and you can even set quests built by other players as prerequisites for your own!
Before being available to other players all quests must be approved by me or a GM. This prevents any abuse of the quest system. If a quest gives a ridiculous reward for little effort than the GM will simply leave a note to the creator of the quest and the quest won't be approved until changes are made.
OnRPG: What's the most complicated quest that a player has done right now in the game?
Well quests remain fairly simple but some players are using this system to build huge storylines. I'm sure a novel could be written out of these quests. Some players like MiFeng and Jumpin Funkydelic have created more than 300 quests with some of them with hilarious dialogs. The dedication of quest creators can be really surprising. They put a lot of energy to tell stories and not just make "ten kill rats" type of quests. I'd have a hard time to pick one but you should definitely check the quests built by these two players (you can easily find them through the GPS system available in the game interface).
OnRPG: What can you say is the most appealing system Golemizer has and that you're most confident with?
Well obviously the crafting system is the most important as everything you see has been crafted by someone. But the most appealing would probably all systems related to transportation. For me there's nothing more annoying in a game than having to run for 15 minutes just to reach a particular place. Sure the first time you get there you get a sense of exploration but after that it's just boring.
In Golemizer players have 3 different ways to travel. First they can build a blimp and fly from one zone. It's faster than walking and also much safer.
Players can also craft teleporters and drop them in any zone they control (house, city or dungeon). Players can register any teleporters in a special remote and teleport back to it instantly. Players involved in mining are using a lot this system as they sometimes dig very deep and walking their way back to the surface would take a lot of time.
Finally they can also create underground trains which are all linked together. Most major cities have a train (or two) so you can easily jump from one place to another without caring much about getting lost (remember, there is over 26,000 zones so you can easily get lost). It is also a nice way to get people to visit your cities.
OnRPG: Aside from creating items and golems, players can also create their own cities-can you explain to us how does this game system work?
To build a city a player must first buy a blueprint. This blueprint isn't cheap so if you want a city you'll have to be dedicated. This is to prevent players from building ghosts cities that are uninteresting. Then the player must use this blueprint on a free spot to actually create the city. At first a city has only 1 zone. Players can add new zones to their city by spending some gold coins.
To finance the expansion of his city the mayor can create lots where other players will be able to put their houses on or their merchants. The mayor is free to set the price he wants for each lot but a lot of veterans and selling very cheap lots to attract new players that don't have a lot of gold coins to spend.
OnRPG: How customizable are the cities in Golemizer? Are there any limitations on what players can do in their own cities? (follow up: Why or why not? (in regards to the limitations))
A mayor in his city has the same power any player has in his house or dungeon. He can set anything in it like trees, roads or any other item. So there's no limit to the ways you can customize your city. You can even set permanent golems in it so you can turn your city into a dungeon with quests and dangers.
The only limit is players' imagination!
OnRPG: Will you be including game system additions to the game anytime soon? Can you give us an idea on what you are planning?
An idea that's been in my mind for some time is to build a way for players to easily share the amazing work they have done in a given zone. There are wonderful places in Golemizer built by players but the world is so huge (and keeps expanding) that it's easy to miss them. Even I cannot pretend to have seen everything and each day I discover something new.
So basically players will be able to "bookmark" their zones and other players will be able to view and rate them. That should also be an amazing marketing tools as potential players will see the huge possibilities Golemizer offers by browsing the best rated zones.
OnRPG: Did Golemizer turn into the game you expected it would be? How so?
I think it became much more than what I expected. While I really wanted to create a sandbox world mostly targeted toward crafters I thought the majority of players would still be mostly interested in things like combat. To my surprise that's not the case. Players are way much more creative than what I expected and it really became a paradise for crafters and explorers at the same time. Crafters are providing content to explorers and explorers are rewarding crafters by visiting their content.
OnRPG: Are you satisfied with what the game has achieved thus far?
Yes but I feel the game has still not reach its full potential in terms of number of players. Of course marketing is never easy for an independent developer and for the first year after release I was mostly busy improving everything, fixing bugs and adding new systems.
Now that the game really looks like the original idea I had I think it is ready to welcome many more thousands of players. It could be intimidating at first for players to step into a world where there wasn't much but now the world is so rich and the community is solid so there's never been a better time to start playing Golemizer!
OnRPG: What's in store for players of Golemizer for the months ahead?
More golems with other purpose than combat are surely to be expected. Like I said I also want to allow players to share more easily the work they do through what you could call an interactive gallery system. New regions with different settings (jungle, Wild West) are also ideas I'm currently fleshing out.
I'm always keeping an eye in the suggestions forums to see what players have in mind so there could be some unexpected surprises coming up.
OnRPG: Thank you for answering our questions!
It's been a pleasure!