Political Asylum was a success, but the code was as bad as you’d expect from a teenager in the middle of learning PHP1. I learned a hell of a lot about game design and web applications, and applied it all to my next web-based game: Engineering Faith.
In Faith, you designed your own religion. You could pick from dozens of rules, laws, and customs: are your followers nudists who have ten kids each, or are they ritually silent, tattooed warriors? You created beings for them to worship, places for them to worship, and acquired artifacts for them to venerate. All these things were constantly affecting your people’s many attributes, which changed as time passed in real life.
As is common with Second Systems, the complexity was a lot harder to manage than I expected. My new fancy algorithms interacted in such complex ways that the system often just felt like chaos. There were so many laws, programs, and attributes that balancing them all was a nightmare. The constantly-changing aspect of your followers was neat, but it wasn’t that fun because most of the things you did affected their future rather than their present.
Of course it makes sense that announcing they should worship the new Macaroni God initially annoys them more than anything, but over years it works into their daily life. How fun is that though? It was neat that you could pick from 40 different laws to enact, each with their own consequences – but did you want to go through that every time you played? Probably not. I proposed cutting the number of virtues, but naturally got a lot of community protest: it would have turned almost everything on its head, and still might not have solved the problem.
Designing Faith by engaging the Altering Time community that had formed around Asylum was a lot of fun though. While it did have the side effect of feature creep, it also produced a lot of new ideas. For example, some rejected suggestions for the name of the game included:
- Holy Havoc
- Virtuous Reality
- Karmic Chaos
- Altaring Time
- Sects and the City
- Pope John Paul’s Extreme Religion 2004
Another part of the process I really enjoyed was designing the 8 icons for your faith’s virtues. It was hard, but in the end I think I came up with a set of visually distinguishable icons that worked together but were somewhat recognizable.
In the end, I have to categorize Faith as a failure. People played it, and had fun, but even though it looked better than Asylum, was coded better than Asylum, and had more potential than Asylum, it was never as fun. Maybe it eventually could have been ironed out, but other things got in the way, and it never reached my goals. That said, it was one of the most educational, memorable, and fun failures I’ve ever had.
Below is a gallery of some of the more interesting bits of the Faith interface, with commentary about how the game worked.