| Wednesday, November 3, 2010 - 09:44 pm |
I'm back. I've spent the last 5 years or so in deep space (www.eveonline.com) and it seems that whilst simcountry has gained a few cool new features in the meanwhile it's substantially unchanged from what I remember. That's not really a surprise - Tamara knew the problem back in 2003:
"to implement [ extensive new features ] into the game would require the game be totally recoded and currently the player base is too small to justify the added expense W3 would have to fork out to pay for it."
Simcountry occupies a small market niche. It's got too much math and not enough graphics to appeal to the mass market. No 50m+ players here, and we like it that way: thanks W3Creative. It does have some drawbacks though:
"The vast majority of W3's costs are in staff (developer) salaries. Without new features they can't attract a large number of new subscribers, but without more subscribers they can't hire additional staff to develop new features."
That's as true now as when I wrote it for TNN back in April 2003. Yup, I'm old :-) My suggestion is the same now as it was then: an Open API for simcountry.
Let me talk for a moment about my experiences as part of the 3rd party developer community around eveonline. CCP's subscriber base means they can afford 100+ staff developers, but much of the innovation still comes from a handful of unpaid developers/players working on their own time. The eve fitting tool , eveMon , evefiles , eve-central , eve-metrics  and similar efforts each represent many hours of skilled work and are invaluable resources enhancing the game experience for the players.
CCP enable this with relatively little effort on their own part: a sql format dump of some of the game's 'static' data - maps coordinates, market items and such. An officially sanctioned and curated wiki featuring game docs and player insights. Most importantly, a web services api providing real time access to game data in xml format. The api is read-only for gameplay reasons, but provides access to both 'public' data and player scoped private data using an authentication key linked to an individual's account. Data analysis tools, group collaboration tools, event notification tools and many more have been built by the players using this foundation.
Naturally in a web based game like simcountry it's possible to build tools for the game by scraping the html, but a formal api allows for greater efficiency on both sides. I think it would be an interesting experiment to open up some of the simcountry data in this way and see what innovations the player-developers come up with. It would take relatively little effort to do so - simply add an alternative page rendering template for e.g. the country homepage, that contains the same data as the html one, minus all the visual markup.
I'm sure the simcountry player base contains more than an average percentage of spreadsheet geeks and probably a fair smattering of programmers of one sort or another. I've got several ideas of my own, but I'm interested to hear how others may make use of game data if it was readily available and what impact you think it may have on the game experience.