Long story short: I created an MMO framework years ago and was never quite sure what to do with it. I eventually decided to start work on a fantasy-themed MMORPG just to give myself - and the project - some direction. It wasn't long thereafter that I decided I was working on the wrong game. Fast forward several months of trying to solve some problems that seemed impossible to solve, and I finally landed on a solution; this game is the result.
Keep in mind that I am still making the move from fantasy-themed to space-themed, so you'll likely notice some things that seem really out of place in current screenshots. The reason for this is that I have been almost entirely focused on building on my ideas and testing them in practical ways. There is no point to this paragraph other than to answer the question "why is there an icon of a medieval helm?"
If you knew me personally then you'd know that my current mental state is questionable at best, and that is a direct result of building a virtual universe in my development server (which is the size of a slice of bread and resides behind my television) and creating the framework and mechanics that allow me to traverse that universe; in fact, not only travel it, but to build structures on it, and to do so with friends, and in a persistent universe, etc. I dedicated my winter to this project and if I am being honest, 95% of the work I have done would seem inconsequential to anyone who plays it. I've lost sleep trying to solve problems that I have been told since I got into this industry couldn't be solved, I have next-to-no social life, and I am ordering and eating Pizza Hut like my life depends on it because those extra 30 minutes of dev time are absolutely priceless at this juncture.
I have been in this industry long enough to know that there will be questions - very relevant ones - regarding how I can possibly have a persistent MMO universe of this size without crippling the server with the amounts of data required, and I assure you that I will eventually get to that... at least partially. Suffice it to say that part of the solution is without a doubt IP and only comes from the fact that I have been dabbling in programming for nearly 3 decades, have been programming professionally for nearly 2 decades, have roughly 15 years of experience working with servers, and have been developing games professionally for upwards of 8 years. I created, operated and eventually sold a social networking platform that started as a side project I would play around with in my spare time and eventually became a career that I neither expected nor wanted; if this game becomes a job then it will be a job I am happy to work every day.
What is it?
Project Vague is essentially a sandbox universe where players can mine resources that can be used to craft things. They can engage with NPC's and get side missions in exchange for rewards, they can create groups/guilds/factions with their friends, mine asteroids together, build small planetary space stations as well as massive orbital stations. Fly ships through warp gates, land on planets, build structures and decorative props, and claim a small section of this massive universe as your own to share with friends.
What's already working?
Essentially, everything that needs to be working for me to say that I've reached that ever-desirable state of proof-of-concept. I can sign in with as many clients as I want and we can all go hopping around the solar system together; we can warp to another planet, to another star system, and we can watch each other build bases on the surface of a planet in real-time. We can dance, wave, chat, build, move, pilot space ships, explore, and even go assist an NPC who crash-landed in a crater (Mission: Texting While Flying).
I can create characters at whim, delete them, create new user accounts, assign them ships, inventory, etc. I can then take these characters and go land on a planet that is ~2.5km in radius (providing ~80km of surface area to explore) where I can start harvesting resources. I can then use those resources to construct a base, which oddly enough fits in my inventory. I can then right-click said inventory item and place my base wherever I want, in full-view of any number of friends who happen to be around (even if they are currently in their space ship looking down from a low-orbit). This base is the central item to the space that I can decorate with things like cryo-chambers, chests (that I can use to offload some inventory), greenhouses, etc. - and again, all of these can be constructed using resources harvested from the surface of planets.
The planet is procedurally generated, the resources on it's surface can be harvested by more than one person at a time, and everyone stays in sync as expected. The moon is procedurally generated as well but currently doesn't have resources. If I'm being honest, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with moons yet, or even if I'll keep them in the game, but they were a key stepping-stone in getting this framework in place.
Essentially, everything. The mechanic for landing on planets is buggy at best, but at the time I didn't need it to be polished, I just needed to be able to transition from walking on a planet to flying in a ship. When harvesting resources the character just stands there - again, I didn't need an animation in order to get things syncing between the client and the server (at least regarding the harvesting of resources). The planet is currently just a grey grid with some resource deposits strewn about, but any one of these resource deposits can be exchanged for a NPC in need of help, a station, a chest, etc. (in fact a few already are).
There is no character customization because that is something I have done repeatedly in my time as a game developer. There are only two ships but the system I've put in place allows not only for a plethora of different ship types and classes, but could also allow for players to customize the parts that make up their ships. Point being, I have a good idea of what is coming, but a lot of it I am still trying to unearth. When it comes to the latter, you will find out when I do.
How can I play?
Well, you can't. At least not yet. For now it's just me and the few people I give clients to in order for testing. In fact, it will be quite some time before this game is available to the public, and in some ways it may never be "finished". You can support our progress via Patreon if you choose to do so, and eventually we will be creating tiers for said Patreon to allow people access to the game itself. So, while you cannot play our game yet, rest assured we are working hard to polish the client to the point that we can make it available for patrons to play and we will be working out a reward-based system using Patreon for those who choose to support us.
I will do my best to share progress as we progress towards that goal, starting with a gameplay video that I will begin putting together as soon as I am done writing this article. If it piques your interest then just follow us and we'll let you know when and how you can play - if flying through space with friends and building structures on remote planets is your sort of thing, that is.
Who's working on this?
Right now, just me. I am the sole programmer, designer, and whatever other hats you can come up with for me to wear. I write code in C# and Java simultaneously while also working with Photoshop, Blender, updating MySQL database records via Navicat, etc. I run a very small development server on my local network that runs MySQL, SmartFox and IIS and I also run a remote server that is set up very similar to my local testing server which I use when needed (currently located in France). I have spent the majority of the last 10 years of my life honing my skills as a game developer and have found a fair amount of success in the industry. Before my work in the game industry I worked for nearly a decade as web application programmer, which essentially means I built complex website architectures that used SQL databases as their backend and offered API's to their user base. I built and then ran a social network website single-handedly and it provided me with full-time employment for years before I opted to sell it and make the transition to gaming. Point being that I have been honing the skills and gaining the experience necessary to create this project for my entire life, and I am as dedicated to this as anything I have ever committed to doing.
I have people very close to me who will be handling the marketing side of things as well as serving as an interim between myself and the general public; which is not to say I feel the need to hide from anyone, but I absolutely feel the need to focus on the work. Viable bugs, complaints, feedback, etc. will all get forward to me through the custom software I have written alongside this MMO framework (a subject I will touch upon in a future article).
What's coming in the next few weeks?
Mostly screenshots, videos, and articles that highlight progress and (hopefully) drum up a bit of enthusiasm. There are a handful of key things that need to be taken from proof-of-concept to playable by the general public, and that will be my focus in the coming weeks. This first release will be limited to Patreon supporters and will be considered a tech demo; basically just an opportunity for us to get the client in the hands of some strangers without the worry of the server crashing from thousands of guest accounts.
What's coming in the next few months?
The tech demo I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Point being, it will be several months at the earliest before this universe is a persistent one; it is essentially already there, but I will wiping out and restructuring database tables constantly, so keep in mind that if you participate, whatever you build will fall prey to the delete key.
Where can I find more information?
Honestly, right now there isn't any. I'm wearing a lot of hats right now and have just now come up for air after a coding-stint that lasted longer than it should have. I have created a subreddit for the project, a Patreon page, a Discord server, and now have added the game here on IndieDB. Links for some of those are posted below and others will be added as I get time with the person who will be handling marketing and we make the decision to open them to the public.
Thank you to anyone who made it this far and let me express my gratitude for any and all support. I promise to come up for air from time to time to bring everyone up-to-speed on what's been added, and I am very much looking forward to any and all feedback that I get as a result.