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(If you're not interested in the TL;DR, scroll down to the next section!)
Once upon a time, in a little shack in rural West Virginia, there was a crazy-haired nerd named Leaf.
Each day, Leaf would get up and drink several gallons of coffee whilst hacking on his Magnum Opus of Crappy 80s-Style Mainframe RPG. It was a project of great vision (or so he thought). He imagined that this project would eventually bring about a renaissance of the MUD, a game created by the players for themselves (in contrast to the MMOs, created by Big Companies to make Money). It was to be presented in a more modern (but still accessable to the single-developer hobby hacker) format, and make use of a vast distributed, decentralized game world where legions of other crazy-haired nerds hacked both code and monsters into the wee hours of night.
It was a big project. But he thought he had a good design. It would take a few years to bring to fruition, but the toil would be worthwhile…
Maybe he could have done it. Maybe not. It all became moot when he got a Job. A salaried Job, no less, with long hours that he wasn't actually getting paid for sometimes and administrators who disapproved of his crazy hair and motorcycle-greased clothing.
He found that his vast swaths of free time were reduced to a mere fraction of what had come before. Development of his Project slowed, then stopped. In his mind, he envisioned the legions of crazy-haired nerds across the vastness of the internet, crying out and weeping as they rent their clothes in sorrow over the loss of this Wonderful Project.
(That's not really what happened. More like a couple of crazy-haired nerds somewhere said, “Huh,” and went back to reading XKCD. But I digress…)
So he spent the evenings playing some Legend of Grimrock, Dwarf Fortress, and a little bit of Fallen Earth. He fixed a couple of the old motorcycles rusting away in his yard. He played some tabletop D&D. He petted his cat. Each weekend, he would sit down at his desk in the darkness of his home/shack-office and browse through his code. As the soft glow of the monitors reflected from his glasses, a single tear would roll down his cheek, as he realized more and more that he just Couldn't Do This, given the time he had. Then his heart would harden. He would furiously wipe away that single tear with a clenched fist, and go back to playing Dwarf Fortress or rebuilding whatever old motorcycle was sitting in the middle of his living room.
Then one night as he stared sorrowfully at his code, his cat looked up from his lap and Meowed quizzically.
“Yes,” he agreed as he scratched between Kitty's ears, “You are right. Stuff doesn't have to be Huge and Massively Distributed to be fun. Heck, it doesn't even have to be multi-player!”
“Purrr,” said Kitty.
“You should screencast something,” his internet buddy blare-beeped from Google Chat. Leaf jumped a little. He had forgotten to turn the volume down after watching a particularly quiet youtube video.
Internet Buddy continued, “Do it! You'd be surprised what people will watch!”
Kitty turned around in his lap and started licking her rear.
“Hmmm,” said Leaf, as he poked at Kitty, trying to get her to stop licking her hiney. “What if it were just something silly and dumb. Like we could start with just having a little webapp that rolled a couple of Level 1 boxed-set Fighters and had them beat each other to death with sticks, all in text, with no fancy graphics. Then I can add stuff from there. As long as the components are fairly modular…”
“Yea!” beeped internet-buddy. “Then your viewers can tell you where you should go from there.”
“This violates every design principle I've ever learned, you know,” said Leaf. “What if it becomes nasty and unmaintainable due to this relatively unplanned design-build cycle that we are suggesting?”
Kitty became tired of the poking, and rowwled and bit Leaf's thumb, hard. He squeaked. At that very same moment, a shark nommed through the undersea cable to Australia for the 18th time that night, and Internet Buddy lost connection and disappeared.
But Leaf sat there in the glow of the monitors for several minutes and pontificated upon what had transpired.
Finally, he stirred. Kitty huffed from his lap and dug a claw into his leg as her nap was disturbed.
“These projects are supposed to be fun,” he said to himself. “Maybe I am over-thinking and over-designing. I may not be terribly challenged by something simpler, but if I presented it in a book/tutorial form, along with some educational videos, perhaps I can derive pleasure from teaching others!”
“Mew,” said Kitty, as she turned around and settled in for another nap.
“That settles it, then,” said Leaf. And he began to clean up his website and start a new Eclipse project…
Woohoo! Let's get pumped and build a computer RPG!
What? You can't do it, you say? Sure you can! There is a renaissance of independent computer games going on right now. You don't need a huge team of programmers and artists. It doesn't matter if your game only uses primitive graphics, or even no graphics at all!
I really like RPGs. Not those console-style JRPGs, but old PC- and mainframe-style computer RPGs, like Wasteland, Dungeon Master/Eye of the Beholder, and the old SSI Gold-Box games. So I'm going to write one (or at least try to get pretty far with one before getting distra – oh shiny!), and y'all can follow along and help!
Or you can take some or all of the code and do your own thing with it!
We may not actually finish anything, but we'll have a boatload of fun and learn some interesting things while we do it! We'll start out very small, simple, and primitive, and build up from there.
For the moment, we're calling this project “RustyBox”. The idea being that it might eventually end up looking/working somewhat like the old SSI Gold-Box engine (but with a much better UI), which these days is pretty old and rusty. :3