This project started with a request from Ben for an "infotainment" section to the Solstation site to add interest by interactive involvement and some form of games. It went through various phases and I prototyped a couple of trading type games and so forth. But I didn't really get traction on any of them.

My present concept, so, is to create a framework that you can hang numerous gamelets upon. I'm very highly influenced by Neopets. They have a really compelling idea that allows for incremental development and design. Their site has been extremely successful at capturing a highly sought after, but hard to grab, demographic: teenage girls.

I've proven quite capable of starting small things, but never wrapping them into something larger. If I have a framework where most of the infrastructure work is done, then I can just concentrate on whatever my flavor of the day is. And, once done, it will have a place to live and be less subject to going off-line.


  • Portal Ideally I'd like the game to be presented through portlets. Part of the idea is that you can play the game in many different ways. Allowing users to configure their own UI will let them tailor it to what they like.
  • Anything God can do... the players can do too. The "computer" represents Earth Company. However it has no rights or advantages over normal players (other than a much larger starting stake).
  • Finance I want a game with a "closed economy". The Earth Company exists in the game to promote the colonization of space. They give players loans out of their own funds which, ultimately, have to be paid back. If they get low on money, they will have to up the price or lower the payouts to players.
  • No gunsI think it would be interesting to have a game with no guns in it. You just can't build spaceships with weapons. OK. It makes for very passive-aggressive play, but it would be different!

Feature Areas

  • Users You can create an account and maintain lists of friends, messaging, home pages, bulletin boards, and web logs.
  • Money Since the Earth Company can give players loans, so too can the players give each other loans. They can set what interest rates they like and the payback period. Players can even sell off loans they have made to other players! This enables play as a loanshark or a loan consolidator.
  • Crew Players can hire crew. These are characters in the game universe they can train and develop. You can "sell" them to other players, although they may sometimes not cooperate. You can also try to "poach" them from other players. This enables play as a "trainer" or "recruiter".
  • Exploration You can buy (or build) probes. With these you can conduct surveys of parts of space. Earth Company offers fixed rates for surveys of different quality levels. If they already have it, though, they won't buy it. They also maintain a register of who has what rights to areas of space. The value of, say, mineral rights, of a region varies depending on how much is known about a region. So it's possible to conduct your own survey, buy the rights to the best areas, and then sell the survey, pumping the price up! So you can play the game as a land speculator.
  • Ships You can design and commission ships. These can be used to explore the stars, transport goods, etc. You can buy and sell the ships, or ship designs, with other players. So you can play the game as a "used ship salesman" or a ship architect".
  • Uniforms Users can also draw and upload uniforms for their crew. These become designs on the system that can be bought and sold. Whoever holds the design can create clothes based on that design. These, too, can be bought and sold. The clothes can then be used to dress up your crew. So you could play the game as a fashion designer.
  • Arbitration A big hangup of on-line games is policing them. The site policy can dictate what is appropriate and not appropriate. Then you have to either approve all new content, or else have a complaints line to deal with people reporting bad content. It breaks the mood of the game. So for Dawnfire the idea is to incorporate it into the game. An abstract system will be created to delineate "laws". Any player can bring suit against another player for breaking any law. Then the legal engine kicks in. A simple type of judgement might require 5 jurors to render jugement on whether the person violated the law or not. Anyone can report for jury duty and be assigned a pending court case. Through the Friends feature (and possibly sales records) you can prevent jurors who have a "prior relationship" with the parties from being selected. Each juror votes yes or no and the judgement rendered. More involved cases might allow the plaintif to state their case, and the defendant to post a rebuttall. Or an arbitrary number of back and forths. Similarly you might allow jurors to conferr. They would get their own little builten board area where they can talk to one another and discuss the merits of the case before voting. You could go further and allow for certain types of cases to be apealed, which starts you all over again. This allows for VERY flexible enforcement of a very wide variety of rules. They can be community generated and community enforced making them tailored to the game. So you could play the game as a full time juror, or possibly a judge.
  • Ballet In zero-G the equivalent of a balance bar is a cube. There are a set number of moves you can make to swing from one of the cube's bars to another. The game will let you set up moves in sequence to create a routine. It can then render this routine into a movie file and you can play it in your browser.
  • Kata Similar to ballet, you can sequence a bunch of martial arts moves together into a kata.
  • Contests For things like fashion design, ballet, kata or other creative exploits, the Earth Company (or any player) can declare contests. Each person enters their piece, and it is judged. Judgement can be defined in a simialr way that arbitration is. The creater can charge an entrance fee and/or set prizes for different places.

Technologies Used This is designed to run on an Apache Tomcat server running on Linux. A requirement is to be pure J2EE though, so it can in theory run on any J2EE server. It is put together with JSP, Struts and Tiles. I have a strong desire to deploy this on Websphere Portal Server, but I can't presently afford either the hardware or software!