Project Update: A Digital Ostravia

As February draws closer, I’ve been working with redoubled effort on a CYOA-esque web implementation of Ostravia using the ABACUS Light ruleset. It’s not fully featured, but it’s something that is very much at the core of the project; as a way of learning about and teaching history, I want Ostravia to be accessible both to avid readers and players of roleplaying games and those who prefer their narratives fictional.

On the design side, Ostravia is powered by what I’ve deemed to be the “Extensible Markup Interfacing Choose Your Own Action” system, which is a fancy term for a PHP setup that allows the quick and fluid creation of content with modular extensibility through XML files. XMICYOA for short (I pronounce it “ximmy-kyoah”, which is part of the acronym process), and while it overtly resembles a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style game, it is actually equally well-fitted for any sort of role-playing game or interactive fiction, being an alternative to StoryNexus, which I love but feel hesitant about using due to its discontinued status.

If you’re interested in what a finished XMICYOA experience could look like, my models for its creation are StoryNexus, Sryth, an old game called Sarnik, and, of course, the Ostravia system and traditional tabletop roleplaying experiences. I’d strongly encourage people to go out and check out the influences for the project, as they’re all things I love (and emulate out of devotion and idealism, not an attempt to “rip-off” or “devalue” the other projects).

My goal in creating the XMICYOA system is to create a PHP and MySQL powered system that is:

  • Customizable to the needs of a particular end-user, and open-sourced so that it is feasible for everyone to use.
  • Flexible enough for an end user with no knowledge of PHP, basic knowledge of a word processor and XML formatting (as provided in XMICYOA’s manual) to be able to make their own settings and adventures.
  • Powerful enough to support features that have previously eluded some games, such as image integration (apparently lacking in, say, Sryth, though I may just never have encountered any in my hours playing on it), dynamic random branching outcomes (missing in StoryNexus), and most any feature a writer could desire.
  • Modular so that an adventure can span a few short paragraphs of action or many interactive and enthralling chapters worth of content.
  • Advanced enough that an end user could adapt it to many different systems with ease; changing a single parameter can set it from running in ABACUS Light to a d100-based system or a d20-based system to a slightly more complex change to a d6 summed or even a Shadowrun-esque exploding d6 with successes system.
  • Open and feature complete, so that it is never again necessary to “start from scratch”, with comments and alternative code included that mimics the XMICYOA manual’s depth and breadth.

Currently XMICYOA’s pretty skeletal. The game elements aren’t there yet, but I’ve got them planned out on a roadmap, and many of the core underlying processes, such as the registration and login process, are complete and satisfactory, In addition, I’ve been reading through the PHP functions library, and while I don’t yet have XMICYOA to a point where it’s feasible to test certain features, I’ve got a fair idea of how I’ll be doing them, and I’m confident that the roadmap as designed is not going to be a terrible difficulty.

I’m contemplating moving design work on Ostravia over to XMICYOA, and making XMICYOA much more complex than the ABACUS Light system, this would mean that Ostravia’s primary focus would be in the XMICYOA side, and a finished ABACUS system would be released that focuses on a more holistic look at medieval Europe, potentially after the initial release of Ostravia as a medieval realistic fantasy adventure; of course, as XMICYOA will be open source the rules could be fully reverse-engineered before they are in a publication-worthy state.

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