Anyway, back onto Nomic. After reading the Wiki and seeing the "Initial Rule Set"  then reading through a lot of the archives it became clear that "chaos" and administration was the downfall of this game.
Eventually, the constitution that formed became so unmanageable and untrackable that it was impossible to progress. Judges were needed to resolve the rule disputes on every single vote and rule loop-holes were hard to spot (albeit an intended point of the game).
But guess what we have now... Freaking version control. Companies/governments are tracking their constitution on GitHub at the moment, so why can't we also track the constitution of games such as this on GitHub as well. Last month GitHub launched their "create a game" contest that incorporated some form of "Pull"/"Push" feature into the game.
Well how incredibly awesome (I'm getting giddigy as I type this), would it be if we implemented Nomic voting rules using pull requests (for the votes), and have contributors sign up if they want to play the game.
Tracking the constitution changes was clearly the biggest technical challenge back in 1990s, and now we have tools to solve this problem totally.
GitHub makes Nomic awesome.
Ps. Ultima Online just made me feel all nostalgic. I miss West Brittania Bank, Felucca, my 24x24 Stone Keep (presumably fallen and reclaimed now) and my enormous Runebook library.
 : http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/nomic.htm#initial%20set
 : http://www.nomic.net/deadgames/a/
Current MMORPGs are almost exclusively of the DikuMUD / EverQuest / WoW lineage, just hack and slash with very few other options for interacting with or changing the game world.
MMOs bore me, and the thought that UO did MMOs somehow better intrigues me. I find it easy to believe, but hard to understand why.
The hiccups of developing UO's in-game economy along the way are incredibly interesting in their own right.
I'll try to summarize some of UO.
UO was divided into Trammel (safe from PvP) and Felucia (not), and some servers only had Fel. In Fel as soon as you left a city you were more or less fair game to die from an extremely hostile environment, and (I think it was) PC Gamer described the learning curve as "A frozen wall of acid." Brutal, but very exciting. A goddamn wild west MMO.
(In Fel) UO was a rare RPG where anyone could kill anyone, for any reason, but with the repercussion that they would be branded a "Bad person" (visible with a gray or red name instead of blue). Stealing from good people corpses also did this. Anyone can attack and kill bad persons, and if you killed even more people you were a murderer and it took a very long time to return to normal.
This Blue/Gray/Red name system created a sort of cautiousness among travelers. Being near a pack of "blue" people might be safe, since any person that tried to steal or kill would turn gray and they'd immediately kill him.
Unless of course, all those blue-named people were conspiring, and you are the target.
You want to use super awesome powerful gear? None of this sissy MMO stuff. Die and you lose it, and your enemy (or his enemy!) gets the spoils.
The problem I have with a lot of MMOs is that the power of your character is simply how much time you sink into the game. Essentially, MMOs are games that reward wasting time.
UO had so much more than that. UO was a game where treachery and sneakiness really paid off, if you wanted it to. Lots of ways to nearly instantly kill or entrap people lead to a lot of very exciting plots where guilds might be laden with spies. Absolutely nothing like the ridiculously limited PvP found in games like WoW.
In a lot of ways it was the Diplomacy (diplomatic back-stabbing board game) of MMOs. And it was great.
For quite some time, UO had only Felucca.
You learned skills by using them. So, if you wanted to hit things better with a sword, you went out and hit things. If you wanted to become a better magician, you had to cast spells. Wanted to become a better tailor? You had to make lots of clothing :) That wasn't perfect and later gave rise to macroers, but the system itself is awesome.
Death was meaningful: you lost everything you were carrying (changed in later versions with the 'insurance system'), unless you made it back to your body before it decayed and noone got to it first. And your ghost had to find a healer (or a player mage or highly skilled healer) in order to get resurrected. And, while dead, you couldn't speak to anyone, except players with 'Spirit Speak'.
You could own houses (which did occupy real state, they were not instanced), to have a safe place and a way to store items. That eventually became a market by itself, as the world was finite.
There were just a few safe zones, all the rest were automatically PVP areas. Even in "safe" zones, you could get mugged or killed if you didn't pay attention, as you had to call "guards" in order for them to appear (other people could call them for you, so it wasn't wise to leave your character in an deserted place and leave the computer).
You could steal from other people's bags - and get caught or not. You could even steal reagents from mages and prevent them casting. Yes, you had to carry a supply of reagents to cast and could run out if you didn't pay attention, possibly leaving you stranded.
You could create weapons, furniture, potions and whatnot from basic materials. This is very different from, say, WoW crafting system - you didn't have to wait for any drops from monsters. In fact, you didn't have to kill anything (not counting maybe birds for feathers, to use in arrows, or leather)
They even experimented with real ecology and a food chain in the beta. That didn't work, because players are too predatory.
Basically, they did almost everything very differently from MMOs that came later. The end result is that the world felt more 'alive', as you could interact with almost anything, given the right tools. See trees and got an axe? You could chop them. No axe? You could mine those rocks over there, smelt at a forge, then build the axe. And so on.
I was one of the lucky ones that got a cable modem in the early days (one way cable modem, down was cable, up was 56k!) and had a great advantage in player vs player, as I could outrun their lag, and generally do things faster than them if they were on dialup.
If you want to start a new game, you can fork the repo and begin accepting pull requests from your players.
You can also see a listing of active games by checking out the network tab.
It also starts of with a "dictator" in the beginning, which removes judgements and should make it easier for beginners. Players can bring back the judges anyways.
Sure, you could put up a Kickstarter for it and get a bunch of money behind the project. But historically, using the premise of building an MMO as a way of raising a bunch of money will result in failing to build that MMO.
A programmer who has experience and talent also has no incentive to recreate UO (think about the modern-day incentive structures for hotshot programmers), unless he was one of the original players. And sadly the overlap between "players of videogames" and "the best game programmers" is actually quite small. Carmack, for example, doesn't play games. Most of the talented gamedevs I know don't actually play them.
Maybe it's a challenge I'll take on.
Also interesting are the free/unauthorized reverse engineered UO emulators that continue to run today, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultima_Online_shard_emulation
117. Any player who generates a contradiction in the rules automatically wins.
I imagine there could be an initial rule that states the most recent rule generated is authoritative in the event of a contradiction. But of course someone could generate the rule: the earliest rule generated is authoritative in the event of a contradiction.
I've never played Nomic. Do paradoxes like this come up often?
118. No player can lose.
It's very understandable why these sort of games don't take off very often, as Z. writes in the  link on What Went Wrong:
> Unfortunately, the things that made the Infinifranchise great are the same things that made them alienating and, at times, ridiculous. It’s very hard to be creative on demand, which can lead to games that are draining and not terribly spectacular if the players aren’t in the groove. As a result, the games tended to have a limited audience and be overly complicated, although this is most definitely also a consequence of me.
Zach is also the guy who made Infiniminer, the sandbox mining game, and if it looks like a precursor to Minecraft, that's because it was.
I haven't talked to him in a while but Zach these days mostly makes indie engineering puzzle games, you should really check them out.
(OK, one caveat - programmers/logic puzzle types may like this game more than the average member of the public.)
One of the primary results--obvious to programmers but perhaps not obvious to the general public--is how easy it is for rules to interact in unexpected ways, often producing ambiguous gameplay which may go unnoticed by players for significant lengths of time.
Playing it with Mathematicians/CS types is brain-hurty (think mod-13 arithmetic and prime numbered cards behaving differently).
 Some of the different rules:
- If you ask a question, you get a 1 card penalty
- If you have one card and don't say "bartok", you get your hand made back up to 7.
- We played with a bunch of broken decks all smushed together, so you couldn't count cards.
I know it puts me firmly in the Mathematicians/CS types corner, but when I read that, I did not even have to think consciously to have 'once you are in Z13, prime numbers should not bother you anymore' spring up in my mind.
For those not Mathematicians/CS types: modulo 13 arithmetic does not have primes. For example, 2 is not prime because 3 times 5 equals 2 mod 13, 3 is not prime because it equals 4 times 4 (and, by extension, -4 times -4, which is 9 times 9), etc.
The rules went something like: when you play 'X', then all cards are incremented by 1. Kings are 13 and wrap around to Ace, which is 1.
The second rule would have been, say, all primes are spades, so King + 2 would be 2, which is prime. King of clubs on a three of hearts... perfectly legit.
The ruleset: http://agora.qoid.us/current_flr.html
An example call for judgement: http://cfj.qoid.us//1892
And deservedly so. I started playing once, and got chosen to be a judge. After a couple of hours reading the rules I passed judgement, and promptly got shot down/counter judged. Apparently I was technically correct, but there were a whole swag of "customary rules" which weren't written down anywhere.
If you're not going to play by the rules as written, what's the point?
I think I should get an upvote or two for sparing all of you the details. ;-)
I'll admit that my second thought was the "make a rule" rule of Kings...
I'm not sure what to replace it by, admittedly. I did one experiment where instead of saying what the rules were, your actions were taken as an example of what you thought the new rules should be: if you did something not previously legal, it was inferred to now be legal . But that just led fairly quickly to chaos, unless it were carefully restricted. So maybe not the right approach either. But I still like the idea that the game-mechanics changes themselves are related to the game mechanics in a cybernetic-feedback-loop kind of way, rather than a completely "outside the system" free vote. Now as to how to implement that in a way that makes for a playable/interesting game...
With the right group, it was quite fun, if rather tiring. You need to not take winning too seriously, because it's quite easy to make up a complex rule no-one will ever get - one of my friends had 'you may not play a prime number card on another prime number card'.
The story of the Zendo design process is a great read: http://www.koryheath.com/games/zendo/design-history/
Tangentially: this kid is an awesome proto-nerd, and I fully expect that he'll be posting at HN in another 6 to 8 years - for the last two years he's wanted to program a computer game, and I told him that he and I would learn HTML5 and JS together when he turns 10. We've already got the domain name picked out.
If you haven't engaged with an intellectually precocious kid, you can't imagine how fun and rewarding it is.
The variant I built (to give something useful to start the discussion, rather than blind suspicion) had a combat mechanic. You actually had to "buy" arms in order to do your killings. This meant that Mafia actually left a trace, because it was public information who purchased. (There was no in-game currency. The cost of buying arms was visibility.) If you were Mafia, you'd probably want to buy arms. On the other hand, the good guys also could benefit by arming up. The result of this was that there are two different strategies. You can not buy arms often (or ever) and evade suspicion during the day, but be weak against brawls and Mafia... or you can buy them at every opportunity and be strong in combat, but arouse suspicion and be more likely to die in the day phase.
There was also a brawling phase. If you thought someone was Mafia and wanted to go vigilante, you could. However, they could defend themselves. in addition to dying, you could end up wounded, which would make it obvious the next morning that you were in some kind of fight.
- Defined game length (max 5 rounds)
- No deaths
- Actual data to base your votes on (Mafia can be fun, but the games of it I play never have 30 minute discussions because there's just nothing to discuss -- we just pick someone semi-randomly to lynch.)
The commercial release is very nice, but it can be played with regular cards too.
Timer goes off? Turn over, too bad. Given the average number of turns in a game and how long you want to play for, you can work out what to set it at (maybe with a 25-50% leeway)
An interesting variant is to put the timer in a box so that you don't know how long you have left.
I used to play chess with someone whose style of play would watching paint dry seem fast paced.
I bought a chess clock.
which I find fascinating.
... can be made into a Nomic, but the way it's usually 'played' it is simply a parody of over-complicated games with no actual rules of its own beyond, perhaps, 'be funny' and 'confuse the new guy'.
We got bored with it after a couple of hours, so we passed a rule that would finish the game at the end of the round. I still had a chance to propose a rule, which was something like "We will raze all scores. After the vote, each person's scores will be raised by 10 points." Raze/raise are homonyms with roughly opposite meanings, and the rule proposals were written down but only read out loud for discussion and vote. It passed.
Yes, I'm still rather proud of that rule.