The Summoning of the Jinn

Game Design (1996)


As a long-time computer gamer I have seen many different concepts and game mechanics go by. The best of the oldest games broke the ground on game mechanics utilized today.

One such classic game is Archon. Those who played Archon back on their Commodore 64 or
Apple ][ will recall its simplistic, cunning design, and the afternoons and weekends lost to its particular mix of strategy and frenetic combat. One day, a group of us were sitting around shooting design concepts into the air when the question "Why hasn't anyone had created a modern version of Archon?" was asked. I had a brainstorm and later that day began to put together a concept binding some of the best mechanics of Archon and Minotaur into a fast-paced action/strategy game unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

The result was a design for The Summoning of the Jinn, a short concept document for which can be found later on this page.

As for that modern version of Archon? Just let me say that many of the old-school gamers are still waiting....

The Summoning of the Jinn: Game Design Concept

Game Summary
The Summoning Of The Jinn is a game in which up to eight players assume the roles of wizards who summon powerful Arabian Jinn to retrieve magical artifacts. Play consists of two discrete rounds, the first being a Barter Round in which the various Jinni are traded and have their powers expanded, and the second being a Combat Round in which players combat one another using the Jinni they have purchased. These rounds are repeated with players continuing to improve and exchange Jinn until the game ends.

Game Genre
The Summoning Of The Jinn is a fast-paced network game combining the action elements of Archon, Minotaur and Magic Carpet with barter-driven resource management system into a unique game experience.

The appeal of the game is intended to be broad, as a balance is struck in play between character interaction and frenetic combat. Players who are strong in strategic planning and manipulation via trading with their opponents will be on an equal par with those who strength lies in their hand-eye coordination.

Graphic Style
The graphic style of The Summoning Of The Jinn is meant to be a highly-detailed, but somewhat cute play on an Arabian Nights theme. In the same fashion that Warcraft 2 made Orcs and Ogres lovable, The Summoning Of The Jinn should provide humorous characterizations of all characters and effects in the game.

Play in the Combat Round takes place in a highly fluid environment of shifting elements and objects. To satisfy this game need as well as the gamers' desire for flashy pyrotechnics and high-resolution detail, the Combat Round should either take place in a top-down, rotating, free scrolling arena, or in a voxel (or polygon) space environment such as that found in Comanche or Magic Carpet.

The game begins with the players choosing what type of Wizard they wish to be. Every Wizard has a specialty over some element, be that Fire, Earth, Water, Chaos, or others, and these specialties affect the nature of the spells that the Wizards may use and cast. Each game is made up of several rounds, consisting of a series of Barter Rounds followed by Combat Rounds, and finishing with a special End Game Round. The ultimate purpose of each game round except the last is to recover a mysterious Perilous Artifact of Power.

The Barter Round
In the Barter Round the players attempt to bid in auction-style for a particular Jinni that appears on the screen. Each Jinni has an area of specialty, much like the player's Wizard, and a Wizard whose specialty is the same as the Jinni they acquire will greatly enhance the natural powers of that Jinni. Wizards bid using Coin, the highest bidder gains control of a given Jinni for the subsequent combat round. Players may exchange messages, Coin, Mana, Objects, and even Artifacts in efforts to foil the bids of other players.

After the bidding is complete, players may choose to imbue their Jinni with any of their own spells and to give their Jinni any Magic Objects or Artifacts they possess before beginning the Combat Round. Players may also increase the spells their Wizard knows by using Mana collected by the Jinni they controlled in the previous Combat Round, and give those new spells in turn to their Jinni.

The Combat Round
During the Combat Round the players enter into a large arena that is based on one of the primary game elements (Fire, Water, etc.). Jinn may find their natural abilities enhanced or hindered by the elements over which they travel. Play in this arena is frantic and action-based, with the players casting spells to thwart one another while simultaneously trying to recover Mana Stones, Magic Objects, and the Perilous Artifact of Power for themselves. The first player to recover the Artifact and return to their starting point is declared the winner of the Round.

Jinni have a variety of spells and abilities to use that are both strategic and dangerous to other players, as well as some which are simply amusing. Many of these spells affect the landscape, raising hills, carving valleys, and changing the elements on which combat and movement occurs. They serve to conceal, frustrate, and to create strategic traps, as well as the more directed needs of combat. Should a Jinni be "killed" all objects that Jinni are carrying are dropped, and the player is returned, fully healed, to the place they entered the Combat Round in order to continue play.

After combat is complete, play returns to the Barter Round, where each Wizard receives the Mana Stones, Artifacts and Magic Objects their Jinn was carrying when the round was finished. Players then increase their Wizard's Mana with the Stones, buy new spells, and may sell Magic Objects to increase their Coin. The Jinn retain the powers that each have been given by their masters - powers which may well serve a new master in the round ahead.

The End Game
Once a predetermined number of Barter and Combat Rounds have elapsed, play moves to the End Game Round. This round consists of a preliminary Barter Round as normal, in which players acquire a Jinni of choice. They then move into a Combat Round in which there are no Mana Stones or Artifacts to recover, rather, the point is to destroy the Wizard's Tower of each of the other players. The last Wizard remaining with a Tower is the final winner of the game.


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