As the host of the original Mole game on the online game "Phantasy Star Online", "The psMoLE" let me give you some comments.
1A. The Missions - The Number
Assuming you have ten players, you should design at least sixteen missions, about two per execution. This number is variable, as you may have three or four simplistic missions before an execution, or maybe one major and complex mission. Still, sixteen serves as a good guideline.
1B. The Missions - The Writing
Spend at least two or three weeks creating your missions, writing detailed summaries of the rules and objectives for your own reference before, during, and in the event of a rules dispute, AFTER the mission.
Keep your missions unique, doing a mission once, then doing the exact same mission with a different name and higher difficulty is a BAD thing.
I'm really going to stress this bit. Prepare back-up plans for ALL missions, for every possible problem you can think of.
Less players available for the time of the mission than the mission rules call for.
System malfunctions for any player or yourself.
In the worst case scenario, if your mission isn't ready to work, your back-up plans are out of order, and your mission inventing mind has fallen into a pothole, your final option short of cancelling or delaying the mission, disapointing both the players and yourself, be a thieving b******. Ask the group for a few minutes, then think back to your favorite missions from The Mole, and try to find a way to adapt them to an online world. This option may be much more difficult if you're playing the game completely via the internet, without using a medium that gives your players a "physical" embodiment, such as an online game. I do NOT condone copying missions, however if it's your last option, it's probably a lot better than letting down yourself and the players, especially since it's possible one of the players has put off some real world activity to play YOUR game.
1C. The Missions - The Setup
Unless surprise is an element of the mission, e-mail the players a summary of the mission the morning of the mission. This is a lot easier when you've already written detailed summaries of the mission during The Writing process, since you can remove vital data from the text, then just copy and paste away.
1D. The Missions - The Rules
While technically this could be part of The Writing, it's another thing to be pointed out. When explaining the rules of the mission, be it "in person", or in an e-mail summary, make things such as illegal moves, time limits, and both pass and fail conditions very clear. If not absolutely defined, a player can quickly find a loophole, and all of your expected results for the mission can suddenly go down the drain.
1E. The Missions - The Testing
Test your missions. If you can't do it alone, get a group of friends to help you. BUT TEST YOUR MISSIONS. If you don't have fun with it, then what makes you think anyone else will? If you can't even come close to passing the mission after several tries, what makes you think that they can earn any money from it? If it's so simple and easy that you feel no excitement or tension from the game, then they probably won't either. TEST YOUR MISSIONS
2A. The Game - The Story
This is not a required step, but it can be great fun if you want to go through with it. If you want it to be more than just a game based on reaching the end without being eliminated, write a backstory for it. In The psMoLE III "System Shutdown", the game revolved around three super computers that powered the Pioneer 2 ship cluster (the hub world of Phantasy Star Online), and The Mole's efforts to shut them down. The shutting down of the systems was determined by missions, which were longer and more difficult than the usual missions, and would result in the usual rewards or SPECIAL losses after completion, such as The Mole cutting the current Account Status in half, The Mole receiving access to the unedited player journals for 24 hours, or the information hub website going down permanently.
2B. The Game - The Site
A website can be a huge help to you and the players, if designed properly. An Account Status page with the amount of money earned for each mission so far, a Missions page with the summaries of the missions for later review, a Game Journal with a summary of how things occured during each mission and execution.
Try and keep the website low bandwidth accessible. The website for The psMoLE had only one image, the game logo, that had any loading to be noted, and even that was just a few seconds. The loading of a website to grab a reminder of something that happened in a mission could be the difference between survivng a quiz and becoming The Mole's latest victim. Giving broadband users an advantage just isn't nice.
2C. The Game - The Attitude
If you want your game to be a pure fun competition, that's great. If you want your game to be a more serious technical feel, that's great too! Just don't try switching between them throughout the game, unless it's designed to change as a story forms in the game.
2D. The Game - The Time Limit
Give your game a defined time limit, a guarantee that the full game will last at least this long. While in play, try to make sure you don't go past this time limit, unless you have to. The game should take at least two weeks, but no longer than two months. Each edition of The psMoLE had a time limit of 48 days, giving the players a nice long time limit to play and get to know each other, while not being so long that they would get sick and tired of the game by the time The Mole was revealed..
3A. Preparing to Play - The Invitation
You can have the best missions imaginable, a story that could be a best selling novel, and airtight rules that lead to a challenging and thought provoking game, but there's no point unless you have a group of people waiting to uncover The Mole! Post well written posts on message boards regarding online games, and The Mole. If you're doing the game via an online game such as PSO, be certain to post invitations on places relating to that game as well.
When writing your invitations, be sure to request some information about your applicants, and possibly do an online interview to get a feel for their attitudes. If you're posting on a board not directly related to The Mole, be sure to make it clear what the rules and object of the game are.
3B. Preparing to Play - The Players
When deciding how many players your game will have, think long and hard. You need enough players to make the game challenging and interesting with many different attitudes, but not so many that you can no longer keep up with the actions of everyone. You will be trying to focus on them for a fairly lengthy period of time, to ensure that any rules regarding the game remain unbroken, and that each player can get some individual attention from the game, along with the team aspect.
If possible, contact and interview your players before you lock them into the game. You don't want to receive seven e-mails the day before the launch of the game, screaming about that they didn't notice that the game was going to last longer than a week. The most annoying response I ever got was the morning of the launch, when a player contacted me with "Oh, I thought this was going to last a few days, I only applied to get publicity for my website". I hope he never got more than three hits, all from him refreshing himself.
Pick a few more players than you actually intend to use, informing them that they are "back-up" players. This is a small pool of players to have ready, in case anyone actually chooses to drop out of the game before it starts. In the event you create a sequel to your game, these back-up players should be the first people you contact for new players.
3C. Preparing to Play - The Testing
Regardless of how much contact you've had with your players, be sure to send them test e-mails a couple of days before the game starts, so you'll be fairly sure not to get returned mail errors.
View all website pages from your system. View all website pages from someone else's system. Try viewing the pages in several different resolutions from another system. Load the site on both a 56k connection, and a broadband connection.
Double check your documentation of the missions, be they digital or physical, to make sure you aren't missing any information you'll need when you're ready to start.
4. THE LAUNCH
This is possibly the most important day of the game, as it can detrermine the feelings of the players for the rest of the game. Meet online in the game, or in a chatroom, so that the players can all meet for the first time in a realtime communication environment. Arrive twenty minutes before the specified time, so you'll be the first person to arrive, and give everyone a fifteen minute leeway period to arrive. As soon as everyone who is going to arrive has arrived, welcome them to the game, and immediately thrust them into their first mission.
To immediately hook their intrest, it was a The psMoLE tradition for the first mission to be a crisis. This usually involved the players volunteering one another for some fairly simple sounding task, then the volunteered player being at risk of execution. Here's one of my favorites:
A nearby vault contains $100,000. The players must select one person among them to go in and get the prize. This player was immediately cut off from contact with the others players. The remaining nine players would begin receiving parts of a mildly complex equation, relating to the game and it's players. The group had ten minutes to complete the equation, before the player in the vault would run out of oxygen. If the players solved the equation, the player would be set free, and returned to the game. If they failed, the player would be EXECUTED immediately. Before answering, all of the players outside the vault must agree on the answer.
This mission has several facets. On the surface, it's a battle to save a player to win money, but consider this from a player's point of view:
1. One less player to deal with
2. Automatic progression for everyone else to round 2 of the game.
3. This is at the loss of $100,000, a tenth of the possible winnings.
4. Players can reveal themselves to be ruthless enough to take a get out of execution free card over the good of the group, if they obviously don't want to save the player.
From the launch mission onward, always keep in contact with your players, make sure you send out quizzes on time, make the executions dramatic and tense, and above all, BE READY TO FLY BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS from the moment you arrive until The Mole reveals themself to the winner.
It's a lot of work, it's a lot of stress, and unless it's a labor of love you probably won't succeed. This may sound bitter and mean, but it's true. Unless you REALLY want to do this, and give it your all, you're either going to produce a sub-par game, or not make it all the way through. No matter what the result, I wish the best of luck to you, and I hope to hear some results from your endeavors.
The psMoLE - Created, Produced, and Hosted by vidkid7
The psMoLE part 2 "A Mole on the Run" - Created, Produced, and Hosted by vidkid7
The psMoLE II "A New Deception" - Created, Produced, and Hosted by vidkid7
The psMoLE III "System Shutdown" - Created, Produced, and Hosted by vidkid7
The psMoLE 4 "Digital Deceit" - Created by vidkid7, Produced and Hosted by BoB_DoLE