Worlds for hyperlocal communities

Wed Jan 06 2021

tags: public draft exploration idea


Main idea: a game world that acts as a thin "spatial layer" above any Discord server.

Players can walk around the game world which is basically just a 2D grid. It's a very "thin" extra layer over any Discord server: we'd hook into the Discord API to send and receive chat messages so all messages would go through the Discord server. Using this "spatial layer" would be completely optional: a person using the "spatial layer" can talk with someone who is just using the regular Discord client.

EDIT: we could do a browser extension piggybacking on the Discord web client. See screenshots:

What the web client is like now

What the web client could be

What is the point?

Humans are naturally spatial creatures. There's something about having an avatar in a physical space that cannot be replicated with just text. WN and I were talking about why people like hanging out in MapleStory and just chat? I believe hanging out in Maple is compelling because it has something more than just chat: you can express yourself with your movement, fashion choices, your skills, your facial emotions. We want to bring this spatial richness to existing communities.

It's not easy to make friends on Discord or in Hack N Roll (you usually just stick to yourself or your hacker group) and the spatial component of this "Hack N Roll Game World" might make a world of difference: it helps discovery/sociality when you can walk up to an avatar and just chat with them in the public channel, or DM them. I believe it would increase the sense of community and encourage making friends. Not everyone will find this compelling, but I think I would.


We might want to give players of this gameworld something to do: the equivalent of Maki Bot in Discord servers.

Different servers would have different tilesets (like server-specific emoji) and construct their gameworld differently. One server might use a generic tileset to build a massive mediaeval castle while another might use a cyberpunk-inspired tileset to build Night City. This would allow for easy customisation of the space.

It would be really cool if we could allow fellow HnR participants to code their own equivalent of Bots: maybe expose some API where we allow squares and players to have arbitrary metadata associated with them, and allow getters and setters on that arbitrary metadata.

At the most basic and boring level, for instance, a bot could be written to assign players a "Fame" score (just an integer). And players could interact by faming or defaming other players. But more complicated interactions could exist. What if a bot assigned each square a terrain metadata type and you could fish on squares with terrain:water? This would be an API call to a Discord bot which would then update your player's inventory metadata field to have a random fish? What if you wrote a bot that could trade items between players? There are tons of possibilities.

Why not just play an MMO? Or use Second Life?

(WIP section)

  • A discord server is already a community and you want to build something on top of it, not try to transplant/supplant the existing community
  • zero friction is important! how can you possibly convince everyone in your server to move to a game
  • very lightweight layer not a entire game is a feature
  • the layer is completely optional so you can still have the same community even when not in the game


  • Building a game world where people can move around in in real time might be too difficult/technically challenging

Other stuff we could do

This is an instantiation of the following meta-level principle:

  • meta-level: build X ( tinder, facebook, twitter, a game world, etc... ) for a hyperlocal community (the HnR discord server, Telegram group)
  • meta-meta-level: build Y that allows us to build some X for any hyperlocal community

I like the meta idea of building something over the hyperlocal community. Weineng suggested something like Tinder or FB but only for HnR participants.