Forumwarz is a multiplayer browser-based role-playing game based on a parody of Internet culture, designed by Crotch Zombie Productions, a Toronto-based company. Written in the Ruby on Rails web application framework using the Haml markup language, the game launched on February 7 2008. In the first month since the game launched, around 30,000 users signed up.
Forumwarz is notable for its humorous and sometimes ribald writing and references to Internet memes. Described as an "internet meta-game", it has been featured in both Wired News and DigitalJournal.com, and was described by Gawker.com as "stupid, insulting, and really damn clever". To ensure new players are aware of the potentially - and deliberately - offensive content of the game, a player must type in "I am not offended easily" before they can begin playing. In August 2008, a second episode of the game was in preparation prior to release; it was released in Beta to a small number of players in mid-September.
Unlike many traditional role-playing games (RPGs), Forumwarz takes place on a fake, parodic version of the Internet. The primary battleground is Internet forums, as opposed to the fantasy settings found in traditional RPGs. Parody themes include furries, script kiddies, Boing Boing, Apple Computer, ricers, 4chan, Ron Paul, Fark, gamers, Bill O'Reilly, Otaku, Cory Doctorow, and the Church of Scientology.
The player begins as a bored Internet user, searching on a parodied search engine (a thinly veiled analogue of Google). Soon their search query is interrupted by an instant message from "Shallow Esophagus", a mysterious non-player character who introduces them to the concept of "pwnage".
The player soon begins "pwning", or attacking forums through various trolling methods. Following the first mission, one of three character classes can be chosen — "emo kid", "troll" or "camwhore". The archetypes were chosen as most "narcissistic and crude web forum stereotypes". The player may also choose to stay as a "re re", an idiot character. As forums becomes increasingly difficult to pwn, characters earn experience points in the form of "cred", thus improving their statistics.
Forumwarz takes place on a parodic version of the Internet, and the interface reflects this with an Instant Messaging client, online shopping for virtual items and services, and Internet forum battlegrounds. The Instant Messaging Client is called sTalk, a pun on "stalk", and a parody of Google's IM client gTalk.
The combat system is turn-based, and the player is given a set number of forum visits per day that they use to improve their character and proceed through the storyline. The player may attack virtual forums, each based on a different theme, with various attacks suited to their character class. Attacks consist of posting varying obnoxious comments and trolling, via an array of attacks specific to the user class including "self-mutilation" (Emo Kids), "threaten to contact authorities" (Camwhores) and "ASCII art attacks" (Trolls).
While attacking, the virtual inhabitants of the forum will respond and retaliate, causing the player damage. The hit points used in most RPGs are replaced with "ego" in Forumwarz - if a player's ego is reduced to zero, the player is defeated. Players can restore their ego using the game's version of health boosts - anti-depressants. For each thread in a forum that is successfully "pwned," or derailed through persistent attacking, the player gains "Cred" and will be sent gifts from random Internet users as a reward the following day.
Side quests include a very brief text adventure game loosely based on the urban opera "Trapped in the Closet," featuring R. Kelly. With the game still in its early stages, and Episode 2 still being prepared, the game's creators are continuing to work on balancing the various character classes.
Players have the opportunity to purchase "Brownie Points" using their own (real) money. Brownie Points can be used to gain accelerated progress through the game (by buying many forum visits more than the standard 4 per day, providing invincibility, and so on), as well as enabling players to obtain custom avatars or forum nicknames for themselves or other players.
Players are able to contribute to their own forums using forumbuildr v2.0 Beta, an in-game application named after Web 2.0 jargon. Each week, players vote on a topic to collectively build. Once a topic is chosen, players submit and vote on its components, including the content, logo and style sheet. At the end of the week, the forum is published and can be played by users.
Players also have the choice to interact in the multiplayer aspects of the game. This may be co-operatively, such as players joining together in klans, to work together in Domination raids, or just use is as a place to interact with others, aside from Flamebate (the standard forums). On the other hand, players may compete against each other, in several mini-games, such as the above mentioned Domination, in which players earn scoops and Medals as a result. Players can also compete in INCIT, in which a random picture taken from Flickr is shown, and a motivational poster must be created, with a title and motivational text related to the picture. Players then vote which of the posters is the most amusing, the poster capturing the most votes being the winner.
One of the elements used in the creation of Forumwarz was the creation of a machine translation tool, called Unintelligencer. The tool translates standard written text into "unintelligent", mimicking "a literate person's text into something that wouldn't look out of place on a YouTube comment". The tool was one of the elements used by the Forumwarz creators to create unique personalities for the artifical denizens of its simulated forums.