Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

31 December, 2010

The state of MMOs in 2010
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 12:55 PM
(This post has been viewed 13110 times.)

Let me write this last post to try to leave the old behind with the passing year. This is going to be a hard look at the past year, and it's not going to be pretty. Let me purge the angst and bitterness now so that perhaps I can have a fresh perspective coming into the new year.

So, from a developer's point of view, how was 2010?

Wither MMOs?

It seems to me that MMOs are threatening to become the new adventure games. For those of you who aren't finding gray hairs, I might need to explain. At one time, adventure games were HUGE and had a dedicated following. But, seemingly suddenly, the mainstream industry began to abandon adventure games. What happened was that the games focused so much on catering to the hard-core fans that they alienated newcomers. The games became more and more complex and difficult to satisfy the needs of the hardcore until finally they were too complex to develop and it became unprofitable to cater to the niche. You can see find a humorous perspective on the decline of adventure games here. (In full disclosure, I was never a big adventure game fan, but I understand their appeal.)

Of course, you could say this applies to other genres, too. Consider FPSes, where the games have become more and more specialized. But, here's the thing: there's still enough games that cater to the newcomers in addition to the old-timers. For every person who thinks Quake 2 was the pinnacle of the genre, there's a few people enjoying Team Fortress 2. A wide variety of FPS type games are developed, and while there are definitely trends and fads (WW2, for example), there's enough variety to appeal to a wide audience.

But, what about MMOs? I fear they're doing the opposite of adventure games and trying too hard to appeal to the newcomers while ignoring the increasingly disenchanted hardcore. The old hands who want something a bit more deep to meet their more sophisticated tastes aren't finding it. This is partially because the expectations for an MMO are so high that it's hard to do anything even remotely risky, therefore most stick to the DIKU-defined path. The further problem is that social games are stymieing MMOs by taking the "real" newbies who might otherwise be interested in MMOs. We're not seeing an influx of new people because they're getting their "grind something somewhat rewarding" fix by playing Farmville for free, not wandering around Azeroth or some other WoW wannabe game.

The small glimmer of hope here is that while adventure games have "died", they're certainly not gone. They've largely become the province of smaller companies. From companies reviving classics like Sam & Max to indies introducing wonderful games like The Shivah, a game so well-made that even someone like me who doesn't particularly like adventure games found it completely engrossing. It's also interesting to look at old single-player RPGs. While people declared the RPG dead in the late 90s, a little game called Diablo brought back interest in the genre. Sure, one could call it a mindless action clickfest with a water-thin story to flavor it, but it brought back RPG elements for people to enjoy at just the right time.

But, MMOs aren't doing so well at the present moment. We're still stuck with old DIKU gameplay. The biggest MMO stories for the last several months are Cataclysm's launch and the rise of Rift, another apparent DIKU-clone. Games trying something new haven't done well. For example, Global Agenda tried to bring back the MMOFPS, but struggled with some issues. We need to either have a breakthrough game that takes MMOs in a new direction, or we need for them to "die" so that indies and small companies can come in and properly handle them. I doubt they'll "die" in the sense adventure games did, however, because WoW continues to make a lot of money and thus appeals to some developers.

How's business?

Let's shift our focus over to business. The biggest success story of the year: "free to play" came into its own. The success of DDO showed that its not just a business model for Asian grind-fests. LotRO also leads the way, but keeps pushing the boundary of what's acceptable in an effort to get more money. As I said in a comment over at Spinksville, I am rather unhappy that one of the holiday mounts was suddenly removed from the game and added as a "store exclusive" without much warning. Even though I'm a big fan of this business model, there can be abuses just as with any other business model. Hopefully things will stay at a sane level.

But, there's still the bad news: the industry still worships false numbers. Hundreds of millions of people play social games; but in most cases only a single-digit percent of those people pay directly, so we get privacy scandals as companies seek to "monetize" the nonpaying masses. But, people focus on the hundreds of millions playing the games, not the few million actually paying anything.

The MMO industry likes to hide behind comforting numbers. Cataclysm is the fastest selling PC game, but how meaningful is that? As people point out, that's not as fast as the big console games like Modern Warfare 2 make. Or, as Lee Sheldon has said before, it's still small potatoes compared to how many people tune in for a prime time TV show. I'm glad Blizzard is enjoying success, but this focus on numbers tends to obscure the real issues and confound people who could otherwise carve out a successful and very profitable niche.

The other big thing to note is that MMOs are currently toxic to investors. I've had the opportunity to work with someone who wants to do some rather bold and exciting things with MMOs, something beyond simply another linear quest grind game. But, I've seen that if you say "MMO" or "virtual world" that most VCs will shut you off. They lost big money in chasing MMOs, mostly because they were all hoping to create the next WoW without spending the decade Blizzard invested into their reputation. Sadly, they're repeating that exact same process when investing in social games, trying to find the next Zynga levels of growth while ignoring a whole realm of possible and largely profitable options that aren't quite easy enough to self-fund. As I've lamented before, this has really held back MMOs, and it's meant that without an outpouring of audience support there is unlikely to be a meaningful change anytime soon.

What's coming up?

Let's stop being mired in the past, and let's look toward the future. I suck at making predictions, so I'll avoid that blog tradition. But, let me point out some things I'm keeping my eye on.

The first big issues is, how does WoW adapt? Will Blizzard continue to change the world, or will the world exist in a cataclysmed state for years on end? With even fairly casual players hitting the new level cap only a few months after launch, what type of new content will they add? Can we expect full-price expansions to come out more frequently, perhaps once a year, in order to milk a bit more money out of the players? Even though WoW isn't the game for me anymore, it's still setting the tone for the whole discussion.

The other issue is, how will the new MMOs coming out fare? Rift as yet another pretender to the WoW throne, as mentioned before. Despite the praise heaped upon it, the road to launch is paved with the bones of the defeated games that tried to take that path; I'm not sure there's much to set this new game apart from the rest. DC Universe Online as a new game looking to expand onto consoles. Frankly, I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long for someone to make a serious attempt at putting an MMO on a console given the commonplace nature of internet connectivity for the console. Sony seemed to have some minor success with EverQuest Online Adventures, so it's interesting it has taken all these years to try to follow up and improve on things. Especially for SOE, since their parent company is the maker of one of the big consoles. (But, it's probably a case of left and and right hand at a big corporation.) Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 should be interesting to watch, but it's not clear they'll launch this next year despite any announced target dates. Bioware in particular has had no hesitation to delay a game in the past, but we'll see if their EA masters agree with this philosophy.

I've not heard of any exciting indie MMO projects. But, that's the nature of these things, they tend to build up quietly in the dark and either die equally quietly or make a big splash entry and then suffer any number of dismal fates. Any indies out there need an experienced voice to help you out? Send me an email to psychochild@gmail.com

Where do we go from here?

If I had the answers, I'd be begging, borrowing, or stealing the money to make it so. After laying low for a year, I don't think I'm any close to the truth than I was before. As I said, it's looking a bit grim for MMOs in that we seem to be treading down the same path as adventure games. The business side hasn't gotten any brighter, either, even after all the years of my grumbling.

Is there hope? Yes, there is always hope. It might be dim, misplaced, stupid, and ultimately doomed, but there is always hope. I'm an eternal optimist. Or, an eternal masochist. But, let's just say there's a reason why my most recent project wasn't strictly MMO-based. I haven't given up hope yet, just recognized there might need to be some intermediate steps.

What do you think? What did I miss in my retrospective? What's coming up that you think could change things? Or, am I just a bitter old crank that needs to find a new career?

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38 Comments »

  1. "Frankly, I'm kind of surprised it's taken this long for someone to make a serious attempt at putting an MMO on a console given the commonplace nature of internet connectivity for the console. Sony seemed to have some minor success with Everquest Online Adventures, so it's interesting it has taken all these years to try to follow up and improve on things."

    You seem to forget (or don't know about) Square-Enix's success with Final Fantasy XI on the Playstation 2. It was very successful in the Japanese and European markets. It would've been more successful if SE simply released the game worldwide, instead of the tiered release dates they did spanning 3-4 years. (My dates might be off, but FFXI was released in Japan in 2002. It graced North America in 2003. It didn't hit Europe until 2004-2005) SE later saw some mild success with the release of FFXI on the XBOX 360, but by then most people were riding the WoW-train too much to care.

    It should also be noted that SE has planned FFXIV (which is a failure, in my and many others opinion) to be released on the Playstation 3 ever since its details were first released at E3 2009 (when it was code-named "Rapture"). SoE wasn't the only company (or even the first company) released a successful MMORPG-console game, and DCUO certainly isn't a pioneer in that aspect.

    Comment by KayJay — 31 December, 2010 @ 1:25 PM

  2. I think Minecraft will cause an impact on MMOs in the coming year, specifically on indie MMO development, in that large amounts of people are starting to realize they can have fun without super-graphics, which used to immediately turn people off to indie MMO projects. Minecraft also, while not being "massive", might cause developers and investors to think outside the DIKU-style gameplay box. I also think free engines such as Unity (and to a lesser extent, Unreal) will shorten development times, allowing indies to keep up with the rapid pace of bug fixes and feature implementation necessary for MMO success. And I believe the rise in popularity of crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding (such as kickstarter) will also help the indie market. I think we're right at that point where desire, talent and opportunity converge. As an indie programmer, I'm excited about where we stand right now.

    Comment by Matt K — 31 December, 2010 @ 2:43 PM

  3. KayJay wrote:
    You seem to forget (or don't know about) Square-Enix's success with Final Fantasy XI on the Playstation 2.

    Yeah, I overlooked it since in North America it mostly found success as a PC game. The required hard drive for the PS2 version was damn near impossible to find in this market, so very few people played it on the console. Not sure about the European market, but I know it found some success in the Japanese market on the console since PC gaming isn't quite as big of a force as it is other places.

    Matt K wrote:
    I think Minecraft will cause an impact on MMOs in the coming year, specifically on indie MMO development, in that large amounts of people are starting to realize they can have fun without super-graphics....

    Let's get something straight: Minecraft is an aberration. I'd be very surprised if another indie game, MMO or not, repeated their success story on the same scale in the immediate future. As someone who ran a fairly fun but graphically ugly game for nearly a decade, I don't think Minecraft demonstrates a widespread departure from traditional graphic tastes. I think it's a curiosity people are trying out because of fairly lucky widespread coverage. I would expect some people to think they could copy that success, but a lot of those games will join many others, like Golemizer, in (undeserved) obscurity.

    Not that I wouldn't root for a contender or give them a hand if asked, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for a repeat of that story without some sort of extenuating circumstances.

    Comment by Psychochild — 31 December, 2010 @ 3:20 PM

  4. I'll join Brian here about Minecraft. Let's not make a rule out of a single game with unbelievable success. Want an ugly-hard to figure out-sandbox-multiplayer-experience like Minecraft? As pointed out by Brian my game Golemizer is pretty much that. Yet Paypal never froze my account ... Allow me this tiny hijack to point to a post titled "Don't try to learn too much": http://www.over00.com/?p=866

    Back on MMO topic. No doubt to me that the "social" games are what brought most new online players in 2010. As to hope they will make the transition to MMOs I don't think so. They are a different beast and social game player doesn't automatically translate to MMO player.

    As for myself I haven't player any MMO since my 30 minute experience in STO while in beta. When I look ahead I see SWTOR which seems to be a huge single-player game with some co-op and battlefields thrown in the mix so I think we'll see more of that WoW feeling I don't quite like (don't disturb me I'm questing) if it's to have enough success to pay the huge bill to develop this game. Anything different ahead? Maybe but people will probably not care enough and I feel we will see a couple more MMOs shutting down in 2011.

    Now let's wait for that indie MMO that will pull a Minecraft in 2011 ...

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 31 December, 2010 @ 5:52 PM

  5. I wrote a response too big for a comment.

    Comment by Matthew Weigel — 31 December, 2010 @ 6:49 PM

  6. Don't get me wrong: no one is suggesting Minecraft's success was due to anything more than a "perfect storm" of luck. I'm certainly not implying all future games will have Minecraft success. (It's a shame that I'm already seeing all kinds of Minecraft clones foolishly appear by people thinking "This must be what the audience wants!" No, that's what the audience wanted. Then they got it. Now they're ready for what's next. Google "cargo cult".) I'm just saying that people's tastes have been influenced by Minecraft, and I believe that has put them in a more palatable mood to try other less-than-polished indie games, such as Golemizer. In fact, I didn't hear about Golemizer until after Minecraft, and I'm more inclined to try it because of Minecraft, which got me wondering about what other interesting indie projects are waiting to be discovered. And that's my point: the pool of people willing to try indie MMOs is growing, and that's good for us.

    Comment by Matt K — 31 December, 2010 @ 7:34 PM

  7. Too tired to post a coherent answer. It's the new year (here), so happy new year everybody!

    Two quick comments, though:

    - Quake2 was not the pinnacle of FPSes, that was definitely Quake Team Fortress. Quake 2 had the infamous wall-shooting bug, remember?

    - I'd think what we think of as MMOs right now - that is, a virtual world, certain social features, certain types of competitive and cooperative gameplay - will fragment to the point where there'll be few MMOs around, yes. But at the same time, those features will make it piecemeal into other games, to the point where it's next to impossible to have a game without some form of online interaction. You can kind of see that already with the "post your achievements on twitter"-kind of features games these days start to come with - the level of interaction may be relatively low/boring, but ... just about every game I've got on my mobile phone has had that sort of feature added over the course of the last year.

    Can't write more now... bed is calling.

    Comment by unwesen — 31 December, 2010 @ 8:01 PM

  8. "The biggest success story of the year: "free to play" came into its own."
    ...
    "But, there's still the bad news: the industry still worships false numbers."

    I think the jury remains out on whether the former is actually latter.

    DDO is uniquely suited to the F2P model because its content comes in such bite-sized chunks that it's possible for a modest-sized team to deliver them in a timely fashion. I would not pay $15/month for what they're adding to the game, but I'm happy to pay something like $5-10, and F2P allows me to do that.

    By contrast, we're told only that LOTRO's revenue doubled in the first month. Sounds impressive in a press release, but WHEN did it double from? If they are comparing to the lowpoint before the F2P relaunch, you're talking about a nine month period with basically no new content, when everyone knew that the price would be coming down imminently. Yes, you're going to get a revenue spike as some new players actually start paying and some existing players pay for onetime unlocks so they can cease to be subscribers (a longterm LOSS of revenue). The real question is where the revenue is now, compared to three months post Mirkwood. The same question could be asked of EQ2X, and of POTBS/CO when they've been F2P for long enough.

    The last five years have shown that imitating WoW without the factors that make WoW a success (most notably Blizzard development budgets) does not work. I'm wondering if the next year or two is going to show that imitating DDO's business model without the factors that make that model work in DDO (most notably the content structure) will be similarly unsuccessful.

    Comment by Green Armadillo — 1 January, 2011 @ 7:35 AM

  9. MMOs remain dead to me. After a five years playing nothing but MMOs, I paid for exactly one this calendar year (Wizard101) and only bothered to try one other (Vindictus, which was a graphical bugfest on my box).

    Not sure when, if ever, my MMO doldrums will change..... nothing that has been announced in that space has me excited.

    Comment by Andrew — 1 January, 2011 @ 10:54 AM

  10. I think people are doing MineCraft a disservice by labeling it as a game with crappy or otherwise "not nice" graphics. Minecraft's graphics rules are simple, but they are not crappy. They are very clean, very crisp, and very carefully designed. It's not a mashup of textures from photo sources, so-so pixel art. Minecraft doesn't look amateur, but rather quite polished.

    Comment by Tim — 1 January, 2011 @ 4:02 PM

  11. "The last five years have shown that imitating WoW without the factors that make WoW a success (most notably Blizzard development budgets) does not work. I'm wondering if the next year or two is going to show that imitating DDO's business model without the factors that make that model work in DDO (most notably the content structure) will be similarly unsuccessful."

    This.

    We're still largely in "imitate Wow" mode. Everyone trying to copy WoW to different degrees and (largely) being not very successful because they're copying WoW and not -what WoW was and what it meant- : A game which was better than all others at the time. Now I'm not interested in empirically backing up that assertion but the fact remains that back in 2005 WoW was the game to play and enthusiastically tell your friends about.

    Copying WoW means we're copying an eight-year old design (at least) and while there are some very successful design bits in there still after all this time, we're due for an ass kicking if we don't change the mindset.

    Comment by Julian — 1 January, 2011 @ 5:59 PM

  12. unwesen wrote:
    Quake2 was not the pinnacle of FPSes

    Eh, some of the people I know think that's the case. At least, they liked the faster action of the game compared to the slower pace of Quake 3.

    Green Armadillo wrote:
    I think the jury remains out on whether the former is actually latter.

    Well, you're confusing the business success of free-to-play with acceptance. The big news is that there are a significant number of people who won't instantly shun a game for using this business model. This is quite different than a few years ago where people were lamenting that any game using this business model would only suck the maximum amount of money out of people. It looked like Allods was going to prove that right until DDO came along.

    But, yeah, companies are going to brag about meaningless numbers because that's what people care about. Personally I think one of the primary reasons why Minecraft got the attention it did was because Paypal froze hundreds of thousands of euros in the developer's account. I expect a lot of people started to wonder what type of game would make nearly a million dollars; small potatoes to a big publisher, but it was an amazing initial success story for an indie. But, that article is one of the first things I heard about Minecraft before its popularity really took off.

    Tim wrote:
    Minecraft's graphics rules are simple, but they are not crappy.

    I suspect "crappy" is short for "not approaching photorealic or detailed stylized (WoW) graphics." Even doing "simple" graphics takes a lot of time and effort.

    Julian wrote:
    Everyone trying to copy WoW to different degrees and (largely) being not very successful because they're copying WoW and not -what WoW was and what it meant- : A game which was better than all others at the time.

    I don't agree. As I've said before, what really set WoW apart was the value people put in the "Blizzard" name, where they can pre-sell more of their games than other companies sell in total. I firmly believe that if WoW had been released without the names "Blizzard" and "Warcraft" associated with it, then the game would not have seen the levels of success it has. I think the fact that the dozens of MMO companies with ex-Blizzard employees that were started up in the wake of WoW's success have come to almost naught shows that perfectly. The problem with all the clones and wannabes isn't that they didn't want to be the best, but rather that they didn't have the massive history and name recognition behind them.

    Still doubt the power of a game brand and developer name? Consider this: what was the first "major MMO" according to many people? Ultima Online, a well-known RPG series published by a well-known development house, Origin, both names with years of history. What's the next big MMO people think could dethrone WoW? Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic, two other big names with long histories behind them. Of course, one just needs to look at the fate of The Sims Online to see that this might be a necessary but not entirely sufficient element for success. Even EQ had the Sony name behind it, for better or for worse.

    My further thoughts.

    Comment by Psychochild — 2 January, 2011 @ 1:34 AM

  13. I wholeheartedly applaud Minecraft for bringing the "Explorer" game-type to a more mainstream audience. As my last GamerDNA test showed I'm 100% an Explorer according to Bartle's polycotomy. I have never given much care to achievements in games and I tend to stop playing a game after I have explored thoroughly. Minecraft is the first game I have played that feels like it embraces this style of gameplay and more games that at least take lessons from Minecraft will make me a very happy gamer.

    I still hold hope that virtual world building will make a comeback. Till then Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft will have to fill my hunger.

    As far as mainstream MMO development goes it will be WoW tinted mixes of games we have seen before with big name backing as Psychochild said. At this point it would take a Minecraftian explosion in MMO land to shake up the WoWMMO pangea I fear.

    Comment by Haversack — 3 January, 2011 @ 3:41 PM

  14. Seems to me that the "Minecraft effect" is indeed more about the playstyle. The game feeds an Explorer/tinkerer playstyle that I believe many are craving in the "virtual world" space. Minecraft feels more like an untamed, explorable *world* than any of the big budget theme park style games, just because of how it plays. If MMOs can scratch some of that Explorer itch without empowering griefers, we may see some interesting new games.

    On the other hand, WURM Online isn't earth shattering. It's pretty solid from what I can tell, but neither is it pulling in WoW numbers.

    ...and that's all that matters to some. *shrug*

    I think that there are options out there, and that we'll see more. I do think that the big money has moved on or ceded to Blizzard (SWTOR and GW2 hype notwithstanding). Actually, I welcome that, though. Let the indies take over, indeed.

    Comment by Tesh — 3 January, 2011 @ 5:07 PM

  15. "I don't agree. As I've said before, what really set WoW apart was the value people put in the "Blizzard" name, where they can pre-sell more of their games than other companies sell in total. I firmly believe that if WoW had been released without the names "Blizzard" and "Warcraft" associated with it, then the game would not have seen the levels of success it has. I think the fact that the dozens of MMO companies with ex-Blizzard employees that were started up in the wake of WoW's success have come to almost naught shows that perfectly. The problem with all the clones and wannabes isn't that they didn't want to be the best, but rather that they didn't have the massive history and name recognition behind them."

    I would agree to some part that Blizzard as a company drove sales. They had (and still do) had a reputation of quality. But I think there's more to it than the collective gaming community saying "Blizzard's making an MMO? Sign me up, beeatch!" They knew the Bnet kids were a given, but that does not = 12 million. I moved over after 6 years of EQ because it fixed everything (or very nearly everything) I hated (with a red hot passion) about EQ. Corpse runs, actual rewards from questing, speedier travel, less competition for key mobs, less insane camping for key quest items were all at the top of my list.

    That said, I'm older now and at a different place. After spending some time in SWG (and maybe this is nostalgia messing with me) I find myself longing for more sandbox and less linear themepark. Problem is exactly what you've outlined above however. I have yet to find a wow-level polish sandbox game that grabs me the way Wow did the first time I played it back at the end of their beta. And trust me, I've tried quite a few. I think you're dead on in saying that the market may ultimately suffer for being so WoW clone focused.

    Comment by Askander — 4 January, 2011 @ 10:31 AM

  16. I think once the barriers for entry drop low enough there will be resurgence of new interesting projects. Just like there been cambrian explosion in indy games (particularly in mobile apps, but not limited to them)

    MMOs are imho not as hard to make as most people make them out to be . -I was hanging around the MMO EMU scene for a while and dabbled with few emulators. They are pretty damn good . Of course they avoid the most expensive and time consuming part of creating content by reusing existing one.

    One of the things which can lower barrier of entry is franchise like approach - there are tons of MMOs out there, very rigid in their design, never allowing different rulesets. Even in hostile legal climate some emulators manage to make profit and attract customers by providing different ruleset (under constant threat of being shutdown and being very limited in terms of resources and advertising due to that )

    Imagine you could legally get your hand on WoW technology and basic assets (art, world, etc) and customized it anyway you want at the cost of paying % of your revenue toward the publisher. -There would be TONS of new rulesets, payment models and server popping out all over the place.

    There are tons of mmos out there dead ,semi dead or just langing in obscurity, tons of art assets already made. (APB got snagged for what? a couple of mil?) Eventually there will be a way to cobble together working mmo for a a few grand out of existing middleware.

    Of course blizzard wouldnt do it , but someone some day will. And MMOS will explode and shine with new light

    Comment by Max — 4 January, 2011 @ 10:40 AM

  17. "As I've said before, what really set WoW apart was the value people put in the "Blizzard" name, where they can pre-sell more of their games than other companies sell in total."

    Yes, but those people were the very first back in 2004/early 2005. Of course they were enough to make it a hit by any measure you wanna throw at it, but WoW's explosive growth later on was not due to the Blizzardites. They were already on board. Blizzard fans made it a hit in the first 6 months, there's no doubt about that, but it became the mastodon it is when it started pulling other people to the point where it wasn't even pulling bonafide gamers anymore. It just pulled people.

    Those other people who came later had no idea about Blizzard and its track record. They were pulled because a) friends/relatives acquaintances were playing it and b) the game was better than any other at the time so that made them stay. My wife was one of those, without going any further.

    Comment by Julian — 4 January, 2011 @ 12:17 PM

  18. I still love the idea of MMOGs; it's the cold reality of their utter disinterest in me that has driven me away from them.

    I was around for the SWG debacle. That was a perfect microcosm of the attitude of the money people and producers who actually define the designs of these games: the only paradigm of play that deserves content is "kill it and take its stuff." That preference was obvious long before the New Gameplay Experience; the Combat Upgrade and NGE just made the point more emphatically. (The real marvel is that the original version ever launched at all.)

    I gave MMOGs another chance with STO, reasoning that there might be a chance that the people controlling it would understand that this IP in particular required something more than "kill it and take its stuff." By the time the beta rolled around, it was clear that once again the people in charge did not understand the basic concept that virtual world-based games are places to be explored.

    Will the MMORPG presumably being built by Zenimax Online based on The Elder Scrolls games be driven by the extensive lore of that IP? Or will it be just another "kill it and take its stuff" game? What experienced MMOG player at this point would bet any money whatsoever on it turning out to be a worldy game?

    On the other hand, Blizzard sort of gets worldiness. The lore of WoW makes that gameworld a place, even if the artwork is juvenile. Notch absolutely gets that there are a meaningful number of gamers who want a place to play in, not just shoot-'n'-loot mechanics in some arbitrary setting, which is why Minecraft is full of win. (I'll bet a lot of Minecraft proponents are ex-SWG players.)

    The one meaningful thing MMOGs have that Minecraft doesn't is NPCs. I believe there are others who would be interested in playing a game where the NPCs were given the same kind of attention that Notch has given to the world-systems of Minecraft, where "worldiness" was given something approaching the same obsessive level of attention that "kill it and take its stuff" has gotten from MMOGs over the past five years. I think that worldy game could catch fire as another form of exploration game (and even wrote a basic design to describe it), but who would pay to make such a thing?

    Finally, to Max, I'd point out that the source code to Ryzom Online was made open source: http://dev.ryzom.com/ . Why haven't we seen some simple games being made based on that framework in order to test novel ideas in MMOG design? (That's more of a wishful thought than a criticism of your opinion, Max.)

    I haven't given up hope that someday, someone will release a MMOG that consciously caters as much to people who want to "live in" a gameworld as to those who merely want to "play in" such a space.

    I've given up seriously expecting to see that game in my lifetime, though.

    Comment by Bart Stewart — 4 January, 2011 @ 10:57 PM

  19. Max, reading your comment I found myself nodding my head and wondering, "Why haven't any MMO makers made a modable game?". Surely it's worked just fine for Valve, though an FPS and an MMO aren't the same thing of course. The tech that Multuverse has isn't exactly in the modable category, as there is no base game people might buy or start from. Same for Ryzom.

    Comment by Tim — 5 January, 2011 @ 12:09 AM

  20. Max wrote:
    Of course they avoid the most expensive and time consuming part of creating content by reusing existing one.

    And that shows the real problem. Code isn't a problem; you can find good 3D engines, you can find existing MMO servers (like Ryzom that Bart mentions below), you can find good networking libraries. What you cannot easily find and what takes a long time to make are the assets. That's why we have emulators and not original projects: the code is easier to create than the assets. In the end, it doesn't matter what type of middleware comes along. If you can't create a lot of assets, you have nothing, unless you want to make a text game.

    Julian wrote:
    They were pulled because a) friends/relatives acquaintances were playing it and b) the game was better than any other at the time so that made them stay.

    You are right, and the initial wave of those friends/relatives/acquaintances were the Blizzard fans I referred to. But, I'll disagree with that second part. First because you cannot measure a "better" game objectively. You can say a game is the biggest or makes the most money, but there is no consensus on which is the best. Personally, I find DDO to be a better game than WoW currently, but WoW still as more people paying for it. So, trying to say a game is "better" is not a meaningful measurement when analyzing the reasons for its success. (In fact, it can be harmful if a developer doesn't really understand what would make the game better in most people's eyes, so they simply start cloning the original wholesale.)

    Second, my point is that it doesn't matter how good the game was as long as it was good enough. In most businesses, the hard part is getting people in the door in the first place. Did your wife really go try out other games within the first several months of playing WoW to really try them out as competitors? That's not been my experience with any of the people I've talked to. Ultimately, I expect she started playing WoW because either you were a Blizzard fan or you got introduced by someone else who was and then she played because you were playing. Then she kept playing because you kept playing and/or familiar to her (and you likely kept playing because she kept playing, etc.) as long as the game was "good enough". And, yes, you can argue that "good enough" was pretty damned good in your opinion.

    So, again, in order to repeat Blizzard's success you not only have to be a good enough game (or even the best game if you think we can measure that objectively), you have to have a way to get people interested in your game to form an initial critical mass. If you have literally millions of fans to draw upon, as Blizzard did, then you will have an easier time doing so. The main reason why other games have "failed" is because they could not create that initial critical mass, and expectations were skewed by Blizzard's numbers to the point where even formerly successful numbers were seen as unsuccessful.

    Bart Stewart wrote:
    I've given up seriously expecting to see that game in my lifetime, though.

    Well, if the guy I'm working with gets his way, it might happen in your lifetime. But, investors are a fickle bunch and he might morph his beautiful idea into yet another stupid social game company concept. *sigh*

    But, I feel your pain. Maybe I can strike some small victories in the mean time.

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 January, 2011 @ 2:59 AM

  21. Tim wrote:
    Why haven't any MMO makers made a modable game?

    Sorry, missed your comment as I was putting together my most recent response.

    In short, they have. It's called Second Life. From that, you can see the challenges that allowing a highly modable game faces. Consider why many of us even understand what the term "flying penis" even means. ;)

    But, I assume you're talking about a game-focused MMO allowing a lot of modding. The big issue is because the business model falls apart. One thing a lot of developers keep saying is that MMOs are a service, not a product. Compare this to the history of single-player games where they were mostly fire-and-forget affairs. If you allow people to massively change your game, then you can no longer provide a guaranteed minimum standard of service. Why would you play my game if the whole game could be subverted by someone else completely? Even if you allow private servers (which complicates the business model), if someone logs on "Tim's Hardcore Porn-u-topia!" they might get a negative impression of the game without understanding that's not a sanctioned location.

    Some thoughts.

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 January, 2011 @ 3:10 AM

  22. I don't see why a "moddable" MMO would be all that difficult as a business model, at least compared to a full-fledged MMO, although it requires a very different perspective I admit. The core business model is essentially an ISP/ASP model plus, or SaaS or whatever-the-frack they're called these days. Revenue streams are basic hosting/infrastructure which includes access to core resources, services on demand (graphics, animations, programming, design review), shared revenue on released apps, possibly transaction processing/guarantee fees, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. Your primary market is wannabe designers, secondary market is gamers. (Kinda like Facebook, in some ways.)

    However, if the focus is on implementing a specific game design... well, yeah, you'd be working at cross-purposes then.

    As you point out, however, the assets are the key. Engines are approaching the "dime a dozen" stage these days (Unity hasn't been mentioned yet, I see), and a sizable majority of the people interested in pursuing a game are likely at least capable of learning programming. The art assets you make available would be your selling point as this pseudo-SaaS. You also need a flagship game to generate buzz, act as a baseline for interested "modders", etc.... maybe this is the difficult part? Not easy, but then again, I don't see it as completely implausible... it does require you to look at your service as more than just a game you are selling, however.

    My opinion on the WoW thing: Bingo on the "critical mass"/"hardest part is getting people in the door" part. That's a basic truism of _any_ business, not just MMOs, IMO. Consider Zynga's success with that in mind, btw... (everyone else see the recent CityVille numbers?)

    My opinion on MMOs: I've been well out of their apparent target market for 10+ years now (World of Warcraft bored me as being too derivative of what had come before, for example). For quite some time, I've relegated myself to sitting back and waiting for the rest of the world to catch up... the curse of the early adopter, I suppose. The relevant chatter ebbs and flows: who knows, maybe by the time I retire in 20+ years, there will actually be a sizeable audience for something significantly new under the sun. (crossing fingers)

    Comment by DamianoV — 5 January, 2011 @ 8:24 AM

  23. When I hear "moddable MMO" I think about Metaplace. Probably a flawed example and it was more "moddable rooms" but they were providing the service for devs, a community to share scripts, assets ... and now I fear Metaplace is nowhere to be seen anymore ...

    Devs there knew how to code but I guess not enough were able to create something commercially viable so it means no money for Metaplace. Maybe a service targeting more "serious" devs with higher fees would have been more profitable? But then again if you ask me I wouldn't build an MMO that would remain hostage to a third party to such a high level based on the Metaplace example. If Facebook was to close tomorrow it would surely screw the userbase of some games but the servers/assets/code remain safe for a standalone release.

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 5 January, 2011 @ 8:44 AM

  24. Psychochild said...

    Why would you play my game if the whole game could be subverted by someone else completely?

    I get your point, but try applying that same argument (and others made) to say Valve and the moddability of Half-Life. If Valve hadn't made the original Half-Life moddable, they wouldn't be around today, at least at the power level they are. Mods are and can be hugely beneficial to the parent company, where the parent has zero control over content, nor any interest really in dictating what that content is. You WANT modders to do crazy stuff because out of it may come something cool. I argue that if it wasn't for Counter-Strike, Valve would be another B level developer, or not be in business at all.

    Here's an example of how you might make WoW moddable. What if you let anyone build new quests using an in-game quest builder and then let other players find them via an in-game finder like the Dungeon Finder?

    Let me play it out as a scenario...

    1. I'm hanging out in Elwynn Forest and kind of bored. I open up my MUG finder (Mod Up Game), and see a list of all player-created quests in the area. I can sort them by name, suggested level, number of times played, number of times completed, and player ratings.
    2. I pick one that looks interesting, and a marker for the starting point is added on my map.
    3. I go to that location and there's an NPC (shopkeeper say) who previously had no quests available, but is now offering one - the quest being the one I chose.
    4. I run through the quest, and begin an entire new player run quest. Maybe I like it and finish it, maybe I abandon it. At the end, I am asked to rate it from 1-5. Or maybe yes it's "Tim's Flying Penis Quest", which I find offensive and report it as such.

    MUGs wouldn't be visible to everyone automatically. Instead players have to use the MUG Finder, which would show them all the player available mods to be had, along with other player's comments and ratings.

    To build them, any player could enter an in-game "builder mode" that let them craft a new quest in real time in the real game world. Want to set an NPC to be a quest starter? You have to literally take your character to that location. You can't import new assets, but only reuse the ones already in the game.

    In-game building would become a game in itself, even with teams of designers working together perhaps. Imagine having part of the team fend off the attacking monsters while someone else sets up the quest? It would be a fun and almost metaphorically appropriate model of real world game development at times :)

    There are flaws to this particular idea. You can't let MUGs give away XP or loot. You could easily though have MUGs be instances where all that a player experiences goes away when they leave the MUG instance. Think of them like dream sequences where when you complete them, you're back at the save point when you entered.

    If you put something like this in WoW or another MMO, you would get tons of crap no doubt. But you'd also get some brilliant gems. People would come up with new quest stories, but also whole new concepts and ideas of gameplay built on your existing structure. Some modders would create highly elaborate parallel MUGs that players might spend days or weeks or months playing. There would be MUGs that were so enticing some players might choose not to end them to return to the "real" WoW world.

    Comment by Tim — 5 January, 2011 @ 9:48 AM

  25. Tim basically described the player quest system of Golemizer ;) However in Golemizer players can create new NPCs, new monsters and new dungeons (I know it's not the first and that AAA games are now doing it but still). Players can also create their own assets and submit them to GMs to have them added to the game (the crowd is small enough to make this possible).

    I know I keep plugging over and over my game here but I can't help myself when I see what is posted in some comments. But of course it's far from looking as good as WoW so ...

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 5 January, 2011 @ 10:04 AM

  26. Dave, you indirectly bring up a question about what modding is. Yes, modding is taking an existing base of content to build new content from it, but does there have to be an underlying existing game? Metaplace and Multiverse have (had) no underlying game.

    Modding Half-Life on the other hand gives you a game ready to go. You came for the Half-Life, you stayed for the Counter-Strike. And as a mod developer, an existing game gives you a framework to start from. A "tool" like Metaplace or Multiverse doesn't give you that framework. Nor does it give you a complete polished game to look at and go, "I could do that too I bet". And if players get bored with a mod, they don't have a good, polished and viable base game to go back to.

    If you make your commercial game moddable, you do have to have an underlying source of revenue that is solid. Valve doesn't care in the slightest what people mod, because they know that everyone playing a mod (good, bad or ugly) is a person who's paid for a copy of one of Valve's games. The same goes with a moddable WoW world. Players playing MUGs (in my previous post) would still paying the same subscription price, so really who cares what they are doing?

    IMO a moddable game is going to be successful if...

    1. The underling game is really good and you know people will play it anyway, and people buying it for playing mods is just icing on the cake.
    2. The underlying game is not very good, but its modding capabilities are very powerful, and a strong modding community exists that creates great content. People buy your game to play the mods, but who cares as people are buying your game!

    If it's the second case, getting that critical mass of modders is very important. Metaplace never got it, and failed. Metaplace had no underlying offering that made anyone stick around.

    You can blur the line about what is moddable if you want to. Facebook is essentially moddable. I "play" it using all of its existing content and it does very well. But I can also extend it by "playing" other peoples apps and content. The iPhone is the same way. It comes with a ton of very useful things and I could be very happy and productive with it just using the bundled content. But then there are all the apps on top that make it better.

    Comment by Tim — 5 January, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

  27. BTW Dave, I have been checking out Golemizer after seeing your previous posts. I also have been reading your over00.com posts. I REALLY enjoy hearing about the realities like dollars in and expenses, etc. Keep it up!

    Comment by Tim — 5 January, 2011 @ 10:20 AM

  28. Much of the blame for lack of console MMOs lies with Microsoft.

    Comment by Matt — 5 January, 2011 @ 11:46 AM

  29. @Tim:
    I'd be curious, what do you see as the difference between your Mod-Up Game example and Mission Architect in City of Heroes, and/or the Ryzom Ring functionality?

    While I do think those types of subsystems have value, I don't see them as addressing the original core issue of providing something truly new. You're still stuck with the same basic gameplay. The CoH Mission Architect is a good example: there are thousands of missions in it, with some fairly intricate story lines, unique villains and allies, and so on... and all feel exactly like a typical mission you might get from any other source. Beat up several groups of mobs, click on the glowy, fight the "boss"... rinse and repeat.

    CounterStrike, on the other hand, was a essentially brand new game (in comparison to HalfLife). Personally, I see that as the key point. If the only modifications that could be made to HalfLife would have been adding new maps and textures... it's success as a mod base would have been much more limited, I believe.

    I do agree with your basic analysis of the success factors re: a moddable game.

    @Dave:
    But then again if you ask me I wouldn't build an MMO that would remain hostage to a third party to such a high level based on the Metaplace example.

    There's no reason it would be a hostage... a decently designed end-of-life licensing and royalties agreement handles 99% of the problem. And frankly, if you have the time, cash, and other resources to build a similar MMO base without such a service as it's foundation... why would you be looking at it anyway? Not the target market.

    Comment by DamianoV — 5 January, 2011 @ 5:48 PM

  30. There's no reason it would be a hostage... a decently designed end-of-life licensing and royalties agreement handles 99% of the problem. And frankly, if you have the time, cash, and other resources to build a similar MMO base without such a service as it's foundation... why would you be looking at it anyway? Not the target market.

    When I first started Golemizer I considered using Metaplace for it (from what I've seen it would have been possible). At the time however it still wasn't open to the public and I wasn't part of beta so I decided to went on my own ... even without having the cash and resource to build a similar gaming platform ...

    Now what would have happened to my work if I was part of the beta and decided to go with Metaplace? Sure Golemizer is nothing in the MMO space but I can still point people to it today as part of my experience. That's what I had in mind in my comment. I guess not all scenarios would be like Metaplace but that's still something to consider.

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 5 January, 2011 @ 5:56 PM

  31. DamianoV wrote:
    I don't see why a "moddable" MMO would be all that difficult as a business model....

    Excellent! Shall we consider this the announcement of your new project? ;)

    The main problem, as I see it, is that believe the audiences for this type of service is very big. As Dave mentioned below your post, Metaplace tried to address this market. They only really found success and were acquired when they transformed into yet another social game company. As I understand it, they used their own tech to make the new social games, so it's not like the core Metaplace tech was faulty. I firmly believe there just aren't that many people who have interest, drive, and commitment to follow through on making a game. I think a lot of people would like to have a system that would easily allow them to make a game, but that doesn't mean they'd be able to make good games. Yes, that makes me one of those elitist that believe professionals may be able to do a better job than amateurs in most situations.

    The other big problem is that most developers get into game development because they want to develop games. Tool programming is generally considered the least sexy part of game development, even if it is vitally important to have great tools. But, you're going to have a hard time finding people who will be passionate about making tools for amateurs to make games when the alternative is making their own game. Anyway, making an MMO is already pretty hard, so making a generic MMO engine that could handle all sorts of possibilities is even tougher. Again, one only needs to look at the technical problems Second Life had.

    Dave Toulouse wrote:
    Maybe a service targeting more "serious" devs with higher fees would have been more profitable?

    And how many volunteers have you had that quickly abandoned the project when "real" work came along? I know we've both had experiences with this. I guess you could probably hope for is a gym membership type deal where you get people to sign up and then never really use the service. Not exactly fulfilling to my mind. But, I think any sort of real price tag would scare the majority of people off.

    Tim wrote:
    I get your point, but try applying that same argument (and others made) to say Valve and the moddability of Half-Life.

    Er, I hope we can agree that an MMO is a different beast than an FPS. The biggest issue is persistence, as it usually is. My cumulative character in WoW can't really be compared to Gordon Freeman in HL2. Even if we go over to TF2 and compare a Pyro I use in a match to my WoW Druid I've used off and on for years, the characters are very different in terms of depth and persistence even if I can customize the Pyro a bit with some gear I earned. The ephemeral nature of FPS games means it's not really a good comparison to look at how mods are handled.

    Anyway, again, a moddable FPS works because an FPS game is a product, not a service. I think that being a service is actually good for MMOs and improves their overall quality.

    But, really, you can already mod WoW. There are addons that allow for role-playing, but you have to have the mod installed to see the work others have done. Some mods even allow you to create "items" and NPCs with text that are only visible to other users of the mod (kinda like Tim suggests above). Here are some examples: MyRolePlay, flagRSP, TotalRP. So, what's the problem? Well, then you get things like this character description (oh, dear gods, NSFW and likely not good for your sanity). Ready to play with people who write descriptions like that? I expect that you're in the minority. But, go ahead and find some WoW mods and see how it scratches that itch.

    Matt wrote:
    Much of the blame for lack of console MMOs lies with Microsoft.

    You can blame Sony and Nintendo, too. Each of the console manufacturers are hesitant to give up control, as that's what makes the consoles so highly profitable for them.

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 January, 2011 @ 6:04 PM

  32. Oh, I also forgot to mention The Worldforge Project, which has been going on for several years trying to create a tech and asset base for creating MMOs. Again, I just don't think the demand for the tools to create your own game is there given that I have to keep reminding people about Worldforge.

    Second, since I don't seem to have gotten a trackback, there's a bit of discussion about this article over at MMO Melting Pot.

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 January, 2011 @ 6:48 PM

  33. Thing is art assets and content creation are expensive to do from scratch. Especially for small team. Having moddable MMO with good quality initial assets and engine would be incredible asset . You could have your focus on game mechanics, quest desing ,GM team etc without having $50 mill budget (and investors) hanging over your neck and forcing you to make "safe choices"

    You could cater to small market of players and still do ok . There would be hundreds if not thousands of different rulesets ,some of them could be just minor changes ,some of them complete do overs - main company wouldnt care what they are or how popular they are, their revenue would be % of whatever good or bad they make.

    And difference between COH mission and this is that franchised games would have at least some people having a clue and/or some brains, because if monetization was possible there would be professionals working of them. Gamers cant design or make anything good -they are dumb consumers .They need rigid boundaries and guidance to not screw up.

    And sorry guys I dont know what multiverse is and metaplace does some social games or such?

    Comment by Max — 5 January, 2011 @ 7:18 PM

  34. Dave Toulouse wrote:
    Maybe a service targeting more "serious" devs with higher fees would have been more profitable?

    Psychochild replied:
    And how many volunteers have you had that quickly abandoned the project when "real" work came along?

    hehe yeah I was just trying to counter my own words there. I figured that by saying it myself that others wouldn't bring that argument to the table ;)

    Max wrote:
    And sorry guys I dont know what multiverse is and metaplace does some social games or such?

    I believe Metaplace never made it out of beta. But whatever what people might think of Wikipedia it's enough to give a basic idea ;)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaplace

    Comment by Dave Toulouse — 5 January, 2011 @ 9:09 PM

  35. @Psychochild:

    Excellent! Shall we consider this the announcement of your new project? ;)

    I probably would give it a look, were I a little more comfortable with seeking funding in general. Haven't done a VC/angel style start up yet, despite having started 4 companies so far (only 2 of which are still in operation, sadly)... I've always gone the "sweat equity" route, and this one just doesn't look plausible that way. That initial funding probably is the biggest hurdle... but then again, the same could be said for MMOs in general, obviously.

    Well, actually, the biggest hurdle is that it's not what I want to do. "Most developers get into game development because they want to develop games", specifically, their _own_ game ideas.... as true for me as it is for thee ;-). Starting a business is a hard slog even under good circumstances... if I'm going to risk living on ramen noodles and tap water for a few years, the end result would need to be pretty inspiring on a personal level. "Generic platform" doesn't make the cut.

    I would agree the audience isn't large. A few 1000 world-wide, of which you might reach and engage a small percentage if you were lucky? Some actual marketing research would need to be done, obviously, before seriously proceeding... both to gauge the market size and to determine the true core selling points that would need to be pursued.

    The volunteer issue is only partially relevant, IMO. Bottom line: when spending your free time, your motivation is always stronger when you're working on your own ideas, as opposed to someone else's. That's true whether there is money involved or not, actually... even offering to pay for services rendered is not a guarantee of motivation. (I've run into that 4 times and counting since Nov 1.) After all, it's what you were thinking about and interested in anyway. Essentially, the same thing as game devs being uninspired by writing tools.

    I personally don't think Metaplace is the best comparison. I followed it relatively closely, tho I never really _fully_ dived into it, and by the time the rollout came around, it was well into Facebook game territory. It started with an MMO focus (I think... my impression was that Raph was being pretty cagey, especially pre-announcement), but frankly, it was moving the "social games company" direction relatively early, well before even any alpha testing, really.

    Relatedly, I would talk about "ease of use" considerations, but it would just be depressing. Let's just say, most of what's currently out there would need serious work in that department to build a viable business model around it. BYOND and RPGMaker represent the barely acceptable _minimum_ ease-of-use for such a service, IMO. Not to be a rampaging capitalist here, but the only "dues" you want your customers paying is the cash they're handing over to use the service.

    Finally, I do apologize for intimating it would be "easy", it wasn't what I meant, but I can see how what I wrote could be read that way. And definitely agreed on the design and technical challenges being that much more difficult than an MMO, given the flexibility and ease-of-use you need to maximize. I meant to say it wouldn't be much more difficult, business model wise, than a typical MMO, visualizing it as a niche SaaS. Given that and baking in the commentary on volunteers/tool creation/interests, it certainly helps illustrate why it's never been done, tho.

    Comment by DamianoV — 6 January, 2011 @ 4:58 PM

  36. DamianoV wrote:
    "Generic platform" doesn't make the cut.

    And, that's basically my point while I was teasing you. :) There are a lot of reasons why it's not made. I simply disagree with you that the business model wouldn't be that difficult to determine, either. With little passion and a tiny base, you'd have to charge a LOT per player to make it worthwhile. I don't think this is something where you could charge a lot, so this idea is dead in the water.

    I personally don't think Metaplace is the best comparison.

    I expect that part of their change in focus was based upon the VCs starting to sour on the whole "virtual world" thing. The VCs and Raph probably saw social games coming down the pipe, and decided to shift priorities to take advantage of it. Obviously it worked out for them since they got acquired. But, I think it shows not only are VCs more interested in chasing trends, but also that relying on user-created content is hard. One could also take a look at Whirled to see a similar platform that didn't shift over to focusing on Facebook and that didn't share such a rosy outcome as Metaplace. (Although trying to get on the site just now showed a queue, so it's busier than currently expected. But, as far as I know, Whirled didn't bring a lot of success to Three Rings.)

    ...I would talk about "ease of use" considerations....

    This is the core of the problem, to me. In computer science, you study a lot about trade-offs. The applicable one here is ease-of-use vs. power. The classic example is a "to the metal" language like C or assembler language compared to a high level one like Python or Perl. C or assembler allow a lot more control for the programmer, but at the expense of creating a lot of headaches if things go even a little wrong. Compare this with a high level language like Python, which is incredibly forgiving and able to keep running even if you try something horrible.

    In a game construction platform, the easier the system is to use the less you have to necessarily expose to the player. Lots of options can overwhelm the new player. But, as you close off options you close off opportunities for the users to develop something unique with the tools. Ultimately you might have to create two platforms, a training one and a full-featured one. But, then, you run the risk of someone overestimating their abilities and trying to dive into the full-featured platform before they're ready and therefore get frustrated.

    In the end, it's a lot of headache for very little potential profit for me. I think there are enough examples to back up my reasoning. But, if anyone wants to charge forward and prove me wrong, I'll happy post up pointing to your site/service and explain how wrong I was in a blog post. :)

    Comment by Psychochild — 7 January, 2011 @ 6:02 PM

  37. Of real life video games, dieting tips, and a young astronomer

    [...] Star Wars: The Old Republic will determine the fate of the MMO genre going forward, Brain take a much more interesting look at the state of virtual worlds entering into this new [...]

    Pingback by Systemic Babble — 25 January, 2011 @ 8:05 PM

  38. I still consider myself a fresh voice, meaning I've only played 5 games. I'd like to add my observations and have you comment on my suggestions. I've read this blog now for a bit and convinced the author wants MMOs and online gaming to succeed and expand. So do I, here's how.

    1. What Devs lack aside from VCs is the nuance of being a fresh open minded online player. Like me. They approach many MMO designs from the same perspective plaguing the author of this blog. They are experienced, burned out, fast thinking, speed indulgent consumers of all things MMO or FPS. You are not the average paying player. You're easy money.

    You want WoW money ? WoW /Blizzard revenue from an MMO, you have to market to THE NEW UNCHASED WOULD BE PLAYER. The noob, the fresh untapped masses who don't even know you exist. The guy or gal, man or woman who is lonely, without enough friends or money to go on dates in their BMW and sing vocals in a stage band. These "haven't played" an MMO yet audiences are being tapped now and MMOs and VCs are missing it. The flood of interest is NOW.

    Facebook offers free gaming in an ultra social setting for shallow minded lonely people. And my God look at the money flowing in. I don't Facebook but even in my selected world of friends and family it's becoming massively present. For the first time in their lives they are trying and enjoying online gaming. Making characters, socializing them etc... and they chastized me for years for being a nerd to online gaming.

    The problem is no MMO developer or owner understands the mindset of a real fresh player. So they end up making a game that THEY would like. ERROR Will Robinson Error. Your not the player base that gets addicted, I am. I'm your noob. I'm your market.

    I saw something in Dark Age of Camelot that no other game has ever offered or even gotten close too. It was so good its hard to explain the orgasmic lust of pandora's desire. People/players BECAME the characters when DAoC launched. Players didn't just "associate" themselves with an avatar, they wanted to be that character. Why?

    Notable Recognizable contribution to heroism and scandal.

    When you kill someone in DAoC your avatar's name is announced in the zone "...Mushroomboy just killed Mournblade at Blafalog Hollow.." like a spam. Cruel, entertaining, imposing, embarrassing, suggestive, provocative, intentional, sexy. If your whackn away on some mobs and see that spam you go through some emotional thoughts. Players don't know it but they interchange the participants with themselves and see how they would like it. How would they feel if they were killed or they were the victors. It plays on their minds.

    The realm, the community of avatars are able to gear to the max and meet the enemy (other players) in the field of battle with the same gear, not better not worse. The only differences are skill, talent, strategy and tactics and friends. Thats as fair as combat gets in an MMO or real life.

    Now you have the setting

    The hook: the enemy can besiege your people, your friends. The enemy can kill your best friend while they quest in a shared PvP dungeon. The sight of seeing your friend in that death spam is provocational. You want to avenge their name and their respect. You want blood.

    The hook gets baited: The realm community asks for your help. The more who show up to defend, fight and add strategy to the war with the enemy the better. Your name is remembered. You carry an ongoing notariaty. Players know you and how you play. You can create and forge a lasting character. Your not a temporary fps avatar, your " Achilles of Igrain server, from the guild Black Shield " and you have a guild complement of 500 players at your beckon call to suppress enemy actions.

    The avatars look semi realistic opposed to WoW's cartoonish fun which keeps the player at a distance from emmersion.

    Okay so why not include the things Facebook offers to non MMO warlike gamers in the same MMO? A large component of socialized activity structured within the governance of design programming for Realm vs Realm ?

    Of course there are problems with DAoC now and WoW's success isn't written in stone, most MMO players are fickle. Wow's engine is smooth and easy to interface. DAoC has balance issues with combat, its engine is glitchy and old.

    Blizzard has learned a few things fast:

    You have to keep content and design easy and desireable for new players and old. Very tough challenge. Levels 1- 85 is a long time. WoW is not complicated, DAoC is very complicated and the time it would take to reach competitive is very long.

    But WoW still doesn't have pandora's lust. Some fps games flirt with it but its too single minded, Diablo, SWG, Guildwars (too shallow)...

    People want immersion. They want socialized war in a rennaisance genre. They want to wear damsel gowns, hold parties, fashion shows, decorate, build and the others want a balanced war environment with lasting notariaty.

    Comment by Mournblade — 8 April, 2011 @ 5:08 AM

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