Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

13 March, 2006

Voices through time
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 3:22 AM

Stumbling around doing some research last night, I came across a very interesting article:

Online Gaming: Why Won’t They Come? by the infamous Jessica Mulligan.

The article’s date is February 27th, 1998, which is even before I started working on Meridian 59 (which is referenced in the article.

Now, I hate to pick on Jessica too much; she’s a brilliant woman that has a lot of experience behind her. Yet, it’s interesting to see her words come back to haunt her in the post-WoW era.

Now, I’ve said before that Customer Service doesn’t matter in these types of games. There are other things that are much, MUCH more important to the success. I think one of the most important is branding. UL is widely considered one of the first big commercial successes in the area, and I think that’s largely due to the Ultima brand. WoW has similarly broken all records, and I think you can attribute this success to the Blizzard and Warcraft names. Yet, if you look at the history of these games, you’ll see a long record of very poor customer service. You can find no shortage of discussion about poor customer service in MMORPGs.

Of course, branding is not the only thing that lead to success. EQ managed to be quite successful without a brand (and with what was widely considered terrible customer service, even though their CS team is highly organized and efficient). On the other hand, Star Wars Galaxies had arguably one of the most significant licenses ever and the game was not considered a significant success.

Anyway, it’s interesting to find old articles like this and see how well the stand the test of time. I’m sure in 7-8 years people will go look at my early blog posts and laugh. (I’ll bet Jessica is bookmarking them to do just that, if she reads this.) When industries go through serious states of transition, there will always be incorrect predictions.

Some interesting things to think about.


  1. Growing industries are notorious for ignoring customer support and getting away with it… or at least that’s the theory I’ll go with. This is very true for PCs if you consider UI design to be part of customer support. UI in early PCs was awful… #g FDED on the Apple ][ to get it to boot.

    Early MMORPGs had much worse UI than current ones, and current MMORPGs will be seen as stoneage equivalents to what’s out in 10 years. What’s this “/who” or “/p I’m talking to the party” crap? Users shouldn’t have to learn arcane “commands” like that.

    Another thing to point out is that Jessica was writing with text-based MUDs in mind. All muds use one client, telnet. To try out a MUD is a trivial amount of work (and time investment) for the potential player. As a result, they don’t give it much time before they give it a thumbs up or down.

    If I go to a retail store, pay $50 for a game, and spend an hour installing it, I’m going to try playing it for at least a few hours before I give it a thumbs down. If I download it instead, and take a few hours to pull in a GB game, I might spend 30 mins. If the game is 3 MB and downloaded instantly, I’ll give it about 2 minutes to wow me.

    Comment by Mike Rozak — 13 March, 2006 @ 5:12 PM

  2. One of the things which keeps me with Eve is that I DON’T need to mess with slash commands. (Unless I want to moderate chat channels, and I don’t).

    But then again, I’m dyslexic. This IS a problem for rapid-fire text commands.

    Comment by Andrew Crystall — 15 March, 2006 @ 6:31 AM

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