23 September, 2006
So, I’m gonna get a little meta this week. The design challenge is to consider some of the biggest challenges facing online games right now.
Bonus points for thinking of something that hasn’t already been discussed to death yet. Of course, that’s almost a fool’s challenge, isn’t it?
My thoughts after the break.
I’m not going for bonus points this time around. I want to harp on an old subject: innovation. No, I’m not talking about innovation for the sake of innovation. Rather, I’m talking about developers doing something besides the tried and true.
To quote Dr. Bartle from a recent interview (using the appropriate name “Progenitor”):
Progenitor says, “The thing is, the developers at the moment are following basically 3 approaches.”
Progenitor says, “1) they’re copying WoW.”
Progenitor says, “2) they’re saying they’re not copying WoW but they’re so stuck in the paradigm that they’re copying it anyway.”
Progenitor says, “3) they’re doing something wildly different and hoping for a niche success.”
Progenitor says, “The future lies with 3), but it’s so expensive at the moment to create these games that there’s a danger most of them won’t break even.”
I think number 2 above is the biggest problem. It ties back to what Damion Schubert talked about at AGC. The problem is that people want to do something different but they don’t understand what they can do different. “You have to know the rules in order to break the rules,” is how I was told this lesson. People don’t understand what really makes WoW a success, so they end up copying it anyway because it’s what they know.
I think part of the problem here is what Dr. Bartle says: it’s expensive to create these games and that means it’s expensive to experiment like this. I think we also need to take a bit more formal approach to how we develop these games. Instead of just leaping in and making something “cool”, actually understanding the design process is important. Note that this doesn’t mean being mechanical or draining the creativity out of it. Just because an artist knows color theory or a writer understands how to construct effective plots doesn’t mean they cannot be creative. In fact, it is when they intentionally break the rules and understand how and why they are doing so that you get some of the absolute best results.
So, what do you think is the pressing issues of the day?