18 June, 2007
I talked about outside inspiration in a previous challenge, but I think it’s time to talk about this topic again.
I recently spent a few days at the infamous Disneyland. There have been quite a few comparisons between online games and theme parks. Some of my thoughts after the jump.
To be honest, this trip was one of the more disappointing ones I’ve had. It was still fun for the most part, but there were a few snags. We went on a particularly busy weekend (the double-whammy of recent graduates and Father’s Day made for large crowds, I think), so things were more busy than they had been in the past. Having to wait in line for 30-40 minutes to go on your favorite ride can be a bit of a pain.
The crowds also meant that we didn’t get into the Blue Bayou restaurant one day. This is usually the high point of my trip to Disneyland. We were lucky to get in the one day we did, in fact. There was also a huge line for the new Finding Nemo-inspired submarine ride; I didn’t think it was worth 120-150 minutes to stand in line for the ride. But, still, it was disappointing.
Finally, they changed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride for the movie. I guess it was inevitable, but they really overdid it. Almost every area had some changed dialog about “Captain Jack Sparrow!” The worst was where the added a room near the end where the infamous Captain goes on about how wonderful piracy is, replacing the pirates that were trying to futilely take treasure out of the fantasy. Missing the whole point. (To show that I’m not all “get off my lawn!” old, I thought the part where they added the movie’s Davy Jones projected onto a wall of fog as you’re entering the first pirate area was a great addition.)
But, there were a few cool things. One new ride I got to ride on was the “Tower of Terror”. It’s interesting because it’s a much more elaborate version of those rides that drop you from a great height. The waiting areas are done up with a specific theme and backstory of the ride; the ride is supposed to take place in a cursed hotel in a Twilight Zone event. You are riding in one of the elevators that suffers from this curse. The first few bits of the ride are just for flavor, then you get shot up and dropped down a long distance. The final few “bounces” take you to the top floors where “elevator” doors open to the outside world so you can see how truly far up you are.
The setting adds to the feeling of dread and suspense, more than a simple ride would. The story elements also give you a reason to ride the ride more than once. The elevator doors at the top are also interesting, because in addition to showing you how far up you are, it provides a bit of a show to people on the outside who see some motion and some flashing lights up on the building that houses the ride, then they hear the screams of the people as they are dropped down. It provides some interest in the ride to people who are within hearing distance. :)
So, okay, what did I learn from a game design point of view?
* Fun is always important!
* Popularity can be a boon and a bane. It was great from a park management point of view that people were excited enough by a ride to wait in line for 2 or more hours, but it kind of sucked for those of us that didn’t want to stand in line that long.
* Change is hard. It’s hard to update something without upsetting someone. It’s especially hard to serve multiple causes with your changes: customers, marketing, engineering, etc.
* The “fluff” can add a lot to the experience. And, the experience doesn’t just matter to the people experiencing it, but also to spectators.
So, what are your lessons from the world outside of computer games?