Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

9 December, 2009

Worldplay Research Initiative on transnational online gaming
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:14 AM

I saw a post on We Fly Spitfires a little while ago talking about the Worldplay Project. This project is run by researchers out of Trinity University looking at how online gaming can bring people together. Part of their research is collecting data from players like those that read blogs.

Read on for some more information and my thoughts on the project.

You should go read Gordon’s post at We Fly Spitfires if you want to know more about the project. He covered it in good depth, so I won’t try to repeat what he said.

Personally, I’m excited to see some initial research in this area. Meridian 59 had a loyal following in Germany as well as in the U.S. During the peak when Near Death Studios was running M59, we actually had more German players than those in the U.S. One of my earliest MUD memories was realizing that I could talk real-time with someone in England over the text; for a lower-class kid who barely traveled out of the state and had only visited Mexico once during a student exchange trip, this was an amazing experience. Something that’s probably less impressive to people these days used to interacting with others. (Especially considering that Gordon lives in England and I’m sure lots of people in the U.S. read his blog like I do.)

Even in my professional life, I’ve sent a lot of time traveling to other countries. My work has taken me to France, Germany, China, and England to do consulting and contract work for different MMOs. I’ve corresponded with people in many more countries about my work, even French Canadians. ;) Even a relatively small game like Meridian 59 has gotten a lot of international interest and enthusiastic fans.

Anyway, I encourage you to take a look at the project. There’s a page about research methods for the project. They’ve also posted up some raw data from the questionnaire. They’re encouraging discussion about the findings as well.

Hopefully they’ll process some of the data they’ve collected so far into summary form, and will collect more information. It’s an interesting glimpse into a topic that’s becoming more important to online game developers as the world truly becomes smaller.

What do you think? How has the transnational nature of online gaming affected your play?

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  1. Hi Brian,

    I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for mentioning the Worldplay project.

    Your comment about talking with British MUD players reminded me of a similar experience during my college years. While exploring our campus UNIX mainframe, I accidentally telnetted into a Tiny MUD under the mistaken impression that it was a single-player text adventure. A few minutes later, another player wandered into the game space, greeted me, and asked where I lived. At first, I assumed that this was a well scripted NPC like Floyd the Robot in Planetfall. Eventually, it dawned on me that I was talking to a real human being who lived in Europe.

    I was simultaneously blown away by the fact that (a) this was a multiplayer virtual world and (b) it was populated by people from all over the globe. Years later, despite relentless technological change, nothing has come close to rivaling this jaw-dropping epiphany.


    p.s. We would love to hear what your readers think about these issues. The Worldplay project materials are currently available in Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Thanks!

    Comment by Aaron Delwiche — 9 December, 2009 @ 7:19 AM

  2. Being a European who’s played on many US servers, the transnational nature of MMOs has affected me greatly. I remember the first time I met an American online, I almost wet myself with excitement.

    I know it’s more convinent for the developer and easier to maintain international laws etc but I really dislike this trend now of locking player into server regions. If I want to play on a US server then I should have every right and opportunity too.

    Comment by We Fly Spitfires — 9 December, 2009 @ 3:46 PM

  3. There are a lot of reasons for using segregated servers. Meridian 59 had separate U.S. and German servers, and I think that worked out the best for us. International laws are one big thing. When we had trouble with people trying to run unauthorized severs in Germany, our German licensee was able to contact the proper authorities to get the servers closed down. Much faster and easier than me having to figure out where to call and making my plea in English.

    There’s also language and cultural barriers. Obviously it’s easy for someone from England to play on U.S. servers with little language barrier (as long as you speak American. ;) But, speaking a different language and not knowing English very well might make it harder to jump on a server with large groups of English-speakers. Beyond language, you have to worry about servicing local players. Our licensee had big get-togethers for Meridian 59 players in Germany. They would often rent out a youth hostel at a castle and people would come for a weekend. I was invite along a few years for lots of booze and fun, and I learned that Coca-cola and beer mix surprisingly well together. But, this would have been nigh impossible for me to organize given the distance and my lack of German ability at the time. Finally, you do have to worry about customer service issues like good old-fashioned racism. Lots of stories about how not speaking the “right” language in an Asian game will get you harassed with the intention of driving you out of the game. The most frustrating part of CS is trying to make people behave civilly online.

    Finally, there are business issues. For example, German players didn’t usually have credit cards, so most subscription payments were made from bank withdrawals. Trying to find another payment processor to handle that would have been more difficult. Also, if you license the game to a business in another country, they will not be happy if you let players play directly on your servers and cut them out. A lot of traditional (non-MMO) games deal with that, where the distributor might be different in different countries, and the distributor wants restrictions to ensure that people in their territories will buy from them instead of going elsewhere.

    In general, however, I agree with Gordon. Assuming there aren’t legal complications, I think it’s better to allow people to choose which server they want to play on. As long as a player is willing to accept the language, cultural, and even billing challenges, I see little reason to restrict him or her to one specific server. As our stories show, it’s really amazing to be able to chat with people from other countries, and hopefully this can help people get exposed to different ideas from other cultures and reduce some of the fear of “the other” that seems to always plague the world.

    Comment by Psychochild — 9 December, 2009 @ 4:55 PM

  4. Hello,
    I’m not a native english speaker but got tempted to Write a comment by lots of memories. I first got into contact with mmo’s by playing Meridian 59 on German Servers. I remember very well the faces of other when i tried to explain to them how it came that i actually knew people in nearly every major german city. When People switched to another character you often could guess their real Identity by their style of playing or typing habits…

    Later on i played EQ on US Servers with German Friends i got to know playing Meridian 59. Playing on US Servers really has been a fantastic Experience for the then 19 Year old Guy i have been back then. Though i vividly remember all these Server downtimes adjusted to the needs of US Players of course really badly. Later on i played several other mmo’s though mainly on European/ German Servers and i always missed the international atmosphere of getting to Know People that lived physicly so far Away. (Like that couple from the midwest whose House got Torn apart by a hurricane – who ever heard of sth. like this in Europe).

    Today Most mmo’s sadly got different publishers for the us/ Europe/ Asia that force their customers to Play in their Area. I mourned that Trend from the beginning. it.

    I am still in contact with some Friends i got to Know by playing Meridian 59 up to this Day. I also remember well that M59 Event Room with that Quake Logo on the Ground and the rare ingame appearance of a certain Psychochild.

    Thanks for a great Time expecialy for the idea of the frenzy mode and the faction/artefact hunts :-)

    P.S.: I Wrote These Lines with a German iPhone, so please forgive my typos and the automated capital letters.

    Comment by Verres — 17 December, 2009 @ 4:58 PM

  5. Cultural differences in gaming

    [...] topic relates a bit to the Worldplay Project I mentioned at the end of last year. Sometimes there’s a bit of a culture clash when you play on [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild’s Blog — 2 February, 2010 @ 4:35 AM

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