[MUD-Dev] Re: (fwd) AD: [custom graphical] whitestar Crossfire MUD

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Wed Apr 29 16:51:10 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Sat, 25 Apr 1998 14:03:48 -0500 (CDT) 
Cat <cat at bga.com> wrote:

> Consider my alternative tool, Microsoft Visual C++ - which I did, in
> fact, choose.  Had I even considered the alternative of doing a
> non-web based Java app, as Crossfire did, rather than a Windows-only
> .exe file, I'd be looking at a simple tradeoff.  The majority of my
> potential Windows users, the ones who do not happen to already have
> the Java runtime environment installed, would have to go through
> extra download time, and extra setup time.  Some of them would still
> try the game anyway, others would decide it's too much hassle to
> bother with.  So I lose that number of potential users.  In
> exchange, I gain some percentage of the users of other platforms
> that Java runs on - most (but not all) of the non-Windows-based
> computers out there.  It's a simple question of numbers.  Is the
> number gained larger than the number lost, or smaller?

I should probably note up front that your choice lost me as a
potential customer.  I have only one system out of the half dozen plus
at home that is physically capable of running Windows (Windows doesn't
run on Alpha's, PA RISC's etc), plus the minor fact that I refuse to
own or use any MS products of any flavour.  <shrug>  Then again, my
computing habits don't fall into any of the more commercially
desirable mass-market demographics.

Several points spring to mind (none with answers):

  You are assuming that the largest possible candidate player base is
the (or a) driving design metric.  It is especially suspect in a
hobbiest field where the reasons driving development are typically
much more personal and often ego/fad/genital-size/religious-crusade

  Even in the commercial world this is not necessarily true.  As any
of the contractors here can readily report, often, (far too?) 
individual hobby horses are used instead as the guide rule rather than
any bean-counter's ROI calculation.  Lotus with Notes and CC:Mail is a
perfect and well publicised example.  Other cases abound.

  Consider the case of Raph with UOL.  In a great many ways UOL is a
reflection of Raph's own personal hobby horses and goals in game
design.  Would UOL have had anything like the simulation and ecology
pretensions if Raph hadn't come along and more or less sold them on
the concept?  Without Raph would it have merely been anouther DIKU on

  This hobby horse BTW can also be viewed as a direct parallel to the
standard OS/platform/OpenSource religions.  XShipWars for instance is
developing under X due to their personal Linux affiliations, but also
working hard to maintain a parallel Windows port (currently likely to
run under a freeware X server under Windows).

  You are also assuming that the short term gain is being valued over
the long term, and that the long term market state is assumed to be a
linear extension of the current market state.  I know of several
projects under current deevlopment which are banking on the
technologies required to run them reaching the marketplace by the time
the product is finished (they don't exist now).  Admittedly, none of
them are games, but two of them are mass-market products.  There also
those who are banking that the current market balance will alter
drastically by the time they hit relase, be it the collapse from
dominance of Windows, the ascendancy of Java (and home JavaTV
clients), or some other such.

> So I can gain some portion of the "paltry few percent" by using Java
> instead, and lose some portion of the "90 percent plus" majority.
> This can only be worthwhile if the percentage of Windows users lost
> is pretty small.  But in fact, I'd be willing to hazard a guess that
> you'd lose more than half of the people that would have otherwise
> tried out the game.  The number one problem with computer games has
> always been that they're too hard to set up.  Putting two extra
> steps in the setup process (download the Java VM, install the Java
> VM) is one of the worst things you could do.

If your target market is defined around "anything which has a fast
enough computer", then yes, this works.  If instead you intend to
define a narrower and more exclusive target market ("we want the
geeks!" or whatever), then these various barriers to entry can
causally act as selection criteria for your public.

Case in point: I have a friend who records various orchestra
performances.  His recordings have made it to several major label CD
releases, as well as many many radio plays.  He also actively sells
(on a personal hobbiest level) his recordings to other interested folk
(mostly radio stations, but also private individuals (yes, he's clean
with ASCAP and BMI, and the various musicians unions)).  The medium of
choice is DAT.  Vanishingly few audiophiles have DAT players.  Those
aren't his market however -- audiophiles with DAT players are, as the
possession of a DAT player automatically classifies them as interested
in pro/semi-pro live recordings etc.

> So if the goal of this port was to maximize the number of actual new
> players to Crossfire, I think perhaps the tool chosen was the second
> best choice, not the best.  

It looks more like a hobbiest/labour-of-love.

> If the goal was to minimize the number of highly motivated potential
> players who couldn't possibly try the game, it's probably on target.
> But I'm more interested in the overal totals, not just the totals
> amongst "those players who are willing to go to some extra effort",
> who are becoming more and more a minority as the net reaches
> increasingly towards the mainstream population out there.

A point that I've made repeatedly with managers, in classes I've
delivered, and in those chances I've gotten to mount the podium is
that percentage market share in the computing trade has much less
meaning than it once had.  Cash flow and literal growth curve is much
more key.

If you have 10% share today, and 5% tomorrow, but the market's total
size grew by 500% in that time -- you've still grown by 1,000% while
losing half your market share.  

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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