[MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #163 - 25 msgs

Raph Koster rkoster at austin.rr.com
Sat Jul 15 23:25:13 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


> -----Original Message-----
> From: mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu
> [mailto:mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu]On Behalf Of
> Dr. Cat
> Sent: Saturday, July 15, 2000 7:35 PM
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #163 - 25 msgs
>
>
> I don't even need to quote the message, my reaction to this was generated
> mainly by just seeing the tacit assumption in the message title.

To be honest, I was a little surprised to see Brian's title to his post,
given that I don't see any particular neglect towards socializers going on,
*except* in the "MMRORPG" world, where of course, it's not the initial
target market.

> The dominance of combat-oriented muds is a temporary phenomenon, caused
> largely by the fact that the small minority of the human population that
> hardcore gaming geeks represent (a group I'm a member of, by the way) are
> much more willing to do hard work early on to make something
> like a mud possible.

And it ony counts as dominance if you are counting the commercial efforts.

The fact of the matter is that sooner or later, highly interactive virtual
environments had to break out into a larger audience using more current
technology. It just made sense that the first industry to do so would be the
interactive entertainment industry. But it doesn't say anything whatsoever
about the future of virtual environments.

I've stated before (and I think, argued with you about it, Cat) that even
socializer-oriented virtual spaces are going to have to include games for
the foreseeable future. Part of my point there, though, is that the
definition of "game" is likely to have to broaden significantly for that to
happen--and perhaps even the term may cease to apply (kind of like how Chris
Crawford is giving up on calling what are patently video games by that name,
hoping to give the subgenre of interactive storytelling greater cachet).
Then again, it's stretched far enough at this point to include "Creatures"
and "SimCity" so I have hope.

>  When the masses are using online environments, character
> advancement and killing monsters will be a fringe genre, with most people
> using muds for socializing.  Most of them *gasp* not even roleplaying,
> just pretending to be "myself talking to my friends through the computer".
> Or at most "myself in a funny space-alien costume, ha ha."

Just to be picky...

I think that the understimated audience is actually not the pure
socializers. That's evident to anyone with a modicum of Internet savvy. Even
EverQuest, generally agreed upon to be a primarily hack n slash experience,
makes a point of the game design forcing sociailzation.

To my mind, it's the explorer/builder types that are the large ignored
market. People seem to like to do a little bit of something whilst they
chat. Not just chat. And they like to express themselves. Ideally, in ways
or media where they cannot be embarrassed. Yes, people chat a lot at bars,
but other things--like karaoke, or drinks--get them in the door. You could
argue that the Internet supplies the drinks already (loss of inhibitions via
anonymity) but the big commercial effotrs are still mostly missing the
karaoke.

> At that point, some mainstream mud developers might discuss "Why
> Combat-mud players are our Comrades".  I certainly think it's worth
> considering, when building a get-the-most-players-possible mud,
> whether you should allow combat-type play in there at all but make
> sure it's segregated and won't both most players...  Or just not have
> it anywhere to avoid attracting a crowd that will be too disruptive
> to the socializers.  We're going mostly towards "no combat"
> in Furcadia.

The real question, for those people trying to make that type of mud, is
whether the market is ready for the socializer-only mud. After all, there
have been a couple of attempts thus far, and they've faield to get very far
(speaking in absolute market terms ehre, of course--as artistic and social
endeavors they are seminal works in the field: Habitat, Palace, AlphaWorld,
WorldsChat, etc). The advantage to starting from the base of the had core
gaming geek community is that it gives entry to a "seed audience" that can
get the ball rolling. And it may take more than one product to do it, too.
There's a lot to be said for being the second entry into the market, for
example, and for having a large pre-built audience to start with, in order
to better market to an even larger one. This was the case with Meridian 59
versus UO (which carried the license and far bigger access to gaming press).
It will likely be the case again with the bigger licenses coming from other
media (such as Middle-earth, Star Trek, and Star Wars).

> Numbers for the latest reality check - a recent article I saw (don't
> remember the source, so feel free to consider the numbers as
> questionable
> as you like) said there were one million hardcore gamers on
> the Internet,
> and thirty million casual gamers.

The big commercial video game companies making these MMORPGs know that. They
just don't know quite how to get there yet. But I know for a fact they are
trying. :)

> The question in my mind isn't how to work socializers in, but
> rather how
> to make a place that caters primarily to socializers - the majorit of
> humans.

I guess all I am saying is that I don't think the answer is only better
chat.

-Raph




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