[MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #164 - 12 msgs

Dr. Cat cat at realtime.net
Sun Jul 16 14:04:08 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


> From: "Raph Koster" <rkoster at austin.rr.com>
> Subject: RE: [MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #163 - 25 msgs
> 
> 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.

I thought we had argued about whether it's essential (or at least
inevitable) to have combat or combat-like functions in all virtual
environments, or at least the "fully rich" ones.  I'm not sure that
I have a strong opinion on that, or need one.  Certainly Furcadia and
the Zippity stuff I'm working on have plenty of game or game-like things
planned for 'em.  I think the "foreseeable future" stretches far enough to
imagine that people who just want to talk will have something aimed
exclusively at that, though.  IRC and telephones both seem popular, each
in their own way.  (Telephones just a trifle more so. :X)

> 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.

I wouldn't say it's evident to everyone on this list, nor would I have
said much of ANYTHING was evident to the game industry back in '94 when
I made the rounds pitching DragonSpires.  You've made those rounds more
recently than I have, but I only expect them to learn so much in a mere
6 years, especially when the online game industry isn't big like the
Quake-clone and Command-and-Conquer-clone industries are.  If EverQuest
is the best evidence they're "aware of it", I would say I have a much more
demanding definition of "making a point of the design to force
socialization".  To me it seems to incredibly secondary to cloning the
whole D&D/Dikumud type advancement and fighting stuff that it's a "point"
I can't even hear.  It's like a cruel dictator giving a speech and taking
a few moments out in the middle of his ravings and saying "Drink more root
beer, it tastes great".  Is anybody going to think of that as the point of
his speech, or even A point of it?

> 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.

Not ignored here.  My favorite model is "the Geocities of online
communities".  Everyone else, y'all feel free to ignore it for a few more
years till I'm retired.  :X)  The MUD world obviously knows how useful
letting players build can be - though the combat mud world often treats it
as some kind of rare and special privilege, whereas the social muds
usually let users build very promiscuously.  That's more like Geocities,
and they sold their company for a pretty penny.  I do think things like
karaoke are rare in the bar world, though it's a good example.  Even
online, MOST people are too embarassed, lazy, disinterested or
what-have-you to create stuff.  But that minority that do are generating
free content that makes your service far more interesting to the rest of
the players.  Commercial games sometimes pay a little lip service to this,
but most developers still think "we professionals should create the main
world for them to enjoy".  I like the idea of making a toolkit and letting
players make almost ALL of the world.  They'll like it better that way,
and the professionals really AREN'T that great at making massively
multiplayer graphic online worlds ANYWAY.  Nobody has forty years
experience at it, or thirty, or twenty.  Buncha rank amateurs really,
myself included.  :X)

Anyway the builders aren't "the ignored market", they're the "ignored free
labor source".  The majority of the market is still the other players that
come in and enjoy what the builders made.

> 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).

Redefine ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger as an "online community" and I
think they blow away the usage levels of ALL muds added together, free
and commercial ones both.  What's ICQ at, forty million user accounts,
eighty million, something like that?  Maybe it's AIM that was at eighty
million, I forget.  And they don't even have much in the way of "places"
(I never tried out the interest-based chat rooms, I don't know how widely
used those are) and only minimal representations of self and others, many
of which are left blank.  If they added a bare minimum of that stuff it'd
be a pretty compelling socializer-only mud, doncha think?  They DO have
the stuff that was apparently missing from the seminal works in order to
make them huge.  Smallness and convenience, which is tied closely to being
on ALL the time, which facilitates getting in touch with your friends SO
much more than someplace you're only in sometimes.  Ease of use and a
focus on finding and talking to your friends as primary and as a
low-impact interruption to other activities rather than as a primary
stop-doing-everything-else-to-do-this activity.  I think worlds like the
ones I'm building should have a component exactly like this, with the
opportunity for the draw-you-further-in elements like an ICQ chat request
to draw you into the visual world any time you see someone you want to
interact with in greater depth.

Anyway I'm not sure this is so far off as you think.  AIM and ICQ are
huge, and voice chat is going to make such things a lot huger over the
next five to ten years.  Change the world as we know it, forever.

> 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.

Disadvantage is they and the type of environments they favor are a huge
turn-off for lots of the general public.  I think the builders and the
MUSH-style roleplayers might be somewhat less so, and better to seed a
community that can draw in more casual types with its evocative qualities.
We'll see.  Eventually you'll see the fans of a particular sports team,
rock band, etc. forming the cores of these communities, probably a lot
more than gamers.  I think it'll be decades before as high a percentage of
the public likes to roleplay even a little as my partner is hoping for.
I admire her for working towards it though, I think society will be better
off when more people stretch their imaginations that way.

> > 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. :)

Again, you've made the rounds of them a lot more recently than me.  But
I'm much more willing to belittle them and say "Oy, you call that trying?"
Anyway I haven't had much use for the conventional game industry the last
few years, the internet startup industry seems a lot more likely to "get
it" with something new.  Even if it means a hundred companies didn't get
it but one of them stumbled onto it because they're trying everything.

I also like this industry's willingness to make the employees wealthy
rather than just the founders.  I find that admirable, it's something that
always irked me about the game industry (though things have improved there
a lot since the 1980s).

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

Let's wait and see how big ICQ is in five years...  Or whoever comes along
and kicks their ass, if anyone manages to kick that already-rather-large
posterior.

Even if ICQ doesn't gain one single user in the next five years, some
online game would have to have five million or ten million regular players
before I'd acknowledge they're even playing in the same size sandbox as
ICQ.

Tell ya what, I'll race you there.  You're ahead of me right now, with
200,000 to my 10,000 or so.  But there's plenty of time to catch up.  :X)
First one to ten million gets bought dinner, whaddya say?  Five million is
too easy!

*-------------------------------------------**-----------------------------* 
   Dr. Cat / Dragon's Eye Productions       ||       Free alpha test:
*-------------------------------------------**   http://www.furcadia.com
    Furcadia - a graphic mud for PCs!       ||  Let your imagination soar!
*-------------------------------------------**-----------------------------*



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