[MUD-Dev] Structured Social Play

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Wed Sep 5 11:30:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Tom Hubina writes:

> My goal is to give a person with around an hour or two to play
> something to actually do.


> The vast majority of EQ players fall into #1 and #2. To me, the
> casual gamer is someone that doesn't play that much and is looking
> for some low-key involvement game that they could play once in a
> while, but doesn't really matter to them. Once they become
> "addicted", then will often move into either the first or second
> groups. Very few people actually keep playing the game for a long
> time if they are truly casual as the game simply doesn't cater to
> them. I don't think these type of people are ever going to be very
> interested in a Role Playing Game, since it takes a lot of time
> and dedication to really get enjoyment out it (this is something
> we can argue about if you want .. heh)

For starters, we're looking at different player groups.  Further,
you assume that the only people who can enjoy a multiplayer genre
game are those that are hardcore about it.  Current games certainly
cater to those who want to spend a lot of time in them.  But I'm
playing Asheron's Call right now, attempting to keep things as
casual as I can.  And I'm succeeding, by and large, but only by
playing solo.  It's not that it requires hardcore adherence to the
game in order to enjoy it.  It's that hardcore adherence yields the
most complete involvement in the game.  If my game has 10,000 casual
players and 500 hardcore, I'd be a happy camper.

The issue of getting players involved socially in a game without
requiring many hours of involvement is the meat here.  I'm trying to
come up with game systems and game structures that result in players
casually interacting socially.  Social interactions in current games
tend to be very... ponderous.  For example, if you could simply
speak to other players using your ability to speak and hear, how
would that change the social fabric of the game?  If tasks were more
clearly structured such that it was clear that you only needed to
accompany somebody for 20 minutes - while still obtaining plenty of
entertainment from the game - how would that change the social
fabric of the game?

Consider Microsoft's Gaming Zone, where players can hook up, play a
game of chess or go online and then move on.  The players get to
know each other, but for the most part it's a case of sit down,
play, leave.  The interactions aren't as ponderous as in a virtual
environment with characters and such.  This is why I asked my two

>> As Raph has mentioned in a few posts, the social element of these
>> games is the most addictive (my memory of his statement).

> This is a very accurate statement. You can't leave the game
> because doing so would mean leaving all your new friends! Not to
> mention all that phat loot and exp you've gotten over the last two
> years!

I was thinking of the single-session addictive qualities of the
social element.  So remember that it can also be difficult to get
out of a single session due to the social structure of a game.  If I
play every day for 20 minutes, no big deal.  If I play twice a week
for 4 hours in each session, is that better or worse?

> I think highly structured gameplay is very much the key to casual
> gamers, but more to the point, I think very low involvement in the
> game is important. Casual gamers generally want a quick fix of fun
> ... get in, get out. As such, I don't think multi-player games are
> the kinds of games they're really interested in. There may be
> things you could add to an online game to cater to them, but those
> things are greatly limited because of what could/would happen when
> #1 got ahold of them.

Again, you're assuming that the current multiplayer game structure
is the only viable one.  Microsoft's Gaming Zone is multiplayer, but
structured such that only two players at a time engage in
activities, and others typically don't even watch them, let alone
say anything during a match.  The activities are fairly short in
duration, and the players understand that they can step away at any
time.  The social immersion is considerably lessened.  This may be
primarily due to the fact that there is no avatar to represent the
player in that environment.  Perhaps emotional/psychological
separation of the player from their character is an important
element of getting players to think more casually about the gaming

> I think what you just described would be First Person Shooters and
> games like Cosmic Rift (Subspace revisited). I don't think what
> you describe can realistically be done in a role playing setting
> without sacrificing a very large portion of the game that the
> hardcore market enjoys. Perhaps the closest thing you could get
> would be something like Diablo.

But I'm not particularly worried about the hardcore gamers.  They'll
always have somebody catering to their needs.  It's the folks who
just want some casual gameplay - with the occasional foray into
something more serious - that I'm interested in.  That's where the
mass market lives.


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