[MUD-Dev] Geometric content generation

Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com
Thu Oct 4 10:56:06 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


From: Dave Rickey [mailto:daver at mythicentertainment.com]

> AC's fundamental flaw as a social environment is that there are a
> handful of "Extreme" templates which are far more effective at XP
> generation, and they are all "solo" templates.  This is also a
> flaw in AO, and UO.  IMHO, EQ's status as the #1 game in the US
> comes not from the fact it is prettier than the alternatives, but
> because it has these fundamental socializing pressures, and the
> others do not.  Although my experience with Lineage is limited, I
> believe it is also a strict "class" system, with similar
> socializing pressures (and others in the form of territorial
> control meta-games, which require even higher orders of social
> organization).
 
> In fact, as I look at the games, and their relative success, what
> I see as the determining factor is *not* graphical appeal
> (Lineage, the largest, has the poorest graphics.  AO, the
> smallest, has the best graphics), or quality of production assets
> (AC's server architecture is of higher quality in *many* ways than
> any of the others, yet it's 2nd to the bottom), or reliability
> (Lineage servers are *incapable* of staying up for more than 10
> days at a run, EQ servers crash frequently, AC almost never
> crashes).  What I do see is a direct correlation between
> socializing pressures and revenue.

I think you oversimplify. Whilst AO has the best 'screenshot'
graphics, it has inordinate texture management problems that make it
a slide show in populated areas. Perhaps when 128 meg gfx cards come
out it will be ok, in the mean time, its a hindrance not a help.

I've actually been spending the last 2 weeks playing AO, and I'm
beginning to feel that my original judgement was wrong. Its is not
as socially hamstrung as I had originally thought, in fact if you
want to gain maximum xp, you are best off grouping outside with 5
other people. I make friends with people I group with just the same
as I did in EQ (although that never happened in AC).

The unfortunate thing about AO is that you are compelled to do solo
missions to raise cash, but otherwise it is a nice easy going game
during the level ranges that have some balance (i.e. not >80). In
fact the reason I've been playing AO is as an escape from social
pressure in EQ, and in that respect its prefect.

Perhaps the nicest part of AO is the cohesive feel of its back
story. I somehow know more about its world than I do about Norrath
(EQs world), and I've played it 1 month vs 2 and a bit years. AOs
item descriptions definitely add to the colour of the world as they
can contextualise them far better than an item simply called
'swiftwind' that is dropped by monster X or quest Z. For some reason
I read item descriptions whilst I never read quest text. Its
probably down to being busy when doing quests, and the fact that you
can read an items description in AO asyncronously to other actions.

They even have fairly useless items that add to the fun. Yesterday,
someone put down this large white machine outside a shop, I picked
it up and there was a wonderful description of how it had a counter
on the front that was counting down, and how it looked to you like a
slightly unstable nuclear bomb. It then went on to say that picking
it up might make it explode.  Having already picked it up by this
time, I thought the description was fantastic.

> Players will complain about graphics, whine about balance,
> *scream* about stability.  But when it comes time to renew their
> subscription, what decides if you keep that customer is how many
> friends he feels he'd be leaving behind.  Show me a better way to
> create those friendships than through manipulation of the XP
> treadmill system, and I'll be all over it (I always hated them,
> anyway).  For right now, I'll go with what works.

Well an xp treadmill is just a way of compelling people to spend
time together working towards a similar goal. After all, most of the
people who end up as your friends in these games leveled up with
you. Its about the shared experience, not the particular mechanism
you use to enforce it. A large part of my shared experiences in EQ
were sitting at the zone line, trying to get a group because I
played a class that wasn't de rigeur. I'd hope thats not what you
are aiming for?

One of the other aspects of EQ, that no large scale game currently
has, is the aspirational 'uber mob' content. As I've said it before,
but wanting to kill dragons and gods keeps people going a long time
in EQ. Then actually doing it as part of a large team keeps them
even longer.

Or how about the fact that EQs chat system is the best. You hit 'r'
and it puts '/tell [whoever you last got a tell from]' in your chat
input box.  Every other game makes you have to type '/r' youself and
it ends up going to the wrong person because someone else just sent
you a tell before you hit enter. Its little things like that, which
discourage me from bothering to chat.

Whilst people loathe EQs item centric nature, one shouldn't discount
its attraction to the collect and hoard aspect of ones psyche. AC
and AO suffer from an over abundance of inferior gear that no one
wants. Sometimes less is more.

What I'm trying to say is that you can't put EQs success down to
just one thing. In fact, part of its success is probably down to it
being the first with 3d gfx. Anyway, good luck with DAoCs release, I
hope its successful.

Dan

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