[MUD-Dev] RE:

Freeman Freeman
Wed Nov 21 09:06:38 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


From: Sellers, Mike [mailto:msellers at origin.ea.com]

> How many people play games without story?

All the people that play Sims, SimCity, et al.

All the people playing multiplayer FPS fragfest type games.

All the people playing AC, UO, EQ, Lineage, AO, etc.

For that matter, all the people that play tabletop games like Uno
and Sorry and Scrabble.

> No non-storied online game (even those online games that claim to
> have story elements) has gotten more than about 10% of the number
> of people who have played Myst.

Myst's objective was not "retention".

How many people played Myst for 2 and half years?  How may people
paid $350 for it?  That's about what I paid for UO.

> Sure it was static and lonely, but it had a story that literally
> millions of people found to be compelling -- to say nothing of the
> tens and hundreds of millions of people who regularly turn to
> other forms of entertainment in which the sole common denominator
> is story.

Yeah, if objective is to sell a bunch of copies of a game that
people play for a few hours and then toss aside, then you better
have a story in there.  That's not the right objective for an MMO,
IMO.  I think the right approach is to create the compelling
environment - which may very well entail having a nice backstory -
and then throwing the people into it with enough tools at their
disposal to create their own stories.

> Depends who you're listening to: the few who play now, or the many
> who don't.

Well, come on - Using that logic, the many who *don't* play could
also be asking for a massively multiplayer virtual fishtank.  I
don't think they are.

I think the right approach is to give players enough tools to
manipulate their environment, and an environment that's hostile
enough to require they manipulate it, and they'll make their own
stories.

It does require thought and planning along the lines of "What sorts
of stories will this mechanic spark?"  Things like having monsters
periodically attack a town, loot their kills, even having NPC
"bossmonsters" pop-up in the wilderness and make an NPC spawn in
town to whine about said bossmonster - these will lead to situations
in which players get together (or don't), Do Stuff, and create a
story for themselves.

But as for actually writing those stories?  "Something happened to
someone you don't care about and if you do [X] then something else
will happen that requires you to do [Y] and then..."

Possible or not, I just don't think it's desirable.  For Myst?
Sure.  For a CRPG?  Absolutely.  For an MMO?  I don't think so.
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