[MUD-Dev] RE:

Freeman Freeman
Mon Nov 26 08:01:25 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

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

> No, these games (The Sims in particular) succeed because of their
> story.

Erm... but they don't HAVE stories, the Sims in particular.

> They rely on the "sandbox" approach, but without a doubt the most
> engaging aspect of these games is the player's ability to tell
> their own story as the game unfolds.

That's what I mean by the game NOT having a story.  The player tells
his own story.  He doesn't experience the story that some developer
wrote, prepackaged and shipped.

> They may not have a traditional, linear, pre-conceived story, but
> from the players' POV, they definitely have stories within them.

The players' stories, not the games' stories.

I'm all for games that let players create their own stories while
doing stuff in the game.  What strikes me as a terrible idea is the
notion that we should be crafting these stories and shipping them to
the players, then stomping all over the story that the players would
be creating, if our story wasn't getting in their way, in order to
shove our story down their throats.

>> All the people playing multiplayer FPS fragfest type games.
> Yeah, that's probably the biggest non-storied crowed, along with
> sports games.

That's a great analogy.  There's a "story" in the playing of
football - several ministories each week and a season-long plot that
climaxes with the Superbowl.  The mechanics of the game, alone,
create that story.

The XFL tried the storytelling approach wherein they added their own
carefully crafted story to the one created by the mechanics of the
system itself.  Flopped terribly.
>> All the people playing AC, UO, EQ, Lineage, AO, etc.
> Except that the people who made AC, UO, EQ, etc., will all tell
> you their game *does* have story in it. :)

The ones they make themselves - the ones created by the mechanics of
the system itself.  The XFL-type developer-creafted story that tries
to get thrown in as an added bonus is the story the players don't
care about - the one I (and Dave Rickey, I'd guess) are saying is A
Bad Thing.

> Retention is secondary to acquisition.  Myst acquired somewhere
> between three and five million players.  Online games have
> acquired somewhere in the neighborhood of one to two million *put
> together.* Retaining these people is important, but acquiring new
> players from a broader base is important too (to some of us
> anyway; not everyone has or should have this goal).

You only need about 6 hours of content for acquisition.  And that
content can gleefully get the heck out of the players way after
their first six hours.

> Yeah, the sandbox approach.  But at present there's a disconnect
> between this, which has been so incredibly successful for games
> like "The Sims" and our current player base.  EQ is arguably less
> of a sandbox than UO, and yet it's attracted more players.

To be blunt: UO just barely worked.  If there'd been some other game
out that *did* work, it wouldn't have gotten any players at all.
And even once it DID mostly work, for a year or so it had more of a
hardcore-FPS feel to it than sandbox.

> Also, one thing players have asked for in The Sims is a greater
> ability to tell and be told stories.  So maybe NWN is on the right
> track after all.

Sure, but *their* stories, the ones that are created by playing the
game, by the mechanics of the game.

>> 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.
> "Tools not rules."  I heartily agree with the principle -- we just
> haven't done all that good of a job in presenting it in MMP games
> so far.

Well, not JUST tools, but an environment that (for lack of a better
term) "grieves" the players.  Irritates them.  And then tools that
allow the players to deal with that irritation, and fix it.  I'm not
really for the pure sandbox approach: but an approach by which
stories are created by the system mechanics alone, as opposed to
stories crafted by a developer and "told" via the game/environment.
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