[MUD-Dev] The Future of MMOGs... what's next? (fwd)

Crosbie Fitch crosbie at cyberspaceengineers.org
Wed Jun 12 19:07:42 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: Ron Gabbard

> 'Revolutionary' would be leveraging that power and flexibility to
> create a world that is living and constantly evolving... deeper.

> It's a lot safer to just add content or have players add content
> (make the game wider and longer) than it is to give players
> greater flexibility to impact the game world and the game
> experience of other players (make it deeper).  But, that's the
> challenge and why successfully implementing an 'organic' game
> world would be revolutionary.

Of course, you're right. The problem is that it's difficult to
convince 'money' to develop such a beastie.

Just as the corporate minds behind the proprietary precursors of the
Web couldn't conceive of a web created by plebs, so the ones behind
current MMOGs can't countenance open virtual worlds.

If you are a 'corporate mind' and believe that you are creating an
environment that people will want to visit enough to pay you for the
privilege, then you have a lot to protect. You and your product have
a reputation: for quality, safety, security, moral values,
integrity, etc. It is hard enough simply allowing players in (to
often deleteriously affect the experience for others), and certainly
not cost effective to allow uncontrolled production of content by
these other players.

Until we get a technology developer who will abandon the idea that
you need to own and control (and thus be responsible for) the
virtual world, it's unlikely that we'll ever see wholesale player
emancipation.

Even so, I dont' think that an uncontrolled virtual world
development platform will be incompatible with commercial
opportunity, just that, typically, people will only spot the
opportunties after the bloody thing has been built.

For example, people make enough money selling software, even though
they don't control the platform it's to run on. I don't see why you
couldn't make money selling virtual content to the users of a
virtual world (even if you don't control that virtual world). In
fact, as we all know (BlackSnow/Mythic), we are seeing a
re-incarnation of IBM wishing to prevent anyone else selling
software to run on its machines. Maybe we need an MMOG developer to
accidentally lose control of their MMOG (just as IBM accidentally
produced the 'Open' PC), such that it becomes the de facto 'Mod
community' development platform, and subsequently as ubiquitous as
HTTP.  Maybe NWN is hinting at the way it's going...

Analogously, I expect Microsoft are pretty thankful they are not
wholly responsible for the goodness of all software that runs under
Windows. If they were, they'd soon put draconian controls in place
to ensure that Windows only ran certified software, and they'd
jealously guard those certificates. But, to a large extent, the OS
is 'out there' big time. It's difficult to control what happens on
millions of PCs. If they did need that level of control, then I
suspect that GNU/Linux would have a much quicker adoption rate.

If you remove the a priori assumption that a MMOG suitable for
player developed content will and must be developed by a company
with a conventional revenue model, then things look much brighter.

So accidentally, like IBM with their PC, or deliberately like http
or GNU/Linux, an open architecture for MMOGs will become available.

A whole host of considerations gets a tad transformed when the
reputation and commercial viability of a company are no longer
involved, and not least, when punters are no longer concerned by the
subscription they'd otherwise be paying. Of course, there will
always be services to sell, but I expect that MMOGs will become as
free as the Web. If you want to filter out the undesirable you will
pay for it, just as people pay for anti-virus software or 'net
nanny' utilities. If you want guarantees, you pay for them. If you
want more quality that what is generally available, you'll pay for
it. But, if the system is open, then all these services are open to
anyone to provide.

There is a possible interim stage, and that's where there is a
proprietary, but open platform. It's possible that Microsoft could
produce an MMOG DirectX component, e.g. DirectMMOG. This might allow
everyone and their dog to create a MMOG whether central server,
distributed server farm, or even P2P. But, MS would retain an
interest of some sort, e.g. (like IBM/Butterfly.net) the unique
ability to provide a secure/controllable MMOG facility in exchange
for 'consideration'. Without this, MS would leave all uncertified
DirectMMOG games to remain experimental/unsecure/easily
hackable. This 'almost satisfactory' situation would delay the
development of an open equivalent, but still wouldn't prevent it.

I think there's a kind of 'opening law' that applies here, e.g. that
when any proprietary technology or process becomes sufficiently
valuable to mankind, it will be opened, or a non-proprietary variant
will arise.

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