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

Sasha Hart Sasha.Hart at directory.reed.edu
Sun Jun 16 04:30:50 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


[Brian Lindahl]

> Then again, you could just call me a pesimist,

Pessimist! It sounds almost as if you wanted to be talked out of
it. ;)

The fitness landscape for games is not so cut and dried as you
assume ( I'd bet a nickel on that.) The problem sounds like everyone
involved is risk averse, but just the same must lay it all on the
line to make it go. I think the most intelligent way to handle this,
if you want to gamble, is to reduce the stakes: take down the cost
of the project, reduce the scope, slash maintenance, whatever it
takes. I don't think this really means sacrificing too much for a
large number of potential cool projects.

What about games which are done free? (Thousands of text worlds,
many utterly fascinating and/or worthwhile; a smattering of free
graphical ones, e.g. Furcadia). Do you really mean to say that
nothing new will develop because everyone will be waiting on
corporate money? Have you forgotten how much damned fun this can be,
or underestimated the capacity of weird people to pop out of the
woodwork with improbable free stuff?

What about massive text games? At least on a hardware basis, I
imagine that Dragon Realms is somewhat cheaper to run than Everquest
on that basis; perhaps also on a labor basis. Maybe not so exciting,
I understand... but there are a lot of heads on DR. In some respects
the design isn't too far from what you discussed, though.

However - in what ways are the Skotos games like Everquest?  Do you
think the total budget for all of them put together approaches the
budget for Everquest? Let's take gentlemen's bets about the
per-player-capita budget. Even if Everquest wins, it still takes a
lot less to make a shot in the world Skotos lives in than in
Everquest's.

By a similar token, what about Achaea?  Matt Mihaly got me to fork
over $100 to farm rats and I had never spent money on a MUD in my
life. What is it, 3 games that Matt runs now? There is something to
that model, and something to the world - and even if Matt's worlds
aren't getting more massive that much faster, his empire seems to be
pretty healthy by all external accounts, if certainly on a different
scale than Everquest.

Half-life is massively populated and has sold TONs of boxes over its
lifespan, many many for the multiplayer. Come up with a MUD that
uses user servers in a really appealing way and you can sell CD keys
by the truckload. Long shot - fine. But consider: A) That, from
poorly remembered hearsay, I seem to recall that something like
30,000 people are playing Counterstrike during the day and B) That
since you are selling boxes and not servers, maintenance costs are
super low, the price is one-time and playing is "free,"...

There is something so hot there that it may very well spill over
into the MUD arena in some form. I'm not holding my breath for a sea
change but this is at least as hot as the Everquest niche, and maybe
even more flexible. Notice how many people around here are excited
about Neverwinter Nights? Notice how many people (in general) have
had silly MUSHes or stock LPs or DIKUs running with about 10-30
people on them at any given time? Notice that Tribes2 servers can
support 64 players pretty well, in a great engine?  In short, did
you notice that a genre which was maybe earliest famous for silly
deathmatch over IPX has already rapidly encroached on MUD territory? 
There are only a few steps left: the only ones not eluding me at the
moment are the creation of focuses other than deathmatch, ctf/tf,
and the integration of these with persistence. Between Vampire, NWN,
goofy half-life mods, etc. I am utterly convinced that there will be
scope for many mid-sized graphical MUDs in the very near
future. Perhaps as many as there were diku MUDs are their
peak. Perhaps as many as there are Counterstrike servers. Oof. With
this comes an attendant population and a HUGE engine for the
production of lots of variations. I believe that the golden age of
the MUD is yet to come. Some of us wannabe academics might smirk at
these silly populist ambitions ("A MUD in every pot!!") - but where
the hell did the majority of this list come from, anyway?

Do we really need "massive" worlds per se? No, not necessarily.
"graphical"? No, not necessarily. Commercial? Not necessarily.
Centralized and subscription-based? Not necessarily.

I have no idea what things are like on the corporate end, none
whatsoever. But just because we have a rich vein of representatives
from games in niches competitive to Everquest doesn't limit the
scope of the rest of us to follow the same niche forever, gloomily,
wishing that games like Armageddon or Neverwinter Nights or Furcadia
or (God help me) Achaea existed, or were feasible to make and
run. :) It doesn't even consign the poor (cough) folks from UO or
DAOC or AO to a hell from which they have no alternatives but to
endlessly churn out Everquest clones... even assuming the big money
will never follow anything else - which really seems contingent to
me now...

Then again, you could just call me an optimist.

Sasha.
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