[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Sat Jan 11 11:32:30 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: "Marc Fielding" <fielding at computer.org>
> [ Caliban Tiresias Darklock ]

>> I strongly disagree with that idea. It is not so much that the
>> barrier to entry needs to be lowered, as much as that the
>> distance you drop on the other side needs to be
>> lessened. Lowering barriers to entry does this, but so too does
>> increasing the quality of the product on the other side. If you
>> make the other side worthy of climbing the wall, people will
>> climb it no matter how high it is.

> Hybridize it then. High quality will attract customers. High
> quality WITH Rookie Management System (RMS) with attract more! 
> They need not be mutually exclusive.

However, high quality *keeps* players, and rookie management
doesn't. Once a new player becomes an established player, all the
wonderful little things that made your game so easy to learn in the
first place become... well, a big pain in the ass.

Besides, to me, RMS means "Richard M.Stallman" and leaves a bad
taste in my mouth. ;)

>> Is it the job of a game to raise gamers who can play *this* game,
>> or gamers who can play *any* game?

> I'm not looking at it from the perspective of a single game. I'm
> turning the problem around and asking "What features do games need
> to attract new players?"

The question's overly simplistic. What kind of games, and what kind
of new players? Do you want to make an RPG that appeals to people
who don't usually play RPGs? An MMOG that appeals to "Command and
Conquer" players? What's your specific goal? You just can't get
anywhere with a question this generic.

The easy answer, and the one I'd be considering around now, is "what
are the most attainable features a new MMOG needs to attract a large
playerbase quickly and keep most of them?" -- which is something
many large companies are wondering right now. But "coddling newbies"
isn't in that featurelist.

> I think you're assuming too much. A rookie player doesn't think in
> terms of "large investments" and "payoffs".

Well, of course not. Only developers do. Likewise, the guy at the
grocery store doesn't buy based on brand leadership, he buys based
on a perception that a product is better -- but while he would swear
up and down that brand leadership doesn't make a product better,
he'll still tend to buy the brand leader because he thinks it's
obviously better if so many other people use it. There's a very
complex interaction there which consumers in general despise and
deny, but which works all the same.

Customers don't know what they want or why. They just know it when
they see it. Which is why we're asking each other this question,
instead of the consumers.

> He wants to be entertained. High complexity detracts from that
> entertainment.

High *required* complexity, yes. But high *available* complexity
gives him something to explore and use to his advantage down the
road. The difficult part is to figure out how exactly you can give
the advanced player lots of options without making him inherently
superior to the new player.

To date, we've usually answered this question by putting the
complexity in the environment rather than the characters. A
character is a character, but there's this complex world where he
can adventure. You can stay in the simple areas, but then you have
to move on to the more advanced places. The only problem with this
is that content creation is expensive. You build an area over the
course of several months, and the average player who wants to
explore it will do so in a day or two. You just can't keep up.

That's why I think the complexity belongs in the character. You hand
the player one character and give him adequate opportunity to mold
and shape that character without getting stuck, experimenting with
different ideas and shuffling things around until he feels satisfied
with the result. If you put the complexity in the environment, it
belongs to everyone. Put it in the character, and it belongs to the
individual player. That sense of ownership is important.

> Minimize his initial complexity and he gets a faster "ROI" (as
> you'd likely put it).

However, a lack of complexity is where boredom takes hold, and
boredom is exactly what you don't want in an online game.

>>> You don't give a Kalahari Bushman a bit of "Rum-Raisin Swirl"
>>> for a first taste. That would be overwhelming and somewhat of a
>>> waste.

>> I find this statement *terribly* condescending and arrogant. Just
>> because they're new to the concept doesn't mean they're stupid
>> and unable to appreciate things. Some people *want* to be
>> overwhelmed, and an MMOG *ought* to be overwhelming anyway.

> Excuse me? It's a simple matter of pragmatism. The rookie will be
> sufficiently overwhelmed just by experiencing the standard game
> world.

But you're not advocating a standard game world. You're advocating a
newbie game world where things are easy and simple and we don't
offend their nascent tastes before they're ready.

> The extra complexity you're advocating just gets you diminishing
> returns with the increased risk of newbie confusion.

Newbies aren't confused by complex games. They're confused by
complex *interfaces* or complex *environments*. You HAVE to interact
with the interface and the environment. Everything you HAVE to do is
a problem for newbies, because they have to learn more stuff. But
everything you CAN do is a benefit to established players, because
they have more things to occupy their interest. You want to keep
what you HAVE to do as low as possible, while still raising what you
CAN do as high as possible. Fewer requirements, more possibilities.

Which is yet another reason the environment is the wrong place to
add your complexity, by the by. Unfortunately, it's hard to alter
all those characters after release...

>> Do you actually teach people at all? Because I think you've got
>> some really bad ideas about how people want to learn. Most people
>> don't want to learn at all, and this *is* a game, so you really
>> need to get out of their way and let them play.

> For the abject initiate, a straightforward in-game training
> procedure is invaluable. A spectrum of decreasing simplification
> can be applied to more skilled beginners all the way up to the
> veteran level.

I would agree it's invaluable, because each player will place a
different value on it; most of them, however, will place a very
*low* value on it. As far as decreasing simplification, that's an
extremely difficult thing to do, and I've never seen it done well
anywhere. I would go so far as to say that I don't believe it's
possible to do well in the first place, and that any efforts in that
direction are almost certainly wasted without some kind of quantum
leap in conception.

The biggest problem is that people assume all players learn at
roughly the same rate, which is just plain stupid. You can't provide
a smooth slope for Joe Idiot that works for Bob Genius, too. One of
them is simply not going to fit in.

>> If you send a redneck to film school, you don't get a film
>> critic, you just get a redneck with a film degree. You can't
>> *create* a cultured individual with refined tastes, you have to
>> recognise him when he comes along.

> Wow, talk about "condescension and arrogance"!

It doesn't matter how condescending and arrogant he is, he's still
not a film critic.

(Man, did you fall for THAT one.)

> Have you never heard of "diamonds in the rough?"

That's exactly what I'm talking about. A diamond in the rough can be
made into a fantastic gem, but it has to be a diamond in the first
place. You can't polish a turd. No amount of schooling will *make*
people what you want them to be.

> Refinement results from an individual's desire for education and
> exposure to new ideas.

And how exactly do you propose to give that to someone?

You probably can't. By the time you get to them, they either have it
or they don't.

> Those with narrow worldviews are likely casualties of that
> process.

What you WANT and what you HAVE are two different things. Don't
confuse them. A narrow worldview is not an *automatic* indicator of
stupidity or a lack of ambition; it may simply be a lack of
exposure. That doesn't mean you don't want to be exposed.


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