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

Marc Fielding fielding at computer.org
Mon Jan 13 22:18:44 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


[ Caliban Tiresias Darklock ]

>> 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.

There's TWO goals here: familiarization and retention. Both can be
satisfied without conflicting. It's a straightforward matter to make
rookie-oriented features skippable by skilled players.

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

LOL. When I first started browsing Slashdot, the clamor over "RMS"
took be by surprise. I mean, what's so balkanizing about
root-mean-square? ;)

>>> 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.

Of course I can. It's a question designed to elicit comments by
members of this forum on how to get more people (in general) to play
MMOGs. Most people have understood and contributed their ideas.

> 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.

The lack of interest in "coddling newbies" is part of what's
limiting this market.

> 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.

Agreed.

>> 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.

Of course, but I was referring to the *initial* experience of a
*rookie* player. Slowly impose the complexity on him (e.g. through
training).  Once he's initiated, then present him with the full
"available complexity" of the game.

> 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.

I've never advocated a newbie game world. I'm advocating a set of
educational features to assist in acclimating rookie players to a
*standard* game world.

>> 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.

The veterans won't care or need it, as it's not designed for them. I
suspect the rookies, though, will be most appreciative.

> 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.

Then we've got our work cut out for us, don't we. =)

> 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.

Of course not. A solution to that is to provide a feedback mechanism
in the training system where players could control the pace of the
acclimation.

> (Man, did you fall for THAT one.)

I'm still waiting for the joke.

> 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.

Of course not. But given the pile of undifferentiated stones (new
customers) sitting in front of you, you need to create some sort of
filter to extract them. Make your MMOG inviting to new players. Many
won't bite. Some will. A few will become regular customers.
Congratulations, you've just expanded the market.

>> 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?

I'm not giving them anything but a chance to explore and decide for
themselves if my game is something that can hold their interest.

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

If I get to them before their opinions about MMOGs are formed, I can
have a hand in shaping their opinions.

> 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.

Excellent! Then you agree with me. All I'm providing is that
exposure.

-Marc




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