[MUD-Dev] MMORPG: where to start for making and running a gam e

Lee Sheldon lsheldo2 at tampabay.rr.com
Fri Nov 21 10:26:48 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


Raph Koster wrote:

> It's simply unlikely to end up with a team of mostly MMO vets in a
> project of the scale of SWG. There just aren't that many MMO vets
> out there, really.

> most of our vets were from UO

I didn't think when I said "My perception is that quite a few of
those on the development team are MMO veterans (as much as you can
be a veteran in this type of game), many from UO." was that far out
of line.

> The statements you paraphrase aren't quite what I said. SWG had
> maybe half the design team and a quarter or less of the
> programming team as MMO vets.

Thanks for clarifying. Those percentages sound a lot more likely.

> However, there were almost none who had been through the process
> *from scratch*, which I think is another important point to
> consider. Most of them had come from Live teams where the basics
> of the game were already established. I have come to realize how
> different a point of view that gives you. Lastly, there's TYPE of
> MMO that was played or worked on.

My perception is there is even greater difference between production
teams and live teams than between production teams from different
types of MMOs.  With a couple of notable exceptions most of the MMOs
are very similar in their production and content needs, at least as
far as team mindset is concerned.

> The sorts of content that we ended up lacking might well be
> described as traditional mud-style content of the sort EQ excels
> at, and which UO was largely lacking; most of our vets were from
> UO (which echoes Damion's point about making games like the last
> one they made...).

I've had some experience in running large teams involved in creative
projects, upwards of over a hundred people in several cases. I admit
to being somewhat baffled how a gap like that (lack of x-type
content for example) can appear. You don't seem to be saying it was
time constraint, so it sounds like communication issues. Was it
noticed and identified as a problem too late to remedy? Never
noticed until after the game went live?  Any thoughts?

> There are other, less tangible factors as well. Level of passion
> for the game as game versus game as service versus game as job is
> one that leaps to mind.

Not sure I understand. None of those sound bad to me.

> There's others. I could easily dive into a full-blown postmortem
> of SWG, but I won't. :)

Damn.

> That said, to reach back into the earlier posts in the thread--I
> do think that people need to undergo a bit of an adjustment as
> regards audience size expectations. When we run the polls and
> demographics on the SWG crowd, we find they are mostly, well, MMO
> players, mostly hardcore gamers with tricked out machines, they
> still play endless hours, etc. The poll was a public bulletin
> board poll, so there's no trade secret revealed in saying that
> only 20% of SWG players said they had never played an MMO
> before--even though over half identified themselves as being
> primarily SWG fans.

> Perhaps the audience overlap between SWG nerds and MMO nerds is
> fairly significant? (Is anyone shocked by that? In retrospect, it
> seems obvious).

> Ah, that's a good point. It's not either/or, which is the way I
> was interpreting it. I should have thought that through better. It
> still feels like marketing should have picked up that fewer -new-
> MMO gamers would be arriving than indicated from some of the
> pre-launch quotes.

> What I am seeing as I informally observe titles launching these
> days is that there is a large mass of people who are trying out
> titles, sticking for a short period, and moving on to the next
> title.

More to choose from helps of course.

> It's going to take something pretty significant to do anything
> like a million-player or even half-million player game. And I am
> definitely seeing a level of frustration with "same old, same old"
> gameplay

I recommend anybody interested in how the MMO players are feeling in
general to check out the two new IGN forums: MMORPG Concepts and
Design Discussion at http://vnboards.ign.com/board.asp?brd=22584 and
MMORPG Player Reviews at http://vnboards.ign.com/board.asp?brd=22600
for some interesting reading.  There are biases of course tied to
who uses IGN boards more, and it may not be a statistically valid
sample, but it makes for interesting reading.

> --yet our industry is not really ready to make bigger, riskier
> steps.

No kidding. :( Not that any other industry I've been associated with
has ever been ready to do it either.
 
> The players' appetites arelarger than what we can currently
> provide given our slow iteration time.

They are churning through games the way they churn through content.
Sometimes I feel like Charleton Heston in The Naked Jungle watching
the ants come over the hill.

> As current games become technology platforms for future games,
> though, I have hopes of this speeding up--DAoC demonstrated that
> it could be done.

Yup, -if- there are enough people who know what they're doing of
course. It isn't only technology that slows down the development
process.

Lee
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