[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: The game with a thousand faces

Michael Sellers mike at onlinealchemy.com
Sun Apr 3 18:41:21 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Mike Rozak wrote:

> In other words, Ogre Island has the same basic features as most
> MMORPGs and MUDs. A typical MMORG/MUD has characters, classes
> (usually fighter, wizard, cleric, thief), races (usually human,
> elf, dwarf, halfling), combat, guilds, cooking, mining, magic,
> mounts, land ownership, quests, etc. The differences between the
> games lie in the specifics, quality, and quantity of
> implimentation, and the amount/type of eye candy.

> Only a handful of MMORPGs, like Second Life, ATITD, Uru,
> etc. break the mold, and they don't seem to attract large
> audiences.

> Does this strike anyone else as being disturbing?

Not so much disturbing as the expected run out as the genre
develops: the gameplay in first-generation of MMOGs (from M59 to
WoW) is now a known, almost commodified thing.

> Can all the uniformity really be blamed on "my venture-capitalist
> made me do it"?

Not entirely, but there is some truth to that.  I've seen (and we've
been pitching) original ideas that don't conform to the first-gen
"race1 and race2 and factions1-3 and guilds and housing and
kill-monster-get-gold" gameplay" and it's an uphill battle to say
the least.  Publishers and investors don't like risk; anything new
represents risk.

And of course, there's a huge amount of design derivation going on:
people want to make what they've played -- but just a little bit

Finally, it seems like we're all in a significant rut with MMOG
design, building games on the same assumptions rather than
re-thinking gameplay that goes back to the mid 1970s.  OTOH, new =
risk, and in a commercial sense, that's rarely rewarded.

> Is there a single, deep local minima in the human psyche that
> causes almost all VWs to be fundamentally identical? Or are we so
> blind that we can't see/predict other local minimas without
> stumbling into them?

More the latter, I think.  Fantasy gameplay does tug on some
significant psychological archetypes that make it easier to design
for, but, paraphrasing Dorothy Parker, we've maybe explored the
range of MMOG gameplay types from A to B.

Mike Sellers
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