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

Koster, Raph rkoster at soe.sony.com
Tue Apr 5 07:43:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


Mike Rozak wrote:
> Raph Koster wrote:

>> Sounds like stock-mud syndrome, which was the big bugaboo back
>> when I first joined the list in 1996.  Then again, it also sounds
>> like the network TV schedule.

> Today's lack of VW diversity is like having a TV schedule with 90%
> sitcoms.

You mean, our TV schedule ISN'T 90% sitcoms?? Heh.

Seriously, though, I think the TV analogy can be pursued a bit
further--if you look at the history of TV, the current diversity
only occurred because the audience and outlets grew enough to
support the current diverse ecology. When I was a kid and I could
only get four channels, the range of choices was quite a bit
narrower. To some degree, we must expect that VW's will diversify as
the audience and distribution methods widen. Ths is what we've seen
in Asia, after all, where there's now trivia MMOs, golf MMOs, and so
on.

>> There are plenty of other local minimas.  > > What are they?
>> Looking through MUD and MMORPG lists I've > found: PvW with some
>> optional PvE (WoW, EQ, and friends), > pure PvP where players
>> impact the world, player with player > (ATITD), creation-based
>> worlds (Second Life), pure role > playing (many text MUDs), GM
>> moderated (Skotos), Puzzle > Pirates (is this a genre?), and
>> adventure-game (Uru). Some of > these could be seen as just
>> variants of others. Are there > other genres?

The obvious ones seem to have arisen from the text games, and were
pretty much a complete set by 1994 or so:

  - hack n slash PvE
  - user building
  - immersive roleplay
  - socialization
  - collaborative work
  - team vs team pvp
  - free for all PvP

Now, local minimas come in different sizes--that is why they are
local.  Some of these are clearly smaller than others.

> Is there a rule of thumb to guess if a potential local minima
> really exists? (Other than looking at historical attempts to
> impliment it.)

If there were, wouldn't the creators who have the secret all be
rich?

>> But network effects dictate that most people won't be chasing
>> them.  Then again, network effects also state that if the
>> products out there all become stockmuds, the overall growth of
>> the market will > be capped.

> I'm not familiar with the term, "network effects". Are you
> referring to the VC, publisher, distributor, retailer chain?

I am referring to network theory, the study of connections between
things. In a semi-persistent environment such as an economic
network, people will tend to gravitate towards what works the best
and has the largest established base. Over time, monopoly occurs
because consumers preferentially attach themselves to the most
successful/visible nodes.

Similarly, when all the products in a given network (or market)
become similar to one another, network growth tends to stop. Market
growth comes about when there's diversity in product.

For much more on this, you can check out my presentation from GDC
2003:

  http://www.legendmud.org/raph/gaming/smallworlds.html

And also books such as LINKED by Albert-Lazslo Barabasi and SMALL
WORLDS by Duncan Watts.

-Raph
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