[MUD-Dev] Blog about GDC implies changes to MMORPG population

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Jun 15 00:58:55 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Damion Schubert writes:
> John Buehler wrote:

>> And 'mini-game' is exactly the level at which I believe combat,
>> crafting, politics, publishing, travel and any number of other
>> forms of entertainment should be implemented.  They should each
>> be completely engaging.  They SHOULD be time-consuming, and that
>> time should be well-spent.  If I spent my time sitting in front
>> of the computer waiting for the next crafting step to complete by
>> watching a timer, then clearly it would be time-consuming, but
>> certainly not time well-spent.

> Mini-games for crafting comes up a lot on various fan-site boards
> as well.  One thing that I would caution, though.  If, say, it
> takes a game of tetris to craft something, then suddenly your
> craftsmen all have to be tetris players, and there's no guaruntee
> that the people who like crafting have that expertise or like that
> style of gameplay.  Most craftsmen in these games right now are
> social hubs who choose the role for that reason.

> You could, in theory, simplify the minigame so that anyone could
> beat it, but then you've just turned your crafting minigame into a
> hoop to jump through, and no one wants that.

> That's not to say that crafting shouldn't be more entertaining,
> nor that minigames aren't the way to go.  However, you should
> ensure that the game that you choose resonates well with your
> crafting class.  Personally, as a Master Armorsmith, I didn't want
> a better minigame.  If anything, I wanted fewer steps and hoops to
> craft my armor.  I wanted a better meta-game - tracking down and
> collecting resources, bartering with players, etc (and it's worth
> noting that SWG may be the best on the commercial market in this
> regard).  The actual act of crafting was, for me, merely the
> middle step.  The fun was getting the goods, and then selling it.

I completely agree with you about properly composing mini-games.  I
always say that such mini-games should be constructed such that they
appeal to the enthusiast.  In the case that you describe, I submit
to you that you are a business enthusiast, not a crafting
enthusiast.  I would want you to have access to a mini-game of the
very sort that you are enthusiastic about, while I still want those
who are enthusiastic about the physical crafting process to be able
to enjoy an entertaining mini-game about just that.

Note that when I talk about 'mini-games' I'm mostly trying to
emphasize the role of the entertainment in the design.  I could just
as easily call them threads in the game tapestry, which is really
how I see this stuff.  There is a coherent thread in the tapestry of
the game that I can follow, whether crafting, fighting, shopping or
any other experience.  The closest that existing games come to this
notion would be classes.  It is a way of going through the game in a
certain spirit or style of experience.

Instead of fighters, mages and thieves all fighting, have fighters
fight, mages mage and thieves thief.  Design each experience as a
self-contained game.  If too few players would want to experience
that game, then it's not a good game and it needs review or
elimination.  Once the experiences are understood as self-contained
games, figure out how they interrelate (including a lack thereof).
If crafters can make guns, then the sword-wielding fighters are
doomed, and the intersection of the two experiences is going to
produce a nightmare.

That's obviously a simplification of the design process.  Nobody
does independent design and then tries to glue the experiences
together.  I described it as I did in the hope that designers would
keep their eye on the prize of providing a full experience to the
enthusiasts of any given form of entertainment.  If skipping stones
is an entertainment within the game, make it an experience that
appeals to the enthusiasts of stone skipping.  If there are too few
such enthusiasts, broaden the scope to include enthusiasts of
physical simulations, or enthusiasts of modifying game state.

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