Friday, May 16, 2008

Bacta Dance Party

I'm gonna try to bust the "mental framework" all the oldbies seem to use when they think about MMOs a little more.

Y'know how when you play a really good game like KotOR, or Morrowind, or whatever, you wish it had been multiplayer, or even a massively multiplayer type thing, with a (sorta) persistent world and everything?

'Cause somehow you can imagine that being good?

I think there's actually a few ways you are looking at things when you think something like that.

There's the way that, when some work of fiction is really good, you don't really wanna have to leave at the ending, I mean, that's really how you can tell whether a "world" (or its characters mebbe) were great or not, if yer kinda like, aw shit, its over, at the end, y'know?

And so part of you wants that multiplayer thingie just to give you another reason to spend some more time in the world of the game, like maybe you could help your buddies play it and that would add to its replayability.

And then I think there's another part of you that recognizes that a massively multiplayer version of something like KotOR would have tons of obvious places where "other fans of the game like yourself" would hang out, even if all the "adventures" in the game were sorta single-player, or minimumly multiplayer, and maybe that's all a massively multiplayer online game really needs.

And then there's a part of you that thinks of Massively Multiplayer Online Games as Serial Entertainment (which is what Comic Books and TV shows are), where a part of the money you pay every month is supposed to be going toward new "episodes" or new content or something.

Even though all you mostly get is nerfs and bug fixes and mechanical stuff like that, 'cause it doesn't really make any promises about "serial entertainment" in the fine print, and these "live" teams they got are mostly composed of mechanical guys, right?

They usually give all the artists and map designers and junk, the folks you'd actually need to have around to add the stuff that the players think of as "new content," the axe after a game goes live, yah?

Or assign 'em to the next expansion or something.

Or to another new MMO they are making, maybe.

So basically a MMO, when it first comes out, isn't really any different than a single player game with a chat box and a massively multiplayer back end, it doesn't really have any promise of being "Serial Entertainment," I mean, it might not even ever have an expansion if it does really poorly, y'know?

And the nerfs and bug fixes and all that mechanical stuff is the same in single and minimumly multiplayer games.

See, the reason I'm thinking all this out is because the content of single-player games tend to have SO much better pacing and direction and entertainment value.

And they only need to have like, twenty to forty hours of content to keep people happy.

And the stuff in a lot of the really good single player games is actually just about as good as the stuff in a good movie, y'know?

Yah, it still needs to be done a lot better, broken up into twenty minute "episodes" with three "chapters" to a "movie" and junk like that, so it won't piss off regular humans who ain't got all night to waste and ain't used to a lot of the "gamey" junk that folks like us don't even notice anymore, but you get what I'm saying.

But at some point, as you move from single-player to massively multiplayer, you need to start thinking about making people waste more time, instead of trying to cram as much enjoyment as you can into every second of screen time, y'know?

You start milking it like Battlestar Galactica and shit, 'cause you got more "time" to deal with than you can handle, or something.

But you don't need to have everything in the game make people waste more time, y'know?

Just certain beefed up "areas" for time spending, set aside for when they run out of the twenty-to-forty hours of the "good" stuff, like you would if you were gonna turn KotOR in a MMO.

And being able to hang out and waste time shopping and helping newbies and decorating your spaceship and showing off in a town in KotOR, or whatever, those are all things that count as good "time wasters" that don't actually have a whole lot to do with the pacing of the actual content, y'know?

Nothing that would interfere with it, at least.

And fishing and "dancing" or an area set aside for a hunting simulation for some rare mob with a rare drop or those "racetracks" they had in KotOR or "arenas" or some crap like that, same thing.

You don't have to make the whole game out of that monster-mashing shit though, is what I'm saying, and if you line things up right, then guys like Ebert who ain't got any time to waste can skip (and maybe not even notice) all the silly side-alley parties for folks that got more time than him, and you can keep your real content streamlined and "not shitty" ahaha.

Or they could optionally choose to waste a little time here and there, if it looked like people were having fun exploring some place or some weird side-aspect of the game, or if they got suckered into the game world enough to fall in love with it and not wanna be kicked out when the story was over and so they started investigating all the nooks and crannies.

The only thing that would keep you from saying that that was a good way to do it is that you are either completely feeble-minded or evil and interested in using the dangling carrot trick to keep folks from figuring out how crappy your game is, right?

A good game doesn't need to do that, the single-players games that folks fall in love with and wanna hang out more in don't need to do that, their problem is almost the exact opposite of a crappy game that people are willing to "try" just because they wanna do something "multiplayer," the good content game has used its single-playery content to sell everybody on its game world and its got people beating on its doors that it can't let in.

And you ain't gonna trick nobody like Ebert into playing a dangling carrot game anyways, so you aren't even gonna have that kinda guy as a customer to use the trick on anyways, y'know?

Its only the wannabe game devs and game journalists that'll put up with that kinda junk heh.

And what I'm saying really is different than the way people are talking about things, y'know?

Like the one guy that says its all about monster-mashing and grinding and whatever, he's putting that in front of Roger Ebert, where I'm pushing that to the side.

And what I'm saying even goes against the good arguments I actually agree with for why there shouldn't be all this energy dumped into PvP type stuff in a roleplaying game.

That's actually similar to the way that the some guys wanna throw all this monster-mashing shit in front of everybody, except it'd be pvp instead of the monster-mashing shit, when both of those things could be something optionally available in the side alleys and "hangout areas" that were separate from the "main" content path of the game that makes you actually fall in love with the game world so that you'll wanna waste more time in all those side alleys and hangout areas and stuff.

And then you still gotta deal with the expectation of Serial Content better, 'cause that's still gonna be hanging over your head a little, and all those high level folks hanging around that Water Planet in KotOR are gonna be tapping their feet and waiting for something eventually, even if they didn't imagine that they would be when you said that you could convert KotOR into a Massively Multiplayer Game for them heh.

But that's a whole 'nother ball of wax and I'm tired of typing already heh.

Yah, I'm totally obsessed with the idea of making a game that would make a guy like Ebert say "holy shit man this is fucking awsome!"

I think that's a totally kickass acid test for game ideas moving forward.

Well, at least one of 'em, the rest of you guys are a lot fucking easier to deal with, plus that Ebert thing is sorta like killing a couple million birds with one stone anyways.

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