Thursday, September 20, 2007
Raph's new game
It's "Raph Koster week" in the MMO blogosphere, with everybody discussing his new Metaplace project. What I missed in my first discussion of it is something that was hidden in Community Director Cuppycake's blog: "And of course, the part you’re all waiting for. We’re making Raph’s new worldy MMO in our platform. Yes, we’re spending all of our time talking about the tech right now and how open ended it all is. But we are gamers too, and a good part of why we’re doing this is to make the cool games that we want to make. We’re still in the early stages on that, but you can expect to hear more about this game in the next few months."
Nice synergy here, making a game platform and a game at the same time. If the game is good, the promise that you could make your own MMORPG using the same tools sounds even more exciting. The only part that has me worried here is the adjective "worldy". And I'm not talking about the fact that you can't use that word in Scrabble, because it isn't a real word. In the not-quite-official dictionary of gamers, "worldy" is the opposite of "gamey", and the debate whether MMORPGs should be more a virtual world or more a game is as old as UO and Everquest. After gamey MMORPGs were commercially more successful than worldy ones, their paths split. Most worldy MMOs are now of the free-to-play kind, while gamey MMOs mostly stick to the monthly fee business model. So by only counting number of users, worldy MMOs seem to be as successful as gamey ones, by counting everyone who ever spent 5 minutes in it as a user. If you count revenue and profits, or even just hours spent, gamey MMOs clearly won.
World of Warcraft is on the extreme gamey end of the scale, with Second Life being on the extreme worldy other end. I often wish that WoW would move a bit more towards being worldy, for example by introducing player housing and better community communication tools. But that doesn't mean that I'm a proponent of the worldy type of MMORPG. What I want is a good mix, and that mix probably has more than 50% game in it, and less than 50% world. A new worldy game by Raph makes me question how worldy exactly this is going to be, and whether there will be enough gamey components to make it any good. I don't know if you ever played The Sims Online, which was a worldy MMO with too few game components, and it was a disaster. And after some initial hype, the Second Life enthusiasm of the press is rapidly deflating as well.
I'd love to have the feeling that I'm living in a virtual world, owning a house there, being part of a community, and all that. But I don't want to spend the majority of my time in that virtual world with shopping or decorating. I need MMORPG game elements to keep me occupied. Whether I'll be a troll warrior, a pirate, or a space trader I don't mind. But I don't want to play some lazy layabout with nothing to do all day. For that I can go on holidays in the real world and do nothing for three weeks, and it would be much better. I can't battle ogres, rescue princesses, or build a spaceship in real life, that is what virtual worlds are for.