Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
 
Public figures

As if we hadn't discussed that issue enough, some people can't stop trying to tell me what I can write and what I cannot write. In this case I had several readers complaining about my comments about Richard Bartle (although some of those comments might have been Richard himself, disguised as "Anonymous", which would be more understandable). So I re-read what I wrote to check whether I used any inappropriate language. Did I call the man an "asshole" or "idiot"? No, I called him "bitter" and "irrelevant". Actually I'm pretty certain that the language I used could have passed the editor and legal department of most print media without problems.

The law is pretty clear on the matter of writing about people: I'm limited what I can write about lets say you, or my next-door neighbor, due to privacy rights. But those rights for privacy are much more limited in the case of public figures. So if I believe that Bartle doesn't get modern MMORPGs, Tigole turned WoW into a raid game, Raph isn't so innocent of SWG's failure as he claims, and Paul Barnett is a reincarnation of P.T. Barnum, I am legally allowed to write that.

And it isn't just a legal matter. If one of the public figures of the MMORPG scene gives an interview or makes public statements, he is counting on the fact that these statements carry more weight because of who he is, and how his words are going to be reported. One of my readers writing "WAR is just like WoW" in the comments section of this blog doesn't carry the same weight as Richard Bartle saying the same thing in an interview on Massively. His person is part of the argument, so facts about his person are a valid part of the counter-argument. That is why for example I allow comments on this blog calling me a carebear when PvP is discussed: In the context of this blog I'm a public figure, and me not liking hardcore PvP is a well-established fact, so it is a valid counter-argument to me saying that I don't like PvP in game X.

I know it is sometimes difficult to draw the line, to know exactly when one personal remark is justified and when another is not. I can call Bartle "bitter" about his lack of financial success, because I can quote remarks from him that prove that point (just read his comments about Spielberg on Brokentoys). I can't call Bartle an "idiot", because there is nothing to suggest that he isn't a highly intelligent man. And his argument that MMORPGs evolve too slowly from one generation to the next is certainly a good point one can discuss about. But if he condenses that argument into a sweeping generalization that "WAR = WoW", supported only by his own personal gravitas, he is setting himself up for scrutiny of his motives and relevance. Blanket statements like that rarely lead to a refined discussion of the underlying argument, even if that argument is valid.
Comments:
Bartle seems to like clarifying his statements. I'm sure this case is a bait for a debate where he gets to score one of those special points on those who seem to hook on to it.

I also think he is trying to actually fight the battle against slow, predictable and boring evolution by hinting that anyone who thinks of making any type of "clone design" will be used as Bartle bait.
 
It should be noted that libel is even less restricted over here in America compared to the EU. You can say anything you want about ANYONE, and they have no legal basis to stop you unless they can PROVE that you not only outright lied, but you showed a wanton disregard for the search for the truth. All opinions are protected completely, and even outright lies about the person are sometimes protected as long as it wasn't deemed malicious.

I think your statements were harsh perhaps, but hell, that's your opinion. It is a bit silly to just flat out deny someone their own opinion, isn't it?
 
hey tob

you can dish out opinion on everyone you want , rude or not its your own writing and your own blog. Just dont expect ppl to agree with you and give their own opinion to your writing.

this is real world , if you can dish it out you better be prepared to received it. if you hiding behind your 'its my blog i write whatever i like' every time you met ppl with different opinion then you are a coward.

mahir
 
Mahir,

It's not that he seems to be hiding behind the "its my blog i write whatever i like" wall but rather clarifying something.

He's well within his rights to disagree with what was said, and did not attempt to call the man an idiot or other less savoury things.

Dishing it out and getting it back is fine when it's fair. I'm disagreeing with you, and you're fine to do the same to me. However, if I escalate it, well then it all falls apart.

Taking it is fine when it is warranted.
 
Mahir, "you should not write about X" is NOT a valid opinion. The valid form is "I don't agree with what you said about X, because of Y". The important thing is the form in which you disagree with me, not whether you agree or disagree.
 
While I thought the original post had a certain aggressive tone to it (which is fine, makes for more interesting reading if nothing else), I do think your points were still valid.

The word 'revolutionary' is greatly overstated when speaking about MMOs and peoples wants for them. WoW improved on the EQ formula greatly, and while perhaps not the definition of revolutionary, it certainly did ENOUGH better to reach a far greater market share, a market share that pre-WoW no one could have predicted could even be reached.

Also consider this, how many fan-based UI mods were made for WoW, that later became standard not only in WoW, but for MMO games going forward. Could the fact that WoW allowed the mod community to greatly impact an MMO not be considered revolutionary? Pre-WoW, did people talk about custom UIs and their wants for them? Did we scrutinize UI design as much as we do now post-WoW, or did we just accept what was given? Is that mindframe shift not something worth being called 'revolutionary'?
 
Tobold, well said.
I’ll proceed with wild speculation... :)

In US politics there is a term “political capital” that means, roughly, a politician’s popularity or poll satisfaction numbers. The general use might be, for example, for a politician to push politically-risky legislation during a time of high popularity in the hopes that they can overcome opposition on the weight of their popularity.

One might look at Bartle and say that he obviously has something like “political capital” in MMO gaming circles. Perhaps has a history of making incendiary statements to the press, and something like “WAR = WoW” might be standard fare from Bartle. On the other hand, he may have made such statements to grab the spotlight, and the opportunity make extensive “clarifications”. For example, he seems to have inserted himself into the conversation to an unusually high degree, such as with postings on public internet comment sections.

Of course, the “why” - the intention - is open to conjecture (and as with politics, we might not get a straight answer from Bartle). One obvious guess is that with this critique of the state of the MMO industry he is trying to leverage himself into a big-money lead design role. There is a *lot* of money out there, and a number of MMOs have released in the last couple of years; LOTRO, Vanguard, PotBS, AoC, and soon, WAR - meaning that all of those companies are potentially forming design teams for their next MMO. And the popular MMOs of 2008 are aging or old; WoW, EVE, EQ2, Second Life, etc.

The fact that jumps out to me is that WoW is aging, and if anyone wants to design and develop the “next WoW”, a case could be made that now is the time to strike. Design and development starting now, targeting a release in a couple of years, could well expect to hit a WoW finally in permanent decline.

So perhaps he’s fishing for a big-money next-gen lead design role at any one of several deep-pocketed gaming companies.
But who knows...?
 
Your blog post was Daily Mail'esqe knee jerk reaction.

You have no idea why Dr Bartle suggested he would do what he would do... and then proceeded to rant at his character.

I expect this style of writing from the British Tabloids and not you.

Why not try and be intelligent about it... discuss the pro's and con's of his statement instead of rubbishing him like some upset schoolboy.

As it stands the blog article is more an attack on a person and not his thoughts.
 
As it stands the blog article is more an attack on a person and not his thoughts.

Huh? That blog article was one paragraph on Richard Bartle, and 4 paragraphs discussing the merits of his thoughts that WAR = WoW. Seemed a good mix to me. If the guy make outrageous statements, he can't complain if I'm outraged by them and THEN discuss his statement.
 
As if we hadn't discussed that issue enough, some people can't stop trying to tell me what I can write and what I cannot write.

Well put, Tobold. I know I don't always agree with you, but I do appreciate your writing and the discussion it provokes. I would never be "disappointed" because of something you wrote in your blog. It is simply bad taste to display such a self-righteous attitude of superiority while visiting someone else’s home, even if you believe it to be true. For my own part, I know I need to seriously tone down my own inflammatory responses to some of the people who have expressed such "disappointment" in you.
 
IMO, the disappointment should be directed at Bartle, not Tobold!

I’ve followed this discussion at several sources other than this blog, and from what I can tell, for the most part the ‘pro-Bartle’ people contend that the point of Bartle’s outrageous comments was to put the spotlight on MMO stagnation, lack of progress, lack of innovation. Well, anyone can throw rocks, and yeah, a case can be made for MMO stagnation, lack of progress, lack of innovation. However, throwing rocks does not produce revolution, progress, and innovation!

I don’t see that there is much to be gained, other than 15 more minutes of fame (and flames), from comments along the lines of ‘I’d shut down WoW’, ‘WAR = WoW’, and ‘AoC is carebear compared to old-school perma-death’.

What’s new and innovative and constructive about comments like that?

IMO that’s dismissive of the amazing progress that has been made, is backward-looking, and ignores the diversity that is out there in MMOs in 2008.

And someone who makes comments like that resting only on the laurels of his reputation and not facts - not identifying some ‘unknown gems’ suppressed by WoW, striking out at an unreleased game under a beta NDA, and basically ignoring what the market has stated on MMO PvP - will either have to back it up with substance, or take a hit on his reputation.
 
>although some of those comments might have been Richard himself, disguised as "Anonymous", which would be more understandable

I've never sent an anonymous email in my life. I'm not trying to game your blog here...

>If one of the public figures of the MMORPG scene gives an interview or makes public statements, he is counting on the fact that these statements carry more weight because of who he is

Counting on it? Yeah, right. You have a somewhat inaccurate view of how these things work.

I go to a conference. A journalists asks to interview me. The journalist asks an honest question. I give an honest answer. The journalist may be counting on who I am in order to get people to read the interview. I certainly am NOT counting on who I am to give weight to my words. If what I say makes sense (and I agree that a transcript of a tape doesn't make great strides in that direction), OK, well that's the only reason why my words would carry any weight. If they don't make sense, fine, lob a few verbal grenades of disagreement at me; at least you gave the matter some thought. If you don't care what I say, don't even bother to read it.

Questioning my motives for having said what I said is rather off the point, though. If you disagree, then logic alone should be enough to damn me - you don't have to try to undermine what I said by ascribing false motives to me. Indeed, if you do that then it doesn't really help your own argument a great deal.

>One of my readers writing "WAR is just like WoW" in the comments section of this blog doesn't carry the same weight as Richard Bartle saying the same thing in an interview on Massively.

And why is that?

If you think I'm irrelevant, and you weigh your readers' opinions lower than mine, what's that saying?

>I can call Bartle "bitter" about his lack of financial success, because I can quote remarks from him that prove that point

Really? OK, go ahead: I'd like to see you prove something that isn't the case.

See, you think you know who I am from reading a few interviews and snide blog entries, but you have no idea. I'm not bitter about not having got rich from MUD - far from it! I co-wrote MUD on mainframe computers that were ultimately paid for by UK taxpayers; it would not have been right for me to have exploited for my own financial gain what was given to me for free. I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to play with computers 30 years ago, and therefore of course I was going to put the concept into the public domain! Now I realise this may be hard to understand if your only metric for success is money, but that's how it was; Google "hacker ethic" if you want to learn more.

I should say that I have no objection to the making of money from MMOs, and would indeed be quite pleased if I happened to do so myself. That doesn't make me bitter for not having done it, though; there's more to life than money.

>But if he condenses that argument into a sweeping generalization that "WAR = WoW", supported only by his own personal gravitas, he is setting himself up for scrutiny of his motives and relevance.

Yes, that would be true if that's what I was doing. I wasn't doing that, though. I don't have any gravitas, and it would be foolish and arrogant in the extreme to act as if I did. I was asked a question, and I gave a somewhat facetious answer but it was nevertheless honest. If you disagree, well, that's your prerogative. Asserting that I expect people to agree with me merely on the basis of my having said it is a whole other thing, though. It's a straw man argument: you made a statement that was false, and then you beat me up over it as if it were true.

I just want better MMOs. What do you want? And how is characterising me as a publicity-seeking egomaniac going to help you get that?

Richard
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
wolfe>Bartle seems to like clarifying his statements.

No, I don't like it, I dislike it. However, I dislike being torn apart by people who didn't understand what I said even more.

>I'm sure this case is a bait for a debate where he gets to score one of those special points on those who seem to hook on to it.

What? You honestly think that when I get cornered by a journalist and am asked questions without any warning of what's coming, that I'm deliberately going to say things with the express intention of scoring points on unspecified people however many weeks or months down the line the interview finally makes its appearance? And you're "sure" of this?

Of such beliefs are conspiracy theories made...

Richard
 
I deleted my previos post because I hadn't read richards.

I think a vocal minority of gamers who've for years gotten all the attention and had everything tweaked for thier playstyle are just floundering around attacking anything that isn't old school.

It's really sad the number of people that came and said people shouldn't say what they think. Its a gaming blog not CNN.

As richard pointed out we are all making assumptions based on what we've read on the internet for the most point.

But right or wrong we can only talk about what we have read.
 
Ok I just followed a link from commonsense gamer to richards follow up. Most of what he said has been said here over and over in little bits.

heres and excerpt
massively interview

Richard Bartle: "Yes, sadly I agree. Too many of today's designers want to create the MMO they grew up playing, only better. This basically makes them players who want to create games that are better for them, as players, to play. Now although this is a reasonable approach for single-player games, it's bad for MMOs: there are many different types of player, and they play for different reasons, but they're inter-dependent.

"If you build an MMO that's a honeypot for achievers, but that drives explorers and socialisers nuts, you're making long-term problems for yourself. However, if you're a designer who loves grinding for gear, why would you - and how could you - create a game that appealed to the other types? You can check the checkboxes for "something to explore" and "some reason to socialise", but you're not putting any of your soul into that; your soul is all going into the achiever mentality. This is why you need designers who can't play as players, only as designers (or if they can somehow switch off their play-as-a-player emotions, that would work too, I guess)."

 
I think we have been over the fact you do make blanket statements yourself Tobold..

AoC early access problems, what a surprise

Sound familiar?

It is not uncommon for someone to gain a perspective of a game based on a previous issue, disappointment, experience or what you will.

Your statement
"But of course the Funcom servers didn't hold up"

Why say "Of course"?

Well, maybe a previous experience?

You go on to state...

"One would have thought they had learned something from Anarchy Online, but apparently they didn't."

So, because of a previous disappointment you made the decision to state that the reason the AoC servers did not come up is because Funcom is known for this (at least reading the above sentences is how I would perceive those "blanket" statements")

It is not uncommon to make assumptions as some may think, and we ALL do it, I don't care who we are.

So Bartles argument about "WAR = WOW" is based on things we all can see now or things we know from previous experience.

Take this for example
X-Play and WAR hands on

As Hickman states "We are doing something new and exciting" they switch to the video which suspiciously looks like another game in question, and we see
"Killed 8/10 Trolls"

I think we can make a blanket statement about that little preview.
 
You honestly think that when I get cornered by a journalist and am asked questions without any warning of what's coming

I will say that with all this “clarifying” that it seems a bit telling that Zenke has remained pretty quiet. It tells me that he knows his article mischaracterized the context of your statements (which may or may not have been his intent). My issue with this whole thing has been that the whole topic of MMO stagnation is not really news.

The effect of Zenke’s portrayal of your statement is an inflammatory attack on both WAR and WoW. I think EVOLUTION is its own form of Innovation. If a game is too radically different from its roots, then it ceases to be a game in the same genre or category. One thing I find surprising is that we all keep using this term MMO to describe a genre despite the fact that it is not really one genre anymore (if it ever was), but LOTS of different genres. Quite frankly, this whole thing leads to unfair comparisons (like EVE to WoW) that really shouldn’t be made in the first place. Likewise, it’s unfair to categorize two games in the same genre as the same game.
 
Really? OK, go ahead: I'd like to see you prove something that isn't the case.

Now that one is easy. You said on Brokentoys, and I quote: "If Spielberg had got into movies in the 1890s and then given away his work for free, he wouldn't have had a great deal of critical and financial success, either."

Now I know you like to reinterpret things you said, but however you might have *meant* this, the statement *sounds* very bitter. Of course your actual state of mind is by definition unprovable.
 
Doeg>Perhaps has a history of making incendiary statements to the press

Well, I have a history of giving reporters long answers and then seeing lines extracted and made into headlines which completely divert attention from what I was trying to say.

>On the other hand, he may have made such statements to grab the spotlight, and the opportunity make extensive “clarifications”.

If I wanted to grab the spotlight, there are far more controversial things I could have said. However, all I did was try to answer the question that was asked.

>For example, he seems to have inserted himself into the conversation to an unusually high degree

It's not unusual for me. You saw me trying to save myself from being shredded after my "I'd close WoW" comments, right? If people are making their minds up that I'm some kind of deranged old-timer on the basis of misinterpreting what I said, well yes, of course I'm going to try to persuade them otherwise. If they make those decisions having understood what I meant, OK, well, those are hits I can't do much about.

>Of course, the “why” - the intention - is open to conjecture (and as with politics, we might not get a straight answer from Bartle).

On the other hand, though, maybe you will? I don't actually have any reason to lie.

>One obvious guess is that with this critique of the state of the MMO industry he is trying to leverage himself into a big-money lead design role.

Why do you want to assign base motives to people you don't know? Why can't someone who genuinely wants better MMOs for all answer a straight question with a straight answer without being accused of having a hidden agenda?

For your information:
1) Lead design roles are not "big money". If I wanted big money, I'd be programming container port scheduling software, not trying to design MMOs.
2) I live in the UK. There are fewer than a dozen credible MMOs in development here, all of which have their own lead designers already, thank you very much.
3) After what happened with "Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa", hiring people purely on the strength of their name is currently taboo.
4) No-one is going to employ me as lead designer anyway, given how many people seem to think I'm a drooling has-been, living only for the day when permadeath makes its triumphant return.

>meaning that all of those companies are potentially forming design teams for their next MMO.

Yes, they're forming them out of the design teams that made their current MMO.

>So perhaps he’s fishing for a big-money next-gen lead design role at any one of several deep-pocketed gaming companies.

Or perhaps I just long to see an MMO that surprises me?

Richard
 
but however you might have *meant* this, the statement *sounds* very bitter

But you cannot point to any bitternes per se in that statement, that is your own interpretation.

Right or wrong, It is not proof, it is an opinion and interpretation. But thanks for pointing where that interpretation came from.

And no, I did not interpet it as bitter when I read that statement initially.
 
Tobold>however you might have *meant* this, the statement *sounds* very bitter.

It guess it could look that way if you'd made up your mind about someone and were looking to read it that way.

Someone said I wasn't as successful as Spielberg. I explained why. That doesn't make me bitter, it just stops people from using financial and critical success as a measure of achievement.

It's easy to look for bitterness in places where it isn't. I could, for example, suggest that the reason you had a go at me for my comments was because you were bitter about the fact that I get interviewed regularly and you don't. Now I'd be wrong to suggest that (I hope!), but hey, it's consistent with what I know about you (ie. next to nothing) and it's legal for me to make such accusations to tra la la what's to stop me?

Given the evidence of the interview, yes, OK, your reading of it is compatible with the text, but other readings are easier and more likely. Whether it just happened that you concluded I was a wanker or whether you were predisposed for some reason to prefer that interpretation over others, well, I don't know. There's not a lot I can do to change your mind anyway now; everything I say is coloured by a "well, a bitter person would say that" lens.

You'd be more on the mark if you accused me of being smug about having not made a fortune from MUD, rather than bitter..!

Richard
 
4) No-one is going to employ me as lead designer anyway, given how many people seem to think I'm a drooling has-been, living only for the day when permadeath makes its triumphant return.

That sure sounds bitter to me. I would be bitter. Hell, he deserves to be bitter. In fact, I subconsiously just include that to anything he writes.

Like so:

"I'm not bitter about not having got rich from MUD," said Richard bitterly.
 
"I will say that with all this “clarifying” that it seems a bit telling that Zenke has remained pretty quiet. It tells me that he knows his article mischaracterized the context of your statements (which may or may not have been his intent). My issue with this whole thing has been that the whole topic of MMO stagnation is not really news."

I'd love to know how a straight, almost verbatim transcription of our conversation is a mischaracterization of Richard's comments.
 
I am surprised, that in all this time you have been blogging, comments by others bother you so much you have to keep making additional posts to clarify yourself. You can have your opinion, but so long as you leave comments turned on -- so can others. Either grow some thicker skin, or rethink the comment feature.
 
Michael Zenke said:
I'd love to know how a straight, almost verbatim transcription of our conversation is a mischaracterization of Richard's comments.

Richard Bartle said:
What? You honestly think that when I get cornered by a journalist and am asked questions without any warning of what's coming,

Well, I have a history of giving reporters long answers and then seeing lines extracted and made into headlines which completely divert attention from what I was trying to say.


I guess that’s because Richard gives the impression that it’s not a straight, almost verbatim transcript. His comments lead me to believe that he was “cornered” and his answers edited. These quotes are from his answers above, but I interpreted the same thing from what he wrote at Broken Toys. If that’s not the case, then I apologize for my previous comment.
 
ugh oh, do I sense an impending cross-blog flame war coming on? Get him Tobold!
 
Richard (as I assume you're going to check back on this) I apologize if you feel I 'jumped' you.

The only real editing done was removal of partial sentences (starts and stops). Otherwise what's written on the site is exactly what passed between us.
 
Richard,

Thanks much for your response to one of my posts, which was, as I pointed out, “wild speculation” on my part.

I would actually be much more interested in your answers to three questions:
(I assuming here that you were addressing the fantasy MMO genre.)

1) How would shutting down WoW encourage growth or innovation in MMO design?

IMO it seems just as reasonable to hypothesize that former WoW subscribers people would seek out WoW-like games, many others would quit MMOs, and designers would scramble to create WoW 2 - thus setting back MMO innovation for a decade.
This leads into the second question...

2) Can you give us several examples of MMOs that are “unknown gems”?

And I would also be curious as to how “unknown gems” are suppressed by the existence of WoW, and what qualities make them “gems”.

3) What is the point of comparing AoC PvP to hardcore perma-death PvP in a MUD?

Perma-death PvP is been-there, done-that, decades ago.
So is that a criticism of AoC, or a compliment on the progress of PvP in MMOs in 2008?

Thanks!
 
ugh oh, do I sense an impending cross-blog flame war coming on? Get him Tobold!

Why would I? They disagree about facts, but are otherwise polite. And I find the disagreement very revealing.
 
The Blog Overlord does not engage in cross-blog flame wars fool!

Being more serious, I think what we all really need is a follow-up interview with Richard, as he has answered repeat questions on multiple sources and it's getting a little difficult to follow.

As I wrote on my blog, it's my belief that Richard phrased his point in a rather 'flame bait' fashion, but that aside, his point (no revolution, all evolution) is rather valid, or at least worthy of a more civilized debate, without focusing on the sideshow stuff.

Get after it Zenke!
 
Well, one would have to define “evolution” and “revolution”.

One could argue that pen-and-paper D&D was the “revolution”, and everything else, like MUD and MMO, are simply evolutions of the original system.
 
I've been reading these threads on several blogs, and I'm glad the discussion on all of them had progressed from flaming to rational discussion. I give all the credit to Mr. Bartle for having the patience to discuss his ideas with us.

Also, as a journalist, I'm aware that what we consider simply covering a story can seem very aggressive and intimidating to our subjects.

Gambeson
 
Doeg>How would shutting down WoW encourage growth or innovation in MMO design?

See http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog180707A.html.

>Can you give us several examples of MMOs that are “unknown gems”?

Wouldn't that make them known gems?

>And I would also be curious as to how “unknown gems” are suppressed by the existence of WoW

Well, it's simply that few players are aware of them; they don't get the critical mass of players that would give them the attention they deserve. It's hard to see a flashlight next to a floodlight.

>and what qualities make them “gems”.

They delight in a fashion that other MMOs don't. Some of them might be niche, others might be more mainstream but fail to satisfy newer players on the grounds of their not being WoW-like enough. I'd call things like A Tale in the Desert, Puzzle Pirates and Achaea (warning: that's a text MUD) "gems", but that doesn't mean everyone is going to like them; it does mean that some people would like them who've never heard of them, though.

>What is the point of comparing AoC PvP to hardcore perma-death PvP in a MUD?

I was trying to illustrate the way that new MMOs (which I was asked about) are quite close to one another in terms of their basic design. The "WAR=WoW" comment which has given me so much flak said they were close; the "call that PvP!" comment showed how far apart things could be. I wasn't suggesting that AoC should have permadeath; I was suggesting that AoC wasn't actually all that distant from WoW in general. I just used PvP as that's AoC's USP.

Richard
 
Tobold, the issue isn't with your opinion, your cardinal sin is to have jumped on one single sentence out of the whole interview, without reading it yourself in the first place, like some cheap drooling forum fanboy who needs to post to defend his dream game (based on the PR he read, not any direct experience of the thing) from the attacks of a sceptic.

Context is everything, and you completely skipped it. Damn shame, if you ask me.
 
I've posted here before what richard is complaining about. Big money has moved in. Just like in hollywood after jaws and star wars. Now the suits will start looking for that perfect non innovative formula that any development team can follow to make a profitable game. And only those with thier own money or the clout to push thier ideas will be heard over the all mighty dollar.

I think the next real innovation we see will be some no name studio no one ever heard of. Because they'll be able to actually do something different.

Wow did expand the MMO gaming community, but it also petrified the expectations of what works. It's actually safer to make wow clones now than to try something new. The last year has proved that over and over.
 
"I've already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft."

Wow. I mean that at the surprise at the reaction and not just trying to pander to the masses.

Just here to ask if I'm the only one (incl. Dr. B.) that thought this was a direct reference to David Spade's then famous SNL one-liner, an example of which is:

"I liked 'Black Sheep' the first time I saw it... when it was called 'Tommy Boy'."
 
4) No-one is going to employ me as lead designer anyway, given how many people seem to think I'm a drooling has-been, living only for the day when permadeath makes its triumphant return.

That made me laugh :-)

I have to say that I wasn't too impressed with the RB that came through in the original interview that started all of this off. In much of the interview he came off as snarky and dismissive, and bits of it were nearly incoherent.

However, from Broken Toys on RB has shown himself to be cogent, witty, and unnaturally patient in my humble opinion.

One exchange I saw on Broken Toys summed it up well (I paraphrase):

Random dude: wow, that makes a lot more sense than what you said in the interview.

RB: That's because I have a backspace key when I type.

Cheers!
 
sid67>it seems a bit telling that Zenke has remained pretty quiet.

Well, maybe unlike me he doesn't have Google blog search set up for my name, so doesn't know ever nook and cranny where this discussion is taking place.

>It tells me that he knows his article mischaracterized the context of your statements (which may or may not have been his intent).

The way the interview worked, he asked me the questions and recorded the answers. The article looks to me to be a reasonable transcript of what I said, with all the ums and ers removed. In an effort not to misquote me, he quoted me verbatim. Sadly, the result is that I come across as some kind of incoherent drunk. If it had been a podcast, you might have got more of an idea of what I was trying to say.

>My issue with this whole thing has been that the whole topic of MMO stagnation is not really news.

Well yes, you're right; we've had this since the days of Stock MUD Syndrome. I don't have to answer every question I'm asked with news, though, I just have to try to give my truthful opinion.

>I think EVOLUTION is its own form of Innovation.

It is, yes, and we've got some new tools for our design toolbox that way. Many of the evolutionary changes made genuinely are advances on what has gone before.

However, from my perspective the steps aren't big enough. It's 1 plus a half plus a quarter plus an eighth plus a sixteenth plus ... Every step is moving forward, but the result is never going to get beyond 2. I want one plus a half plus a third plus a quarter plus a fifth plus a sixth plus ... That way, given enough time, we'll get to infinity.

Yes, I'm aware that the above analogy didn't make a lot of sense, but it's the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment.

>If a game is too radically different from its roots, then it ceases to be a game in the same genre or category.

Yes, but the definition of what constitutes an MMO is nevertheless still quite extensive.

>One thing I find surprising is that we all keep using this term MMO to describe a genre despite the fact that it is not really one genre anymore (if it ever was), but LOTS of different genres.

I'd normally use the term "virtual world", which would include not only things like WoW and WAR but also Second Life, LegendMUD and Furcadia. They're all shared, persistent, real-time, computer-moderated environments that players visit as in-world individuals. Now although these may seem wildly different, they nevertheless share 95% of their DNA, and they're pretty well all direct descendants of MUD1 (with WAR being one of the very few exceptions - it ultimately traces back to Aradath).

Now if by "genre" you mean Fantasy versus Science Fiction versus Historical versus User-Created Content, OK, those are useful sub-categories to have. All of these things remain virtual worlds, though, and the graphical, game-like ones are what we call MMORPGs (or MMOs for short).

If you want to do away with the term "MMO", feel free, but we're going to need some umbrella term to replace it because there are bona fide areas of overlap (eg. how real world law treats them).

>Quite frankly, this whole thing leads to unfair comparisons (like EVE to WoW) that really shouldn’t be made in the first place.

I disagree: EVE and WoW may be far apart in terms of their design, but the central cores of there being are the same. If you play EVE, you know it's kin to WoW in a way that Elite and Baldur's Gate aren't. The fact that they're both MMOs should open the imagination to other possibilities. If we can have something like EVE as far away from WoW as it is, what else can we have? Can we have something even more radically un-WoW that might (at least for some people) be more fun? There's a whole space of possible MMOs out there that has barely been explored! What wonders might we find if we were only to look?

Richard
 
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I might also suggest, taking a spin off of Mr. Richard Bartle's last statement, that the level of diversity he suggests, as in the EvE vs. WoW comparrison, would be healthy for all the existing games (WoW most especially) as it would be for any sort of over-arching desire to see revolutionary progress in the genre.

World of Warcraft loses a little something, no matter how high quality it is, by the mere fact that it is such a common take on the genre.

Real Time Strategy games are like that as well. I loved Warcraft I and II, but began to get fairly burned out on that particular take on Real Time Strategy, because there were so few radically different takes on the genre. The Total War series pops up as a great example of an alternative play style that still involves the basics of strategic building and tactical real time combat, but came at things from a fresh perspective that didn't involve the standardized individual unit micromanagement and real time production/resource gathering formula that Blizzard perfected and popularized. I realize that Total War borrowed as well, but my point is that the two are wonderfully different takes on the same basic genre of game, and they both benefit from that.

I can now enjoy Warcraft RTS games more because there is a Total War series.

Sam is right about big money, but that is inevitable. The reason Lucas was so careful with his rights to Star Wars was that Hollywood had already been invaded by business men who could care less whether they were making cans of soup, or movies. I think that is inevitable whenever a young creative industry starts to show the potential to make real money.

In some of my old college courses we studied at length the entertainment industry and its business model, and one of the major tenets to making good stable money is to produce safe and repetitive material.

If you want to sell a TV script, you don't say how different and unique your concept is, you say that it is the Cosby show with a twist.

To some extent this attitude is understandable. There will be many failures for every hidden gem, and that can cost a lot of money. Most executives are only willing to ear mark so much money for digging through the muck for gems.

However, just like in the scientific community. The creative fields do recognize the value of research, and are willing to take chances here or there in the hopes of uncovering something new that will be the next big breakthrough. It just seems, sometimes, that they don’t take enough of those chances.
 
However, from my perspective the steps aren't big enough. It's 1 plus a half plus a quarter plus an eighth plus a sixteenth plus ... Every step is moving forward, but the result is never going to get beyond 2. I want one plus a half plus a third plus a quarter plus a fifth plus a sixth plus ... That way, given enough time, we'll get to infinity.

Yes, I'm aware that the above analogy didn't make a lot of sense, but it's the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment.


Actually richard that analogy makes perfect sense to me. Working in the corporate world as a techie I see it all the time. We must do better than last year redgardless of how bad it screws our long term plans. And it's all because these companies are public and have to answer to shareholders.

Screw where we will be in 5 years. That's not managements problem. Most of the executives won't be here then. Just get at least a small bump this quarter the future be damned. This kind of thinking is why I think the next real innovation will come from smaller privately held companies where the owners are worried about the long term future of thier company, instead of next years stock prices
 
The counter to that Sam (and I agree with you for the most part) is that innovation takes money, which the smaller guys don't often have.

Every now and again the big guys surprise you and invest in things that are a little more innovative, but they are skittish, and if times get hard or they don't see clear progress, they will often pull the plug.

The frustrating part is, the larger companies are the ones that are best suited to innovate, because they have the financial muscle to obsorb the cost of failure, and yet they are often the least likely to take that chance for the reasons you mentioned.
 
It's unfortunate, but there HAVE been surprising MMOs out there.

SEED was one (a non-violent MMORPG)
Ryzom lasted a bit longer, and brought some great ideas to the table.

But they both died excruciating deaths in the end.




Here is my point:

It's not particularly anyone's fault that the genre evolves so slowly. The market cannot accommodate much change at this point.

The market will only evolve as fast as WoW evolves. That is the way of things. The reason it stays like this, is that even when someone thinks of an amazing new concept, WoW just assimilates it and does it better (The Tome of Knowledge).

What we need is those awesome, crazy new ideas given APPROPRIATE FUNDING. Then we will begin to see innovation.
 
@ cliff and nick.

While I agree that ideally a big company with lots of funding and developers would be best.

History in all fields has shown that innovation only comes from the new guys or under great threat or stress.
The sad truth is the more money there is to invest, the more money there is to lose. So the more incentive there is to be careful and not lose it.

And if you really think blizzard will be one of the innovators I have to disagree. I've never seen anything resembling innovation from blizzard. Don't get me wrong they make well polished highly playable games, but they don't innovate.
 
Richard, I read your interview and found it very light hearted and interesting. I didn't find any of your statements inflammatory, just entertaining and honest. I'm somewhat puzzled over the flame war certain individuals seem to have stoked up over it. Please don't let a few idiots detract you from sharing your insight into the development of MMOs. It's the interviews like that one that are the real gems on MMO development -- as opposed to the flood of (mostly) ill thought out opinions expressed by the player base, which are a dime a dozen.

Tobold... whatever. You called the man irrelevant and bitter. Despite your clarifying statements I still fail to see how you concluded either point. If someone described you with those two words on such flaky grounds, how would you feel about it? If it wasn't for your blog I wouldn't have found Richard's interview in the first place. But your comments, and the rest of the crap that has ensued because of them... I'll say this... Show some respect for someone who actually works in the field, and could be described as one of the fathers of the industry. His thoughts and opinions are to be valued and discussed sensibly. Criticising the man himself just made you look like some kind of MMO fanboi salivating for the next mass market clone, unwilling to hear anything critical about the state of the industry. I didn't think that was you at all.
 
I don't see why Bartle's character is under examination here. Whether he is bitter or not is irrelevant to the statements he has made.

That said, he just isnt't very interesting. He's certainly more articulate in these posts than in the Massively interview that started this discussion (which really shouldn't have been published without being edited), and I appreciate his coming here to clarify and expand his point of view.

But even in their articulate form Bartle's statements laregely consist of banal platitudes. Richard, you want better, more original virtual worlds? The line starts around around the block. Think designers should think outside the box? You know as well as I do that any project requires some sort of framework to build around. If you have a better or at least more interesting "box" in mind, please do propose it instead of making vague statements about the current one sucking.

But I forget, you're in academia, not actual game design. It's not your job to propose anything concrete. No one would employ you as a lead designer, nor do you like being a player. So if you're unqualified as a creator and uninterested as an audience member what good are you? If any if Bartle's contractual employers are reading this, would you please send his checks to me? I can go to conferences and talk banalities too, and I'll do it for half his price!

Richard, your disengagement from the player audience really surprised me. As the author of the Bartle's Gamer Psychology Test, I would have expected you to be very interested in the behaviors exibited by MMO players and to provide us with valuable insight into its impact on game design in your interview. Yet you stated that you're not interested in experiencing games from a player's perspective, which I see as an integral approach to observing a (game) society's social dynamics routinely used by anthropogists. No, you spent your time giving us your opinion on WoW's character class design, which frankly wasn't any more insightful or interesting than anything found in one of the many, many threads on Blizzard's official forums regarding the issue.

As for your most controversial statement dismissing WAR as too similar to WoW, I find it grossly unqualified. The game isn't even out yet! Do you know something that the rest of us don't? Then cite your sources and credentials, please. Had you detailed the similarities (of which there seem to be many, I admit), while showing the differences to be insignificant to the overall experience and properly cited the sources of your information, you might have had an argument. Otherwise you're just saying that Mona Lisa is like Cheese.
 
Doeg>How would shutting down WoW encourage growth or innovation in MMO design?

See http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2007/QBlog180707A.html.

--
Doeg’s response}> I read this, and I think I follow your reasoning. However, I do not think it good or necessary to redistribute the MMO player population and subscriptions (wealth) in an artificial and arbitrary way.

One could just as easily argue that without WoW the MMO market would return to what it was pre-WoW, several decent MMOs with similarly-sized pieces a smaller ‘market pie’ - and a huge number of people who used to play a MMO called WoW but don’t play anything anymore.

After all, I think it generally-accepted that WoW’s huge slice of the MMO marketplace pie is the result, in part, of WoW adding literally millions of players to the MMO marketplace. IMO, other MMOs have no claim on those players.

I would also wonder if there are now, in the heyday of WoW, fewer MMO offerings (both new launches and continuing games) than before WoW - or more.
--

>Can you give us several examples of MMOs that are “unknown gems”?

Wouldn't that make them known gems?
----
}> Or once known, would they be shown not to be gems after all?
----
>And I would also be curious as to how “unknown gems” are suppressed by the existence of WoW

Well, it's simply that few players are aware of them; they don't get the critical mass of players that would give them the attention they deserve. It's hard to see a flashlight next to a floodlight.
----
}> True, but there is no basis to infer that ex-WoW players will necessarily find that gem, or even continue to play MMOs at all.
----
>and what qualities make them “gems”.

They delight in a fashion that other MMOs don't. Some of them might be niche, others might be more mainstream but fail to satisfy newer players on the grounds of their not being WoW-like enough. I'd call things like A Tale in the Desert, Puzzle Pirates and Achaea (warning: that's a text MUD) "gems", but that doesn't mean everyone is going to like them; it does mean that some people would like them who've never heard of them, though.
---
}> If the premise is that MMOs remain unknown because they are not WoW-like enough (genre, interface, etc.), then IMO it is doubtful that eliminating WoW would help those MMOs get more players.
---
>What is the point of comparing AoC PvP to hardcore perma-death PvP in a MUD?

I was trying to illustrate the way that new MMOs (which I was asked about) are quite close to one another in terms of their basic design. The "WAR=WoW" comment which has given me so much flak said they were close; the "call that PvP!" comment showed how far apart things could be. I wasn't suggesting that AoC should have permadeath; I was suggesting that AoC wasn't actually all that distant from WoW in general. I just used PvP as that's AoC's USP.
---
}> As I pointed out in another thread on Tobold’s blog.

The King Arthur legend lead to kids reenacting fantasy in the back yard with costumes, stick-swords, and a lot of imagination. Artists are inspired to paint scenes from the legend. Intellectuals reduce it to math probability tables (D&D), which then gave birth to computer versions that were solo, then multi-user, then with increasing graphic capabilities, PvP, etc.

In the case of WoW, it has evolved to the point that you need neither the raw imagination of youth, nor the patience for pen-and-paper D&D, nor even a history of familiarity with video games, to join a fantasy world with many other participants.

The same basic idea is underneath all fantasy MMOs: Legendary heroes, monsters, fantasy adventure.

IMO we could call D&D a revolution because it opened up a new way to simulate and imagine the fantasy legend. Or we could call it an evolution from physically acting out the legend to simulation with math-based tables. I subscribe to the latter view.

So I tend to agree with Tobold that the *evolution* is important; a new presentation that resonates. The next great MMO will be hailed as a WoW killer - but within three years might be derided as the monolith that is stifling MMO creativity!

-- Doeg
 
That said, he just isnt't very interesting.

Not to a player, no. But he wasn't talking to players. And while your fanboish ad hominems just illustrate that you're one of the many people who just don't get it because they are incapable to escape their own narrow and limited perspective.

As the author of the Bartle's Gamer Psychology Test, I would have expected you to be very interested in the behaviors exibited by MMO players and to provide us with valuable insight into its impact on game design in your interview.

Like he has been doing for over two decades?

Yet you stated that you're not interested in experiencing games from a player's perspective,

And your point is? He teaches and consults on design. He has the clockmaker's view on a clock and is interested in how the mechanisms works. You think you're more qualified for half the price? You can't even broaden your perspective to understand what someone talking from a completely different point of view to an audience which doesn't include you is saying.

As for your most controversial statement dismissing WAR as too similar to WoW, I find it grossly unqualified

Lack of perspective again. Compare Earth to Mars in our solar system and they're very different. Look at them from the Magellan's cloud, and they're just a bunch of planets.

Is WAR so vastly different that it doesn't involve leveling at all? That you don't get a form of the classical healer / damage / tank / support group dynamic? That there are only two player factions? Will there be no grind to max level followed by a distinct endgame? Will any nation or realm or whatever be more than a simple city state formed by a capital and one single additional village? Will there be more ways to play and progress in the game than some elaborate version of hack & slash? Can you level up your toon all the way to endgame by playing a merchant? Can you either commission caravans which will actually really show up and cover the entire distance between two trade posts in real time, or can you enlist as one of their escorts for the entirety of their voyage? Will there be no auction mechanism? Will there be no class who can teleport an entire group to speed up travels? No land mounts? Will continued losses in RvR produce a lasting impact on the world like impoverishing the losing nation, changing the inventories of NPC merchants and have the citizen start walking in rags because the winner exacts an enormous tribute? Will you see a recently freed realm slowly getting rebuilt over the course of several weeks while it recovers from the spoils of war?

If the majority of the answers to these questions (I don't know them, BTW) is no, chances are that in terms of general design, WAR isn't a significant departure from WoW or EQ, at the very least a lot less different than a Tale in the Desert is from them al, for instance. WAR will be a variation on a similar theme, and I don't doubt it will provide a good list of innovations and original ideas not seen or implemented that way in its predecessors (not to talk about a different setting for that matter).

Nor would answering yes to a majority of these questions provide any measure of whether such a game would actually be fun to play.

But let's face it, if the majority of the answers to the above is "no", we're looking at different haiku. The words, the meaning, the mood, the language can be completely original and as different as day and night. It's still two haiku and not a haiku and a sonnet. Or freeform poetry. Or a Homeric epic.

Insisting that WAR is really massively different from WoW, until further informed, simply shows that you aren't looking at things from a broader perspective. And there's nothing wrong with that. But no need to go on a long tirade of cheap ad hominem attacks on someone who looks at things differently (and wasn't actually talking to you and yours).
 
Compare Earth to Mars in our solar system and they're very different. Look at them from the Magellan's cloud, and they're just a bunch of planets.

Great example! Because it completely explains what that anti-Bartle side said about irrelevance. Yes, from far away Earth and Mars are very much alike. But if you have to make a choice on which world to live, suddenly small details like one of them having a breathable atmosphere begin to matter very much. And the advice of the sage on the Magellan cloud telling you "oh, they are just the same" is irrelevant.
 
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... to the people doing the inhabiting.

Niedersattling is most certainly very different from Fearrington Village to people inhabiting either. But are there really massive differences in the way their respective mayors administrate their towns? Are they going to be treated as apple and oranges by urbanists?
 
>> That said, he just isnt't very interesting.

> Not to a player, no. But he wasn't talking to players. And while your fanboish ad hominems just illustrate that you're one of the many people who just don't get it because they are incapable to escape their own narrow and limited perspective.

Excuse me, but you are the one making ad hominem attacks here. What you said above is pure libel without any justification whatsoever. I demand an apology!

>> As the author of the Bartle's Gamer Psychology Test, I would have expected you to be very interested in the behaviors exibited by MMO players and to provide us with valuable insight into its impact on game design in your interview.

> Like he has been doing for over two decades?

Please provide citations of his work and credits. Show how Bartle's recent contributions influenced game design.

>> Yet you stated that you're not interested in experiencing games from a player's perspective,

> And your point is? He teaches and consults on design. He has the clockmaker's view on a clock and is interested in how the mechanisms works. You think you're more qualified for half the price?

"Clockwork" experts are dime a dozen. Every designer and programmer on a game project has intimate understanding of thier game's algorithmic workings. The more analytically-minded players develop detailed knowledge of a game's rules over time. But Bartle is neither: by his own admission he doesn't personally design games nor does he play them. His knowledge of common game mechanics is highly suspect. I don't think he even claims it, and he doesn't talk about explict game mechanics very much. Personally, I would have expected him to be more of a social expert, a sort of a "game anthropologist", but he doesn't appear to be much in that regard either. All the statements he's made so far have been platitudes almost totally devoid of any merit.

> You can't even broaden your perspective to understand what someone talking from a completely different point of view to an audience which doesn't include you is saying.

Ad hominem again. I'm college educated, and I can follow academic arguments just fine, thank you. If I can't parse what he's saying, he must be talking to Martians.

>> As for your most controversial statement dismissing WAR as too similar to WoW, I find it grossly unqualified

> Lack of perspective again. Compare Earth to Mars in our solar system and they're very different. Look at them from the Magellan's cloud, and they're just a bunch of planets.

Not my lack of perspective, but a failure to provide an argument to support his comparison on Bartle's end. You are actually trying to support his statement by building up an argument in his stead and putting up a good case... but you're not Bartle and these are not his words. You can't vindicate him by putting words in his mouth.
 
Bartle: No im not "sure" of anything on the internet.

However usually from what I read from you discuss indirect values of mmo design. Almost everyone else are hell bent on talking about direct values instead.

The mental leap needed to jump from the common perspective of direct values to the more artistically complicated side of indirect or abstract values requires clarification through discussion.

Or maybe rather a playful attitude towards the learning process. ^^
 
What you said above is pure libel without any justification whatsoever.

Oh yes, I see now. Things you said like "It's not your job to propose anything concrete. No one would employ you as a lead designer, nor do you like being a player. So if you're unqualified as a creator and uninterested as an audience member what good are you?" don't qualify as ad hominem.

I demand an apology!

I see why you'd feel compelled to make such demands, indeed. Don't hold your breath. It's only libel if it isn't true.

As for the rest, the incapability of you and yours to envision that different perspective you deny is there appears to be sufficiently demonstrated by the fact that the faux outrage over the interview is only to be found on player blogs. Designers, starting with Scott Jennings, don't appear to be having an issue with anything he said.
 
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