Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 24, 2009
Game design blog?

Scott "Lum" Jennings has a post up about game design blogs, and links to me as "a good place for player-centric commentary", which is nice, in the "You probably are cloning World of Warcraft. Just admit it." section, which is less nice. I don't see my blog as a WoW blog (in fact I'd even say I'm currently approaching a WoW burnout period). And I don't see it as a game design blog either. But the "player-centric commentary" part hits the nail on the head.

I don't want to design a game. I'm actually pretty certain that if I did, the game wouldn't even be very good. Design is not my strong point, analysis is. I can play a game, and not only tell you whether I like it or not, but also analyze a bit deeper what parts are contributing to me liking the game or not. And I can determine trends that go beyond my personal likes and dislikes, and see what features are popular or not. And how players react to incentives. Such analysis has value (and there are actually consultants out there who are getting paid big bucks to do exactly that). I'm offering it for free, not to make money or to become famous, but in the hope that it helps real developers to make better games, which I would profit from as a player.

Of course that involves a certain amount of armchair design, like launching discussions of whether feature X in game Y wouldn't be better if it was designed differently. I once joked I could get hired as Chief Social Engineer by a game company that wants my input on how incentives steer players through an MMO. But in reality I'm not really interested in a job in the game industry. I already have a very interesting and well-paid job in a far more solid industry, which is less prone to exploitation than the game industry. The kind of game developer position I could possibly hope to get with a resume like mine would pay 50% less for 50% more hours per week than I'm doing now. No thanks.

So why I can of course only echo Lum's recommendation that game developers read my blog, and other player-centric blogs as well, I wouldn't call this a game design blog. I don't want to be a game developer.
Actually I'm really glad to see that at least some game designers read player based blogges such as yours. I don't expect anyone of them to have found their way to my little corner of the Blogosphere, but I like the thought that they actually are interested in our thoughts anad analysis, that they show a true interest in the perspective of their customers. You're often spot on in your analysis and if you can influence them somehow I think it's for the good.It's inevitable that once you work in an organization you get sort of blind spots. So please keep doing this unpayed, keeping a sound distance! We need that perspective too.
To be honest it's a somewhat muddled post. He talks of "blogs specificaly focused on the how and why of game design" in a list that includes you and EJ. EJ is a site not a blog and is even less specifically focused on game design than you are.

I think where he's coming from is that, to a designer, your comments and the comments at EJ are often design problems where other people wouldn't see them that way. For instance if I join a pug and no one moves to the stone I think that's a problem with the lazy sods browsing the AH or whatever they're doing; Scott probably would see that as a design problem with the meeting stone mechanic.

I also think that you shouldn't be too miffed by being in the "you're probably cloning WoW" section. The "you're probably cloning WoW" category includes AoC, War, Vanguard. I know you sometimes post news about upcoming games like Free Realms but in-depth looks at stuff you're playing has been limited to WoW and WoW-clones in the two years I've been reading. When was the last time you did a blog post on a non-WoW game that was from playing experience rather than just picking up topical stuff from the blogosphere. Like the COH mission editor was something every blog was talking about so that kinda doesn't count.

From a game designer's point of view if you're designing a WoW clone you should definitely read this blog but if you're doing something more along the lines of COH, SW:G or Eve then this blog is less relevant.

It's a great blog and it means different things to different people. When I was a kid the daily newspaper was simply a TV listing and a cartoon page, the rest I skipped. Doesn't make it a bad paper, just means that I only used it for what specifically suited me.
I don't think he's calling your blog a game design blog. He's saying that a budding game designer would do well to read your blog.
I'm going to echo the other sentiments. He seems to be referring to the fact that you give good ideas and discussions when it comes to the MMO world. If you were writing all the time about FPS games I'm sure he'd say "You're cloning Halo, admit it" instead.

All in all, I'm surprised of what he linked was what I read already. It's good for even gamers to try and get into the heads of devs and push beyond simply playing a game.
I don't think you should discount a site like EJ and the tools and data that it provides to the WoW developers. Not only is the signal to noise ratio very very low, but every change is endlessly discussed and theorycrafted down to the smallest decimal point. If the data is recordable in WoW, then it will be analyzed on EJ.

I think other games would be lucky to have a site like EJ spring up for their games. Many, many, many changes that came about in WoW were conceived on EJ months before they ever made it into the patch notes.
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Chris said...

I've been following your posts since Grimwell's old forum, and I find the signal to noise ratio among those who post here on your blog to be quite high. If Lum is paying attention to your blog, you can only guess at who else might be also. Your analysis and your tone differentiates you from the other bloggers out there, in that you do not come across as "fanboy'ish" even though a good majority of your posts are WoW centric. As long as you keep writing about MMO's and steer clear of politics, I'll keep reading. =P
Well you know Mythic atleast reads them because when the Slayer/Choppa was going to be released they sent out some swag to WAR bloggers hinting at it. It was really more of a cheap marketing scheme but meh, it's something.

Tobold, I hope you burn out on WoW soon because I simply can't find enjoyment in it right now. I need you to find me something else to play. :p I have tried WAR again, Darkfall, Dawn of War 2, TF2, and many other games and nothing. I log on WoW every night with no desire to do anything. I would go to another MMO in a second if I thought it was as polished as WoW. That sort of hit me like a ton of bricks last night. I logged into Org and thought, this game runs perfect... I wish there was something I wanted to do.
I need you to find me something else to play.

I already found something highly enjoyable, but can't talk about it due to a super-strict NDA which doesn't even allow me to say that I'm in the beta, or even that there is an NDA. Hmmm, forget that I said that, I will deny there is a beta or an NDA if asked. :)
Quite some Bloggers recently state that they enjoy playing some beta game. No other information have I been able to extract so far.
VERY interesting :)
Quite some Bloggers recently state that they enjoy playing some beta game. No other information have I been able to extract so far.
VERY interesting :)
Oh PLEASE let it be Guild Wars 2. The silence surrounding that game is deafening. But after all the "public alpha" and beta tests for GW1, it seems a bit out of character for ArenNet to start flinging NDAs everywhere.

What else could it be? Champions Online NDA leaks are all over the place, Star Wars Old Republic and the Star Trek MMO seem a bit far off, maybe Diablo 3? Or something more low-profile, like Copernicus (Curt Schilling's MMO)...

Ah, nothing like a good mystery to keep me coming back to this blog every day for the next few weeks/months. Brilliant move on your part, Tobold ;-)
Your comments about your career point out one of the troubles the industry has. It really doesn't have the best and the brightest, just the most tolerant of abuse for the sake of their "passion". Recognizing that, there are worse things to do than look outside of the inbred industry for ideas, even from "armchair" designers.
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