Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There was a time when I played the German version of A Tale in the Desert, and Teppy, the main developer, gathered all the players online on the server at one spot to hold a council. He replied to questions, and offered solutions to problems mentioned by the players. He even coded in one of these solutions while the event was going on, without bringing the server down, and changed the rules of the game on the spot, based on player input. That was pretty awesome. Only that there were only 25 players on the server. The US version has more players, usually around 1,100 subscribers, which probably works out to just over 100 online on average. So when Pangoria Fallstar asked me about my opinion on Love, I couldn't help but think that there will be some similarities in structure to ATITD: Small player base, niche gameplay, but extremely powerful possibilities for the developer to interact with the players.

If you look at the gameplay video of Love, you might understand what I mean. The tools given to the player to shape the world are obviously hugely superior to what players usually get in the usual, rather static MMORPGs. That in itself will draw some players towards the game. But then you see that the "enemy" you have to beat is an AI controlled city, which you beat by figuring out how its infrastructure works, and then sabotage it by application of logic to find its weak spot. That is going to be way to brainy (and the graphics way too grainy) for the average video gamer. Just like the cooperative social experiment without monsters to kill in ATITD is only attractive for a small number of players, interacting with a procedurally created world will only be attractive for a small number of players. Which is all the better, as the servers can only handle about 400, and the single person developing the game probably doesn't have the means to put up lots of servers.

Love is impressive for a one-man show, it is innovative, different, and new. Thus it is likely to once more prove that players, regardless of what they say, do not want innovative, different, and new, they want the same old with better graphics. It'll haunt us in the blogosphere for years as an example how innovative multiplayer online games can be, but there is no chance that this develops into the next big thing. Most people simply won't get Love.
Thus it is likely to once more prove that players, regardless of what they say, do not want innovative, different, and new, they want the same old with better graphics.

I agree to a certain extent. And you can apply a well known theory "Maslow's hierarchy of needs" to this.

Players want game stability first. Once they have it, then it's graphics, then accessibility, gameplay, etc.

However, consider this - WoW was successful because it had a lot of depth (despite what a lot of people may say) and was quite innovative as well.

Some of the most successful games (e.g. Starcraft, Diablo, Half-Life) were also very innovative.

So, with your expected WoW II, if it indeed turns out to be a mere WoW clone, I only expect moderate success. I conclude this because of the result of Warcraft III (which many felt were a clone of other games). It had moderate success but no way the acclaim of many of the other Blizzard games.
Love looks quite interesting, though I wonder whether it can achieve its lofty goals. A fairly large world that people can build anything in would be fantastic. I hope the guy that's developing it can succeed.

Oh, and another thing. The fact that one guy is doing all this, developing an entire MMO by himself is insane. I don't know many people with that much drive and creativity.
I agree with your opinions, just from what I saw of the game so far.

I'm really looking forward to when its made available in the US (it didn't seem like it was yet, but I heard he was planning for it during an interview).
I've always loved turtle games. Take stronghold: build a nice, huge fortress and laugh as the AI falls in your spiked traps, gets burned from your oil and shot from your ballistas.

An mmorpg version? Sounds great.
Sounds like you're talking down to an indie game because it doesn't try to have mass appeal. There are plenty of people looking for innovative new takes on gaming who will gladly play this game. Certain there are enough players to sustain the game.

You can't aim to have mass appeal while doing something innovative and entirely distinct at the same time. Love's gameplay is clearly meant to experiment--it doesn't fit the timesink mold that MMOs have emerged from throughout the genre's existence.

It's just a different kind of game. Judging it as an MMORPG or MMOFPS will likely sell it short.


Are you reading my blog, Tobold? A few times over the past few months you've posted something that could've been inspired (perhaps indirectly) by posts I made within the past 24 hours. This post, for instance, sounds like a faint echo of a post I made last night.

It's probably just a coincidence.
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Wow! I actually agree with tobold this time ;P

Love is incredibly opaque, whether this is an effort to encourage new players to interact with the existing playerbase and get guidance and help from them is not really clear, like much of the rest of the game.

I am impressed with its impressionist visuals and one man, one vision design. Eskill Steenberg is definitely a man to watch and some of the tools he's developed are stunning and incredibly flexible. Games made with them don't have to look like Love.

They seem to be designed around small independant teams and/or one man shows making everything from third person shooters to MMO's such as Love.

The procedural generation of scenery and textures is also something which is very interesting. I foresee that alot of games will begin using procedural technology as time goes on and the creation of art assets becomes the most time consuming and expensive area of game development.

Love is worth a look, if only because its pretty much unique in its style, mechanics and philosophy.
Are you reading my blog, Tobold?

Sorry, not regularly. I'm currently deep into all those great blog from my fellow Single Abstract Noun guild mates. And this post was a result from Pangoria first sending me a mail, and then asking about Love in the open Sunday thread.

But in general I would say that any MMORPG blog post sounds like a faint echo of *some* other blog post. There aren't too many fundamentally different answers one can give to the question of "do players like innovation?".
I bet if the Love graphics engine was redone by a professional team it would get much more attention.

We take a lot of our cues based on the graphics of a game. It is kind of amazing how much we actually rely on graphics to judge the quality of games.
Tobold: Thanks for the response. I didn't expect you to be a regular reader. My posts are generally a bit too academic and abstract to be interesting to most people--not that it makes them better or worse than anything else, I'm just surprised when I hear that people read my writing because of it.

The reason I mentioned the coincidence was not because at some point in time we had similar posts, but instead because the posts occurred within 36 hours of one another.
It pains me so much to admit it, but you're probably right Tobold. I've been watching Love for a while, and was actually planning on asking your opinion on it sometime too.

However, I do believe that it will turn a profit, and end up being a sustainable business model, just not one that could be easily extended to large-scale. Though I still have some amount of hope that it will nudge the industry in a new direction eventually, just not immediately.
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