Tobold's Blog
Friday, July 09, 2010
Another theory of fun

Raph Koster worked in a leading position on both Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, wrote "A Theory of Fun for Game Design", and then founded Metaplace to build a virtual world platform which would allow users to build their own virtual worlds and post them on their blogs and sites. Well, Star Wars Galaxies had issues, and the Metaplace virtual world project went bust. So what did Raph do? He lets the Metaplace company quickly produce two Facebook games, and then sells the company to Playdom for an undisclosed number of millions of dollars.

From a business point of view I have to applaud the man, that was a really good move to turn game developer fame into a pile of cash. But as a sign of the times it is somewhat frightening. I didn't like Metaplace when I tried it in the beta, but the problem of it was that it was such a deep idea and brainy concept with endless possibilities that nobody ever got around to actually implement any fun gameplay into it. It was brilliant in theory and boring in practice. How do you get from there to "Island Life" and "My Vineyard", the complete theory behind which you can predict without having to actually play the game? These Facebook games only took a fraction of the time to develop than Metaplace did, and promptly got over a million players, more than Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and Metaplace together. And probably made Raph more money than any previous devlopment.

While Wolfshead posts another "back in the good ol' days everything was better" rants saying that Fun is for Children, Adventure is for Adults, undoubtedly thinking of UO, the guy who made UO and literally wrote the book on fun is now making Facebook games. I can't help but think that somewhere half way between intelligent virtual worlds lacking gameplay, and click-for-reward mindless Facebook games there must be a game that is *really* fun.

Now excuse me for half an hour, I have to program the "My BlogVille" Facebook game and sell it for a million.
I believe that Metaplace received $7 or $8M in VC, so those investors had to be paid back. There's no telling how profitable the sale of Metaplace was.

One thing's for sure -- you probably don't need that much money to make a couple of Facebook games.
In a genre like MMORPG's, "fun" is rarely a result of the gameplay elements alone. They won't come close to that of single player game's gameplay for obvious reasons.

Sure some companies have tried and gotten close, but it's still not the real deal. Usually this comes with a sacrifice in social elements, which is my main point...

The social element is what makes MMO's "fun" compared to single player games. It's like playing poker alone vs. with a bunch of friends. Poker as a game is fairly simple and boring even, but when played with friends it's simply great.

I believe this is how it works in MMO's too. The social elements make up for the lackluster gameplay and even surpass the "fun" of single player games.

But MMO's nowadays focus too much on trying to make the gameplay as close to single player games as possible while sacrificing the social elements partially or completely. "Grouping" is just a bunch of individuals fighting the same monsters, economy is based on buying and selling things to NPC's in the worst case etc.

Strictly focusing on gameplay won't make an MMO "fun" (if you don't like lackluster gameplay that is).. companies should focus a bit more on the social factor, even if it means a slight hit in the gameplay. IMO.
>But MMO's nowadays focus too much on trying to make the gameplay as close to single player games as possible while sacrificing the social elements [...]

Could this be what Blizzard is trying to 'fix' by furthering their use of Real ID?
"Could this be what Blizzard is trying to 'fix' by furthering their use of Real ID?"

If this somehow translates to better game experience in-game, I guess?

I think encouraging socializing through game design choices would work better though. Cooperative skills, relying on each other more and so on.
I'm certainly an opponent of Real ID to help strenghten social relationships in an MMORPG. This contradicts immersion.

All real world input should be completely voluntarily and I don'T see why a game even has to care about it. I already can ALT-TAB to chat with RL-friends or simply call them.
do forum posts show up in google? trolling under your real name might not be good for future job prospects either...
Lexicorro, that better be a joke. Or you are REALLY new at the internet.

....yes of fraking course Google finds forum posts...I hope you didn't really ask this.

In other new, all hail the new Dream Team! The King and his Court have moved to South Beach people!
You could make the case that it's more of the same -- that UO and SWG were both shoddy properties that cashed in on the gold rush at the time (early MMO's).
My experience with Ralph's products is that he is pretty good at designing social experiments.
@J. DangerouS

Lol but it is possible to exclude web pages from being indexed...plenty of forums limit anonymous access and consequently indexing.
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