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.