Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 09, 2014
About where the fun is

I very much recommend Chris' article on where the fun is. The only thing I don't agree with in that post is the theory that we resist change because "knowledge is currency" in geek-to-geek social interaction. I think the reality is much, much simpler: We all have memories of previous fun. And most of us are unable to realize that we have changed. Which leads us to look for fun exactly where we previously found it. What I consider proof for that theory is an observation on Kickstarter: Kickstarter projects for games that try to recreate old games from 20 years ago do significantly better than anything original. Nostalgia is a very strong force on Kickstarter.

Unfortunately looking for fun where we found it before is a recipe for disaster. It goes directly against Raph Koster's Theory of Fun, that fun is about learning something new. But even game developers making a new game base it on the games they personally had fun with before. It isn't just marketing guys in suits that push game development towards an endless series of clones and sequels.

As a blogger I am well aware that innovation is nearly impossible if you ask people for their opinion. Whenever I propose any feature for an hypothetical future MMORPG which is different from what World of Warcraft currently does, I am being told that "players don't want that" and "this will never work". But in reality we do not really know what features exactly made World of Warcraft such a success. People bought the whole package, without giving indication of which details might still be improved upon. That resulted in games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, where the developers thought that they had found a significant improvement to WoW's basic recipe with voice-over story-telling; but it turned out that this wasn't what people were actually missing, and that the feature cost a lot for very little added fun. Just adding minor tweaks to the old "quest until level cap, then raid" game structure isn't going to produce a huge hit in the future.

From a Mar 29, 2013 Massively article on Ohlen's GDC presentation.

Ohlen began his presentation by dispelling some misconceptions about the creation of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Some journalists and fans attributed much of the upfront cost of TOR to its scripting and voice acting. Ohlen explained that this belief is erroneous: "[Voice acting] was a known entity, and cost was quite low in comparison to the cost of the rest of the project." In other words, BioWare had been there and done that with voice acting already in its other games and budgeted accordingly. However, BioWare did not have a tested platform to build an MMO. Much of the cost was funneled toward creating an engine that supported a team of over 300 people working on it at the same time and adding choice and consequence to the MMO story. "Don't be scared about adding voice over and cool cinematic content," he advised his audience, "but do be careful about adding lots of choice with consequence because that adds to QA cost and development cost and makes it hard to design everything."

Thanks, Hagu!
Thank you for the article. It was interesting.

Even though I am not a serious PvPer, I may back CU (DAOC redux) just because that makes sense; it is not trying to be everything.

It seems to me the problem is when player want AAA functionality in a niche game. If you want all the legos attached, then it is going to cost enough to need to be a mass-market game and that is not OWPK or permadeath or w/e.

This is not unique to games, it is about mature markets. If you have some clever ideas in a word processor, there is so much you have to do, expected features, before you even get to implement your unique ideas.

I wish there was an MMO infrastructure. Not just an engine but mail, AH, LFG, chat, banks/bag/item database, guilds - a lot of the expected effort implemented so the developers could focus on their special ideas. ( I hope StoryBricks becomes an expected functionality but I am probably just drinking too deeply of the EQN Koolaid. Oops Jim Jones probably makes that a USA-centric metaphor.) But it won't happen. First, engineers know they can do better than mere licensed software a/k/a NIH: Not Invented Here. Second, PCs and MMOs are both in decline. An infrastructure suite is probably more likely for iPad 2018 than PC.

AAA MMOs seem like a problematic business in the West these days. Yet, this stretch of TESO, WildStar, SWTOR 2.8&2.9, Landmark, and WoD is about the most MMO intense time ever.

On a tangent since SWTOR and nostalgia was mentioned, a friend was reminiscing about SWTOR the other day and actually got me thinking back to the good times I had after launch on it (There were some...) and I ended up re-downloading it and trying out now that it is free to play...

And...yikes...that was a mistake. I don't remember the last time I saw a F2P element so intrusive, and the game didn't really feel any different outside that.

Can you believe nostalgia that recent led me astray?!
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