Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 23, 2008

Richard Bartle is the co-author of MUD, one of the ancestors of modern MMORPGs. But as he failed to patent any of the inventions he did while creating it, all he got was a Wikipedia entry. Being aware how many millions other people make from those ideas, he tends to be somewhat bitter. And out of that bitterness comes a deep desire to annoy other people in the field, for example by proposing to close down World of Warcraft. And now Keen reports Richard Bartle saying “I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft.”, thereby making a lot of WAR fans angry. Well, as attempt of somebody who has become irrelevant to make it back into the news this succeeded; but now he'll have some clever explaining away to do, before everybody considers him to be just crazy.

Of course games from the same genre resemble each other, or they wouldn't be part of the same genre. WAR is no more identical to WoW than WoW is to Everquest. And as a marketing strategy the guys from EA Mythic make unhelpful statements like “We have everything you would expect from a MMO; The greatest hits.” With the visual style being somewhat similar, of course some people now start to think of WAR as being some sort of WoW+. World of Warcraft plus RvR, for example. But that isn't really a fair assessment. LotRO isn't WoW plus hobbits, AoC isn't WoW plus nipples, and WAR isn't WoW plus RvR. These are all completely separate games, all drawing from a pool of general genre features. And yes, WoW significantly contributed to that pool, but earlier games like Everquest contributed even more.

Of course if you don't like MMORPGs in general, you won't like WAR either. Or if WoW totally burned you out from games where you do quests and kill monsters to advance in levels, WAR isn't going to offer you something completely different. But nobody really expects that. Nobody blames Crysis for being similar to other first person shooters, or Starcraft 2 for being the same as other real time strategy games. Players buying WAR *expect* certain standard features of a MMORPG. And they buy a new game for new content and different variations of an old genre.

And with multiple generations the variations from one game to another evolve the whole genre. Nobody says "I've already played Spore, it was called Populous.", even if Spore is definitely part of the same god-sim genre. But in 19 years that genre has evolved into something that makes Spore appear to be very different from Populous. In the genre of MMORPGs the games of today already appear to be much different from Everquest. And in 10 years the new games will be much different from World of Warcraft. But most of that difference will not come from huge quantum leaps, but from a sum of smaller additions to features.

That is why Richard Bartle's statement of WAR being the same as WoW only makes him look foolish. We don't know yet how important features like RvR, the tome of knowledge, or public quests are going to be for the future of the genre. Maybe in 5 years public quests are as standard as golden symbols over the head of quest givers, maybe they end up being forgotten or considered to be a failed experiment. But dismissing WAR because it shares features with WoW or other MMORPGs simply stops all evolution. Relying only on people coming up with revolutionary new ideas that found completely new genres would mean we would only get new games once every decade or so. WAR is important because it will attract a large audience, and it will evolve the MMORPG genre in some way. Discussing the evolution and the changes is a lot more important than listing the similarities.
Ouch Tobold, that wasn't nice. Richard Bartle's views may not be very influential any more and you may not agree with them but that is no justification for dismissing the man himself as irrelevant. I believe that no one is irrelevant and the way you describe him is extremely hurtful and just plain wrong.So what if he never made a fortune out of MUD. He started something that he can be very proud of. If I had a Wikipedia entry like his I would certainly be proud of it. I know you are not a native speaker Tobold and it is possible you did not mean to be so cruel (although I have to admit your written English is a good as mine!)
I agree that I'm not very nice to him, but he kind of sets himself up for that by being not very nice about every game produced this century. The "irrelevant" part is strictly about his opinions on what is going on today, not about his historic relevance, which is undisputed.
Fair enough Tobold. Its just that when I read your post it sounded like you were attacking the man rather than attacking his opinion and there is a difference.

I read the inflammatory WAR article and I admit it is is pretty weird. I couldn't understand what RB was trying to say. I think at one point he suggests that he is the only person who knows how to "read" mmo's and he is going to have to teach us all a new vocabulary just so he can explain it to us. Bizarre.

On the other hand I also read the "close down World of Warcraft" interview and when you read it it actually makes a bit of sense. He admits that Wow is "one of the best" mmos out there but he suggests closing it down to allow other games get a chance. Of course that isn't going to happen but I think it is a valid viewpoint.
for my part i can understand such a comment, because warhammer is dumbed down version of wow. maybe warhammer will get 100% better till release, then it might be a good game which brings working features to expand the pool of standards in the mmorpg genre, but as it stands now a bunch of broken features and half assed ideas won´t make warhammer any good and nothing than a really crappy wow.
i and 3 of my friends bought a warhammer beta account at ebay and we were so disspappointed that nobody of us got higher than lvl 6 until we sold them back at ebay.

so yeah warhammer will be the flop of the year you will read "just a bad wow" all over the gaming forums
if they don´t improve the game drastically.
I was disappointed by Pirates of the Burning Sea, and I don't like Age of Conan much either. And I do think that AoC, behind the shiny graphics and twitchy combat, has a gameplay which could also be described as "dumbed down WoW". But the point of the post is that whether the game is good or bad, or how many features it "borrows" from previous games isn't important. The important stuff is the new features a game brings to the genre, and how those new features change the genre.

For example Pirates of the Burning Sea has interesting ship combat, which we might end up seeing in a different form in a future game having ships or spaceships. It also has an interesting blind auction house system, which could be applied to many other games. Age of Conan has a unique combat system, and I'm sure we'll see more games using combos for solo combat, not just for groups as previous games did. And while the influence of PotBS is debatable, I'm pretty certain that Age of Conan will leave an impression in MMORPG history, one way or another.

And so will WAR. I don't agree with Beelze's judgement of WAR, but as I didn't buy my beta account on eBay, I'm not allowed to say something to defend WAR. The specific structure of the beta makes preliminary judgements dangerous in any case. But I am certain that even if WAR ends up disappointing people, it will add to the list of features that have been tried, and found either to work well or to fail miserably.

Imagine one extreme hypothetical example: WAR fails because it turns out that people hate RvR. Don't you think that this would influence MMORPG design for years to come? In the other possible extreme a wild success of RvR would change the future of MMORPGs in a very different direction.
"""Nobody says "I've already played Spore, it was called Populous.", even if Spore is definitely part of the same god-sim genre. But in 19 years that genre has evolved into something that makes Spore appear to be very different from Populous."""

because WAR is being released 19 years after WoW, right? no one is honestly going to draw a direct comparison between Spore and Populous, that's grasping at straws. People will (and do) compare John Madden Football Two-Thousand Whatever with NFL Fever Blitz-o Two Thousand Whatever.

I will say that the comparison from WAR to WOW is pretty ridiculous on one count, though: I clung fervently to my WoW beta account and played it religiously until a week before release when i sold the account for $500 on ebay.

I played WAR's beta for a while, thought it was garbage, and gave the account away to a friend. That I was subsequently banned from the beta didn't really bother me.

The WARhammer beta is only being really 'praised' by those who are so burned out on WoW that even conan (post level 20, sorry) seems fun, or those that haven't played it at all, and are falling for Paul Barnett's fanboi engine.

He replys to the comment on WoW = WAR and I think he does a better explaination there than he does in the interview, and any decent interviewer would have asked him why he think it's exactly the same.

In fact his comments on Scott's site actually was a better take on things than the entire interview in my opinion. Just take a read and see what you think.
I think he makes a really interesting point on how virtual worlds are conceived and then created; that everyone seems more interested in following in the footsteps than actually outpacing.

I have little experience with MMOs: Before WoW, could you walk seamlessly between zones without entering through a portal? I think that was a brilliant point that brought Azeroth out of the RTS system and into a "World" experience.

Having monsters attacking critters in an otherwise empty area also highlighted detail, and I hadn't seen anything before WoW like it.

I think Bartle's post has more to do with Virtual Worlds than with MMOs generally, and if you look at it out of context, then of course its an attack on every single MMO game on the market on the moment.

His attack on WoW came across to me as tongue-in-cheek anyway.
Holy Jeebus. This Richard Bartle guy sounds like a complete jack ass. I love the comment about him not being able to enjoy games because he is presious "designer". What a load of crap. I've been mapping and modding since Doom was out. I can appreciate the beauty and design of almost every game I play. I can also play those games for fun. While I play for fun I see the gears and try and figure out how things work, but that doesn't stop me from having fun. Lastly what he said about WoW being shut down so the "hidden gem" mmo's would get a chance to be played. COME ON?!!?! There are no hidden gem MMO's. They all pale in comparison to WoW and that is why everyone plays WoW. I'm not fanboi. I've been craving a new MMO to play for years. I've tried almost all of the free ones, and all the big releases(vangaurd,lotro,AoC) and they are all okay games, but no where near the level WoW is at.
Couldn't agree more, Tobold.

With comments like this, it's no wonder he's done jack to further the genre himself since his hayday.
Thanks for the link to Brokentoys, very interesting read. But note that none of what he says makes me think I did the man an injustice, in fact several of his comments there pretty much confirm what I wrote in my first paragraph.

Would you hire a consultant for your MMORPG who proposes permadeath PvP? I can see where all this nostalgia and hope for revolutionary game development comes from. But the reality of today's MMORPGs has been reached by smaller, evolutionary steps, and moved the genre far, far away from what worked in MUD.
Thanks for posting that ghiesuk, he does put himself across a lot better in those follow up comments, although I suspect that he is still undervaluing the potential for genre innovation in WAR.

I also think he is a touch on the idealistic side about how quickly he believes innovation can occur in the genre. Even modest MMO projects cost a frightening amount of money to push out of the door, and success is far from guaranteed.

Investors need to know that there is a market out there for the product they are investing in, and selling something 'like WoW, but with RvR' is much easier than selling a completely new idea.
And yes, WoW significantly contributed to that pool, but earlier games like Everquest contributed even more.

Please give me one contribution in WoW which was new ?
Please give me one contribution in WoW which was new ?

Too many to list them all, but probably the most important is linking quests together in a coherent network guiding players from one zone to the next.

More visibly, and much copied, is the golden exclamation mark floating over the head of the quest givers, even if other games changed the color or form of it.

Flight paths for transport between areas you have already visited.

Oh come on guys, how short is your memory? Don't you remember being awed by WoW back in 2004? Familiarity breeds contempt, but claiming that WoW wasn't original, or not good, are written from a 2008 burnout perspective.
Hmm.. so it's ok if Blizzard is quietly phasing out WoW efforts to launch new and improved next-big-mmo (like say World of Starcraft), but it's not ok if Bartle would like to close it down to make people "look for alternatives"?

Ok, Mr. Bartle comes off as a bit patronising with his choice of words and games to close down, but I cannot but sympathise with his desire to have more innovation in mmo's.

But then again I also liked Chris Crawford's Swan Song.. err Dragon Speech :)
I could be wrong, but I think WoW was the first MMO to use instancing, was it not? That alone is a huge leap forward.
@ the last anonymous poster:

You have got to be kidding me! Please go and play EQ right now, and then play WoW, and then tell me that WoW didn't revolutionize alot of things about MMORPG's.

To add to Tobold's response, I'll say that WoW brought in a better way to handle death and resurrection in PVE so that you didn't have to make EQ style corpse runs, WoW minimized "zoning" and brought us a more seamless world, introduced cross-server battlegrounds, categorized loot (grey/white/blue/purple/orange) for easy identifiaction, customizable UI with API, etc., etc. Its a long list and I probably only scratched the surface.

My assumption is that nothing before EQ and WoW did any of these things, therefore I credit WoW with their introduction. Please feel free to correct any mistakes that may be there as I'm going from personal experience and memory here.

But my original point stands, WoW brought in a ton of innovation and much needed improvement to the MMORPG world. I could be wrong, but my hopes are that WAR can plug some of the holes left by WoW.
Oh and this Bartle "has been" person has zero credibility with me after reading much of what he's said.
Literally everything listed so far as "innovation" from WoW - from instancing to quest-giver indication - was done before. I really can't be bothered to list them, but do some reading, people, if you can't be bothered to go out and play the older games, whether graphical, MUDs, MUSHes, MOOs or the rest. What WoW did was to take the standard archetypes and to them right. An important achievement, but don't let your fanboyism make you think the game was substantially innovative beyond that.

And Tobold, this is a really disappointing article from you. A series of spurious ad hominem attacks on someone who has, after all, done much to give you the games you waste far too much of your life playing, padded out with a couple of historical mistakes but no evidence or telling arguments beyond the level of "no it isn't" and piqued foot-stamping, suggests that you should go back to listing places to find crafting menus and telling people about your woes when pipeweed is nerfed, because your wider appreciation of the structures and design of what lies beneath, frankly, sucks.

And Bartle's views are very influential these days. After all, he has you writing about him. I doubt if he has, on the other hand, lost much sleep worrying about your opinions, lately.
His ideas don't seem that different from Raph Koster but he seems less able to phrase them without pissing people off. Still the Bartle Test has proven useful to me on several occassions so he's not totally nutters.
Literally everything listed so far as "innovation" from WoW - from instancing to quest-giver indication - was done before

And as tobold and many of us have stated several times. WOW didn't bring anything new to the table. they just took the time to polish it and do it correctly.

Thats what game designers have to understand. In the new pardigm where the masses play the games, the same old buggy half assed release of "new" and "innovative" content is not going to work as well as, "polished same old same old". I bet they'll be horrified when the next well polished wow clone that comes out (or we can call it EQ clone) does really well. Thats what most of those 10 million players want. Not new and innovative just fun and polished.

We don't want a 1000 dollar bottle of wine. A really good bear is so much better.
I agree with Tobold for the most part on this one. Bartle has a great deal of cred, but his comments lately are clearly focused at stirring up noise. Maybe he's about to launch a new site or looking for a new job.

It's like listening to Kobe spout off about the officiating after a bad game. It doesn't make him any less of a competent player, but it does look stupid.
This guys comments were so out in left field..

Then he said I played WAR, it is called WoW.

Then I respected him again.

Agreed on no (or almost no) new thing by Wow. And thinking wow invited instancing, travel route, or quest indicators is like saying that lord of the ring stole orcs and elves from wow.

I really think the WoW community (including me at some times) is the less objective of all the market. Saying that WoW is not innovative is not from burnout, i've said the same thing in 2004. Saying that it is polished is not from 2008, i've said the same in 2004 too. And saying the both is not a compliment or a flamming, just a thought.

But for the polish, i really think it is not enough. A just polished clone of WoW would not be fun for me, innovation is really something some people will look for.

What would be the point of playing a wow clone when wow exists. A new game cannot have the same thing at launch that more than 4 year old one (not including dev)

Oh, and i posted the first anonymous post (lazy, not trying to hide :D) but not the others
Perhaps Bartle is finally burned out on MUDs/MMOGs. He did after all create the first systems that are still being built upon today. After all, how many rats can you kill over the years? Could it just be that he wants to retire the genre for himself?

It is probably an unfair assessment that WAR is WoW, feature for feature, or even WoW+RvR, but I think Bartle was trying to wake the gamers and developers up. I view it as him saying, "Hey! Let's start doing something new here. Stop slapping new graphics on the same old. Where is the creativity in systems?"

And don't tell me that the systems have gotten better. The creativity in gameplay has fallen by the wayside. AoC takes a chance at making combat more twitchy, and I would suggest that it is somewhat creative in the use of shielding. However, it isn't far removed from the same mechanics we've been using.
Just my opinion...

I’m in the software business, with a fair amount of experience in all the parts of the software lifecycle. I have seen firsthand how a software design can seem great, and test out fine - to the software designers, developers, and testers in a ‘laboratory’ setting. But once the product is ‘in the field’, in the hands of customers, the free market (what the customer wants) takes over.
Case in point: PvP perma-death as opposed to PvP as handled in the big MMOs in 2008. The market didn’t even tolerate losing your stuff from PvP death!

One might look at it this way.
Many software designers and developers loved UNIX and the vi editor.
Many customers loved the Apple OS.
UNIX and the Apple OS were both functional and adequate for their particular audience.
An example of that in the marketplace is the Microsoft evolution from DOS to Windows which has gone from the 95/98/NT feel, to the XP and now Vista feel.
In that analogy, one could see MUD as DOS, and WoW/WAR as Windows - no matter how you feel, there is simply no going back to DOS, the marketplace won’t allow it. Customers like graphical interfaces and sounds, and being told what to do with a minimum of decision making and maximum speed.

A designer is quite happy to tweak and test the systems, like combat and economy, at the MUD level; that is, the actual systems underneath the graphic interface.
The customer wants an environment, and sight and sound are important to the typical gamer. They *are* actually playing, and want a lag-free and bug-free experience. They want mods that make the game easier, and quests that tell them what to do and where to go.

When Bartle said “I’ve already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft”, I found that quite dismissive since there was no context.

It sounds like Bartle was ‘fishing’ with the “if someone gave me $50m and a remit to design and develop a virtual world” comment. I wouldn’t, because as Tobold says, the market has already rejected ideas like PvP perma-death, which he seems to view with nostalgia. It appears to me that Bartle is having some difficulty adapting from outdated design theory to the marketplace demands of 2008.

Maybe it’s the designer’s version of the Hollywood Oscar mindset, but this guy seems to have played WoW quite a bit, and at some stubborn, artsy, theoretical, ivory-tower level just can’t accept WoW as the MMO standard in the marketplace.
Well said, Tobold.
I have to admit, I haven't delved deep into WAR and all it has to offer at this point. I'm still trying to catch up to the AoC fanbois and see what that game is all about. But from what I have seen, WAR does look at lot like WoW 2.0 on the surface. I'm sure the game has a much deeper level where the differences are clearly evident, but books and covers and all.
@ doriandra

you really wouldn't be happy in a new wowlike world that was completely fresh and new. I'd happily dump wow for more of the same if it were completely new and I had new stuff to explore, new things to do that were'nt memorized.

I'd like to see one done better obviously but beginning to think that's not coming till a game company or two crashes on the rocks of what they want vs what the customer wants
Rephrased in Tobol's terms, Bartle's main argument is that the old text-based MUDs drew from a larger "pool of genre features" than the current generation of graphical MMOs. I don't see why that's an unreasonable point to make: there's much more money and thus more risk involved in producing a graphical MMO, so designers are more likely to stay within the bounds of a proven success formula. In my opinion that's kind of obvious, and actually true for nearly every kind of creative venture: low-budget indie films take more creative risks than big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.

His other argument is more controversial. He claims that several of the problems that plague Everquest and WoW have been encountered before in text MUDs, and been solved in creative ways that current MMO designers are not aware of. He doesn't name Jeff Kaplan, but it's obvious that he accuses him of only designing for one kind of player (that is himself; as you might know, Jeff Kaplan was a hardcore raider in EQ), without providing sufficient incentives for players interested in other things.

Several of his ideas make more sense if you're familiar with his book, "Designing virtual worlds". I don't recommend reading it if you're only casually interested in the subject.
Well, as attempt of somebody who has become irrelevant to make it back into the news this succeeded; but now he'll have some clever explaining away to do, before everybody considers him to be just crazy.

I think this must be a first for me, in that I disagree with just about everything you said.

Despite Mr Bartle Saying: “Sacrificing one of the best…” you took this interview as a personal attack.

Being interviewed for the Gaurdian, one of only two credible newspapers in the UK, you assume he is attempting to get in to the spotlight and thus grab attention. How did you conclude that? Could it not be that the interviewer instigated the interview.

Given half a chance (takes big breath) I would do exactly the same thing. Close WoW down!

You make mistakes when comparing build quality and original dev with the state of the game now.

WoW as it currently stands is a boring static daily rep/badge grind with fishing quests bolted on and too many welfare epics for the Burberry wearing brigade forcing CvC to the fore and making it mainstay of the game. The RPG aspect died long ago in favour of the Chav Vs Chav game it has now become. Are season 6 rewards going to have a Burberry pattern?

WoW is a monster that needs serious competition to force it to innovate. I challenge you Tobold to demonstrate how this game is innovating right now?

What have we had in the last 12 months?

---Boring Repetitive Daily Quests
---Pointless Pets
---More Rep Grinds
---More CvC rewards
---Some Stupid CvC international Invite
---More Pointless Pets
---A 10 Man Dungeon that was supposedly casual friendly (Tigole you monkey)
---A 25 Man Raid in patch ‘Too Point Less’ that less than 5% of the player base would have been able to attempt. (How did he keep his job)
---More pointless pets to grind for.

The above is simply lazy design and clearly lacking creativity. Creativity is not designing new raids with Lego bricks and having a dev team put it together for you… it is about designing ways of making this ever so static world dynamic and exciting. It is about addressing how quests are handled and completed. With a budget that Blizzard has… they should be ashamed of their clear lack vision.

Richard Bartle I sure hope you have a blog… as I am on my way to find it and champion your comments.
I sometime don't agree with your thoughts but this is the first blog entry you have made that I am truely disappointed in Tobold. Read Psychochild's post in the brokentoys comment section for a start of an explaination about my disappointment.
I sometime don't agree with your thoughts but this is the first blog entry you have made that I am truely disappointed in Tobold.

Can someone save me from the holier-than-thou rhetoric? I mean, seriously, save your “disappointment” speech for something that actually matters. Tobold is on point with this one by calling him irrelevant and this is all much ado about nothing. A washed-up industry pioneer draws a comparison between two online games and calls them similar. OMG! Stop the Presses! This is NEWS!!! RICHARD BARTLE THINKS WAR IS LIKE WOW!!!! And he’s not an 80’s valley girl so he not using WOW to express being awed or greatly impressed. Of course, he is an ancient geek, so he might have meant WOW!, the defunct online service from CompuServe. Either way, it must be amazing news because, well.. this is Richard “effing” Bartle.
Right now, 30 years post-MUD, Bartle is (as far as I can tell) on the outside of the MMO retail industry, in academia, and I find it telling that no one is knocking down his door hoping to make him a lead designer for a retail next-gen MMO. Bartle ‘went nuclear’ on WAR and AoC with comments along the lines of WAR = WoW, and seeming to advocate a return to hardcore perma-death PvP insinuating that AoC is carebear.

I could be completely wrong, but I don’t see that opening doors of opportunity into the retail MMO industry.

You may agree fully with Bartle, and maybe even dislike WoW and AoC and WAR for whatever reason, but when we ‘back out’ to the bigger picture of MMOs in 2008...
- The ‘elephant in the room’ is that WoW is the MMO market ‘big dog’, AoC is selling well, WAR is highly anticipated
- History gives us PvP market cases like Trammel versus Felucca

Remove WoW and you’ll have the same set of MMOs you have now, minus WoW.
That proposal might have a bit more than zero credibility if a few of these mysterious “unknown gems” were identified.

Perma-death PvP?
Been there, done that. The market has spoken on that.
@syncaine: Anarchy Online was the first to use instancing, it's Funcom's invention and regardless of patents they 'gave' it to the rest of MMORPG market with their approval.

It's one of several reasons I've gained respect for Funcom. They had a disastrous launch of their first MMO, but have since made up for it in spades IMHO.

i could be happy with a all new wow like but i am really looking for something new. MMO designer have to work and give us something new. in ten years the mmo did not evolve a lot imo.

like wolfenstein (not doom), a lot of year after FPS are still the same, just better graphics but so little "new" stuff.
Just wanted to point one th8ing out you said in a reply Tobold

"Would you hire a consultant for your MMORPG who proposes permadeath PvP? "

He didn't actually suggest it should be implemented, and if you actually read what he posted on BT (in his second reply I believe), he explains exactly what he was meaning by invoking the term.
i think you all just over-reacting and judging this man too much. he just stating his own views and dont put too much on just 1 interview. every mmo blogger including tobold had posted some consider stupid and illogical , now you tried to judge this guy based on his views ?

The innovation WOW brought to the game was quality. I prefer that term to polish, because the latter implies that it's just a little thing you do before you shove the product out. Quality is an all-pervasive thing, needing attention to detail in many, many areas. It's the reason why WOW releases take so much longer than other games - because they do it properly.

That quality makes far more difference to your day-to-day gaming experience than some fancy new feature. The game just works all the time. It's incredibly rare for WOW to crash or bug out, which puts it on a par with other forms of entertainment like TV.

Now in principle someone could make a product that was both innovative and high quality, but if I had to choose one, I'd go for quality.
I claim the fence for +5 ambiguity.

I love Warhammer, have for years upon years and I await WAR with baited breath. I enjoy the WoW universe and love the backstory. However I hate the game. That's just me.

What Bartle may want is a period of revolution over evolution in the mmo genre.
What Bartle said (or appears to have) is that the whole pot is stagnant.

What the market wants is something big, shiny, fun and easy.
What the niche wants is something new.

Killing off Wow wont suddenly cause the market to bloom. You'll just have 10 millions people with a pissed off attitude, the same as anyone who has ever had a game they enjoy or love cancelled.

Belittling WAR before its out is senseless. How does he know it isn't leaps and bounds above others?

Finally, the whole revolution > evolution thing.
Occasionally it works. Hey it suited those fish who were eyeing up land and thought the sea was a bit crowded. Once they got to land, well life just went with it.

Revolutions are few and far between but evolution is constant. I would take an evolving game any day and if I was so luck as to actually come across something revolutionary that grabbed me, I'd do my best to make it great.

Millions of people thought WoW was great. It doesnt need to be cancelled to be toppled.

Let the games evolve as they are. Sooner or later market pressure will spark the revolution then Bartle will get what he wants and we hopefully will get a bucket of great games, most of whom will die off but may leave fantastic corpses and brilliant ideas.
For the love of good Jesus in heaven I didn't think I made that many errors >.<
I just read his interview at massively and one big thing jumped out at me. He said the current crop of game developers are only designing the kinds of games they grew up playing.

I've been complaining about developers in wow that obviously don't interact with anyone outside thier hard core raid or pvp lives for 3 years now. You can see it when you read thier interviews or on thier forum posts. They are completely utterly confused by the new carebear gamer that has invaded thier world. They truly seem to have this desire to pigeonhole everyone into the people that want to "work hard" in the game and the people that "want someone to give them stuff". They seem to have a subconcious block to accepting that there are literally a dozen different types of playstyles and personalities that they need to consider when they work on thier "world".
I think that is a fair observation Sam. I also think that was one of his main points. The broken toys link was much more helpful than the Massively interview (which left me rather confused on a number of points.)

One of the things he hit on, that interrested me, was the idea that some designers are too focused in their design, making things that appeal to them, rather than things that would appeal to a world at large. Passion to create, and passion for the creation is positive. However, that passion can grow to be too narrow, and can excude the possability that not everyone plays things the same way.

The famous "welfare epics" quote is a prime example. There is no excuse for a lead designer to go about insulting a large portion of their player base for simply playing the game as it was designed. Yet there you have it, the Raid designer thinks that the players who don'r raid are welfare cases who don't want to "work" for their things. In America, that is an explosive charge, as we have held "hard work" as a shining virtue, and he very well knew that it would anger people who fell on the "welfare" side and delight people who fell on the "hard working" raid side. That is just one symptom of the mind set of some of the Blizzard designers. Bartle was right to attack that mentality.
“I just read his interview at massively and one big thing jumped out at me. He said the current crop of game developers are only designing the kinds of games they grew up playing.”

Nothing new about that!

I read Mr. Bartle’s bio on his web site, and he picked up D&D in 1975, and one could argue that MUD was a computer adaption of D&D.
Or in other words, Mr. Bartle is probably describing himself, too, when he says “game developers are only designing the kinds of games they grew up playing”.
I suppose I wasn't saying it was "new" doeg. There is that wonderful line that has been around for quite some time, "there is nothing new under the sun."

C.S. Lewis once wrote, and I paraphrase, that we see the same sorts of stories over and again, because we constantly have to be reminded or exposed to these core ideas.

The concept of a game designer designing for themselves is not new, but it still struck me as a relevent warning.

The fact that it was actually a warning however WAS rather new to me, as it is often played off as a virtue.
People should take this post less seriously and stop getting so worked up. Bartle thinks about games, and about the processes and qualities of those processes. Tobold's not and never has been a thinker like that: he keeps a diary and writes what he did in his particular imaginary world. he occasionally strays into thoughts about design, and from a player's point of view he can sometimes have cogent criticisms, but that's not 99% of the content here.

One is an academic, the other keeps a diary of what he did in a game.

One is writing about systems and theory, and to be brutally frank and openly elitist a lot of WoW (and War beta) players don't even understand what he's saying -especially since most didn't even read the article, but are arguing with snippets taken out of context - while others (who have followed his work, read his and others' books on game design and so on for years) do "get" what he's saying.

The other likes to play at hitting monsters and writing down what happened, and is offended (like others) to seem be told that his 40-hours-a-week are somehow wasted or invalid.

Old story: hobbyist is overly defensive in the ace of criticism from someone he would hate to admit is more authoritative on the subject. We're all geeks, and we've all done it.
I read Mr. Bartle’s bio on his web site, and he picked up D&D in 1975, and one could argue that MUD was a computer adaption of D&D.
Or in other words, Mr. Bartle is probably describing himself, too, when he says “game developers are only designing the kinds of games they grew up playing”.

I get the impression you want to bash richard with this comment but it comes off as he has the commonsense to know he tends to focus on the things he likes and therefore can look outside the box. I'm not seeing much of that from any game company right now.

Not sure if the problem are the suits, shareholders or that the industry did a poor job of training the current crop of developers. But he just said more clearly what I've complained about for years.

Not a bash, though when I re-read it I agree I came off snarky.

My point is that *everything* is a remake (kudos to von’s quote of the timeless wisdom of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes).

There is no true *revolution*.

The King Arthur legend leads to kids reenacting fantasy in the back yard with stick, artists paint it, intellectuals reduce it to math probability tables (D&D), software graphic designers put it in 3D graphic motion (video games).

But long before Arthur was the Odyssey legend.

The basic idea is underneath them all; legendary heroes, monsters, fantasy adventure.

So I tend to agree with Tobold that the *evolution* is important; a new presentation that resonates. The next great MMO will be hailed as a WoW killer - then within three years it will be called the monolith that is stifling MMO creativity - shut it down!

Endless cycle.
Doeg>How would shutting down WoW encourage growth or innovation in MMO design?


Doeg’s response}> I read this, and I think I follow your reasoning. However, I do not think it good or necessary to redistribute the MMO player population and subscriptions (wealth) in an artificial and arbitrary way.

One could just as easily argue that without WoW the MMO market would return to what it was pre-WoW, several decent MMOs with similarly-sized pieces a smaller ‘market pie’ - and a huge number of people who used to play a MMO called WoW but don’t play anything anymore.

After all, I think it generally-accepted that WoW’s huge slice of the MMO marketplace pie is the result, in part, of WoW adding literally millions of players to the MMO marketplace. IMO, other MMOs have no claim on those players.

I would also wonder if there are now, in the heyday of WoW, fewer MMO offerings (both new launches and continuing games) than before WoW - or more.

>Can you give us several examples of MMOs that are “unknown gems”?

Wouldn't that make them known gems?
}> Or once known, would they be shown not to be gems after all?
>And I would also be curious as to how “unknown gems” are suppressed by the existence of WoW

Well, it's simply that few players are aware of them; they don't get the critical mass of players that would give them the attention they deserve. It's hard to see a flashlight next to a floodlight.
}> True, but there is no basis to infer that ex-WoW players will necessarily find that gem, or even continue to play MMOs at all.
>and what qualities make them “gems”.

They delight in a fashion that other MMOs don't. Some of them might be niche, others might be more mainstream but fail to satisfy newer players on the grounds of their not being WoW-like enough. I'd call things like A Tale in the Desert, Puzzle Pirates and Achaea (warning: that's a text MUD) "gems", but that doesn't mean everyone is going to like them; it does mean that some people would like them who've never heard of them, though.
}> If the premise is that MMOs remain unknown because they are not WoW-like enough (genre, interface, etc.), then IMO it is doubtful that eliminating WoW would help those MMOs get more players.
>What is the point of comparing AoC PvP to hardcore perma-death PvP in a MUD?

I was trying to illustrate the way that new MMOs (which I was asked about) are quite close to one another in terms of their basic design. The "WAR=WoW" comment which has given me so much flak said they were close; the "call that PvP!" comment showed how far apart things could be. I wasn't suggesting that AoC should have permadeath; I was suggesting that AoC wasn't actually all that distant from WoW in general. I just used PvP as that's AoC's USP.
}> As I pointed out in another thread on Tobold’s blog.

The King Arthur legend lead to kids reenacting fantasy in the back yard with costumes, stick-swords, and a lot of imagination. Artists are inspired to paint scenes from the legend. Intellectuals reduce it to math probability tables (D&D), which then gave birth to computer versions that were solo, then multi-user, then with increasing graphic capabilities, PvP, etc.

In the case of WoW, it has evolved to the point that you need neither the raw imagination of youth, nor the patience for pen-and-paper D&D, nor even a history of familiarity with video games, to join a fantasy world with many other participants.

The same basic idea is underneath all fantasy MMOs: Legendary heroes, monsters, fantasy adventure.

IMO we could call D&D a revolution because it opened up a new way to simulate and imagine the fantasy legend. Or we could call it an evolution from physically acting out the legend to simulation with math-based tables. I subscribe to the latter view.

So I tend to agree with Tobold that the *evolution* is important; a new presentation that resonates. The next great MMO will be hailed as a WoW killer - but within three years might be derided as the monolith that is stifling MMO creativity!

-- Doeg
Oops, meant to put that on the Public Figures thread...
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