Posted tagged ‘MMOG’

Guildwars 2 Breaks the Mold (li’l bit)

July 9, 2010

MMOs have by now evolved a canon of how to deal with combat roles, death, and getting back into play after dying (“resurrection”).  This canon has become so fixed that it’s common to hear about tank/healer/dps as the “holy trinity” of MMO combat that many games just do, well, sorta because that’s how it’s been done.   Every now and again though, some game comes along and pushes the boundaries forward a little.  It looks like Guild Wars 2 is doing that with their approach to combat, dying, and the flow of gameplay.

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“LOST” and the Very Long Form Story

May 24, 2010

So yes, I was among the many people avidly watching the “Lost” finale last night.  I thought it was well done: good writing, pacing, additional character development, and summing things up in a way that was satisfying narratively and emotionally.

We’ve also been watching the series from the start (DVD and Hulu) and I’ve been impressed by how much of the story was in fact present from the very beginning: seeds of characterization, theme, and even plot points were carefully included from the first episode on.  Also how layers of explanation worked to the show’s advantage: polar bears and a smoke monster on a tropical island seem equally improbable, but it turns out only the latter was actually mysterious.  As the layers peeled away with time, we gained much more understanding of the island and of the main characters (who thankfully avoided becoming caricatures).

This six-year run of Lost with its successful conclusion brings me back to how such long story arcs are missing in games.  Most games (especially online/MMO games) present static worlds or have a single arc often with an unsatisfying end.    Can we learn from the success of “very long story forms” like Lost to increase the long-term world and narrative structure in online games? (more…)

The (Psychological) Development of “Social” Games

April 1, 2010

At GDC this year I saw a slide in a talk that referenced different developmental styles of play (my notes are sadly unclear as to whose talk this was — if you know, please let me know!).  This has had me thinking about the developmental stages of social games.  Not the software development, but the evolution of the styles of gameplay we put in them as we learn more about creating them.

It should be clear to anyone watching this space that game developers are learning as fast as they can about how to create new gameplay in online (putatively) social games; we know a lot less than we still don’t know.  As such, it’s very interesting to me how closely the emergence of types of gameplay in popular social games is following the path of individual psychological development of play — and what this may tell us about the future of the design of social games.   (more…)

A Moment of Silence at the End of Winter

March 31, 2010

In the last few days there have been at least three notices of MMO or virtual world projects shutting down.  It’s hard for me not to see these as indicators of the generational change in the now-traditional “heavy” MMOs/worlds:  Stargate Worlds, There.com, and Vivaty — all very different takes on the previous age of MMOs/VWs, are gone or going away.

They’re doing so in an online game/world/app market that is growing faster than we can track — just not where they are.  Not to be unkind (any effort in this area deserves some respect), but one way to look at these worlds is that they are the very finest in hand-made carriages for the elite set — right about the time cheap autos are rolling off the assembly line.

But looking forward as well as back just a few years (as I wrote in 2007 about the potential for a “Virtual World Winter“), it may be that this isn’t the depth of winter, but its end.  In December 2007 I wrote:

While I’m still bullish on virtual worlds and MMOGs for a number of reasons, that doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily go through a deep winter before we find spring again.    I’m often asked about what comes after World of Warcraft?  Can this market be sustained?

I think we have the answer; as usual, it’s no — and yes.

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The Mysterious Revenue Gap

March 5, 2010

One of the big questions with people looking at social games is, “sure they have lots of people playing, but how much money do they really make?”  The amazing thing is, there’s actually data available on the web to answer this.  For once entrepreneurs and other game developers aren’t left completely in the dark trying to figure out what they may reasonably make on their game.  And this data identifies not only a great revenue stream, but an interesting gap.

It turns out that the question isn’t whether these games are making money – the question is, why aren’t they making significantly more?  In fact there are similar games making as much as 5x or 10x more than social games currently are.  So why the gap? (more…)

The New Killer Platform for MMOGs is… FaceBook?

November 23, 2008

Since my last post was pretty theoretical, I thought I’d bring this back to earth a bit.

The MMOG market continues to be very hot, and possibly all but impervious even to our current economic chaos.  I continue to see MMOGs in development for ever broader demographics and more obscure (or focused) niches.  Despite the difficult times for some and the demise of others, investment and development in this area continues to be strong.

And yet technology continues to be a huge thorn in the side of any developer.  There are a number of middleware suitors trying to woo developers, but recently an unusual one has appeared on the field.  Can it be that Facebook will save MMOG development?

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VWs and MMOGs: The Great Divide?

November 14, 2008

What’s the difference between a virtal world (VW) and a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG)?

No, the answer isn’t “lipstick.”

VWs and MMOGs are like estranged siblings.  They share a common background and future, but right now at least, they don’t talk too much.  I think a lot of this is artificial or the result of odd circumstances having little to do with the online worlds themselves.  And as with many estrangements, I don’t think this one is particularly healthy.

So why are these separate, and what will bring them back together again?

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Introductions All Around

November 13, 2008

A new blog!  How unusual!  How exciting!

Okay, what’s this all about?

In this blog I’ll be writing about artificial intelligence, game design, virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online games, social games, and a variety of usually related subjects.  I welcome topical, respectful discussion.

My background: I run Online Alchemy, a small company in Austin, Texas, specializing in online social games, particularly those with a virtual world component.  We have been working for six years on advanced social AI for games and simulations (I’ll talk about that in another post), including working for several years with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). We have also created a unique social networking technology and have a variety of games in development.

Read on for more details of my past (well, not that many).

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