Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: April 2008

“An Empty Virtual Space Feels A Lot Lonelier than a Webpage”

This post is the best thing Raph’s posted quite some time. Of course, it helps that his thoughts mirror a lot of my thoughts on online worlds, especially the new meme of ‘everyone can open their own virtual world’. The fact that Raph is aware of this problem gives me a lot of hope for what they’re working on.

Chasing after and bending the rules towards casual players for an MMO ignores an obvious issue – an online community is ultimately as interesting and compelling as its members. Casual players will not give a place its own personality. Consider, if you will, how interesting Cheers would have been without Norm, Cliff and Frasier.

Once you start building a game design based on the idea that interesting social ties MIGHT occur inside a space, the designer is basically depending on serendipity to occur. This is, as one might imagine, a pretty scary basis for a business model. As such, we start putting in game mechanics designed to make the game stickier (collecting minigames), have tactical interest (PvP), take longer (levelling curves and raiding games), and forcing more positive social interactions (multiplayer-required content). Serendipity is still the fulcrum that determines whether a game (or even a server/shard of a game) lives or dies, it’s the designers job to make that landscape as fertile as possible.

Blizzard to Canucks: No Looking Over Your Neighbor’s Shoulder

My Canadian coworkers got a kick out of this: our gaming neighbors to the north do not have to pay an entry fee to enter Blizzard’s arena tournament. However, they do have to sharpen their number two pencils.

Canadian residents are not required to pay an Entry Fee in order to enter. Instead, Canadian residents may enter by submitting a 250 word typewritten essay comparing the video gaming culture in Canada to the video gaming culture in the United States on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper and mailing their essay to Essay Entry for The North American Blizzard Entertainment Arena Tournament, P.O Box 18979, Irvine, CA 92623. Essay entries must be received no later than March 31, 2008 in order to be eligible. Essay entrants represent and warrant that the essay is their original work and does not infringe the rights of any third party. By entering, essay entrants hereby grant, without further consideration, all right, title and interest in and to their essay to Sponsor.

Also, it is not an acceptable excuse that your sled dog ate your homework. I kid! I kid! Anyway, it’s nice to see a new growth industry for gold farmers.

Claus Speaks, Gets Misty-Eyed About Shadowbane

I almost missed it because he refuses to get a working RSS feed, but not long ago, Claus Grovdal, producer-designer of Darkfall, poked his head out of his hole, saw his shadow, declared two more months of crunch, and scurried back into his rabbit hole.

But before he did, he boldly asked the question, “Why Shadowbane didn’t make billions”, and then went on to say, and I quote:

Shadowbane was a great concept and a great game, and the only reason it wasn’t a massive success, was buggy and outdated technology… If Shadowbane had released without all the client crashes, with a better server solution and with a graphical engine that could compete with other games released at the time, it would have been a HUGE hit.

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