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While this post is not a “game concept” in itself, I think this post is best here as the content here is most applicable when discussing game design (and thus concepts) and has significantly influenced how I think about design and my own ideas.
So, is an MMORPG a game?
Now before I get flamed for missing the obvious, let me just say that MMORPG are games in the common way we use the term, but solitaire is also a game, but shares very little in common with an MMORPG.
I’m going breakdown the different subcategories of games, something originally done by game designer Chris Crawford, and discuss a few of the implications.
So before I start I think it’s important that I define the different subcategories of games in general.
When describing an MMORPG we can use both game and competition as the terms that describe the genre as MMORPG contain both aspects and are not mutually exclusive. MMORPG’s can be more adversarial games, or competitions and virtually all MMORPG’s have elements of both. Of course one can argue that the program of the MMORPG is what makes the game a game, but for the sake of this conversation, I’d like to focus on the human element because it is, in my opinion, the unpredictability of the human element and the challenges we provide one another, that make MMORPG’s fun.
Now as a person who has spent extensive time designing an economy for MMORPG’s these ideas are something that I’ve known, but hadn’t thought to formalize, but I realized a long time ago the significant impact these ideas have on the way that the economy is created, the game is played and the sense of achievement that one gets when playing.
MMORPG’s have no clearly defined goal or point at which the simulation ends and a winner declared. Instead they are persistent world where players decide their own goals. The one constant in MMORPGs is that whatever players wish to accomplished is done more efficiently with items and money.
What separates the MMORPG competition from the MMORPG game is how items and money are acquired. When players have the choice to collect stuff and experience entirely free from interference from other human players, then the game becomes based on competition. Even if a MMORPG offers instanced adversarial play (like World of Warcraft’s battlegrounds) it’s important to remember that much of what players acquire happens in the competitive space and is carried into the adversarial space.
Now of course this is not black and white. Even the WoW battlegrounds offer items that can only be obtained from adversarial gameplay between players, but WoW by-and-large stresses competition over adversarial gameplay. Eve on the other hand is weighted the opposite way and places more emphasis on adversarial gameplay, but still has areas free of interference from other players, specifically instanced quests.
MMORPG’s that are purely cooperative are more like single player games played with other people, purely adversarial games (with no space that a player can feel reasonably safe) in a persistent world aren’t much fun as they become gank fests where advisories rarely meet on even terms and often devolve into lowest common denominators and are exhausting to all but the most dedicated few.
Having said that, there is a place in the market for all of these games, but, in my opinion, few have found the right balance between freedoms to engage other players at all points in the game and the difficulty that most players experience when trying to play in these environments.
I have spent several years trying to develop an MMORPG economy that focus’ on the adversarial nature of the MMORPG focusing on concepts like risk vs reward and utilizing innovative concepts to address the challenges that increasing time and resources give the select few players at the top. The idea is not to punish wealthy players, but ensure that the challenges they face are proportional to the influence they can exert.
Presentation for new MMORPG economics concept http://www.slideshare.net/talin/mmo-economics-concept-v-10