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Live Forum Q&A with Raph Koster, 10/16

RaphRaph MMO DesignerSan Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon

Hey there everyone! The Q&A doesn't start for another hour, but I was told to open the thread in advance so that questions can start to pile up.

Feel free to Ask Me Anything. I do have NDA's and whatnot that I can't violate, but feel free to ask about muds, Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Metaplace, Island Life, My Vineyard, Theory of Fun, game grammar, games in general, whatever, and I will do my best to answer.

I'll be back at the top of the hour to start answering whatever has been posted!

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Comments

  • Neo_ViperNeo_Viper NotyourbusinessPosts: 598Member

    Do you try to go into the future (aka modern sandbox games) instead of thinking past games (UO, SWG) are the best things since sliced bread? Because that's what I got the impression of coming from your input here.

    I'd kill for a modern UO, but it would definitely have to break bonds with the "pre-trammel" gank fest I was part of back then.

     

    The question made more simple.... what would a modern sandbox MMO that would not be a PvP gank fest be for you?

    My computer is better than yours.

  • DominisiDominisi Age of Conan Correspondent Show Low, AZPosts: 95Member

    Mr Koster:

    How does it make you feel when Sony Online Entertainment announces their "New innovative skill system that nobody has done before." in EQ Next, when that system WAS done before in Star Wars Galaxies?

    image

  • ThorkuneThorkune Eastern, KYPosts: 1,830Member Uncommon

    Mr. Koster...Are you currently working on anything new?

     

     

    /crosses fingers for another complex SWG style game

  • LoktofeitLoktofeit Stone Mountain, GAPosts: 13,668Member Uncommon
    MetaPlace and Ultima Online were very different games with what seemed to be very different audiences. What were some of the similarities you saw in player behavior between the two? Do you attribute those similarities to the design of the games, the online environment, or human nature?

    There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein
    "Graphics are often supplied by Engines that (some) MMORPG's are built in" - Spuffyre

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo LondonPosts: 3,221Member

    Hi Raph and welcome to the Lion's Den that is mmorpg.com forums.

    1) What game design contribution are you most satisfied with so far?

    2) Thank you for UO. Do you think it's been to the genre's detriment that this path of MMORPG design was not followed more and why do think so? EVE Online being the exception that proves the rule where player freedom seems to have been curtailed disproportionately to it's potential.

    3) What are you working on or if that is NDA, what are you most interested in currently in games or outside of games that inspires you to keep interest in designing even for a sometimes cynical and jaded audience as mmorpg players? Any upcoming mmorpgs that have design ideas that interest you?

    Thanks for taking the time to do an ama. ¡buena suerte!

  • dhollidaydholliday Toronto, ONPosts: 7Member

    Hey Raph - thanks for staying involved with the MMO community.. It's always interesting hearing your thoughts, and hopefully we'll see more of your work in an official capacity on MMOs in the future. A couple questions, if you don't mind:

     

    1. What name first comes to mind when you think of an active person the MMORPG industry, whom you particularly respect or admire? (ie: for example, if there was someone you'd like to see a Q&A from similar to this, who would you want to ask questions?)

     

    2. Do you think the success of GTA V will have any impact on the MMORPG development in the future? (ie: more realization that players care about having a living word to play in?)

     

    Thanks in advance.

  • Beatnik59Beatnik59 Chicago, ILPosts: 2,235Member Uncommon

    I'm concerned about the shutdowns of MMOs.  Even games that we thought were in good shape, like CoH, are getting closed down.  It makes me skeptical at jumping into MMOs again.  My bad experience with shutdowns (I've been through three already) makes me wonder if these games are a good buy, given that the continued enjoyment of these games is based on factors outside of my control.  I don't have this kind of misery with single player games or peer-to-peer multiplayer games.

    What could designers and the industry do to provide greater protection for players, who might fear that their game and purchases will go "poof" at will, whenever the publisher decides it is no longer interested in maintaining the games?

    __________________________
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    --Hellmar, CEO of CCP.

    "It's like they took a gun, put it to their nugget sack and pulled the trigger over and over again, each time telling us how great it was that they were shooting themselves in the balls."
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  • nariusseldonnariusseldon santa clara, CAPosts: 22,441Member
    What games are you going to make next, and why do you think that they will be successful?
  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Neo_Viper

    Do you try to go into the future (aka modern sandbox games) instead of thinking past games (UO, SWG) are the best things since sliced bread? Because that's what I got the impression of coming from your input here.

    I'd kill for a modern UO, but it would definitely have to break bonds with the "pre-trammel" gank fest I was part of back then.

     

    The question made more simple.... what would a modern sandbox MMO that would not be a PvP gank fest be for you?

    I'm going to start posting answers now, since there's such a backlog!

    I often tell people who write to me asking for a new SWG or UO style game that for me that was TEN YEARS AGO. I had to move on from those designs and ideas quite a long time ago. I wouldn't build something like that today, in many ways.

    For that matter, in 2006 I did Metaplace, which was already a huge huge departure from those games. It was a virtual world platform that allowed anyone to build virtual spaces and even games. Sort of a combo of Second Life, Minecraft, Sims, and Unity (if Unity were in 2d). That turned out to be TOO sandboxy, I think.

    I do think a modern UO would not succeed with freeform PvP. It might well have PvP in it, but the whole gankfest thing is definitely a thing of the past. I never got to try the Outcasting concept that was proposed for SWG and never implemented, and would still love to see it tried (if you PK someone, they can report you to fellow players, along with a log of the event. If you are convicted, your right to PvP is permanently revoked). But even that, in these days of easy account creation on F2P games, maybe wouldn't work. Bad guys would just make new accounts.

    To me the essence of sandboxiness that was in UO and SWG is not about the PKing. It is about a simulated world, a functioning economy, a low power difference between high and low level players, and a system that doesn't push you into combat as the only way to play the game (or even classes).

     

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Dominisi

    Mr Koster:

    How does it make you feel when Sony Online Entertainment announces their "New innovative skill system that nobody has done before." in EQ Next, when that system WAS done before in Star Wars Galaxies?

    I haven't actually looked at their skill system, so... I have no feelings about it. :) That said, I do know Smed, and I know that he is actually a sandbox fan. Jeff Butler, also a huge sandbox fan. So...

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Thorkune

    Mr. Koster...Are you currently working on anything new?

     

     

    /crosses fingers for another complex SWG style game

    I am, but not an MMO right now. And let me explain why.

    Metaplace, which we opened up in 2007, was the culmination of over a decade of dreaming about what virtual worlds could be. It was designed as the engine for Snow Crash, the engine for Rainbows End, the engine for Ready Player One (though that book wasn't out yet), the engine for Otherland -- basically, a way to make all sorts of worlds, that ran on a common platform, on any sort of client, could adapt to the changes in the web, could run on TVs or tablets or whatever.

    A huge part of why we did it was because MMOs had gotten sooooooo big and sooo damn expensive that conservatism was inevitable. WoW was out and crushing it, and all anyone wanted was a clone of it, with dollar signs in their eyes.

    And we built it, probably not well enough, but the proverbial "nobody came." Oh, it was definitely still too hard to use, and lots of people couldn't code, which you needed to do in order to really make something awesome.

    That was pretty disappointing, and we ended up having to switch over to making Facebook games with the technology. So I spent the last three plus years in that world.

    During that time, MMOs haven't moved all that much, I don't think. The reasons we built MP are still valid today.. Only maybe worse. I think to ante up to the table with an MMO right now costs tens of millions of dollars. Something like CityVille on Facebook has a larger budget and larger team that Ultima Online had.

    Raising that kind of money isn't trivial, and it's not where a lot of the heat is in terms of investment. Most of the big publishers are interested in mobile stuff, for example.

    So -- it could be done, but it's a big effort.

    And then there's the flip side, which is that MMOs have never been my only love. I used to do board games starting when I was thirteen. I used to do puzzle games and strategy games and arcade games. I haven't gotten to do those things.

    So right now, I'm an indie of one, as of about six months ago. I've got four or five games that I am working on, and they are all pretty small, things I can do by myself.

    So I think I will stick to only that? No. The desire to get back to making an MMO is definitely rising. :) But I do not currently have one in progress.

  • DominisiDominisi Age of Conan Correspondent Show Low, AZPosts: 95Member
    Originally posted by Raph
    Originally posted by Dominisi

    Mr Koster:

    How does it make you feel when Sony Online Entertainment announces their "New innovative skill system that nobody has done before." in EQ Next, when that system WAS done before in Star Wars Galaxies?

    I haven't actually looked at their skill system, so... I have no feelings about it. :) That said, I do know Smed, and I know that he is actually a sandbox fan. Jeff Butler, also a huge sandbox fan. So...

    From what they described in the keynote it is a replication of SWGs skill system, on that note, a few follow on questions:

     

    1: Some of the game design elements of SWG were outstanding, the aforementioned skill system, the organic economy, the player housing, the crafting and resource system. Why do you think that game developers have ignored these systems despite the cries from players to want to have these things in modern mmos?

    2: On the changes and shutdown of SWG from vanilla to death: Did all of it just come down to a envy of what world of Warcraft had been able to achieve with normal "business" tenancies of trying to replicate that? Or was there a genuine desire to change the game for the better. (Albeit mostly ignoring the cries from Veterans) 

    image

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Loktofeit
    MetaPlace and Ultima Online were very different games with what seemed to be very different audiences. What were some of the similarities you saw in player behavior between the two? Do you attribute those similarities to the design of the games, the online environment, or human nature?

    Both were fundamentally about user expression. Metaplace was very literally about it -- like, you could build your world into an RPG, or an apartment, or a clone of an 80s arcade game. And people did. There was one guy (hi Crwth) who spent his entire time trying to build a clone of UO in it, actually.

    UO was also about player expression. That is why I didn't have a Virtue system in the original UO. I thought it was time for the training wheels to come off, for the Virtues to be put to the real test of real players dealing with real issues. And of course, players of UO did all sorts of truly amazing things that we did not foresee at all.

    Way back on UO, I actually proposed that we release the server and a tools client and docs for the scripting and let people run their own shards, and connect them all up with red moongates. That was the genesis of the idea for Metaplace. :)

    So yeah, there are many things that players of the two had in common.

  • Nee4emuNee4emu Santa Barbara, CAPosts: 5Member

    Well Mr. Koster, my original *question* was deleted for some reason, so let me try and ask it a bit....differently:

    What are your thoughts on 'emulators' and would you ever consider assisting a non-profit emulator with sections of Coding that someone of your stature would have first-hand knowledge of?

    thanks, regards, Nee

     

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by MumboJumbo

    Hi Raph and welcome to the Lion's Den that is mmorpg.com forums.

    1) What game design contribution are you most satisfied with so far?

    2) Thank you for UO. Do you think it's been to the genre's detriment that this path of MMORPG design was not followed more and why do think so? EVE Online being the exception that proves the rule where player freedom seems to have been curtailed disproportionately to it's potential.

    3) What are you working on or if that is NDA, what are you most interested in currently in games or outside of games that inspires you to keep interest in designing even for a sometimes cynical and jaded audience as mmorpg players? Any upcoming mmorpgs that have design ideas that interest you?

    Thanks for taking the time to do an ama. ¡buena suerte!

    1) There are many things I am happy with, but I would probably have to pick the work I've done in writing, more than the work in game design. Stuff like A Theory of Fun has ended up influencing thousands of game developers. I feel proud of that contribution to the art form, if you know what I mean. Helping games to be understood better and pushing them to develop and mature, that's a big deal for me.

    Within games, it's unquestionably the communities that forms around the games. There are a variety of game design things we did there to encourage it -- housing, economic things, even dancing -- but in the end I am most satisfied with the fact that people still care about those friendships ten or fifteen years later.

    2) I do think that more world simulation should have been explored. And more kinds of games in general. The current from EQ to WOW and so many other games is really more or less the DIKUmud game I started playing in 1992. With giant budgets, you get conservatism. Where's the MMO political strategy game? The MMO 4X game? The MMO city builder? I could go on... so many genres underdeveloped.

    3) I currently have a few games in development:

    a) an analog tabletop card game. It feels pretty good, and I can see a digital version of it working, but the dream there is to get it into stores as a physical card game.

    b) a tricky little puzzle game -- it's definitely a mobile sort of game, one where you try to solve a level as efficiently as you can.

    c) a digital boardgame thing, that also has puzzle mode and a storybook mode. This one is the farthest along, and I have it going on iOS, Android, Win, Mac, and web.

    d) an art game -- a touch-friendly resurrection of my old "Andean Bird" game from '06.

    e) a strategy game. This one is the biggest project, and I am still nibbling around the edges of it. I need artists, i think. :)

    As far as a what inspires me -- players, and most anything I read about how the world works.

  • qombiqombi Unknown, LAPosts: 1,180Member

    Does it sadden you that MMOs unlike single player games are changed so much from their original designs or are taken offline now they no longer are playable as they were? It does me, a lot of them were work of arts.

     

    Example: I still play Diablo 2 without an expansion once in a while and love it. I can't do that with Everquest or World of Warcraft.

     

    Last question, how do you feel about the virtual items sold or real money? Do you feel game designers have to intentionally make boring game play to influence players to purchase out of the store?

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by dholliday

    Hey Raph - thanks for staying involved with the MMO community.. It's always interesting hearing your thoughts, and hopefully we'll see more of your work in an official capacity on MMOs in the future. A couple questions, if you don't mind:

     

    1. What name first comes to mind when you think of an active person the MMORPG industry, whom you particularly respect or admire? (ie: for example, if there was someone you'd like to see a Q&A from similar to this, who would you want to ask questions?)

     

    2. Do you think the success of GTA V will have any impact on the MMORPG development in the future? (ie: more realization that players care about having a living word to play in?)

     

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Scott Hartsman, Jake Song, ... but you have to understand, I consider these folks friends. I could rattle off more names. I can also just email most of them. :)

    2. No. The lessons from GTA have been there since GTA3. I think Minecraft is proving to be dramatically more influential.

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Beatnik59

    I'm concerned about the shutdowns of MMOs.  Even games that we thought were in good shape, like CoH, are getting closed down.  It makes me skeptical at jumping into MMOs again.  My bad experience with shutdowns (I've been through three already) makes me wonder if these games are a good buy, given that the continued enjoyment of these games is based on factors outside of my control.  I don't have this kind of misery with single player games or peer-to-peer multiplayer games.

    What could designers and the industry do to provide greater protection for players, who might fear that their game and purchases will go "poof" at will, whenever the publisher decides it is no longer interested in maintaining the games?

    It's a cost thing. Opportunity cost. A company running a game has to say "do I spend money on keeping 10 players, or roll the dice on getting 20? I can only afford to do one." As keeping players goes from keeping 10, to keeping 9, then 8,and so on, at some point, the answer is "move the support off and start something new."

    The only ways around it are to make the game basically free to operate, or at least way way cheaper (I think UO has probably benefited a LOT from better hardware over the years!) or to give it away to players.

    I have to point out that the insistence on matching the production values of a SWTOR, the scope of a WoW, the etc, are all things that drive up costs tremendously. The glitzier and glossier the games get, the deeper we dig this hole.

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by nariusseldon
    What games are you going to make next, and why do you think that they will be successful?

    I listed them above... though of course, any of them might go away as I keep working on them (all those are in prototype right now, or more, though).

    I have no idea if they will be successful. These are, fundamentally, games I am making for me, this time. I hope they appeal. but I am working on them because *I* want to, and because I can afford to right now. There aren't many times in a creative career in the games industry where you can do whatever the hell you want. Right now, for a little while, I have that, and frankly, I need it, mentally and emotionally. :)

    That said, I think at least three of the things I rattled off are pretty mass market, at least based on the playtesting so far. SO I have my fingers crossed.

  • SavageHorizonSavageHorizon ParisPosts: 2,079Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Raph
    Originally posted by Neo_Viper

    Do you try to go into the future (aka modern sandbox games) instead of thinking past games (UO, SWG) are the best things since sliced bread? Because that's what I got the impression of coming from your input here.

    I'd kill for a modern UO, but it would definitely have to break bonds with the "pre-trammel" gank fest I was part of back then.

     

    The question made more simple.... what would a modern sandbox MMO that would not be a PvP gank fest be for you?

     

    I never got to try the Outcasting concept that was proposed for SWG and never implemented, and would still love to see it tried (if you PK someone, they can report you to fellow players, along with a log of the event. If you are convicted, your right to PvP is permanently revoked). But even that, in these days of easy account creation on F2P games, maybe wouldn't work. Bad guys would just make new accounts.

    To me the essence of sandboxiness that was in UO and SWG is not about the PKing. It is about a simulated world, a functioning economy, a low power difference between high and low level players, and a system that doesn't push you into combat as the only way to play the game (or even classes).

     

    Hi Raph..image

    Have you actually look at Age Of Wulin system concerning PKer?

    http://uk.ign.com/wikis/age-of-wushu/Hunting_Wanted_Criminals

    Also Age Of Wulin's offline system.

    http://uk.ign.com/wikis/age-of-wushu/Kidnapping_Guide

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  • FoomerangFoomerang Portland, ORPosts: 5,565Member Uncommon

    First Id like to say thank you for your contributions to the genre. They are what drew me in many years ago.

    There are so many questions I want to ask. I guess the most important is what are your priorities when creating an mmo? It seems that there are so many aspects that must be taken into consideration. Create various game systems. Provide permancence, creativity, collaboration and competition. Create an immersive, detailed world including the flora fauna, critters, weather, days nights etc. Create systems that support an economy or tune it for a more action oriented experience. Reward skill? Time? Both?

    Sorry its a lot of questions I guess. DO you have an order you prioritize these aspects?

    I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Dominisi
    Originally posted by Raph
    Originally posted by Dominisi

    Mr Koster:

    How does it make you feel when Sony Online Entertainment announces their "New innovative skill system that nobody has done before." in EQ Next, when that system WAS done before in Star Wars Galaxies?

    I haven't actually looked at their skill system, so... I have no feelings about it. :) That said, I do know Smed, and I know that he is actually a sandbox fan. Jeff Butler, also a huge sandbox fan. So...

    From what they described in the keynote it is a replication of SWGs skill system, on that note, a few follow on questions:

     

    1: Some of the game design elements of SWG were outstanding, the aforementioned skill system, the organic economy, the player housing, the crafting and resource system. Why do you think that game developers have ignored these systems despite the cries from players to want to have these things in modern mmos?

    2: On the changes and shutdown of SWG from vanilla to death: Did all of it just come down to a envy of what world of Warcraft had been able to achieve with normal "business" tenancies of trying to replicate that? Or was there a genuine desire to change the game for the better. (Albeit mostly ignoring the cries from Veterans) 

    1) I don't think they have been ignored. The resource system in UO (much like the system in the original Thief, and in the original Sims) has been out there lon enough to go into the mix on a lot of things. I don't know whether Notch  knew anything about it or not, but the philosophy there is very similar. Second Life came by to talk to me very early in its history. Runescape is very much in the UO tradition. EVE also, and I know those guys were influenced by it. The housing has kind of set the bar that i think quite a lot of games try to reach. The GW2 guys, I know they were very inspired by UO and SWG. And of course, in Asia UO was WAY more influential than EQ. And of course, WoW has dancing. ;)

    It's not the mainstream current, partly because it's alien to the way that devs have mostly worked, and because there hasn't been a singular giant hit that fits.

    But if you watch something like the anime Sword Art Online, it's impossible not to see the way in which the dream of virtual worlds has a lot more in common with those design elements from UO and SWG than it does with simple hack n slashing. The pop culture conception of virtual worlds looks like a sandboxy world, not just a hack n slash.

    2) I think it is important that people understand that it can be both at the same time. One can want the game to be better and also a bigger business success at the same time. And there are a lot of people involved in a decision like that, some with a mix of those feelings, some with one or the other.

     

  • LoktofeitLoktofeit Stone Mountain, GAPosts: 13,668Member Uncommon
    From your responses so far, it sounds like you'd like to see a lot more online world creation kits than dev created online worlds. Am I reading you right?

    There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein
    "Graphics are often supplied by Engines that (some) MMORPG's are built in" - Spuffyre

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Nee4emu

    Well Mr. Koster, my original *question* was deleted for some reason, so let me try and ask it a bit....differently:

    What are your thoughts on 'emulators' and would you ever consider assisting a non-profit emulator with sections of Coding that someone of your stature would have first-hand knowledge of?

    thanks, regards, Nee

     

    I think emulators are ironically the only chance we have of preserving videogame history.

    I also think I am bound by trade secret stuff and NDAs.

    I also think my knowledge of the game I assume you mean (since I get asked if I can help SWGEmu about once a week) has mostly faded... it's been ten years! I remember what I WANTED to do far better than what we actually DID.

  • RaphRaph MMO Designer San Diego, CAPosts: 139Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by qombi

    Does it sadden you that MMOs unlike single player games are changed so much from their original designs or are taken offline now they no longer are playable as they were? It does me, a lot of them were work of arts.

     

    Example: I still play Diablo 2 without an explansion once in a while and love it. I can't do that with Everquest or World of Warcraft.

    It's funny, because I design worlds that are built to change. So if they didn't change in response to players, that would actally be a failure. At the same time, I do miss what they were at certain times.

    I guess the best analogy I can give is that it is like a kid. You miss what they were like at a certain age, but you want them to grow up and go out on their own. And there are phases of their growth where you kind of want to lock them in a room and not see them. ;)

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