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MMORPG Fantasy: Stories And The Quest For The Holy Grail

MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219

MMORPG Fantasy: Stories And The Quest For The Holy Grail

Just churned out a blog at mmorpg.com - not sure if it's viewable yet? . It's starting with some background concepts, reading and sources to "set the scene" before going on with some possible solutions to the mmorpg genre.

PFO has been a huge inspiration "presque-vu" nearly-seen master design to revolutionize this stale genre.

Comments

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219

    ? - dunno if it's viewable:- c&p:-

     

    A Confusion of Campaigns 1: A Review of Games Literature

    I would like to attempt a new way of seeing Fantasy MMORPGs. To that objective, this article is a homage to the many articles and thoughts I've read, in particular on gamasutra and these will be referenced heavily throughout.


    At present I think the cutting-edge wisdom of mmorpg development is captured in this talk by Goblinworks CEO Ryan Dancey, demonstrating a quick tour of the history of the genre and the major families within: Themepark vs Sandbox and the lessons of this applied to:-

    [embed]https://www.youtube.com/embed/FUPrYVkdbc0[/embed]

    Perhaps the most useful distinction between the two types of approaches to mmorpg development I continually refer back to, reposted via Gamasutra: Do you want your game to do everything or do one thing very well? in which Damion Schubert manages to define the categories more usefully:-

    Ultima Online and EverQuest represent two very different game philosophies. Ultima Online's creators tried very hard to create a virtual world with physics and interactions that mimicked the real world, so players could interact with each other in ways meant to model reality: You can chop down trees, dye clothes, build houses, attack almost anyone anywhere, and steal anything that isn't nailed down.
    By comparison, EverQuest is a simple game, not much more than a combat simulator designed to mimic the basics of combat found in tabletop board games and old online Multiuser Dungeons (MUDs). Combat in EverQuest is very deep and intricate compared to that in Ultima Online, with far more ways for players to attack and manipulate their enemies. However, combat aside, EverQuest was perceived to not be a very feature-rich game. Most of the world interactions in Ultima Online aren't in EverQuest, and when they are, they aren't particularly deep or fleshed out—to the extent that many observers felt that EverQuest would be too simple for the newly invented massively multiplayer genre. As it turned out, EverQuest easily beat Ultima Online's numbers, and a few years later, a rematch of the two MMO design philosophies paired Star Wars Galaxies against World of Warcraft -- with a repeat of the same end result.
    As it turned out, Ultima Online has a lot of features, but many of those features don't have a lot of depth to them; it is broad, rather than deep. EverQuest has fewer features, but a combat model that is very deep (and became deeper as new boss mechanics were added to respond to an increasingly savvy audience). EverQuest is a game about depth.
    The Pitfall of Breadth

    Most junior designers come into the industry favoring breadth. They want to design the perfect game, and they want to do so by throwing every possible feature under the sun into the design soup. This is especially true in massively multiplayer game design, where the possibilities of what you can do in a game is effectively unbounded -- a virtual world can already incorporate almost any feature of the real world. Even worse, most game genre devotees imagine that the perfect game in their genre is one that combines all of the best elements of other games, because they don't recognize the underlying costs of all of those systems.

    You can read Raph Koster's most recent retrospective compendium on: Did Star Wars Galaxies Fail?. Where the success of World Of Warcraft (WOW) led to the Themepark mmorpgs inheriting the lion's share of investment funding for development over the next decade and it seems to me perhaps culminating in the creation/refinement of this model to a new level in a new genre: MOBA's. Whereas mmorpg design through the Sandbox mmorpgs I believe inherited an alternative measure of success, less commercially profitable from such games as UO or SWG: Stories. One such example I find makes my hands shakey and sweaty with excitement while "the goosebumps of adventure" rise is Patrick Desjardines personal tale: How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies .

    The True Dark Lord Sith

    Here the player managed to fashion a personal story where they actually became "The Dark Lord" aka Overcoming The Monster with literally "world-destroying" powers. This contrasts to the tightly controlled ad hoc narration of what are often called derisively "Fed-ex quests" or "Kill 10 rats quests". Genesis Davies records further examples here: Genese Davis: Twelve Famous Player-Driven MMORPG Moments .


    What is notable is that player-driven stories arise post hoc where the preconditions for emergence are present. The roots of modern MUDs and MMORPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) appears to balance in an equally split manner between "Crunchy Systems vs Theatre Of Mind": Here's how Dungeons & Dragons is changing for its new edition:

    D&D Adventure & Treasure

    The most recent version of the D&D rules is 4th Edition, which changed the franchise — for better or worse, depending on who you're talking to — to something more akin to a board game. More than ever before, procedural rules (particularly in combat) were codified; players relied largely on the powers allotted to their class to execute the most damage and strategic advantage as possible during their turn. Before a battle even started, you knew what your party was capable of; improvising or role-playing in combat was possible, but rarely as effective or rewarded as using your best preselected Power.

    The changes made the game far more inviting to an audience of video game enthusiasts; like a video game, its mechanics, player abilities and progression systems were almost entirely determined by the game itself. While the multitude of options afforded to players by the game wasn't lacking in quantity or variety, longtime D&D players found the system too restrictive, and far less imaginative than past editions.

    Moreover, playing without miniatures and game boards (using "Theater of the Mind") was nearly impossible, considering the number of abilities reliant on specific player positioning.

    This split is very well described and captured by Josh Bycer in The Abstraction Of Skill In Game Design:-

    One of the key areas of evolution in game design has to be the merging of genres. Games like the Uncharted series combine shooting, puzzle, and adventure elements together.

    Besides expanding the gameplay, this serves another purpose; it opens up the game to more people.

    Two genres that have been working the hardest to do this would be action games and RPGs. The determining factor is the abstraction of skill and how each game handles it differently. This has lead to the term "skill abstraction." It's defined as:

    The degree of which player skill (or input) has an effect on the gameplay.

    In their infancy, both genres existed on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. Slowly, over the years, games designed for both genres have been moving inward. Action games have been adding more RPG elements; RPGs have become more action oriented.

    On one hand, this has opened up the respective genres to more gamers. However, to quote Abraham Lincoln, "...you can't please all the people, all the time."

    Skill Abstraction in Game Design

    Cross-referencing "Skill Abstraction" with "Breadth vs Depth" leads to the mmorpg model of Diku-MUD/EQ and the Themepark model which itself appears to have led to the MOBA genre of small team/party combat mechanics and high player skill I would make the observation. Even GW2 developers when creating arena-pvp were heavily impressed with League Of Legends (LoL). The other direction MMORPGs with higher player skill can go is towards FPS perspective and possibly further VR for greater engagement and stimulation of our senses ie more directly "visceral" experiences. Star Citizen appears to be imo WOW 2.0 in terms of it's likely commercial success and technological break-through via more akin to MO- as opposed to MMO- but with much greater visceral combat via spaceships and FPS avatars in effect: Dual-Avatar representation and even including Team-Avatar representation via crew on-board the same ship controlling different functions. According to Keith Burgun Why I Hate the Term “Permadeath”:-

    So, here’s the Wikipedia definition:

    In role-playing video games (RPGs), permanent death (sometimes permadeath or PD) is a situation in which player characters (PCs) die permanently and are removed from the game. … This is in contrast to games in which characters who are killed (or incapacitated) can be restored to life (or full health), often at some minor cost to the character.

    In my opinion, that accurately reflects what most people think of as permadeath in videogames.

    There are two major problems with this terminology.

    1. It assumes that persistence is and should be the default way that things work

    2. It erroneously mis-characterizes “permanent consequences/persistence” as a non-central “feature”

    3. Minor issue, but still problematic – it presumes/implies that every game has some central, singular avatar. Like, you wouldn’t call non-persistence in Civilization “permadeath”, would you? “Death”, everyone should be aware, is a thematic element, not a mechanical one.

    He's identifying this contention with RPG's persistence of avatar character power increase which allows the concept of story of becoming a more powerful hero; which if converted into story progression as per Christopher Booker's Seven Basic Plots: Meta-plot:

    The meta-plot begins with the anticipation stage, in which the hero is called to the adventure to come. This is followed by a dream stage, in which the adventure begins, the hero has some success, and has an illusion of invincibility. However, this is then followed by a frustration stage, in which the hero has their first confrontation with the enemy, and the illusion of invincibility is lost. This worsens in the nightmare stage, which is the climax of the plot, where hope is apparently lost. Finally, in the resolution, the hero overcomes their burden against the odds.

    The so-called "character" (more apt to call the avatar "combatant") power curve is effectively a gamification of the above concept of a character's story arc in stories. You can see a lot of "dimensions" are lost in this translation: It's literally very one-dimensional. Tom Francis comes up with a superlative description relating Games Vs Story 2:-

     

    <dl id="" alignnone"="" data-mce-style="width: 711px;">
    Tom Francis: Story Dimensions Comparison between mediums

     

    1. Fixed story: in a game like Half-Life 2, the player has no influence on the story at all. You either do what the characters tell you to and it works out the way the writer wrote it, or you die or stop. I pick Half-Life 2 because it makes this work: I loved the game and cared about the story. It doesn’t feel ideal, though. The story doesn’t add anything to the action or vice versa, it was an extraordinary amount of work to create, and the story gets less interesting each time you replay it.

    2. Chooseable story: in a game like Mass Effect, all of the story is pre-written, but you often make big decisions about how it plays out. By the end of the series, there are a huge number of possible eventualities for the characters and races that come about convincingly from your decisions. But you’re still only choosing from a discrete number of eventualities that have all been catered for by the writers, which means a lot of work for them and limited possibilities for you.

    3. Generate minimal story: in Spelunky, you’re an adventurer delving into some caves. Everything else is generated by the game’s systems, which are universally consistent and create new experiences every time. The trade-off is that what it generates is rather vague in story terms.

    You might do something mechanically interesting to save a damsel, but she’s just ‘a damsel’, a mindless placeholder for a person with no character or uniqueness. It does a great job of making you care about these elements for mechanical reasons, but the stories it generates read more like (good, complex) action scenes than anything with plot or character.

    4. Generate rich story: a game like Galactic Civilizations 2 puts you in charge of a civilisation and gives you a lot of choice in how you deal with others: war, peace, trade, non-military rivalry, secret deals to screw over other civs, etc. From what I understand Crusader Kings 2 is even richer, letting you hatch assassination plots against particular members of particular royal families to shift the balance of power the way you want.

    These games generate high-level story – ‘plot’ – through their mechanics, and express it through pre-written dialogues that may crop up multiple times. That means they might not be entirely convincing – every few turns, the Drengin in GalCiv2 threaten me with the same line of dialogue about demanding tribute. But there are at least named characters saying specific things, and in GalCiv they have a lot of personality.

    These games are probably the closest we’ve got to merging interaction and story in a way where both really add something to each other. But they all tend to be about managing a civilisation, which is just one very particular kind of story.


    It's a very useful progression and model (see pic) although it's interesting that he does not include a 5. Generate Emergent Story: a game like EVE Online where a useful distinction is made between:

    • "Users" = Players who play against the computer systems
    • "Participants" = Players who primarily play against each other


    EVE Online demonstrates this as the exemplar in it's field I believe:-


    Tynan Sylvester in The Simulation Dream points out that this is actually quite a well known "idealistic destination" of game design, citing such fabulous games as: Dwarf Fortress Stories and more Dwarf Fortress Stories.

    The problem is that simulations with a lot of moving parts quickly become complex in the intimidating academic sense. There are so many pieces interacting that the game can easily become too much to understand, predict, or play with. All the interesting stuff in the game ends up lost in the silicon, inaccessible to the human players’ understanding.

    And that’s really the key – making complex simulated events accessible to human understanding. Which brings us to a nerdy idea I like to call the Player Model Principle.

    Player Model Principle:"The whole value of a game is in the mental model of itself it projects into the player’s mind."

     

    We make a simulation in computer code. That is a computer model of some situation – a dwarven fortress, a prison, and so on. But that is not the only model of that situation designers need to worry about. There is another model of that fortress or prison - the mental model in the player’s mind, which the player constructs while playing the game. Designers create the Game Model out of computer code, while the player creates their own Player Model by observing, experimenting, and inferring during the play.

    In play, the Game Model is irrelevant. Players can’t perceive it directly. They can only perceive the Player Model in their minds. That’s where the stories are told. That’s where dilemmas are resolved. So the Game Model we create is just a pathway through which we create the Player Model in the player’s mind.

    The Player Model Principle indicates a source of risk. Namely, anything in the Game Model that doesn’t copy into the Player Model is worthless.


    The Focus if we rely on using the model of understanding being "The Player Model Principle" is indeed, truly "where the stories are told" as exemplified by dwarf fortress and as applied with this core focus on "player content" in EVE Online ie social networks. And the warning that presents is of significant financial interest, for example CCP's attempts to create a new Fantasy MMORPG called World Of Darkness met with failure:-

    [embed]

    “I tested it myself, on two different occasions out of those three,” says Blood. “With the first playtest, I was amazed at how little of the core game was there – at this point the game had been in development for over half a decade. I mean, there was just nothing, literally nothing, for someone like me, a complete outsider to the WoD IP, to appreciate.


    Interesting attempts to understand the "player model" via more reductive methods according to "neuroeconimics" by Ramin Shokrizade have also pointed in a similar direction via different approaches, The Rise Of Neuroeconomics:-

    So how can this technology be used to help consumers? By making products give them the rewards they are seeking. Remove all of the painful/boring parts of games that we keep repeating decade after decade. Make video games less predictable and more social. Any company that does this honestly and transparently with their customers is going to quickly build a loyal following, and their products will render today's games non-competitive.

     

    I think Richard Bartle's article The Decline of MMO's manages to sum up the major issues surrounding MMORPG development from a high-level point of view:-

    Ten years ago, massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMOs) had a bright and exciting future. Today, their prospects do not look so glorious. In aneffort to attract ever-more players, their gameplay has gradually been diluted and their core audience has deserted them. Now that even their sources of new casual players are drying up, MMOs face a slow and steady decline. Their problems are easy to enumerate: they cost too much to make; too many of them play the exact same way; new revenue models put off key groups of players; they lack immersion; they lack wit and personality; players have been trained to want experiences that they don’t actually want; designers are forbidden from experimenting. The solutions to these problems are less easy to state. Can anything be done to prevent MMOs from fading away? Well, yes it can. The question is, will the patient take the medicine?


    Of particular note:-

    Re-use of technical assets. We saw this in the days of text MUDs, when people would take a complete game engine and use it to create a new game curiously imilar to the new games everyone else using the engine created. The worlds would change but the games wouldn’t.
    Depth is difficult. Today’s graphical worlds are excellent at making a world look real, but as a consequence it’s harder for them to
    behave real. Characters jump into a river without making a splash, then swim across it in full armour without sinking, to emerge without being wet and with the glass of milk they’ve had in their backpack for several years still as fresh as the day they bought it (Bartle, 2011). This happens because animating all these effects for every object is simply too expensive an undertaking(it was far easier in text, where it merely had to be described in words).
    Other players grief. To protect players from one another, MMOs omit common functionality that objects in the real worldexhibit. This makes the virtual world less immersive.
    Design as art. Game design in general and MMO design in particular is an art form. It’s not treated as such either by the game industry or by the wider world. Designers aren’t seen as authors but as content creators. There is little opportunity to use MMOs to say anything, even though their origins were all about saying something (Bartle, 2010). If designers aren’t allowed to express themselves through their creativity, why are they designing?


    I think these are the major culprits Bartle points out. But above all else, and instead of the deductive approach of "neuroeconmics" above, the "inductive" approach of Richard Bartle from the top-down as opposed to bottom-up: Richard Bartle: we invented multiplayer games as a political gesture. To use J. R.R. Tolkien's "Mythopoeia" as a literary allegory of the decay in mmorpg development:-

    This meaning of the word mythopoeia follows its use by J. R. R. Tolkien in the 1930s. The authors in this genre integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction... As distinguished from fantasy worlds or fictional universes aimed at the evocation of detailed worlds with well-ordered histories, geographies, and laws of nature, mythopoeia aims at imitating and including real-world mythology, specifically created to bring mythology to modern readers, and/or to add credibility and literary depth to fictional worlds in fantasy or science fiction books and movies.

    In The Musical Heart of the Lands of Narnia and Middle-earth by Dan Kinney:-

    Many readers were introduced to the works of both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien ata young age. Their stories told of worlds that were filled with creatures such as elves,dwarves, dragons, and other magical creatures and places. However, the level of detailthat both Lewis and Tolkien used to craft their separate mythic worlds was lost upon mostchildren until they grew older and discovered exactly how much time and energy wasspent creating these two separate fantasy worlds. As children, we relate most closely tocharacters and situations that are familiar to us; these are the first hooks of a story that pull us in and allow us to suspend our disbelief. The older a reader becomes, the moreeasily they are able to identify and relate to the subtleties in such stories. The concepts,ideologies, and the fabric of the story itself become much more important to readers asthey grow older. One common thread that weaves itself through the stories of both C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien is the music which is at the heart of the worlds of both Narniaand Middle-earth.


    I suspect this echoes what inspired Richard Bartle to use the allusion of "singing into existence a virtual world" which itself had it's basis in a much deeper concept informing the creation process. Much like what George R.R. Martin's "A Song Of Ice And Fire" alludes to at this greatest of scales of story telling. Modern mmorpgs have all the training and tools to create "virtual worlds" but "nothing with which to say" or as per Bartle "why?"? This why question is indeed being asked such as the realization that many players don't have the time to play long hours of games particularly as they become older. In fact a great deal of research has been conducted to elucidate: Unmasking the Avatar: The Demographics of MMO Player Motivations, In-Game Preferences, and Attrition by Nick Yee. I suspect following the pattern described above concerning Story with increasing understanding/maturity a lot of modern games fail to as per "neuroeconomics" match player needs in the market and such marketing research provides glimpses if not clear outlines of conclusions. Ramin Shokrizade again makes some telling observations concerning player motivation behind playing in MMORPG's: The Barrier to Big:-

    I'm going to let you in on a secret I have been sitting on for years now. It was never about Big.

    It was about Equity.

    The Role of Equity in Gaming

    When you put a lock on the door to your house, it is not just to protect your life, but to protect your belongings. Both have value to you that has built up over your lifetime. This is equity. When you call the police and they come to help you, it is to protect that same equity and possibly the equity of others. This is how our society is built, and how we are trained from the moment we learn the word “mine”.

    We often describe this in games as “persistence”, but what we are always talking about in these cases is equity.

    Ramin Shokrizade further identifies: Group Monetization

    Persistent Gaming Collectives

    When a player elects to participate in a multiplayer game, one of the primary motivations is to interact with other players. If this was not a strong motivator, the player likely would have a better experience playing a dedicated single player game. When a game design permits it, or better yet rewards it, gamers in multiplayer environments tend to rapidly and organically form groups. Because of the strong motivations and communication opportunities found in such games, groups of gamers quickly form a gaming collective if the interaction is allowed to be persistent.

    Examples of games where Persistent Gaming Collectives (PGC) have formed would include World of Warcraft and EVE Online. Games like League of Legends and World of Tanks, where matchmaking is largely anonymous and the social interactions last only for the duration of a battle, do not foster the creation of PGCs. The key difference is whether friendships and repeating peer interactions are fostered, as these types of relationships create peer pressure and reinforcement that can greatly increase retention and willingness to spend. In environments where persistent groups are allowed to form, and interact with other groups (cooperatively or competitively) the PGC is functionally the size of the entire server.

    What is striking about the above:

          • Scale of Economics in Virtual Worlds and it's implications via "equity"
          • Scale of Social Interaction in Virtual Worlds and it's implications via "shared story"


    It should be notable that Nation States or Relgious Groups all share a sense of a "shared narrative" in creating bonds of trust for a society with which to create higher orders of organization necessary for human running of organizations at this scale of people included and in Democratic Western traditions where "property" and "habeaus corpus" form the basis of our civilizations' "freedoms and laws". What this is all building towards is encapulated by Chris Bateman's The Aesthetic Flaws of Games:-

    My basis for this enquiry are the three Rules of Game Worlds that I discussed in my blog-letter to Dan Cook last year. These were intended to be guidelines for creating game worlds – that is, principles for how the fictional world of a game (where its narratives will be set) connect with its mathematical systems (where its mechanics operate). However, I sense that these rules may have some formal depth to them, and indeed might have more general forms that could include other artworks. For now, let us accept them as descriptive ‘rules’, so they can guide an investigation into how games produce aesthetic flaws of kinds that other artworks simply do not.


    The three Rules of Game Worlds are as follows:

          • Setting and mechanics must accord.
          • Any and all mechanical sub-worlds must merge with the game world.
          • No-one plays alone.

    Each of these can be used to reveal a specific kind of aesthetic flaw unique to games – and indeed, can reveal a schism between different aesthetic values for play that lead to different kinds of aesthetic flaw. This is key to what follows, for we must appreciate that ‘aesthetic flaw’ is not an absolute claim, nor is it ‘merely subjective’: an aesthetic flaw occurs between a game and its player as a direct result of a difference in values.

    The final reference on aesthetic I think is immensely useful as a "guiding principle" in the design of a Virtual World for the Simulation of Story-Generation on a Scale described as MMO-, which will be the subject of the next blog post.

  • IkedaIkeda Member RarePosts: 2,744
    While I appreciate your thoughts, I think you're writing entirely above the heads of most people.
  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219
    Originally posted by Ikeda
    While I appreciate your thoughts, I think you're writing entirely above the heads of most people.

    Indeed. But it's the few 1-5% that I'm putting this pt.1 out there for.

    I'll post a follow up and that will be increase the % of people who take something from it, however that provides that "CLICK" ah-ha this is what we could do alternatively with the mmorpg genre (indeed that acronym may have to go atst as proposing revolutionary changes). This one it's so easy to get bogged down in "theoretical conception" (so many angles) of When We Play MMORPGS / When We Make MMORPGs" what in the hell are we actually doing and actually trying to achieve?

    A good context to that:-

    • PnP table-top Role-Playing Story - "trip"
    • Fictional Tale in a Book Story - "imagination"
    • Watching a Theatre Drama Story - "Interface"
    • Watchng a Movie Story - "suspension of disbelief"
    • Playing a Game Story - "interaction"
    • Playing a Multi-Player Game Story - "social interaction"
  • wmmarcellinowmmarcellino Member UncommonPosts: 94

    Hi Mumbo Jumbo,

     

      thanks for taking the time to lay all this out, and to contribute to the conversation. A few thoughts for you:

    1. I agree with you that figuring out where MMOs should go to be satisfying, requires an analytical effort to understand where they've been, how they've changed, and the outcomes of those changes.

    2. I was also inspired by Ryan's analysis.  The reason I play PFO is because Ryan was the first person I heard articulate the problem and propose a solution.  So even though PFO is extremely rough, I see where it is going, and the continuous steps in the right direction are confirming.

    3. I would point out that Ryan's analysis, his proposed solution (PFO), and his character/likability are three distinct things.  This is  a particular issue here at MMORPG.com, where there are three very committed posters who harbor a strong personal grudge against Ryan.  So for example, Ryan could be spot on in his analysis of the problem, but PFO be a bad solution.  Or his analysis could be correct/PFO could be a good idea, but he's an evil liar who is running a "cash grab," etc., etc.  I think it is helpful to consider those three things separately: A) what's the problem, B) what's the solution, C) and who's implementing in?

    4. You could make this blog much more useful to readers if you added explicit argument claims, and made use of textual features like section headings.  Right now, your blog has a lot of interesting stuff mashed together/buried as a wall of text, and its incoherence (in a compositional sense) is a huge barrier to entry for potential readers.  If you took 10 minutes to add in a couple of lines at the beginning to lay out your main argument claims, and then added section headings in the form of what you want the reader to have as a take-away from the section, you might have 3x or 4x the readers make it through.

    5. FYI I couldn't see the blog--I had to read here.

    Do the RIGHT THING: come be a Paladin with us! http://ozemsvigil.guildlaunch.com/

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219
    Originally posted by wmmarcellino

    Hi Mumbo Jumbo,

     

      thanks for taking the time to lay all this out, and to contribute to the conversation. A few thoughts for you:

    1. I agree with you that figuring out where MMOs should go to be satisfying, requires an analytical effort to understand where they've been, how they've changed, and the outcomes of those changes.

    2. I was also inspired by Ryan's analysis.  The reason I play PFO is because Ryan was the first person I heard articulate the problem and propose a solution.  So even though PFO is extremely rough, I see where it is going, and the continuous steps in the right direction are confirming.

    3. I would point out that Ryan's analysis, his proposed solution (PFO), and his character/likability are three distinct things.  This is  a particular issue here at MMORPG.com, where there are three very committed posters who harbor a strong personal grudge against Ryan.  So for example, Ryan could be spot on in his analysis of the problem, but PFO be a bad solution.  Or his analysis could be correct/PFO could be a good idea, but he's an evil liar who is running a "cash grab," etc., etc.  I think it is helpful to consider those three things separately: A) what's the problem, B) what's the solution, C) and who's implementing in?

    4. You could make this blog much more useful to readers if you added explicit argument claims, and made use of textual features like section headings.  Right now, your blog has a lot of interesting stuff mashed together/buried as a wall of text, and its incoherence (in a compositional sense) is a huge barrier to entry for potential readers.  If you took 10 minutes to add in a couple of lines at the beginning to lay out your main argument claims, and then added section headings in the form of what you want the reader to have as a take-away from the section, you might have 3x or 4x the readers make it through.

    5. FYI I couldn't see the blog--I had to read here.

    Thanks for the constructive and most of all taking the time to provide very considered feed-back. That is not "free" which online communication often works off the underlying assumption that it is - with negative results for all !

    =

    1. This blog is really a reference sheet for the background to the next blog.

    2. I think Ryan's come up with a very strong game design and strong market analysis to calculate a strategy. My only suggestion is that a deeper understanding using all the above may lead to different more favourable approaches including more potential players. What's done Crowfall so many favours and Camelot Unchained is previous gamers from Dark Age of Camelot and Shadowbane then throw in the former dev names Jacobs and Koster etc. The other thing: They've hit the PvP MMO market too much much narrower and hence focused marketing and design. The results in numbers (higher) of apparent appeal is the outcome we observe. However as I'm going to suggest (borrowing a lot from Shokrizade's insights) expanding the game design would expand the market. Though the caveat is technological constraints at present (big dampener) but again I think graphics are superficial if you get the focus on social interaction in these games right.

    3. I'd say that there has to be a bit of brazen marketing for PFO that may burn early players - if it succeeds in getting to the point where the quality suddenly is attractive and the dev sustainable. That tbh is one thing that did put me off Early Enrolment. For one example "The Goblin Squad" concept from the Kickstarter really failed to deliver imo on weekly dev insights for that portion of players. That said, Ryan Dancey has provided loads of information far more than other kickstarter mmorpgs and it's a bit unfair not to take that into account despite what people think of all the pricing options already in PFO: Box Fee, Sub Fee, Cash Shop and all after Kickstarter too. I also tend to think Crowdforging is not really that significant in mmorpg development: There's way too much overheads due to the WOW-Engine that almost all mmorpgs use to make it possible. Unless there's a big list of successes that prove me wrong on that, somewhere? And yes the other problem is the "COMMUNITY BUILDING" of mmorpgs: Because they're expensive you have to open the gates to all. This is a shame: I think if PFO could have been closed-gated for the original subscribers with small trickle of new players it would have succeeded much more. Here again I'm going to propose that that's the fault of the Design and Tech implementation of the WOW-Engine. It seems there's many people interested in mmorpgs who also enjoy moaning about them - and tbh rightly so; I've given up on current mmorpgs (bar Star Citizen) as old and out-moded conceptions of the original impulse = Social Interaction. I think that does echo something Ryan and Lisa have discussed: quote-unquote: I'd rather shut-down PFO than turn it into a PK-simulator." They know the right goal but I'm not sure via the WOW-Engine it's viable... on to blog #2 as shortly as I can.

    4. Yes. I did try that but I got far too bogged down and decided a simple copy and paste of the key information to THEN refer back to in my argument's development which starts in blog #2 was simply more expedient. You're criticism is high quality btw and it grates that it's very incoherent, but that's too bad, the next blog I hope makes strong amends using the this material as "guiding principles".

    5. Ta.

    =

    Addendum: Interesting the "Pricing Wars" is nothing unique to MMORPGs here's a mobile (very cool potential) game that I've followed struggling with the same principles as a social-competitive game:-

     

    Designing Subterfuge: We Think We’ve Decided on a Monetization Model For Subterfuge (again)

    Interestingly this did not work! So they came up with a new Concept:

    Monetization Model Update

    (1) Game Access Clearance To Play = INVESTMENT + SOCIAL INFORMATION

    In my design to present, the realization is simple for new players:-

    Growing Pains Followup

    (2) Strong Group Cohesion = Stronger Retention of New Players

     

  • BluddwolfBluddwolf Member UncommonPosts: 355

    Mumbo,

    Having good market analysis is only useful if you actually see it for what it is saying and use it effectively.

    What Goblin Works is trying to do is build an MMO that has appeal for both TT players and PVP oriented MMO players, and do it on a shoe-string budget.  No one tries to do that, because no one has ever done it, even with a AAA budget.  

    When Ryan had said that the future of MMOs is the sandbox, he may have been correct or maybe not.  MMOs are not declining as a genre, as he seemed to claim, but individual titles are certainly experience the transient nature of the MMO player community.  This is possibly the result of players being far more "casual" than what developers seem to believe, and would also explain the mentality of the solo player in the Massively Multiplayer Online game.  

    This also might explain the growing popularity of the MOBA, where it focuses on casual play in small teams.  

    The most recent example I have, and I base this only on having played the game as part of its alpha, is Albion Online.  Albion Online is an MMO / MOBA hybrid that has many of the goals that PFO has (territorial control, pvp focus, some restraints vs. zerg pvp, some places where players can be safe, etc).  It has 18,000 active players in its current alpha stage.  It has clearly discovered a niche that attracted a decent number of players.  

    PFO on the other hand, did not attract nearly enough players from either of the player bases it targeted and the question needs to be asked, why didn't it?

    Somewhere is the process, something was not correct, otherwise the outcome would be different.  If that mistake was made at the analysis phase, it would clearly have a domino effect throughout the rest of the process and be a much more difficult problem to overcome.  If the problem is implementation, that is an easier fix, but it takes time and money to do it.  If the problem lies in the end goal not having enough appeal, than the vision needs to change.

    Even if "stay the course' is the correct answer, but the game still fails to meet a sustainable number of customers, than the marketing has failed.  That may also go back to the initial analysis phase as well.  

    I had started a thread a couple of weeks ago that asked, "What does PFO need to do in order to attract more players"?  I hope your blog focuses on what needs to be done, more so than what they hope to do down the road.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Played: E&B, SWG, Eve, WoW, COH, WAR, POTBS, AOC, LOTRO, AUTO.A, AO, FE, TR, WWII, MWO, TSW, SWTOR, GW2, NWO, WoP, RUST, LIF, SOA, MORTAL, DFUW, AA, TF, PFO, ALBO, and many many others....

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo Member UncommonPosts: 3,219
    Originally posted by Bluddwolf

    Mumbo,

    Having good market analysis is only useful if you actually see it for what it is saying and use it effectively.

    What Goblin Works is trying to do is build an MMO that has appeal for both TT players and PVP oriented MMO players, and do it on a shoe-string budget.  No one tries to do that, because no one has ever done it, even with a AAA budget.  

    When Ryan had said that the future of MMOs is the sandbox, he may have been correct or maybe not.  MMOs are not declining as a genre, as he seemed to claim, but individual titles are certainly experience the transient nature of the MMO player community.  This is possibly the result of players being far more "casual" than what developers seem to believe, and would also explain the mentality of the solo player in the Massively Multiplayer Online game.  

    This also might explain the growing popularity of the MOBA, where it focuses on casual play in small teams.  

    The most recent example I have, and I base this only on having played the game as part of its alpha, is Albion Online.  Albion Online is an MMO / MOBA hybrid that has many of the goals that PFO has (territorial control, pvp focus, some restraints vs. zerg pvp, some places where players can be safe, etc).  It has 18,000 active players in its current alpha stage.  It has clearly discovered a niche that attracted a decent number of players.  

    PFO on the other hand, did not attract nearly enough players from either of the player bases it targeted and the question needs to be asked, why didn't it?

    Somewhere is the process, something was not correct, otherwise the outcome would be different.  If that mistake was made at the analysis phase, it would clearly have a domino effect throughout the rest of the process and be a much more difficult problem to overcome.  If the problem is implementation, that is an easier fix, but it takes time and money to do it.  If the problem lies in the end goal not having enough appeal, than the vision needs to change.

    Even if "stay the course' is the correct answer, but the game still fails to meet a sustainable number of customers, than the marketing has failed.  That may also go back to the initial analysis phase as well.  

    I had started a thread a couple of weeks ago that asked, "What does PFO need to do in order to attract more players"?  I hope your blog focuses on what needs to be done, more so than what they hope to do down the road.

    The market analysis I think is appropriate for PFO:-

    1. The financial sense of investing

    2. The lower ceiling to hitting positive revenue based on the possible pool of players

    3. Choosing MMO instead of NWN genre style for example

    4. Understanding different players will be drawn to PFO at different stages

    etc. Much more thought here than you might see in other mmorpgs. However, the 2 areas you point out are concerning:-

    • Table-Top connection
    • PvP crowd
    I think TT helped with the "getting started phase" eg kickstarter/name brand etc
    I think the idea was that PvP crowd would invest as per EVE early on and be active in recruiting.
     
    It seems negative press from TT and then less PvP crowd in a small pool of players atm are still mixing. Really the PvP crowd needed to be bigger then you'd eventually get more PvE crowd hired.
     
    1. Tab-Target combat ie the quality is much bigger requirement for the combat
    2. More kickstarter competition for PvP
     
    Have all eaten into PFO. However I'd say the biggest issue you come to is The Vision vs The Target Market.
     

    The vision here has been poorly sold: As Pathfinder Adventurers (imo) when the actual GDD = KINGMAKER. Albion Online has trundled along relatively well because it's sort of MOBA-NWN style focus on simple combat gameplay with the expanded context of Clash of Clans style territory/defending - and the core basic combat moba-rish works too.

    The stay on course is the idea that as more dev is put into the game, it will open up to more of the market which I think is big enough for a game like PFO to find some numbers and become sustainable. No idea if it will ever hit it's full vision however, in fact I don't think it will due to the WOW-Engine design which was specifically chosen for it's MARKET EXPECTATIONS value.

    Now that is where I'm arguing it's going always be "up against it", just like all the other mmorpgs that players are bored of as you say are much more casual as a consequence.

    There's 2 things that will create a strong attachment to a game:-

    1. Tech break-through such as Star Citizen providing a unique experience you will not get anywhere else (when it releases)

    2. Community quality of social interaction

    Those are going to be the key differentiators in the market. 1. is expensive and 2. is at the mercy of mmo- requiring thousands of players... SC I think has come up with the goods for 1. and I'm going to come up with the goods for 2. (I hope).

  • BluddwolfBluddwolf Member UncommonPosts: 355
    Mumbo,

    The TT Connection was a false success and resulted in the Kickstarter being a false success.

    How many TT kick starters signed up just to get the PDFs and other extras?

    How many would have signed up without them?

    There were close to 9,000 kick starter pledges, but maybe only 15 - 20 percent of that number ever played the game.  


    Played: E&B, SWG, Eve, WoW, COH, WAR, POTBS, AOC, LOTRO, AUTO.A, AO, FE, TR, WWII, MWO, TSW, SWTOR, GW2, NWO, WoP, RUST, LIF, SOA, MORTAL, DFUW, AA, TF, PFO, ALBO, and many many others....

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