Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In one, the bad guys are actually pretty good. In the other, the good guys are actually pretty bad. Gameplay aside, I know which one I'd rather live in.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lonely Zones

For me, one of the most jarring feelings in a mmorpg is being in a location that has been set-dressed to be desolate and yet is jam-packed with players. It's not much better to be alone in a place that should be full of players.

Developers and designers have spent time and effort devising ways to encourage players to distribute themselves in a way that complements the settings. But I can't think of much that has been done to make zones themselves respond to population levels.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Only MMO Game Design Rule You'll Ever Need

Enable customers to play with their friends.

That's it. Any time you have a design problem, ask yourself "does this make it easier to play with friends or not?" If it does, implement it! If it actively hampers playing with friends, scrap it!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2008 Predictions

Prognosticating is fun!

  • The "casual/kiddie" mmorpgs (Webkinz, Club Penguin, Maple Story, Habbo Hotel, etc) will continue to eat everyone's lunch without much notice/investment from the traditional mmorpg companies. Media/Entertainment companies (MTV, Disney, etc) will continue to be the big backers. Sony will attempt to get into the market, fusing the content of their movie and television catalog with the experience of their online entertainment division.
  • Warhammer Online will underperform, regardless of whether it launches in spring as planned or it slips to later in the year. Age of Conan will suffer a similar fate (to a lesser degree due to lower expectations). In both cases it will be due to their genre. The market for gritty, dark fantasy is just not that large. And furthermore, as mmorpgs, they depend on the even smaller market segment that considers it worthwhile to pay a monthly fee to perpetually inhabit a world largely devoid of whimsy, color, cheer and beauty.
  • Second Life will languish until late in the year when it will be revitalized when Linden Labs announces that they will be opening up the server code and infrastructure to third parties. In the longer term Linden Labs will split the company into a software/infrastructure service provider and a very profitable customer service/marketing firm.
  • Metaplace will not gain significant traction until it partners with a social web games website (Kongregate, Newgrounds, etc) or a social networking website (Facebook, MySpace, etc).

  • The lack of notably successful new mmorpgs will be balanced out by no Vanguard-level launch disappointments as the industry becomes ever more polished and professional.

  • Free-to-play games will continue to gain market share in the US but the big news will be the success of Korean free-to-play games retooled for the US market.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Business Logic as a Solution for Game Scripting

What I would like to see are more projects where the developers don't hand the designers a database, a scripting language or a hybrid of the two. Instead, take a cue from big business, where this is a solved problem (or less disingenuously, an offloaded problem). Businesses use business logic packages (Drools, Jrules, etc) to handle information exchange between a database and a user interface. It's not even that hard to embed or implement a full declarative language, such as Prolog in a server and use that as the scripting layer that designers write code for.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An Interface for Evil

Matt Mihaly recently dicussed the difficulty of making the enemy obviously bad without resorting to making the enemy stereotypically bad, which prompted Brian Green to muse on the nature of evil. After several rereadings, I'm still a little bit lost. I just don't see a problem at all. In many modern games, the user interface itself conveys plenty of information about the status of mobs via clear indicators such as label color (red ones are aggressive, yellow ones are passive, green ones are friendly), mouse-over cursor changes (cursor becomes a sword, cursor remains an arrow, cursor becomes a smiley face) and floating icons. The fact that the mob belongs to a usually-evil/hostile/bad species or faction doesn't in any way prevent the user interface from presenting the player with the appropriate set of interaction affordances.

Or maybe they aren't asking about how to implement unexpected interactions with mobs. Maybe they are really asking how to get the player to want to react against type. How do you make the player hug the ugly girl or stab the pretty boy?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Areae Decloaks

Areae has gone public with their much-anticipated product and it is called Metaplace. According to the faq, it is a virtual world platform that is closely tied to web technology. It's using a Lua-like game logic programming language and appears to expose most of its content using urls (xml, stylesheets, rss, etc). It looks like the alpha client will be 2d, with a 3d client still in the works.