Gaming Massively

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Slashdot pointed me to an article in the LA Times about a game based on the US attack on Fallujah. It's a fascinating concept, and one that I think has application for future MMOs. The level of realism (if the concept is carried through) makes this game a documentary, which seems like an oxymoron. But I think the closest parallel, the 'educational game', couldn't have the sense of realism, excitement, and... fun? I use a question mark because the LA Times article notes that "a realistic game about war that is fun is an oxymoron". If this goes through as planned, and works, I think there will be a real opportunity for some interesting new media projects in the future.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

justify the grind

I was thinking about levelling in the context of rewards, and how players need positive feedback to keep them playing a game. And yet, real life doesn't have levels (heh - or does it?) but there's a sense of forward motion. How could one capture that to keep a game interesting without having to add levels every time you want to do a new expansion?

I think WAR may be onto one route, if what I've read about their combat system is correct. Making the combat a more skill-based system means that people can actually improve their combat skill (as opposed to just gaining skill points - I mean real hand-eye coordination type skill).

But then I got thinking about some of the other ways that we 'skill up', and how those skills require constant attention in order to maintain them.

For example: I have studied about six or so languages (not counting programming languages). Some of these (French, Japanese) I can operate in, with varying degrees of success. But the German I took in college, or the Greek I studied for a holiday? Those are gone. I might be able to get a cup of coffee or tell someone 'Good Morning!', but that is it.

If we envision this as skill points, it's very clear that when I was taking the class in German, my skill points were increasing rapidly. But as soon as I stopped using it, they started to go away.

Now, this is pretty basic stuff, and easy enough to implement in a game. If you were feeling a bit feistier, you could even have a second system that made your skills atrophy less quickly after you reach certain proficiency levels or after a long period of time (I doubt, for example, that I will ever lose my ability to speak French, whereas my Japanese, which I never really became comfortable in, requires constant attention).

You could also implement this in terms of physical skills (weightlifting, anyone?) and combat skills. More interesting might be various types of combat skills (versus, for example, Rodents of Unusual Size, and another against armed warriors).

An additional facet of this might be a variation on "Player Achievements". I had been thinking for a while that if you have earned the right to call yourself 'RoUS slayer' then shouldn't you be a mite bit better than the next guy at killing RoUSs? You know their wily ways, and you're ready for them when they leap at you from above in the fire swamp. This should grant combat bonuses. (on a side note, in the case of intelligent creatures who recognize you, they should either run away or call immediately for reinforcements).

This sort of system might also do away with the need for alts - your class is based on your education (heh - that's player class, not social class, though that's an awfully ironic mis-speak), so if you stop warrior-ing, and start wizarding, the change will happen organically. This would also allow Warriors who know a bit of magic, or wizards who carry a two-handed bastard sword, making every class individual (and making PvP a game of identifying what kind of enemy you're fighting during the fight.

Maybe there's already someone out there doing this. If not, I hope someone does!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Romance Novel MMO?

We discussed further this morning the idea from a couple days ago for a 19th century MMO. Things like skill trees (gambling, drinking, flirting, driving and riding), action bars (flirt, simper, rap knuckles with fan), PvP (duels, boxing, racing).

It leads to a question, though, about how to escape the fact that if the game designers are themselves gamers, and primarily male, and the gaming audience is primarily male (the daedalus project suggests mmo gamers are 85 percent male), how do you execute a game based on a genre that appeals primarily to women (according to the Romance Writers of America, 78 percent of readers are female). Something like this represents simultaneously a huge risk, and a huge opportunity. If you build it, will they come?

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Friday, January 11, 2008

19th Century MMO?

My wife and I were discussing why there aren't more MMOs based on 'real-life'. She suggested, for example, a game based on the Napoleonic wars. As we discussed it, it became clear that many of the game elements World of Warcraft introduced could work very well for a game based in history (or in the present day). Because time is more or less fixed, you could run things through a little bit at a time (the armies are here, etc.) You could even stage 'events' where the actual battles would take place (since really, the war was a whole lot of maneuvering and very few days of pitched battles).

We also discussed how interesting the social side of a game set in this milieu could be - with a bajillion readers of romance novels and/or period pieces, why not have the game set in the upper class social world of the 19th century. The key statistic, then, would be your reputation, rather than health or stamina (although stamina could be used for, for example, the ballroom or the drinking hall). Levelling would include such traits as promotion within the government. You could grind rep with particularly influential people. Etc. It fits very well using the basic mechanics already well established in other games. And the audience, interestingly, is completely new - which either means great success, or great failure....

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