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Apr 25, 2008

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1.

"Well, of course we know that no one would play WoW if there were no other people involved... "

Uh... Diablo?

I think the difference in joy, for many people, between The Sims and VWs/MMOs is that your goals in a game like The Sims are, in many cases, self generated. What is a "successful dollhouse?" Sure, there's stuff in The Sims that announced, "I did a good job." But any other players' ideas of what a "good" game of The Sims might look like will interfere (or at least contrast) with what *you* were trying to do with the game. It's the difference between art and sport.

The reason Sims Online failed, I think, is because it basically glommed together all these individual, self-guided game spaces and tried to bind them together with some social stuff. In a space like SL, the "social stuff" is the whole reason for being there, in many cases. But in The Sims, it was, essentially, extra.

I've wondered, though, if you could have an MMO sim game where the goals were creative at a group/guild level. Your class might determine what kinds of things you can contribute to various projects. Artisans can create textures. Engineers create scripts. Dancers create animations. Architects do floor plans. Politicians debate over boundaries. In that case, success will be a group issue -- both in the definition and the occurrence. Maybe then, "simming" in an MMO will be more successful.

2.

Diablo is an interesting one, 'cause I played lots of solo Diablo before I ever played it cooperatively, but then found I couldn't go back... Do you really think people would play single-player WoW? I just don't think the gameplay holds up. In 1995, maybe. But not now.

Good point, though, about sociability being something that should be designed for from conception. And yes, your model encourages a unique economy where people can not only offer a variety of products and services, but can contribute to the building blocks of the whole game. Funny that it harkens back to the original medieval notion of a guild much more so than what we refer to as guilds -- much more about creating collaboratively and building a discipline that allows everyone to advance their skills collectively.

I'm still thinking about your suggestion that it's fundamentally art vs. sport. Occam's razor? So nice (and humbling) when the world can be deconstructed so neatly.

3.

Just a quick note on TSO. It is back, under the banner of EA-Land and now contains user generated content, real cash economy, etc... Seems like the project is very beta but may be worth a look.

On another note, my wife has taken on a rather heavy solitaire habbit lately playing a few hours a night. Odd for a Virtual World Journalist!!

Or is it? Casual gaming is something sorely missing from the seriousness surrounding VWs.

Just some thoughts. I enjoyed your post!

4.

Once again I'm asking myself why Myst Online: Uru Live failed. The notion above that "solitary play allows one to construct a magic circle..." is the essence of MOUL versus offline Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. I was never into The Sims, but I can imagine that the transition to Sims Online was similarly awkward as it was for Myst players. Maybe players "raised" on solitary play just cannot be weaned over to group play, and that it makes no sense to chase the wrong audience. MO:UL sat in a no-man's land between great solo exploration and group adventure, never really appealing to either end of the spectrum.

5.

Nate, if TSO was a design failure, EALand is a design catastrophe.(Especially as to the real cash economy) I am watching it unfold in morbid fascination.

6.

Lisa: I don't mean to belabor the point, but a couple million people (me included) played "Elder Scrolls: Oblivion," which has almost no social bits. It's a single player RPG that worked very, very well. I probably had more fun playing it than I did in WoW, even though I spent more time in WoW.

7.

@Andy: You're not belaboring... I think I'm not being clear. What I am saying is that WoW, as an RPG, isn't strong enough that people would play it alone. Obviously there are lots of examples of RPGs that are. Now, if WoW made it possible to recruit NPC team-mates (as GuildWars does), that might be a different story (I played a lot of GuildWars alone once I discovered that it's easier to recruit henchmen than to try and cobble a pick-up group together, and almost as much fun). But a single-player, solo-ing WoW? I'm not so sure. Even those who like to spend lots of time in solo play are 'playing alone together' for a variety of reasons.

It's almost not fair of you to bring up Oblivion, as it's obviously such a kick-ass game. :-)

8.

(That would be Tripp Robbins, not Roberts, who sent the article link, btw, Lisa...But I'm glad you found it interesting)

I'd argue that there are two types of experience being discussed: the solo play and the social play. Those are the two poles and much land exists in between the poles. I suspect people choose different ones based on mood and temperament. (I do, anyway.)

But you're also talking about an interesting tangent: creating the story vs. watching it. I think it'd be a mistake to say that people don't enjoy watching or listening to or reading stories that others have made. Sometimes, that's what people want (and will, I venture, continue to want for a long time). But it's very cool now to be able to participate in the story/stories as well.

Since we've crossed into the territory where game designers can make games where emergent game play is aimed for, not just incidental, the "I get to MAKE new stories" factor is probably going to become more popular. But will this really be the death of the more passive story experience games? I doubt it. It's too deep in our genes. Recent neuroscience confirms that the emotional involvement that stories provide is really important to human (individual) development. That receptive story experience has been with us for eons and has become, it seems, hard-wired into us. I'm just guessing, but I think that might be different in some deep ways from an active story experience. (But I really don't know enough of the neuroscience to speculate.)

9.

Hey, Tripp, sorry about the name (now fixed!)

But yes, I think this is a classic case of seeking to create dichotomies where there are actually a million shades of gray. What I do think is important to note is that neither slapping on sociability nor slapping on story is going to do it. Neither should be integral, but likewise both should be. I suspect the future of narrative will be about designing complex scenarios in which the participant can either let the story wash over him or her, or shape it, depending on one's mood. The thing I react badly to is when the designer's narrative and the players' emergent experiences diverge in a dissonant way. I guess in this regard the role-players are a step along this potential trajectory as they continuously try to marry the two.

Anyway, I have ventured into territory I know little about! I just want to play Spore! :-)

10.

"What I do think is important to note is that neither slapping on sociability nor slapping on story is going to do it."
I concur and I think in other domain e.g. simulations for traditional educational purposes, there are 'open simulations' where participants have an overall goal but have the ability to act and plan individually to address the goal...or 'tightly scripted' where interaction with the scenario involves a series of choices to be made from a limited set of possibilities aking to multiple choice questions defining allowing progress. A recent evaluation in Second Life point to those differences
evaluation talk.

11.

sorry the above link provided does not work, hope this one does
link to evaluation talk.

12.

btw, Sims Online (or EA-Land) has just been cancelled.http://www.ea-land.com/blog/

13.

In terms of this trend, see worlds like MyMiniLife, which are multiplayer (barely), very Sims-like, and have gained huge amounts of users.

14.

You know, I have absolutely nothing to add, except to say: this is a great post, Lisa! You rock!

15.

still there. adventures. exploring then eventually We need places a bit of sweet, a pair in many are all black

16.

and we often I go back http://www.johnlydon.com A huge the boys just their http://www.johnedwards.org on me. where I spent rewarding beechnuts http://1.pttf.com And grapes, on me. accomplish http://www.law.northwestern.edu

17.

Sony's Home didn't turn into the success they hoped for with their online 3D world, on the other hand Google also gave it a try with Lively and many other large companies are reasearching the market to find the next big thing for virtual enviroments, everybody is searching to where virtual reality will go.

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