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Oct 16, 2003



He's stressing the combat side, which is telling. If we remove that, though, how does ATITD not fit his description of "coming to an end?"

I got bored with ATITD though, I admit. I guess I'm not into building perfect societies. Imperfect ones, (like imperfect families) are a lot more interesting.


It's interesting to watch people project their own motivations for playing on everyone else. Go ask the hairstylists, the dancers, the chefs and the doctors in SWG. People don't only play MMORPGs for interpersonal competition.


True. And WWII Online comes to mind as well. When the Germans get to London (which, I understand, they always do), the game starts over.


Ted, I think you've just breached the third group pattern identified by W.R. Bion as repeated by Clay Shirky (citing LambdaMOO and Dave, btw)


It is an object of religious veneration here on TN that MMORPGs are not boring.


I talk to a lot of online gamers who seem to hold two tenets rather religiously. One, that current MMORPGs are rather boring, and two, that there is some sure-fire way to make them not boring. I can't say that I'm any different in this regard. In any case, MMORPG *design* is most definitely (and religiously) not boring.



MMOs by themselves are REALLY, REALLY boring. That's mainly because anything that's not utterly a waste of time is insanely difficult to code in a working massively multiplayer environment.

I liken them to poker. You don't play poker because the play mechanics of laying down an inside straight absolutely enthralls you, you play poker for the social aspects and the phat l3wt if you are so inclined.


For me it has always been "the first 5 hrs and anything after hour 20 of any traditional MMO game is boring." I find traditional 'training missions' to be uninspired, then get excited when i can finally DO SOMETHING, but eventually succumb when I can’t level up to the good content on only a few hrs of weekly playtime (which is all I’ve got free).

Oh where or where is my accelerated causual use server that would allow me to reach "end game" (a high level character) in a short amount of time? C'mon, they never would have had my $ to begin with so it's not cannibalizing their revenue stream.



Bruce pointed out that UO actually sells that service at a premium:


And I stand corrected by Phineas -- I guess I *do* find the typical rat-hacking ladder a tad boring, but I find talking and thinking about the same rat-hacking ladder not boring. I fear there's some lurking cognitive dissonance in those two statements...



Oh, interesting. That advanced character service is something I was not aware of. UO is responding to a market demand! Nice.

Though if everyone does it it will cut into opportunities for virtual entrepreneurs... :)

But companies lumber along, entrepreneurs are nimble. There are always niches.


Ok...now I am really confused.

Were we or were we not just a few days ago suggesting that Greenspan, and the Council of Economic Advisers, should be taking note of MMORPG economies and their economic policies because we thought they were 'Fun'.

I'm not sure how serious they would take our recommendations if we are now making a case that they are 'Boring'.

So which is it?

I think we all agree it would be 'Fun' if we could all grow up to be President of the USA, Astronauts, or Bill Gates Billionaires, but if that were possible, I'm not sure who would haul away my trash or build my apartment or pick the banana I ate for breakfast.

Frankly, I'm wondering if it may be a bit early for virtual economies to claim victory. On the other hand, VWs ability to evolve at neck-breaking speeds makes me wonder if victory is but a matter of time.

So back to the questions:
Do virtual economies have the fun punch to recommend themselves to real life economists? Do we really think that fun and not efficiency is the goal in real life economies? Or do we just think that because real life economies aren't that efficient either, so they should at least be fun?


From the linked blog: "Build an MMORPG that comes to an end when one side wins."

What makes people think that there has to be more than one side, and that "end when one side wins" must hold true?

I suppose I can answer my own question: Upbringing. But let's skip that one...

Let's look at this closer. Lets assume the state "win" is fun in and of itself. If there is more than one "side", and only and *exclusively* one side "wins" (as the phrase implies), then all other "sides" reach a state of "not win". So how is this fun for those people? Playing the game must be fun in and of itself, since it is clear a good percentage of people will reach the state of "not win". If we come to this conclusion and we craft a game where we've put the fun in the game itself and not the final outcome, then why do we want it to end??

Perhaps they want it to end because in their minds they can only consider they had fun when they "won" and that is an end stage. A terminal stage. Can this culture be reconciled with business models that extend into infinity? Can it be reconciled with a fun experience to the "not win" crowd? Or will the multitude of engagements these people paricipate in, across newer virtual worlds, create a continuous meta-game where once again they can never finally and terminally "win"? Will they come to a point where they demand no more virtual worlds be made?


There are two problems here (not specific to the questions of "winning" in an MMO):

1) Most people are below average in skill, regardless of the type of skill. If you asked your typical player of just about any game, they'd say that a person of "average" skill should win 50% of the time. Not actually the case in practice. The Pareto principle holds, 20% of the players will win 80% of the time, or some variant thereof, and that same rule will apply to that sub-percentage, so that only a small-to-tiny percentage of the players would win half their fights if all opponents were chosen randomly. That small percentage will tend to be the ones who play the most, as well.

2) In team games, team-mates are not chosen randomly, everyone wants to join the best teams but only the best candidates are accepted. If you're a good football player with hopes of going pro, you want to go to a school with a top-ranking team, but so do all the other good football players, so those teams get the best, so scouts look to those schools first. In any "Top 100 Teams" ladder for an FPS, only the top 10 teams really have a good chance to win, so the rest of the league is constantly having its best players (who might be able to lift them on the ladder) poached by top 10 teams.

Personal skill in teamwork oriented environments is not additive, it's multiplicative. Soviet Spetznatz or USN Seal teams didn't routinely outfight forces 20+ times their size just because of better equipment and training, but because every single member of the team was near the outer edge of peformance.

Professional sports leagues cope with this problem through drafts, salary caps, and multiple levels of league play, so that the best players don't wind up on the top 2 or 3 teams getting blowouts against the remainder. This extends all the way down to the local little-league level (although "gaming" the system by sneaking all the best local players onto the same team is common at that level, it's sometimes known as "cherry picking"). Online games have no concept of this, and it's possible that the players would never accept it.

So most of the players are going to lose most of the time, and as a result they're going to get discouraged and either try to game the system to get on the winning side, or quit playing. This seams to be hard-wired into the way we assess such contests. The possibilities are either to impose sophisticated sorting mechanism to ensure that players compete against those near their own level of performance, or else redefine the problem so that "Winning" for one side doesn't means "Losing" for the other.



And don't forget the possibility of havng multiple, multually-exclusive "win categories."

To some degree that drives the class-based systems. If I'm not a fighter sort, I can be a healer, or entertainer, or... etc.

And then there's the meta game. Maybe I'm at best a mediocre player, but I write a mean news story that everyone talks about. Or I draw really cool comics. Or I make a fortunre selling virtual goods on Ebay .

I think it's important, in virtual worlds, to avoid narrowly defining "win." Of course, some players would prefer narrow definitions because the only win they can accept is an absolute win. Forget those, they are not the 80% that will pay the bills for the game company. Make sure the 80% has SOME way to have a decent chance they can feel "winners."


Dan, Dave,

Unfortunately, there seems to be a large population base taught to the mantra that winning is not winning if nobody suffers a loss. The win-lose mentality, or "For me to win, you must lose". I'm not entirely certain this can be reconciled with social gaming, in which loosely-structured masses of players converge.
Redefining "winning", as you both suggest in different terms, seems unlikely to work for this mentality. Structuring engagements looks like a more viable alternative, but remember what we hear here is the voice of the individual team-member, not the team or the game association. Imagine the same blog entry done by a pro-sports player, what would it say? It would probably say: "Why do they have to have Superbowl after Superbowl? Once a team wins the Superbowl, we should never do another one. We should have a sport that once a team wins, it comes to an end". Unfortunately the mindset that generated this phrase has a mismatch with reality; it is ignoring that teams trascend players, game associations trascend teams, and time trascends our existence, not the other ways around. I am doubtful a VW can be shaped to give a human the feeling of having trascended time, let alone a whole group of humans.

While our VW are simulators of alternate realities, and in these alternate realities you could potentially trascend time itself, attempting to "take" or extend this achievement into the world we inhabit where time has already won is simply not possible.


Maybe I am reading it wrong, but it sounds to me like he is simply tired of the unending arcade style "camp the mob, kill the mob, camp the spawn point until the same mob comes up, kill the same mob again, rinse and repeat".

You can make parts of the game winnable. YOu can design an MMORPG so that if you once kill a mob, it stays dead. You can design an envirnonment so that if a fortress is broken into, it stays compromised until som player craftsman takes the time and resources to repair the dang gates. You CAN make a winnable MMORPG without necessarily maken it a one shot deal


"You CAN make a winnable MMORPG without necessarily maken it a one shot deal."

Not really. These individuals do not seek to "be winning", they seek to "win" - They seek the past of the event, more specifically "to have won". The event must be in the past and some must have won and some must have lost. Hence I argue you cannot win at an event that continues to carry forward; what the event itself consist of will depend on your level of abstraction - that particular player blogging is taking it beyond an individual quest or engagement and into the "game world" level - he wants to "win" the game once and for all of time. He wants the game to tell him "you win".

The problem -again- stems from the game being able to tell him "you win", but then carries forward (ie: Spawns another creature, rebuilds the fortress, resurrects the losing player).

Still I agree that you can make a game that comes as close as possible to the "win" idea by having constantly unique content. The key being constantly unique, as in your example of the creature that dies and stays dead never to be seen again. Your other example of the fortress that gets rebuilt when someone fixes it is not a good one.

Then again I'm not sure of the feasibility of this. How many different beasts are you going to come up with? And of course you will still have to deal with players that abstract themselves above the unique-beast-killing and want to "win" at the game by finally killing *all* the beasts dead once and for all - no more beasts, ever. That's the level the blogger is aiming at. He din't say he wanted to win quests, or beast-smashing, he said he wanted to "win the game".


Would this be why, by any chance, VWs shouldn't be considered games? Entertainment, yes, but winning, no.

Maybe the appropriate response is, "You can't win it because it's not a game."



" Maybe the appropriate response is, "You can't win it because it's not a game." "

I believe you are partially correct. At the level of abstraction these people want to win it is not possible to achieve what they want; Simply because they wish their experience in a VW to be trascendental when even their human existence is ephemeral. You might call it a "social simulator" or an "experiement" or whatever, and still people will want to "win", just as they try to "win" at the game of real life.

Let me spin your thought around and give you a different mindset to look at these VWs: "You can't loose, because the game never ends!"


You are right that it is a cultural matter. It ties into who the target customer base is, and the way the games are set up.

Look at who the current crop of MMOGs are set to appeal to? To play, especially if you intend/expect to achieve a dependable social network and some degree of real immersion, requires daily play time in excess of an hour. This is a drastically conservative estimate. More realistically, it requires daily play time in excess of 2-3 hours minimum.

The player must:

a) Have sufficient disposable income (or access to sufficient income) to cover the monthly fees,

b) Have sufficient free time to play the long hours required. Either they are unemployed or underemployed OR they are able to play at work.

c) Lack entangling real world responsibilities that would prevent their play time. (i.e. Volunteer work, clubs, etc.)

d) Lack entangling social/family connections that would eat into their play time. (i.e. No spouse, children, etc.)

e) Have a tightly focused attention span and an active imagination.

If they lack some or all of these attributes, they will churn out or never get involved in the first place.

To me, that all adds up to American MMOGs being designed to be played by teenagers. Teenage males are aggresive, competitive, and driven by high energy and short-sighted focus on immediate gratification, also imbued with a fire to prove themselves TO themselves as well as anyone else who might be watching, especially girls.

Teenage boys will ALWAYS want a game where they can win and strut. Such is life. So it is a contradiction.


Karaoke maps to role play. How many participate in Karaoke primarily to win?


> b) Have sufficient free time to play the
> long hours required. Either they are
> unemployed or underemployed OR they are able
> to play at work.

Or be willing to give up something that takes up large blocks of time: Television I've seen fairly recent estimates of 4-6 hours PER NIGHT for the average viewer. Sure sounds like enough time to play an MMOG to me.

And there's nothing saying it has to be *every* night either.

There are encouraging signs that the MMOG designers are paying attention to session length. I think expecting 6+ hour time blocks severely limits the market.

Your points to income and lack of distraction are well taken though...


IMO long gamging sessions, especially in Everquest came about because of the behavior of people who played, and not necessarily by game design.

It was after the fact, when the developers learned about the times and styles people were playing, that content was designed to last as long as it does. Game designers can cap the game difficulty such that content is trivial to guilds larger than 30 people, or they can leave content the way it is. They just chose not to.


Playing time does seem to compete directly against television watching for most players, and the long term population curves for US servers match very closely with the Nielson numbers.

The average American watches 25 hours of television per week, most of that being re-runs, shows they've seen before. The average MMO player plays 20-22 hours a week, most of that in areas and among content they've seen before. Coincidence?



"The average American watches 25 hours of television per week, most of that being re-runs, shows they've seen before. The average MMO player plays 20-22 hours a week, most of that in areas and among content they've seen before. Coincidence?"

With regards to both industries, would this be the result of seeking safety in familiarity, or in a lack of quality new content?


Jumping the chasm between players and GMs!

Two years ago, I send a message to the developers of NCsoft and Nexon.

It's about an idea for game system like this.

Synthetic game = MMORPG(like lineage/Dark Ages)+strategic simulation game(like Starcraft/Simcity) + God game(like Black&White)

Gamers can transmigrate through the game system called "metempsychosis/turn of the wheel"

At first, player chooses human player(MMORPG mode) or monster commandor(Stategic Simulation mode.

Humans collectively fight with monsters controlled by Monster commanders.

Sincere Human player ==> Semi GOD
Excellent Monster Commandor ===> Semi GOD

Semi-GODs get more discretionary power than that of GMs currently have.

The power of semi-GOD is depending on the amount of the sacrifices of gratitude that his/her believers(general players) offerd.

Semi GOD ===> common player/novice Monster commandor

Ofcourse, there is battle among semi-GODs, and change of power.

Defeates semi-god restart game as a common human player or novice commander.

Nexons's 'Shatterd Galaxy" and "Exine" adopted a system very similar to my suggestion.(especially the Exine)

While the number of current user of them is relativley low at now.

I'm now observing interestingly the trials and challenges of them.


MMORPG isn't about winning or losing, its about advancing. Uberism. That's all in my opinion.

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