« Grimwell on RMT | Main | *war* »

May 21, 2005



It goes beyond the theory of fun, but the theory of "worth your time".

It is something that's worth saving in your RL memory or your offline storage? If it is then it's "worth your time" and bandwidth. Fun & rememberance are only parts of what I shall term "personal significance"

For example, some people just like to plot actions in their minds. This could be trying to get two RL friends on a date or trying to get two Sims to the same. This could also be trying to plot the domination of real or virtual world. The thinking and usage of mental bandwidth are done in the head, and perhaps with some offline tools. This is the imagining activity.

Sitting around the dinner table just exercise this imagining in a collective manner.

So for a lack of better metric, I'll stick with "personal significance" as the yard stick :)

Oh, smaller worlds just make it easier on the mind. Yes, easier to remember, harder to forget.


I think the key may just be that few current MMO*s offer anything significant to keep on your mind between playing. Once you log off, for most of these games the illusion of persistence is broken. Sure, the world goes on, but there aren't any real effects on your character or your "part of the world". Few of the MMO*s even have anything resembling an ongoing story that people might be interested in up to the minute "news" of events. I credit Matrix Online and its use of Radio Stations as breaking news sources and extra-game entertainment as being ahead of the pack in this regard. I don't play Matrix Online, so I can't tell you how well they are doing it, but at least they are doing it.

There are so many good possibilities of encouraging extra-game interest that could be done. Ultimately, I think that more MMO*s need to start thinking not just about what players are doing doing their several hours of play, but of what the players might have to discuss during the rest of the day. Thinking in terms of the 9-5 workday, there needs to more thought into the "watercooler experience" of the game.

For example, suppose that you buy a Farm in the virtual world to help produce some additional revenue for your character in those hours when you can't play. Now, you could hire farmhands (players who play when you usually do not, perhaps, or NPCs) to watch over your farm. If an unusual plague or monster attack happens, a farmhand could notify you via email that they valiantly fought to save what crops they could. If the game has weather, you might occaisionally want to get an updated weather "forecast". If the sale prices of your crops fluctuate due to a market, you might want a ticker of what's happening. All of this could be done without ever opening the game up and using existing technologies you might be using daily (email, RSS reading, text messages) and most work environments are not going to strongly care about.

With those in place, that leaves ample oppurtunities for watercooler conversations: Did you hear the forecast is calling for rain in the Edgar Farming District? Did you see that the price of Elfwheat has jumped 3 gold units today? Did you hear Godzilla stomped through my Rutabaga's and Devil's Chin is killing my Angelpotatoes? (Did you know, if you use the Level 15 +6 Chin Reducer you can save your Angelpotatoes?)

Then there are the additional possibilities added when you allow for things such as quick responses (while trying to balance between not getting in the way of day to day life (work) and engaging people's interest). For example, emailing your farmhand back with "plant 30 units more elfwheat".


This is the sort of post I love on Terra Nova, one where I reload the comments because they're as compelling as the post.

Of course, this persisistence is accomplished off line with the assistance of my browser. ;)


this persisistence is accomplished off line with the assistance of my browser.
I totally agree. I don't play games really. Restricted as I voluntarily am to all things MMO, I always take the game with me when not actually logged in with my avatar. It's a lifestyle.

It's not just the guild forums or even the meta-game sites. It's everything, the great movement of life, people talking about something new about something not previously having this much broad impact. I'm one of those "true believer" types. Regardless of what I think of the current iterations, I feel the genre itself ultimately is more capable than any other of true social greatness.

It lets people be who they are around other people, even if their actions are hampered by the limitations of code :)


couldnt be bothered reading it all lol


There is a place of honor on my bookcase for my box of punched cards that hold STRTRK, written in PL/I for the IBM 370 mainframe.

It was about 1982, and I was trying to decide whether to switch my major from Chemical Engineering to this new Computer Science thing I'd been introduced to a year previously. Then one night while using TSO to peek through the files in the Chem E directories, I noticed one named WHTHSE.

It turned out to be a 1981-era version of the Star Trek game. It was written in a language I didn't recognize, but in scrolling through the code I could understand the text strings. And what they promised seemed so amazingly like being able to *live* the TV show that I had to figure out how to make this thing work.

(Although the version of Star Trek I'd found introduced a new feature: If you tried to navigate beyond the boundary of the "galaxy," you'd get a message reading, "You have tried to navigate past the energy barrier surrounding the galaxy. On the third time you do this, Zimbula will destroy you." And sure enough, on the third attempt, you'd get a message, "I warned you! Love and kisses, Zimbula" and *bam*, game over.)

This was just too cool. So I went into Pester Mode. I nagged a friend of mine in CS to loan me a PL/I textbook and taught myself PL/I. Then I nagged another friend into showing me how to compile and run PL/I programs.

Which is how I found myself in exactly the mode that others here have described: The game wasn't about playing the game -- it was about growing the game. It was about understanding a complex thing as a system, and thinking about how that system could be effectively extended. It was about design.

Although I didn't realize it until later, that was the moment I decided to switch to Computer Science, which has been an important part of my life for over 20 years now. And it was also the moment that I really started operating in a "design" mode, rather than in a nuts-and-bolts implementation mode.

All thanks to STRTRK.

So is the lesson here that MMOGs would be more fun if they allowed their users to extend the game? Or is that something only Explorer/designer types care about?



I've found that controlling how much you allow yourself to think about a game can directly affect how much you want to play it. For example, if I spend my time at work daydreaming about Guild Wars, I will feel the insatiable need to play when I get home. If I don't allow myself to think about Guild Wars and try to shy away from the topic whenever my mind wanders over to it, then I feel no great compulsion to play.

Interestingly enough, I used to work with someone who got me into the whole graphical MMO racket. (I had played MUDs but never graphical MMOs.) He and I would talk about Ultima Online for hours on end at work. After a week of this, I bought UO and started to play.

Then everday at work we would talk about the game pretty much all day. Then when we got to our respective houses, we would both play long into the night.

Interestingly enough, when he quit and started work somewhere else, UO just became less and less interesting for both of us. After a few weeks, we both quit playing UO.

This "water cooler effect" is closely related to the idea of "hype." When I have free time, I often spend my time self-hyping in a way. I think about Guild Wars and imagine new skill combinations. I think about how I will allocate my attribute points. I find that after a few hours of doing this at work, Guild Wars becomes much more fun when I get home at night. (This "hype," especially "self-hype" could also contribute to "problematic usage," as deadalus puts it.)

Can designers manufacture this type of "hype?" Can they make the game compelling to think about in the off hours? If they could do both of these things, the game would seem much more fun for people, with nothing about the actual game actually changing.

It's just a variation of the "absence makes the heart grow fonder" cliche. (Actually I've heard the original phrase was "abstinence makes the heart grow fonder." Nevertheless, both versions apply.)

Again, I'm more explorer/achiever, but killers can easily do this too. I've been in a few PvP groups and oftentimes the talk about the PvP is more fun than the actual PvP.

Socializers might fantasize about their social interactions in the non-game hours? I don't know really.

The comments to this entry are closed.