« RMT Faces Taxes and Regulation in Korea | Main | Your Identity or Mine? »

Jul 16, 2006

Comments

1.

I think you'll find that the Multiverse crew aren't providing the tools which make or break an MMO, which are community support and live team tools. Calling them a "total MMO platform" is like calling a bunch of graphics card drivers a "total GUI". As low level MMO technologies become commodities the difference between an MMO success and a failure rests on the ability of its producers to provide excellent community channels, technical support, in-game management, and content update tools. Multiverse doesn't address these problems, though I'd be surprised if they don't scramble to do so as soon as their customers start releasing their games.

2.

I think the first problem with knocking down the walls is the player-as-character experience. Is the game structure set up to foster the notion that you interact as your character interacts, or are you interacting as "the player"? I expect the reality to be far more nuanced, many split between both depending on context or communication channel. The problem comes when the nature of the game introduces reasons why your character would NOT openly communicate with another character (Horde/Alliance in WoW, Hero/Villain in CoX, The different sides in DAoC etc), but you want to communicate with the player behind that other character.

The global chat of CoX appears to address this issue by making the identifiers used on that channel somewhat separate from those used for characters (having said that, I suspect this is by necessity of inter-realm communication with out cross-realm name reservation, than a deliberate step to logically separate the communication spaces), but perhaps that's the solution to not horribly blur the character/player separation in the larger world.

Of course, once one reaches this point, perhaps it's the place for separate applications such as Xfire, which run along side the game but are accessible while playing, to solve this problem. Let the game worlds maintain their walls, but allow tools outside the game to cross them.

The second problem with unconstraied communication comes along when games have open customization of user interfaces (I'm talking WoW-levels of customization here, not just trivial re-skinning). Typically UI programs are run inside a tightly controlled sandbox, where they have access only to the information which the game designers allow them to, in order to avoid problems of the interface becoming too smart on its own, or providing the player with knowledge of things the game intends them not to know. Once the UI has access to a global channel that reaches beyond the game boundaries, it can practically do anything, since the UI can be extended by automated agents running outside the game. This can be somwhat addressed by attempting to restrict user code's access to the external channel, but that the defeats integration and customization.

It's these sorts of gameplay related arguments against destroying the barriers between in-and-out-of-game-world communications that I think creates a serious difference between the virtual-world-as-game-playing-environment of the MMO games, and virtual-world-as-social-playspace of Second Life, that isn't always acknowledged in these kinds of discussions. The push towards endless interoperability destroys role playing, it destroys immersion, and to a certain extent, destroys story telling in games. Perhaps this isn't a terrible thing, but to date I dont feel we have the technology to step up to the task of real-time generation of new immersive content, and to provide human-quality artifical opponents, which I feel may be the answer to at least some of the problems.

3.

Trevor said:

Calling them a "total MMO platform" is like calling a bunch of graphics card drivers a "total GUI".

Oh, I should have been clearer by putting quotes around it, as well. Their term, not mine.

4.

This debate strikes me as similar to some prior art:

Carroll, J. M. (2001). Community computing as human–computer interaction. Behavior & Information Technology, 20(5), 307–314.

To my memory, (I can't seem to find this file) Carroll argues for building technical support structures for existing communities as a possible alternative to creating the online community from an Information Technology implementation.


5.

Daniel says:

The push towards endless interoperability destroys role playing, it destroys immersion, and to a certain extent, destroys story telling in games.

I can see how it could, but I can't begin to see how it has to. The magic circle is essentially a contract, the circumference of which can be negotiated by a group of people who already know each other, or a group that doesn't. This happens all the time as people decide which games to play, which rules to use. The key to interoperability is to simply allow whatever fourth wall breaking is appropriate when and how it's appropriate... not to force it on anyone. I think we're sophisticated enough to handle breaking out of a narrative occasionally... don't we do it everytime we take a bio break?

Immersion's another story, but I need Gordon to elaborate on that.

6.

And oh yeah, and I keep forgetting about Xfire. Someone should talk more about that. Anyone here using it?

7.

I thought this was really very interesting, and amusingly timed. A friend of mine have spent the past month working on a set of ground rules for an MMO we'd like to be working on shortly (I have no illusions that it's likely to be finished or even started, but we like designing things.)

One of the core design ideas we agreed on was that current MMO design completely disregard the social network, and it's the social network more than any other individual thing that seems to have the most effect on the success of an MMO.

Allowing profile information and "buddy lists" to be linked to more than one character at a time just seems like common sense. Stereotypical male gamers would love to show off their other characters. Stereotypical female gamers want to keep their network of friends and guild-mates between avatars. Real people are somewhere in between, but everyone I've met exhibits some of those behaviors. Of course, you would need the ability to create anonymous characters, I think, but we already do that. It shouldn't be too hard.

Given the decision we arrived at, I can see both good and bad things about that universal interoperability list, although given the differences between games I can't see interoperable IM for years.

Maybe if MMOs allowed you to connect, via a username, to IM networks it could work. A modification of one of the IM protocols to allow for locality (so you would then use this 3rd-party solution for in-game chat) might be the first step down this path. But I'm just guessing.

Er, anyway, I just thought that how topical this is was really amusing.

The push towards endless interoperability destroys role playing, it destroys immersion, and to a certain extent, destroys story telling in games.

Given my previous experiences in many different medium-sized MMOs (I haven't tried WoW yet, although I will shortly), I haven't seen any role-playing or immersion at all. I suspect that games will end up catering to the majority, the non-immersion gamers, and the role-players will be forced to use the new social models as best they can.

But Lisa's right. Destroying immersion is one thing. Working better with AIM so that you don't have to jump through messy "will the game minimize or crash on me?" hoops to chat with non-gamers is another thing entirely. The more smoothly you make the game run, the more immersive the experience will be. After all, books are still immersive if you sit at the computer and IM people while you're reading, right? (Unless you don't like multitasking that much?)

Designing well, so that the users don't have to fight with anything, is important. Also important would be clearly delineating between different kinds of un-immersive information. If you can do that, I think most people will be able to discern what they should be immersed by well enough to enjoy the game.

8.

Regarding SOE's cross-server chat. I never had much of a need for that, but last I heard, someone in EQ2 could send s[email protected] a tell... and maybe even see when they're online.

I'm more interested in the subtle difference here- with global chat in CoH, you have a "global chat handle" that spans all your alts. On one side, it REALLY helps keep player communities together when (as mentioned) the number of alts is so high... but on the other, it really doesn't let me escape the group very well- and it does hurt immersion somewhat. I know people who use only my global chat name, no matter what avatar I'm on and no matter who we're teamed with.

On the other hand, SOE's character-server name system, as I've had it explained to me, doesn't exactly help retain cohesion- you know "[email protected]" as the character Jesek, and might not have a clue that he's also "darlia" the half-elven tailor on your current server.

9.

> If I might speak for him (and hope that he speaks up here), Jerry Paffendorf is also passionate about this topic. He made the excellent point in an earlier TN discussion about trends that the walling of virtual worlds will be increasingly unsatisfying, that a big part of the future will be "the ability to communicate externally to the MMOG or digital world you're in (IM, email, pics, social software, etc.)"

Speak away, Lisa! I really like Bidaux's thoughts in the article, like a breath of fresh air, really. My basic high-level operating principal is that every web app and computer program will be recreated for, streamed into, or otherwise made interoperable with a virtual world interface. We'll use these hooks to bring more of our real lives and work into the metaverse, and back out.

I spend a lot of time double-boxing Second Life and Google Earth (which is why chicks dig me, ha), looking for connections. A metaverse browser that mixes the 2D and 3D web, user-creation, solo and shared game and simulation space is not hard to imagine, and is indeed the direction of things with Second Life, Google Earth, Multiverse, and hopefully the new consoles.

Daniel > It's these sorts of gameplay related arguments against destroying the barriers between in-and-out-of-game-world communications that I think creates a serious difference between the virtual-world-as-game-playing-environment of the MMO games, and virtual-world-as-social-playspace of Second Life, that isn't always acknowledged in these kinds of discussions.

Cha-ching. I got my virtual world education by reading every post and comment on Terra Nova since it started after State of Play in 2003. I still love TN, but now I'm more tuned to the metaverse blogs like 3pointD and reBang that cut through the role-play and magic circle to how video games, virtual worlds, CAD, maps, and web apps are hooking up. Sounds like Bidaux tunes in too.

Looking forward to following this thread and posting more later.

10.

A great read, as has been the discussion. Reminds me of some of classic convergence debates, like, will cellphones become better media platforms or will media platforms become better cellphones.

Knowing where things are going is as important as understanding who we'll get there. In that regard, I consider the future of VR from two distinct angles:

1) Will it be upon the foundation of a game? Will the metaphor drive the mechanic and therefore the fanbase into a world where the magic circle is still of paramount importance to a sought escapist quality? (for example, the form of immersion sought by WoW players is more mechanical while that of MySpace more abstract).

2) Will it be upon the foundation of environments? Will a collaberative creation environment, or at least the tools therein, spawn social and exploration components of a directed-play experience?

Or, put another way, will the future of VR be driven by Guild Wars or MySpace? Everything from the business models behind them to the "purpose" of the experiences about them is very different.

If I had to bet, I'd lean toward's MySpace. By leveraging the ubiquity of the web, and by targeting a particularly accepting market, they did not automatically alienate anyone through an experience too defined to be personalized. As the AAA-sized MMORPGs move away from allowing emergent behavior and meaningful customization of the totality of the experience, I think the void can be filled by experiences that transcend just directed-play experiences.

And best of all, it may not require a single company make a billion-dollar up-front investment and hope for the best either :)

11.

Some excellent points, and I bow to Lisa and Alex's correction of my rather pessimistic statement. I agree that there is no reason why external connectivity HAS to be the death of immersion and storytelling. Having said that, I still fear it'll happen more often than it will not (though my hope is there will be a novel solution that proves me wrong!).

What happens when a co-worker starts sending messages about code in the middle of a fantasy setting? One solution is a partitioning of the social network, and perhaps the best hope for us all IS a unified system which concentrates all of the best filtering and management tools under one roof.

12.

> Or, put another way, will the future of VR be driven by Guild Wars or MySpace? Everything from the business models behind them to the "purpose" of the experiences about them is very different.

Nice concise observation from the Metaverse Roadmap Summit: "World of Warcraft cost $100 million to make, has beautiful professional content, but only 7 million users. MySpace was cheap to make, has crappy user-created art, and 70 million users [or whatever it's at now]."

Blizzard gets a nice monthly subscription fee from each of its WoW users that MySpace and News Corp. don't, but the case remains.

13.

I share Daniel Stephens' point of view above:
"I think the first problem with knocking down the walls is the player-as-character experience. Is the game structure set up to foster the notion that you interact as your character interacts, or are you interacting as "the player"?"

I have a personal example of this dilemma just this week. I'm in two guilds with two different characters in the same game. Both guilds have different rules related to raids and loot distribution and priorities of members. What I consider to be my secondary character or alt is considered to be my main character in her guild, and even if I bring what I consider to be my main character into that guild, my alt will continue to be considered my main character by the guild. That's their rule. The other guild where I have my main character doesn't care what character you play or designate as your main character--to them the person who plays the characters joined the guild. And this guild, by the way, has existed as a core group moving from game to game for about 16 years now.

I posted the question in my alt's guild forums this week to ask whether "I" the person had joined the guild or whether my character had joined the guild. No one could really answer (hey, it's a game, and most people don't really think about such issues). The bottom line is most people considered that my character had joined. Personally, I believe that "I" joined...regardless of character persona I choose to play. It's a very interesting difference in point of view.

The games that come down on Lisa's (and my own) personal preference of "...one common repository of social network data from whence all these activities can emerge", are clearly choosing to recognize the player behind the game personas. Yea for that point of view! But then I'm one of the stereotypical female gamers that Alex referred to...

Great thread! Thanks.

14.

Improving the communication aspect of MMOS would contribute to making the game more 'sticky', as people might be able to better interact with their chosen community. A common request I hear on WOW is for a chat interface that allows people not logged into the game (but with accounts) to participate in guild/etc chat. This would be an incredibly popular move and drstatically increase the social aspects of guilds/chat I believe, if the posting level on WOW related forums is anything to go by.

Of course this would contribute to a more complete immersion of a person into the game community, rather than the current game only social interaction. I'd probably use such an interface, but I'd not like myself for it.

15.

FARMERS AND BLACK MARKET
:::: To many $ lost for adenas ::::
As far i study the mechanism of mmorgs i see that is like REAL world so as much is harder is more pleasent to play !
Otherside this dificulty has as result the phenomenon of e-bayers/farmers who take advantages from the other players in the "goodies" inside the game.they are gangs like in real world and their activities have limited use until "mother" game company investigate that are A GANG and not a "Jean Trejean" like victor's ugo hero in which was forced to steal ( cheat ) in order to survive the hardship of the society.
It is the same in this mmorgs games for the begginers ...they fell in a vitual society without money , nugged .....dream you in our society to born nugged and without parents how difficult will be to survive..i think this the weak point of theese games ...so my last words are:

HELP MORE in the beginning the newbies to be farmers USELESS

16.

The future of gaming is, quite simply, social networking and mechanics that (finally) depose the Red Queen and set in her place a concept I've dubbed (appropriately enough) the Blue King:

- Advancement based upon social interaction and cooperation as opposed to social division and competition

- Reward based upon a number of social factors including, but not limited to: how well one works within the confines of the established lore, how helpful one is to the community at large, how often (or if) one interacts and behaves in ways that foster and support social networking, etc.

- 'End Game' content that requires players to return to and aid those coming into the world as opposed to cloistering themselves off in some 'high end' area and farming until they lose interest in twinking or raiding.

Obviously part of such a shift in thinking would include the manner of things enumerated in this article, however they would also include a complete break with short-sighted design that not only pushes players to exhaust content as quickly as possible in the name of status and competition, but habitually undermines its own goal-structure by regularly introducing improved content that cannot help but remove interest in replayability and longevity.

It is encouraging to see these things getting more 'air time', but wholly recognized that the lead time between talking and seeing the idea spread and grow to a point of action is a far-flung and sluggish thing.

The comments to this entry are closed.