Aug 262006
 

So yesterday morning I moderated this panel. The folks on the panel were a distinguished bunch: Bill Fawcett, who dropped anecdotes about when Gary would use NPC thieves to rob his party blind — yes, he meant gary Gygax; Justin Lloyd, who started developing games sometime in the Pleistocene; Mike Stemmle, who’s a lead on Star Trek online nowadays, but of course is best known for his work on LucasArts adventure games; and Scott Campbell, who among other things was lead design ona little RPG called Fallout.

The audience was, as expected, a lot of WoW players. But more than that, it was also a group that had been playing MMOs for a while, and a variety of them, it seemed. The ostensible topic was “why are these games popular, and why is WoW king,” but the issues raised were what i thought merited blogging about. Semi-coherently, at any rate, since I was at a suite party until 2:15am last night.

The reasons the panel advanced for WoW’s success were very straightforward, and nothing very shocking:

  • They took the time to get it right.
  • They spent a fortune doing so.
  • They had two of the biggest brands in gaming to work with, Warcraft and Blizzard, with a gigantic in-built audience of core gamers.
  • They made sure that there were no penalties to things you did; death has no sting, and timesinks are minimal.
  • There’s very regular positive feedback.

But what was more interesting was this set of reasons that the panel also advanced:

  • Blizzard focused absolutely on the fun, with no pretenses towards being anything other than a game; no frou-frou dreams of being a virtual world.
  • Blizzard focused on combat, and everything else was icing.
  • The game permits massive amounts of “playing alone together,” never making you interact with others.

I think the thing that struck me about this formulation was that as we discussed it, I couldn’t help but think about how easily these are framed as negatives. I mean, if you restate those as dictums for success, they come across as entirely missing the point of MMOs.

  • They’re games about killing orcs. Other stuff is a distraction.
  • Socialization is bad.
The Battle for Azeroth: Adventure, Alliance, and Addiction in the World of Warcraft (Smart Pop series)
Ironically, Bill Fawcett just
put out this book, which
answers “why is WoW king?”
in great detail.

I expected to get a little more pushback from the audience when I baldly stated that WoW was one of the least social MMOs I have ever seen; perhaps the vigorous consensus from the panel deterred the audience from jumping up to defend the social integrity of their guild, or whatever. Instead, lack of socialization morphed into a virtue, as a result of WoW success, permitting users to play with little commitment.

What did happen was a few plaintive questions from the audience, such as one gentleman who wanted to know when MMO games would grant equal dignity and respect to non-combat players; the first round through the panel, the answer was basically “well, the games will grant plenty of token nods,” or “go check out these social games,” until another audience member pointed out that we were ducking the question. Which finally led us to open up the question of whether the streamlined orc-slaying power fantasy of WoW is really the future; I pointed out that most of the world probably views that behavior as, well, tacky, and it’s not all that likely to spread hugely beyond the market of core game players.

The juggernaut cannot be denied, certainly. But Bill Fawcett asked the others on the panel at the end, given unlimited budget, what would we make? Nobody answered with “something like WoW.” Instead the replies were “something different,” “a dozen small niche games,” and the like. Oh, and “Star Trek Online,” from Mike.

It may be that the mass market, accessible, appealing virtual world is in fact one that exploits the core characteristics of MMOs as little as possible: variety because of the emphasis on place rather than single game, the presence of other people, and persistence and the ability to absorb change.

It won’t, for me, anyway, be the most interesting virtual world, but I am certainly willing to concede that it’s likely to be the most immediately fun.

  69 Responses to “Worldcon: “World of Warcrack” panel”

  1. IMO the problem is with forced socialization. It’s tiresome trying to find a group, especially if you have limited play time. Also, from my experience in pug groups, most players are either evil, stupid, or a combination of the two. Less interaction with them equals more fun for me.

  2. […] Worldcon: “World of Warcrack” panel on Raph Koster Worldcon: “World of Warcrack” panel on Raph Koster So yesterday morning I moderated this panel. The folks on the panel were a distinguished bunch: Bill Fawcett, who dropped anecdotes about when Gary would use NPC thieves to rob his party blind — yes, he meant gary Gygax; Justin Lloyd, who started developing games sometime in the Pleistocene; Mike Stemmle, who’s a lead on […] via Raph Koster […]

  3. Two things are bad in an MMO: Having no reason to play with other people, and being forced to play with other people. Up until the “endgame”, WoW splits the difference. There’s no question in my mind that this is one of the reasons for its success.

  4. Raph how do you think this compares with PotBS, they just announced the release date friday, pushing it back to June 2007 to polish it up and make sure they not only ship v ship but avatar based combat, PVP, PvE, and RvR.

    They seem to have hit all the points mentioned above, sans Orcs, Elves, and Magic. And further no forced grouping in a historical enviornment

    Im not sure how strong thier non-combat social suit is however. But they are hitting the 5 year development mark…

    Also I think non-combat socialization and crafting, meaningful crafting systems are always welcome facets to a game by a significant cohort of gamers. Not that these systems should be forced upon gamers but they should always be an option vs only combat.

  5. […] Interesting points raised, especially coming from Raph. Bearing many similiarities with the direction SWG is taking and the mythical new audience.Can you guess which part the SWG cannot copy from WoW and why this is the reason NGE failed?But more interestingly, look at the people present and stand in awe (yes, seriously) as not one of them wants to make another WoW. Anything but.Also important because of STO. […]

  6. They didn’t focus just on combat. It’s more than just a mechanic. They focused on combat with a point (including a wide swath of fairly creative quests). Or, basically, they created an RPG one could play alone or with others. And they strapped on tweaked MMORPG conventions to engage the veterans beyond the last level.

  7. Oh, meant to say:

    Sometimes it takes an outsider to show the entrenched just what rules really matter.

  8. I’m sorry I just don’t buy into the “WoW’s game play if the reason for it’s success” argument. If you look at SirBruce’s total active subscribers for the MMORPG market, you will find that since WoW was released there are approxamately 5 million more active MMORPG subscribers and the curve of the graph grew faster the ever before.

    I believe:

    They had two of the biggest brands in gaming to work with, Warcraft and Blizzard, with a gigantic in-built audience of core gamers

    Is the main reason behind WoW’s success.

  9. I have to say it

    Pre-cu FTW

  10. pre cu ftw 😀 I agree.

    WOW is how not to do a mmorpg in my eyes, it got repetative after about lvl 7 and i realixed, hmm this is it? No in depth crafting, no player housing and this is all the combat is??

    I do want a pre cu SWG.

    Ralpha please pull ur finger out and make one, im sure being u its not hard to get support.

  11. They’re games about killing orcs. Other stuff is a distraction.

    Random and oversimplified comment #1: Until NPC AI actually gets somewhat intelligent, there’s not much you can do with NPCs (gamewise) except kill them. Conversely, non-NPC gameplay ultimately revolves around mechanical puzzles (adventure games) or picking flowers (crafting). (PvP is a different issue, and there’s a lot that can be done with it.)

    Random and oversimplified comment #2: I’d also point out that Chess and Checkers are about killing orcs/pawns.

    Socialization is bad.

    My contention with MMORPG socialization is that 90% of the people you meet aren’t worth meeting. (Not that they’re bad people, just that they’re people whose personality/interests don’t match mine.) If the game included something like MySpace (hint, hint, synergy and whatnot) then it’d be easier to find the people you wan’t to play with.

  12. “I’m sorry I just don’t buy into the “WoW’s game play if the reason for it’s success” argument…
    “They had two of the biggest brands in gaming to work with, Warcraft and Blizzard, with a gigantic in-built audience of core gamers“
    Is the main reason behind WoW’s success.”

    If Blizzard had created a game with original everquest rules, but int he warcraft world it wouldn’t have had the same success.

    The name bought the players in from other genres, but the gameplay kept them there and made them tell their friends about it.

  13. If Blizzard had created a game with original everquest rules, but int he warcraft world it wouldn’t have had the same success.

    The name bought the players in from other genres, but the gameplay kept them there and made them tell their friends about it.”

    In the objective of play, WoW is not that much diffrent then EQ, all WoW did was place the grind at the end of the game. Sure you can get to level 60 in a matter of a few weeks, but once you hit level 60 you then grind for Epic equipment.

    Blizzard took their title Warcraft, the love of their name (you always saw people praise Blizzard even before WoW was released, unlike SOE, EA, Turbine, ect..), and a very simplistic MMORPG concept and made it into what it is today.

    The numbers do not lie, these players are new to MMORPG’s, so they do not know that these ideas are hardly innovative. But in a few years, when they yearn for more then “kill, loot, and repeat,” they will be looking for a new game to satify their urges.

    These 5 million new MMORPG players did not pop up because they hate the old MMORPG’s, they popped up because they were never marketed to before.

    –I should say this is my theory, but the numbers of SirBruce do give some credence to it. Also ask yourself this question, “If another MMROPG had WoW’s simplistic game play, would it equal WoW’s success? Would it even be close?”

  14. Pre-CU SWG would have been the anti-WOW and is the future of MMOs. I suspect that WoW burns out sooner than would be predicted (ie: doesn’t last as long as EQ, DAoC, UO, etc).

    At least what pre-CU SWG was has the most passionate and determined fanbase of any MMO. We ARE getting it back, one way or another 🙂

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  16. Socialization is great… even forced socialization.

    BUT… not in COMBAT. Sure, make it easier to group up to achieve your goals.

    Socialization is for finding crafted items. For watching an Entertainer in a Cantina to cure your battle fatigue. Selling resources to crafters to make a buck.

    Classic SWG had it SO right. Pearls to the swine that run $OE.

  17. Correction, I mean hypothesis and not theory (if you give me funding I’ll have a theory for you. May not be the theory you want or what we are chatting about, but it will be a theory).

    And look at mmorpgchart.com’s chart “Total MMOG Active Subscriptions- Absolute Contribution.” This almost 100% confirms that the great majority of WoW players are new to the genre.

    Also, if a player is new to the genre, then how can they judge or know what is a great MMORPG and what is a bad MMORPG? When I started in the genre, I thought that EQ was a great game because it was my first. Now I believe it is one of the worst MMORPG’s ever.

    –Also, I really wish MMORPG’s would start publishing their numbers, even in something like an industry journal that is a couple hundred dollars an issue. MMORPG’s have become an obsessive hobby to me and I really would like to study them futher and to study something, well you need information.

  18. Am I the only one that noticed that WoW is just Diablo 2 with a lot of people able to play at once with a few cosmetic changes to make it seem “new”?

    Take any really popular existing game, church it up and add the ability for thousands to play in the same game at once and you’ve got the potential for another WoW.

  19. I like to credit a different, not-often-acknowledged design choice for at least part of WoW’s success:

    The inability to **** up your character.

    I played the original EQ for a couple of months, until I realised that a decision I had made when I knew nothing about the game — the allocation of my ability points — had basically crippled my “main” character as far as future progression went. I didn’t play any more after that.

    You simply can’t do that in WoW. They’ve taken the “fear” out of character choices. No decision you make about allocating your points at any level will cripple your character.

    This design philosophy comes across in all aspects of the game, and is why the crafting is so pared back and simple (more complex, and you are likely to sink beaucoup money/time into crafting useless things), and is also, probably, why there is no private property, for the same reasons (extended).

    I guess what I’m saying is that WoW is totally “safe”. And that appeals to more people, I think, than anyone had ever really understood before.

  20. Timing was also key. If Dungeons and Dragons online had shipped when WoW first shipped, and WoW didn’t come out until DDO shipped, I think these numbers would be shifted around more than a bit. Attacking EQ2 head-on worked great for WoW, Everquest had a branding issue that they have yet to resolve.

    Branding is also part of WoW’s success. The orcs are generic enough that you don’t need to know any backstory to start hunting them, yet there is a backstory for those that care about such things. The humor sometimes is silly-over-the-top (Ever click on the people in Warcraft III and listen to all the funny sayings? Still works in the MMO version. Characters get less and less chatty and more and more ticked off.) but the action can be sad or gross or violent. That identity is what created such a big kick-off for Worlds of Warcraft.

    I suspect that WoW burns out sooner than would be predicted (ie: doesn’t last as long as EQ, DAoC, UO, etc).

    I don’t think anyone expects new MMOs to last as long as EQ or UO, even with WoW’s big numbers. Expect the first expansion Christmas 2006, the second Christmas 2007 and the game they expect you to play instead Christmas 2008. (Starcraft, probably).

    Hmm, seem to be responding to points in random order. Let me say that requiring a player that does the damage, a player that takes the damage, a player that heals the damage, and yourself and a fifth player that can fit any type makes grouping on a 3-d globe only with people you know very very hard. Either you plan things in advance, which I hate, or you cultivate a large group of friends that play at the same time and take pot luck on the teams. My guess would be that if you want to have a 50/50 chance that when you long on tonight the other 4 people will be available you need a friends list/guild of about 50 people, and even then the 5th slot is filled in with their friend that you’ve never met. That works fine for me, I like being social online, but that’s a lot of contacts for your Average Joe to keep up just because your game has no soloable content.

  21. You can however get into an extreme money pit with respeccing your talents. What newb hasn’t tried to respec for the fourth time only to get slapped with a 10 gold fee they can’t possibly pay off at 20? 🙂

    MikeRozak wrote: Random and oversimplified comment #1: Until NPC AI actually gets somewhat intelligent, there’s not much you can do with NPCs (gamewise) except kill them. Conversely, non-NPC gameplay ultimately revolves around mechanical puzzles (adventure games) or picking flowers (crafting). (PvP is a different issue, and there’s a lot that can be done with it.)

    AI may not be human-intelligent, but I still contend the vast majority are programmed to be stupid/predictable because their entire purpose is to give a player one more microjump forward. I believe this is predicated on the need to retain RPG conventions of character advancement. Remove the need for XP and remove the need for mobs as resource/time gates.

    Or have player mobs supported by NPC mobs.

    But I don’t expect that sort of innovation from those chasing a place on the irrelevant (to me) MMOGchart. It’ll come from folks few of the vocal punditry even talk about, those games not targeting those already here or who can be converted. WoW is doing well, but it’s not a truly mainstream product. It’s just a less-hardcore game for a very similar player who didn’t realize their nascent interest in such experiences until the brands of Blizzard and Warcraft opened the door for them.

  22. I should say this is my theory, but the numbers of SirBruce do give some credence to it. Also ask yourself this question, “If another MMROPG had WoW’s simplistic game play, would it equal WoW’s success? Would it even be close?”

    Not unless it had a means to attract a huge new audience like WOW did, but that’s not my point.

    If WOW had been a difficult MMO to play, with harsh death penalties, complex skill systems and the like, would those first hundred thousand new MMOers have told their mates how great this game was and kept playing it? They’d have decided it was boring and difficult very quickly and gone back to their RTS or SPRPGs and never MMOed again.

    If you had made WOW as it is, but with no name behind it; or if you had made a WOW/Blizzard game that was difficult to play rather than simple, then in either case you wouldn’t have had the huge success that WOW has.

    You need the whole package to get the success, it wasn’t due to one aspect alone.

  23. One of the reasons give by the panel hides many, many truths:

    They spent a fortune doing so.

    Yep. And you can get lots of little things right for a fortune. One of the things I was deeply impressed by when I played WoW for the first time was the very smooth, very fun learning curve. Although it may be primarily about fighting, and certainly not as complicated as, say, “Civililzation,” most old-school gamers don’t realize how complex an RPG game is — even something like Diablo — to a newbie. If you haven’t grown up among the grognards, with talk about hit points and mana and weapons slots and the difference between races and classes and etc. etc. etc…. well, playing a game like WoW for the first time feels like a frigging’ chore.

    In a badly designed initial experience, you end up with, “Yes. It’s pretty. Yes. it’s interesting. Yes, there is something to do but… WHAT??!! WHAT??!! I do *what?* with my mouse? Click where? And I’m trying to hit the green gobliny thing with my… oh… no… that’s my friend. Sorry. And that guy is my boss? NO! The ‘boss’ is the bad guy at the end of the level? And then I ‘level?’ And I *want* ***more*** hit points? No. I don’t? I DO? But I’m a magic user. So I want mana. That’s the blue stuff. I’ve got all my blue stuff. Why should I buy more. I can’t. But that’s a potion to get more and I can… Oh… I see. Never mind. I’m going back to ‘Puzzle Pirates’ and Sudoku.”

    I’ve seen that happen lots of times with friends who like console games, which are generally easier to pick up, but who don’t want to learn a manual as thick as a brick. Real-life pen-and-paper RPGers LIVE for this crap, eh? But somebody who has played and liked “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” while it is an RPG of sorts, will not automatically like a serious, old school RPG.

    Unless you spend a ton of money and develop a buttery-smooth intro system and test the boojum out of it and tweak it until it’s perfect, which the WoW newbie areas are. They are gorgeous from a user experience standpoint. The curve is almost imperceptible at first. The challenges start so easy — which they should — so you learn the interface. Then they add stuff about interacting with NPCs. Then going to further away places. Then more character dev. Etc., etc. If they called it a “tutorial,” people would crap on it and bypass it, but that’s really what it is, except in situ. And it’s really, really lovely.

    I think the first two hours of play for folks that were “borderline” RPGers — console gamers, PC gamers who hadn’t tried anything that complex before, friends of RPGers, etc. — were what ended up hooking lots of folks who might otherwise not have been fans. I can’t tell you the number of games I’ve dumped because that “golden glow” of initial “what’s this game like?” totally sucked.

  24. From where I sit: Blizzard a built in audience from its Warcraft games. Also a great reputation for quality and innovation from the Diablo fans. They created an online mmorpg that took the best elements of the genre, made certain you could learn the game easily, and made it sufficiently graphically simple so that it could be played on a wide variety of machines.

    They loaded in enough quests so that a former SWG guildmate described the game by saying “there is so much to do!”

    Also vastly appealing is the ability to create multiple (is it 5?)characters so you are able to essentially try out a wide variety of skills without deleting your current character. In a way, just having these multiple characters adds “content”.

    I personally don’t care for the game, but I tried Everquest 2 recently which seems a clone of many aspects of WOW, but it seemed more “fun” to me than WOW for some reason.

    I’m looking forward to several upcoming games,I’ll have to see how it all looks to me with bit more mmorpg experience.

  25. I have mentioned these 3 things on many occasion when debating “why” WoW was more popular than SWG:

    – They took the time to get it right.
    – They spent a fortune doing so.
    – They had two of the biggest brands in gaming to work with, Warcraft and Blizzard, with a gigantic in-built audience of core gamers.

    Tho, I think Warcraft and “Diablo” may have been intended above. All the other points regarding WoWs success are related to game experieince, which I have none with WoW.

    I do feel a sense of being vindicated reading this. $OE should have realized that the cards were stacked against them when they “tried” to compete with Blizzard at their level.

    As far as death having a sting, this is a matter of individual player preference. I personally do not mind a “bit” of a penalty for dying. Wounds and/or battlefatigue was fine with me. Maybe even a small amount of added decay to items in my inventory.

    I believe that Shayde has it right when he said, “Classic SWG had it SO right.” To make another MMO that is the same or similar to all the other MMOs on the market would mean that it is “just another MMO”. Same challenges or lack there of. Same genre, orcs and elves. The way of the future, IMO, is to be different and to offer the playerbase all that can be offered.

  26. I also should have mentioned that it is my understanding that Blizzard has servers in China? How many people are in China? If I have misinformation I appologize.

  27. The real question is, how did Blizzard leap from those gnarly RTS/isometric view games to “Roadrunner with a beard” that you can play on anything from a laptop to a LeapPad?

    And…can the upcoming expansion keep the elves happy or will they still be “bored” once they blow though it?

    Does Blizzard still have the ability to innovate or are those lil’ dollar signs going to make them play it safe?

  28. Does Blizzard still have the ability to innovate or are those lil’ dollar signs going to make them play it safe?

    I don’t know that Blizzard has ever been known as particularly innovative. They regard polish and fun as virtues far above innovation. Starcraft is probably the only modern title of theirs you can point at as really bringing innovations to the table. Diablo started out very much as “How do we do NetHack for today?” and the early history of RTSes is well-known, how Dune II really invented it, and then Warcraft imitated, and then C&C, and so on.

    Certainly WoW brings fairly few innovations to the table. The only one that I see as really notable is the differing ability bar behaviors for different classes.

  29. Okay, then, what, in the “post-WOW” era, will everyone be copying? If you were to build a new mmorpg from scratch, what basic elements would you take from them?

  30. Aha…here is what has been rattling around in my mind:
    If you were writing a mystery or science fiction novel novel, there would be certain “conventions” (I think that is the right word) that are used to frame the story, that don’t need to be explained to regular genre readers. Is there a set of mmorpg “conventions” that are used as the base building blocks of design? I’m thinking everything from interface to character classes. I see so many people complaining that there are too many fantasy mmorpgs for instance. But I can see that if you know the basics of how they work it is easier to move from one game to the next. Why is it easier seemingly to stick with fantasy settings? Can games like Tabula Rasa and Huxley draw people who are used to and comfortable in the other types of worlds?

  31. Okay, then, what, in the “post-WOW” era, will everyone be copying? If you were to build a new mmorpg from scratch, what basic elements would you take from them?

    I know you weren’t asking me, but I feel so totally compelled to answer. 🙂

    Personally, I would take everything I could. I would copy WoW as slavishly as possible without infringing on copyrights, and do so as cheaply as possible, then use the profits to make a bunch of innovative niche games, and keep my WoW clone alive as long as I could. Then I’d make WoW Clone II: The Epic Sequel to keep the cash flowing.

    Anybody remember when collectible card games were at their peak? SJ Games’ Illuminati: New World Order beat out Magic: The Gathering at one point. Steve Jackson often described it as “Making a CCCG and making a few bucks.” I see the WoW model as the CCG of today. The question is, how can you “make a few bucks” off it?

  32. Not unless it had a means to attract a huge new audience like WOW did, but that’s not my point.

    If WOW had been a difficult MMO to play, with harsh death penalties, complex skill systems and the like, would those first hundred thousand new MMOers have told their mates how great this game was and kept playing it? They’d have decided it was boring and difficult very quickly and gone back to their RTS or SPRPGs and never MMOed again.

    If you had made WOW as it is, but with no name behind it; or if you had made a WOW/Blizzard game that was difficult to play rather than simple, then in either case you wouldn’t have had the huge success that WOW has.

    You need the whole package to get the success, it wasn’t due to one aspect alone.

    Saying that the RTS/SRPG fanbase don’t want complexity is questionable IMO. What is the reason no one plays Diablo 1 anymore?

    Because Diablo 2 offers a more complex skill set.

    I can maybe see the possibility that new MMO’ers need a starter game to get into the genre, BUT I definately think they will grow beyond that starter game. They will eventually want a game like UO, SoR, the old SWG, Vangard, ect… I garuntee, like in every other MMORPG based upon simplistic design, the WoW fanbase will get bored and want more. I believe it is human nature, well atleast human nature in market societies, to want more.

    I also can not buy that the fanbase for PnP and Single Player RPG’s, which are basically primers for MMORPG’s, can not handle complexity. I can not buy that the RTS fanbase, which needs to manage resources then build an army and then come up with a strategy of attack, can’t handle complexity. I believe both of these fanbases not only can handle a complex game, but also seek them out.

    WoW’s success is brilliant marketing: creating a rabid Blizzard fanbase since their first games came out. I believe if they made a UO clone, with all its world-like glory, then it would have killed every MMORPG out there and added 5 million new people to the genre. (Which is a good thing they did’nt, unemployed developers are dangerous. Or is that just R&D for the arms industry?)

    And even if your right about WoW, what is the complexity threshold? What makes a game too complex for the beginner? Is the most simple design really the best for keeping beginners?

    I’m sorry, until we have actual research, scientific and unbaised, I will not take any “common sense” but my own… though I will listen to your opinion.

  33. To say WoW isn’t complex would be a big mistake. If you’ve ever tried to pick up a level 60 of a class you aren’t familiar with and play it, you will realize exactly how complex the game really is.

    However that isn’t to say that the game isn’t easy. It simply gives enough time from level 1 to 60 to grant competence to the players in their class of choice. They gain abilities at such a pace as to allow plentiful time and practice in order to master their newfound skills. In addition the 1-60 game comes coupled with a decided lack of challenge. Players start off following the quest line and end when they’ve hit the level cap. For a lot of people this is fun. Every 2 levels they get new skills to play with, and as they level up they also get new NPCs to conquer, and new vistas to view. This is a very appealing formula. If WoW was truly simple then it would not keep many players very long, it is complex, but mastery is not required for success. Simple competence will do.

    At the same time I agree that players will quite probably burn out on this style of play, and hopefully they do begin to look beyond a game that isn’t necessarily lacks simple (at least in its primary mode of play, adventuring), but one that lacks depth of play, and perhaps they will look to one that provides a greater sense of challenge and required mastery. This could be something that follows in the diku-minded footsteps of EQ and WoW, or it could be something that is in nature more sandbox and ‘world’ centric (dare I say, Kosterian). I would argue that it is the job of the next generation of MMO’s not to necessarily innovate themselves as far from WoW as possible, but to take the foundation that WoW has built and run with it.

  34. Athela-

    If you were writing a mystery or science fiction novel novel, there would be certain “conventions” (I think that is the right word) that are used to frame the story, that don’t need to be explained to regular genre readers. Is there a set of mmorpg “conventions” that are used as the base building blocks of design?

    I think the answer is No, but people are working toward it. There is a differance between conventions, descriptive data, and actionable data

    This is why Theory of Fun and Raph’s work with Grammer of Games is important. lexicons and language is required to understand the “space” games operate in as well as the “blocks” from which they are made.

    If I understood you these are the conventions to which you refer.

    Cunsultants like SirBruce, Marketing people like Morgan Ramsey, Academics like Nick Yee, Developers and Producers like Raph, programmers, academics, business, and gamers themselves need this. And yes even data miners like myself could use it so I can more efficiantly provide data to people like those mentioned above and make thier particular areas of work and lives easier.

    My concern is about quality (what goes into games that make them great) and efficiancy and the positive impacts games can have. I’ve been able to describe the data required to capture this information and design the mechanism by which it is captured. And I believe this will have some utility to those people mentioned above. However, descriptive data and actionable data are a far cry from formulating a lexicon to describe the parameters and building blocks of a subject. Thats hard footwork, with possibly little return but much value for everyone involved.

    PJMRM-

    –Also, I really wish MMORPG’s would start publishing their numbers, even in something like an industry journal that is a couple hundred dollars an issue. MMORPG’s have become an obsessive hobby to me and I really would like to study them futher and to study something, well you need information.

    You should not have to buy an industry journal to get answers and Consultants like Bruce shouldnt have to cull through so many resources to find the data he needs to do his work, people should not have to rely on various sites and “common sense” to find answers and we should not have to hope the companies will release accurate numbers (which will likely never happen) It should be readily available, accessable and not cost hundereds of dollars thats what we’re working toward at Gamemarketmetrics, but its success is heavily reliant on the support of all those mentioned above, and gamers themselves, because frankly I dont have a million dollar marketing budget, people who love video games will drive its success if they care enough.

    There is also a differance between wishing one had data about what thier interested in and contributing to make that data happen. I dont think I’m wasting my time, and a truckload of money on betting people will help make this happen, and if you’d like to help feel free to visit the site and email me and I’ll add you to the list. I’m not Santa but I can hopefully grant your wish come December

  35. I played WoW for about a year (it was about my 4th or 5th MMORPG). From day one, I found it to be polished and newbie-friendly. The most important thing though, was that it showed CLEARLY that Blizzard had put a lot of effort into making everything FUN.

    Some random examples:
    (1) Players (usually) don’t like to run for 30 minutes before they start their adventure. So Blizzard provides birdie routes that will get you there in 5-10 minutes.
    (2) Players might need to log off unexpectedly. They don’t want to log off in a dangerous area, or worse, have to spend 30 minutes running back to town. So Blizzard provides a Hearthstone.
    (3) To give you more incentive to actually use your Hearthstone before logging out, rested XP is increased in cities and inns. As a result, when players log in they are usually in a city or at least an inn, which means they are likely to be around other players right away.
    (4) Players are likely to stay and grind the same things for hours and hours (despite this being really boring) if they believe that is the BEST way to advance. So Blizzard creates lots of quests that actually have *good* rewards, so that the BEST way to advance is usually to do as many quests as you can! And after you’ve killed your 15 bandits and collected 10 rat tails and whatever else the local quests require, you have an incentive to go somewhere else and do other quests. The result is that most players naturally choose a path where they are travelling around to new places and doing new quests in those places and thereby DON’T get bored.
    (5) Players sometimes like to do risky things that might cause their death, but they hate having to grind for 30 minutes or an hour to earn back the XP they lose when they die. Blizzard’s solution? Essentially no death penalty. Now you can jump off the top of the waterfall in Loch Modan and not worry about what it will cost you when you hit the bottom!

  36. Branding is a HUGE reason WoW did so well. Not only did it have the “Blizzard” Branding and the “Warcraft” branding…it had the “Not SOE” branding as well. With so many mmo players fleeing SWG at the various stages (JTL, CU, immediately after the Anaheim Fanfare when I realized the dev’s didn’t have a CLUE…., etc) people looked for a new home. Soon to launch was Eq2, and WoW. People with a bad taste in their mouths at how “SOE” ruined SWG had an alternate choice, rather than another soe product. People who wanted PvP had a product with WoW. Casual Gamers had a product to go to in WoW, while eq1 was still too hardcore, and eq2 in the beginning wasn’t much of a better choice for the casuals, the solo’ers, etc.

    The only place that eq2 had an advantage was in the big raiding guilds, since WoW’s endgame took so long to come out.. but they lost a wave of players, and got em back, or replaced em eventually.

    So lets not underestimate the power of great timing, and both positive branding, and negativity towards competing brands…

  37. I think WoW’s success is more about the polish, the branding, and the ease of getting into the game than it is about the lack of socialization or the emphasis on “playing alone”. People say those things because of frustration with other games, not because they see a lack of it in the games they enjoy. Polish, branding, and ease of getting into the game are things that draw players into the game world. Socialization, like endgame content, is something that keeps them once they’re already there. I meet tons of WoW burnouts who decide to try out other MMOs. To me anyway, that would seem to indicate that WoW gets people into the market, but it doesn’t do a great job of keeping them.

    The truth is, if someone is having fun, they’re willing to overlook all manner of annoying things – like needing to find a group, having to kill 200 more zombies to level, or whatever. It’s when they’re not having fun that things become a problem. Not that future games shouldn’t try to minimize the grind and make it easy for players to meet each other and group up, but at the same time, we shouldn’t be trying to design socialization out of games because it’s an important part of keeping players around once they’ve gotten through your level/quest/whatever progression.

    The lessons to learn from WoW (in my opinion) are:

    1. Content, content, content. Solo content, group content, raid content – just lots and lots of it.
    2. Polish. Do not let marketing determine your release date. Get it polished first, then declare beta 4 so you build up the buzz and start your countdown to launch.
    3. Continued marketing after launch.
    4. Build in the end-games and the metagames and have them there, ready, waiting when players get through the initial stuff, so that you keep players. This is something WoW didn’t do well and it hurt them in terms of retention.
    5. Do everything you can to encourage community development without harming fun. Again, something WoW has not done well, and it’s hurt their retention.

  38. The Player Checklist:

    Here are some of what I see people asking about as they look forward to new games:

    Plot: Story arc, background, quests, Ip or original storyline

    Character: Creation options, classes, advancement, option for good and evil and other faction types.

    Setting: Time period, genre, world size, travel options, instancing, sandbox

    Mechanics: mail, bank, auction houses, player vendors, group sizes, raids, tutorial, guild management, resource management and collection.

    That is the sort of thing I mean by “conventions”.
    Yup, I need to read Raph’s books and all will be clear, you’re right. 😀

  39. Hey, has anyone done a feature to feature comparison like what they do in consumer reports, computer spec reviews, etc.

    Once we have identified all the various features and options, we’ll be able to see more clearly what are the common key success factors.

    Currently we are making educated guesses at the success factors. Following Allen’s thoughts, I think the person or organization that spends the time and effort to tackle this issue will advice more clearly the determination of what make an MMO RPG successful.

    Frank

  40. 2 things: one about brand and marketing, and one about complexity vs. complicatedness.

    1. PJMRM said: “WoW’s success is brilliant marketing: creating a rabid Blizzard fanbase since their first games came out.”

    If it was all about marketing, and MMOs were as easy to pick up as you say, Star Wars would have mopped the floor with WoW long ago. The worldwide fanbase of Star Wars is in the billions, not millions. The number of Star Wars games, movies, cartoons, comics and books sold outnumber Blizzards by an order of magnitude. Yes, Blizzard has excellent marketing. And WoW was sold and marketed very well. But you can’t spin a dog, and if WoW had sucked eggs, all their valued brand and marketing prowess wouldn’t have saved them from the ravenning masses who would have torn them apart for “selling out” or “getting it wrong” or “funging up the franchise,” etc. etc.

    2. Complex vs. Complicated. Complexity is good. Complicatedness is bad. And there is a difference. In a marketing/social/user interface setting, complexity can be described, simply, as “lots of choices.” Complicated is defined more as, “difficult to understand.” Yes, the two often go together, but they don’t have to.

    Take a well merchandised clothing store like The Gap. You go in looking for a particular pair of mens, stone-washed jeans in your size. You’re in a strange Gap, in a mall you’ve never been in. But the instant you enter, you can tell, “There’s men’s clothes.” Bang. 1 second. “There’s pants.” 2 seconds. “Jeans.” 3 seconds, and you’re already half way to them. “Blue… no… Black… There. Grey. Acid wash, distressed… Ah. Stone washed.” About 10 seconds. “Size… size… size…There. Mine. One pair left. Cool.”

    You’ve found one item of clothing out of about 15,000 in less than 20 seconds. The choices available in a Gap are purposefully complex. But the process is not complicated. The trick in marketing is to make it just like that, because people LIKE choice, but not being confused.

    WoW does a good job of differentiating, too. It is a more “retail friendly” MMO. Again, the gradual noob curve helps. Being able to have so many quests open at one time helps, too. It encourages choice without frustration if you do want to go “sideways.” There is a lot to do, and as one person above said, at the higher levels, it is clearly highly complex. But by the time you’re at Level 20, even… And certainly Level 40… you have mastered all the elements of control, many of the social elements, world elements, etc. At that point, you’ve gone way beyond worrying about entry-level issues of complexity and probably begun to cherish details, tweaks, etc. ie, creating your own complexity. And a system that allows for that is even better.

  41. I forgot these features:

    More Mechanics: Graphics, connectivity (can I use Dial up?), Risk vs. Reward, Role Player Friendly, PVP, Chat Options, UI Customizeable?

  42. What?!?!?!?

    This makes no sense!

    Players apparently want to….. to play a game that’s…. that’s…. ‘fun’…?

    They……. like……. combat????

    They… don’t like waiting on other players in order to proceed in the game?

    They… want to choose who they socialize with and when, rather than have it forced on them?

    No no no, this is all wrong! These players must be wrong. Clearly they do not know what they want at all, because they cannot possibly want these things.

    See, all of the most popular MMOs up until now have had all of those elements. They’ve focused on combat. They’ve let you choose whether or not to socialize. They’ve been fun. And they’ve been very successful.

    That is unacceptable.

    We can’t follow that path, Raph. It’s popular. It’s accepted. It’s been proven to work. Millions of players – the unwashed masses, I should say – love it.

    You’re not going to lower yourself to actually giving the players what they like, are you Raph?

    Surely these WoW players are just immature players. They haven’t learned to stop wanting combat. They haven’t learned to ‘commit’ to an MMO so that it consumes their entire lives. They haven’t learned to stop wanting fun.

    That’s why we’re depending on you, Raph! We trust you to ignore the demands of millions upon millions of players and continue to make games that force us to socialize with each other; games that feature dozens of forms of crafting and dancing-related gameplay (while cleverly making the combat gameplay boring, so as to discourage people away from that evil activity); and, most of all, games that you can run through for hours upon hours without ever finding a shred of fun.

  43. I think Wepps is on the loose again…

  44. ^wepps^

    Gota be, its unconstructive and completely missing the point of the article and making a persional attack on Mr.Koster. lol.

  45. […] The Sunday Poem: On the Carretera Panamericana, South of LimaThe billboards along the road, dry, Sandblasted pink and pale, Aren’t even markers of distance yet. At my age of fourteen and at 80 at least The little crosses by the highwayside Look like stupidity—I see a straight road, Air sharp as thirst, dunes and sand piled high, The beach somewhere ahead. We even stop to look At one grave, and puzzle out […] ManifestingAs just about everybody has noted, Greg Costikyan’s grand experiment to bring indie gaming to the center of the gaming world has launched: ManifestoGames.com. A lot of old indie game faves are here, from Crimsonland to DROD, plus a bunch I have never heard of before. Check it out. Worldcon: “World of Warcrack” panelSo yesterday morning I moderated this panel. The folks on the panel were a distinguished bunch: Bill Fawcett, who dropped anecdotes about when Gary would use NPC thieves to rob his party blind — yes, he meant gary Gygax; Justin Lloyd, who started developing games sometime in the Pleistocene; Mike Stemmle, who’s a lead on […] Another game law struck downWell, “preliminarily injuncted” anyway. CNet reports that this time it was Louisiana’s, on the by-now familiar grounds that games are protected speech, there’s no solid evidence of harm to minors, and the terms were all left vague. Pretty much the same grounds that all the other laws have foundered on. At this rate, we’re building up […] PalabraSo I finish dinner, then I wander about the hotel lobby here at Worldcon, and see a sign saying “Gaming Registration This Way.” So of course I follow it. At the end of a series of posters I find a room where there’s some kids playing something loud, a few scattered tables with Carcasonne and […] I’m at WorldconAfter a day of meetings and six hours of driving. I parked, registered at the hotel, and went straight to register for the con. In the space of five minutes I saw Joe Haldeman and Harry Turtledove. It’s so big that I am unsure where to go or what to do now. Find food is probably a […] So much for revenge.Today Microsoft is giving away Texas Hold ‘Em as a free download on Live (they will charge for it tomorrow). So I grabbed it. Elena has never played poker. We walked through the help screens, then I started a single-player game with $150. I lost a few, I won a few, and I was at $120, […] Table Tennis RevengeLong ago, I blogged about how I suck at Rockstar Table Tennis and my kids were crushing me. The tables (ha ha) were turned yesterday, as they played the real thing for the first time. David had trouble hitting the table, and Elena had trouble hitting the ball on a serve. Then I showed them a real […] State of Play IV Asia announcedAnd it’s going to be in Singapore! Well, that lowers the chances I’ll attend, I suppose! I haven’t made it to the last two because work pressures kept me away, but this year I was looking forward to it. Here’s the announcement for State of Play IV Asia, whose topic is “building the global metaverse.” […] ( vote for this news ) […]

  46. My theory: The more casual (high soloability, near absent death penalty, near absent timesink)a MMORPG is the more succesful it will be.

    WoW from level 1-59 is a masterpiece of “fun” design. WoW endgame is another story altogether…

  47. Oh, that one’s so gonna get a whole post in reply. 🙂

  48. Hey, has anyone done a feature to feature comparison like what they do in consumer reports, computer spec reviews, etc.

    Yes, we have around 987 descriptive data points across 9 broad areas. I add more (5-15 roughly) weekly. At this point its just about fine tuning some areas where I need more points (Console games mainly, *hint*hint* if your a console dev, player, etc. email me)

    Once we have identified all the various features and options, we’ll be able to see more clearly what are the common key success factors.

    Thats our objective, what we’re doing actually encompasses much more, which we’re building/fine tuning and testing through November. This is the descriptive/actionable data that will allow for others to build the lexicon/language, or rather “blocks” that define the “space” I mentioned above. If we think of this linguistically/symbolically: The alphabet already exits for games, and some rudimentary words, and a rough dictionary, we (GMM) are adding and refining words, building a thesaurus, but fundamentally I am just a technician, the work of building, using, marketing, understanding, and selling phrases, sentances, paragraphs, essays, novels, thats the work of others….

  49. […] WoW TBC Spelldatabase auf Curse Heute, um 18:32 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor Noch ned so ganz strukturiert, aber denke das wird die aktuellste Datenbank dazu bleiben. News auf Curse mit links zu ihren TBC Sektionen: http://www.curse-gaming.com/en/news-321-1-burning-crusade-spell-database.html WoW World of Warcrack Heute, um 17:29 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor So war der Titel einer Podiumsdiskussion mit Raph Koster, über den Erfolg von WoW. Passt eigentlich garnicht, aber geht ja auch um die Aufmerksamkeit. Einige Punkte haben sie ganz gut formuliert, aber zumindest beim Punkt Timesink liegen sie eigentlich total daneben oder hätten es etwas differenzierter formulieren müssen. # They took the time to get it right. # They spent a fortune doing so. # They had two of the biggest brands in gaming to work with, Warcraft and Blizzard, with a gigantic in-built audience of core gamers. # They made sure that there were no penalties to things you did; death has no sting, and timesinks are minimal. * Blizzard focused absolutely on the fun, with no pretenses towards being anything other than a game; no frou-frou dreams of being a virtual world. * Blizzard focused on combat, and everything else was icing. * The game permits massive amounts of “playing alone together,” never making you interact with others. Rest: http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/08/26/worldcon-world-of-warcrack-panel/ Allgemein FB vs. GC Heute, um 17:09 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor Fazit nach unserem diesjährigen Besuch: Neuigkeitswert = Null, überfüllt das es schlimmer kaum geht, unter einer Stunde anstellen kam man zu garnix. Ausser bei irgendwelchen Pferdespielen und dergleichen. Mädels waren ok, die 2 besoffenen mit dem Megafon z.B. (Fotos inc später) Abgreifen (AB, nicht aus) konnte man auch kaum was, und wenn hätte man ein paar Stunden irgendeinem dümmlichen Anheizer zuhören müssen. Die GOA Party (rechtes Bild) danach war genauso überfüllt, damit hatten die wohl selber auch ned so ganz gerechnet. Die ersten 40 Leute warn irgendwie nur von Avalon. Wir warn wenigstens früh genug da, aber auch leider etwas früher wieder weg da wir noch 3 Stunden durch den Wald fahren mussten. Allgemein Wieder mal Goldfarmer – Artikel über IGE Heute, um 13:39 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor IGE ist eine der größeren Firmen die Game Item, Gold und Levelservice anbieten. http://www.ige.com/ Gamasutra hatte ein Interview mit ihrem COO, und die Story darüber gibt einen recht guten Überblick wie sowas funktioniert. IGE gehört z.B. auch Thottbot (http://www.thottbot.com/) und Allakhazam (http://www.allakhazam.com/). Über 400 Angestellte, demnächst wohl 600. Quelle: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20060825/carless_01.shtml WoW TBC News 24.08.2006 um 21:23 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor Die Alpha läuft ja schon, erste Details leaken durch (http://img169.imageshack.us/my.php?image=roguetalzh8yw8.jpg), obwohl man ja einer fight-club artigen Vereinbarung zustimmen musste. https://beta.worldofwarcraft.com/expansion/ Was aber etwas Bedenken über den Erscheinungstermin aufkommen lässt, ist ein Interview mit Blizzard COO Paul Sams (http://gamesindustry.biz/content_page.php?aid=19280). Neben der Ankündigugn dass jedes Jahr eine Expamsion kommen soll, schreib er "We’re still quoting very confidently winter and we will be more specific on the timeframe quite soon." WINTER ist ein wirklich langer Zeitraum, denn der geht bis 21. März. Eventuell kommts ja doch erst Anfang Februar. Die Beliebtesten release Dates scheinen Anfang Dezember und Anfang Februar zu sein. Anfang Dezember ist aber noch nichtmal im Winter, genaugenommen. Allgemein GCDC über MMOs 23.08.2006 um 15:10 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor Auf dem Developer teil der GC gabs eine Diskussion zum Thema "The Future of MMO", Teilnehmer waren unter anderem Eugene Evans von EA/Mythic, und einige ex SOE Leute. Einige interessante Passagen: Evans talked about Mythic’s behind-closed-doors showing of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning running on an Xbox 360 earlier this year, saying that the game would require a very different interface to work on a console. Armstrong suggested a game in which the integration of PC and console players would be optional or restricted to certain instanced areas as a possible solution, although when she asked the audience of around 120 for a show of hands supporting the idea, only one went up. PC gamers, it seems, don’t like to share their gameworlds with console players unless doing so gives them some kind of advantage, as you’d expect in a first-person shooter or real-time strategy game where the mouse is king. Also eher nix mit WAR auf Konsole. Über Goldhandel "That discussion segued nicely into one about players using real-world money to pay for in-game items, which the majority of the panel was against," ahjo, mal schaun wie lange das hält, aufhalten werden die es auch nimmer können. Whether or not companies will find a way to get rid of gold farmers once and for all remains to be seen, but you can bet that the battle is far from over. Naja, zumindest Blizzard hat ihn aber schon recht offensichtlich verloren The idea of being able to use a cell phone or PDA to trade items or to level up skills via minigames, for example, would be great for players in need of an MMO fix while away from their computer. Das birgt auch viel Potential für lustige Werbungen … Level dir deinen Pala auf dem Handy, mit dem WoW Monatspaket … Gratis dazu der Furzrap oder was weis ich Quelle: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6156198.html Allgemein Sucht und MMOs – neue Studie 23.08.2006 um 00:53 Uhr erstellt von: Bergdoktor Hier eine Zusammenfassung der wichtigsten Erkentnisse. Die ganze Arbeit scheint eine ältere Studie von Nick Yee als Ausgangspunkt zu nehmen (über Everquest), und trennt hier erstmals explizit zwischen "Sucht" und "Engagement". * First off, it split things into “addiction” (based on a few standardized definitions and questionnaires) and “engagement,” which was viewed as less harmful. * Seeking PvP advancement was a significant predictor of addiction or engagement, but more so for engagement than addiction. * Belonging to raiding guilds or guilds with a bigger emphasis on hardcore goal-oriented play showed a tendency towards addiction. * Playing with real life friends, engaging in side activities, and belonging to social guilds was related to engagement instead. * Lacking real life friends in the game didn’t increase your odds of addiction. * Players who were addicted showed a propensity towards manipulating other players (scams, stealing, and dominance games). But this isn’t a predictor of addiction in itself. * Speaking of which, the graph of number of players who engage in that sort of “negative valence” behavior showed a classic power law curve. * Roleplay and immersion show no link to addiction. * However, they also do not show any link to engagement, which seems counterintuitive to the author of the study. I might hypothesize here that engagement comes from actual emotional contact with others, rather than from roleplayed relationship. * The individualism of the player in question was unrelated to addiction. * If you prefer raid guilds, you always like social guilds. However, if you like social guilds, you may or may not like raiding. * As we’ve seen before, most of the female players in the study (maxed out ones, in this case) started because their significant other introduced them to the game: 41.2%. Friends accounted for another 23%. * Interestingly, women tended to have either many maxed out alts, or very few. * Older women (over 36) with lots of alts was an interesting finding. There were more women in this bracket with over ten maxed out alts than there were men — even though there were twice as many men in the age bracket! * “Engaged” players self-reported their play time as higher than addicted players. * Over 35% of respondents said they missed meals because of gaming. Eine ausführlichere Zusammenfassung auf Gamasutra: http://gamasutra.com/features/20060822/clark_01.shtml WoW The God is dead 22.08.2006 um 21:14 Uhr erstellt von: Maugan Nach einigen Anstrengungen und dem Verlust von vielen Nerven bei einigen Spielern und der Raidleitung ist es uns heute gelungen C’Thun zu besiegen. An dieser Stelle vielen Dank an die Mitglieder von Frostbringer, Hordenhaufen,die Geissel und ein paar Freunde von das Tribunal. Nun geht es auf zu Ouro, den wir bisher verschont haben. […]

  50. PS: Anonymous- At least use a first name, troll ranting is one thing, hiding = weaksauce

  51. I’m busily mining in EVE, so only “IMHO” style soundbites as to why WOW is so big:

    1. Apart from the big single player of the past 2 years, HL2, there have been very few “big games” to suck up the cash. Thus bored gamers ask their schoolchums “what’s good?” and they all reply “WOW”.

    2. It got everything right first time. This has been a huuuuge bonus for getting the casual gamer involved. Getting stuck on broken quests, grinding a broken profession, etc kills an MMO for all but the hardcore fans/players (SWG anyone?)

    3. BROADBAND!!! All my friends who only got broadband recently can’t believe the strong net games there are out there, CS:S being a good example. The drive towards broadband, particularly here in the UK, has done more to get PC owners involved in WOW than anything else, I believe.

  52. My time in World of Warcraft has been characterized by highs and lows. I’ve been playing the game since the day it released. I played a number of MMORPG’s before WoW came out, and before WoW I had never heard of Warcraft. During my play time I have canceled my account a couple of times, only to re-activate it because I enjoy the “world”.

    In the beginning I liked the ease of access and the way the story was presented up front. When I first created my character (a Night Elf Druid) I was a little disappointed at the lack of customization but that quickly became a non-issue as the items I gained changed my characters look. After I created my Druid I was treated to an in-game cut scene that introduce my race and gave me some background. This was a very nice way to enter the game because it helped me identify with those around me and allowed my to attach “feelings” to the world.

    After the cut scene I was struck by the sounds, I like the ambient sound in the game. I also enjoyed the unique art; unique in that the game looked unique compared to what was out at the time (I have since come to notice that Blizzard borrowed heavily from Warhammer – at least to my eyes) – and that each “zone” is unique. After the sound and visuals I notice the wealth of early quests. Right from the beginning you are treated with a lot of quests to do. Yes, the include kill and carrier tasks, but so had everything else I played. With these quests, I enjoyed reading the text and learning why this task needed to be done.

    As I progressed through the game I liked that fact that both solo and group content was available. If I wanted to solo, undoubtedly I had quests which I could do by myself, if I wanted to group I had quests that would support a group. I guess I should have mentioned that I started the game in a guild so I also had the social aspect whether soloing due to time constraints or grouping. Having both solo and group content was great. I am a working adult, student, father, and husband and sometimes I just have short bursts of time to play, while at others (late a night) I can have hours. I cannot overstate how important having both options were to me in the first 4 months of game play.

    As I progressed in levels I was having lots of fun. Gaining new spells, determining where I wanted to place my class specializing talents, and acquiring new items, and completing new quests and learning more about the world and the ongoing conflicts was just a lot of fun. Other smaller things made the game fun also, the auction houses, the PvP (my first toon was on a PvE server), the light but useful crafting and trade skills – they all helped slightly shift the focus from combat enough to keep the game feeling “well rounded”.

    I also enjoyed the frequent content patches. There really is a lot of content that has been added to the game since release, as I feel should be the case since players will always burn through content.

    There was not much I didn’t like pre-level 60. I liked the relatively fast character progression, I liked the reinforcement (spells every two levels, talent points every level from 10-60, and items acquired from drops, quests, or boss kills).

    Then I hit level 60 and the game changed for me. I still had quests to do, hundreds really, but most the quest reinforcement had gone away. Solo content was still there, it just wasn’t as rewarding as before because I didn’t get XP or substantial rewards. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but hitting level 60 changed my perception of everything because I felt like I stopped progressing. I realized that the new way to progress was through instances. Although instances, and very fun instances at that, are available through almost the entire game, they take on a new role post-level 60. Instances now became a “must” to advance my character in any meaningful way. For months I struggled with this, I shunned the fact doing the same instance over and over just for the “opportunity” for an item I wanted. Instead I focused on world PvP (this was pre-battlegrounds).

    After a few weeks I started playing less and less and started a number of alts. I couldn’t recapture that initial 1-60 feeling though so no alt is past level 31. My guild was not big enough to do the high level instances (Onyxia, Molten Core, Blackwing Lair) and we were losing member because of the post-60 game shift. So I canceled my account.

    After a couple of weeks I felt the urge to be back in the game. Not just any game, but to be in Azeroth. The “atmosphere” and feeling of the game still resonated with me and I wanted to be a part of it. I re-activated my account. I did this canceling, re-activating dance two more times. After the last time I activated my account I decided that the “endgame” is what it is and I should at least make an attempt to give it a try. Since most of our guild members had either stopped playing or moved to other in-game guilds I decided to join a guild that was doing endgame content.

    I’ve been in that guild for about a month now and have been doing the 20-person raids, MC, and BWL. My character has progressed more in the last month that the previous year being level 60. While the game is not as fun as it was 1-60 it is still exciting and rewarding for different reasons. It is exiting because the difficulty level is much higher. Some of the encounter in the 20 and 40-person raids are complex and are almost like combat based puzzles. They require you to learn, adapt, and implement new strategies. You can’t purely overpower much of the endgame, you have to adapt to it (of course firepower never hurts).

    So through it all I am still playing and still enjoying WoW. I only play 3 nights a week now (which is plenty) and most of that time is in the endgame instances because we are still progressing through BWL.

    If I had to take key game components as to why I like WoW I would include:

    -Lore depth: while not Middle-earth, Azeroth as light tradition good versus evil story that is easy to pick up and complicated enough to keep you entertained. The quest are also well done.

    -Easy to learn, hard to master: This old adage holds true here, learning the basics comes fast, master the nuance takes time and thought. This could be compounded by the class I play, but it also goes for the encounters you come across in the world. In the endgame, most members need to know what to do or you fail.

    -Polish: The game is AAA. From the unique atmosphere in each zone, sounds, emotes, raid tools, UI customization, to the “Easter eggs” in the game, to the boss encounters, the auction house, mounts, etc… – there are a large number of “small” things in the game that give the game depth.

    -Reward system: I never like to go too long without my hamster pellet and this game gives them to me regularly.

    -Combat system: I think the combat is fun enough. It could be better, it could be much worse.

    In closing, I don’t think it is one thing that made WoW successful, it is the fact they have lots of small things that are well integrated that make the sum worth more than the parts. One last thing, I do know this game would not be what it is without the ability to have user created modifications. The fact that a large amount of my game is actually enhanced by user created content is a huge bonus for Blizzard.

  53. Raph, Raph, Raph… please just let go of it…. this whole “socialization” thing. You’re starting to sound like one of those cognoscenti that the world has passed by, leaving them to mutter to themselves in a corner.

    WoW is a huge success because it does things right. Not because the unwashed masses like it, but rather because it simply does a MMORPG right. The polish, the seamless gameplay, the graphics, yes they’re all excellent, but more than anything else Blizzard succeeded because they understood how people want to socialize. We want to “play alone together” and we don’t necessarily want to group unless we choose to. They’re not perfect: endgame is flawed, and I am so tired of immature pickup groups, but Blizzard still does it better than any other game out there.

    Don’t get me wrong – I loved pre-CU SWG. I put more time into that game than I ever will again (as a non-combatant to boot). But that game is gone, and WoW is here, and the reason is because WoW gives people what they want – as bitter a pill as that may be for you and others to swallow.

    Your other panel members understood what you don’t seem to grasp: people don’t want single-player games, and yet they don’t want to be forced to group to otherwise do what they don’t want to do. Blizzard has masked the less-appetizing aspects of MMORPG leveling better than anyone, surrounded it with outstanding game mechanics, and given people what they want. I’m certainly not a fanboi, I’ve simply reached a point in my life where I prefer success over elitism. The debacle of SWG hardened my heart towards MMORPGs, but it gave me better focus – success is better than affectations of theoretical worlds that will never come to pass.

  54. […] Over on the thread about the Worldcon panel on WoW, an anonymous poster engaged in a bit of sarcasm: What?!?!?!? […]

  55. Klingsor, I ended up replying to some of your comment in the new post I just made.

    Of course people don’t want to be forced to group with jerks, with idiots, with inept players. My point here, and in the new post, is that “the less-appetizing aspects” of MMORPGs seem to be the parts that make it an MMORPG.

    When I played WoW, this was my experience:

    I saw a guy with a quest on his head.
    He told me to see another guy.
    I talked to that guy and he said to kill five wolves.
    I did and he said to kill ten wolves.
    I did and he said to kill fifteen wolves.
    I did and he said to kill five kobolds.
    I did and he said to kill ten kobolds.
    I did and he said go into that cave and kill fifteen kobolds.
    Then I quit talking to him because I was bored.
    Casting about for anything else, I found a quest to gather grapes.
    But I was made to kill five bandits.
    Then I was asked to kill ten bandits.
    Then I punted on killing fifteen bandits and left the zone.
    The crossroads had not a single person “hanging out.”
    The crossroads had nothing I could buy, because I “wasn’t supposed to be there yet.”
    The craft teachers would not teach me, because I “wasn’t supposed to be there yet.”
    I set off down the road.
    I saw something snuffling in the grass right off the road.
    I stepped off the road and died instantly.
    I went back and died instantly.
    I went back and died instantly again.
    I logged out and went to work and said “this sucks.”
    They said “the problem is that you started as a human. The cool quests are elsewhere.”
    So I made a night elf.
    I clicked on the guy with the quest.
    Kill five shadowcats, or whatever.
    Kill ten.
    I climbed to the top of the (gorgeous) tree house, jumped off, and killed myself.

    This was not a massively multiplayer experience in any way. It was a single-player game, and it bored me silly, probably because I have slain my last kobold in this lifetime.

    I am not saying that I am typical. I am not. I have probably moved past the entire suite of possible Diku-style gameplay. But it does mean that I think that “this is now the one true way” is a mistake.

  56. This was not a massively multiplayer experience in any way. It was a single-player game, and it bored me silly, probably because I have slain my last kobold in this lifetime.

    Is it not therefore funny that the endgame demands player grouping, up to 40 a time, to achieve anything even remotely worth boasting about over a frothing cup of darkmoon faire ale?

    I gave up on WOW because while it was gorgeous to look at, and was fun in small groups, I didn’t like hanging about for hours waiting for a group, then hanging about more waiting for it to fill up, then spending more hours raiding a dungeon because hlf the group didn’t know what they were doing…all for a small chance of a piece of armour that my suit needed.

    WOW wins because it’s (a) full of people who aren’t 60 yet and (b) because it’s a fun single player game with a chatroom attached to the bottom of the screen…

  57. WoW is a huge success because it does things right. Not because the unwashed masses like it, but rather because it simply does a MMORPG right.

    I don’t think any MMORPG has done it right yet.

    WoW is successful because it gives people what they know they can get. WoW doesn’t promise people a second virtual life. They just tell people it’s gonna be fun killing these monsters and getting loot. But I think most people do want the more realistic and in depth games that they can totally become obsessed with. It’s just too bad those type of games haven’t been made yet. So in the meantime people settle for things like WoW and Halo.

    I think the reason more ambitious and worldly type of MMORPGs haven’t caught on yet is because in the back of everyone’s mind we know that what these type of games set out to accomplish just can’t be done with current technology. It’s a let down before we even play, so most people don’t bother. It’s kinda like going to a psychic. Most people don’t go to psychics because they know psychics can’t really tell the future. Sure, some people like to kid themselves (these people are RPers in MMORPGS) but they’re the minority. That doesn’t mean that average person wouldn’t jump at the chance to know his or her future. It just means they know it can be done so they don’t even bother. I think that’s the general attitude towards MMORPGS, especially the real worldly ones. As soon as it’s proven it can be done right, then I think MMORPGs will become the most popular form of entertainment around.

  58. Raph what is funny about your last reply is that admittedly you didn’t give the game a chance. So the game gave you a nice slow introduction into the game and you got frustrated. That’s what that post sounded like. Not everyone has previous game or MMORPG knowledge. To address that issue there is usually an introduction period that lasts X amount of time, or X levels.

    I agree that in the beginning WoW actually rewards solo play. However, that slowly changes as the game progresses. That is actually a key concept in the whole game – things slowly progress and change.

    BTW – I’ve never understood “hanging out” in a video game when chat is available. Why do people feel the need to have avatars close to each other to socialize? Or am I just misreading your post about people not “hanging out”.

  59. Raph what is funny about your last reply is that admittedly you didn’t give the game a chance. So the game gave you a nice slow introduction into the game and you got frustrated.

    It got hours out of me — I forget how many, but it was probably around 5 or 6. That’s more than most games get (I frequently spend $50 on a game I will play for twenty minutes). It’s plenty of time to determine what the core mechanics are and deduce what the elaborations on that mechanic will be.

    It’s not that I was frustrated at the slow ramp. It’s that I saw the entire scope of the game laid out for me. I know full well that there are nice quests, craftables, raids, armor set collecting, and all the rest ahead of me. The issue is that I have played that game before, and the nuances just aren’t enough to interest me anymore.

    I am not dissing the game — I think it’s excellently well done for what it is. It’s just that “what it is” is not a game that interests me anymore.

    BTW – I’ve never understood “hanging out” in a video game when chat is available. Why do people feel the need to have avatars close to each other to socialize? Or am I just misreading your post about people not “hanging out”.

    In larger games, the general chat channels are exactly like the city street — crowded, loud, and you can’t actually converse with anyone. So you have to resort to private channels. And you don’t have have private channels unless you already know people. But you can’t meet people because the general chat channels and the city street are…

    You get the idea.

    The “bandwidth” of social communication is also a lot bigger when there’s a good mix of “face to face” and chat level communication. Emotes, movement, a sense of widening circles of people, and so on.

  60. […] Is It Possible to Surpass World of Warcraft? on GameDaily BIZ is DFC Intelligence’s David Cole taking on the same topic as the “Warcrack panel.” He comes to largely the same conclusions: […]

  61. I respect the “been there done that” feeling a person can get from a game that is similar to it’s predecessors.

  62. Raph, it sounds like you hadn’t even left the boxed-in starter lands, except to die because you weren’t suppose to be there yet. 🙂

    Part of what-they-did-right was figure that new people to MMOs will pick things familiar to them, namely humans, and the human starter area is even more hand-holding than the rest. The Dwarf/Gnome area is full of humor, and the Elves have the hardest start of the “good guys”. They feel more isolated because they are ….. um, what’s another word for isolated? On the other end of the stick, the Horde’s hardest start is the Undead.

    One thing that I noticed right away and seemed different from other MMOs is that the guy that wants you to kill five wolves is standing in front of the wolves. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that with a ranged weapon you could complete his quest without walking at all. All the little combat creatures are packed very close to each other. Three feet of river keep the wolves from the bandits; later a fence will serve the same purpose.

    The flavor-text for the quests can sometimes get very interesting, but almost all of the quests are either a) Kill X number of monsters, (where X may be one, and the monster a “named-elite” b) pick up X number of items (either from looting monsters [Which means killing them first. And why don’t the rats drop two ears?] or by clicking on spawning objects [Which means killing everything between you and the objects]) , c) escort NPC (which means killing everything along the way) or d) Run an errand (talk to the King, carry this to the outlands, bring me something you can buy from another player, etc.). Type “d” is always part of a chain that is filled with the other ones. It’s not immediately clear to me what a different quest would look like within the framework of WoW. Dialog trees seem like they don’t fit the model if you can only do them once because with few exceptions you aren’t really allowing the players to make mistakes. I’m reminded of when they added objects to City Of Heroes that you had to punch until they exploded instead of just clicking on them. Sometimes the difference between a boss fight and a rescue mission is just the NPC standing near him. “Help us Ulala!”

    Getting back to the text in WoW, they do create the start of arcs for the bandits leading up to Van Cleef, the first must-do mission for the allies, which chains into the next instance as well. So there is a story, if you want to read it. It’s not a dynamic one generated as you cut a path thru the world. In many ways how much you enjoy WoW centers on if you see the wires. 🙂

  63. […] Worldcon: “World of Warcrack” panel […]

  64. […] ! World of Warcraft : 14 2006 - , . .   Blizzard , “”. , , , World of Warcraft . “” MMORPG, WoW , . , . Blizzard, Warcraft . . , “”  ,  , Blizzard. : , ,  ( MMORPG), –  . , Blizzard,   WoW, . , , . , . – . , , Blizzard : , . , , . “ Crysis” – , . “” , , “”, , . , , , . WoW , . , . . , : . , – . PvP . , World of Warcraft – . , , - . , , . . , MMORPG - . “World of Warcraft – MMO , - ” – , Ultima Online. : , – , , , . “ ” - , “ , ” . , , – .   Warcraft, Diablo ( dungeon crawler’) , . , , , - - . World of Warcraft , MMORPG : . WoW Warhammer Online. , , , Warhammer Blizzard . , . […]

  65. […] Les ides de Raph Koster sont de manire gnrale trs intressantes. Je vous conseille vivement son blog: http://www.raphkoster.com IL a aussi crit un bouquin qui n’est pas dnu d’intrt. Ca fait un moment que je lis ce qu’il crit et dit et je dois dire que je le trouve assez clairvoyant. Contrairement beaucoup de gens dans sa profession, il semble avoir une assez bonne notion commerciale globale.Je vous conseille vivement ses avis concernant WoW par exemple, c’est assez plein de vrit. Contrairement beaucoup d’autres il ne critique pas mais admet le succs et l’explique tout en expliquant pourquoi il est possible et intressant d’offrir autre chose.Je trouve qu’il pose de manire gnrale les bonnes questions. Et c’est peut-tre d’ailleurs a la chose qui est apprciable avec lui. C’est quelqu’un qui questionne beaucoup et explique beaucoup sa faon d’arriver ses conclusions, trs pdagogique en somme.Aprs, on est d’accord ou pas, je pense que a dpend de la faon de voir les MMOs mais pour ma part je le trouve beaucoup plus intelligent et clairvoyant que les mecs de SOE qu’on “entend” et l. Quelques petites choses trs intressantes lire: Do classes suck?World of Warcrack panel Et beaucoup d’autres. pyrhum.net […]

  66. […] ����������, ��� MMORPG ���������� ���������� ��� ��� ��-�� ��������� �������������� ����� ��������. “World of Warcraft – �������� ���������� MMO �� ���, ��� � �����-���� �����” – ������� ��� ������, ���� �� ������� ���������� Ultima Online. �� ��� ����� �� �������� �������� � ������ �������������������� ���: ���� ���� ��������� ������� ������������ ����� � ���������������� ������, ������ – �������, ��� ���������� � ������� �, �������, ����� ���� �� ������ ��������. […]

  67. […] derniers jours est : pourquoi ce succs ? David Cole, de l’institut DFC Intelligence, et Raph Koster, ex-responsable chez Sony Online Entertainment (Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies) ont tous deux tudi […]

  68. […] the game that was once called, by me and many others, “the least social MMO on the market,” is now the virtual home away from home for millions, as network effects, familiarity, and its […]

  69. […] the game that was once called, by me and many others, “the least social MMO on the market,” is now the virtual home away from home for millions, as network effects, familiarity, and its […]

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