Damion Schubert’s talk at AGC…

 Posted by (Visited 15895 times)  Game talk
Oct 272005

…was really good. It was one of those talks that doesn’t necessarily bring something majorly new to the table, but instead crystallizes a bunch of things you sort of knew but didn’t have organized in your head.

Broadly speaking, he was talking about lessons we can learn from casino design and practice and apply to MMO design and practice.Some of those things were straightforward (harshness in dealing with cheaters; listen to mavericks because even if they are wrong, they will shake you out of established thinking) but the core of the talk was about a wonderful new phrase: Cozy Worlds.

In a nutshell, he advocated that our worlds be designed for proper population density and segmentation. We often overbuild terrain, or emphasize seamlessness, or encourage instancing, to the degree that we lose the ability to easily group players by locale for purposes of chat, and fail to provide the feeling of “playing alongside each other” that is so critical to a sense of massive multiplayerness.

I’m not really doing the presentation justice with that sort of summary; suffice it to say that it made me look at mapbuilding in a somewhat different way than previously. I have already been very much thinking in terms of neighborhoods even though I am a firm believer that seamlessness is the default technology we need to employ from now on; it was startling to hear his analysis of WoW zones as being the equivalent to a small town square, which i exactly the analogy I used for SWG player towns…

Looking forward to the PARC talk on socialization tomorrow.

  10 Responses to “Damion Schubert’s talk at AGC…”

  1. MMOG-focused industry event in the country, is taking place this weekend and a variety of places have coverage of the first day. For specific events, we have Gamasutra on MMOG economics and The Game Writer’s Conference, a sister event to the AGC. Both Raph Koster (who has a blog now) and Next Generation have pieces on Damion Schubert’s “What Vegas Can Teach the MMO” talk. For general color, Greg Costikyan has a feel for what it is like on the ground, and MMORPG.com

  2. Blogroll Joel on SoftwareRaph Koster Sunny Walker Thoughts for Now Sex, Lies and Advertising

  3. So, with gambling-gaming intersections in mind, here’s a small collection of links I’ve been squirreling away:Damion Schubert’s talk at AGC: Blog post… PowerPoint presentation… Mirjam Palosaari-Eladhari’s notes… Raph Koster’spost-presentation blog post…”The Slot Machine,” by William Choi and Antoine Sindhu. “You know it becomes a problem when it becomes emotional, something you can’t do without.””Lessons from slot machines,” by Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green

  4. I would have to agree. Not near enough emphasis has been put into player location, communication, and matching. SWG was by far the best implementation.

    In my opinion, for someone which wanted to start a successful player city however, the boundaries of the mechanics were felt quite often. I would love to see an environment where a player created city/town could grow larger than the “static” counter-parts originally introduced by the design team.

    Things like the lack of spaceport availability was a boundary felt quite harshly by those who worked to create large and well populated cities. Also, the lack of roads and ground cover caused most player cities to seem like abandoned areas, and therefore it was rare to pass by a city and see anyone present, let alone a large group.

    I assume there were quite a few restrictions due to the nature of the franchise license. My question is; do you believe it is feasible to build an environment where the player has the ability to grow the world beyond its original limits? Even if only in the context of player created areas.


  5. I’ve thought a few times, based on my early MMO experience playing on Orc Hill in Faydark on EQ, that it would be good, at least at the newbie level, to ‘group’ with a camp or a zone, rather than other players per se. In other words, you would go to an NPC or other interface, tell them that you wanted to participate in the zone activity, probably get some basic story setup, and then you would be grouped with other players working toward the same end, with the NPC/game handling the ‘group leader’ role. This would be a less achiever oriented sort of grouping, where working solo or as a team made little or no impact on reward, and where being grouped had no penalties, but where grouping did expand your social interaction, at least by adding a chat channel.

    The obvious newbie layout would be defending the start area from an attack, something that might happen at intervals at various locations about a small region. You might also combine this with locked combat, and a directed spawn mode, where group members meeting certain criteria (e.g. HP/Mana) would generate a spawn, probably, at least initially, aggro’d on the generator character. Whether this would be desirable at a higher level of play (not to mean that this automatically requires character levels to use) is an open question, but it seems to me at least a way to ease people into the social aspect of MMOs, while giving the newbie experience more narrative coherency.

    I don’t suppose there is a preview feature available for WordPress, is there?

  6. I don’t know of a preview feature, no. 🙁 There may be a plug-in for it somewhere…

  7. Spot, yeah, of course there are ways. They may not jibe very well with established geography i a licensed product, though.

  8. A Casual AGC

    I just got back from the Austin Game Conference. This is an event that has traditionally focused on large MMO type games. This year it was held in conjunction with the Women’s Game Conference and the Game Writer’s Conference.

  9. […] I’m told I did well, but then no one’s going to come up to you after a talk and say ‘Hey, your talk stunk’. Raph has blogged about it on his shiny new blog. So did Oliver Smith, who works on World War 2 online. My fiancee’s primary comment was that I say the word ‘fundamentally’ about six times a minute when I get nervous. […]

  10. […] My suitcase still isn’t unpacked and I filled up a notebook from the entire convention. Got photos, too. Here’s just a few preliminary notes, with more to follow. I seriously don’t know when I’ll get to write all this down, but I intend to. I’ll link up to other reports from AGC when I find them. For now, start with Mirjam Eladhari, who has a lot of free-form reportage. Damion’s speech on Vegas, with notes here and here, was well constructed, even though he was apparently sick (I didn’t notice.) The question blogged as “how do you give players reliability but still keep it exciting?” was mine, though I think my words were, “How do you give players reliability but screw with their heads enough to make it fun?” Damion’s first response was, “Very carefully.” Best lesson was from his opening statement, about how the best lectures from game designers were about something other than games themselves — about other societal structures and concepts that designers could learn to adapt in games. […]

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