Interview with mmplay

 Posted by (Visited 5171 times)  Game talk
Jul 052006

mmplay – Massively Multiplayer Online Games asked me to do an interview, so I did.

They have it up in German too.

  27 Responses to “Interview with mmplay”

  1. Thanks again, Raph 🙂

  2. […] with mmplay Interview with mmplay: “mmplay – Massively Multiplayer Online Games asked me to do an interview, so Idid. […]

  3. “We haven’t even seen the simple step of having a comic strip, story, or movie thing running alongside the game offering up serial drama set in the world that players can see every week. That alone would be a huge step. I’m a big believer in *parallel* storytelling, I guess is what I am saying. Stories told alongside the game, not just in it.”

    Actually Funcom created animated shorts that revealed parts of the game’s story. I’m not sure if those were simultaneous with events occuring in the game or prequel type information though. EVE Online also has fiction that is published on their website, and a kind of news agency which reports on actual events that players have been influencing.

  4. Uhm, to clarify I was talking about Anarchy Online with the animated shorts. Ragnar Tornquist also wrote a novel that fleshes out the history of that game’s universe.

  5. […]   mmplay Interview with Raph KosterHeute, 00:12 von Papillon We talked with Raph Koster about history and future of MMORPGs and Game Design. This is the English version of the interview — you can find the German translation here. (Das ist die englische Version des Interviews — die deutsche �bersetzung findet ihr im Magazin Teil.) Hello Raph and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. […]

  6. City of Heroes had kind of a parallel comic book included in the subscription. Players from the game even could make it into the next issue with what they did ingame. On the other side, new game features were announced in the stories sometimes — like epic quests, if I remember well. From what I know, it didn’t work out too well. Quite a lot of work compared to the benefits. I don’t know if it’s still a part of CoH.

    We have seen different media working in parallel quite some times in the past. I think it works when it comes to marketing. Like the Blairwitch Project for example (something I’m still waiting for to happen with a computer game btw.). So before something is initially released, to gear up suspense. But I don’t think it works when it comes to the entertainment itself. We have seen TV shows combined with the internet, or call-in shows to even change the live storyline of a TV play already in the seventies, I guess (I think I remember some b/w murder mystery series in Germany and UK with call ins that changed the storyline). Even adventure games that take partly place by finding clues in the WWW, outside the game. None of which ever been very successfull to my knowledge up to today.

    Maybe if you had it in parallel to a very successfull series, like LOST or Star Trek (at times when it was very successfull), it could make a difference. Doesn’t LOST actually have a game running in parallel to the show? How is it doing? However, I doubt it will ever work out too smooth. If I had the choice to put 5 people into combining ingame events with a TV show or something like that, or put them into making new Quests, Stories and Dungeons for the game, I would choose the addons everytime. And I think the players would appreciate that.

  7. I never saw the Funcom shorts… that’s good to know.

    The radio dramas were done by UO as well, and of course CoH has its comic — but the comic is all disconnected from the events in the game, and the radio dramas were mostly in-game reportage, as I recall.

    I guess I didn’t explain what I meant very clearly… but what I am picturing would be tightly tied to the game, yet told outside it, in parallel. A story worth following even if you didn’t play the game, but that echoed what was happening in world…

  8. […] Comments […]

  9. DAoC was supposed to get a TV series at one point, right? And they’re talking about a World of Warcraft movie.

  10. Why are people convinced that MMOs have to change to reach more people, that fantasy somehow “limits” them? Koreans apparently didn’t consider Lineage “limiting”, and Americans certainly didn’t consider Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies “limited”.

    Just do it well. People will respond.

  11. Running a weekly comic or narrative to dramatize and promote recent events would be kind of cool, though perhaps a bit heavy on the work:reward ratio.

    Would these stories involve NPCs only? Or would there potentially be players involved?

    Either way, it’s hard to make a story that follows the game but would be worth reading even if you didn’t play it. The story would have to at least partially written from scratch each week, which could lead to quality not being of the highest standards. And what if nothing all that interesting is happening in the game world? Make stuff up?

  12. >Why are people convinced that MMOs have to change to reach more people,
    >that fantasy somehow “limits” them? Koreans apparently didn’t consider
    >Lineage “limiting”, and Americans certainly didn’t consider Jackson’s
    >Lord of the Rings movies “limited”.

    The Korean MMOG phenomenon had many other demographic factors that went into it, such as the lack of consoles, a concentration of internet access in urban areas, and a lot of out-of-work young men. These do not translate to other markets.

    Lord of the Rings is really the exception that proves the rule. Take a look at movies and television as a whole: science fiction is MUCH more popular than fantasy, and modern day action and dram stuff is MUCH more popular than science fiction. Yes, a fantasy movie can do very well, but LotR had very high “penetration” among folks who would go see a fantasy movie, and even got other people beyond that. Unless you’ve got the LotR franchise behind your fantasy game, you can’t expect EVERYONE who likes fantasy games to try your generic fantasy title. So you have to assume even if you make a good game, your share of your target market is going to be limited. Given that case, you either want to increase your potential share by targeting a market that is underserved with little competition (for example, a teen-targeted MMOG), or by having a strong product differentiator in a crowded market (LotR franchise in fantasy), or by targeting a market that has inherently broader appeal, so even a smaller share will net you more customers (theoretically, sci-fi and so on).

  13. I think if there’s value to come from stories told in parallel, they either have to be entertaining in their own right or they must focus on “player story”.

    I watched the AO shorts … they were interesting … barely. The novel I set down after only a few paragraphs. Neither were really good enough to warrant interest on their own … and they weren’t about me or anyone I knew and so had minimal value to me. I’d estimate that few players care much about world lore. Many players care about their (or their friends) interaction with and impact on, the world.

    I think, in MMOG’s, it’s player story that needs to be center stage. I don’t mean roleplaying. I mean focus on the world-elements that players can impact.

    I wonder if it would be feasible to have a cartoon or novel written that focuses on major player driven world impacting events. It might become something of an added value for players to occasionally see their name and actions (or one of their friends) included.

    of course, this presumes that your game allows players to have interesting impacts on the world. I think the game would have to include mechanics for something more than zones of control or base destruction.

  14. I watched the AO shorts … they were interesting … barely. The novel I set down after only a few paragraphs.

    Agreed. I think Eve also did something like this, but inthe run-up to release. Which, I think, was an immensely more useful approach.

    Players want to be in the action … not watching it on the screen. That’s what TV is for. Storytelling is fine for games so long as the player is allowed to involve his character in the story rather than as an audience member.

  15. Unless you’ve got the LotR franchise behind your fantasy game

    I don’t think that would be enough. *glances at Middle Earth Online*

  16. Yes, well, Turbine has other problems. 🙂 While I’m still a believer in the value of a strong IP, it won’t save you if your game is bad. (Then again, ask yourself how many people would still be playing Star Wars Galaxies if it wasn’t Star Wars?)

  17. I start with a vision document. I tend to “see” game designs in my head as shapes…

    …The vision doc usually consists of a page or so of high level description, a long list of bullet points that are goals for the game — “easy to get into,” “big explosions,” whatever — a paragraph for each major feature in the game, and a set of five or so key themes that the game is “about.” Basically, just like in high school classes when you study literature: the theme, the moral, the point of the game.

    In SWG, this led to a 20 page document, I think.

    It would be great if we could see what a vision document looks like. I’m sure SOE might not wish you to post the one for SWG, but I think something similar would be of tremendous interest to us all.

  18. Why are people convinced that MMOs have to change to reach more people, that fantasy somehow “limits” them? Koreans apparently didn’t consider Lineage “limiting”, and Americans certainly didn’t consider Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies “limited”. Just do it well. People will respond.

    I’m not sure change is the right word. I think there’ll always be a market for a WoW-type game because a lot of players enjoy the fantasy element of the game. You know these people – they’re the night elves in WoW.

    But there are also a lot of folks who are turned off by elves, fairies, orcs and ogres. And those folks are probably the biggest untapped segment of potential MMO players.

    It’s easy enough to find them, too, and figure out what they want. They’re the ones play more modern shooters like BF2, SOCOM3, etc.

  19. And those folks are probably the biggest untapped segment of potential MMO players.

    Personally, I think another large untapped segment of potential MMO players is the group that doesn’t want to focus on raiding and combat, but rather on community building set amidst a backdrop of strife and conflict (whatever the genre).

    It’s easy enough to find these people too. They’re the ones jumping from game to game in rapid succession, never quite happy with whatever hack’n’slash variant they tried last and ranting on blogs in between.

  20. […] There is a nice little Interview with Raph Koster over at MMPlay that I think many wouldn’t mind reading over. They’ve also posted the interview in German as well. What would you call your personal handwriting in MMORPG Design, your philosophy, style or mission? raph koster: You know, I am not sure I have one. People say that it’s the sandbox worlds, based on UO and SWGStar Wars Galaxies von Sony Online Entertainment.. But SWG was originally intended to have tons of directed contentInhalte und Abenteuer eines Spiels. in it. LegendMUD was all about the quests and the cool handcrafted content, to my mind. I am also very interested in the social and chat worlds, not just the game worlds. […]

  21. I’m not so sure that a) THAT many people are really turned off by elves; the Will Ferrel type, sure, but the Orlando Bloom type seems to be popular enough; and b) BF2 / SOCOM3 players haven’t already been catered to in MMOs.

    Do you really need a bigger name in SciFi than Star Wars to get people to try an MMO? A bigger name than The Sims?

    I’d like to see the sales numbers sometime… Starcraft vs. Warcraft (and which one is the one with the sequels?), or C&C vs. Battle for Middle-Earth. I suspect these would very much support the argument that fantasy isn’t nearly as far out of the mainstream as many people (even many die-hard fantasy fans) think it is.

    The fact that the mainstream media looks askance at us contributes a great deal to this perception, but when we can sneak in under their radar, we take the world by storm. LotR isn’t an exception. It was just done well, in a way that “D&D the Movie”, for example, was not. And just how many kids have the $30 it takes to pick up a Harry Potter book, or the car keys it takes to get to the bookstore? Rowling’s a secret pleasure of many an adult. And who’s Rowling vying for top literary sales with, in England? Some gritty postmodernist? Hardly. Terry Pratchett, who left poor Douglas Adams in his wake years ago.

    Fantasy fans really have to stop self-identifying as some sort of fringe group. We’re not. Before Frodo there was Ivanhoe, and before that, Shakespeare.

    Deep down, the only people who don’t want to slay dragons are the ones that want to ride them.

  22. Jim:

    Do you really need a bigger name in SciFi than Star Wars to get people to try an MMO?

    Star Wars is actually considered fantasy by a number of hardcore science fiction devotees, but we’re sliding off the deep end there…

    Deep down, the only people who don’t want to slay dragons are the ones that want to ride them.

    That’s a brilliant quote. Thank you!

  23. Jim there are certainly a lot of people who enjoy the D&D type game. I’m not arguing that. There are also a lot of people IMO that tolerate fantasy elements they’re not fond of simply because the game is fun regardless.

    But to say there aren’t people turned off by fantasy games is just plain naive. Head to a sports bulletin board some time and ask how many guys play EverQuest or used to play D&D.

    Heck most of my friends IRL are gamers, and only a few of us play MMOs. Those who don’t always spout very similar reasons: I don’t want to be an elf. I don’t want to be fighting fairies. And various other statements about how uncool the whole thing is.

    There are tons of other non-MMO game genres out there, and yet for some reason developers seem to think you need fantasy elements to be successful. And WoW certainly didn’t help things.

    As for Star Wars and other similar “brands” – I think you need to have a good game first. For a while SWG was doing pretty good. The development of that game, however, ended up shooting it in the foot and limiting its growth. The brand of the company making the game helps too. I’m sure a lot of non-MMO players don’t know who SOE is and certainly have never played an SOE title before. The same for the Matrix Online – powerful brand, a story a lot of people in the target demographic were familiar with, but it got bad reviews and was originally developed by a company non-MMOers aren’t famiilar with.

    IMO that’s one of the reasons WoW got off to a great start. Folks new to the genre were familar with Blizzard’s work and were more willing to take a flier.

  24. I don’t want to be an elf. I don’t want to be fighting fairies. And various other statements about how uncool the whole thing is.

    Tangent: The whole race thing has long bugged me. It’s stupid and unthinking. Different races is not what makes something fantasy. Fantasy is an approach, which is why Star Wars is part of it, but Star Trek is not.

    On-topic: Marketing and good marketing is a huge part of actually tapping that potential market; most people I know, who enjoy the LOTR movies and the Star Wars movies (some of them) don’t know about SWG, or MEO, or hell, Everquest. And that’s partially because they’re not in hardcore gaming circles, or even following gaming news. They’re not in the loop, and no one’s trying to bring them into it.

  25. I agree with Jim. Fantasy has alot going for it that grabs people’s attention. It’s not just the elves and dragons. There’s the medieval flavor, that whole chivalry and knights in shining armor thing. There’s the Robin Hood, sharpshooter split the arrow thing. There’s the build something from nothing thing, such as crafting weapons and armor, making a streight arrow, and the fabulous stone arches and construction of mighty fortresses or woodland hovels. There’s the fire thing, cooking the boar or making the pot of stew. There’s that whole survival in rough times thing. There’s the whole adventure thing, travelling to new places to see what’s there.

    All these things people do today, just for fun. And many moor show interest in all these things, besides just those who actually do them.

    So, the fantasy setting has so much to offer in such a variety. The sci-fi setting could too, but I think it’s more of an item based fiction. Hehehe

  26. Along Michael’s tangent- I’ve often thought that the difference between fantasy and scifi is that fantasy is about retelling very old stories; science fiction is about trying to create a new story around a novel technology or concept.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure that what plays so well on TV are the novel concepts… it’s more that scifi supports explosions in a more fictionally consistent way. 🙁

    On yet another hand, I’m not sure that scifi will ever play as well in online games as fantasy, and it’s not just “WoW’s fault” or anything like that. Fantasy’s fiction is kinder to melee / range balance, which is one of the biggest issues of combat in a 3D environment. It’s also kinder to special effects — remember all the groaning on the SWG boards when the ridiculous concept of the “bacta grenade” was fielded? Also, one-shot kills are practically a must with modern or futuristic heavy weaponary– but not fun except in an extremely limited arena, which durable world-scale MMOs are not.

    On-topic, for Mnemon: Head to a board that talks about specific genre, you’ll find a lot of people hostile to things not of that specific genre. And the peer pressure of those hostiles will frequently bring the rest of the more openminded types around to the narrow point of view.

    But I’ve found most people to be more accepting of fantasy, if a) you get them in an environment free from peer pressure, or b) the peer pressure is in the other direction. And of course, it needs to be good quality fantasy. Yes, this means better than R.A. Salvatore.

    I know how the turn-offs work, though. After all, you could fairly call me a diehard EQ fan — tough to get Elemental Flagged without some level of dedication — but I didn’t pick it up at launch because the title sounded like something I’d have come up with back when I picked up D&D at age eight. Did that stop me from enjoying the game when a few friends at work talked about getting into it? Hardly.

    Same thing with the LotR movies. If you build it well, they will come.

  27. Jim:

    Note that many people differentiate "sci-fi" from "science fiction".

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