Nov 302011

I was sent a link to this set of YouTube vids on the history of the MMO genre from MUDs forward. It’s worth a look, even if only to get  a rare glimpse of actual video footage from some of the older games that many folks today don’t even know existed (after all, WoW invented the genre, right?)…

Among the oddities, errors, and omissions:

  • Leaving out Kingdom of the Winds, which predated Lineage.
  • Leaving out kids’ MMOs entirely, especially Club Penguin.
  • Saying that the Ultima Online team had never made anything multiplayer before (Ken Demarest, mentioned in the documentary, left very shortly after UO actually had a team put together — and the original core team that was assembled on the programming and design side was all MUD/MUSH/MOO veterans except for one guy).
  • Saying that Meridian 59 going flat fee was what opened up that business model… I’m fuzzy on this, but my recollection is that M59 was not flat fee at launch… it happened later. And for a while they had a weird complicated fee structure…
  • Leaving out Kart Rider, the genre explosion, and the rise of free-to-play in Korea… it just sort of stops short at Lineage there. Instead F2P seems to all be attributed to Runescape, which is a real misread of where the lines of influence actually flowed, I think.
  • No mention of key non-game worlds like Second Life and Habbo Hotel. I suppose this is excused by the emphasis on game worlds, except for the mention of Habitat.

As a side note, on the graphical MMO explosion — even though a bunch of titles launched in a very staggered way that is covered in the documentary, I think that in practice just about all of them started development around the same time. It’s just that some of them finished faster.

There’s definitely a book to be had about everything in this history… someone (not me) should go write it. 🙂

Vids after the fold:

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‘Rogue Leaders’ excerpt on Habitat

 Posted by (Visited 5932 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Jan 272009

Rogue Leaders

Habitat title screen

Gamasutra is running an excerpt from Rogue Leaders, a new book on the history of LucasArts. The excerpt in question is about Habitat, which is of course one of the seminal virtual worlds. It’s short and worth a read, especially just to marvel at the reason givn for the project’s shelving: fear of success.

Essentially, if 500 users were so committed to playing Habitat that they remained online long enough to eat up 1 percent of the network’s entire system bandwidth, a full-run production that could attract Rabbit Jack’s Casino numbers could boost that bandwidth number to 30 percent. “The way the system was built, the server software wasn’t capable of hosting that population while still being successful,” recalls Arnold.

Ultimately, these business challenges caused Habitat to be cancelled after the launch party, but before it had gone into full production and reached retail shelves. It would simply be too popular, and the necessary server fix would be too expensive to make the project viable. And so this massively original, inventive, and cutting-edge project was shelved for U.S. release.

Dec 022008
Richard Bartle, Randy Farmer, and Pavel Curtis

Richard Bartle, Randy Farmer, and Pavel Curtis

Far as we can determine, these three gentlemen have never been in the same real world place at the same time before.

Dr. Richard Bartle: co-creator of MUD, designer and theorist.
Randy Farmer: co-creator of Habitat, the first graphical world (as well as much more).
Pavel Curtis: the moving force behind LambdaMOO.

That is the three biggest inflection points in the history of virtual worlds, right there. 1978/9, 1985, 1990. If only we had John Taylor and Kelton Flinn here too.

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