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Paradox, Humor and Change.

games, life and geekrage.

Author: mOoK

The tailor made, boutique, ORPG experience.

Posted by mOoK Friday November 9 2007 at 3:50PM
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I think we need to redefine "massively multiplayer".  Is it really  concurrent users?  Or maybe it could be describes as, a massive amount of users have shaped this world?

In my last blog post, I had some bullet points about what could be a revolution in ORPGs.  The "Boutique" ORPG. I'm going to coin that.  Now.

Let’s have a thought experiment to see how this all comes together:

My guild has just done a pay pal donation drive for a season pass to “BrainStorm: Salutations” which was released a few months back. Its overview was written by a pretty well known author and it got great reviews from the first groups that went through.  We had a choice of genres, modern, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.

We have a guild of about 30 active people. A season pass is 3 months.  We decided that since this is the first time many of us have tried this, we opted for the “weekly” installment.  What this means is that one day a week, for an 8 hour time slot, live human generate and controlled content will be provided for us.  We could have gone for more days, but we all have jobs, families.

Prior to our first login, we did a poll as to what kind of scenario we wanted.  This information was submitted and we created 2 characters each with the software.  The content developers create using this information, the more we provide, the more they can personalize.  Maybe a reference from a character’s past will rise up into the plot.  A tutorial is available pre-game day.

A couple of us had already developed characters from this world.  The seasons take place in a fleshed out world already created and affected by previous seasons.  So they can use this character again, if they choose.  They can also pull some information from a “universal persona”, which could be from a different game altogether.  Things like appearance, personality traits can be imported.  This also could keep a “score” from other players, rankings and achievements.

Upon our first login, we’re all put forth into the game world.  We may not, in fact start together in the same place.  Broken into smaller group, there is someone from the content developers there to dial us in.  This may be from dialogue or an event.

Proximity VIOP allows us to communicate in a somewhat realistic manner.  The content developers can also listen in and make on the fly changes, in reaction to our reactions and desires.  Or fears.

Some items are scripted.  But others are directly manipulated by a human being.  For instance, a guild mate and I were sent by our family to clean out a kobold cave near our village. As the cave is at the bottom of a small ravine, we decided to be pyros and take a keg of powder, attach it to a cart, light it and roll it in.  I suggested we wait until all of the kobolds were home.  My guild mate suggested we teach the others a lesson and roll it in there with a few of them to witness. The explosion worked, but the content developer, who was listening, took an opportunity to spice things up.  Some kobolds were left alive, they ran off, but it turns out there were other witness to this massacre. They weren’t kobold at all and wanted to return the lesson teaching favor.

Meanwhile, the rest of my guild is having their own experiences and the content developers are taking notes, exchanging events and plotting on a whiteboard somewhere.

As the session ends, we’re some of us reunited, maybe in a home or gathered around a camp fire. Some of us are abroad, in the wilderness.  We all have pieces of the puzzle.  Why do we all have headaches?  What shot through the sky the night before?  Some of us are on an expedition out to the site now.  Others have heard it’s an omen and are determined to seek and oracle.  Some of us just want cash.

Fast forward.  The season is over and we achieved a lot. Exceptional exploits are added to the canon of the game world and a badge is added to our universal persona.  The turnaround time for another season varies.  If it’s brand new, we’d have to wait for the developers to create another installment.  Meanwhile, we can try another game world, like “New York Minutes: Chapter Six”.
This all requires organization and technology and a lot of money to get off the ground.  But how much did you spend on a small vacation last year?  What if you could go on a retreat with your guild to a sci-fi game world?

The Best MMORPG will be the most expensive (Or how to save the online rpg industry)

Posted by mOoK Thursday November 8 2007 at 3:44PM
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Allow me to geek out for a moment.

Its been awhile since I stepped foot into a game. I think Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was the last time. I was burned with that. A believer such that I spent money to visit them in San Diego during the development. While it was nice to rub shoulders and drink beers with such pivotal icons like Brad McQuaid, it wasn't long until I found out that again, developers and publishers had missed their mark.

To say that a massive, thriving sandbox world of dynamic goals and events has been a dream of mine since I discovered computing, would be an understatement. Ever since I thought, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if I could play Civilization with real people", my geek-o-meter for this genre of game has been pegged.

I'm not going to go into a history of MMOs here, we all know the story. Unless you don't know the story, then go here. Suffice to say, I've been pleased, burned and disappointed.

Lets get to the brass tacks. MMORPGs need to be less massive and more expensive. They need to be customized and niche specific. You cannot please everyone all of the time. Just some of the people some of the time.

  • Build your engine smaller

Build it less like a sand box. If you want it to play like a movie or a novel, there is a set or a stage. Add on later.

  • Hire talented GMs, writers, etc.

If you want compelling stories, interactive characters and theme, A.I. and scripted characters aren't going to cut it. Hire real people who have a passion. Give them room to experiment. Don't keep them behind the scenes, give them credit and customers will being to recognize and build a relationship and fan base. Fans are by definition, fanatical.

  • Cater to guilds, tabletop groups and clubs.

These people play together, are reliable and will invest. They are the hardcore, live it, breathe it types who will come back again and again.

  • Personalize the experience.

Real human interaction cannot be replaced by hard-coded goals. Multiple people should be making this experience as unique and awesome as possible. Live give and take in conversation. Fudging of numeric outcomes, intelligent opponents. On-the-fly plot twists.

  • Serialize your content and have seasons of games as they have seasons for television.

NBC doesn't have 1 show. It has variety. They also take breaks, write new material. Sell your game as an event. "This fall, return to the realm of rainbow trolls!" Allow the customer to reflect and try another product. Meanwhile, you're planning away, polishing.

  • Create exportable characters to allow a single persona to persist across games.

People become attached. Allow them to wear a campaign ribbon or trophy. People become accountable for their actions.

  • Schedule play times.

You can't staff this 24/7 nor should you. People don't play 24 hours a day and because you cater to smaller groups, you don't have to. Several times a week, to monthly. All on a sliding pay scale.

  • Charge more.

You get what you pay for and all of this isn't cheap. It takes more people, more time to and personal attention to pull off this interaction. People pay more for customer service. If they feel like royalty, they will pay to play. Charge a group rate.

Take this a step further. Charge more for pilot programs. If a group wants to boldly go into fresh territory, charge them a premium for the privilege. First to see. Conversely, charge less for older chapters. If there are a hundred walk-throughs, if they've read the transcripts of group-As adventure, then a lot of the hard work, polishing the experience, is done.

These ideas are all very abstract, but ultimately, brings a little bit of the RPG back into the genre.

I am, of course, available to hire or consult ;)

Read more here

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