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Samhain's Zergwatch

Samhain's Zergwatch is a blog that started in 2006 on a different gaming community server and has since evolved into, a place to gather my twisted thoughts on the whole mess. Explore the oozing underbelly of gaming with me.

Author: zergwatch

Has Raph Koster given up on the MMORPG?

Posted by zergwatch Sunday March 2 2008 at 10:37PM
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If Richard Garriot is geekdom's Messiah who delivered on to us, the MMORPG, then Raph Koster can be described as both a prophet and Saint of Nerdness. Richard Garriot is currently working on mediocre functional MMORPG titles for NCSoft such as the lukewarm Tabula Rasa and planning his 2008 space mission on the heels of a recent layoff which saw a reduction in force of approximately 20% over at NCSoft.

A few miles south, Raph Koster currently heads up a cutting edge technology company called Areae which had generated industry buzz in 2006 by announcing a vague and very generalized overview of their super secret project "a tech that will literally change how virtual worlds are made." MMORPG fans rejoiced when the prophet delivered his message. Unfortunately, the announcement eventually materialized into Metaplace, a web based social community experiment still in the alpha testing stage.

What? Why? What about the next MMORPG?!? Raph Koster served as the lead designer for Ultima Online before moving on to be the creative force behind Star Wars Galaxies, the MMORPG that thinks it can, but routinely falls short of expectations. Unlike recent "visions" we've been subjected to over the past year or so, Raph Koster's vision of Star Wars Galaxies and the sandbox MMORPG was truly a revolutionary idea that had widespread support, but unfortunately was sunk by corporate mismanagement and the Satan of geekdom, John Smedley.

Raph's portfolio as Chief Creative Officer of Sony Online Entertainment from 2003 to 2006 includes some of what I personally feel are the best role playing games and MMORPG's of late, including Everquest II, EQ2 Kingdom of the Sky expansion, Champions: Return to Arms for PS2 and Untold Legends.

Surely, another groundbreaking MMORPG must be in the works. Hanging on to every word like most desperate gamers so often do, at least one of Areae's "other virtual world projects on the backburner" (as stated on the Areae website) must be an MMORPG.

In my eyes, Raph Koster rightfully deserves his bust on a pedestal in the Halls of Geekdom. Fast Forward to Game Developer's Conference 2008 where he spoke at a private lunch and announced Flash gaming as the next gen console.

<insert record scratching noise here>

This was first reported in article on GamesIndustry.Biz by Matt Martin. In the article Matt provided us with several Koster quotes, but the most intriguing one for those of us who have high hopes for massively multiplayer projects beyond Metaplace was this one:

"I actually think Flash is the next-gen console in a lot of ways. It's pointing the way to the future more-so than the current generations of hardware, precisely because it is well on its way to becoming completely ubiquitous." he said, "That's an upheaval because right now retail PC [gaming] is in dire straits. There are some exceptions but overall you look at audience reach, quantity of games made and creativity of games, and the web is kicking the console industry's ass."

So here we are, wondering if a great MMORPG talent such as Raph Koster has given up on the MMORPG industry for greener pastures. Pastures cut and paste into a flash application in a web browser.

While a flash based social gaming project that encompasses the entire hardware spectrum is a truly revolutionary idea that will probably be extremely successful, it's definitely something Raph can and probably will pull off, it doesn't leave much hope for MMORPG players. While Metaplace sounds like a fun idea that can keep you busy creating web based virtual worlds, I just don't think it's what most MMORPG players are looking for. Is Metaplace really the nextgen MMORPG or is it the nextgen MySpace?

vajuras writes:

I think Raph is tired of dealing with "Flock Collisions" and he is ultimately, trying to get the "good ole days" to come back whereas everyone was trying something new. Flash games are something small teams can put out. Now, I am not sure which type of Flash games he refers to though.

I kind of agree with him that Flash gaming has a lot of potential but I wasnt aware they outgrossed consoles. Most flash gaming studios I know of pay wayyyyyyy less then console game studios

Sun Mar 02 2008 11:06PM Report
JB47394 writes:

I think vajuras is on target with his reply.  Many people are trying to facilitate the creation of yet another World of Warcraft with their 3D MMO toolkits.  Raph is trying to facilitate the creation of new sets of rules for character interaction.  Forget all the fancy graphics, realistic lighting and all that drivel.  Just get down to the basics of how the players interact through their characters.  Would Chess online be fundamentally any better if the game included realistic lighting, impressive physics and piece animations?

Not for those who play Chess.

Mon Mar 03 2008 8:57AM Report
Owyn writes:

Metaplace has specifically said that one of the projects they intend to build IS an mmorpg.  I suspect that what Raph may be trying to do is generate something akin to a MUDlib.  Other folks have tried, but frankly, the barriers to entry for indie developers in regular 3D MMOs are very high, even if you use a cheap/free engine.  It's hard to generate the quality and quantity of artwork people expect, and almost impossible to host a game without charging fees for it (MUDs were so successful because they were free).

I think that Metaplace is an intriguing idea because it has the potential to generate a Myspace of MMORPGs.  ;)  It's not one or the other - it's both.

Mon Mar 03 2008 10:44AM Report
BARDSTALE000 writes:

Honestly I think he sucks as a designer.

If you actually played UO, or SWG you would probably feel the same.

It was as if his designs were some large social experiment for his own ammusment.

And I doubt he was playing his own designed games. Had no real sense of what the game play/log was.

He made really bazar adjustments to the game that had big (usally  bad) effects. He obviously didn't think them out well.

I'm sure he had people pulling thier hair out all over the country/world.

If gets the role of a designer for a game again it should be his own only. And he should be forced to play his own game..


Tue Mar 04 2008 2:22AM Report
BARDSTALE000 writes:

Opps sorry for the bad spelling..

Tue Mar 04 2008 2:24AM Report
vajuras writes:

Raph is a good designer on one hand but he's very idealistic. He tries to teach gamers good lessons like loot should be expendable. He tries to build good economy systems. He tries to make PVP meaningful. He doesnt want players entrenched in Levels because they make players obsessive (carrot chasing). He's idealistic and tries to do the right thing

Hence why his games are a little on the niche-y side. MMORPGs right now cater to newbies. Newbies dont appreciate you trying to 'do the right thing'. Newbies, being newbies as Richard Bartle describes, dont know any better.

Veterans appreciate Raph koster games

Newbies appreciate games by Raph Pardo (Blizzard)

I'd go for a blend to appeal to both if possible but maybe its not posible.

So Raph Koster is trying to handle "Flock Collisions" with pure sandbox games. See JB's article on "Why Flocks Collide". It's a blog he wrote right here at one of best well written works you can find in blogger space

Tue Mar 04 2008 12:23PM Report writes:
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