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News & Features Discussion  » General: AGC: Raph Koster's "Age of Dinosaurs"

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23 posts found

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

OP  9/11/06 1:46:31 PM#1

Raph Koster was always a controversial figure when he was with Sony Online Entertainment. Now he's on his own and gave a talk at AGC called "The Age of Dinosaurs". Carolyn Koh reports.

On the second day of the AGC, I was assigned to cover the renowned industry guru of MMO Games, Raph Koster’s presentation, “The Age of Dinosaurs.” With Dana quipping that it would be right up my alley, me being in the “Dinosaur” age group. Ouch, score one, Dana!

“Fat Wookies should be able to belly-dance.” Raph Koster commented. “That was my last business decision made.”

By comparing the game industry to the dinosaurs, Koster warned a room full of game developers and media that the environment is changing rapidly and that they were doomed if they could not adapt.

You can read more here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios


Novice Member

Joined: 5/07/03
Posts: 1157

9/11/06 2:15:24 PM#2
Sounds like he thinks all games are just gonna be mindless console-type games.

I hope not, I like the fantasy mmo genre. EQ2, WoW and the others have their own problems for sure but I really don't want to be limited to the types of games he is describing.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/03/04
Posts: 3287

I liked MMOs better when gamers didn't play them, and just geeks did.

9/11/06 3:51:57 PM#3
Ya...ok, so he has identified the problem with MMOs, but offers no solution other than, sell the "tee-shirt". Who is this guy? From his game design "ideas", he sounds like he works on SWG...

Played: AA, AC1, AC2, Aion, AO, AoC, CO, CoX, DAoC, DCUO, DN, EVE, EQ1, EQ2,
ESO, FE, FFXI, FFXIV, FF, GW1, GW2, Istaria, L2, LoTRO, MO, MxO, NW, Rift, RoE,


Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

OP  9/11/06 6:14:33 PM#4
Raph is the former Creative Director for SOE and was the primary designer on the original Star Wars Galaxies project. He also worked on Ultima Online.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios


Staff Writer

Joined: 9/07/04
Posts: 494

9/11/06 6:47:49 PM#5

“Content is not worth a damn. What is of value is the relationship between the consumer and the producer,” said Koster.
Ah, so that's why there was no content in SWG.

This guy is always painting himself in to a corner, and then bailing out the window to leave others to pick up his mess. They want more content? They want more Star Wars feeling? Eff 'em. Redesign the combat system instead. Peace yo, ya'll can fix this without me, I'm out!

Jedi? They are going to be so rare, it'll feel just like movies. It's going ot be this epic struggle to become a Jedi, and if they die, they are dead permenantly. Yeah, it's going to be so cool.

Jedi? Yeah, just learn a bunch of professions and eventually you become force sensitive and can grind for 100 hours to make Jedi. Tell the whiney b***hes to stop crying.

Agent_X7 AKA J Star
Notice: The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of or its management.


Novice Member

Joined: 2/04/04
Posts: 41

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

9/11/06 7:15:44 PM#6

You missed the point of the "content is not worth a damn" quote. He was saying how content is so easily used up and tossed asside by gamers. What matters most to the longivity of games to gamers is the loyalty and "cult" following of the gamers with the games. In one word, "community". Not limited to just multiplayer games, but to single player games as well. The "sims" is a perfect example.

There are too many people who are blinded and have vendettes against all things having to do with SOE and SWG. Rational discourse and discussion is lost because of closed minded emotional triads about such and such nerf from people who would stop all discussions that could promote reason and resolutions. Both gamers and developers are guilty of this.


Novice Member

Joined: 11/28/03
Posts: 4219

E: 86% A: 60%
S: 46% K: 6%

9/11/06 7:22:28 PM#7

Originally posted by legacyguy
You missed the point of the "content is not worth a damn" quote. He was saying how content is so easily used up and tossed asside by gamers. What matters most to the longivity of games to gamers is the loyalty and "cult" following of the gamers with the games. In one word, "community". Not limited to just multiplayer games, but to single player games as well. The "sims" is a perfect example.

That may have been his point, but I believe he is mistaken.

I play the games for the content, not for a relationship with said developer or publisher. Without the content, I have no interest in the game at all. Reusability? Yes...that's incredibly key. But reusable content is still content.

To further his (faulty) analogy, with the whole "Tee Shirt" metaphor...I don't listen to either the Grateful Dead or the Beatles in order to buy a Tee Shirt. It's the music that counts...the Tee Shirt is just a "woo hoo" event.

He's absolutely right that agility is key to survival, but that's not a new anvil upon which he's hammering. That's been an achilles heel for business since the dawn of man. He may be right about needing to find different avenues into our wallets...but shunning content is precisely how you will make your own species of game extinct.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/17/06
Posts: 472

Current MMO dev teams = Keystone cops.A pure comedy of errors,sadly its not as intentional.

9/11/06 7:56:57 PM#8

Its not hard to see why Koster would  hold a belief like that, he himself is really a product without content.

Just a PR made celebrity with little to no value outside of the followers he can hold.Its no wonder dinasaurs are so much on his mind.How many games has he drifted thru serving the games good about as much as a dinosuar would have.

That people oooo and ahhh over his "preachings " is insane.

I said it MANY times before, the MMO industry needs a major personnel housecleaning .Too much over hyped rotten wood in the industry now.


MMO Designer

Joined: 9/11/06
Posts: 131

9/11/06 8:45:14 PM#9
The phrase "content is not worth a damn" in the context of the presentation meant, "Content is now worth very little on the consumer market." In other words, people are less and less willing to pay for content. For example, a given song is now worth very little. It doesn't mean content isn't important -- from an experience point of view, it is still king.

Edit: the slides for the talk are up on my blog: They may help clarify the point I am making.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/06
Posts: 432

9/11/06 8:48:42 PM#10

Very interesting, indeed. Another huge thanks to Mr Koster for having me pondering all over the place... once again ;)

Fyrr Deerdan - HolyAvenger - The Sci-Fi Sandbox.


Novice Member

Joined: 7/25/03
Posts: 509

9/11/06 9:04:04 PM#11
jeez Raph, this web site has been here for years and you just found it today?  :P

MMO Designer

Joined: 9/11/06
Posts: 131

9/11/06 9:54:55 PM#12
Nah, I've been reading it all along, it's just today it was enough to prompt me to post. :)

Novice Member

Joined: 8/11/05
Posts: 65

Meridian Dynamics

9/12/06 2:00:21 AM#13

Originally posted by RaphNah, I've been reading it all along, it's just today it was enough to prompt me to post. :)

Sounds like you are describing CCP in some ways when it comes to distribution, and developer+customer relationships.


Advanced Member

Joined: 2/18/04
Posts: 1388

9/12/06 8:45:01 AM#14


I am not a Koster fan. Pretty much the opposite. I am not a pre-NGE angry mob either. I gave up on SWG in beta2, when tons of really stupid stuff was kept, and tons of really good stuff was ignored, just because the developers was sure they knew better than their costumers, and the costumers were threatened to be banned both from beta and SOE community if they brought up those points again. Tons of them... It was a beta nightmare, we were there to market a broken game, not to help fix it.

But this little speech... It is incredibly accurate and the examples he bring in from other kinds of media are extremly spot on, and something my own little gathering has discussed a lot the last year. That the game market has turned from thousands of independent developers with their own ideas, everything from ludicrus (Llama games of the 80s) to the genius (Tetris), into a market of three great powerhouses that pretty much just lumber forward, very slowly, killing any idea or concept that does not fit a predesigned blueprint of "Succesful game design". It really is the age of dinosaurs, and if it is doing anything, then it is to kill the interest in future games. because as we can already see, the future games will be, without a doubt, exactly the same as the existing games. its dinosaur country, and the market is dieing as we speak.

The only excited costumers out there, at this minute, are the younglings, that have not experienced the last 30 years of game design. They have not seen it before, so they will not understand this concept, but for all the gamers of some age and experienced, I more often hear them call themselves "jaded" than "experienced". They are tired, plain and simple. Tired of year after year of same old...

I could go into the distribution scenarios, and how to create a more freeflowing creative process in game design, if the development money can be kept at a minimum and the creative freedom at a maximum, but I am already rambling.. so I wont.

Just wanted to say that this was a very accurate and spot on observation, and even if I dislike some of these facts, I still agree with them.

Edit: I also want to agree with Sevarus above me. CCP has really taken the first steps down this path. Its not the biggest game, not even by a longshot, but it is one of the most succesful qualitywise, communitywise and karmawise, and probably... considering the small staff developing and working with EVE, just perfectly big enough.

"This is not a game to be tossed aside lightly.
It should be thrown with great force"


Novice Member

Joined: 8/18/05
Posts: 418

"Blah Blah Blah yakkedy smakkedy"

9/12/06 10:29:19 AM#15

 I've played the games Koster worked on, I enjoyed them. I also think its odd once he leaves the games go to shit. Coincidence? who knows. I have yet to play a game he has contributed to since. I'd like to see him apply all these analogies and study.  I'd like to see  what all that time studying the movement and progress of the gaming industry will produce.

Whatdya say Koster...slap one together and stick with it, ride the ride without bailin, lets see how many Tshirts you sell. Show me the belly dancin wookie!

If I could send a message to Raph or any game developer, id say this.

 In my opinion on what game developers seem to be catering to.. its called  instant gratification, no work to progress, free rides, insta lvl, no more grinds, no hard dungeons, and lord forbid they incorporate rl sim, for better wording they makem easy or they wont at all because they think its what we want. Thats why noone sticks with any one game, its because the majority of them suck and they think thier gonna keep an any kind of audience?

 I'll tellya what keeps people playing, its the fun of a challenge, how many games are you guys making that are actually fun AND challenging dude seriously. How many of these games these days can you NOT hit max level in a week or two?These games are boring the hell out of gamers, you login and do the same crap everyday EVERYTIME until you go searching for the cancel button. I mean who wants to pay for that crap? You all claim your worlds progress and none of it changes. Is that what your aiming for ? or warning people to avoid?

I fail to see how lack of content wouldnt matter. Its the content that people are begging for, clearly a service that developers dont want to provide anymore, he just said it himself ! Do they really think content means feed me hundreds and hundreds of quests with a little pvp on the side? pfff man please. Players want goals and tough challenges. The hell f** yea feeling they get when they've finally made a character they've been working to build or they finally conquered one of the toughest mobs or dungeons ingame alone. games dont give people that anymore and until they do noones gonna buy those t shirts because you provide nothing to put on those effin shirts. You cant keep making games looking purely on the moneyside and return, if you make a damn good game then dont worry about the effin money the game will sell itself!


Novice Member

Joined: 7/27/05
Posts: 1428

9/12/06 11:52:55 AM#16

Originally posted by legacyguy

You missed the point of the "content is not worth a damn" quote. He was saying how content is so easily used up and tossed asside by gamers. What matters most to the longivity of games to gamers is the loyalty and "cult" following of the gamers with the games. In one word, "community". Not limited to just multiplayer games, but to single player games as well. The "sims" is a perfect example.

There are too many people who are blinded and have vendettes against all things having to do with SOE and SWG. Rational discourse and discussion is lost because of closed minded emotional triads about such and such nerf from people who would stop all discussions that could promote reason and resolutions. Both gamers and developers are guilty of this.

Well said. I feel some people really don't think critically or can't think critically when reading things on a MMO site. It's a shame really that there are people out there that have the time to blow through the content in MMO's. I haven't been in a MMO yet (over 11+ now), that didn't have enough content to last the casual gamer a pretty long time. In the end, I think that the casual gamers are the loyal customers. The casual gamer is usually older and has a family of their own, so they don't get tired of the MMO they are play in 3 months. They are also less likely to want to waste the money to buy different MMO's to try and would rather use their money on something more responsible, like a new toy for their kids, or a nice gift for their wife or husband. So instead, they stick with the MMO that they aren't bored with anyways and have become loyal to that company, as long as that company treats them right, which is what Raph is saying and which is what you just pointed out in your post.

I agree that the developers need to target those players instead of the powergamers. They also need to drag out the niche market out there, because without competition, they are going to make some good money off that niche market. I also like Raph's business model for pricing plans. His example of Runescape and the various bands are a step in the right direction. The more accessible you make the game (lower cost), the more people the game will draw in, unless that game is a huge successful name like the Warcraft series and Blizzard. This could have negative repurcussions like a bad community, but I am sure there are ideas that can be discussed that could lower this problem, without having to increase the monthly payment.


Staff Writer

Joined: 9/07/04
Posts: 494

9/12/06 2:10:21 PM#17

Originally posted by legacyguy

You missed the point of the "content is not worth a damn" quote. He was saying how content is so easily used up and tossed asside by gamers. What matters most to the longivity of games to gamers is the loyalty and "cult" following of the gamers with the games. In one word, "community". Not limited to just multiplayer games, but to single player games as well. The "sims" is a perfect example.

There are too many people who are blinded and have vendettes against all things having to do with SOE and SWG. Rational discourse and discussion is lost because of closed minded emotional triads about such and such nerf from people who would stop all discussions that could promote reason and resolutions. Both gamers and developers are guilty of this.

Oh. My. God.
I had a lengthy reply to this, but the board seems to have swallowed it whole. Rather than retype it here, I think I shall go have a beer, and turn it in to an article. I'm sure that will make Dana happier anyway.

Agent_X7 AKA J Star
Notice: The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of or its management.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 11/23/05
Posts: 2279

"Playing things I shouldn''t be playing since 1977."

9/12/06 4:32:27 PM#18

Always interesting to read what you have to say, Raph.  A couple concerns though.

1)  Does this mean that the Bartle model is no longer an option?  It seems that ever since 2003, we pretty much abandoned Bartle's model where every gamer motivation was fully integrated into an MMO.  When I hear "niche," that's what I gather.  The problem I see is that games that are specifically targeted to an audience quickly run into problems of disharmony and animosity.  Even a game like Second Life, which appeals to socializers, tends to create animosity in the form of excess drama.

2)  We have many niche games here, far more than in 2003.  Of course from the business end, if its a matter of "niche," then the business is going to ask, "so what niche is the largest?"  The few examples I have seen of games that are designed for a target audience tended not to do so well, and are riddled with longevity issues from a replayability standpoint (CoH, DDO, Auto Assault).

3)  We have had games that catered to a broad spectrum of users, but are focusing development on satisfying a certain target audience at the exclusion of others, sort of like where you are saying games need to go.  SWG was a good example, Vanguard seems to be as well, and EVE to a lesser extent.  All of these games are experiencing a bit of community animosity between those who want a very clearcut and targeted experience, over those who lay outside the target audience who still enjoy many aspects of the games.

4)  I don't understand this notion of building a relationship with the community.  Whenever someone talks about "the community," it has only ever been a small part of users, typically a highly motivated and competitive "clan" of users, and usually, a self-interested part with a specific agenda as to where they want the game to go.  For lack of a better term, I call them "lobbyists," or perhaps "deacons," but there is still a rank and file that doesn't go to the fanfests, or buy mugs and hats.  How much input should they have in terms of the game's direction, and is it fair to give a small cadre of "user elites" the power over all?

5)  Will digital distribution and web-based marketing decrease the scandals, or increse them?  My biggest problem with digital distribution and web-based marketing is that it gives the developer too much pererogative to change the user's game without the user's consent, and manipulate community opinion.  The good thing about a retailer or a publisher is that you just can't hide important information about your features, plans, quality, and viability.  The scandal around the wholesale change of SWG days after the Trials of Obi Wan expansion was made possible only because digital distribution facilitated it.  If a retailer had to be involved when consumer expectations were let down, chances are that the development house would show some restraint.  You just can't change the user's rulebook at will with a retail distribution model, because you actually have to print the rulebook.  While many developers think this is a bad thing, I personally as a player am getting fed up with the pererogatives the live development teams give themselves.  In case you haven't noticed Raph, this genre suffers a public relations problem, and has been suffering one for a long time (Dark and Light, Age of Mourning).

Again, thank you Raph.  Its good to see some devs actually take the time with us now and then, and I hope we can help you.

"Its sad when people use religion to feel superior, its even worse to see people using a video game to do it."

"...when it comes to pimping EVE I have little restraints."
--Hellmar, CEO of CCP.

"It's like they took a gun, put it to their nugget sack and pulled the trigger over and over again, each time telling us how great it was that they were shooting themselves in the balls."
--Exar_Kun on SWG's NGE


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Joined: 1/11/05
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SWG: Jess Youngstar(CIA)-AhaziDCUO: Blue Horizon(CIA)STO: John West(USS Texas)NCC-91836

9/12/06 7:33:44 PM#19


When you say " selling the Tee Shirt", does this include ingame items(like third party) along with game promotion merchandise?  In esseance, building on a culture and/or community for a single game concept?

If so, I am kinda feeling the No Monthly Fee direction would come into issue


Novice Member

Joined: 4/29/06
Posts: 355

9/12/06 7:45:33 PM#20

Originally posted by remyburke
Ya...ok, so he has identified the problem with MMOs, but offers no solution other than, sell the "tee-shirt". Who is this guy? From his game design "ideas", he sounds like he works on SWG...

He was pre-CU
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