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Completely random ideas and thoughts about MMO games, design, theory, and the industry itself.

Author: Coldren

The MMO Industry: Coding, Ideas, and Reality

Posted by Coldren Tuesday January 13 2009 at 3:56PM
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Greetings, everyone, and welcome to my first blog post.

As someone who has played MMO’s for almost the entirety of my adult life, it is a hobby and topic that I and many others are passionate about. I do what I can to keep up with the latest trends, ideas, and news from the MMO community at large. What follows is no doubt commonplace, but hopefully, answers I couldn’t find before, someone who knows more can help me find.

Like many others for whom this hobby is a passion, I have “an idea” for an MMO, or at least certain systems that make up an MMO. I know, I know, hundreds of thousands of others do, and few if none of them have ever been adopted, considered, or even looked at by professionals - Especially if they can’t provide proof-of-concept code. In my limited view, I find this rather odd, and peculiar about the MMO industry.

As an anecdotal example, I remember reading an article about someone who developed a cheap water purification system for third-world countries in an arid or desert climate. The design was very simple. It consisted of two pieces. The first was a clear, plastic cone with a curved base and a stopper or plug at the top. This plastic cone sat on top of a wider, black plastic curved base. What they would do is pour the dirty water into the black base, and set the clear, plastic cone on top with the plug in it, and let it sit. As the sun evaporated the water that was placed in the black base, the condensation would then drip down the side of the clear plastic cone, collecting in the curves at the base. When enough condensation had collected, they simply pick up the cone, flip it over, undo the plug, and out came the cleaner water that had condensed at its base.

It was a simple idea, but it was well thought-out. I doubt the man had any knowledge of plastics, or the machinery needed to mold the plastic, or the expertise to determine the costs involved. These aspects were all likely followed through by the people who adopted the design idea.

So why is it that in the MMO industry, an industry which faces constant accusations from its own user base of stagnation, is it commonly accepted that no matter how good your idea is, no one will ever adopt it unless you yourself can code it?

Some of these reasons seem rather intuitive, of course. Clearly someone who has NO knowledge of the complexity of an MMO, from the implementation and development of ideas, to the extreme complexity of its code and technology, to the infrastructure and resources and marketing efforts required to support it, may not understand why their ideas aren’t possible. But does this mean that all ideas from outside the industry, from someone who is just merely an end-user, are fundamentally unadoptable? That no one should ever even bother to try to think of them unless they are already in the industry, or have the vast technical knowledge required to demonstrate it?

Another example, take FedEx or UPS (I don’t recall which): Someone had the idea that they should try to schedule the delivery routes so that the trucks take as many right-turns as possible. The idea behind it was it would save them time, and therefore money, by reducing the need to cross lanes or traverse through apposing traffic. Did the person who came up with this idea have to have intimate knowledge of their navigation software, or GPS? Likely, the answer is no. They simply had the idea, and left it to professionals to make it possible.

So I ask this question, and hopefully people who are in the industry, professionals, or simply have a greater insight that I do not have, can provide some meaningful answers:

Is it possible, even if by the smallest chance of probability, that a really good idea that is well thought-out and documented with a strong logic behind it would ever get a second glance from a development studio that has the resources to make the idea a reality? That someone who can’t code software can still provide unique, creative ideas that can be harvested and brought to market?

I know it’s a general question, so I expect general answers. For some people, the thought and effort they put into their ideas isn’t for the money, or the notoriety - it’s in pursuit of their passion. It’s in the hopes that someone somewhere will see this idea, and say, “Hey, that’s a good idea. We should do that!”, and that an idea they thought up could be realized and enjoyed by others.

Is it all a pipe dream? Are we all just wasting our collective efforts?

Thank you for reading this far.