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Raph Koster Expands Upon Cloud-Native Mindset At Playable Worlds In Latest Riffs Blog

Joseph Bradford Posted:
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Last week in an interview, Playable Worlds' Raph Koster talked about the MMO his team is making and how it is planned to be "cloud-native." Expanding upon that further, Koster took to the Playable Worlds blog to explain how cloud-native is a mindset for the studio.

In the interview with GamesBeat, Koster talked about building a cloud-native MMO for the future. This involves building a game that "won't care which device you're using," though the veteran game dev stopped short of announcing platforms specifically for his studio's upcoming MMO. 

In his latest Riffs by Raph blog series, the Ultima Online developer expanded upon what "cloud-native" really means, especially as it pertains to the studio. Raph talks about cloud-native being a "mindset" of building online worlds, and less that it's about streaming video games through a browser window.

Koster goes into detail about how games were made back in the day, especially as it pertains to the client and server sides of the operation. He also talks about how game engines (also referred to as codebases in the article) were seemingly more fluid, allowing for easier access meaning that, according to Koster, there was an "explosion of creativity" thanks to how many worlds were being created with the same or similar engines.

"The fact that the games worked this way meant that designers could change and evolve the games at any time, without worrying about what the player was using to connect. And the player could connect from anywhere, because pretty much any computer had the software needed to log in."

Raph continued: "That wasn’t all, either. The fact that there were so many easily usable codebases meant that every one of them was used for hundreds of online worlds. Worlds that swapped ideas, content, and even code. The result of this was an explosion of creativity. In fact, there are very few features in modern online games which weren’t invented back then. We are still mining those game designs."

Fast forward to today, though, and Raph talks about the rigidness of game servers by comparison today, as game clients are "highly customized" for the specific game server. Specifically he talks about the mindset of the industry, seeing games categorized as a "'PC game' or 'a mobile game' or 'a console game."

Throughout the blog posts Playable Worlds has been publishing these last few weeks, the single thread of creating an interconnected, living social world has been at the fore. Cloud-native allows for Playable Worlds to help achieve that dream, according to Koster. 

An example of how this could come to be is how games built upon the web and how games like NeoPets and RuneScape were able to reach millions of players each month, even more that of MMORPG king World of Warcraft, even when WoW was being heralded as the top MMO out there.

It isn't without trade-offs, though. Koster mentions how these games that were able to reach millions of active players a month were dismissed because of their graphics, however he points to the reason they were able to reach as many people as they did was down to the distribution.

"The thing all of these games had in common was that they ran on the web, in Flash or similar tech. A lot of gamers were dismissive because the graphics weren’t as good. But the reason these games were able to reach those numbers is because of cloud-based distribution, an advantage of the Flash platform they were built on."

Raph also talks about how hey would make the tradeoff of stripping away the sheen of high-end graphics for a more persistent living world that cloud-native can offer.

"And yeah, there are tradeoffs involved in using a more dynamic of architecture. One of the biggest is graphics that are not as high-end. But personally, I’d make those tradeoffs in a heartbeat, because we were promised living persistent virtual worlds right alongside our flying cars – but we have traded away those living worlds in exchange for cardboard worlds with really pretty paint jobs."

Koster goes on to talk about what cloud-native actually means for Playable Worlds, mostly by approaching their design with the mindest to "meet the player where the player is." 

To check ou the full article, head to the Playable Worlds blog. Recently, Koster has talked about their approach to social play, the player-run economy and more, if you're interested in learning more about how Playable Worlds is approaching their upcoming MMORPG.


Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore