Since announcing he is building a new MMORPG with the apparently respectably funded new Playcraft studio, Raph Koster has been doing a long string of business interviews to see how much he can say without giving too much of the game away, but hey at least it’s been fun to see Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies in the same sentence on mainstream websites, right? Most recently, he’s chatted up Gamasutra, telling the publication that his “core team” is ready to roll now that “the audience [is] ready” and “the technology [is] there”; he says he’s refocused on “social dynamics and back on the ways in which players interact.”
“There are so many ways to exist and interact with these alternate, fictional worlds that to say combat is The Way is just so reductive,” he says. “We’ve really started getting that lesson; for me it was a lesson we came into on Ultima Online.” In fact, he suggests Star Wars Galaxies, which released six years later, was meant to fix a lot of the problems the first MMO devs in UO encountered – specifically, by rewarding social gameplay like entertainment and politics, not just murderhoboing.
Koster also discusses his research for the Trust Spectrum he devised last year, which seems to be underpinning his plans to optimize player interaction based on the trust levels inherent in their relationships – and not making the best or only content dependent on the high amounts of trust required in, say, elite endgame raiding.
“This is part of why people hate pick-up groups; because it’s basically like being told ‘hey lets go out into our high-stakes tournament with a group of random people who have never played before.’ […] A lot of the successes in MMO community and teamwork have been oriented around that stye of trust-building, which is fun and good and natural. I don’t want to sound down on it. But at the same time it’s somewhere between challenging and alienating to people who are uncomfortable with being put in high-trust relationships out of the blue, with strangers. […] Because of the nature of MMOs and MUDs being, early on, very hack-and-slash oriented, we’ve got a whole bunch of almost dysfunctional, emergent, dynamics, such as players getting pulled apart because one player has more time to play than another. And then, by coping with that by inventing things like mentoring and sidekicking, like now there’s a whole cascade of issues.” […] “The cascade [specifically in Elder Scrolls Online] led to increased content costs, it led to huge power differences between newbies and advanced players, which then led to players being unable to play together, which was already challenging because it had to be a high-trust relationship in the first place. […] So that’s just one example of these cascading consequences that come from building everything around tight relationships.”
“When we think about the the dream of a parallel alternate world, it’s going to have in it librarians,” he says. “It’s going to have in it, carpenters. It’s going to have in it, press agency people and journalists. And all of those people drive real value. They all matter.”
The MOP writers and readers mused on the game’s potential and the future of virtual world sandboxes in our most recent Massively Overthinking.