Raph Koster touches on the technology and community that will bring Playable Worlds’ MMO to life

    
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Raph Koster touches on the technology and community that will bring Playable Worlds’ MMO to life

Raph Koster, the CEO of Playable Worlds, certainly has plenty of thoughts about the creation of a metaverse. First, however, you have to actually make a compelling game. That’s the general point of an interview with VentureBeat, which talks about the studio’s developing MMO from both a technical and communal standpoint.

According to Koster, the sandbox game will be cloud-based, with custom-crafted technology to “allow [the studio] to deliver games as a service and online game operation better than the norm.” Koster also seeks to make the game someplace where explorers, player killers, socializers, and killers can co-exist or even find some interdependencies. And while the tech being developed by Playable Worlds could mean a lot for making a virtual realm, Koster is adamant that the developing title “absolutely is a game. It’s not just a social space.”

On the subject of community, Koster and studio co-founder Eric Goldberg are keen on forming a community as organically as possible. “If you make community first rather than treat community simply as a revenue device, you can do better. You can give rewards to your community and grow it organically,” said Goldberg.

It’s all pie-in-the-sky talk — and things that have brought up before by Koster — but with some successful funding, it would seem that it isn’t only talk. We’ll see hopefully by next year, in which case we can ideally use actual screenshots instead of the Playable Worlds logo as a header image.

source: VentureBeat

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Raventharke

I would really love to see the business plans that get venture capital firms to pony up 10-15 million for a game like this.

Let’s do some really bad napkin math:

– Let’s say you charge $15 / month for a subscription.

– That’s $1.8M / year revenue for each 10,000 subscribers

– Say each developer makes $100k annual salary, the cost to the company of each dev is around $125k

– That translates to a realistic 5-8 devs per 10k subscribers with minimal profit margin to the company (read investors)

Then consider that the development time for a “groundbreaking” game like this is 5-10 years…and you have to paying wages / business expenses with no income for that duration…

Given the current mmo situation and the relatively low ROI – how many subs do you really think this game can expect to have in 5-10 years – there must be something else in the works.

Most of these games strike me as a front to develop a new engine that can be licensed to real game dev companies.

I dunno – maybe I am just being negative but I really am having a hard time seeing anything come of this with only $10-15M in funding especially when it is a super niche genre that is already pretty crowded (Black Desert, Albion, Archage).

I mean, just look at CU…

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Raph Koster

Short form is, this won’t be the last fundraise needed. :)

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Raventharke

Indeed.

Still would love to see that business plan.

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Toy Clown

SWG was the only MMO I’ve seen where bringing the different playstyles together actually worked with interdependency. PvPers and PvEers needed buffs and equipment, so they interacted with Entertainers, Medics, and Crafters. The lower level instances and theme parks allowed access to Traders and Entertainers. Space was open to everyone and it was common for veteran spacers to help others needing to kill Vettes and other content to progress, no matter the playstyle they came from.

That’s what I picture when I read these things. SWG, even in the Emus, has some of the tightest communities I’ve seen across the MMO-verse. In my mind, if the person who helped bring that type of engaging gameplay to us can only make it better, I’m interested in seeing this take shape.

I’m also interested in what all of this cloud space design means, especially if it means a way of disengaging from some of the high costs of MMO creation.

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Raph Koster

FWIW, this is based on a somewhat garbled quote. It was a recitation of the usual Bartle Four — and it wasn’t even me saying it, it was Eric. :)

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Robert Mann

Player killers… if it has them working on each other in their own areas, without restricting the rest of the players too badly, then maybe.

Simply put, there’s a continually diminishing portion of people who will even step foot somewhere, because they know how the bad will behave, and the old “Anti-PKs though!” argument falls completely flat as there are very few and they aren’t around to keep people from being ganked in the first place anyway.

The ‘excitement’ of potentially being attacked might thrill a few, but more are just tired of the other aspects of the game being interrupted. So without harshly segregating the PK element, this might be DOA for many of us.

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Tee Parsley

Interestingly, if you read Koster’s own post mortem of SWG, you see that several of the fan favorite mechanisms were adopted over his advice. Flagging for pvp being the most trenchant. He felt they could handle the pvp issue through some other social methods, iirc.

No one has handled it yet…..

Raleigh-St-Clair
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Raleigh-St-Clair

Koster is literally, without hyperbole on my behalf, the only industry veteran I would let anywhere near this. I wish him all the best. It could be utterly fascinating.

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Ozzie

Archeage actually comes to mind with killers/crafters co-existing, at least when it comes to fishing. Open-sea fishing is profitable so people really want to do it, but it comes at a risk because you can be killed. Yet for player killers, it’s not really that profitable to hunt and kill fishermen, because you spend a decent amount of time looking for them and are limited to stealing some fish. They’re mostly rewarded by the thrill of ganking. So at the end of the day, you have a well-balanced back and forth that’s more exciting together. It helps that fishermen aren’t defenseless either and can be sneaky and evasive prey.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

So….check back in about 8 years, right?

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Natalyia

In order for that sort of multi-dimensional game to exist, then the gameplay for “explorers and socializers” have to have the same depth and thought put into them as the gameplay for killers and player-killers.

Color me skeptical. To date, all that’s meant is “we want explorers and socializers to be ‘content’ for the player killers to prey upon and destroy what they’ve built.”

On the other hand, this isn’t some random yahoo making the game. So, I’m just skeptical rather than laughing at “yet another FFA PvP Open World Explore Build Play!” game.

But if people who just want to see the world burn and care nothing about the game’s rewards and disincentives can prosper? If they can have “fun” by just ruining the game for everyone around them and laughing? Then it’ll founder on the same rocks New World or Worlds Adrift.

It seems a huge blindspot for games developers. They just seem to somehow assume that people who just want to make others miserable will somehow care about the game’s reward structure, when the misery they inflict *is* their reward structure.

And it doesn’t take very many of those sorts of players to poison the well. One encounter with someone like that and many people will just shrug and say “well, just another gankbox – plenty of other things to play” and move on. They have no desire to “git gud” or experience the “excitement” of being attacked while exploring or socializing.

The game’s just told them they’re sheep in a forest full of wolves who are rewarded for being wolves. Not being sheep, they’re not going to bleat helplessly and come back again and again.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Well said. Good points all.

Koster may be the only game developer who can bring it off, but even then, one worries. SWG was generations ago in the MMO world. It’s safe to say that in that time, players’ thinking about the games they play and what they enjoy have evolved, expanded and matured.

That said, if MMOs are to evolve past the current state, this is the guy that can do it.

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Stormwaltz

The answer is conceptually simple. The devil – as ever – lies in the details of implementation. There are many loopholes to close (I’m sure this post will get a lot of replies that point them out).

Fundamentally: Socializers should not rely on Killers to enjoy their gameplay. Killers must rely on Socializers to enjoy theirs.

A quick sketch of how this might work:

1. No drop loot beyond cash and craft materials.

2. There are no NPC towns. Only player-guild towns.

3. You can only craft and repair in towns that have been built up by the efforts of many.

4. Player towns have a programmatically-enforced border you can’t pass without permission. Permissions can range from “open to anyone not blacklisted” to “only open to our guild.” Blacklists can be shared.

Want to go out in the wilderness to PK? You’d best remain on good terms with somebody.

If you can’t get in a town, you end up reduced to wearing rags and throwing rocks (which the combat system is balanced to make suicide against anyone decently equipped).

The obvious problem is, what if Killers form a guild and build a town? My two-minute blue-sky answer is – don’t let them. When a guild is formed, you have a choice – it can be a PK-capable guild, or a construction-capable guild.

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Robert Mann

They’ll just buy alt accounts if need be to make a town. Heck, people buy dozens of accounts just to grief after being banned on one.

I do not believe that open PK can coexist with other playstyles, unless the people who are playing all want that. We have seen the continual slide in population to that end. In short, the number of people who want that and aren’t out to PK is so minimal as to be negligible, at which point nobody should develop content there because that’s quite literally as effective as burning money to combat smog.

In short, developers need to just recognize that they can make a PK game and deal with the highly niche population that won’t grow no matter how much “But this other stuff” they throw around. The only way it works is to segregate the PK without punishing the non-PK players for not wanting to go out and get attacked. I’ve said separate but equal, with a firm barrier that prevents content intermingling in areas of interest from PK to explorer to crafter to PvE combat and on… which is somewhat poor for almost everyone, but less poor than the results of letting any group run roughshod over the others.

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Stormwaltz

Yeah, many loopholes. Off the top of my head (just spitballing), you might check for accounts using the same CC, billing address, or email. Not perfect, not infallible. I do think there’s a way to accomplish it.

But I also think you’re correct – there’s not a huge market for it. In my head there’s a Venn diagram with circles labelled Sandbox World, Public Online Play, and FFA PvP, and the overlap at the center is very small indeed.

It’s our white whale.

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Ironwu

“…explorers, player killers, socializers, and killers can co-exist…”

Dead on Arrival.