MMORPG developer Raph Koster has been having words about the MMO industry ahead of the reveal of the MMO that his new studio Playable Worlds is working on. Really, kind of a lot of words. This latest piece is all about ensuring that you’re having the fun.
Koster notes the conflict between what players want and what the business running an MMO wants, how impossible “fun” is to actually measure, and how worrying about players getting bored is the actual challenge. He argues that most MMOs will just shove in more content in a vain attempt to hold player attention, by which they mean a variation on whatever you were already doing – which seldom works.
“Players get bored. It’s natural,” he says. “It is really rare that a single game holds someone forever. And if you don’t have something else for them to do as a change of pace, well, you’re likely to lose them. Supporting a range of ways to play means that when someone gets bored of one activity, they can do something else, which is the most human thing in the world. What is weird is the idea that someone would spend all their time doing only one thing to the exclusion of all else — even if they love it!” Clearly, the solution as he sees it is to provide a wide variety of content, not just more of the same, in order to build a “long-term emotional relationship with the player.” That sounds pretty creepy on its own, but in context, it makes sense, especially if you’ve been following our comments on these blogs and noticed how aloof even gamers who want this type of game are about these pitches.
“One of the saddest things about the way the game industry has gone is the level of distrust and cynicism that has grown among players. And I certainly won’t pretend that the years of accumulated disappointment can be wiped away with a few blog posts from a new studio with no game to show yet. You have heard plenty of lofty promises before. But I am still going to say this anyway: We need to earn your trust. We need to prove our value to you each day and each month. We need to treat you as an ongoing valued relationship, and our game and our service must be designed to maintain and nurture that relationship. And that will require transparency, and honesty, and openness. It will require admitting when we screw up. It will require us to see ourselves not as above the community, but as part of it. That is our commitment to you. As far as I am concerned, as we build these playable worlds, we are building something together.”
As a side note, I don’t think Koster has talked much about Playable Worlds’ business model yet, but there might be a hint in this piece: “If you want subscriptions, you need to make a game that deserves to be subscribed to. You need to prove your value to the player every month.”