Monday, May 25, 2009

Industry insiders reveal how to fail at game design

Thanks to Sente for linking to this piece by Sanya Weathers. Basically, Sanya interviewed a bunch of MMO industry vets who all pretty much say that players don't *want* story in their quests, players don't even want quest descriptions, players only want to Kill Ten Rats (TM)

I just have to chime in with my 2 cents here.

If you force players to grind for hours on end to reach the achievements that they so heartily desire, of course they're going to try and short-cut that as much as possible.


Minimizee the freaking grind? Stop allowing your business model to dictate your game design? Oh no, knowledgeable industry insiders keep using the same old business model and instead blame it all on the players. As though they're not the exact same demographic that also like to play single player RPG's, in which story is king and if you skip the quest text you may as well uninstall the game.

In summary:

Step 1) Take out grind.
Step 2) Replace with gameplay (various challenge levels, twitch-based or strategical or a combination) and story.
Step 3) Profit.

A handy by-product of this is that without the grind, friends who get the game at different times can actually play with each other. What an exciting age of game design that would be.

Or, you could continue to go with the tried and tested "AAA" MMO strategy:

Step 1) Copy WoW
Step 2) ???
Step 3) Close up shop within a year from release because nobody is playing


Chappo said...

I think this mentality has been caused by a whole bunch of factors, mainly that most players recognize the 'kill ten rats' quests as being the quickest way to level. And since again the mentality is that the game begins at the level cap people are even more willing to do so. Its disgraceful really,

Elementalistly said...

What I want to know is..

Who the F*** did the developers interview to get that answer.
I would not say I like the Kill 10 quests, I want story.

Stupidity at it's finest again.

I really have no more to comment on this crap for MMO's Again, people can look at games like Guild Wars to see if people want "story" or not.
WoW's success totally hinges on it being first to simplify this kill 10 x objective, and then it just became the "In" game for people to play, not that it is that fun, but that OTHERS play it...the social aspect is what wins there.

If WoW had a story, I bet there would be an audience that played the game for the game and not the name (kind of like how people only buy "Sony" for the name, when the products are not THAT great at times..."But, it is a Sony"...bah)

Ah well /rant off


Crimson Starfire said...

Couldn't agree more.

> Stop allowing your business model to dictate your game design?

I feel like putting that sentence at the top of the blog in bold letters. The subscription model has to go. It's destroying the industry $15 at a time.

mbp said...

This makes me cross. I love a good story and the best single player games I have played all have strong story lines.

I am sure it is harder to implement a proper story in a multi-player world (problems with persistence and the unmentionable phrase "end of game") and I have no doubt it is a lot cheaper to design a level grind but perhaps someone will figure out how to do it.

Melf_Himself said...

You're right mbp, it is a bit harder because of the multiplayer aspect.

You know, I think if I was a developer I'd make a pact with my players - as long as they're leveling up, everywhere they go and everything they do is going to be connected to the overarching story of the game/their character.

When I run out of stories, that's where the level cap is. There's still plenty of stuff to do *if you want to* (ahcievements, titles, emotes, flashy looks, PvP, etc), but from that point on you won't have to lift a finger to progress the power of your character. If I was only able to think of 4 hours worth of 'story-time', then guess what, it takes 4 hours to reach level cap, and if you don't like it then I probably don't deserve your money. If I'm someone awesome like BioWare there's probably a solid 20-30 hours of story time in there.

To put this in other words:

Power increases should only come as story progresses.

Tesh said...

Very nice article and comments.

As an "industry insider" of sorts (I don't make MMOs, I make XBox Live games and assorted others), I'm continually surprised by the idiocy I see in MMO design. (Which is why I blog about alternatives.)

That $15/month mentality warps the market and the design ethos way past the point of stupidity.

At the same time, people KEEP PAYING IT. WoW keeps getting bigger. If the beancounters saw a market in the "blue ocean" of MMO design space, they would be going for it. Some games have done so, like GW, W101 and Puzzle Pirates, but for the most part, cloning WoW is the order of the day.

I've all but given up on MMOs, actually. I have ideas for them, and I've seen some other people with great ideas, but until the mainstream wakes up, there's just no funding for alternative design.

As a player, it's not worth slogging through a series of DIKU derivatives to try to glean some fun gaming out of the mess.


Tesh said...

Oh, and yes, this sort of "racing to the endgame" nonsense has to stop. Make the whole game fun, and stop clumping people at a level cap. Let people of all levels play together and have fun, and let people actually use more than 2% of your content.