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Oddgo

Odd Musings: The perfect game

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Hi guys! Thanks for rejoining me for another train of bizarre thought.

I just caught the news that Notch was putting in a map feature for the 1.6 update, and the article mentioned several other features Notch had hoped to implement in the future. The final sentence of the article read, "The map system will be the only new feature in 1.6, so other interesting additions such as these may have to wait until 1.7 or beyond." And that sentence gave me pause for thought; specifically the words after that comma.

"1.7 and beyond..." I thought to myself. Examining the way Minecraft is being "made" and its success starting kicking gears into drive. Then I looked at the rest of the gaming world and realized something. Longevity in games is something that is very much desired. This is not necessarily saying that longer in hours makes for a better game, but longer in feel and experience might certainly hold some truth. Could one release a basic game, and simply keep adding to it? Could that be a feasible approach to making games? I pondered this and found I could answer those questions with the examples of our time. Minecraft, Half Life episodes, episodic gaming as a whole, DLC, updates, remakes, reboots, and oh my gosh! They are all trying to achieve the same goal! They want to extend the life of their games (and/or make some cash)!



Let's take a quick step back before we move forward. How would you define a perfect game? Everyone would have there own definition, because it is essentially projecting your greatest desires into a format and saying that if what you propose could be achieved, you would have your perfect game. Well, one of my thoughts for a perfect game utilize something that is about half-way between Minecraft's update-style of development and the episodic release style that Half Life gave a try. It would have releases of new content every month, but the content wouldn't be just updates or just a continuance of story. They would be both! Changing game play as it fit, escalating the story, and giving the player a near perpetual experience of a game that they love!

Still, I stepped back and had to concede to the doubtful voice in my mind, who I will call Kevin. Kevin made a point that World of Warcraft does this sort of thing and that I hate World of Warcraft. And I had to agree, I do. However, I do not hate WoW for the reason that they attempt to create a world, immersive and full of things to do, that has unlimited life. I actually like the simplicity of having a single game that I could play for hours, days, and weeks, incorporating a myriad of different play-styles and roles, never running out. No, I hate WoW for two primary reasons, and then several other small ones that range from nit-picking to thorns in my side that might have been ignored if the primary two did not exist. My two biggest issues are thus; monthly fees in order to keep playing, and grinding.



I hate monthly fees, because it essentially means that I can invest time, effort, emotion, and money, finding friends, allies, rivals, and enemies to interact with on a regular basis, and all that will disappear if I chose not to keep paying this subscription. I like the idea of MMOs, I do. But I would prefer to pay up to $150 for the right to play forever then keep handing $15 over every month.

The second reason is that I hate grind. I can tolerate killing massive amounts of baddies and receiving experience for it. Hell, that sounds like fun. But my issue comes in when grind is the core activity in order to level up, obtain new armor and abilities, and gain the strength to adventure through the wilds with your friends. I do not like the idea of being destroyed by a raiding group of human players because they chose to spend Finals week locked in their dorms, chugging energy drinks and killing thousands of clones of creature who is desperately searching for way to stop respawning. I don't like it because it is boring in most cases, and there are better ways to reward the player with what they grind for.

Ok, /rant. I hope you can take something away from this, especially if you are a developer in the making (I have such ideas to give you). Grind and monthly fees are bad, but the concept of creating a virtual playground where we can all ride the slides forever is good. That's my perspective.

As always, thanks for reading,
Oddgo

Comments

  1. Vulture's Avatar
    i'm beginning to like your blogs

    my definition of "the perfect game" is a game that "consumes" my consciousness completely. a game that when i turn it on, it is so immersive or engaging that i lose myself, not just figuratively, but i lose all sense of self identity. the perfect escape. pure escapism has always been my motivation to play games. pure immersion.

    this for me, i have found can be achieved in 2 main ways.
    1. the world. if the world is "real" enough because of art, story, other players, or mechanics, then it is easier for me to become "lost" in it.

    2. gameplay. when i play the game, does it "feel" like i'm "playing a game," or does it feel like i am supplanting my conscious thought straight into a game.

    as far as the above points go for longevity ina game, it is often the situation for me that a world will eventually lose it's immersion because i eventually cease to engage with it. or it becomes "boring," as a poor word to describe it. Often it's just me as a player ceasing to recognize the same building i walked by 200 times prior or some such example. this leads me to not "experience" the game in that immersive way, but in the same way you drive your car to the grocery store down the street. gameplay has a similar effect, in that there is a point between "learning" and "monotony" that is the sweet spot.

    i don't know of any particular way to solve both problems, but i can tell you that the games that i end up playing the longest have "modular" components to their gameplay that can be swapped around and interact with each other in different ways, while keeping the core of the game intact. a good example is the civilization games, you can play the same game over and over, but you can have drastically different experiences because of race, map, timeline, and difficulty choices. the Sim City games are also a good example but unfortunately in the same "strategy/sim" genre.

    i find it hard to think that an rpg style game could incorporate this modular component for a prospective "indefinite" gameplay experience. rpg's are driven by a character naturally, and as the game is driven by the un-broken experience of the in-game character, it would be difficult to build in a "module" type of system into it. although, the longest game i ever played was morrowind, and that was because fo the player created "mods" out there.

    there's a couple interesting videos out there by Will Wright, where he blathers on about how gameplay can be driven by player creation. his experiment in philosophy there in spore is a failure, but he still has a solid proven theory on the subject. i suggest they be looked up, as there is a good example of "fun" that can last in a game indefinitely.
  2. yurch's Avatar
    Minecraft, Half Life episodes, episodic gaming as a whole, DLC, updates, remakes, reboots, and oh my gosh! They are all trying to achieve the same goal! They want to extend the life of their games (and/or make some cash)!
    It's the cash.

    A big name game has big name brand recognition. For this reason you can look forward to Mario and Zelda games for the next eighty years. DLC's and expansions use existing game engines and assets and are therefore much cheaper to produce.

    Games coming with newer intellectual properties get relatively cold receptions from the public at large unless they're hyped up with expensive advertising.


    Furthermore, any comparisons you may draw between episodic or Minecrafty games and an MMO aren't entirely fair:

    I hate monthly fees, because it essentially means that I can invest time, effort, emotion, and money, finding friends, allies, rivals, and enemies to interact with on a regular basis, and all that will disappear if I chose not to keep paying this subscription. I like the idea of MMOs, I do. But I would prefer to pay up to $150 for the right to play forever then keep handing $15 over every month.
    Most people are going to balk at paying 150$+ dollars for a game they don't know if they like. It just doesn't make sense financially for a company to do this.

    Massively Multiplayer games have an elusive component in their success: they need a massive number of players. Not sales, but active players playing at any given time. World of Warcraft is popular because it is popular. Nobody wants to play an online social game that their friends aren't playing. Hitting and maintaining that critical mass of players is what makes or breaks an MMO, and the expenditure to reach that point is incredible.

    Many years of development time, top notch QA, supercomputer level servers, and technical support teams are all needed to keep that beast going. The game itself has to be designed around attracting as many players as possible and keeping them online constantly; lowest common denominator levels of accessibility, small daily events, long grinding.

    The astronomical level of investment required easily overtakes movie budgets, and as things get more competitive, shareholders are increasingly afraid to take any risks. MMO's are probably the last place to expect any drastic format innovation at the moment.
  3. Aginor's Avatar
    I remember hearing that Notch would implement enemy towns consisting of things like goblins(?), and the like. Hope he continues on this.