Travel Time

I’m one of the many people who complains frequently about tedium and inconvenience being unfun. I have limited playtime now that I’m married, with many of my sessions capping out at an hour or less. Any time there is a time sink introduced into a game that I see little value in, I get extremely frustrated. The more often that happens, the sooner I am likely to quit playing a game entirely. It’s a wonder, then, that I don’t have a problem with travel time. Continue Reading »

MMO Development Lesson #25

A game is only as strong as its weakest feature. Games are more often judged by their weaknesses than their strengths, just like anything else. Any incomplete feature or complete but crappy feature will leave a bad taste in players’ mouths. Reviewers will dwell on anything that isn’t up to par in your game far more than they will dwell on all the positives. Do not be afraid to get rid of features, even if you’ve already implemented them. This goes for more than just features: If a quest sucks, fix it or get rid of it. If a zone sucks, fix it or get rid of it. If anything sucks, fix it or get rid of it. It may make you shed a tear for all that lost work, but it’s better than leaving it in.

MMO Development Lesson #24

Know when to stop. Beta is not a time for you to pack in new features that you weren’t sure you could get into the game, it’s a time for you to polish all of your core features and ensure that everything that will be in the game at launch is up to snuff. If you find yourself with the desire to add that neat little feature you always wanted, ask yourself two questions: 1) Is everything currently in the game polished and ready to go for paying players? 2) Do we have time to implement this feature and get it polished to a fine sheen? If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” under no circumstances should you try to implement it. Know when to stop, and quit while you’re ahead.

MMO Development Lesson #23

Inconvenience does not make a game harder, it makes it less convenient. Tedium does not equal difficulty. Making something unnecessarily complex, tedious, or in some way inconvenient doesn’t make the game more challenging or more fun. Is having an extremely limited amount of inventory space fun or challenging? No, it’s tedious. It’s not fun gameplay for most people, even if there are some freaks out there who want to painstakingly manage their inventory and consider the absence of that unfun. Don’t design for those people unless you are making a niche game. Make a game challenging via gameplay, not tedious barriers to fun.

MMO Development Lesson #22

Just because you have a good idea doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to implement it. Sometimes a good idea isn’t completely cohesive with the core focus of the game. Sometimes a good idea is very difficult and time-consuming to implement, and that time would be better spent on other things. Sometimes a good idea is cohesive and may not necessarily take forever to implement on its own, but preexisting systems would not mesh very well with it. Whatever the case may be, just because someone has a good idea does not mean it should be or even can be implemented. Remember, when someone who can make calls does not include your good idea in a game, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or that they simply don’t like it; there are usually other reasons that it doesn’t get implemented.

MMO Development Lesson #21

A good idea stands on its own. It doesn’t matter where a good idea comes from, it’s still a good idea. Let go of your ego and learn to identify a good idea no matter where it comes from, even it’s from a non-designer, player, or even your mortal enemy. I’ve had a few good ideas in my life (I like to think, anyway), but the total number of good ideas I’ve heard from other people dwarfs the number of good ideas I’ve ever had myself. Learn to get over yourself and recognize good ideas when you see them.

AGDC: The Zen of Online Game Design

I already mentioned a talk given by Gordon Walton at AGDC, but there’s another good one that I’ve read the write-ups for. This one was also by a BioWare Austin guy and was called The Zen of Online Game Design. It’s a good talk that discusses what Damion Schubert calls the Three Rs: Recruitment (of potential players), Retention (of existing players), and Reduction (of costs). There are great write-ups on Raph’s website, Slashdot, and Next Generation. Keep an eye on the Zen of Design blog for more in-depth articles on each of those Three Rs. As I catch other good write-ups from AGDC, I’ll link them here (and don’t hesitate to direct my attention to other goods ones yourself).

MMO Rant #10: The Mid Game

I’ve played a lot of massively multiplayer games. I think my MMORPG play count is somewhere in the mid dozens at this point, ever creeping toward triple digits. Back in the day, I was willing and able to max characters out–I had the time and dedication to do so. I was willing to get through all of the mid levels and soldier to the end game. But, you know what? At this point in my life, I’m only playing through those levels if they don’t suck. Continue Reading »

MMO Development Lesson #20

It’s better to start with a great shell than a jumbled mass of crap. Okay, that wasn’t articulated well, but the point is this: If you are outlining a system or some content or whatever it is, don’t mash a bunch of random ideas together and hope they will work out. Instead, create a notes document in which you jot down all of your random ideas for whatever you are creating, then write a structured and cohesive document as the document. You will thank yourself later, because trying to revise a jumbled mess is even harder than writing something completely new (I tend to just wipe things clean and start over if I don’t have the notes doc).

MMO Development Lesson #19

Make decisions. Sometimes it’s better just to make a decision on something you’ve been thinking about for a long period of time and go with it. You’ll discover pretty quickly if that decision was the wrong one, and you can, in fact, change your mind on decisions you made before. It is not a crime to delete what you wrote down for System X and start it over–in the end, your game is better for it, because you know WHY the original System X isn’t as good as the new one. Note: Don’t go live with said decision until you know it is the right one.