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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:01 pm 
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A lot of people (even that oft-referred-to 'fanatics') seem to be disappointed with Uru because it's not what they expected. And elsewhere it's been talked about that expectations for Uru are skewed.

Uru is not an MMORPG in the sense of WoW, Guild Wars, City of Heroes, etc. Nor is it an adventure game, like Sam & Max or even Myst. And it's not a puzzle game.

Uru is a MMARG. MMARG? Massively-Multiplayer Alternate Reality Game. Check out Wikipedia's definition of an ARG for a starting point.

Now, while I think everythng in that article applies to Uru in some way, let me quote the "Basic Design Principles" section in a spolier tag to highlight it:[spoiler]
Wikipedia wrote:
Basic Design Principles
ARGs are sometimes described as the first narrative art form native to the internet, because their storytelling relies on the two main activities conducted there: searching for information, and sharing information. The Beast utilized these two activities through a group of design principles that are now treated as givens by many ARGs and similar forms of internet narratives, but at the time the combination was revolutionary.

Storytelling as archaeology. Instead of presenting a chronologically unified, coherent narrative, the designers scattered pieces of the story across the Internet and other media, allowing players to reassemble it, supply connective tissue and determine what it meant.
Platformless narrative. The story was not bound to a single medium, but existed independently and used whatever media were available to make itself heard.

Designing for a hive mind. While it might be possible to follow the game individually, the design was directed at a collective of players that shared information and solutions almost instantly, and incorporated individuals possessing almost every conceivable area of expertise. While the game might initially attract a small group of participants, as they came across new challenges, they would reach out and draw in others with the knowledge they needed to overcome the obstacles.

A whisper is sometimes louder than a shout. Rather than openly promoting the game and trying to attract participation by "pushing" it toward potential players, the designers attempted to "pull" players to the story by engaging in over-the-top secrecy (e.g. Microsoft did not acknowledge any connection between the company or the movie and the game, the game did not acknowledge any connection to Microsoft or A.I., the identities of the designers were a closely-guarded secret even from other Microsoft employees, etc.), having elements of the game "warn" players away from them, and eschewing traditional marketing channels. Designers did not communicate about the game with players or press while it was in play.

The "this is not a game" (TINAG) aesthetic. The game itself did not acknowledge that it was a game. It did not have an acknowledged ruleset for players; as in real-life, they determined the "rules" either through trial and error or by setting their own boundaries. The narrative presented a fully-realized world: any phone number or email address that was mentioned actually worked, and any website acknowledged actually existed. The game took place in real-time and was not replayable. Characters functioned like real people, not game pieces, responded authentically, and were controlled by real people, not by computer AI. Some events involved meetings or live phone calls between players and actors.

Real life as a medium. The game used players' lives as a platform. Players were not required to build a character or role-play being someone other than themselves. They might unexpectedly overcome a challenge for the community simply because of the real-life knowledge and background they possessed. Participants were constantly on the lookout for clues embedded in everyday life.

Collaborative storytelling. While the puppetmasters controlled most of the story, they incorporated player content and responded to players' actions, analysis and speculation by adapting the narrative and intentionally left "white space" for the players to fill in.

Not a hoax. While the TINAG aesthetic might seem on the surface to be an attempt to make something indistinguishable from real life, there were both subtle and overt metacommunications in place to reveal the game's framework and most of its boundaries. The most obvious was that the story itself took place in the year 2142, and the websites ostensibly existed in the future (visitors to some of the sites would trigger a pop up warning that their browser was obsolete and unrecognized). The designers also limned the borders of the game more subtly, e.g. through the names on the site registrations.

This set of design assumptions was to exert enough influence on subsequent entries in the genre that games that deviated from one or more of these principles were often acknowledged by their designers to be a conscious attempt to do something different, rather than a result of a lack of awareness on the part of the designers.
[/spoiler]

This is Uru at it's core. We find information. And we share it among the community. I think the 'alone or together' concept is over-hyped. 'Alone', Uru begins to fall apart.

Storytelling as archaeology. Myst games have NEVER told us the whole story. We, the fanatics, figured it out. For example, there is a connection between D'ni numbers and letters. Cyan didn't tell is this. The fans in the Riven days figured this out.

There seems to be no story behind the 'mini-journies' (Eder Delin/Tsogal, Negilahn). Is there no story? Or have we just not noticed it yet? Maybe we just haven't discussed it enough. Maybe we haven't asked the right questions.

And isn't the Restoration about archaeology anyway? It's not about solving, it's about discovering.

Platformless narrative. There has been a lot of talk about too much of the information about the game not being in the game itself. I don't think that's an oversight.

Yes, the game on GameTap is the core element in Uru Live. And you aren't required to check the forums, webpages, etc. But if you don't, you are missing half of the game. The story is being told in many different forms - in Cavern, on the DRC site, on these forums, in websites, etc. That is precisely the point - Uru is an expansive experience.

Designing for a hive mind. This is what is happening with Negilahn. It isn't aimed at the individual or the small group. It's aimed at Uru as a whole. We are, in many ways, that hive mind. I mean, we we all bang away at it together, how many puzzles do you really think will survive?

Real life as a medium. Half of what I talk about when I tell my friends about Uru are the little things. The goofy 'Sharper' summoning. The fact that some player named Heaven was ignoring Nick White one of the times he was in Cavern, and he keeps mentioning her. The running joke that the ResEngs steal each other's coffee. Etc etc etc. These are the little things that make life interesting. I'm sure there are dozens of other running jokes and little experiences that I will never hear about, yet mean a lot to the people who were there.

Uru has texture and depth because it is about real people, even if some of those real people are acting like people that they aren't.

Collaborative storytelling. We aren't just involved in 'storyline'. We are also involved in an ongoing history full of actions and reactions. The Yeesha sighting was obviously a reaction to the effort on here to draw her attention. Was it a 'plot point'? It doesn't have to be. People did something, Cyan responded. It's a part of our history now, and it tells us somethign (if only something vague) about the universe in which we are playing.

And you know, that history does include In Character and Out of Character. It should. This is about the game and about the people involved. The history of Until Uru is just as important as the history of the Kings. Rand Miller is as much a personality in this universe as is Atrus. We the players are part of this experience just as much as we the explorers.

*whew* I'm ranting a bit. Let me try to sum up.

In the immortal words of Buckaroo Banzai: "Wherever you go, there you are."

I think there are tweaks to be made in the concept and the execution (in some ways we are defining the MMARG genre here). But I think that we (both we as explorers and Cyan themselves) need to set the ARG experience as the expectation of what you are going to get from Uru. Because, honestly, this is where we actually find ourselves.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:12 pm 
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I have but one thing to say: "/clap". 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:50 pm 
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this is all precisely what i've been trying to tell people. excellent.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:06 pm 
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I suppose a multi-player game based on Pirates of the Caribbean would be an MMARRRRGH. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:08 pm 
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Crid wrote:
I suppose a multi-player game based on Pirates of the Caribbean would be an MMARRRRGH. :)


bwahahahahahaha :D


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:40 pm 
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Thanks for a great post Blake. That's a great description!

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:44 pm 
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Good info, good take on everything. It even put some things in perspective for me. In fact, I think I'll reread it. :D

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:53 pm 
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Blade,

Thank you for the wonderful description. I have been wondering how to tell others what Uru is and is not. This is a perfect summary. :)

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:54 pm 
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*Very long pause*
















That was bloody Brilliant!


You win the Awesome Award
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:58 pm 
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Blade, great post, beginning from the title "Managing Expectaions.."
Now, as you mention it, I realize I always saw it as an MMARG - I just never felt the need to define this clearly for myself.
But maybe this is the exact point where Cyan can improve, managing expectations.......

shorah

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:52 pm 
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Awesome. Nail...head.
:)
Blade, thanks for the descriction. I get a little impatient sometimes and end up getting cranky.....Reminds me of a little saying I learned from a group of people in a recovery program once, "You keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting."

So, oh....I almost forgot...the fun for me is to watch and observe, discover and participate. Managing my expections has always been the key to my own personal happiness in real life too.

Thanks for reminding me it's the journey not the destination.

and, what: Nick and Heaven haven't hooked up yet? :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 12:11 am 
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Bullseye 8)
(I've even bookmarked your post so as to be able to point people to it when required)

Handy that Wikipedia has this description, as it lends essential credibility to the category.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:05 am 
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This should be stickied. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:35 am 
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And this is where URU leaves me behind. I would rather explore on my own and solve/explore things on my own. A sense of self achievement.

A number of Myst fans I have talked to have been disappointed with URU in the direction it is going, whether this was the intent or a new approach I do not know. It may well be that this is where in a few months the numbers playing URU will decline and only the fanatics who live and breath the D'ni universe will remain.

Now whether that will be enough to keep URU going is another thing. If I had the time, if I did not work, read my books, or sketch or socialize with people in the real world, I might have to time to surf the net and visit websites and research material on the ficticious D'ni, compile it and then be able to solve how to open a door or whatever it might be to continue on. But I don't...I would rather have the clues and the info there in the simulation/chatroom (not game) to move forward and explore. I graduated university years ago and had my fill of research then. I do not need it in a simulation or game if this was one.

I realize now that URU does not have puzzles to solve, it has barriers or goals to pass or achieve, but in most cases that I have seen so far it is just about rewards for your Relto.

Ah well, yes it has only been less than a month since the new URU has launched with not real new ages to speak off of interest that I can say WOW look at that. Should we have expected it? Yes. With any launch of a game you expect to WOWed with new and different content. Not old content from 3 years ago. IGN put it right whether players here like it or not. They did not shoot URU down but focussed on the lack on new content. Excluding the 3 new tiny "Ages" that are not worth mentioning as an ages, but I guess they are.

I am sure I will get stepped on for this view but I have played all the Myst games, Riven being my favourite, and I had high hopes for URU after playing it solo offline a few years back and recently going through Beta.

To each his own. URU cannot cater to everyone, but it should and I hope for its own sake it caters to a large enough group out there to keep it alive. I have already paid for year with Gametap, my mistake, so I guess I can come and go as I please in to URU until my year is up and see if things grow from what for now is still a tiny seed.

Take care and Cheers!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 4:59 am 
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aallan wrote:
so I guess I can come and go as I please in to URU until my year is up and see if things grow from what for now is still a tiny seed.


I think your assessment is accurate, it *is* a seed, and it will grow. I would guess that on the tree that grows, will be fruit to satisfy many palates, wrapped up in an overarching concept.

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