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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 8:57 pm 
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Many in the Second Life community are trying to figure out how to make SL a main stream application, something like Facebook, I suppose. In that line a recent article (quoted below) contained an assessment of the problem with SL. I think MOUL had and the future MOOU will have many of the same challenges.

Treet.TV wrote:
As rich as SL seems, it is not rich enough. It is not easy enough, and its interface requires tremendous effort to master. Today, having a true immersive experience requires, first, a belief that it can happen and the desire and patience to learn enough to reap those rewards. It takes more energy than most mainstream users are willing to expend. Worse, SL is segregated in a tiny cubicle of technology. While the world is moving to an entirely mobile, bite-size, thin-client experience which provides rapid gratification, SL is mired in the technology of the past, requiring enormous downloads and suffering from varied experiences based upon what kind of graphics card you have and how facile you are at navigating the dozens of settings which affect how well things are rendered and how they look.

In my opinion, any documentary today will just shine light on this tiny niche, not convince people that they should be going out and doing it themselves.

Obviously, we would not be working so hard on Treet TV unless we believed in a bright future for immersive and enriching virtual worlds. We do, and it fuels our desire to do better and better. But, having our eyes wide open is important, and at this point Facebook need not worry about SL competing as a social platform.

In order for mainstream audiences to jump on the bandwagon, exponential improvements need to occur. The experience must be able to be "sampled" instantly and then feel good when you get the first taste. It needs to be ubiquitous across platforms and devices. The barrier to entry will be measured by how many clicks you have to make before you are engaged, and a download must not be one of the steps. We have no doubt it will happen, but it's not there yet, and it may not even be SL that does it.
[…]

Seeing the future and making it happen are two different things. The solution will lie not in convincing people that SL is good enough for mainstream users, but rather in making it so.

Obviously some of the changes are not going to come to MOOU any time soon, if ever. For that matter, they probably won’t in SL either. But the importance of the initial experience is obvious. In the future MOOU will be many people’s first experience of the Myst world, especially if the movie gets made.

Most of these problems are from the nature of the game client, MOOU and SL. However, SL is now somewhat available on the iPhone just as Myst is. This app is likely to make the related OSGrid worlds available in the new thin client apps.

While the open source client for MOOU will likely allow creation of thin apps the massive 4gb download is a nearly impossible problem for iPhone and other light weight platforms.

I hope Cyan is considering the direction things are going in preparing the licenses. It would be nice to use content on other platforms and support new popular applications and platforms. I suspect Cyan currently sees getting Uru to other platforms as overwhelming. But, if WoW can be run in a web browser… it may not be all that overwhelming.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:44 pm 
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*drinks eleven shots and has an important first experience drunk driving a Voltswagen while simultaneously playing WoW in a browser*

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:46 pm 
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The entry barrier question is an important one that Uru and SL both face but in very different ways. Uru is a game, SL is not. As network platform SL faces client, usability, and hardware hurdles. Uru's problems, as a game, are very different. I'm not sure we can draw a parallel here.
Making it available for more platforms (such as the iPhone) might be possible, but even then I'm not sure it's the biggest problem Uru face in finding a large audience.However I fear my post will turn into a 'why did Uru failed'? post so I'll stop here.

On the other hand if you are going beyond Uru as a single game and considering the various possible points of entry to the Dniverse then yes you have a point: making it available on various platforms and making it more accessible is something worth striving for. However we fall back to the age-old debate: is 'Uru' a game or a universe? ;) (to me it's a game.)

Also: MOOU? Yet another acronym? I'm not too sure we really need that. What does this one stand for?
(I think I'll just end up calling that projet ACRONYMOUL :shock: )

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if WoW can be run in a web browser… it may not be all that overwhelming.
Well; no. When you have litterally dozens of millions at hand and you can afford to hire the most proficient developpers in the world then there are not too many things that are overwhelming.. :) I'm afraid Cyan isn't Blizzard though.


Last edited by aloys on Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 12:20 am 
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Like quahog, I thought about this.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:26 pm 
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Uru, like Myst games generally, are niche games partly because the puzzles are difficult for a lot of players.

I'm not just talking about the problem-solving, either, the physics-based elements can be frustrating as well.

Add to that the total lack of direction when first loading the game - the "What am I supposed to do?" factor - which is a huge issue.

I saw a lot of frustration and confusion from people trying the game for the first time. Lots of Gametap subscribers loaded Uru, got bored/confused/frustrated, then left. It was an enormous Myst opportunity.

Potential solutions include:

-- Making good, thorough video guides for new players starting out, explaining what the game is, and how to get started - and posting those guides in places where people loading/downloading Uru for the first time will see them. Explain the interface. Explain the KI. Explain how to play a Myst game generally and this one in particular, and explain the GoG.
-- Making the Guild of Greeters easily accessible to new players. It's crucial to befriend new players and not let them feel left out. Have helpful GoG people available 24/7 to help those who are stuck.
-- Integrating help systems/guides into the game itself. Imagine if, next to the other little buttons on the bottom of the Uru screen, were a button that, when clicked, loaded an introductory guide to playing Uru. This might be effective.

Basically, we've got to ease the transition into the game.

Imagine players finding Uru through websites with friendly and informative multimedia explanations of how to start the game and how to get to the GoG hood; so they'll know to do that when starting Uru, and will have a first experience of the game that isn't bewildering and lonely.

Gametap tried to do this for MO:UL - they posted some "getting started" videos - but these weren't particularly effective, especially because they weren't placed in such a way that most new Uru players would necessarily see them, and they weren't as thorough as they could've been, either.

We've got to make this a priority when setting up our open-source instances of the game. Each of our shards, if it wants to be successful, MUST find ways to make new players' entry into Uru as painless and easy as possible.

This is key if we want Uru to grow once it's open-sourced.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:41 pm 
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Add to that the total lack of direction when first loading the game - the "What am I supposed to do?" factor - which is a huge issue.

I saw a lot of frustration and confusion from people trying the game for the first time. Lots of Gametap subscribers loaded Uru, got bored/confused/frustrated, then left. It was an enormous Myst opportunity.


This was one of the first issues I had when I first came into MOUL. I had no idea what to do or where to go, but I thought there should be a journel located somewhere which would explain everything I need to know even if a Greeter is not around.

I was quite surprised to find there was nothing to point newbies in the right direction or give an idea of what's going on. Maybe this is something that could be addessed if/when OS comes.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:36 pm 
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Much as I enjoy Facebook (and I really enjoy the game Farmville in Facebook), I don't look to SL, MOUL or other MMOs such a Guild Wars for the same experience.

Agree on the "what do I do when I get in MOUL" . I think it needed to be a more clear.

Have to think about what else I want to say, so that's all for now!

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:54 pm 
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My first experience in a VOLKSWAGON was not pretty...My Father, Gandhar, had to get out and push it to start it...then it was, 'Hey...make sure your feet are inside' 'cause the floorboards were rusted out...Then to watch this guy I thought intelligent, run this VW with a string attached to the carberator,*a device for mixing vaporized fuel with air to produce a combustible or explosive mixture, as for an internal-combustion engine*, in 10 degree Fahrenheit temps outside and take me and my brother to school..where were the cameras then?


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:59 pm 
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Volkswagon and all, I do think that one's first experience in an online world has to be enjoyable, unless you are very, very motivated to continue. If you have friends who are already in the online world, and want to get in on it yourself, you might put up with something less than optimal to start.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:03 pm 
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Getting started in Uru is definitely unsettling; and it is a problem for an online game. But that is no different from the rest of the game. And that is because Uru is built around its storyline. That is what makes the initial experience so unsettling, and this is what defines all of the game.

If we think the beginning of the game should be 'fixed', then we need to 'fix' the whole game.

The initial steps in the game are definitely part of the Uru experience.
Uru, as a game, and as a story, isn't meant to be easy or to be self-explaining. Much like the rest of the Myst series. You have to find answers by yourself all the time. I don't want to sound like an elitist but people who have troubles with the first steps are definitely not going to be at ease with the following obstacles. And they won't be able to enjoy the full Uru experience either. Uru is a game, with goals, puzzles, obstacles of all kinds, and if we remove those, even at the initial stages, then it turns into a virtual world; which it is not.
(Then again I'm one of those people who would want to start Uru at the Cleft and then go through all the Tunnels before reaching D'ni, and have it take 3 full days... :) But that's more of a solo experience.)

Uru as a virtual world could probably work. Although it would definitely be a very different experience.
It'd be pretty easy to work out a 'Guild Wars' style model with the D'ni Caverns being the central hub and Ages branching out from this. (And it would even solve some network, and business questions). Other models could probably be created but they all face the same issues: storyline. Uru is all about the story line and how it evolves. This is what defines and (to a certain extent) restrict the initial stages of the game.
Many people will argue that it's what makes the whole experience difficult to fully enjoy even past the introduction. The real-time nature methods of delivering the story in particular can be problematic. I sort of agree, but that's part of Uru. Change that, and it's not Uru anymore.

Uru as an online game does not work (if only from a commercial standpoint). That doesn't mean *we* can't enjoy it (we= the small persistent Uru community), but we enjoy it because we've long outgrown the whole 'game' aspect and the storyline, and it is has essentially became a virtual world to us. Some kind of playground.
However if we want to make it accessible to more people while keeping the core of the game (which is not a virtual world), none of the important parts can be 'fixed' separately. Got to fix the whole thing.The whole model has to be restarted from scratch. (Practically speaking: that doesn't mean recreating the whole game, but fundamental changes would need to be done..)

Bottom line: Nothing new here, to become more accessible (and more succesful) Uru would have to be restarted from scratch, and would have to answer those two questions: Storyline or not? Virtual World or game? (or possibly some kind of middleground).

(Where does the custom content fit in all of this? We can't answer that one right now. It could totally fit in any situation, we just fall back on the questions of Cyan's involvement and Rawa's guidelines.)


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:29 pm 
I'm kind of reminded of the famous Professor Peter Schickele's football commentary to the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It was the same kind of approach he was satirising--the logic that goes: people aren't coming to classical concerts because understanding classical music is all hard and stuff, so let's reduce it and package it and explain it and strip away all the difficult bits till it's something they'll like, something easy enough for them not to be put off by.

Uru online and Second Life both involve massive downloads? Well, yes, that's the price you pay for a complex and detailed and continually updated multiplayer 3D environment. (And, incidentally, I never went into an area in Uru and had to wait several minutes for all the buildings to appear, as I did in SL, so that's one point to the older engine.) Uru has a complex backstory? Well, yes, so does War And Peace. SL can't be sampled instantly? No, neither can a good home-made spaghetti bolognese. You have to cook it first.

The lack of direction on entering the game is, I admit, an issue, but it's one which has been built into all the Myst games from the very outset--you arrive in every Myst game not entirely knowing what you're supposed to be doing. In fact, it's the older and more successful games, Myst and Riven, which start you off in an almost complete vacuum; one could argue that the more gets explained up front, the less successful the games have been. Uru can indeed be confusing when you start. I would have been stymied as to what the "journeys" were if I hadn't known already--a hunk of cloth on a wall does not say "journey" to me. But, rightly or wrongly, I think that in providing a minimum of explanation and relying on the player's curiosity and perceptual skills to unearth the information encoded in the environment, Cyan were merely doing what they had done all along, what had worked for them every time till now. And with the help of the community, I made it through the Cleft, and if I can do it anyone can.

We're talking about having one's cake and eating it here, about wanting perfection and wanting it RIGHT NOW before I lose inter oh look a bunny. I don't have any interest in this, or in the attitude that says everything has to be done the same way. So "the world" is moving to a bite-size thin-client buzzword buzzword experience; then that is "the world"'s problem. If I order a fancy three-course meal in a restaurant I don't expect it to arrive in thirty seconds. If I want to look at a great painting, or watch a great new film, I don't want to do it on a screen the size of a postage stamp while I'm going to work. "The world" needs to remember that some things take time, that some things deserve time, and deserve our full attention, that sometimes it's all right not to be doing something for a while, and that the lump of sponge between our ears is more important, and more useful, than the lump of plastic in our hand. Else it will be "the world"'s loss, and more importantly, ours as well.

There are plenty of games that work on the iPhone, or the DS, or the Playstation 17. The only correct platform for a Myst game is the human brain, and it's fairly well adapted for that system already. I'm not saying Cyan can't dumb it down and slim down the graphics and reduce the options and make it work on somebody's mobile phone. They're clever; they can do it. I'm just saying that what they will have then is a game that looks like all the other games you can play on somebody's mobile phone. And it'll still work better on a screen you can see, with decent speakers, and a multi-gig download every time you log on.

I've always said that Uru, and the Myst games in general, were properly a niche product. This only goes to confirm that, and to reinforce my belief that trying to make them anything else will result in what one might call the baby-bathwater scenario.

Also: what aloys said. And the only reason I've gone on at this length was because several someones had already done the Volkswagen joke.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:59 pm 
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Quote:
Uru, as a game, and as a story, isn't meant to be easy or to be self-explaining. Much like the rest of the Myst series. You have to find answers by yourself all the time. I don't want to sound like an elitist but people who have troubles with the first steps are definitely not going to be at ease with the following obstacles.


Maybe this a "quotation" that needs to be put on the box B-4 you buy it? Therefore, if you don't wanna be intrigued for years and years... buy that game ..... /Charura points @ PONG.......


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 11:38 pm 
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aloys wrote:
Quote:
if WoW can be run in a web browser… it may not be all that overwhelming.
Well; no. When you have litterally dozens of millions at hand and you can afford to hire the most proficient developpers in the world then there are not too many things that are overwhelming.. :) I'm afraid Cyan isn't Blizzard though.

Actually several games have been made available in browsers by third parties with limited funds. Reference: Elitist mean person/people and Opera team up for WoW browser And some with not so limited funds. Reference: InstantAction Puts 3D Gaming Into Web Browsers... for ANY game...

EDIT: (12/14) - Herohtar points out in a post that the links don't make my point. He is right. That is corrected here: Post

matthornb wrote:
I saw a lot of frustration and confusion from people trying the game for the first time. Lots of Gametap subscribers loaded Uru, got bored/confused/frustrated, then left. It was an enormous Myst opportunity.

Potential solutions include:

Several of us saw the problems during the GameTap era. OpenUru.org has several threads on how to correct some of the issues.

The point being made by Treet.TV about second life is similar to what some of us saw in MOUL. Having good tutorial and introductory videos is something that SL does. They have Torley on staff for that purpose (in spite of his watermelon addiction). I’ll point out that the Treet article comes after these things have been tried. I suggest they help but obviously are not doing the trick.

I think, explaining the interface and KI would be good moves. On OU it has been suggested that perhaps a multiplayer area on the surface like a small town just outside the fenced in desert area would be a good place for these things. It would give Greeters a place to hang.

The befriending new players by experienced players are a well known tactic in MMO’s. In SL it has been repeatedly proven to be the single most effective method of retaining players. With all MMO’s having some place where new players can find a crowd and ask question and find help is considered important. Few stay in an empty MMO. One suggestion has been to have shard to shard group chat to make it easier to get help.

“Integrating help systems/guides” … it may be easier to use in game links to web sites and videos outside the game. SL has such links and I understand they have been used in the Uru education ages. That allows many more people to help create the material and keep it updated.

I agree with mszv and it’s also know in SL that many stay only because they had friends already in the game. That attachment kept them in game until they climbed the learning curve. Treet’s point is that is a symptom of a problem. So, while I too think it is important to use friends as best we can, one then has to consider how easy it is or is not to find a friend. Facebook does a great job of finding one's friends. I have found people I lost tract of for years. I don’t see how that could be built into MOOU (Another acronym I thought funny. Myst Online: Open Uru – Mooooo—oooo We seem to collect them.) Plus those coming from the movie are probably unlikely to have friends in game.

aloys wrote:
Getting started in Uru is definitely unsettling; and it is a problem for an online game. But that is no different from the rest of the game. And that is because Uru is built around its storyline. That is what makes the initial experience so unsettling, and this is what defines all of the game.

If we think the beginning of the game should be 'fixed', then we need to 'fix' the whole game.

I think many feel this is an important consideration. Old timers have seen alternate entrances to the game. I was not happy with MO:UL’s game entrance but I understood why GT insisted (I think it was their doing) on getting players into the community early. It didn’t work well.

Treet’s, to SL, and my point, to Uru, is that something in the game needs to change.

I and some others think having to go outside the game to get the back story makes things too hard. If I’m serious about an MMO I may go through the games web site to get some idea of what is going on. Most of the time I want a quick immersion to get a taste. If the start is too confusing, I will likely drop the game. My assumption is if they have not handled the new players and intro well… the same is probably true for the rest of the game. It may not be fair but I do think many players use that thinking.

Aloys preference for a solo experience is not unique. OU was considering that. I disagree that Uru wasn’t meant to be easy or self-explaining. I think that is how the story was told and the nature of the puzzles. I would like to keep that complexity. I don’t want the game part of how Uru is played to change all that much. But, I would also like to have a preamble that educates new players that may have never heard of Myst or may only see the movie (hoping it gets made). We know much of playing Uru depends on prior knowledge. That is a problem to solve. Doing so without changing the flavor of Uru will take some creativity.

Aloys point that for the core players Uru has become a virtual world is a core shift in paradigm for me. I have looked at Uru as solely an adventure MMO game based on puzzle solving. But, it is truly becoming a mix. Many MMO’s are increasing their social networking tools. How much of that we can add and retain the Uru we know has been debated and will continue. We’ve known for some time that Uru is different things to many of us. Aloys crystallized it.

I suspect Aloys use of ‘whole thing’ and ‘fundamental’ will need to change is going to mean different things to people. We (community) already have considered and discussed many of the things that would need to change; chat, KI, game start point, alternates routes for solo and group play, etc. The only think I have ever been consistently comfortable with is that the Uru community will keep the basic game play pretty much as we know it.

zander_nyrond, SL is a 35mb initial download and a simple install. And even that is considered too much. Blue Mars is similar to MOUL in that it has an initial large download (1.?gb). We’ll see how that goes over. MOUL was quicker because it is pre-downloaded. SL is a download as you go and can be slower at times, but it has terabytes of content. But, that is a whole other thread.

This is not a homogeneous community where everyone wants everything right now. Open Uru appears to be able to accommodate many different paths. Some people have already been considering, if not working on, alternatives. So we may get to have part of our cake and eat some too.

I can’t say Myst-Uru is not a niche game. But, it does not have be one that can only be enjoyed by one first suffering through a hazing to learn what it is about. We can fix that so it is enjoyable for new players.

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Last edited by Nalates on Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:25 am 
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WoW is a huge install and millions of people play it. I think a huge install isn't necessarily an obstacle. You load WoW and then there is hours and hours of patching. But, once you are in, WoW leads you along nicely. I'm not disagreeing with you, Natales, in that people might pefer less in the way of downloads, but many people play MMORPGs all the time and put up with long downloads. While not optimal, it's not a showstopper. I think what happens when you get in the game is the showstopper.

On Uru designed to be "hard", from what I've read, Cyan designed a game that was supposed to be popular, not a game that only a small number of people want to play. There's hard, and there's hard. Fighting the interface doesn't seem like a good idea.. That abysmally designed KI (in my opinion) -- bad choice and you got it too late in the game for me. How is that helping the story? Then there's the multiplayer part. I think dropping people alone in the cleft to wander around was a bad way to start, even if it was supposedly good for the story. Making the cleft multiplayer, and perhaps instancing the puzzles in some way -- I think that would have worked.

Perhaps Aloys is suggesting something. Perhaps Cyan wasn't clear in their own minds, if they wanted to make a solo player or a multiplayer game. We know that they wanted to make a popular game, not a game for a tiny number of fans. I think Cyan didn't quite get why most people played Myst. I don't think most people played it for the puzzles, or even the story, though the Myst story was intimate, personal, a family drama, something I can't say about Uru. The worlds were beautiful and there wasn't a whole lot of that around, when Myst came out. But that really is the past.

I think Uru became a mostly social world because there was so little to do. It's a credit to how beautiful the worlds were, and how much people liked being in them with other people that they found something to do in Uru. So, perhaps it bacame a different game from what it was supposed to be when it started out. And it's the game we'll get if Uru ever comes back, legally, the open source thing.

Getting back to the topic -- from everything I've read about gameplay, you start a player off clearly, easily. You make it easy for the new player to learn a little something, accomplish something, get rewarded, and keep going. If it's a multiplayer game, you let them interact with people early on, if they want to. Putting someone in a 10 year old game setting, a Myst setting, and expecting that to work, that doesn't seem good to me. If you want people to find stuff in the cleft, I think you should have put the first thing right in front of them when they landed, had them click on it, and somehow told them to find more -- also tell them that they won't see people until they get past the cleft, make it part of the story. That Yeesha voiceover should have been right after they clicked on a hand. That's one way to do it. I'm sure there would have been other ways. A multiplayer cleft with a KI, that would have been nice.

This is fun talk, but, if and when Uru comes back, I don't think we are going to ge a radically different Uru - the Uru we currently have to start. I think that's OK. It will be Uru and we will be in it.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:40 am 
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mszv wrote:
WoW is a huge install and millions of people play it. […]

Good point. Large downloads are not a show stopper but they are a deterrent. Before trying a game out I do check size. Also, if it is large and does not immediately catch my interest or I have problems I tend to roll back the install and move on. Smaller games I may leave installed to come back to. The intro and initial experience is a make or break time. As much work as it would be to change the MOUL software way from the large initial download, we are probably stuck with it.

I agree the Uru game was designed to be popular. Much of SL’s problem is the complexity of the interface and bazillions of settings one can use. Uru Live came with a paper manual and a bit of an introduction. MOUL lacked that support. I think that difference was obvious in how many new players experienced Uru in MOUL.

mszv wrote:
Then there's the multiplayer part. I think dropping people alone in the cleft to wander around was a bad way to start, even if it was supposedly good for the story. Making the cleft multiplayer, and perhaps instancing the puzzles in some way -- I think that would have worked.


I think Uru was designed with the transition from single player to multi-player in mind. At the time of Prologue most of us were coming from previous Myst games, not other MMO’s. Cyan had a solo player base that needed to be introduced to multi-player. I think their plan was good for a Myst to Live transition. We’ve talked that failure to death, so suffice to just say something didn’t work. But, at the time the solo Desert Cleft was not the problem it is now.

MOUL was adapted to a more MMO knowledgeable audience. The ideas at OU and GoW for how to redo the beginning of a future Open Uru version deal with how to handle an even more MMO knowledgeable audience. Dropping new players in a solo Cleft is not going to work well for players new to Uru and or Myst. Changing the Cleft to multi-player has some complex game changes. Plus it may be a part of the game that Cyan restricts from change. We may not be able to make significant changes to it.

Quote:
I think Uru became a mostly social world because there was so little to do. It's a credit to how beautiful the worlds were, and how much people liked being in them with other people that they found something to do in Uru. So, perhaps it bacame a different game from what it was supposed to be when it started out. And it's the game we'll get if Uru ever comes back, legally, the open source thing.

I think the more social use of the game came from several factors. Hard core fans were waiting for new content and killing time because they were in love with Uru. You’re right that a large number stayed in Uru as a chat room says a lot.

The biggest obstacles seem to be how to get the back story to new players. The other is how we keep the ongoing story where people can find it and add to it. Most RPG’s have the same problems. Lots is being written and has been written about how that could be done. As best I can tell that has yet to be successfully done.

Dot is doing that with SL Devokan by using in game diaries, a village bulletin board and forum posts here and at GoMa. There are info vendors at the rez points in game that give one a page of orientation (I think less than 2,000 words). I’m not sure we have an objective measure of how well that is or isn’t working. But the method does spread the work load around.

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