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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:18 pm 
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@mszv my point is about what makes the game successful. Location may be important to a company’s success. I would point out that Myst and Uru were developed in generally the same location, AFAIK. Different buildings, but… One was successful the other was not.

So, while location may be important to employees and cross pollination of ideas among companies may help with the mechanics of how things are coded or designed, I still can’t see company location as a major factor of a games success or failure. Nor do I see creators of successful games talking about how important their office location is.

Developers being allowed to work with the game servers and game code, is likely to lead to lots of improvements. It could easily provide the feedback Harvey missed with THERE.com.

@ Lord Chaos – Understanding the age difference and knowing which group is targeted tells a game designer if they need to completely entertain the audience or whether they need to provide the tools to allow players to entertain their selves. I think not understanding this difference was a large part of the mismatch for GameTap and Uru.

@Ed Oscuro – Spike in interest… we are likely to see a big spike in interest, if the move hits the screen. We have the present possibility of Uru reaming a small niche game. This seems to be what most people are considering and designing for. For me the small niche game is too much like UU and while it might continue for long time I expect it would be in perpetual decline.

With the interest the movie will generate we would have an influx of people. I suspect a large number of them will be those that want to be entertained. However some percentage of them will be self-entertainers. If we have figured out what changes need to be made to the game to make it more MMO popular we can keep those new players and Uru may grow. If it is in the shape it is now, I think we’ll have a reaction like we got from the GameTap players.
end @

We can all continue to speculate on how the things we each personally like will improve the game or we can move off to objective information and features proven to be popular with MMO players.

How many here contribute suggestions to ‘improving’ Uru have read: ww.sloperama.com or Lewis Pulsipher’s Characteristics of Successful Game Designers or Brian Reynolds talking about how he made Farmville and Mafia Wars. (requires free signup to read) Not having read any of those or considered what makes a game successful beyond their own preferences then whine that the GoW doesn’t jump right on their ideas… :roll:

Reynolds reinforces Harvey’s idea that one must check their assumptions.
Writer quoting Reynolds wrote:
As an example he cited Mafia Wars, which at one point had seven different tutorial experiences running in parallel, allowing the team to analyse [sic] which versions were more accessible to new players.
"We learned all kinds of stuff about what it takes to get somebody to become a regular player," he said. "We went down to three, then one, and that one was totally counter-intuitive to what we thought the tutorial should be like."

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:45 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:21 pm 
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The best way I've seen for finding out how people use a system is to watch them use it. When I put together my "Hands in the Sand" Web site in 1996 (Yikes! 14 years ago?) I started with some pages a friend had made and built from there. When it was more or less together as I thought it should be, I put the files on a floppy disk (!) and took it around to various people. Then I'd watch as they navigated. I learned that while my overall design worked, the details were lacking so I redid that part.

At the time we had a graphic designer working on the user interface of the traffic system at work. He did a lot of similar user testing: make some changes, then have one of us come out and use it. He'd change what didn't work, or offer some alternatives, and watch how we worked with it. It ended up being a very good system: usable, informative, easy to learn because it was consistent.

This kind of thing can be a real come-down for a designer: you build this seeminly elegant system, and no one can figure out what to do with it. Many examples litter the trail of information technology. The wonderful graphic system at work was forcibly retired because the replacement was the Next Great Thing, although it was far from ready for daily use.

So, the There people probably would have benefited greatly from having a few developers travelling incognito int the system, just watching what people did. Second Life could probably benefit too, although 800-pound gorillas aren't known for sensitivity to user input.

The bottom line: What you think people are getting from your system probably isn't what they're actually getting.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:41 pm 
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:oops: @Rusty_Russell, actually I didn’t recognize it as the Brit spelling.

@Lord Chaos, your experience shows the value of testing user acceptance with the actual software, which is what Harvey and Reynolds are both saying. Most of what I’m reaching for in this thread is changing how one even starts to think about making the changes.

Lord Chaos wrote:
Second Life could probably benefit too, although 800-pound gorillas aren't known for sensitivity to user input.

Yeah, it pretty much takes a nuke in the lobby to get their attention. The result of that can be seen in their player retention rates, which seem similar to what we are seeing in Uru. There are good, consistent signup rates (Uru averaging 500 per week & SL 10k per day) and low concurrent login and retention rates (SL retention is 2%). While we have lots of suggestions for fixing the game, making it better, and expecting that 'better' will change those rates there is little consideration of what actually works and what the newest information is or how it might apply to Uru.

Most consider that Uru is unique and they can’t see the one huge similarity all games have, human players. Scott Jon Siegal, now directing game design, came up through Farmville and Mafia Wars. He has a nice presentation on how people interact with games and the related criteria that affect retention and play time. See: Long Tail Game Design While he is geared toward making games financially successful, the mechanics are about making the game appealing to people.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:41 am 
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It's not that I don't see good things in those articles, I do, really good things, but your references are for social network games -- games with relatively short development time, bit of a different design than an MMO, and games that are easier to change in production. Scott Jon Siegal seems to be pretty clear that he is designing games for social networks. The articles address how to design something where you get feedback fairly quickly, and where the player can get a reward very quickly, very short play cycles. Now I love getting something done in a big MMORPG fairly quickly, but even I think that the amount of play before reward is probably more than 5 minutes.

Now, lets got back to an MMORPG -- some of them have long development times, years. Yes OK, Cryptic got some of theirs out quicker, but the reviews are pretty mixed. What I'm interested in, let's take a game like Guild Wars 2, or Rift, or Star Wars The Old Republic. How to do you gage what makes sense to produce some years from now. How do you get the right feedback? I think that's an interesting question. I love facebook social games, yes I do, but I don't want the big, long development time games to go away. So -- for my money -- that's the really interesting question. How do you playtest, and do alpha and beta testing so it working. How do you validate the design concepts in the first place? Not being in the game industry, I don't know how the successful ones do it.

On listening to your players -- not working in the game biz how do we know that neither SL nor There watched players, went into the game and played them -- how do we know it's not part of their process? I'm not saying they do it right, but from what I've read, and from the little I know, personally about SL, the developers did play the game, did observe.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:24 pm 
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As I see it one of the core aspect of this discussion is understanding (or even defining) what 'success' could mean for Uru. Is it making money? Is it just keeping it running? Adding new fan content? etc.. As often with Uru many people want totally different things..

Success for a company: boiling it down to the simplest criteria Uru would 'simply' have to sell. That defines 'success' for a company in our capitalistic world. Unfortunately to do that while staying true to the spirit of the current Uru game would be very hard, if possible at all. For one thing they'd have to ditch the live story and the associated pipeline/monthly Ages paradigm which is the core of many problems but also the core of Uru as it is. The exact businness model could vary a lot (subscriptions or not, microtransaction, F2P, ad-supported etc) but as long as it makes money and Cyan could add regularly to it that's fine.

Success as a community-based project is obviously a whole different story. Their are dozens of different definitions of that according to who you are talking to. You can't please everyone, and to me at the end of the day if Uru keeps running in some form or another, and if fans can add some content (or even features) to it, then it could be considered a success.
The other successive way would be to evolve Uru into something bigger that manages to reach outside the borders of our community to expand it; and in turn expand Uru. But that's no easy feat; and I as mentionned earlier I'm not sure it's possible at all.

So, 'In an ideal world' here are the two possible paths I see to a successful Uru:
1) We essentially stay in the current situation, Uru keeps running, fans keep adding content, and it's essentially fine. (one year ago many people would have been extatic with that situation)
2) Cyan goes fully Open Source with Uru, that includes the art and story, and somehow a new solid coherent version of Uru emerges from the community; we manage to attract new people and this new Uru makes it big.

These are the two paths to a 'successfull' Uru I can think of. And I don't believe too much in the second one. None of those paths involve Cyan (other than to open source it) because I think (and has been since since '07) that Cyan should forget Uru altogether. Easier said than done, I know that well; but it's just not doing them any good. Uru is a money eater, not a money maker. It appears they are going this way and it is a good thing. (now if they could only fully open source it)

But in a ideal world *for Cyan* I can think of another successful path for Uru: forget Uru, and go back to the succesful basics with the DIRT idea. But with two twists:
1) It is primarily a single player but with a multiplayer part being entirely optionnal. You can solve all of the game in solo mode; with some optionnal multiplayer content like mini games and the regular chat features. That would also means scrapping the Live story/events (I won't go into the whole 'retcons are evil' debate; Uru needs to change.) They would finally scrap the subscription model, and go with some Free to play model. This would work more like a 'regular' multiplayer game (ie: not MMO), or maybe a model closer to GuildWars. And obviously Cyan adds new content to it as occasionnal extensions. The main change here is the lack of an overarching evolving story. But it could still be a great game.
2) They do not develop it only for PC, but also for consoles (Xbox/PS3). And this is very important. For 3 reasons: a) More platforms means more players. b) It will allow for greater visuals (which also means more sales) c) It will force Cyan to rethink and simplify the controls, the cameras, and the overall gameplay. I don't want to start a PC vs Console debate; but there is a lot of good to be said for a console version of Uru (it would probably deserve its whole thread). One limitation with that would be that you could not have multiplayer interactions accross the various platforms (except maybe with the PC/360); but it's not too big of an issue IMHO vs the potential gains.

This 'back to the roots' idea may seem like the 'easy way out'; but I truly think that it would be the thing to do for Cyan right now. It is what makes the most business sense. If only for one crucial thing: it is much easier to pitch to investors.

Bottom line, two things are obvious: Uru has to go from Cyan, and into the community; and Cyan should go back to its roots. Those are great roots.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:29 pm 
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mszv, you’re right. They are talking about social games in Facebook context with excellent feedback. But, MMO is also a social game and we have lots of ways to get quick feedback. But, they did the home work they are discussing before those games ever started. They used what they had learned about how people play from previous games. (I really liked his distinction between play and game). Play is obviously different at Facebook and Uru and the designers’ goals differ. But, that does not change the human nature of the players and what people enjoy is what they enjoy. These articles are about figuring that out. Our challenge is figuring out how that works with Uru.

One of those things is easy return to the game. Re-entering Uru is a bit of a pain. How many times do I have land in my Relto, go in the hut, open the Nexus book, go to the Nexus, and then head for my destination? What would make game entry return easier?

It does take years to design an Uru-like MMO, but that does not mean we can’t take feedback from other sources to guide changes. Also, we have MOULa and we are only deciding what to change. I’m on about getting people to consider why a change should be made other than it’s just our amateur personal ideas of why. We can see how changes are working in other games.

I think adding more player stats to what is happening in MOULa would be good. Because that would give us actual data on what Uru players are doing and a clue to how well other game stats may apply or not. Since the ‘success-people’ are telling us feedback and testing of ideas is how they did it, we should probably adopt their experience and figure out how to apply it to Uru.

As aloys points out we are not clear on our goals for Uru. I think aloys two basic paths of success are accurate; business: profit success and community open source: survival. We seem to be relegated to the later. Aloys points out we have several possibilities in the community open source scenario. His versions of ‘success’ in that scenario are basic. I can come up with some minor variations but I think aloys is right, his scenarios are pretty much it.

His conclusion of what Cyan needs to do seems reasonable to me. For Cyan to ever make money from the Myst series again I agree something like aloys conclusion would have to happen. We can’t really do anything about Cyan. So, I can’t plan to help Cyan with their success. They have to tell us where we can help. So, there is really nothing for me to do on that decision path.

That leaves us with deciding which real options are rational for the community and which each of us wants to support. While we will never get everyone to go along with a single scenario, we should be able to decide on 2 or 3 likely to succeed scenarios. They will probably have different definitions of success. But, people can sign on to the one they like and work for its success, while others work for the success of another scenario. We need nice clear definitions and labels.

Aloy’s #1 I would call Cyan Reserved - with reserved Cyan ages and story but with open software, fan ages, and fan story. Pretty much what Cyan has told us they are giving us. Success for me in this scenario is new players coming in and the community growing... some measure of player retention.

In the Cyan Reserved scenario I only see new and concurrent players and new ages as measures of success. There is shrinking (failing), static (moderate success), and growing (significant success).

Aloy’s #2 I would call Cyan Full Release – not something I expect to happen.

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Last edited by Nalates on Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:09 am 
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I love it when aloys posts!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:45 am 
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I agree with aloys, pretty much. I think the faster and more completely Cyan drops Uru, the better. Obviously, it would be nice if they could continue developing it, but I would prefer they continue development of other games to stay afloat now. I don't see how or why they would think otherwise.

"Dropping" means:

Getting a stable test server going.
Allowing fans to help or completing the stripping of the source themselves.
Opening the source.

I would differ somewhat on the "back to the roots" bit. Mainly because I would add more to the "roots" category. For me, going back to the roots involves:

Being more communicative with the fans.
Being more neutral with the fans.
Finding their new franchises or develop their existing ones. (Myst is supposedly over, but perhaps Cyan could make games from tidbits from within the established lore)
Develop their "obituary" (In other words, what will one day be on the Cyan tombstone? Right now, I think they just have "Creators of Myst" there. It would be nice for them to be like Valve, developing several series they will be remembered for.)

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:18 pm 
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I can not speak for what Cyan considers "successful" for itself as a company: Right now I am under the impression they are working on small, mostly non-game development projects. Nothing flashy or groundbreaking, but it does not have to be. Keeping a company like Cyan functioning after all that it has been through is an impressive achievement in it's own right. Maybe Cyan wants to start working on the next big game, maybe they are content to keep doing what they are doing and paying the bills.

As for Uru itself, I am hopefully that one day Cyan will release enough of the code for users to start adding the user-generated content that already exists into the game. Maybe this will happen with Cyan oversight, maybe it won't, but either way I think it will happen.

After new content comes online people who have stopped playing Uru will comeback and play the new ages. And when the ages have been beaten many of them will leave. And then new fan based ages will be created and they will come back, and this cycle will repeat itself. I do not think this is a bad thing, in fact I would be delighted with this outcome. To me, this would a success for Uru. Uru has been kept alive by shear force of will and the kindness and devotion of it's community and Cyan. To see the day when new content comes online after all these years, even if it is user generated, that would be wonderful.

Maybe, if Cyan decides they can make enough money off Uru to make it worthwhile, they will create new content and sell it. I would love to see this, we will see if it pans out.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:07 am 
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TheGlissy wrote:
I can not speak for what Cyan considers "successful" for itself as a company: Right now I am under the impression they are working on small, mostly non-game development projects. Nothing flashy or groundbreaking, but it does not have to be. Keeping a company like Cyan functioning after all that it has been through is an impressive achievement in it's own right. Maybe Cyan wants to start working on the next big game, maybe they are content to keep doing what they are doing and paying the bills


Think that is it in a nutshell, TheGlissy. For all we can imagine, I think reality is Cyan has to do what it has to do to survive first. So what we want has to wait and wait and maybe wait it out some more. RL is ugly right now--really, really ugly....those who keep chanting Cyan needs to do this or that or the other with a know-it-all attitude either have not enough life experience yet or are living in dream worlds where mommy and daddy are financing them and have yet to have the big tuna hit them in the face with reality....Bottom line is Cyan will get to what we want when they can. That I have faith in it but with a healthy dose of reality and that some of the suggestions offered so far may or may not be feasible as far as they are concerned. I think they do look at what they can do and the suggestions and will implement what they can, when they can. Also I have a healthy regard for their content. It is theirs to do as they wish, release as they wish, adapt as they wish. For anyone to think otherwise is unrealistic and narcissistic.

I see Cyan as successful for having endured a lot of setbacks, not just for MOUL but in many other ways. They adapt, change and endure. May they continue to evolve and break new ground even if MOUL never goes further. My bet is with Cyan as the company not Cyan/MOUL.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:24 am 
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Never a fan of people talking about other people as if they were children. I think it's perfectly fine to push Cyan. I'm no Cyan apologist. If I push Cyan for open source Uru, will you tell me that I "'have not enough life experience yet or are living in dream worlds where mommy and daddy are financing them and have yet to have the big tuna hit them in the face with reality". Trust me on this, I have lots of life experience, I'm not living in a dream world and mommy and daddy are not financing me. I didn't before, but hey, you know, now I feel like pushing Cyan! Cyan will either respond or they won't. I suspect that other people pushing Cyan are in a similar situation as me -- lots of ups and downs in their lives, lots of things happening in the real world, lots of challenges. I don't think the way to support Cyan is to slam other people.

However, even if I push, I suspect Cyan won't do anything right now -- they won't. And, they won't communicate about it, because they aren't communicative, sad but true. Honestly, sometimes I wish they would just tell us -- "it will be years, years, until we even thing about doing open source Uru". That would be something. Ah well. Looking other places, maybe it's not all lost.

As for waiting (OHB's excellent question) -- for what some people like OBH do, brilliantly, you don't need Cyan to do anything. If we want fan ages on the official Cyan shard, or we want to change the client and the server, then Cyan has to do something. It's all about what you want to do.

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Last edited by mszv on Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:28 am 
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mszv wrote:
OBH


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:31 am 
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Sigh - I always, always do it -- can we say "senior moment". But at least one of the times, I got it righ!

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:56 am 
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So, we are back to posting about what we as individuals think Cyan should do... :roll:

Cyan has told us what path they are on. How fast they move is up to them and circumstance. The subject of the thread is what does it take to make Uru or any MMO successful and as aloys points, out what do we define as success?

Once groups adopt their idea of success they can research what it takes to make that happen. Or they can continue to put forth their personal ideas... and repeat Harvey's and possibly Cyan's mistakes.

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Every time I sit down with a finely crafted title such as Tetris or Super Mario Brothers, I catch hints of a concise and clearly defined structure behind the gameplay. It is my belief that a highly mechanical and predictable heart, built on the foundation of basic human psychology, beats at the core of every single successful game.


The Chemistry Of Game Design

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Mechanics and aesthetics are certainly important pieces of any model of game design, but in the end, such analysis provides little insight into what makes a game enjoyable. You end up with a set of fragmented pieces that tell you almost nothing about the meaningful interactions between the game as a simulation and the player as an active and evolving participant. Games are not mathematical systems. They are systems that always have a human being, full of desires, excitement and immense cleverness, sitting smack dab in the center. To accurately describe games, we need a working psychological model of the player.

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