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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:56 am 
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Nalates wrote:
(...) investing huge sums of time, effort and money into development of an untested/unproven idea is a bad idea.
(...) I think that is now universally evident using unproven ideas work poorly in game development.

It's always the same story: in order to evolve and try out new things you have to take risks.. And the bigger the project; the bigger the investment needed, the bigger the risks, and obviously the bigger rewards/failures if it succeeds/fails. The unfortunate trick is that some of these more innovative MMOs/VWs enterprises can only be tried on large scales...
Uru Live was certainly a big project and a big failure; but can we imagine Uru on a small scale? Three Ages, one hood, half a Ki, and no pants in your closet? Not quite. (although the 'no pants' part might have had some success). The same goes for other MMOs. That's why the first M is here: Massive. Massive innovations, massive risks, and massive rewards; or failures.

The fact that There closed doesn't really prove or dismiss anything in my opinion. Actually from what little facts I know I consider it quite successful: it certainly ran for much longer than many other MMOs and VWs... 7 years long uninterrupted run? (not counting the beta days). Heck; many MMOs don't last 7 months... During its first run Uru didn't even last half that.
I'm not saying there's nothing to be learned from There. But as often with failures as an outsider you only hear half of the story.. Truth be told; sometimes even as an insider you don't know everything (unless you are close to some key people).


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:15 am 
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What I find the most ironic about this interview, is that There was only struggling under Harveys rule. Once he left, and multimillionaire Wilson bought it in late 2003/early 2004, it then prospered for 6 years. It ultimately failed because of the recession, and most users dropping several of their rentals (I for one had 5 lots at some point, but at the closing time I could only afford 1, and that was the case for MANY members, so I can easily vision the income being cut in half.) Sure, there might have been bad business decisions along the way, but ultimately, if the recession hadn't happened, would There still be running? Probably.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:28 pm 
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Without the recession it just might still be going. That is the thing with easy money, or at least easier money, it is not as precious, so one does not have to use it as wisely. When things are tight expenditures are more wisely, at least more carefully, chosen.

My point in this thread is that game developers have used venture capital and other sources of income (Cyan's best selling Myst) and developed what they thought would work. Plans for Uru are mostly based on personal dreams, preferences, and ideas without considering the realities of what people actually find interesting in a game, the things that increase player retention and extend time in game.

That people have lots of creative ideas and put them forward is great. The challenge is in picking which ones to develop. When putting an idea forward without a convincing set of reasons for why it will benefit the game and how, it is hard to get people to go along with the idea.

As it is now an age writer writes the age they want. I doubt that will change. I believe in open source it has to be that way. When they decide to write an age there is their idea and their implementation of the age. The information I have provided is what people have found works in the implementation of game design.

OHB and Dreamgirl have opinions about Havery/Wilson who related the mistakes they made and what they have learned about game design. But, I don't yet see the tie from the characterization of motivations to the ineffectiveness or effectiveness of what they learned.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:06 am 
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I sure do think Uru was flawed, but the thing with a long term development project is to predict the future. You can do focus groups, playtest, and all sorts of analysis, but what you can't do is release a big virtual world with a long term development cycle as little bits of things. So, that's the challenge, predicting the future, figuring out how what you want to do intersects with what people are going to want. You want to give people a new thing that, perhaps, they didn't even know they wanted!

I happen to think that Cyan had a great game in the making but never figured out how to do an MMO with enough to do, if it did not involve combat. How could they have figured that out -- don't know -- but that's hindsight. Maybe the next developer to attempt to do that -- maybe they will do better.

After reading all this, I'm revising what I said -- I don't think the article about Harvey and There has anything to do with Uru, or any long term development project, particularly of something big.

On Harvey -- well, some people are good at starting companies, but not so good after they are started and on their way. Maybe that's him. Also, if we learn anything from There, we don't learn that it was unsuccessful -- we learn that it was very successful

On other daring MMO games - I happen to think Guild Wars was daring, not in the same way as Uru, but daring nonetheless -- in both the payment aspects and the game structure and architecture. It's based on combat but Arenanet did some innovative things. Guild Wars 2 and Rift: Planes of Telera - upcoming games -- have some very innovative aspects to them, though they are still based on combat. After the Gamescon and the PAX 2010 game conferences, GW2 is super hot - smoking -- really good press. So, we'll see.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 2:56 pm 
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Alloys, you’re right. Innovation and risk go together. One can reduce risk by giving up or reducing innovation and repeating what worked. The downside of that is everything then becomes a sequel. I say some balance of the new and unproven with tried and true is required to achive likely success. However one decides to proportion that balance, time and experience are showing us the basics of game design that work. Analysis of what is working is revealing 'why' successful games work and what it is about those aspects of game play that people find fun and useful. Those are the things that increase player retention and time in game.

As aloys and mszv point out, some games can only be done on a large scale. That requires someone or some group of venture capitalist fund the project and have deep pockets. Free and easy money tends to make for waste, e.g., government spending. If there is no feedback and pressure to have it right, as in be self supporting, there is nothing to keep a team on track and relating to their player base. All they need to do is cater to the venture capitalist. Cyan seems to have gone too far down the development/spending road to get to a place where reality could provide feedback. But, that is mostly irrelevant to our discussion here as Uru is already developed.

As mszv points out, "You want to give people a new thing that, perhaps, they didn't even know they wanted!". The thing is we do know what people want in game play. Whether they want a Sci-Fi or Steampunk adventure or FPS may be unknowable. What we do know from analysis of people and games is what people want will fill books and is very consistent. We know lots about game interface design and what tasks people will require. A big one in MMO’s is the ability to easily and intuitively find other players/friends, which is a problem in Uru. We know these things.

"Let's talk about ways to improve Uru as an MMO" is discussing possible changes to improve Uru. But, I have yet to see suggestions set in a frame work of why one thinks those changes will work. It is like that level of thinking is missing. I suspect it is just assumed. But, the assumption seems to include the idea everyone has the same assumptions, and I doubt that is workable.

As an example Bellerophon in the OP in "Let' Talk…" makes the assumption the reason one would start in the Cleft is obvious. Then goes on to make the point it is the reasonableness of the storyline that requires the change. That does nothing to pull together those that think other starting points are better. There is no framework provided for deciding why one entry point is better than another or if an entry point other than Cleft or Relto would be better. The thread continues on as people discuss ideas but without a framework to evaluate ideas, I don’t see a consensus forming and doubt one will.

Some posts back we considered what we mean by success. That provides a basis for deciding which entry point is better. The simplest and most encompassing definition of success for Uru is surviving, which Uru may have admirably achieved. So, we likely need to add to the definition to make it more representative of what we mean. Success for Uru is its continued survival. That almost certainly adds aspects of player retention, better concurrent login numbers, and longer in Cavern play times. From within that framework one could start to build a consensus.

As ideas for changes move into consensus they develop and people have further considerations. Then the analysis of other games and understanding why people engage and like certain aspects of game play come into play and become the basis for deciding how a change will be implemented. At some point all that is exhausted and it is time to code and try it out. Our community is unlikely to complete agree and various people will try various things. Even SL is changing there work style to have several individual changes in beta and people playing with them. From there they move into one of 3 release candidate channels for wider testing. For Uru making small steps, i.e., KI change for groups and seeing what people do with it is probably a reasonable pattern for change. Individual shard operators will likely provide multiple channels for testing ideas.

But, without a basic framework, there is little chance of building consensus.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:34 pm 
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I don't see why Bellerophon (that name's too long, he/sh'll be known as "B" from now on) needs to try and attract those who think other starting points are better. Unless you have found the Relto book IN the world a starting location is (and thus are an alien) I think the Cleft is the only logical starting point. Now, what that Cleft is (singleplayer, multiplayer, hybrid, puzzles, no puzzles, etc.) is where some discussion can actually go on. I think the Cleft should be multiplayer with puzzles that either reset after completion or don't exist. While the Cleft could be a game mechanics intro Age, it really isn't designed like this (and there's no intro much beyond "clicking makes stuff happen." If we decide the Cleft should serve that purpose, it would be better to do a re-design of the puzzles to better fit this concept (look at the intro areas of HL2 and Portal for good examples of this).

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 6:07 pm 
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@Whilyam, Bellerophon and his post is an example. Try discussing where to start the game in the thread Let's talk about ways to improve Uru as an MMO. This thread is about why one would make any change and provide a framework for deciding objectively. Personal preference and opinion does little to bring people to consensus.
---end Whilyam

The idea that there are game fundamentals that work in all games is primary in considering any change or addition. Not all fundamental features are applicable to all games. But, when a game has a feature understanding its purpose and why it works and how people use it, is the basis for deciding how to implement or change a feature. Knowing how important a feature is to people tells us whether or not to include it all and suggests how much priority and effort to assign it.

SL with their Viewer 2 interface is an example of what not to do. All the needed features are there, but the interface does not allow people use them in the ways people find useful. In Uru we have a way to make notes/messages and send them to people. The SL design basically allowed one to see their messages or their friends but not both at the same time, making it much more difficult to send a note to a friend (since the previous process involved an easy drag and drop). That is a usability mistake from a failure to understand how players use the features. The lack of group announcements in Uru could be a play style decision to create an environment and immersion. But, environment/immersion is much less important to player retention than the ability of players to communicate easily.

Studies show that person-to-person interaction is one of the most important aspects of attaining high player retention rates in MMO’s. In Uru one can send messages to friends but it is awkward and there is no group announcement feature. The result is person-to-person interaction is reduced. Studies and observed and quantified stats on user behavior tell us that reduces player retention rates.

The challenge in Uru is balancing the priorities. I think Cyan decided to place environment/immersion above communication features we now know increase player retention. Now it is a matter of can we create something that meets both immersion and communication criteria to achieve better player retention?

Why we would change communication features and whether we do it is the sub-topic to the decision process which is the subject in this thread. This is about how we decide the goals and reach reasons for what we do. Can we learn and use what others have learned?

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