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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:58 am 
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I think something to keep in mind is that Uru is in a rather unique situation as a MMO in that it's main goal (at the moment) is not to be profitable, but to simply exist so we can enjoy it.

The goal of there, second life, and WoW is to make money. That requires lots of people signing up and paying, in some way or another, to play. That, in turn, requires hefty servers and a large work force of people creating and managing the content of the game. And that requires money, so on and so forth. There failed because it could not get funding to keep itself going.

Uru, on the other hand, has a much smaller server load and the new content that is on the horizon (assuming the user generated content works out) is created for free, at no monetary cost to Cyan. Thus, for the foreseeable future, the cost of running Uru is low and is taken care of by donations.

For me, this would be a successful Uru: Quality fan generated content gets added to the game in a sensible manner. There are many fan generated ages out there, and so adding them in small packs could last for a while. Users continue to donate enough to Cyan to make their support worthwhile. That would be wonderful. That is my definition of success.

After that, it would be wonderful to set Uru up in a way to make it profitable for Cyan so they can create content for it, but I am not going to think about if/how to do that until the previous step is well under way.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:24 am 
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I read Daniel Cook's article that Nalates linked. Very interesting and scientific-looking... but successful game design is not an exact science yet (and I personally think it won't be for a *very* long time, if ever), and if I try to apply what he says to Uru, I essentially recover what has been written here by many people as their own personal opinions, as I'll show below.

First, one issue I have with that article:
Daniel Cook at Gamasutra wrote:
Games are laden with story, setting, and imagery intended to evoke a particular mood and other intriguing but useless elements. Gamers derive great pleasure from this feedback.

Well, his definition of "useless" is too narrow; everything that pleases the gamer is a useful feature of a game. Moreover, his observation might be true for Super Mario; but, in an exploration-oriented game like Uru, story and setting are very relevant to the game. His analysis focuses on how a gamer derives pleasure from acquiring "skills" like jumping or piling blocks; but the same can be said for the pleasure of acquiring new knowledge about characters, places and events, if the story is engaging and/or that knowledge can be useful to work out game mechanics.

Going back to what I liked about that article, I think we can apply some of its terminology to Uru as follows:

Lack of correct initial skills. The cumbersome KI interface and the lack of introduction to the backstory can be both seen as a short-circuit between initial skills (how to perform basic operations like sending messages, or why you start the game on an island in the clouds, or what is a linking book) and acquired skills (get the KI and learn to use it, or discover the story of the D'ni after hours of exploration and journal reading). For example, even in an IC sense, the "called" and everyone who travels to the Cleft know what D'ni is (unless you want to invent some convoluted explanation like "I stumbled and fell onto a Relto book and linked away); therefore, it makes no sense that the player is not provided with basic info about the setting.

Early Stage Burnout. This happens all the time to newcomers in Uru; some of it is due to the confusing instancing rules, some of it to the delay in the MMO part (the always empty DRC bevins), but I'm sure people can find many reasons. In all cases, in Uru there's a lack of immediate and clear feedback for the player's actions. The current instancing rules imply that using the "same book" twice can give different results, and this can be very frustrating. The KI interface is another example: it is so hard to figure out how to send private messages, that most people do not even get to learning how to send invitations through the KI.

Late Stage Burnout. Collect all the sparklies during 12 months and get... a small firework? Too often in Uru the reward is not proportional to the effort. Solving Er'cana and Ahnonay to get to K'veer is more like it should be, although it would be better if K'veer itself offered more storyline and puzzles. More content-unlocking gameplay would also make Uru less non-linear, and give the players clearer objectives to focus on. I think that the underlying issue is that Uru tries to be too "politically correct": locking people away from content and features is avoided as much as possible, and this means that the rewards can only be unimportant (Relto donuts) and cosmetic (clothes).

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:40 pm 
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Simone: I think those are great points (Lack of correct initial skills, Early Stage Burnout, Late Stage Burnout). Unfortunately, at the moment there is little we can do except to fix these problems except to be as helpful and open with new players as we can be (guild of greeters comes to mind).

But I think these are important points to keep in mind if/when we get the chance to start adding user generated content.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:21 am 
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On the Uru thing -- my take has always been that Uru just didn't have enough to do -- something that would allow for a progressions of sorts, even if you didn't want to do levels and experience points. If you don't want a game revolving around combat, you've got to work at figuring out what people can do. Maybe some future MMO will get that part figured out -- figure out better ways to keep people engaged with no combat.[/quote]


It was the unforseen 'bad luck' 'black cloud' which has always followed URU around. URU's main problems are;

1. URU is coded in python using a very unique game engine called Plasma , Python code is very rigged meaning it
does not take to upgrades, add ins/ons very well. ie; take the lake meter pellet counter.

2. URU first phyics engine Havok licence ran out, (One of the main reasons why UU was shut down and not
left running side by side when GT Moul was running.) Cyan had to come up with another phyics engine and FAST!
The licience ran out for URU's first phyics engine I think, like 4 months before GT's version of URU was going to be launched! The new phyics engine Cyan got was The PhyX engine. Which Cyan had to somehow learn and then strip out
and change URU's first phyics engine for the new one.

A - Cyan got it mostly compleated and the game launched on time. But the code was still not worked out compleatly
at first but through the year on GT got it working good enough with the exception of getting the more
complacated 'mini games' and areas that required more entencive phyics for it to work.
ie; Gareseen Training Wall, jumping realisticly, for a few examples.


B - Cyan has had to shelve or not use a lot on content orignaly was to be added to the orignal URU ABM with ubisoft
a good protion of it was taken and modded (somethings taken out ie; the floating statues in the garden ages
story arch and puzzles ) ubi added artistic licence to some of the parts they did add when they made the game
Myst 5. The age of Kaleio (spelling) the bone age (some screenshots of the age are floating around here
somewhere.) Now this is instristing and I have to question, was Cyan planning on adding some Combat
to URU!?? because Kaleio (spelling) also was a age to where the D'ni rode on taradactle type birds in a
Training and dog fight type of thing, I believe that you could ride on these creatures if certain cryteria were met.
Please if anyone has any more knowlage on this age please correct me and post it TY>
The point to this is this age can no longer be used because either Cyan has no learned how to code the
new phyics engine well enough to make this age work properly, same goes with the gareseen Wall etc.

a - Fact is if Cyan has learned how to code the new phyics engine then why haven't
they at least fixed MoulA's gareseen Wall and jumping etc. in the game yet?
Cyan has had plenty of time for this IMO.


AS to making URU popular again I think this post I'm putting a link to is the best and maybe impossible solution
But as the orignal poster said something needs to drastacly change ( code wise ).
http://mystonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=16315


There.com DID WORK and it worked well. There.com WAS the only online virtual world/game in existance that
Actualy on islands and continents a REAL 3D PLANET with 3D OCEANS in 3D SPACE with a photo copy of our
REAL STAR FILLED NIGHT TIME SKY! Everything about There.com was simulated as close as possible to RL
With the phyics and gravity of the real world blended into There.com's experience. also you could race, drive and fly
many differant type of vehicals with fairly realistic phyics with the exception of no damage crashing,
and the landing and take off of conventional air craft.

There.com had the best chat/voice system in ANY online game or virtual world. The one thing that killed There.com
IMO was when they changed the chat gui and how it worked. This made it impossible to stay in chat with it always loosing focus when ever you tried to move! etc. and some other things were sabotaged by these bad updates like Space which used to be a pitch black with viberant stars and colors, now after update was a smoggy ugly gray. Software peter princaple
was the under pinning that made it next to impossible for changes to be undone, even with backups I was told.

There.com was way way way ahead of its time, although the looks graphics really made it look dated but users made their own cloths and objects etc. with high rez textures (there was a pixel limit) turned There.com into a more realistic looking
world. There.com had no (coding like the scripts that you can write in SL) scripting. and everything made by a member had to go through the uploading prossess and had to be accepted first before being put into the world through a sword update
push. I'm sure Rand was looking for ways when he visited There.com on many occations of emplimenting the WHOLE
CAVERN lake and decent incl. much like There.com did. the ability to go from on server to another without having to go through a cut scene or something of the like. There.com was the BIGGEST multi server world that you never had to change servers on or go through cut scenes it was done automaticly for you, and wouldn't never know you changed servers either.

You could build wonderous things in There.com out of literaly 10s of 1000s of differant objects made by There but mostly
made by users like you and me. There.com Had an ecomoney that IMO did very well. I built and got astablished (very hard to do)
a place in the sky called The D.P.R.S Dragon Perch Rest Stop, IT was a place where mainly Dragon hover boats could land
so their Dragons could rest their wings and their riders could, well releive themselfs lol. (not really= lots of RPing play) .
I sure wish some way some how either There.com would come back, or a kind of a meshing of the two! This would tickle me pink
to see that! Because There.com had communities! and voice chat (Big Plus) There put you in the spot light when ever you talked
the avys even had AIs in them and they the avys them selfs actualy got to know eachother!!! NO LIE!

Quote:
(and it's a pity, because 'heek is a clever little game, and Jalak could work well if only there was a really public instance).

YEA put MoulA back to the way it orignaly was meaning Kirel's egg room game works again
(so explorers can get to differet parts of the city through the barho stones inside)
Of coarse each hood has its own instance of the city that would be left like it is now. (no blockaides)

Open up the Great Tree ending where yeesha takes you to see all the bahro caves light up the lake, cut scene) Gareseen Wall fixed and working, This WAS the most played visited and
repeatly played game explorers played back in UrU ABM as well as UU. Yes I agree Jalak needs to be public as well as sharpers secret room and the bahro stone links to the roof top in talkota (spelling). Oh and don't forget the Nexas was public too!


[/quote]

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Last edited by VoiZod on Sat Sep 04, 2010 11:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:50 am 
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Lol, UU closing has nothing to do with the Havok licensing. =P

Python is just fine, as well, so, I'm not sure what you're getting at there. =P


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:26 am 
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TheGlissy wrote:
After that, it would be wonderful to set Uru up in a way to make it profitable for Cyan so they can create content for it, but I am not going to think about if/how to do that until the previous step is well under way.

You sort of define what you think success is.

I’m not sure we can set Uru up to be profitable for Cyan. That is pretty much their responsibility. They have defined a path for open source. While we don’t have a schedule, that does not stop us from planning or deciding what we want and why. If you leave thinking about these issues until they are possible, you’ll likely be behind the curve.

@Simone, I think you are considering ‘useless’ by the dictionary definition rather than Cook’s contextual definition. Consider that immediately after calling it useless he defines a use. In the psychological sense there is no useful skill to be gained from the context of game appearance.

Also other studies show that while the appearance and story are important, they are not what make a game successful, if successful is fun and retaining payers. Uru is gorgeous and has lots of character and still did not make it. Many parts, and some think most of, SL has a horrible appearance and yet it churns a US$600 million a year economy.

Lack of correct initial skills… I agree. Uru has problems in this regard. I think Cyan assumed most players were coming from other Myst games. Also, they were trying to reach what was then an inexperienced MMO audience with little understanding off MMO’s.

Early Stage Burnout… I think you nailed several of the problems Uru has in this regard.

Late Stage Burnout… some rewards are a bit of a letdown. Locking players away from content in the early version was common. A great deal of time was spent learning to jump barricades and making the balcony jump to get into closed areas. Those situations created more player interaction that most of the rest of the game, well may be the Eders are close, but I think the balcony jump was a much more intimate connection.
I see the Relto donuts and clothes won by discovery as glory things.

@VoiZod, I’m not at all sure that #1 and #2 are items that are high in game success criteria.
The damianvila post is interesting. The link to the Rand interview shows Rand still had/has the idea that content and an entertainment paradigm would make the game popular. This placed all the load on Cyan and the delivery of new content. Oddly the demographic was a more self-entertaining group of people. Cyan was seemingly targeting the entertain-me crowd. I think the information we have shows the game needs to handle more of the entertain-me crowd in the future but has to move away from doing it solely with new content.

Harvey, Cook, and the University of Michigan study all strongly suggest content is much less important than Rand sees it. Expending such huge sums of money and effort on content when it fills so little of the human needs in the game is out of balance. Most of the current suggestions for improving the game is adding content, which seems to me to be stuck in the same failed behavior.

Your reference to THERE.com again goes to content, a lower ranking feature of what makes games popular. THERE.com like Uru could not earn enough money to support itself. THERE.com was ahead of SL in several ways. But, Harvey could not get the business model right nor increase the popularity of THERE.com enough to generate venture capital or make it self-supporting. He did figure out what he did wrong and has corrected that in IMVU. It is a matter of whether we can understand what he learned and see how to apply it to Uru.

We have people making content. Understanding what is needed to make Uru more popular and provide the experience people enjoy in ways to handle skills, burnout, learning, glory, and fun is a next step.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:17 am 
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Nalates wrote:
@Simone, I think you are considering ‘useless’ by the dictionary definition rather than Cook’s contextual definition. Consider that immediately after calling it useless he defines a use. In the psychological sense there is no useful skill to be gained from the context of game appearance.

I agree about game appearance, but not about backstory. The whole point of the Myst games is to learn the backstory in order to make the proper gameplay decisions. Uru lends itself very much to the same mechanics, apart from the fact that at the moment there are no decisions to make. (This, BTW, is also one of the reasons why I never understood people's complaints about the Prologue storyline. Yes, it was conflictual and there were "manifactured divisions", but it was entirely in line with the Myst franchise, and it seemed to combine story with skills in a way that worked - e.g. Egg Room access through Sharper.)

Quote:
Also other studies show that while the appearance and story are important, they are not what make a game successful, if successful is fun and retaining payers. *snip* Harvey, Cook, and the University of Michigan study all strongly suggest content is much less important than Rand sees it.

This is a fundamental point on which I don't agree with you. The studies and articles you cite may be convincing, but they deal with SL or There, and these are not videogames. They're a whole different species compared to Uru. That's why I believe we cannot take these studies as a reliable indication of what Uru needs. It's like if I wanted to start a successful cooking blog and tried to imitate what makes Facebook popular.

Please note that I'm not going "OMG YOU'RE TURNING URU INTO FACEBOOK!". I wonder just how much there is to learn about our pet from that kind of beast.

Quote:
I see the Relto donuts and clothes won by discovery as glory things.

Yes, I think that was the intention in their design. However, most people collect all the donuts anyway, so there's not much glory to be gained. Proposals about Marker mission timing and Pellet points, with a public place where rankings could be shown, would be more successful I think, because by definition not everyone can be in the top 10, so there would be some glory. At the time of Prologue, participating in the storyline was in itself a way to gain glory, for example by having your name on Sharper's journal.

We have indications that Cyan knew well that they needed also repeatable gameplay in Uru. Ahyoheek, the "neighborhood game room", the Gahreesen wall, the Kahlo races and who knows what else, should have served that purpose. Right now only 'heek games and Jalak are available in MOULa, yet no one plays them (and it's a pity, because 'heek is a clever little game, and Jalak could work well if only there was a really public instance). Why no one plays them? Because people won't log in just to play 'heek, and at the moment there's nothing else to do of this kind. But give them new content to explore, give them a reason to pop in the Cavern, and the rest will feed on that. If there's one thing we can learn from the SL study, it's that the best route to player retention is player retention (ha!). Give people a reason to gather in-game and create connections, and they will make up more reasons to stay.

Quote:
We have people making content. Understanding what is needed to make Uru more popular and provide the experience people enjoy in ways to handle skills, burnout, learning, glory, and fun is a next step.

On this I wholeheartedly agree. But all these things can be achieved with new content, of the right kind. ;-)

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:09 pm 
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The reason I stayed with Myst was the mystery. The game itself was in figuring out what the game was about. There weren't rules, per se, to figure out but more "Why are things the way they are here?" I liked that. The other video games I'd played required learning a set routine of operations to get to the next level, which required you to learn another set of routines by rote, but faster.

So, I was there to discover content. Back story, reasons, places, things that were neat to look at and play with. Sometimes I got it and sometimes I missed it; the Selenitic tram car maze, for example, I solved by brute force because I didn't understand the audio clues. Each solution gave me a little more information about this mysterious Art and the mysterious D'ni. I was quite intrigued, and as I would with any good book, I wanted to experience more of the story.

That's still what I want. For Uru to be a success for me, it must offer more content and details regarding the D'ni and their worlds. "There" failed for me because it had no deep story behind it.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:18 pm 
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@ Simone, ' learn the backstory in order to make the proper game play decisions' … good point. That does move the content from just content into part of the learning process. Just as a Mario platform is content and part of the learning process. But, it is the opportunity to learn not the content that is of primary importance. The content is support to give color to the process. Uru has lots of color but is weak in providing opportunities and activities.

Simone wrote:
This is a fundamental point on which I don't agree with you. The studies and articles you cite may be convincing, but they deal with SL or There, and these are not videogames. […]

I think your making the mistake many make. You are right the studies were done in those environments. But they are about people, not about SL or whatever game. They are about what people do and why they enjoy certain activities and come back for more.

Your cooking vs Facebook shows I’m not getting the idea across to you. If you considered having lots of people come to your cooking blog (or web app) and use it as an indicator of success, then you might want to consider what it is about Facebook that people find useful. Things like being able to easily share receipts with friends would be a good feature based on the indications from the studies we are looking at. That the content is cooking and not Mafia Wars has little to do with whether people enjoy using the site. The cooking content does target a different audience than Mafia Wars. But, it does not change what people find convenient and fun when using a site or playing a game.

Simone wrote:
Proposals about Marker mission timing and Pellet points, with a public place where rankings could be shown, would be more successful I think, because by definition not everyone can be in the top 10, so there would be some glory. At the time of Prologue, participating in the storyline was in itself a way to gain glory, for example by having your name on Sharper's journal.

I agree. I think Heek scores, mission timings, and may be Gahreseen Wall scores could add much to the game for competitive types. Being able to get one’s name in the journals for good RP is a great glory item for those that like the creative process. Special clothing items only available by reaching difficult locations could add an aspect of glory I think was contained in the balcony jump. Those into the agility aspect of game play would find it fun.

Not all things in the game can be for everyone. A special jump may be impossible for those fans with physical challenges. While content can provide varied challenges so no one is neglected, it is how we share information about achievements and acknowledge them that is what is common across all content and players. I think Uru fails to meet many of the physiological aspects of enjoyable game play.
You posted about Jalek and what could be done to improve it and player participation. The changes you suggest to content are minor but they would have a big effect on usability of the age and player enjoyment.

This thread is about the reasons those changes would work, beyond just our fuzzy intuitive sense of what is fun.

Lord Chaos wrote:
So, I was there to discover content. Back story, reasons, places, things that were neat to look at and play with. Sometimes I got it and sometimes I missed it; the Selenitic tram car maze, for example, I solved by brute force because I didn't understand the audio clues. Each solution gave me a little more information about this mysterious Art and the mysterious D'ni. I was quite intrigued, and as I would with any good book, I wanted to experience more of the story.

I see you as doing what Cook is talking about in both cases. If you get the similarity between the two, you’ll get my point. Learning for some future solution or usefulness is filling a psychological need that humans have. That Uru fills that need in a way you find more enjoyable most games’ grind does not mean it isn’t the same aspect of human nature that is met. I think it is the depth of the experience in Uru that you find more satisfying. In a simple game learning that it is THAT button one must press verses learning the D’ni Number System while both learning experiences feel very different.

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Thanks Nalates, I understand your point now. :-)

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Nalates said:

Quote:
Quote:
After that, it would be wonderful to set Uru up in a way to make it profitable for Cyan so they can create content for it, but I am not going to think about if/how to do that until the previous step is well under way.



You sort of define what you think success is.


While I do think that would be cool, what I really think would be success is:

Quote:
For me, this would be a successful Uru: Quality fan generated content gets added to the game in a sensible manner...That would be wonderful. That is my definition of success.


I think this would be a really good thing for Uru, and it would make many of the current fans very happy. However, I do not know how far the user generated content would go towards drawing in a large number of new people, or making Uru "popular." Then again, being "popular" is not in my definition of success.

If people really do want to try and make Uru into a game that can draw in many new users outside of the currently devoted fans then I think fixing the problems Simone pointed out (early skill set, burnout, etc,) are going to be essential. I think the ideas of leader boards and having things to do (maybe moving some heek boards into D'ni?) are really good starting points. Also, from what I can tell of there.com, it seems that an efficient communication system is important.


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@ TheGlissy, We are not all going to have the same idea of success for Uru. Knowing how we define it gives us grounds to rationally discuss how we can help each other reach those goals and make Uru a success that works for more of us. It also shows us where we have conflict and the opportunity to work out some consensus.

If adding new content is the only criteria for Uru to be successful, I wonder if you have thought about the things that are needed to make that possible?

Consider time. We have some number of age writers and programmers now. Some are young and will be building careers and families as time progresses. Others have their careers and families and have moved on toward retirement. At each stage of life priorities change. Also, people require new challenges. Nothing remains static. Things either advance and grow or devolve and die.

The number of people that are working on Uru now is likely to decrease, unless there is something that brings in new blood. We will likely see fewer and fewer new ages without new blood. It seems most people’s idea of success require some level of growth for Uru to survive. There is no doubt we will have some level of burnout in age writers. Those losses need to be made up in some way.

So, one might want to consider whether success, as you seem to define it, has a time limit or do you want it to continue for some indefinite time? If the later, then don’t you need some level of improvement in popularity?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:37 am 
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Nalates wrote:
Harvey, Cook, and the University of Michigan study all strongly suggest content is much less important than Rand sees it. Expending such huge sums of money and effort on content when it fills so little of the human needs in the game is out of balance. Most of the current suggestions for improving the game is adding content, which seems to me to be stuck in the same failed behavior.

That's a very interesting way of looking at the problem, and this kind of (I know it's a cliche...) "thinking outside the box" is the only way that Uru gets markedly better - though arguably the episodic content model (which has been tried, but could always be tried differently) is a way of approaching that.

We all know that content is essential to the Uru model. The whole reason for Myst was to be lost in a beautiful space for a while. You can't make Uru areas too cheaply, any more than you can make areas for online multiplayer WWII-with-dinosaurs shooters on the cheap. I don't think Cyan's production costs are necessarily higher than those of other studios, and they know many of the same tricks of the trade. The problem has always been one of interest and the long-term game. The only difference between Uru and the WWII multiplayer shooter is that the rationale of the shooter means that players are more comfortable inhabiting the same virtual scenes because they are engaged in some other activity. As the original Quake shows (itself, to talk to John Romero, an admittedly far under-polished game, though I always liked the severity of the low-poly, low-res look), if you have a halfway decent basic gameplay mechanic that keeps the player engaged day in and out, they will keep coming back.

Once the player finds the end of the yellow brick road, the fun ends. Naturally, the puzzle-oriented aspect of Uru means that there is going to be an end to that road if there isn't something else to do. There may be ways to extend the gameplay without breaking the Uru model, and also crucially without trying to turn it into things that it wouldn't do well, another point I think is readily obvious and fairly widely agreed upon.

Personally, for me, I have to agree with your initial statement - but I'd amend it to read that content is less important than Rand sees it for the gaming public at large. I do not feel that way at all - I haven't loaded up the Cavern in months, mainly because I don't want to burn out on the game. I may be sticking with far inferior content in other games, but the freshness of it overcomes the problem. For me, new stuff to explore is the major motivator for playing games (followed, strangely enough, by a fondness for super-repetitive 80s style arcade games), and I suffer though tons and tons of horrible FPSes for the sake of seeing "new things." (Thank goodness I recently discovered photography.)

Likewise, there's no arguing with the point that the traditional Myst and Riven player fits into a different mold than the person who plays online shooters. What about people who use Uru - as I suspect is becoming more and more the case with returning visitors - as a sort of community hub, almost like Second Life? I hope it doesn't seem unkind or unfair to say that since the original puzzle-driven model of Myst and Riven is exhausted fairly quickly that people who have stuck to the Cavern since its latest relaunch aren't there for the puzzles. I don't have anything against using it as a sort of quirky chat room, but it is capable of more.

So...to try to make some sense out of that mess, let's look at some types of gameplay (associated incidentally with a player mindset, perhaps) as they apply to Uru.

1.) Fast-paced action - Almost all the #1 online games rely on direct user input. They're almost all first person shooters. I haven't tried the climbing wall, or played soccer in the desert, but it's clear to me that using the primitive physics system to facilitate player-imagined "games" (without any kind of artificial record-keeping) is not going to hold my interest too long.
2.) MMOs - Only a step removed from the FPS model. These games tend to be a bit more strategic in nature than the fast-paced action game, but only by a step. They have thrived because they know how to dangle carrots in front of players so they will happily venture out in the hills and be slaughtered while trying to kill enough rabid bunnies to level up. (A perfect description of what playing Star Wars Galaxies was like.) These games can

3.) Puzzle games. The most popular puzzle games that are at all similar to Myst today are in the model of Hidden Object games. Somewhat recently, some Hidden Object Games (yes, the acronym is HOG) have added a layer of depth by focusing development not on the imaginative landscapes, but on story and some Myst-style (more in the model of Gabriel Knight, most likely) worlds with puzzles to be solved. They aren't massively multiplayer that I know of (or even multiplayer), but the key is that they merge a very simple, content-low type of game (Where's Waldo?) and merge it with one that's high content (Myst).

The Hidden Object part is filler for the Myst part, which is critical. The idea is that you are doing nothing for so long that it bores you - and as far as Myst goes, let's face it, the worst parts of Myst were waiting for inspiration to hit, clicking back and forth over the same screens repeatedly. HOGs tend to alleviate that symptom by giving you different tasks now and then. For people who like the Hidden Object style of game (when I was playing them recently, that part was actually what got me involved with the newer, more advanced games...not good for the eyes, I warn!), the Myst-style puzzling is a nice distraction and rest period. Is it a "perfect" type of game? Arguable one way or another, but these currently make lots of money. If anything, the success of services like Big Fish Games (a new game a day is their tagline) seems to indicate that despite the "death" of adventure gaming in the 90s, they are undergoing something of a renaissance (though actual Maniac Mansion / Myst - style games that are pure adventure games are somewhat less common, I think, than even in the early 2000s, though I could be far wrong there).

4.) Community watering holes - I don't know how else to describe what Uru's current main function (for returning players) is. Part IM program and part Second Life. Additionally, if you add some intrigue (such as Cyan attempted with the episodes / plotlines during the GameTap era) you can add a lot of buzz and involvement. I have no problem with this so long as it's done well, and involves some sort of "building" or discussion. It's hard to wrap my mind around this, though, since the mythology of Myst and other elements are basically (in my view) fictional, even if they are meant allegorically mainly, so it's a tough call. It didn't help that the only episodic story I saw firsthand was the one with the overly-demanding venture capitalist, which I thought was lame. The problem with non-Cyan (i.e. community) ideas, on the other hand, is that so far there is no expandability in the system, and in the open source age it's unclear what the limits will be - but that they will restrict at least a range of productions.

The question may be "do we have to pick game styles or not?" Obviously the 3D world accomodates quite a few ideas. Assuming a player is new to the game, they will likely find that it is an exceptional adventure game with an acceptable (if complicated) multipurpose device...thingy...which doubles as a basic instant messenger device. They will discover stand-ins for "action games" and games of strategy (in Heek), which are below average and above average, respectively, but very basic and not tied to any larger system of carrots and sticks so those elements add little by themselves - I think that expanding the game in the direction of more soccer games, more Heek style games, may seem cheap at first but is simply a temporary diversion (for all but the most fanatical Heek players!) that doesn't address the basic problem. Who loads up a 3D game program to play Microsoft Hearts Online? Nobody. I am left with some nebulous ideas involving community-led activities (which are currently heavily restricted by the current engine, functionality, and world spaces - and also, as we all know, of varying quality compared to the original Cyan output), and perhaps more twitch-action ideas, which don't really make sense to me in the sense of Uru. It's a start at least.

But looking outside the confines of the current system, we can see that there may be some other areas for expanding gameplay substantially. Almost always these systems involve repetition. What I'd personally love to see is a simple crafting tool, maybe something like a potter's wheel (where moving a stick in and out will warp the edges of what you're turning in and out, just like a real potter's wheel), where there is actually some skill involved beyond violence and twitch action. I'm honestly tempted to call for rock-climbing equipment but I don't really see that working too well in a 3D game, and again it would end up just being a different kind of Age puzzle. I do loves mah Tomb Raider though. (Well, somewhat, 3D platforming generally is kind of lousy.) So, a bunch of rambling tonight from me and no real good suggestions. Well, it was worth a try.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 2:18 pm 
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@ Ed Oscuro – interesting post. Good insights.

As best I can tell from existing research content contributes most to which demographic one gets. Your addition ‘for the gaming public at large.’ is fair enough. With content it is not whether it is important, it is a matter of how important relative to other aspects of the game. Many see it and tie content to their concept of the game while ignoring the other aspects. I think that is the mistake Cyan made as they heard and we still hear demands for more content. I’m trying to get people looking beyond that supply-demand cycle for content and consider other game aspects and their priorities in an attempt to change the cycle. It has repeatedly run into problems. Time to do it differently.

Ed Oscuro wrote:
Likewise, there's no arguing with the point that the traditional Myst and Riven player fits into a different mold than the person who plays online shooters.

Yes, they are a different demographic. But, they aren’t all that different. Games like Mafia Wars and WoW attract different demographic groups. But we have ample evidence many of the same things are required by all demographics to achieve high retention and frequent login with extended play time. FPS games that have those commonly popular features retain more players than those that don’t. Study after study show it is player interaction that increases player retention.

Our community likes to think of itself as exceptional and significantly different than other game communities. That is often used to promote the idea that Uru has to be designed differently. But, we are part of various other communities too. I don’t see the Uru community as all that different from other game communities. We have the good and bad that every other community has. The mix and percentages may shift from community to community but they are all made up of people from around the planet. The studies and interviews are about what affects people and their game play in general. While special aspects of content and game play (minimum violence) set the style of Uru, the lack of common popular features and game play abilities reduce Uru’s retention rate.

While content building in game has proven to reduce the cost of game development, the studies show it is not a big factor in player retention. For Uru adding a Plasma compatible in game building environment is unlikely. The building editors would require a huge programming investment. One would essentially be adding all the working parts of a Blender or Maya with a simplified user interface. That is a lot of work for a small increase in player retention rate.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:48 pm 
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How about, "There.com didn't fail...Michael Wilson was just greedy and decided he could make more money in education" ?

That is all.

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