On MMORPGs and Player as Author
9:58 AM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story
As the video game creation business transformed from a hobbyist activity to a lucrative way to make money, so has the creation process itself transformed from the instincts of a few code geeks to an actual science, studied in depth and detail. Balancing gameplay so that game authors feel in control of their creation and yet users feel empowered to express themselves fully is one of the many challenges facing creators of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games. Although this genre is still in its infancy on the Mac platform, it will soon become a major part of gaming for all Mac gamers as Shadowbane, Neverwinter Nights, Clan Lord and shareware efforts such as Lance, Arcane Arena and Oberin work towards 'completion.'
But when does a massively-multiplayer game begin, and when does it end? This was just one of the many questions discussed at this year's Interactive Age conference held at USC. A meeting of the minds between creators of PC MMORPGs such as Everquest and Ultima Online, as well as many other game designers from both the console and home PC fields. GameSpy produced a short but substantive report on the conference, which covers the variety of perspectives offered on the evolving science of game design. Here is an excerpt:
Although games like Deus Ex allow you "to decide how to get through the story, the design is limited by how much you are allowed to do." Games in which the player controls a party of characters makes creating stories easier because overcomes is that fact that it is "hard to have a relationship when there is no one to have a relationship with". However, Zatkin feels the "true test of self-authorship" is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Mac users will get to find this out for ourselves, as we enter the larger world of MMORPGs with such cross-platform titles as Shadowbane and Neverwinter Nights and perhaps future titles such as Dark Sector. Read the rest of this interview for more details from the conference, including quotes from Warren Spector and Ultima Online creator Ralph Coster.
"Personal Space: Who Controls the Story" at GameSpy
In those games, the "player is not the center of the universe, merely a participant in it and everyone has to be a member of the universe with about equal priority." This is challenging, as you are "not designing the game around the actions or what you think will happen with one person," unlike a single-player game, which tends to have a main character. Thus, the purpose of the designer of a MMORPG is to create the framework--basically a "huge, chat room world"--although Zatkin believes that the type of "world is basically irrelevant."
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