Dear Mr. Game Developer, by Envino
May 11, 2007 10:55:42

Mr. Game Developer,

You may not remember me, in fact, I'm fairly certain that you do not.

Do you remember that little kid who played Atari adventure until he managed to finally confuse the bat, defeat the dragons and return the chalice to the castle? No? Maybe the kid who played Ultima to the bitter end? It was just Ultima, no roman numerals, no online. How about the slightly older kid who played Asteroids and Pac-Man in the mall until every dollar bill in his pocket was converted to tokens and shoved into your machines? Him either huh? Well lets see...how about the kid who played the very first version of flight simulator and knew in his soul that this little "micro-something' company was going to do big things?

Well, that kid was me. I'll forgive you for not remembering me, it was a long ass time ago, and I'm fairly certain that most of you weren't born just yet.

Back in those days, the early 80's, we played video games to forget that we were awkward pimple faced kids living in the middle of nowhere. Instead of gathering at the malt shop, we gathered at the arcade, or in my case, whatever local greasy spoon or store that had a game or two. Space Invaders, Galaxian, Interceptor. These were my holy trinity. I secretly found Pac-Man to be kind of silly with no explosions or aliens, but who was I to buck a fad?

One day in about '92 I read in the college newspaper about this 'internet' thing and rushed immediately to the lab to check out this whole 'hypertext' and linking phenomenon. Of course, my first thought was -

"Holy Shit they are going to be able to make some great games with this!"

So yeah, that was me too, wandering around a MUD called Medievia, trying to figure out where the locker room was and wondering what I was going to do with a ghoul's finger that I had looted. Medievia was was text-only, on a slower than cold tar 2400 baud modem on a local bbs, and I loved every second of it.

One day in 1999, the true miracle I had been waiting 7 years for, since that first day I had read about the internet, finally happened - I logged into Everquest. From the first second I hit the dirt (and it WAS dirt by god) in Norrath I was an MMO player.

I was an MMO player in every sense of the word...I struggled to not play too much. I stayed up too late, I got up too early. I camped, I raided and I ground. I couldn't help it - I was in love.

So, lets fast forward a few years. Back in the beginning, we played video games to forget, for a time, who we were and what we struggled with. The same is true now. Here I am - a 40ish professional, with the requisite 2 kids, 3 cars, and a mortgage that would crush the soul of an ancient stoic.

I still like to forget from time to time - MMO's fill the need to socialize, create, and destroy - needs that are so dismally not met in today's society. Because of those needs, you will find me perpetually subscribed to one or another of your games.

However, the question that I beg to ask is - "Why hast thou forsaken me?"

"How have we forsaken you?" you might ask.

I'm here to talk about just that.

Now, before you peg me as a whiner, malcontent or terrorist, let me just state that I have had a great time over the last 30 years. But that then, is exactly my point. I have 30 YEARS of video game experience now, 10 of which are MMO years.

That being the case, why am I still slaying 10 rats? Or 20 sprites? Or retrieving 27 lizard urethras?

Your worlds look great. Fantastic. Orgasmic, even. The tech-nerd inside me goes absolutely weak-kneed when I see a sunrise, in real time, over a mountain that I can walk, fly or float or run to if I wish, complete with corona effects, moving clouds and an ever shifting palette of colors. It's a lot like the real thing, except I get to be an evil dark-elf necromancer who answers to noone, not even Citibank. Kudos.

My point then, is this. I think you underestimate us.

I think you underestimate us both in capability and in numbers. I have many friends just like me, real flesh and bone friends that I interact with both in game and out. And we all have the same question.

Probably the most telling symptom of this was what happened with Star Wars Galaxies. Of course, growing up when I did, I was ready to play this game. I watched the development boards pre-beta, played beta and was there on opening day.

Many will say the SWG sucked. I beg to differ, in a big way. Yes, SWG had its weaknesses, and lets dispense with those right away. There wasnt much quest content and the world was a bit on the boring side, and they never did get the mount graphics right.

Lets talk then, about the brilliance of SWG. The character development system was innovative, new and amazing...no levels no set "classes" just a huge set of skills to mix and match as we saw fit. I made some amazing templates in SWG, tailored to whatever I was doing at the time. If I wanted to change things up a bit, I could, through effort, completely rebuild my character (amazingly, sort of like real life). Again, I feel that you developers underestimated us, you didn't realize that we would find the best templates, and use them to the fullest. We're talking 30 years' experience here fellas!

That brings us to the Jedi thing. Never, in any game, have I had as much fun, and as much intense desire to succeed, than I did in my quest for Jedi in SWG. It was mysterious, in the beginning it was virtually impossible, and by god, I was going to do it. And I did do it. WE did it. In droves. I mastered 29 of the 32 professions to unlock my Jedi slot. I bet you didn't think we'd do it like that did you.

Everybody talks about the holy grail of pvp. Meaningful pvp that you feel compelled to participate in but can opt out of if you want. The jedi-bounty hunter relationship in SWG was the closest we've ever come. It was simply beautiful. You screwed up as a Jedi, let people see you, and you would go on the list for bounty hunters. The more you screwed up, the higher up the list you went. Sooner or later, you were going to get a visit from one ruthless son of a bitch. The key to this whole thing was-

A) If you were careful you could avoid the whole thing and opt out, by being a sneaky bastard.

B) If you were not careful you paid a hefty hefty price in being nailed by a bounty hunter.

It was pulse racing, unnerving madness and I loved every minute of it.

Now, we all know what happened to SWG. The numbers weren't big enough, and this beautiful game with more intensity and more potential than I had ever seen before became just another washed out MMO with all the taste and pleasure of last night's soggy nachos.

So, lets fast forward one more time. Over the last few years, a new game has been on the horizon. I knew and trusted the development team, and they were making great promises to us, the veteran gamers. There will be mystery, there will be meaningful travel, there will be immersion.

Opening morning of this game, I log in, and what do I see? "Hey, Envino, go kill me 10 rats". Literally. My heart sank, and I heard the collective groan of my generation. Guys, I killed those rats 10 years ago okay?

"Alright, well lets go try out this meaningful travel" I said to myself, "lets go ride a boat to a far off land like in the old EQ days". I get to the dock and what do I see? A teleport NPC. The meaningful travel had now become... "click here to go anywhere you want magically - poof".

I'm a little disappointed guys. Now, as I've said, the worlds look great. Perfect, even. I think you can call that a job well done and move on. Give me quests with meaningful, difficult content. Please don't tell me that with the vast resources of literary talent there is in the world, that the best story you can come up with is "Go kill 10 ____ critter, because I need their _____ to make ______. Let's hire some writers, shall we? Remember those great epic quests from EQ? Why have we left that behind?

Please don't think that by making it a bit challenging we'll desert you. We old schoolers are a tenacious bunch. We holo-grinded Jedi, woke the sleeper and killed Lord British. Have faith, we'll figure it out, provided the reward isn't 2 silver and sliver of xp.

Why cant we do a few hard, long and exciting quests with big rewards instead of 15 boring ones with little rewards?

Now I understand you need to be able to get new blood in....Im all for that...let those new people experience the joy of MMOs. Make it easy for them, to get in and stay in.

I understand the financial pressures that killed SWG. Innovation is risky, dangerous business. I see no reason however, why we cant do it within the framework of the existing games. Build me a couple of epic quests....or a meaningful addition to my skills that I can create myself....or a way to craft something nobody else has ever made, with my own ideas imbued into the item...the list goes on and on. I know this stuff is possible...remember where I have come from and what I have seen - from Adventure to Vanguard a lot of impossible things happened, and I don't think we're done yet.

All I ask is that you remember us, the ones who have been here all along, and probably won't leave any time soon. Give me a quest that truly is a quest...and I'll be here another 30 years.

If the Citibank Ogre doesn't grind me into the ground first, that is.

Sincerely,

Boyd Johnson

aka

Rudder - Medievia
Baerlekker - 65 Necromancer - EQ1
Maturin - Master Weaponsmith and Pistoleer - SWG
Bonden Lee - Master of 29 of 32 professions - SWG
Annesbane - Jedi Knight - SWG
Envino - 70 Assassin - EQ2
Envino - Necromancer - Vanguard
And little kid who loved 'Adventure'

Submitted by Brent on May 11, 2007 10:55:42 CST (comments: 4)


Comments:


'Great read' by CowNoseThe50PoundCat
Submitted on 2007-05-12 20:26:52 CST
So true... I hope they realize this. We are a tenacious bunch! Hey, perhaps with all the new development tools that are being made for indi developers out there we will finally get a game that is what we are looking for AND looks good.


'Fantastic read' by Shouryuu
Submitted on 2007-05-15 00:08:55 CST
An extremely well written article; I'm one of the "newer" generations of RPG players but that doesn't mean that the "kill 10 rats" quest are any more thrilling to me as they are to you.


'SWG' by sifo
Submitted on 2007-05-15 08:30:28 CST
One of the greatest moments in gaming for me was unlocking my Jedi and igniting my light saber for the first time. SWG truly was a different MMO. If it weren't for the NGE I would have probably never quit playing it.


'So right about SWG' by Earley
Submitted on 2007-06-01 13:57:27 CST
You are so right about SWG. Instead of just fixing the combat again like they should have and putting in quest xp -- not simple but it's not the totally weak NGE either -- they ruined a cool RPG.

SWG is innovating as we speak though, to their credit. Now that the game has no character customization and bland classes, they DID put in a storytelling system that basically allows players to created their own quest and event NPCs, complete with guard NPCs, inteactions, props, etc. THAT is the future.

On a fine point, I absolutely disagree with your comment about the travel. Working to achieve something like Jedi in SWG, which is an overarching goal and something that happens as a result of playing the came, is not at all the same thing as making the mechanics hard by forcing players to run instead of fly while they're questing.

Credit where credit is due, Blizzard's Burning Crusade is a great example of this done right. You walk, then you get your own mount, then a faster one, then a flying one, then a fast flying one, then hopefully you get an uber one as a reward for accomplishing one of the most difficult things in the game.




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