You're not the boss of me, by Julie Whitefeather
May 15, 2007 17:04:09

"You're not the boss of me"...depending on what generation you are from, you may remember these words from your childhood. They have a direct bearing on one of the most important factors in the success of any mmo being marketed today - game play.

Why?

Here is why. Players can, and do, put up with lousy graphics, bugs in the program, and even games that are a system hog. Not only do they put up with it, the core of any given game's community will defend it to the death...usually yours. Forget the idea behind a scorned woman; hell hath no fury like a gamer whose favorite game has been scorned. But what makes gamers so loyal? There can be many reasons. For example, if I just paid fifty bucks for a game that turns out to be a real dog, I many want to make sure that I get my money's worth. Maybe the game is so bad that I don't want to be the only one who has wasted their money (after all misery, as they say, loves company). It can be a sense of community. It has been for me in the past. Until that is, in one particular case, a "friendly guild" turned into players that would make Simon Legree look like a nice guy when "phat lewt" was to be had.

But there is one thing that few players will put up with, even if the game looks fantastic, and that is bad game play.

But what is considered "good game play" can vary as much as the political climate in an election year. Where the phrase above comes in is with linearity. Nothing can bring a player back to the words "your not the boss of me" faster than a game that is absolutely rigidly linear. In other words, a game where everything absolutely has to be completed in a certain order. Usually games that are extremely linear are limited to console games.

You can debate graphics until the next generation of computers comes out, but nothing will kill a game faster than nothing to do. In a recent Vanguard Forum, for example, I read a post by a gamer that claims once you hit level 50 there is nothing to do. Still, there have been games that have succeeded without any direction whatsoever - a total lack of linearity. Ultima Online was like that. There was a definite storyline (ok not too deep of a story line) but for years there were no quests at all and yet the game flourished. More than once, during my UO years I heard players say "so what do I do?" In the end, the virtual land grab and inflationary economy got to be so bad that it became a case of "he who dies (or quits UO) with the most toys (gold and rares) wins."

But somewhere in between lays the success of games like World of Warcraft and, hopefully, the games due out in 2007 and 2008 that will unseat the giant. Yes, I play WoW but I can't wait to see what great products come out that really can be WoW killers.

There are good quests and bad quests. Nothing irritates me more than being sent on a quest to talk to an NPC that is no where to be found. In Vanguard recently I finally found an NPC (after looking for hours) when I finally fell through a hole in the floor - and there he was. If quests that tell you to go "go kill 10 of..." are boring, quests that tell you to "go kill the only one of..." can be too frustrating for words.

What I have seen in Wow, and I am seeing in the open beta of Lord of the Rings on line, and to some extent in Vanguard are the quests that really draw a player in. Namely quests that draw a player into a story line. Make no mistake; choice is important. The player should always have a choice to skip a quest line, or an entire area. But having a central theme, a series of quests that doesn't push a player in a particular direction, but rather guides a player are what can help make a good game a great game. Even a player chooses to skip an area, or a boss that a developer has put into the game, there should be something that shows the player that it is there. There has to be sort of "silent tour guide" that the player is not even aware of as they play the game. There has to be some structure.

Is there an alternative? Sure there is. The success of games like guild wars 1 are built on it. Do a few levels and then set the players loose on each other. In the end, what seems to make a game great, despite bugs and bad graphics are games that have some structure to them - games where there is enough linearity to show a player around but let him flip the dev the bird if he wants and go about his merry way.

Submitted by Brent on May 15, 2007 17:04:09 CST (comments: 2)


Comments:


'*WoW Killer*... shudder' by maestrod
Submitted on 2007-05-16 16:04:37 CST
If I hear those words one more time I'm going to spontaneously self-combust. What will it take to "unseat" WoW? More subscribers? If so, I don't think it will be happening soon.

However, Julie's suggestion seems to be that there are are game play elements like quests that if they're done right, can make or break the gaming experience. Someday soon there's going to be a game that outdoes WoW in one or more aspects, and it's not going to draw most existing WoW players away from their game of choice, but it will be fun and will be successful and it will advance our expectations of what we expect from a MMO. Some might say that game has already been released....



'WoW killer? Plus some thoughts' by Earley
Submitted on 2007-06-01 14:08:38 CST
Isn't it totally contradictory to talk about how loyal players are for gameplay and social reasons, then imply that it's possible for a game to 'Kill' another game?

WoW won't die because of one competitor. Other games will get some of their players. They themselves will steal some WoW players that will play Blizzard's next MMO. Why doesn't everyone forget about how big wow is and do what Blizzard did when they started developing the game: focus on doing something good, and maybe something different?

Wow doesn't have all the online gamers, just the largest population. According to MMOGCHART.COM, there were about 12 million subscribers last year, now it's probably 20.

Blizzard is like Starbucks - it may not be the best or first coffee company in the world, but they did the work of making it possible for anyone to open a coffee shop anywhere in this country and people will come.

Blizzard will flourish, even as WoW does or does not shrink and other games that follow some of your suggestions will too.




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