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I heard this at GDC and I thought of PlanetCrap.
March 13th 2003, 02:28 CET by Charles

"A connected audience cannot be fooled by marketing."  -- Gordon Walton

Gordon Walton is a main guy over at EA, having had his fingers in MMOs since the very beginning with Ultima Online, with his most recent efforts being on Sims Online.  This gem came from his talk at GDC "The Top 10 Reasons Why You Don't Want to Make A Massively Multiplayer Game".  I'm sure you can imagine most of the reasons (and you'd probably be right), but when he said that bit, I immediately thought of how great a topic it would make here.  

Another thing he mentioned in his talk that I found interesting was that Ultima Online was originally supposed to be a pay-per-minute service.  He went on to comment about how the game was made in order to waste your time for just that reason, but then the billing system changed before they completed the game, and yet other developers copied the time wasting design.  Mistakenly as it were.  It was enlightening in a way, since he believes that the time investment requirement is a barrier to entry and is actually holding the genre back.  

Go.
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#1 by Jibble
2003-03-13 02:48:31
I think that the time investment barrier helps the game itself because it removes casual gamers from the mix.  I think that most MMO's rely on long term investments to form clans and provide more depth to the gameplay.  Granted, time wasting is never a good thing, but it's almost accepted these days.
#2 by TheTrunkDr.
2003-03-13 02:48:43
I also attended this talk there is an over here. It was a very good discussion though occasional the thought ran through my head that maybe he's trying to keep people out of the MMO market so as not to saturate it for himself. Problem with that is that all his points were very valid.

Sure, it might happen in some fantasy land like Canada or Holland, but not in the real world. - Shadarr
#3 by Bailey
2003-03-13 02:51:14
Right, we want to avoid saturation of the market, and 150 MMOGs currently in development is juuuuust right. Hurr.

I, Complainicus
#4 by TheTrunkDr.
2003-03-13 02:51:19
I think that the time investment barrier helps the game itself because it removes casual gamers from the mix.

how is removing anyone from the mix ever a good thing? also there are far more casual gamers than anything else, just look at the sims if any game captured the casual gamer that is it, it's still in the top 10 sales 2 years later! you can't ever say that ignoring the casual has ever made anyone money anymore.

Sure, it might happen in some fantasy land like Canada or Holland, but not in the real world. - Shadarr
#5 by jafd
2003-03-13 02:53:06
Ultima Online was originally supposed to be a pay-per-minute service.  He went on to comment about how the game was made in order to waste your time for just that reason, but then the billing system changed before they completed the game, and yet other developers copied the time wasting design.

I knew it. I KNEW IT. I swear I will come back from the grave and kill every last one of those stupid motherfuckers.

Look at your keyboard. Do you see a "Caps Lock" button? You do? Good. Push it once. Thanks.
#6 by Bailey
2003-03-13 02:54:37
Heh. Way to set back The Movement.

I, Complainicus
#7 by Jibble
2003-03-13 02:56:39
how is removing anyone from the mix ever a good thing? also there are far more casual gamers than anything else, just look at the sims if any game captured the casual gamer that is it


The hardcore gamers are the ones that will stay forever in MMO's, hence they're the biggest profit base.
#8 by Charles
2003-03-13 02:59:38
www.bluh.org
That's a chicken and the egg thing... or something.  The hardcore gamers stay the longest because the games cater to the hardcore gamers.  Casual gamers don't play, because the games don't cater to them.

FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE POSTING ON PLANETCRAP FOR INTELLIGENCE!  --morn
#9 by TheTrunkDr.
2003-03-13 02:59:40
The hardcore gamers are the ones that will stay forever in MMO's, hence they're the biggest profit base.

and you can capture them aswell as the casual. Even if you don't capture the hardcore there is probably a 100:1 if not 1000:1 ratio of casual vs hard core so if you go after the casual and get them to dish out one months worth you need the hard core for at least 100 months on average!

Sure, it might happen in some fantasy land like Canada or Holland, but not in the real world. - Shadarr
#10 by Bailey
2003-03-13 03:37:48
You can't "capture" the hardcore because they're "hardcore". They've invested half their adult life and six to eight hours a day into one stupid game or another, and you better have a good fucking reason for them to throw all that away. It doesn't matter if you have flashy graphics or a better system, if it's not the Next Big Thing, they couldn't care less.

I, Complainicus
#11 by JMCDaveL
2003-03-13 06:03:42
Gordon Walton was not at EA when UO launched, he started with EA a few years back after Kesmai gasped its last breaths. At the time it UO was languishing with no real "guy in charge"; for a brief time Gordon used his Kesmai experience to improve the game, then he moved on to Sims Online and apparently forgot everything he knew. The person still in online gaming that was with the Ultima Online project from conception is Raph Koster who is lead designer on Star Wars Galaxies.

--jmc
#12 by jafd
2003-03-13 06:16:52
As soon as Koster says Word One about this "designed the game to waste your time" and "bill by the minute" thing, someone please link it here please, thanks. I'll assume that he hasn't yet, and go back to sharpening my bat.

Look at your keyboard. Do you see a "Caps Lock" button? You do? Good. Push it once. Thanks.
#13 by Caryn
2003-03-13 06:18:27
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
#10 Bailey
You can't "capture" the hardcore because they're "hardcore". They've invested half their adult life and six to eight hours a day into one stupid game or another, and you better have a good fucking reason for them to throw all that away.


I guess this is a corollary to what you've said: the games breed hardcore audiences from casual audiences. The casual audience picks up the game after hearing about it from a friend, and the more time they invest the more hardcore they become because they're unwilling to leave the game with so much invested in their characters. So in one sense this is good for the company grabbing those casual players and converting them. And it's far easier to keep those players than it is in another genre, like the FPS genre, because there's far less time investment -- even if your game is subpar, players who've stuck it out after some critical point are unwilling to give it up even with problems because, again, the time investment they've dumped into their characters. I think it's detrimental to the company when they can't come up with another title to bring those players into. For games like Wolfenstein, BF1942, etc., players will often buy and play both. But rarely will you see an MMOG player -- I'm guessing, I have no hard numbers on this -- play multiple MMOGs because of the time and money. So you may initially grab an audience you retain for a while, but my guess is that that audience reaches a critical limit that won't grow much even after you've put out a new MMOG, unlike other genres.

As someone whose job involves this kind of pondering, I'm interested in seeing how audience numbers change from game to game as developers release new MMOGs.

"That's an interesting viewpoint supported by many factual references, but you failed to note that I really don't care." - Bailey
#14 by TrodKnee
2003-03-13 07:31:50
trodknee@planetunreal.com http://www.planetunreal.com/unrealgod
I know I am sounding like a broken record, but I and many other 'hardcore' catasses wasted hour after hour bashing spiders in Meridian 59 in hopes of raising a single skill point, trying to stay on the cutting edge of the power-gaming curve. Just really annoyed by the endless "You saw it here first!" spouted by ex-UO developers, even if it's taking credit for negatives achieved by accident. The fact that they even considered a pay-per-minute billing proves just how fucking clueless they were...

I owe me nothing.
#15 by Bailey
2003-03-13 07:32:57
Caryn

Casual people become hardcore like social drinkers become alcoholics. It's not quite so airy fairy as you might think, their real lives have to be of less worth than the games they play to give them up. To "win" a MMOG, a player has to invest many hours of the day into maxing out their avatar(s), that's hard enough with one game, never mind two or three.

When the sequel to Everquest comes out, the only way Sony is going to see EQ-esque numbers in EQ2 is to offer to port long-term players of the original into the new game with some sort of refund. Create a character and get a truckload of cash, equipment, etc. There's just too much investment of time and effort to expect people to walk away from the old game and embrace the new. If Funcom had wanted to do well with AO, they would have considered this instead of offering free downloads of their crappy scifi EQ clone. Show us your level 50 EQ character, and here, we'll give you a mid-level AO character with 500K credits in the bank.

Regardless, the game still has to be the Next Big Thing for a serious MMOG player to switch over. There's no reason to invest time in Shadowbane or Mimesis if no one else is going to bother.

I, Complainicus
#16 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 07:48:41
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I wish I had the time to play anything hardcore. Fortunately, I have a little music room up front that doesn't allow me.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#17 by Bailey
2003-03-13 08:06:08
Thank god for the music room that keeps you an indie fruit instead of a hardcore gamer.

I, Complainicus
#18 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 08:16:36
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I'm fixing to shove some indie fruit up your pooper.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#19 by Bailey
2003-03-13 08:29:44
You keep telling me that from the bottom of the frag list.

I, Complainicus
#20 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 08:45:46
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Bitch, I can own at, uh.. Counter-strike. As of late.

But don't make me whip out UT2K3.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#21 by Bailey
2003-03-13 08:47:34
Wrong on both counts, all you can beat me at is the UT2K3 bonus pack bottom-feeder mutator! Bitch!

I, Complainicus
#22 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 09:36:07
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Shit. I haven't even installed the bonus pack and I can beat you in all aspects of it. Especially when I print out the contents of the raw machine code and use the book it creates to beat you.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#23 by Matt Davis
2003-03-13 09:38:29
http://looroll.com
Battle of the baldies?

<jafd> Dating an older woman is probably a lot like running Linux, really.
<jafd> Lots of maintenance, resulting in rewards, that you could have gotten a lot easier elsewhere, if only you knew how.
#24 by Bailey
2003-03-13 09:43:43
Not so much of a battle as a hissy fit slap fight, really.

I, Complainicus
#25 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 09:59:14
jemartin@tcainternet.com
You have the "hissy fit slap," and I have the "fight," yes.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#26 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-13 14:07:10
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
TrodKnee
I know I am sounding like a broken record, but I and many other 'hardcore' catasses wasted hour after hour bashing spiders in Meridian 59 in hopes of raising a single skill point, trying to stay on the cutting edge of the power-gaming curve. Just really annoyed by the endless "You saw it here first!" spouted by ex-UO developers, even if it's taking credit for negatives achieved by accident. The fact that they even considered a pay-per-minute billing proves just how fucking clueless they were...

Yes, the dismal failure of UO is their bitter reward!  Enjoy, suckers!

What?
#27 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-13 16:17:24
Sampans are good.
Another thing he mentioned in his talk that I found interesting was that Ultima Online was originally supposed to be a pay-per-minute service.  He went on to comment about how the game was made in order to waste your time for just that reason, but then the billing system changed before they completed the game, and yet other developers copied the time wasting design.

I find this offensive, not because they were "greedy" and going to try to weasel every nickel out of their customers pocket, but they their game design was so dreadful they had to manufacture artificial ways to keep people on-line instead of providing a fun engaging game that you wanted to play.

FWIW I have not played any MMO games.
#28 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-13 16:34:44
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
FWIW I have not played any MMO games.

Then, by all means, feel free to voice your opinions on the subject.

What?
#29 by Trolly McTroll
2003-03-13 17:10:24
Yeah, just like Warren!

" ..and Trolly McTroll is the best name EVER. I laugh every time I see it. "  - Wudi
"It doesnt have enough dicks to be a gaymobile." - bago
#30 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-13 18:29:39
Then, by all means, feel free to voice your opinions on the subject.

Oh, so you disagree with what I wrote and thing that wasting peoples time was a fine design choice?
#31 by jafd
2003-03-13 18:43:22
don't make me whip out UT2K3.

wyrds to lyve bi 4 lyf, yo.

"You speak blasphemy, sir." "Fluently."
#32 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-13 18:50:07
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Oh, so you disagree with what I wrote and thing that wasting peoples time was a fine design choice?

Depends on what their goals for the product were.  If the goal was to keep people online as long as possible, it was a wonderful design choice.

What?
#33 by Charles
2003-03-13 18:50:41
www.bluh.org
I find this offensive, not because they were "greedy" and going to try to weasel every nickel out of their customers pocket, but they their game design was so dreadful they had to manufacture artificial ways to keep people on-line instead of providing a fun engaging game that you wanted to play.


That's how online games worked before UO, for the most part.  All those Ten services, old prodigy stuff, whatever.  You payed to play, and the cost was per minute.  The original NWN on AOL worked that way.

FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE POSTING ON PLANETCRAP FOR INTELLIGENCE!  --morn
#34 by chris
2003-03-13 18:56:11
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
#30 CheesyPoof
Oh, so you disagree with what I wrote and thing that wasting peoples time was a fine design choice?

Err... all video games, by their nature, are wasting people's time. Does it really matter whether they're wasting time making boots, wasting time shooting demons, or wasting time jumping platforms?

-chris
#35 by Gunp01nt
2003-03-13 18:56:25
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Warren Marshall:
If the goal was to keep people online as long as possible, it was a wonderful design choice.

not if the boredom scares people away. then it sorta defeats itself.

Yo mama's so fat, all the restaurants in town have signs that says: "Maximum Occupancy: 240 Patrons OR Yo Mama"
#36 by chris
2003-03-13 19:03:16
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
#35 Gunp01nt
not if the boredom scares people away. then it sorta defeats itself.

But it didn't, so that point is moot.

-chris
#37 by Warren Marshall
2003-03-13 19:16:28
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
But it didn't, so that point is moot.

Exactly.  The success of UO seems to indicate it was a pretty good decision in the end.

What?
#38 by Bailey
2003-03-13 19:20:28
Deth

You have the "hissy fit slap," and I have the "fight," yes.

Yes, true, but for you, a hissy fit slap is a fight.

I, Complainicus
#39 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 19:35:30
jemartin@tcainternet.com
#34 chris
Err... all video games, by their nature, are wasting people's time. Does it really matter whether they're wasting time making boots, wasting time shooting demons, or wasting time jumping platforms?

Doing something productive with your time isn't exactly "wasting" it.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#40 by Charles
2003-03-13 19:39:03
www.bluh.org
Gaming is productive?  Tell that to all my teachers back in school who ended up angry whenever I was caught playing my gameboy...

FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE POSTING ON PLANETCRAP FOR INTELLIGENCE!  --morn
#41 by chris
2003-03-13 19:40:07
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
#39 Dethstryk
Doing something productive with your time isn't exactly "wasting" it.

So, then, playing Mario is productive? What are you producing, beyond a well-formed ass-groove in your couch?

-chris
#42 by Your Friend
2003-03-13 19:42:51
Endorphins

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#43 by Dethstryk
2003-03-13 19:44:53
jemartin@tcainternet.com
#41 chris
#39 Dethstryk
Doing something productive with your time isn't exactly "wasting" it.

So, then, playing Mario is productive? What are you producing, beyond a well-formed ass-groove in your couch?

I know you're not dumb enough to think that I was suggesting that *games* are productive. You mentioned something else that *was* productive--making boots.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#44 by Your Friend
2003-03-13 19:46:54
I think he meant VIRTUAL BOOTS.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#45 by Charles
2003-03-13 19:47:37
www.bluh.org
I'd explain what he meant by that to you, but I'd rather watch you wallow in your ignorance.

FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE POSTING ON PLANETCRAP FOR INTELLIGENCE!  --morn
#46 by Charles
2003-03-13 19:48:04
www.bluh.org
Damn you YF.

FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE POSTING ON PLANETCRAP FOR INTELLIGENCE!  --morn
#47 by chris
2003-03-13 19:48:49
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
Yes, I meant making virtual boots. I was directly replying to CheesyPoof complaining about UO's gameplay being designed to make people waste time.

-chris
#48 by CheesyPoof
2003-03-13 19:51:25
Chris, et. al.
Err... all video games, by their nature, are wasting people's time. Does it really matter whether they're wasting time making boots, wasting time shooting demons, or wasting time jumping platforms?

Yes, of course at their most basic games are designed to waste time.  When I saw "wasting time" in the original quote I read it as "annoying chores/hoops for the players to jump through" because games are fundamentally a time sink.  If have fun doing it then I don't consider it wasted time.  With that respect what I said above probably makes more sense.
#49 by Bailey
2003-03-13 19:51:39
What are you producing, beyond a well-formed ass-groove in your couch?

An ass wide enough to land an F-14 on.

I, Complainicus
#50 by chris
2003-03-13 19:58:53
cwb@shaithis.com http://www.cerebraldebris.com
#48 CheesyPoof
Chris, et. al.
Yes, of course at their most basic games are designed to waste time.  When I saw "wasting time" in the original quote I read it as "annoying chores/hoops for the players to jump through" because games are fundamentally a time sink.  If have fun doing it then I don't consider it wasted time.  With that respect what I said above probably makes more sense.

I generally agree, which is why I didn't play UO and why even Asheron's Call, which imho remains the best MMOG that's been produced, only held my interest for a combined total of six months (with a five month break after the first three).

But just because you or I don't find it fun, does not mean that it's not fun for anyone.

-chris
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