More on Getting Real in Game Development

by Darius Kazemi on June 21, 2006

in Uncategorized

So one of the main points in Getting Real is that traditional companies that sell packaged software applications need to keep updating the application every year so they can keep selling you more boxes of software. But with subscription webapps, “you just need to provide a valuable ongoing service.” This is a main reason for 37Signals’ belief that webapps don’t need to pile on more features all the time.

But that’s not true for video games companies, even when we’re based on the subscription model, as in the case of MMOs. MMOs need to sustain player interest, where as a webapp just needs to continue functioning well. If World of Warcraft never added new content and features, people would consume most of the content, enjoy some PvP, and then get bored and move on.

However, I like the idea of avoiding bloat in your product. How’s this for a thought experiment: what if we’re adding new zones to an MMO, and for every zone that’s added, we take away an old one? Hell, we could release a schedule players: “Hey, the Pyramid of Fleeble is being demolished in 10 days to make room for the Strip Mall of Doom.” The game stays tight, the code/content base stays small, and we give players a reason to enjoy a wide variety of the areas in our game: what’s here today could be gone tomorrow.

While this flies in the face of the idea that players want gigantic, ever-expanding worlds, it touches on something that Craig wrote in an article called Circles in the Sand:

I’m saying that, in order for a game to be truely dramatic, death has to be so fatal that you avoid it. Death has to be something you only risk for the most important reasons.

While I’m not talking about death here, I am talking about incorporating the fleeting nature of the material into your game design. And that hits a place that’s emotionally pretty damn close to death.

I’ve strayed off of what I wanted to talk about, which was how applicable the techniques in Getting Real are to game development. But trust me, as I continue to read the book (I’m 60% done by now), I will update more.


Craig Perko June 21, 2006 at 7:20 pm

It’s an interesting idea. I would make sure that there was some kind of easy-storytelling thing in the game engine, so that players could record their experiences with the no-longer existant areas – something like a legend.

If someone says, “Oh, man, I just killed a mjork in the blue fjord,” everyone else goes, “yeah, yeah. I can do that, too.” But if the blue fjord sank into the ocean, then your story of the mjork is special.

Of course, you’d have to have gameplay that likes narratives…

Anonymous June 22, 2006 at 7:09 am

You kind of hit on this, but I think it would be worthwhile to clarify. You mentioned gmail in a previous post, and how you would continue to use that for some years to come. That is because it will still provide you with the email service you expect from it – it “continues functioning well”.

On the other hand a game’s “purpose” (I am hoping to avoid any sort of artistic debate here, so maybe I should say the reason the average person plays a game) is to provide entertainment for the user.

So in that sense for a MMO to “continue functioning well” requires it to continue providing new content for the player.

Andrew Khosravian June 22, 2006 at 7:10 am

Sorry that anonymous comment was by me!

Ian Schreiber June 22, 2006 at 7:19 pm

I’ve mentioned in the past that CCGs and MMOGs are two sides of the same coin. This post just proves my point — you’ve effectively described the “Type 2″ environment in Magic, as applied to MMOGs.

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