[MUD-Dev] Ten commandments for the next MMORPG

Brian Green brian at psychochild.org
Sun May 21 17:06:02 CEST 2000

A few comments to get discussion rolling.  I think there are some good
ideas here, but there are some counter-points that should be made as

As a side note, I appreciate the fact that someone is taking the time to
put together a coherent post like this.  It's like Raph said on the
Quill and Brush board, "[It's] like the old days, EXCEPT the players ar
way more educated about the issues."  Hopefully people realize that
there are reasons why things don't happen as we'd all like them to and
work toward making them do so.

Raph Koster quoted:

> #1: Thou Shalt Not Require Vulnerability to Other Players.
> Consider the number of active EQ Subscribers (henceforth =93customers=94=
> complaining that their server is too crowded. Now take a good look at h=
> many people are on the Player-Versus-Player (henceforth =93PvP=94) serv=
> Either they are being hypocrites, or as a whole the customers do not wa=
nt to
> be vulnerable to harm from other players at all times.=20

Meridian showed the opposite of this.  While we did have a server that
eliminated all PvP activity, it was no where near as popular as our full
PvP servers.  I think part of that is because the non-PvP server got the
short end of the stick by almost all the developers, it was an
afterthough.  I'm sure certain parallels can be drawn.

Now, I'm not saying that PvP-less games won't work, but I do think that
PvP is a reasonable design goal.  Players and developers have to realize
that there are pros and cons to each design.=20
> #2: Honor Thy Customers and Consider Their Suggestions, for Thy Game is
> **Not** Holy.
During a particularly lovely period of my tenure on Meridian 59, we had
this particular customer (who shall remain unnamed).  While he did have
some legitimate complains (his character was buggy to beat all), he also
had a lot of design "suggestions".  I'm sure all experienced developers
know what the suggestions were: he wanted his chosen character type to
be super-powerful.

In response to this episode I coined the saying, "Players should lead
design decisions, not dictate them."  Frankly, we're professionals that
are paid to take care of the game.  Obviously, part of taking care of
the game is keeping the customer happy and listening to feedback; the
other part of that is making the hard decisions that customers won't
necessarily agree with.

A great example is item decay.  When EQ first came out (and, no
disrespect intended to the EQ guys; they have my respect for a wonderful
game), I was shocked to learn that items would not decay.  A friend of
mine who played EQ fairly frequently laughed at me, saying that item
decay was a terrible idea.  Once the economy on the game started going
to hell in a handbasket, he realized the wisdom of my words. =20

IMHO, EQ could have avoided the whole camping mess by having item decay
and having more frequent item drops.  Yet, being a game developer that
was once in largely the same situation I realize that while this may be
a good suggestion, it is definitely easier said than done. :)  I know I
shouldn't be shocked when the EQ team doesn't drop everything just to
implement my suggestion, especially since the game was developed on
completely different assumptions.

To put it another way:  If I were going to make a stock fantasy game,
then a suggestion like "Make warriors have excellent melee abilities"
seems obvious.  "Make rogues have excellent melee abilities" is
questionable, but could bring up some interesting discussions.  "Make
wizards have excellent melee abilities" is the sign of someone yanking
my chain, probably for their own benefit.

> this is
> coming from someone who has never eaten at KFC because of poor service =
> mother received 28 years ago.=20

At the risk of sounding like the cold-hearted bastard mentioned, I hope
people do start voting with their feet.  If the game is terrible, don't
play it!  It only encourages companies to make more games like it.  The
fact that you continue playing it shows that the positives outweigh the
negatives, no matter how much you complain.

The operative word here, though, is "service".  I think enough has been
said about this.

(BTW, I have a similar story about Pizza Hut and my mother, too. ;)

> #3: Thou Shalt Use All Means at Thy Disposal to Communicate With Thy
> Customers
> I find this issue particularly curious. In a genre in which change is t=
> norm, Verant hardly ever polls their customers for information =96 yet
> constantly say they know what how the majority of their players feel.

You know, I played a LOT of DOOM when it was all the rage.  I quite
liked the game.  I seemed to have missed the part where iD contacted
everyone asking for feedback on how to make the sequel better.

I don't exactly remember being given Carmack's Email address so I could
write him about Quake, either.  And, I'm sure, after a few messages of
telling him how, "Your stupid game SUCKS 'cause you changed game speed!=20
You better CHANGE IT NOW, BEEYOTCH, or I'm going to go buy UNREAL
TOURNAMENT and stop buying your CRAPPY GAMES!" he'd still be friendly
and personable, carefully considering my feedback to improve his games.=20
Especially if I wrote in d00d-5p33k.

My point is, as a game player, the closest I ever got to providing
feedback was if I had sent in a registration card.  Online games have a
wonderful ability to put players in contact with developers, which I
agree should be exploited more than it is.  Yet, this is a new
development for the game industry as a whole.  Why do people expect
anyone to know how to effectively use it immediately?

> #5: Thou Shalt Test Thy Product Before Thy Releaseth It or Any Part of =

You mean, non-critical software like games sometimes gets released with
bugs?  No!  Next thing you'll tell me is that something important like
the OS sometimes has problems, too, or that my computer hardware isn't
always 100% fault-tolerant.  I mean, I've never heard horror stories
about people working all night on a paper only to have the computer
freeze up and eat their work.  I've never had it happen to me, either.

> #8: Problems, Not Puzzles

Good suggestion, but I've heard the same things said for the past
several years about game design in general.  It will be interesting to
see if Deus Ex will be able to keep up with all its promises.  I
certainly am looking forward to it.

> #9: If Thou Must Have Classes, Balance Them in *Quantifiable* Ways

The only sure way to *quantifiably* balance classes is to have everyone
have access to the same abilities.  Of course, then people just make
clone characters and everyone complains about that, too.  (*cough* *tank
mage* *cough*)

Anyway, I just did a search for "Class Balance for Dummies" on Amazon,
and nothing came up.  Did someone post some master class balancing
equations while I was away?  Was this problem solved but no one told
me?  Damn it, guys, I told you to keep me in the loop!

Well, my sarcasm's getting the best of me.  Hopefully you can look
through all that and see my reasoning.

"And I now wait / to shake the hand of fate...."  -"Defender", Manowar
     Brian Green, brian at psychochild.org  aka  Psychochild
       |\      _,,,---,,_      *=3D* Morpheus, my kitten, says "Hi!" *=3D=
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_ =20
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'  "Ritalin Cures Next Picasso"=20
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)               -The_Onion_, August 4th, 1999

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