I played World of Warcraft from 1.0 (actually 0.9 but whatever) to 4.0 (a bunch of years, I've got the pets to prove it :-) Felt it finally completely jumped the shark with the Panda thing and the simplification of the world to the point of banality. As I told the Blizzard guy who surveyed me about it, I don't go into the library at the Middle School to play DND with the kids there using rules they can understand, I do play complex scenarios with other adults. I think Eve Online gets this, Blizzard has yet to internalize it.
WoW was created to compete with EverQuest, which it did, way more successfully than even Blizzard expected. But it ran into the problem that the storyline, while interesting, and which character progression suitably nerfed, it got boring. And adding new story lines helped, but they had to add better gear to keep people grinding for it, and the basically I think they ran into the law of diminishing returns. Making your character twice as powerful was cool, but it made the previous game a bit silly, doubling that again and now you could single-handedly waltz through the old end-game raids (which had been designed for 40 simultaneous players in their best gear), and the dissonance gets to you. It's kinda fun, like God mode, but it's also hard to imagine a world where you could be this powerful and everyone else couldn't just fix the worlds problems without you. When the story line is "we're under seige by the forces of evil" and your character, through a series of quests, singlehandedly overwhelms all that evil? Its like reading Nancy Drew mysteries instead of Agatha Christie mysteries. To simplified to be enjoyable.
Then there is Eve Online, which is similarly durable to WoW and yet has a much larger percentage of retained adult participants. I expect for the reasons that Eve does not constrain the behavior and doesn't make it "digestible" to people who don't understand that money can buy power and power can be manipulated. Compare getting into a high end Eve Corporation with a high end WoW guild. Interesting difference.
And then there is the business model. Everquest, WoW, and Eve, all have pay-per-month subscriptions. That is nice, but Zynga and others have shown it can be just as, if not more, profitable for the company to run the internal economy. Something Blizzard shied away from on WoW, embraced on Diablo 3, and Eve has had I think a mixed relationship with (but I may be completely wrong on that I'm not as familar with the online Eve currency market)
That suggests that there may be a market for a persistent world, with 'stories' for interest but not necessarily character gain, an environment where you every bit of content is available to you (perhaps not as successfully as you would like) from the moment you log in, and where you can use economic means or game-play means to achieve goals. Combined with a system for mixing up character strengths, items, and what not. With the game company running the economy, and taking a tax on that economic growth to fund the actual game. You have to be willing to bet that for everyone out there who will diligently cut rocks or what ever for a .001% chance at a powerful gem, there will be 10, 100, 1000 people who will just fork over fifty cents to a couple of dollars to just buy one. And playing the average revenue per gamer game rather than the monthly fee model.
Bootstrapping something like that will be extraordinarily hard, but if successful consider how much Blizzard would have profited if they had been the 'gold farmers' which at one point was estimated at a several hundred million dollar a year business in its own right.
Tending something like this, keeping it fun and profitable will also required very deft execution since it is tempting to take too much money off the table early on.
I hope the Bungie guys pull it off.
I think you have a point about Eve seeming much more 'grown-up' - the sociology of the game was extremely interesting to me when I played. How alliances formed, mustering up hundreds to thousands of players at the same time for attack and defense, grand strategy, economic effects on alliances and wars, etc. I was in Goonfleet at the time and a lot of what was happening in game and in corp for command and control was evolving into something resembling how the real-life military does things - I was in the USAF at the time and could see the similarities. Stuff like chat rooms for operations, how fleet command was handled, position updates, alerting procedures (Goonfleet had a Jabber server that was used to send out messages telling people to log on for battles).
When I was a kid with a Mac, wanting to learn to program games, I read this interview over and over: http://marathon.bungie.org/story/jasonjonesTofTMPG.html
I had to read this again to remember that the original Marathon game had taken three developers a little less than a year.
And on re-reading it, it's great to see how much solid, long lasting advice there was in that interview.
It's nice to hear they're continuing that story arc.
This was true until fairly recently. Because of the efforts of Valve with their Steam platform and others, we PC gamers can finally stop laughing and welcome them to the fold of the best gaming platform ever made; the PC. Because, after all, the Mac is a PC with a different OS.
Hopefully soon we can roll Linux into the group as well.
Although, the Mac did have some good games over the years. Halo was going to be one of them until Microsoft bought it to make it an XBox exclusive.
I also have many fond memories of digging through the CD from the back of the book, looking at the code and demo games, including Marathon (Using Resourcerer to find Jason Jones' easter egg note was fun, too).
Bungie says it has a whopping 350 in-house developers working on Destiny
If you think that's wild, pessimistic speculation, consider this statement:
One thing that was made quite clear is that the game will not be subscription-based. Every presenter was clear in stating that players will not pay a monthly fee to participate in this persistent world.
At the same time, they have basically no other games coming out. They have no licensing for Halo, so that's all Microsoft's baby now. Other games they've talked about launching have failed to reach market.
The point being, they're burning through a lot of cash and don't seem to be producing anything but this game. If it flops then Bungie will probably continue to exist, but it certainly won't be the same company it is now.
Its all about the ROI at the end and it has to be as high as possible. Probably the pitch for this game was something like "its like COD and Halo just BIGGER !!". To get a budget this size approved.
Everyone is fighting an uphill battle against WoW and my guess is an indie studio will take the crown in the foreseeable future.
As for subscription-based, we'll see micro transactions, or expansion packs.
Social features could be fun. I'm sure we'll see a cow-clicker mechanic.
I'd also bet that they'll have random world events, and user-triggered world events. Outside of the 10 year arc.
Not so all-in, but it's interesting to see a gaming company switching to long term bets. To me this means once the battleship is up and running, bungie/activision will have the freedom to produce more games.
Also I'm sure they've had some nice input from Blizzard, statistics, code and all.
I wouldn't bet against them.
From what I understand there are, for example, ways to invest in a motion picture, so it's not a big stretch to assume the same can be done with a game project.
$38,500,000 - $63,000,000 per year.
(I don't know if they include artists, managers, executives in that 350 number, so it could be more, much more).
It's really not a crazy budget, movies break that all the time. There are multi-billion dollar game studios out there.
Also, there is no way they have 350 programmers working on that project. That number has to include various types of designers, artists, and programmers.
Interesting. Can I ask where you read that or how you came to that conclusion?
I love games, and I have plenty of passion both for them and for programming in general. But the games industry is saturated with developers who got into programing solely to make games, and who only want to make games, and is famous for taking advantage of that. I'd rather not be taken advantage of, and 'passion' has nothing to do with it.
Now game developers wants to be game developers. They don't need much extra incentive. Its like acting in LA or NYC; it takes talent and training, and you can get paid for it, but maybe not as much as being a claims adjuster. Are those actors being exploited or is it just a supply and demand thing? Now, in contrast, how many kids dream of being claims adjusters?
I agree- look at how much money is in mainframe consulting. There is truth to the argument that the more attractive the discipline + focus, the less you have to incentivize.
You know what really pays poorly given the skills and knowledge requires? Classical music.
Avatar's budget, to take a not-too-random example, was $237 million. You're looking at probably about half that for a videogame, which is insane.
Err.. That's not insane at all.
Video game revenue has long outstripped movie revenue[1, 2009]. To pick a non-random example, it too 24 hours for Halo 4 to bring in $220M revenue (as opposed to 17 days for Avatar)
Halo 4 cost around $40M to produce
Is it really? I'd have expected an MMO to be a bigger project than an animation movie. There is script writing, animation, 3d modeling, speech and sound in both of them. While the visual quality in a movie has to be higher, there is a LOT of stuff in a modern game that has to be modeled. And then we've not even talked about the programming side. Secondly, keep in mind that very succesful games generate billions dollars of profit, so it would make sense to spend a fraction of that if that improves your chances of becoming the next megahit.
You also have to support a game after release (of which the costs are not insignificant). Movies, not so much.
Here's my favorite one:
In February 2007, an episode of 30 Rock entitled Hardball aired and in the credits it said, “Promotional Consideration Furnished by Blizzard Entertainment.” What makes this interesting is that no Blizzard products were featured. No Warcraft. No Starcraft. No Diablo. No World of Warcraft. However, Halo was featured in the show! So Blizzard was advertising for Halo in 2007? This was right before word got out that Blizzard was working on a brand new MMO and they started hiring “Science-Fiction Texture Artists.” Coincidence? Maybe.
This is some horrible journalism right out of the gate.
Edit: oh, and check out Ian Bogost's online writing: http://www.bogost.com/writing/.
Edit 2: there are also video series about video games that are neither reviews nor consumer-oriented funny (or "funny") news programs but rather try to provide insight into the medium. See, for example, http://www.errantsignal.com/blog/.
But it helps that the blogging/website proliferation makes reviewers and reporters (I refuse to use the term "journalists") more independent of the publishers and videogame developers.
It's getting harder for publishers to control the press, which is probably what we are going to see with this event.
It's basically a vicious cycle.
It's fun to get hyped up and excited about some upcoming game, it's not that fun to read a review about a mediocre game.
And if you are largely going to make your purchasing decisions based on what your friends are doing anyway, or if a game isn't a super high-ticket item for you, then it's not something you really need to chase down professional reviews for.
It's pretty hilarious, because journos were basically invited to look at, tadaa, ~~~ASSETS~~~, and that was about it, and a lot of people are tearing them apart for wasting their time by essentially sitting them down to bullshit them with screenshots and concept art(!).
So basically the Peter Molyneux treatment, I guess.
I still hope that someone will eventually make a large scale world exploration game. Journey on steroids, basically.
For multiplayer-centric shooters, the cost of maps and levels can be spread across a relatively long lifetime, millions of matches.
An exploration-based game by definition cannot recycle its content. Attempts to proceduralize world generation have been mixed - Diablo did it, but the world itself is not the focus there either, and other games have been torn to shreds for their repeated, boring automatically generated content.
Even open-world games like GTA are focused on specific locations in the game world, and you can see the amount of detail drop off precipitously outside of these areas.
Content is really, really expensive - today moreso than ever. An exploration-based, AAA-level game would have to solve a lot of completely unprecedented problems.
For example, the artist specifies that he wants a road going one way, a river crossing it and a cliff that runs along one side and the terrain generator creates the level.
I have a video of this process here. The input is a graph specified by the artist as well as a bunch of other metadata that he specifies in text files: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PRsHyyFoaM
I have done a talk on the terrain generator as well which you can see here if you like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcM9Ynfzll0
Higher level tools really do speed up content creation. It was a long time ago, but when I worked at Angel Studios, we put a huge effort into infrastructure tools.
A high level scripting language driven generator with good fix-up editing capabilities sounds good.
All that said, I would imagine that large entertainment companies have great smart creation/editing tools, but they are probably kept under wraps.
(I don't play it, so I'm not sure if that content is interesting for "explorative" gameplay, or if it's more a series of novelty locations of varying quality.)
While I'm known to play the occasional FPS now and again, I'm really bored of the format and want something new.
Everyone else is kept in the cold. No games for us. This is a nice tactic but terrible strategy, games will only be seen as a stupid and shallow thing for teenagers and they'll not have the next audience once those get fed.
The same is happening with action movies (most of non-independent movies actually).
Yeah, there are also MMOs but they shut off most would be gamers too.
Shooters are the new platformers. If you don't like them, you won't like most games. But there are other games.
- Terry Pratchett, Only You Can Save Mankind
That sounds incredibly dull.
Unfortunately, the sole developer seems more interested in developing the engine for commercial use first before making the game.
I believe the main reason that Minecraft is so popular is that there are other interesting things to do besides combat.
Too bad I'm just a software engineer with no money.
I'm excited to see this project happen, I've been waiting 14 years for it!
Even better was City of Heroes in the end with player created missions.
But since this is a massive undertaking, it has to be marketed towards a massive audience. And keep in mind, it won't span years on just the 360 and PS3; it is almost guaranteed to be cross-generational.
It might very well make more sense to bet on the current generation than the next in terms of traction and longevity.
It might appeal to people who don't plan on buying the next generation of consoles in particular, because it reinforces their belief that there isn't a need to get a new console here and now.
Technically you can just move an account up to the next version of the same console, but that still seems... strange.
They pretty much have to say "360 and PS3", because "next gen consoles" or "unknown platforms" would be a dead giveaway. I expect them to make another announcement next week amending this, after the official unveiling of Sony's new machine.
I don't really see anything wrong with this. I can't imagine it costs much to port from 360 to Infinity (and PS3 to PS4). They get a wider user-base, which is extremely important for an MMO, and many will buy the game twice when they eventually upgrade their consoles.
We'll see though :)
Eve Online is a persistent mmo, and Dust514 is a console game which interacts with Eve Online for one-off battles.
See https://dust514.com/, http://www.eveonline.com/.
I wonder how it will compare to Entropia Universe (fka Project Entropia).
They've also had a persistent, single instance, MMORPG universe for a long time. They ended up introducing missions because people didn't come up with their own things to do. They also have an open ended skill system with no levels. Higher skilled players tend to migrate to the more dangerous areas which cannot be safely travelled by mid-level or beginner players.
Biggest difference I can tell is console vs pc.
(Played EvE for ~9 months, WoW for ~14months, Entropia probably ~2 years over a 9yr period...).
For anecdotal evidence, you can look at the number of "my [husband/wife] made this in Minecraft" posts on Reddit and so on.
Don't forget that reddit isn't particularly child friendly, and yet even their the MC subreddit is younger than most of the rest of reddit.
(It's 2005-era thinking, but the metrics for some ad networks are [or at least were] skewed to invite abuse of that metric.)
It got the 3d shooting game mechanics right but Bungie is definitely standing on the shoulders of giant developers who created the masterpieces.
And somehow along the way, it became a household name.
(Well, Eve has, in the sense that they basically built a sandbox and charge for time in it.)
There's lots of literature on building plots ahead of time. The only project that's come close to doing anything in JIT plots was Façade, and that still relied on picking plot elements based on an overall dramatic arc in a very limited scenario. It also required enormous manual work to reach a usable state. (Look up the papers though, they're fascinating).
The basic problem is this: in an AOT plot generator, your system controls all the elements. Every character is controllable, every plot twist is controllable and so on.
Add humans and things get wildly out hand, because human players are thoroughly unpredictable.
So either you "railroad" the player, which destroys agency and the suspension of disbelief. Or you produce what is essentially random events, which destroys agency but might preserve the suspension of disbelief. Neither alternative is very satisfying.
What's wanted is a system that reacts to player actions, constantly replanning current events to satisfy a general plot arc.
I looked at doing JIT, automatic, reactive plot generation as an honours project but it's simply too big for a 1-year project.
Basically pen-and-paper RPGs with a smart, inscrutable GM are still going to be the state of the art on this for some time yet.
(Email me if you want the crappy preliminary research I did on this topic)
Cryptic's new "Neverwinter" MMO aims to do this. How effective it will be is another thing entirely.
The thing is that you can go a long way with a sufficiently large, dense story graph. That's the direction that single-player CRPGs have moved in. But it's obviously a non-starter for MMOs.
I'm not seeing the: “We’re not doing this just because we have the tech,” .
Which begs the question, have they found a way to share the universe between both platforms? That'd be pretty spectacular if they have.
This is fucking irritating.