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Halo Creator Unveils Its Next Masterpiece, a Persistent Online World (wired.com)
213 points by cyphersanctus 835 days ago | 149 comments



This is an interesting tease. I'm not sure why they are teasing it (presumably to get developers) but conceptually from a game perspective it could be interesting.

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.

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I think Eve did two things to embrace their online economy - hired a real-life economist to oversee changes and study it, and brought buying and selling of timecards with in-game currency into the game directly. Previously, you could buy timecards outside of the game and offer them to people, but you had to use external means to do so - forums, IM, email etc, with no guarantee of security. CCP went and made an in-game item for the timecards that you can buy and sell directly. By embracing that process they made things more secure for the players, and knocked down an barrier to their in-game economy.

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).

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It's amazing to see the path Bungie has traveled. They made a couple of Macintosh games in the early 90s, then had a breakout hit Marathon in 1995 on the Mac, back when serious gamers played Doom on the PC and laughed at the Mac (maybe they still do?).

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.

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Also interesting that this new game is called Destiny, and the word 'Destiny' is the last thing you see in the Marathon series (ie. when you complete Marathon Infinity).

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What I remember about Marathon isn't only that it was a fun, playable game, but also the story arc and it's level titles' semi-serious references to military history, such as "Waterloo Waterpark" and "My Own Private Thermopylae".

It's nice to hear they're continuing that story arc.

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I think the story is one of the best works of sci-fi ever... the terminals play with storytelling/narrative in all sorts of ways.

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To answer your question about the Mac being laughed at from the PC crowd, actually Windows crowd, because of the lack of games.

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.

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Actually, it's still true, but the wheels have been set in motion to make it less true over time. The Mac collection on Steam is still paltry compared to PC, particularly for AAA titles.

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Well, you can still laugh at it if you wish. But considering that those paltry few games is a lot more than they had before, I'm willing to say the trend is changing. Somewhere there has to be a point where we can say "this is where it changed". I would think that the release of Steam is possibly that moment.

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Great read, thanks for the link. A lot of interesting game and low-memory design decisions going on there.

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I still have my copy of that book.

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Isn't it great? I gave mine to a friend, but bought another on Amazon a few months ago when I was curious about how well it had aged (aside from the technical details). I thought it held up well.

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).

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  Bungie says it has a whopping 350 in-house developers working on Destiny
Holy burn rate Batman! Maybe it's just me, but if that number is accurate, this looks like an "all-in" bet by Activision and Bungie both. If this project fails, Bungie will likely not survive and Activision would at least take a major hit.

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.

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Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't Bungie sitting on vast piles of cash from the Halo franchise...? Even at that amount of burn, if it turns out to be a flop Bungie isn't going anywhere.

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350 developers is a lot. Lets say, for the sake of simplicity, that they cost $85k a year (salary plus benefits like insurance). We're talking about almost $30 million a year just on those developers- and that's not even counting administrative staff, buildings, equipment, and all the services that go around that.

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.

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They probably didn't start out at 350 developers. Early pre production would have been a much smaller team, with more developers added as the success of the project was more apparent. Still very risky, but at least they'll ship something interesting.

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on the other hand, maybe it shows how much confidence/love the developers have for the project :)

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I would agree if we talked about a small/medium sized studio. But with ~350 employees love is not in there anymore.

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.

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Developer confidence wont mean a thing if the market thinks your work is bunk.

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It's a smart idea; 10 years * 3 story arcs, 30 world events. They only need to invest for the first year or two. They can create the rest, like WoW has been doing.

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.

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It's a big investment, but also huge potential rewards. Bungie is aiming for their own World of Warcraft type recurring profits (most likely micro-transaction based).

I wouldn't bet against them.

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I wonder if game publishers/developers seek or accept external funding to back up a specific project?

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.

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Game developes are what, $80-150K/year on average (of all levels). Add benefits and tax overhead, makes it $110-180K/year. Times 350:

$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.

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Your salary number is bit too high, in general, game developers make less than your average software developer.

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.

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Wait, what? Game development seemed like the most stressful/worst thing you can do in software, i'd never expect game developers to make less than average developer.

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Game Developer Magazine runs a salary survey every year. The average game programmer salary in 2012 was a little north of $90,000. There are game programmers who make much more than that, but it is not the norm.

http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1108/game_developer_...

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It's a supply and demand thing. Very few people grow up wanting to make web apps, but many many people grow up wanting to make games, and when they have that chance, willing to take a pay cut to do it.

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Bungie is not your average studio though. I suspect that their developer salaries are at least on par with the software industry average.

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I wouldn't be so sure. Even huge, profitable companies such as Blizzard have relatively low salaries compared to other software fields

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They have a lot of ex-Microsofties, who don't come cheap.

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>In general, game developers make less than your average software developer.

Interesting. Can I ask where you read that or how you came to that conclusion?

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If I can chime in, my opinion is anecdotal but I think generally true: many programmers dream about building games and so are less driven by money; the game companies then take advantage of that. In contrast, if you are programming databases or sharepoint, you probably have less passion about the domain your working in and will want more money for your trouble.

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I don't know why you have to shit on developers outside the games industry as you've done here (perhaps it wasn't intentional?).

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.

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I don't know why you think I said something derogatory or even controversial. I mean, developers might have passion for programming, but sharepoint? There are many jobs out there whose domains are overtly uninteresting to many of us, but they still need to be done and the work itself can be interesting; but companies will still need to pony up a bit more money in a competitive market to get us in the door.

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?

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That guy must really like Web Parts. I did not find your statement offensive.

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.

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I took the statement to indicate a lack of passion in programming in general rather than a particular domain. Re-reading I can see the intent. But, thanks for the downvotes anyway.

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You tend to get downvoted for being wrong, yeah. Best not to complain about downvotes unless they're really confusing.

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I just looked at EA salaries, and their level III engineers make $98K on average. It's very sad, considering game dev not only requires good programming skills, but also all kinds of math, graphics, sound knowledge.

http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/electronic-arts-salary-SRC...

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Game dev is like playing in a rock band, but for computer geeks instead of band geeks. It's low paid because people want to do it -- i do it for nothing (sure, I hope to make money from it).

You know what really pays poorly given the skills and knowledge requires? Classical music.

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Except developing an MMO doesn't take just one year, it's more like two or three at least.

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.

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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)[2]

Halo 4 cost around $40M to produce[2]

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2009/sep/27/v...

[2] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732443980457811...

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Also, keep in mind that Halo was only on the xbox 360. Destiny will be available cross-platform so the market is even larger.

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> which is insane

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.

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> 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.

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Well yes, and in return the players keep paying you every month instead of once (at least that's how it is for these modern MMOs).

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GTA4, Red Dead Redemption, Codblops, and Battlefield 3 all cost in the $100M+ range.

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This has been rumored for years as Blizzard's (aka maker of World of Warcraft) next big MMO. It's cool to see all of those leaks and conspiracy theories add up, though they don't mention Blizzard in the article, just their parent (partner?) company Activision.

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.

http://obsoletegamer.com/could-blizzards-next-mmo-titan-real...

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As someone who has been on that team at Blizzard, those Halo rumors were the kind we laughed over. With the talent and experience in game design, lore and art which the company (and that team in particular) has access to, it seems silly to imagine Blizzard going out and borrowing a game universe from elsewhere to base a game on.

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since you say it that way, i think it's true that Blizzard would create a StarCraft MMO long before it would create a Halo MMO

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One particularly confusing or juicy thing about the codenames: Blizzard's rumoured MMO is internally called "Project Titan". In 2010 Ensemble+Bungie were working on a MMO also called "Project Titan", then cancelled. And Blizzard's rumored game sounds an awful lot like a Halo MMO. It's probably all just a coincidence, but it's a bizarre one.

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When you only have a few pieces of information, it's easy to presume that they're the most important ones.

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I don't see anything adding up here. It's always been known that Bungie was working with Activision, and it's been known for a long time that Destiny was sci-fi. The idea that this is Blizzard's major product of the past few years and they'd forgot to take any credit seems weird.

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It's not the same project. Bobby Kotick said a long time ago that the new Blizzard project is an original IP, and he has also talked about having two separate projects.

http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/blizzard-mmo-project/1226787p1.html

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"[Creator] Unveils Its Next Masterpiece" says a reviewer who has barely seen the game.

This is some horrible journalism right out of the gate.

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It's video game journalism, my friend. Everything is 10/10, buy it now!

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Backs will be scratched.

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(!).

Some examples:

1. http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/a-grown-man-in-his-underwear...

2. http://i.imgur.com/suMjjQ8.png

3. http://i.imgur.com/XMa5HYT.png

So basically the Peter Molyneux treatment, I guess.

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The article says "handed out concept art instead of screenshots" -- so, presumably, not even screenshots. Just concept art.

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I guess today is not one of those days where I have to watch my hyperbole.

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My personal theory is video game journalism is young enough to have largely missed the old fashioned long-form investigative journalism phase, so there isn't even a history of strong journalistic integrity.

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Some people[1][2][3] have been doing long-form video game journalism for a while, mostly in the form of reviews that go in-depth into questions of video game design. As for long-form investigative game journalism I would recommend reading http://insertcredit.com/2011/09/22/who-killed-videogames-a-g... and its companion piece http://www.actionbutton.net/?p=1076 for an example.

[1] http://insertcredit.com/

[2] http://www.actionbutton.net/

[3] http://culture.vg/

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/.

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I think the real journalism involving videogames wouldn't be regarded as "videogame journalism". Cultural issues like misogyny/portrayal of women, working conditions for developers and QA, and similar important issues are likely to be handled by "outsiders". Videogame hardware is assembled in Foxconn, too, after all.

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.

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I think additionally there is a large audience that reads reviews and other gaming news to be entertained more than to be informed.

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.

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When done well, critical video game reviews are extremely entertaining. Zero Punctuation, for instance.

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This is roughly true. There's a movement struggling for prominence to perform serious criticism, but it's been in the academic sphere rather than the consumer sphere... so no one makes any significant amount of money doing it.

It's basically a vicious cycle.

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So you're not going to blindly preorder the game?

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Looks spectacular, but why does it have to be a shooter?

I still hope that someone will eventually make a large scale world exploration game. Journey on steroids, basically.

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The problem with exploration, especially at the AAA-level is that content costs a lot of money.

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.

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Procedural generation doesn't have to be the generation of random content purely from algorithms alone. It can just be tools to automate artist work by allowing them to specify what content should be at a higher level.

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

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+1 yours is the best comment I have read so far.

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.

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I just started playing PoE, and one of the first things that stood out to me was the level generation. You guys have done a great job at creating interesting environments that aren't repetitive!

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Maybe this is what added to the delight of playing minecraft. Every world was a new adventure, waiting to be explored.

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Doesn't minecraft have a lot of user-generated content?

(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.)

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Yes. There's some procedurally generated content. You could spend your life exploring that. Or you can join other servers and explore them. So, while there's not one huge world there's a huge amount of content. And it's a good fit for " “It’s a world where the most important stories are told by the players, not written by the developers.”

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I think this will become a lot more prevalent after the Oculus Rift + whatever Oculus spawns gets some traction. With the Rift it feels like you're actually _there_ so just exploring becomes a lot more immersive and engaging.

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I completely agree... I'm hoping the Oculus opens up a new style of gaming that isn't focused on shooting and competitive gaming and instead centers instead around immersion and cooperative gaming.

While I'm known to play the occasional FPS now and again, I'm really bored of the format and want something new.

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Because journey needs painstaking design of every element, and a shooter lets communities generate random and unlimited content even on randomly created landscapes.

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If you go on a journey and bring a gun is it a shooter?

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Shooters sell. Costs to produce this game will probably go into the hundreds of millions of dollars, with 350 full-time staff. You don't fuck around on that scale - it's make or break time - so you want to make sure you hit the largest possible audience and push as many copies as possible.

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Computer games (non-independent) seem no longer target ALL gamers. Instead every one of them is targetting the largest subset of those (those who like shooters).

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.

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This is a huge exaggeration. Most games target the majority (which, duh), but it's not remotely all games. For example, Valve's two most recent games are a puzzle game and a MOBA/Action RTS. The highest-rated game of 2012 was The Walking Dead, an old-school adventure. Probably the most hyped game of 2012 was Assassin's Creed 3, a stealth action game. If not that, then Diablo III, a dungeon crawler. The game that AFAIK is the biggest around right now, League of Legends, is not a shooter.

Shooters are the new platformers. If you don't like them, you won't like most games. But there are other games.

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This isn't true. Almost all indy games aren't shooters (or if they are, have some interesting twist). Admittedly this may reflect that non-shooters are an area in which low-budget developers/studios can still compete.

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Shooters are like meat and potatoes, they're easier to make and easier to sell, but they aren't the entire market. Of the top 10 best-selling video games of 2012 only 4 were shooters, 3 were sports games, one was a dance game, and two were action-adventure games (assassin's creed and lego batman). This doesn't count MMO subscriptions which would have put WoW into the top 10.

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Obviously, because it's fun to shoot stuff and watch it be blown to smithereens.

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Unless you want to do something else and can't because people keep shooting at you. I eventually lost interest in MMORPGs such as Eve because so many players just fall into a mode of competitive hostility; I'd go exploring and on the way back I'd have to deal with piles of griefers that just sit around waiting to ambush passers-by, and fending off boredom by using multiple concurrent logins. It just becomes tedious.

I believe the main reason that Minecraft is so popular is that there are other interesting things to do besides combat.

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I wanted to do that at one point, with both a huge fantasy world and my city modeled and constructed from satellite pictures.

Too bad I'm just a software engineer with no money.

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Sounds like a great idea, especially now that the idea of doing this for real is becoming a reality :)

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Also, shooters are exploration games, just with AI obstacles slowing your advancement.

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Agreed. I've said it before, somewhere else. I would love a persistent universe that takes place in the solar system. Navigating around Sol takes a real amount of time. To make it really interesting, the rest of the galaxy is explorable too. It would take a massive amount of effort, but eventually you can build ships that can travel to the stars. But instead of instant travel, it takes weeks or months of real time to get there. Basically this game would be very similar to Eve in many aspects. Probably one of the reasons I enjoyed playing Eve for so long.

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"Wobbler had written an actual computer game like this once. It was called 'Journey to Alpha Centauri'. It was a screen with some dots on it. ... He'd seen on TV that it took three thousand years to get to Alpha Centauri. He had written it so that if anyone kept their computer on for three thousand years, they'd be rewarded by a little dot appearing in the middle of the screen, and then a message saying, 'Welcome to Alpha Centauri. Now go home.' "

- Terry Pratchett, Only You Can Save Mankind

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What was that game when you had to drive for several hours on a straight road to get to the destination, only to get a bonus level of traveling back home (and then needing to swerve around a single stray dog in the last hour just to stay on the road)?

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That would be "Desert Bus" - an attempt to make the worst video game ever. Of course people have formed leagues and tournaments to play it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_%26_Tellers_Smoke_and_Mirr...

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Are you talking about Penn and Teller's Desert Bus? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_%26_Tellers_Smoke_and_Mirr...

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But instead of instant travel, it takes weeks or months of real time to get there.

That sounds incredibly dull.

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You may be interested in this game: http://infinity-universe.com/

Unfortunately, the sole developer seems more interested in developing the engine for commercial use first before making the game.

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If you are getting antsy, you should, of course, play Space Engine! It's the ultimate exploration game. It aims to be a complete, accurate simulation of space, and you can download it for free. Of course, it's riddled with bugs, but it is absolutely worth playing anyway.

http://en.spaceengine.org/

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Bungie's original plans (circa 1999) for Halo a.k.a. BLAM! were much closer to a large world like this, also with minimal guidance. The ring-world of Halo was supposed to be a large landscape, requiring you to engage in guerrilla warfare and letting you improvise your way through the game with the storyline unfolding dynamically.

I'm excited to see this project happen, I've been waiting 14 years for it!

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Me too. Reading about this project made me think back to the first time I ever heard about Halo. I'm sure they won't be able to quite nail it, but here's hoping they get a bit closer!

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Exactly! I could feel my 16 year old self getting all excited again.

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I'm almost certain that every MMO since UO has claimed to be about having the universe's story be written by the players themselves. It never turns out to be true, with exception to maybe EVE.

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That's more or less correct, and you can blame WoW for it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvK8fua6O64

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I have to say, Star Wars Galaxies came very close, supporting lots of player created content.

Even better was City of Heroes in the end with player created missions.

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I'm intrigued by the concept, but... XBox 360 and PS3? For a game that is going to span years? I hope to see an announcement of PC support at least.

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Yeah, it would make a lot more sense on the PC... no need to go out and buy the next "book," just download (what I assume will amount to) a huge patch.

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.

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There could be backwards compatibility (BIG if, though).

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.

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I think the next biggest thing in gaming will probably be Valve's Steam box, so I was a little surprised that they didn't mention it at all.

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GiantBomb also put up a video about this, and I agree with Gerstmann, I think this is really for next gen console not PS3 and X360, since it isn't coming out until 2014.

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The pre-order page lists xbox360 and ps3 as target platforms http://www.destinythegame.com/wheretobuy

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That's... surprising then. Because I don't see how you can have a 10 year game on a console that is about to be obsoleted.

Technically you can just move an account up to the next version of the same console, but that still seems... strange.

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I strongly suspect misdirection. There are no games right now that have openly declared themselves to be on next-gen platforms, even though the amount of noise we're seeing suggests that both MS and Sony will drop their new boxen before the holidays.

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.

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I expect it'll depend on which comes out first, the game or the new consoles. They seem optimistic that the game will come first, so they'll get loads of sales on the old hardware. Then when the new hardware comes out, you'll have to purchase it again to continue playing on your new hardware.

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.

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Except I seem to recall them saying it would not be in this fiscal year, which likely runs at least through this year (based on the giant bomb vid linked elsewhere in the discussion of this post). If so, the PS4 at a minimum is all but certainly coming out this year, and rumors are the neXtBox is as well.

We'll see though :)

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I wonder how this will compare to the Eve Online / Dust514 universe?

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/.

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I expect it will compare favourably, except it's first person shoot-em-up style.

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...).

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If you want persistent online worlds created by the users you should look at Minecraft. Yes, it's blocks. Yes, it's mostly children. But the variety of different gameplay is remarkable.

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> Yes, it's mostly children.

[Citation needed]

For anecdotal evidence, you can look at the number of "my [husband/wife] made this in Minecraft" posts on Reddit and so on.

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For anecdotal evidence you can look at the age polls on Minecraft forums which show 60% are under 21.

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.

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Wow, I just ventured in there for the first time to confirm or deny your statement, and you are totally right. It is packed with kids. I guess minecraft is the new lego.

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Hearing the developers talk about 10 years of content worries me. I know this is most likely a PR exaggeration, but creating a game that will occupy 10 years or anything close to that is a major responsibility. It would be almost immoral to create something that provides no meaningful experience and is just extended escapism. I obviously haven't played it and it looks exciting. I just hope it isn't made to make players feel super powerful, but ultimately fail to enrich a player's life.

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This is an admirably socially conscious perspective.

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Why do you have to refresh the page to change the header image? Wired can hit me up any time, I can fix that for them.

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If it's anything like Yahoo! when I was there, they're resisting that because refreshing the page for every image displays another set of ads.

(It's 2005-era thinking, but the metrics for some ad networks are [or at least were] skewed to invite abuse of that metric.)

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Oh thanks, that's a good point! Didn't think of that.

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Sounds like the world described in the book Ready Player One. Awesome read BTW.

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My thoughts exactly. OASIS!

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I was going to suggest the same thing. Something like this combined with the Occulus Rift would be very entertaining and a step towards the idea of the Oasis. Not all the way through the book, but so far a great read and the technology described seems doable (for the most part).

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A bit premature to call it a masterpiece isn't it?

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People are also assuming that Halo is a masterpiece. I don't consider it a masterpiece. It's a good shooter but that's about it.

It got the 3d shooting game mechanics right but Bungie is definitely standing on the shoulders of giant developers who created the masterpieces.

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But it is the technical 'masterpiece' of the XBOX. It was the killer app on XBOX Live. And they changed the way other developers used the XBOX controller to input commands.

And somehow along the way, it became a household name.

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EA, is that you?

http://i.imgur.com/2SrLf.jpg

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I really, really, REALLY hope this is not going to be console-only(which is what it's looking like at this point). I've yet to see a decent, popular MMO for consoles.

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Apart from having a story that spans 10 years (which, btw, actually undermines the goal of user generated content), what exactly is new about this? Almost every new MMO tries to be user centric.

I'm not seeing the: “We’re not doing this just because we have the tech,” .

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On a slight tangent, interesting that it's going to be multi-platform after being signed up as Microsoft exclusives for so long. I'd imagine it's mostly to increase their possible audience, but part of me wonders if it's because the split from Microsoft wasn't entirely without some burned bridges on both sides.

Which begs the question, have they found a way to share the universe between both platforms? That'd be pretty spectacular if they have.

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Seems like a french retailer [1] guesstimated the release date as being October 6th 2013. Note that I have no idea how reliable this information is, and I'm taking it with a wagon of salt myself..

[1] http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Bungie-Destiny-Release-Date...

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Predicting the output and conclusion date of the work of 350 developers is not an easy task. I bet not even their CEO has a clear date in mind. The french retailer is probably just seeking PR attention.

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I sort of wish they hadn't sold on the Myth IP, because a) I loved those games and b) I really enjoyed the world (albeit thanks, Glen Cook). An update of Myth II to run on, say, iOS and Android, with good multi-player support -- well, my boss at Apple used to tell me that the company'd go broke building software for me, but c'mon, wouldn't that be awesome?

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I hate shooters, partially because your average 4 year can kick my ass at it. I'm still bitter at Mass Effect turning into more shooter than RPG, because that's what sells. Why oh why isn't there a persistent, space-based RPG for the single player that's awesome? Something like a KOTOR II, without the bugs.

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See also: Huxley. A game i really wanted to play but never got released seemingly.

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I played the beta. It was Unreal with matchmaking, a little bit of PvE, and character development.

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Halo + Ingress = Destiny

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Yes, I was very intrigued by the way they represented off-line play. Its almost like you can continue to "play" on your mobile device even when you are not fully engaged in the universe proper. If they can pull this off it indeed would be a game changer.

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Wasn't Triton supposed to be a Blizzard property? Is Blizzard's role here to contribute development and artistic resources to what will ultimately be a Bungie game?

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The Blizzard project is titled "Titan".

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Thanks! Maybe I won't have to get a PS4 after all. :)

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> Destiny, slated for release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

This is fucking irritating.

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This game sound awfully similar to Richard Garriott's (short-lived) Tabula Rasa MMORPG.

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Dibs on the Parzival handle.

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So far as I can tell from the literature, nobody has licked the user-generated stories thing.

(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)

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> So far as I can tell from the literature, nobody has licked the user-generated stories thing.

Cryptic's new "Neverwinter" MMO aims to do this. How effective it will be is another thing entirely.

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Pretty much everyone aims to do it. The publicity for just about every CRPG ever made, whether single player or MMO, talks about how amazingly immersive and dynamic and reactive it's going to be. So forgive me if I propose to wait and see :D

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.

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