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New Blog

Critical Hit is officially retired. You can find my new blog over at Mysterious Artifact, which is a group blog about stories in games.

Mysteriously,

-Machination

Goodbye, Stupid Ideas

I’m retiring my recurring feature that was called “That’s a Stupid Idea.”

For posterity, I’ll paste the contents of the feature’s page, so that everyone can still have access to it. The context: I will soon be converting this into a multi-author blog about stories in games. While it will no longer hold the same focus on fixing MMO problems, I have no doubt that MMOs will still be involved a good chunk of the discussions.

If you are interested in contributing to this blog about stories in games, contact me at “arcanemx@@gmail.com” (yup, that’s a double “@” so the spammers don’t find me :)

Anyways, here’s the retired feature page:

On my desk sits a little blue notebook, in which are written incoherent thoughts about MMOs. Leafing through the pages, it appears that I’ve written it in a sort of substitution cipher, which I suppose is how my mind must work when awoken by an idea early in the morning.

While downright inspirational at the moment, I often find the ideas to be completely stupid when I review them in a fully-conscious state. And so, for the good of the internets, I’ve taken it upon myself to decode these notes and start putting them online for your cynical pleasure.

“Some men see things as they are and say why – I dream things that never were and say why not” – George Bernard Shaw

Join with me for a moment to suspend your disbelief, and ponder some of the stranger “What If” questions. Perhaps from the most ludicrous extremes, we’ll be able to refine a gem or two.

2012-August-2 [Altaholics Anonymous]

2012-August-8 [The End is Near!]

Methodically,
-Machination

Should a villain be more complex than just a ball of hatred and evil? Can we make game villains that are intelligent enough to creatively antagonize the players?

Find out in our latest episode of the “Find The Key” podcast

A quick outline of our show notes:

  • What makes a game character hate-able?
  • Should the primary villain be completely irredeemable or must they be more complex?
  • How might a villain work in a “Living Story”?
  • What about the idea of a “Global Villain”? Or villains that take the collaborative efforts of hundreds, if not thousands of players to topple?

 

For the first-timers, Find The Key is primarily about “stories in games,” which differ thematically and structurally from other fiction (books and movies). We talk about what makes game stories great, examples of classic or new interactive stories, and fiction in general. As always, you can add your voice to ours here with your own opinions on our latest subject.

-Machination

What is a Living Story?

Today we are joined again by Martin, as well as a special guest, Ashley, who is a collaborative author and game master. We talk about our own personal visions for a “Living Story” and some of the challenges of it. All in our latest “Find The Key” podcast.

In short, a Living Story is one in which:

  • You can fully participate, and your actions influence your story
  • The consequences of your actions have persistence. They don’t reset or respawn.
  • The story is guided by the hand of some form of author. More than just stats or probability, some guiding force needs to carefully manipulate your personal story to be interesting.
  • That guiding force must adapt to your intentions and actions, thus allowing you to shape your own story.
  • The story makes you genuinely care about your character.

If accomplished, this would be neither a Sandbox, nor a Themepark, but more of a Living World in which great interactive stories are told. Pen and paper campaigns already fall in this category, but the big question is how to make it digital. How to scale it up to a thousand players… a million?

For the first-timers, Find The Key is primarily about “stories in games,” which differ thematically and structurally from other fiction (books and movies). We talk about what makes game stories great, examples of classic or new interactive stories, and fiction in general. As always, you can add your voice to ours here with your own opinions on our latest subject.

-Machination

Ladies and gentlemen, suspend your disbelief with us for a moment as we discover, “The Curse of Amnesia.” How can we ensure that players know what the characters are supposed to know, and no more or less? We’ve shattered our all-time record number of podcasters, bringing us up to a shocking 3 co-hosts for this episode. To send a gift of pure awesome directly to your ears, check us out at “Find The Key.”

For the first-timers, Find The Key is primarily about “stories in games,” which differ thematically and structurally from other fiction (books and movies). We talk about what makes game stories great, examples of classic or new interactive stories, and fiction in general.

As always, you can add your voice to ours here with your own opinions on our latest subject.

In our ongoing discussion of stories in games, we discuss “nuclear plot proliferation.” This week I’m joined by my wife who is an avid reader and gamer, as well as an illustrator. To listen to our sweet, sweet voices, tune in to “Find The Key.”

For the first-timers, Find The Key is primarily about “stories in games,” which differ thematically and structurally from other fiction (books and movies). We talk about what makes game stories great, examples of classic or new interactive stories, and fiction in general.

This is my very first attempt at a podcast, and so it’s still rough around the edges, but I’m loving the first forays into the podcasting world.

As always, you can add your voice to ours here with your own opinions on our latest subject.

Quote of the Day

“It’s more fun to be around people doing a somewhat fun activity than it is for me to be alone playing great content.”

-Ravious

 

And that just about sums up MMO player economics. No matter how spectacularly designed a city, area, or entire MMO is… no one will want to play it alone. The plethora of cries for “solo” content says more about people wanting to play alone in the general vicinity other people, rather than truly alone. All other features aside, the ultimate deciding factor in long-term success is both the strength and size of the community which supports it.

 

Musingly,

-Machination

MMOs currently have the lowest barrier to entry of all time. The overwhelming majority are free-to-play without even a box price. Plenty of them are browser-based, so they don’t even require a major client installation. City of Steam doesn’t even require an account, letting you log in with just your Facebook account. The barrier to entry is basically ground level.

The barrier to commitment, however, is much higher. Consider a free-to-play title. Even though you can try out the world, and essentially start the game without the slightest obstacle, think about the time commitment it would take to “get to the real game” starting from scratch. When most MMOs were subscription-based, once you payed for it, you had essentially committed fully. Since the switch, the expression of commitment is rather vague.

Now that money is no longer an issue, I find that MMO players today have to carefully budget their time between the myriad of massive titles. Even if a new game is totally free, people may still not pick it up simply because there’s no more time for it. You may try out the first few levels, but do you really want to dedicate all that time to throw yourself into the game with wanton abandon?

For most titles, the answer is NO. Sure, it may have almost as much fun stuff as whatever else you’re playing has. But unless it’s overwhelmingly better, and your friends are willing to move with you, you won’t make it past the “trying it out” phase.

We no longer ask, “Is it worth subscribing to?” but, “Is it worth committing myself to?” instead.

Mawkishly,
-Machination

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