Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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MMORPG: whose world it is?

SWGMMORPG, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.

The Wired runs a story about a virtual world which was taken away from players. The topic inspired me to mention the Genesis for the first time on this blog.

All of your world belongs to us

Starting with a Wired article: the world in question is called Star Wars Galaxies. The game apparently generated its own culture and a loyal community around it. Loyal but, from a business point of view, inadequate in number. John Smedley of Sony Online Entertainment explains:

I think the numbers that we had, while they’re OK for the MMO space, could be a lot bigger, given the amount of people that know about Star Wars.

Game complexity kept the existing players happy but discouraged newcomers. Therefore, a business decision was taken. Developer cut game’s features, so they became easier to maintain. Number of professions that virtual characters can choose from was decreased and SWG as a whole moved more towards point-and-shoot game. Or in other words, towardes a product that can appeal to larger (even if less sophisticated) audience.

The players lost their playing field as they knew it, together with significant investment in their existing characters. Consequently, many of them are opting out.

I?m not a part of gaming community for a long time now. Only from time to time event like this make me suspect how much must be happening in this area, below the surface of news coverage.

Interesting issues are arising as the phenomenon moves mainstream. Players are investing massive amount of time in developing their characters, and in the same time, co-creating the game they are playing. I.e. adding value to it. And let?s not forget, it?s not only time they are investing, since they are paying subscription fees. And what rights do they have to their game? None, it seems. Clearly you may expect a lot of sour comments when things go wrong, like this one by a player nicknamed Rwhitman:

This is what was so wrong with what was said in the NY Times article… “instead of a world they created”… damn it we created this world, we owned it, we lived in it. So many people found this to be a refuge and now nomatter what SOE tries, they have ruined that; MMORPG’s don’t live or die based on their game mechanics, it is their community, like the OP who found a home here, that keep them going. (sic)

I can even understand the feelings. There were times when a game was an important part of _my_ life. Below I let myself indulge in some of those old memories.

Looking back on Genesis

Compared to the Star Wars mentioned or other games of today, Genesis is an ancient world. Games of this kind are called lpmud. Genesis is text based. During my active playing it had a couple of thousand registered characters and usually between 50 and 100 players online. The whole activity was a non-profit one.

Nowadays, there are commercial games claiming millions of registered players. People are handling real money for virtual artifacts.

Yet I suspect the feel of Genesis could now prove hard to come across. That world was driven by its dwellers. Even if cheating and brute force playing were not uncommon, the administration, composed of former players, ensured that the game remained balanced and challenging.

Role playing was the key. It took me a year (real time) to join the guild that I chose.

I still miss Glade of Beginnings, the first place you see when you start (if you are an elf):

Genesis Glade of Beginnings

And below is the view you never wanted to see. For higher level players, it could mean months of work to rebuild their character:

Genesis Death

At the time I was playing at least eight hours a day, all week long. My main character is 67 days ?old?, which means ca. 1600 real world hours invested in it.

Do I admit to myself that I wasted an enormous amount of time?

I?m still in denial.

My previous posts related to MMORPG: