What should a casual MMOG feel like?

The prims are always greener by yhancik on Flickr

I’m find­ing myself in the start­ing phas­es of design­ing a casu­al MMOG (or vir­tu­al world, if you pre­fer that term). When I say design, I mean deter­min­ing the struc­ture and behav­iour of the world — inter­ac­tion design, in oth­er words. 

It’s an inter­est­ing chal­lenge (and a sig­nif­i­cant change from design­ing mobile games, to say the least). I can’t think of a class of games that has the poten­tial for more emer­gent phe­nom­e­na, both social and eco­nom­ic. This is tru­ly a sec­ond order design challenge.

Of course, the same old play­er needs still hold true, and tools and tech­niques such as sce­nar­ios and sto­ry­boards are just as use­ful here as in any oth­er project. But the need for an iter­a­tive, test dri­ven design and devel­op­ment process becomes huge­ly appar­ent once you start to think about all the effects you sim­ply can­not design directly.

You might think I’m involved with a WoW- or SL-like endeav­our. On the con­trary! The aim of the project is to bring some of the unique plea­sures of a vir­tu­al world to a mass (adult) audi­ence.1 That means mak­ing the expe­ri­ence more casu­al, more short-ses­sion.

Our play­ers will still want to feel relat­ed and socialise, but on their own terms. They’ll still want to feel autonomous and explore, but in short bursts of activ­i­ty. They’ll still want to feel com­pe­tent and achieve, but with­out hav­ing to make too huge an effort…

There’s plen­ty of move­ment in the space of casu­al, short-ses­sion MMOG’s. Some have dubbed them PMOGs — Pas­sive­ly Mul­ti­play­er Online Games — and focus on mak­ing them open sys­tems that inter­act with dai­ly life. I’m try­ing to imag­ine what — as a closed sys­tem — a casu­al MMO should feel like, what its aes­thet­ics (PDF) need to be. What, in oth­er words, would WoW or SL have turned out to be if Miyamo­to-san had designed it?

  1. Plus some oth­er more unique goals, that I won’t talk about just yet. []

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.

8 thoughts on “What should a casual MMOG feel like?”

  1. Sounds chal­leng­ing! I think I should con­sid­er me as a poten­tial user of such mmog… I think it inter­est­ing if you can cre­ate this vir­tu­al world with­out build­ing some rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the real world, using the gam­ing prin­ci­ples and social rules to grab the short-ses­sion-excite­ment. Keep us posted!

  2. I think it inter­est­ing if you can cre­ate this vir­tu­al world with­out build­ing some rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the real world

    Inter­est­ing you should men­tion that. Why would you not like to have a spa­tial metaphor?

  3. I cer­tain­ly will like a spa­tial metaphor of course, and espe­cial­ly one that is not an exact copy of our world (the study of Media­mat­ic years ago pops in mind where they cre­at­ed a vir­tu­al world based of the nav­i­ga­tion stim­luli of a blind person). 

    But I think it real­ly inter­est­ing (as you know) to look at the net­worked soci­ety with the gam­ing prin­ci­ples. In cre­at­ing a vir­tu­al world with­out the ‘obvi­ous’ rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our real world could be an inter­est­ing case to accom­plish that. Of course it links to the dis­cus­sion of the Digg Effect etc. http://tinyurl.com/2c92l7

    But this maybe is just anoth­er project ;-)

  4. Hey thanks for the link to that inter­est­ing book.

    So what you’re say­ing is you would like a world to explore, just not a lit­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our real world? Why is that? Would a fan­ta­sy world work bet­ter for you? (Be it abstract, impres­sion­is­tic or whatever?)

  5. Well maybe it is just my dri­ve to do some­thing dif­fer­ent that I like to avoid a lit­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion ;-) But indeed; the fan­ta­sy fac­tor could work. But more impor­tant, I think that if you suc­ceed to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful imag­i­nary world only based on social behav­ior the impact of the world will be much intenser. But that is only the­o­ry of course.

  6. Well thanks for your thoughts. I think some play­ers are drawn into any MMOG because of “the social fac­tor” but some need a world to explore and some need to be able to com­pete. So we’ll need to cov­er our bases there. And of course, I like try­ing dif­fer­ent things too, so I’ll be sure to sneak a few in.

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