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 to 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?
- Plus some other more unique goals, that I won’t talk about just yet. [↩]
8 thoughts on “What should a casual MMOG feel like?”
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!
Interesting you should mention that. Why would you not like to have a spatial metaphor?
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 ;-)
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?)
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.
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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