Thursday, August 18, 2005


Cheating at Content Creation, Part 1

One of my earlier posts talked about how difficult it was to provide enough engrossing content to keep players entertained for a long period of time. This difficulty, in my opinion, is the primary reason that MMO players get bored and quit, chase stats, or stir up trouble.

I also talked about some rather normal, unexciting, and uncreative means of squeezing the most out of your content creation dollar. Now it's time to get into the ways to "cheat" your way past these financial limitations.

One tactic is to get players to provide content for you. This can be done as directly as in Neverwinter Nights, where developers give players a toolset and let them create add-ons for the game, or as subtlely as making direct competition between players part of the game content, as World of Warcraft has done with Battlegrounds (Battlegrounds, for those three or four of you who are in the dark, is basically WoW's take on Counterstrike). Both of these methods intrigue me, especially pitting players against each other (because this kind of content creation can be done by anyone, not just those intelligent and motivated enough to learn and use a toolset).

Role-playing games are primarily about variety, and they need to offer the player the opportunity to explore new places, interact with new characters, progress though storylines, etc. These aspects of the game are what necessitate such huge amounts of content. On the other hand, games like chess or Battlefield 1942 don't need nearly as much hand-designed content to offer the same amount of replayability because of two things: 1) the game rules and mechanics allow for a near-limitless variety of actions and 2) the unpredictability (and possibly, intelligence) of a human opponent's actions keep the game fresh and challenging.

In addition to the aforementioned World of Warcraft, Guild Wars also uses player vs. player combat to keep its players entertained, although it is not a subscription game. Most MMORPGs do rely heavily on the appeal of social interaction (another way for players to provide content), but for many players, chatting and making online friends are not appealing features, just necessary evils that must be endured for the sake of playing and advancing in a persistent-character game.

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