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Role Playing (Games)

John Smedley On the Future of MMOGs 193

RosethornKB writes "John Smedley, President of Sony Online Entertainment, wrote a letter about SOE's look to the future. In it, Smedley asks some questions about virtual children, skill based combat and player created content. posts a response to his questions. From the article: "What if you could have families in MMO's? Virtual Children... What if your characters could have children and pass on the family name...This is a very vague idea and I'm not sure if he words it that way on purpose or not. The concept of Virtual Children and passing on the family name isn't new. For example, upcoming Limitless Horizons MMO Mourning has had it in their design since the game first was announced. Their system is actually very interesting in theory."" has commentary on SOE's recent activities.
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John Smedley On the Future of MMOGs

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  • i give up on $ony (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mpower1 ( 858744 ) * on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:54PM (#11653504) Homepage
    after playing EQ for 4 years I have given up on any quality games from $ony. Their customer service does not exist and they do not listen to their players. It got to the point that it turned my off of all MMORPG's, good thing WoW came along.
  • Magic in MMORPGs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dogun ( 7502 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:03PM (#11653564) Homepage
    Here's a quick one for you: How many of you out there choose mages as your first character EVERY SINGLE TIME? Probably a lot of you.

    You know what I'd like to see?
    A MMORPG with a magic system that wasn't geared toward combat, or ease of use. Something so incredibly complicated that you have no idea what's going on. For once, I'd like to see the PLAYER learn magical theory. And the magical theory to be entirely player researched, and incomplete.
    A magic system that lets YOU design spells, but all the knowledge you need to do so comes from experimental error. A magic system that KILLS you if you screw up badly enough.
    Obviously, that would be one of the greatest challenges ever to create, but I'll tell you right now, I'd quit my job if I had one and play that 24/7.
    Who's with me on that?
  • Personally... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by astebbin ( 836820 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:04PM (#11653567)
    ...I see two posible futures for the MMO(RP)G genre, each with distincively different results and social implications.

    #1: One company emerges from the fray victorious, and becomes the Microsoft-esque supergiant of massively multiplayer online games. It happened with EA and the NFL, and I think that it could happen again with RPGs through the means of the merging of Blizzard-SOE along with few patents in just the right places. Thisscenario would open itself up to more global connectivity, with Japanese gamers playing alongside their American friends and the US no longer hating the French since they've got all the best healers and spellcasters (what? it coudl happen...).

    #2: Gamers, fed up with big-name companies giving them lousy customer service and blase customer support, band together and create a variety of independent MMO(RP)Gs in a fashion similar to the Protestant Reformation breaking away from the Catholic Church and forming many splinter groups each with different and unique approaches to the same common issue. Already there's the assumption that if you like MMORPGS and live in Korea, you play Lineage II, and that if you live in the US you play EQ or WoW, and that if you live in Europe you play EQ and don't know what WoW is all about... this phenomenon could become even more regional in the days to come, with people in Virginia playing something different than those folks out on the West Coast and vice-versa... this scenario would lend itself more to isolationism and modular commnities with one area having nothing to do with the other, and each group of gamers living in their own seperate world.

    Just the thoughts of an ex-EQ addict who's been monitoring the industry... and to all of my friends still hooked on EQ, I say: "Camp out right now and go for a walk... the Planes of Power will still be there when you get back, but you may have missed a million opportunitees in the real world". As much as I love online gaming, it's still no substitue for real world experiences; However, it's still ok as long as you balance playtime with human-to-human facetime.
  • Re:Magic in MMORPGs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yderf ( 764618 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:15PM (#11653627)
    I totally agree.

    I was diappointed in Evercrack because every magic class was the same within their class. Everyone knew exactly how a cleric should be played or how a wizard or enchanter should be played. There was no room for uniqueness.

    I played Gemstone, and even though it was a MUD it had a better general game design than any graphics game I've seen. It would be nice if they could make magic so customizable and unique that the programmers didn't know the limits or all the possibilities.
  • Re:Frankly.. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:15PM (#11653629)
    Or 100% uninformed stereotypes to 0% fact, yeah, do the math!

    Two of the six players in my City of Heroes group are female, that's 1/3.

    Try finding some stats that aren't pulled fresh from your trolling ass.
  • Re:Magic in MMORPGs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:15PM (#11653634) Homepage Journal
    This exists already; it's called the internet, plus the programming language of your choice.

    A somewhat more structured framework would be interesting. Something like CoreWars, but updated for the modern day.
  • Re:Magic in MMORPGs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:19PM (#11653666) Homepage
    I've thought the same exact thing for a long time. Asheron's Call was the first game to even attempt something like it, but it was ruined because inevitably, all the formulas got spread around on the internet.

    What I'D like to see personally is something involving a new peripheral gadget that might be gloves, or a wand or something that could sense movement, and could detect somatic components of spells so that you actually had to learn the movements for spells.

    Then magic isn't just down to "ok, put ingredients a,b,and c in the box, hit combine, and there's your new spell. You might learn what movements are required, but it might take you a long time to actually master them well enough to use in combat. And variations on those movements could affect the spell in a variety of ways from duration, range, damage, effects, etc. You could even botch.

    And as fruity as this might sound, I think it would rock if there was a Harry Potter MMORPG that had this. Players are students in Hogwarts and need to learn magic, and go through student life there. I'll bet it would be a HUGE hit.

  • Re:Magic in MMORPGs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:27PM (#11653725) Homepage Journal
    Any harry potter game worth playing would necessarily contain speech recognition and a wand controller. The wand would recognize gestures and the voice recognition system would require proper enounciation. You could get by without the wand by using joystick or mouse gestures but I think it would be a big mistake and cheap little accelerometers can do the job. Kids would just up and die over the chance to actually flick the wand, speak the name of the spell, and direct it appropriately, and for that matter I'd be pretty excited about it, if the game it were wrapped in weren't so utterly likely to be a load of pap.
  • Re:Magic in MMORPGs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:41PM (#11653814) Homepage Journal
    I was just looking over core wars -- it's seems to be some kind of virus creation lab using fantasy terms as a metaphor. Imps, dwarves, etc. are 'warriors' that fight to control memory space.

    But I would like to see a magic system like the one you describe -- where it's more like a powerful programming language. My guess as to the best way to do this is to have the server host the virtual environment and give players some kind of API to affect qualities of the environment. Players would write their own programs and scripts, share them, sell them, etc. What fun!

  • Re:Magic in MMORPGs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @04:53PM (#11653922) Homepage
    Morrowind had a system that let you design spells. Kind of.

    Choose duration, power, touch or ranged. The problem is that they didn't go far enough. There was no point in making a spell that burned, because making a spell that did 30 points in one blast, cost the same as one that did 15 per second during 2 seconds.

    There was the lack of effects too, I'd like to have been able to choose the effect to be used.

    I actually thought about how this should work. Came up with the following:

    Casting should begin with a powerup stage, where you gather the required power. The more powerful, the more time it takes. Big spells would involve long incantations, with a proper request for help from the appropiate deity. If it sounds like it's from Slayers, it's because it's pretty much from there.

    The second stage would be optionally modifying the original effect, like for example choosing to compress a fireball to make higher damage in a more localized area. Or add the possibility of controlling the direction during flight.

    The third stage would be adopting the proper position for casting the spell, depending on where you wanted it to go.

    Finally, release it, maintaining concentration during the required time.

    With a decent implementation, it should be possible to make a quite cool system, where different effects can be combined, power/speed/damage/radius can be adjusted.

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs.ajs@com> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @05:21PM (#11654139) Homepage Journal
    What the future holds for MMOGs is uncertain, as you say, but it certainly will not involve SOE unless they do something dramatic to demonstrate to the gamers of the world that they have changed.

    I played EverQuest for four years, and in that time it went from a fairly story-driven game with GMs who at least made an effort to incorporate players into the storyline to a pay-per-dungeon-crawl that had almsot no GMs and very little customer-focus (they changed this a bit just before I quit, but it was far too little, far too late).

    When EQ2 came out, almost everyone I knew was in one of two camps: the "I've never played EQ, so I don't need to start" camp and the "another SOE game?!" camp.

    For those who wish to learn from SOE's mistakes: yes, customers whine, cheat and otherwise behave poorly, but keep in mind that that ill behaved mass of complaints is your revenue stream, and treating them without a modicum of respect, and more importantly treating them GAME without a great deal of respect is the fastest, easiest way to lose your player base to the next game to come along.

    Hope this is helpful to those of you working on the next generaion of game.

    -Perlmonkey AKA Deepone
  • by WankersRevenge ( 452399 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @05:49PM (#11654327)
    Nah ... mmorpgs are not harmful. games are not harmful. it's the GTA argument all over again.

    people are responsible for their own actions. When people sit down to play these games, they are making a choice. I agree that the designers construct these worlds for the purpose of treadmill running, but at the end of the day, its your choice to play them - each and everytime. (you being used in the general, as opposed to you personally).

    I'm guessing, if you interviewed the real hardcore addicts, you'd probably find the game being used in place of other things (ie, can't deal with the wife and kids or, can't deal with classes). As for the true addicts, I bet that if it wasn't the latest MMORPG, it'd just be something else like fantasy football. Just my thoughts.
  • by ricka0 ( 628862 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @06:28PM (#11654592) Homepage Journal
    I'd have to at least partially disagree. Many of the aspects haven't changed since farther back.. to MUD days... However I think it IS an area which does have some current improvements (despite its slower growth).

    URU []: Myst's online game (fan site []) was very different for example a game, which focused on group interaction and problem solving. Saddly, it didn't make it past Beta but many new cutting edge models don't. Its user group was very different from 'typical' MMORPGs... Overall older and very loyal to the game. It's focus wasn't on killing anything at all actually it was more of a history lesson approach (about a fantasy group of people though).

    - [] is also a different type of MMORPG, which has no fighting system at all. It's described as, "There is an online getaway where you can hang out with your friends and meet new ones--all in a lush 3D environment that's yours to explore!" This description is only about the social aspect, however there are other aspects such as users making game objects and clothes for other players to buy so the game economy (although hard like in RL). It can even allow great modelers to make some RL cash (I wouldn't go into it for that since there are honestly only a few who have pulled it off, and the risks are with RL money but it is an interesting concept to explore).

    And as far as comment "Smedley means twitch combat, is this really skill-based? Sure, it's a skill with controls, but how is mastering controls truly a skill? I'd love to see someone reinvent the meaning of skill-based." I think URU actually could claim to get away from this twitch skill placed model to a degree. Puzzles were more important and then communities based on creating art, fan fiction and poetry, mapping, and history were created which each used other more real-life skill bases. I for example actually know about GIS map systems BECAUSE of the URU fan community who were creating a semi-one for keeping game maps and historic information in. Also is skill-based in other ways as well. Because users can create objects, good artists can sell items and make money in the game. Good marketers can run successful events and sell other's items. Good traders can buy items when listed low and wait till they are high playing sort of stock market game with real money. There are in game 'skills' for things like driving vehicles, etc however honestly the majority of people don't focus on them so much as really just hanging with other users or other 'skills'.
  • Doesnt grab me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jrushton ( 806560 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @06:52PM (#11654755)
    Ive never like MMOGs much, partly because I want casual gaming, where I can appear and dissapear from a game without suffering for it. CounterStrike would be a good example, you have the same capabilities as every other player in the game, regardless of whether you have player for an hour, or five days straight.

    I also don't like the idea of paying a subscription for my games. I want to buy the entire thing and have it right there in my hands. It's very unlikely that youll be able to play a MMOG in 25 years time if you dig out your old computer.

    A lot of the fun comes from the number of players in the servers. Why dont developers just increase the server capacity of new first person shooters for instance? A 64 or 128 player fps which was designed to play well with that number of players would capture a lot of that. So called leveling up reminds me a lot of caring for your 'cyber-pet'!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @07:20PM (#11654928)

    What I would like to see, and the one thing I think EQ2 could, and should, have that is sorely lacking, is a more impressive presentation of story.

    I don't mean NPCs that talk about events that happened a long time ago. I don't mean books I can find and read. I don't mean narratives in pure prose in game and on a webpage. I mean using the wondefully dynmaic scripting power in Everquest 2, and later games, as well as the dramatic power of voices, to present to us some truly stunning events. By the time i'm level 30 or 40, I want to feel as if the world has substantially changed in some significant way. History is great, but we need a narrative as well.

    This doesn't have to be a physcial world change, though opening up "happy ending" instances of zones after performing objectives would be cool (Rivervale and Zek come to mind). Rather I'm talking about introducing us to some characters, having us interact with them, their personal storires, and the events on the world stage, on a more meaningful and emotional level. We spend more time with NPCs in MMORPG's than any other interactive medium out there. Great emotional responses could be evoked, far more than our empathy for characters in a film, single player game, or even a novel.

    The presentation of these events is equally important. Spawning mobs on a boat to "simulate" an attack at sea is old hat . Also, all NPC's are standing up, and it just jerks you out of any suspention of disbelief to find royal NPCs always standing in front of their thrones. Emperor Fyst is suppose to be this slothful and lazy guy who is leading the deathfist orcs down this slovely road. He'd be sitting by gum . Like film, video games are a visual medium. It doesn't do well to tell us a story in prose. Show us, include us, let us be involved in these epic stories. Don't be afraid to let us get to know important NPC's like Antonia and Lucan on a more personal level, and don't wait 2 years to do it . Don't relate something cool that happened, let us witness it first hand.

    I've got many more thoughts about this, but there's too many to relate here. Hopefully Gamanetwork will accept the article I proposed a few weeks ago in Gamasturta or Game Developer . Always happy to talk about stories in these wonderful games we all love so much.
    Real world implications don't have to mean actual physical world changes taht affect anyone else.

    I know in FFXI they showed it's possible to have an NPC running around screaming while something crazy began to happen, while to another player the NPC was just standing there as if nothing was going on. The server can tell one client one thing, and another something totally different. The world doesn't have to look the same to everyone. You can have subtle differences while still maininting the integrity of everyone being in the same world. This also solves the ugly problem of an NPC despawning to simulate it leaving the area, though that may leave another player who needs the NPC, even in the same group, out of luck. A mob doesn't have to be visiable to everyone. You've not yet seen the event where the "minion of doom" has caused XandY problems. So you can't see him in the area.

    A good writer and event designer can make the player's perception of the world change substantially.
    If you're steadfast against the world looking different to different people, here's something else to think about. The world may be exactly the same, in terms of physical presentation, after a player watches some event unfold, but that player's fundamental perception of the world may change. He now knows BLANK, and he can see the entire world in a new light. Don't just hire someone because they're gifted at novel writing. It's not the same thing. Find some people with screenwriting experience; that would be far more suitable I think. As I said before, computer games are a visual medium. They can have the depth of a novel, but need the visual finesse that comes with writing for f
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:26AM (#11657344)
    There is a game that has been in development for the past several years that has procreation. It is called Atriarch ( In the game, when you die you stay dead unless you procreate (it is non sexual procreation but it is still procreation), if you create a spawn you get to keep from starting over entirely.
  • by also aswell ( 781190 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @09:06PM (#11663689) Journal

    Nokia has the technology to launch a new style of game that hasn't been mentioned here or anywhere else as far as I can tell.

    If Nokia added a geo positioning mech to it's hend held units something like the real world DnD could be developed. If the software were modifiable almost anything would become possible.

    I live in New Orleans and know there are enough great places to let the game become partly online and partly reality based. In the French Quarter costumes wouldn't stick out. And the possibilities are endless. Spy v Spy v Spy, Tag, Capture the flag, Treasure Hunts, whatever.

    And while I know costuming in New Orleans is somewhat di regur(sp) any city or area would do. Plus the local fans would be necessary for the implementation of the games to ensure a good mix. I already have a small secenario designed for the French Quarter that's part puzzle, part bar hop and part scavenger hunt.

    Maybe it's time to thing outside the box, I mean screen on this one.

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