Series Info...Engines of Creation #8:

Upteenth Verse, Same as the First

by Dave Rickey
September 9, 2003

This is the song that never ends
It just goes on and on, my friend
Someone started singing it not knowing what it was
And they'll go on singing it forever because
This is the song that never ends....

This column is going to be much shorter than usual, between preparations for the conference, and wrapping up an Alpha cycle, I'm stretched right to the limit (the alternative to short is skipping a week). Anyway, I've been putting together my presentation for the Austin Game Conference entitled "Minimum Feature Set: What An MMO Must Have To Compete", and it struck me that I've heard most of what I wanted to cover before. In fact, I've heard it all many times, at presentations by Raph Koster, Jessica Mulligan, Gordon Walton, and others. Does the world really need another explanation of how to tie your shoelaces in designing MMO games?

Possibly. There are some amazingly straightforward things that we just don't seem to be able to get right. Even SWG, developed by an experienced team, had all kinds of growing pains. In their defense, no game ever grew as fast as SWG, and some of their mistakes *were* novel (Note: Oracle is not a no-brainer as choice of RDBMS back-end). But none the less, the biggest lesson of SWG is that some of the problems associated with an MMO launch are apparently unavoidable. Customer service overload, registration/billing server scaling issues, some of the things we've been insisting we have to get right just don't seem to be within practical reach.

So where does that leave us? Maybe there are no more low-hanging fruit, if we want to make good games that succeed; we're going to have to start stretching ourselves. "Don't screw up" is no longer sufficient advice for the makers of an MMO game. Anyway, that's going to be the main thrust of my talk, that there is a list of things you have to do right, and you need "One big idea", something hard to do that separates your gameplay from that of anyone else's.

Recent Discussions on Engines of Creation:

jump new