In our last episode, I pondered whether city-building and -defense was a path to certain MMO failure. Robin Hanson has some words that apply well to this or any other radical departure from Yet Another Fantasy MMORPG:
To have the best chance of succeeding in a radical project, you should instead choose just a few related dimensions on which to make radical choices, and then make conservative conventional choices on all the other dimensions. This strategy minimizes the chance that some other project dimension will go badly wrong and take down your central radical idea with it.
While all-dimension-radical freethinker projects have little chance of success, their looming wreckage can be a great place to look for promising radical ideas to pursue…
Or as it has been phrased elsewhere, don’t innovate for the sake of innovation. It is hard enough to think through the implications of one radical change. One commenter adds, though, that sometimes one radical change forces you to change a lot of things.
Great, now I can be one of those guys saying that my idea works, really, if only people would not have that other garbage holding it down. Sure, Horizons tanked, but look at the “innovative business practices” that accompanied it. A Tale in the Desert may be a niche game, but look at all the other things it does differently from mainstream MMOs. Of course it is not a fair test of my idea. It is only a fair test if it is successful.
Age of Conan is coming soon, and it has the city-building system I was talking about. Great! If the game succeeds, it was obviously that feature, and everyone else needs to adopt it. If the game fails, it was obviously because this excellent idea was tied to a Rated-M game, or the game was too solo-friendly in the low levels, or the game was too PVP-centric in the high levels, or they did not implement one-handed spears, or there were no elves, or…
One of the risks that Overcoming Bias warns about is developing superior rationalization skills as you learn about potential cognitive problems (which affect other people).