Virtual Worlds And Newbies

There was a really interesting article written by Richard A. Bartle over on Gamasutra. It is called “Soapbox: Why Virtual Worlds are Designed By Newbies – No, Really!” and I suggest you read it if you are interested in MMORPGs in any way. I hope the link works. If not, I’ll try to sum it up a little here:

If you have a Virtual World (VW) that people play, people will eventually leave. If old people leave, new people are needed to replace them if the VW is to survive. New people are needed to join at the same (or better) rate than the old people leaving. The new player is critical to the survival of the VW.

Newbies won’t play a VW that has a major feature they don’t like. Even if the old players like the feature, your VW will eventually die as the old players will leave at some point and will not be replaced by new players.

Players compare any new VW with their first one. They demand features from their first VW be added to their new VW, even if those very features were partly responsible for why they left the first VW.

Many players generally prefer a design choice that is good for them in the short term, but bad for the game in the long term. They hate design choices that are bad for them in the short term but good for the game in the long term. Make me happy now!

One of his quotes: “Virtual worlds are becoming diluted by poor design decisions that can’t be undone. We’re getting de-evolution – our future is in effect being drawn up by newbies who (being newbies) are clueless.”

He does offer some possible solutions to this problem:

1. Make a VW so different than any past experience a player may have had that they come into it with no expectations.

2. A good marketing plan or the right license may encourage old and new players to try something different.

3. Take a good look at the VWs being developed in other countries and try to include the good ideas they use. Different cultures have allowed for VW to evolve in different ways.

4. Make the VW so beautiful and amazing that people are drawn to it.

5. Sometimes just the passage of time will allow people to approach VWs in a new light.

6. As VW players mature, they may recognize the bad designs as bad designs after all. They may become more willing to accept a bad short term change in order to improve the long term health of the game.

Well, I think I have covered enough of this. I don’t want to get in trouble so go read it yourself. I think it is a great insight into how VWs have evolved and what could happen to them if it continues. I do not agree with everything he writes (for example I really hate the idea of perma-death, but his observations on instancing is pretty dead-on) but it is worth the read for sure.

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I own this little MMO gaming blog but I hardly ever write on it any more. I'm more of a bloglord or something. Thankfully I have several minions to keep things rolling along.