Chipotle MMO, Redux

Paul Barnett, Mythic’s Creative Director, is front-lining a round of some very interesting interviews.  MMOGamer has a brutally honest interview where the interviewer explains exactly why he stopped playing Warhammer Online.  The piece seems very real and far away from any marketing agenda.  There is also a video interview at Able Gamers, which is quite good.  I love how Barnett explains things.  He should have been in What the #$*! Do We Know!? or Life After People to also give his thoughts on quantum spirituality and mass extinction.

Anyway, in a follow up to the post on a highly-focused Chipotle MMO, I wanted to present an idea that Barnett gears toward in both interviews: asset-light games.  Two snips from the interviews:

We’re getting more casual players, and wider audiences who are less obsessed with the old-school. You’ve got people who want to have their gaming time defined. “I’ve got half an hour before I’m going out. I know playing this game will only take half an hour,” or “I’ve got to put the kids to bed. I know that if I let them play this game, I can say ‘you’ve got one more level’,” knowing that one more level means 30 minutes and you can get them to bed. (from MMOGamer, emphasis mine)

So I think in the modern era you’re going to see more and more asset-light online games.  You’re not going to see as many asset-heavy online games, purely because they cost too much money and I think that that’s how the market is going to diverge.  So you’re going to have people who do things like . . they want to play Fishing online, asset-light.  They throw the rod with their iphone.  They really knock in buy using their little finger and they catch fish and they feel very happy, and it’s a sort of very shallow, very quick game and it doesn’t really take much effort.  You play it maybe for a total of maybe 5-hours in your life but you play it in 2-minute chunks.  There are going to be more games like that . . . fun, interesting. (from Able Gamers, emphasis mine)

 I completely agree with Barnett.  More and more online games are going to be designed for specific activities for a specific amount of time.  I can only imagine what would happen if Popcap (you know, the other game company that prints their own currency) decided to make an MMO, but I would bet my bank account it would be a Chipotle MMO.

I’ll just ask the first sand creature I run into

Hat Tip: Sanya Weathers at MMORPG Examiner

11 thoughts on “Chipotle MMO, Redux”

  1. The husband in me totally agrees with Paul Barnett as I’m finding my gaming time is becoming more and more restricted these days due to work, family and friends.

    However, the gamer in me still wants to see huge obsessive worlds with gigantic struggles and epic adventures, not quick quest orientated worlds with no decent community.

    Tough one.

  2. One of the managers in my last place of work left Popcap just before they really started to boom. I bet he’s regretting it these days…

  3. Thought for a moment you were being ironic but I guess not. What the #%@$ Do We Know? was a shameful misrepresentation of contemporary science for the purpose of furthering a cult ideology. It had as much basis in truth as I think Barnett’s ideas about games as art, and art in general. His “asset-light” approach entails trivializing games to being encapsulated 1, 2, or 5 minute experiences with rigidly defined mechanics and no personal engagement beyond what one might derive from a Sodoku puzzle or chess. I hold out hope for emotionally arresting, challenging games, games that leave me asking more questions than they answered or even explicitly addressed. I want my Popcaps and my World of Warcraft daily quests but I also want The Path and The Passage as well. And at least for me, they all equally count as games.

  4. So you’re saying Barnett’s thoughts on What the #%@$ Do We Know?! would not be entertaining?

    Regardless, I don’t know if you are focusing on the Barnett interviews or the issue I focused on, but The Passage is a very time-defined asset-light game. I haven’t played The Path yet, but it was on my radar awhile ago.

    I do not think that time-defined, asset-light means that the games cannot be emotionally arresting or challenging. I don’t think he is ignoring personal engagement either. Take his horse race example from the Able Gamers interview. Sure, his example requires you be at a horse race for it to be personally engaging, but MMOs rely on guilds, groups, etc. to be personally engaging. It doesn’t just stem from the game.

  5. It’s hard to see what asset-light MMO’s could accomplish that would be better than We already have a ton of asset-light games already on both pc and console, and I really don’t think the future is theirs. Too much cheap junk, too little jewels.

  6. I think a good place to look might be Facebook. I see a bunch of my stay-at-home mom friends with their “achievements” always popping up… seems like lots of online asset-light games there. Probably no true MMO per se, yet…

  7. The contrast between what Paul Barnett says, what Paul Barnett does, and what Paul Barnett will contradict himself on next week– is too great to take him seriously.

    Sometimes the relevancy of an idea can be completely sapped away by the person saying it.

  8. @Ravious: LOL. Okay, shot the messenger, now the message:

    I think lately everyone’s trying too hard with their paradigms and catch-phrases. The Chipotle bit loses me (partly because all of the establishments you mentioned in the previous article do not exist near my locale) and “asset-light” is just marketing-speak to make small, cheap games sound more attractive.

    In whatever sense asset-light is used, it’s nothing new, just more prevalent and in the news lately (iPhone, Wii, etc.). Portable gaming has always been asset-light yet carrying big sales and quick / easy games on the web are as old as Flash & Java.

    The problem IMHO is when cheap games oversaturate the market, the industry takes a belly flop. The first big example being the glut of cheaply made games leading up to the 1983 console ‘crash’, where most players migrated to deeper games (at the time) on computers.

    It’s taken literally decades of focus on quality for the games industry to prove relevance, but now that we’ve had that, everyone seems eager to jump on the bandwagon of quick product for bigger margins. It hasn’t helped that some quite big and expensive projects have basically pulled their versions of Apocalpse Now, making the risk of big budget ventures seem higher than they should be.

    Some of the examples are deceiving too. Popcap isn’t really asset-light, their games are approachable and deceptively easy to get into, but they know how to deliver good chunks of content. Look at how much is packed into Plants vs Zombies or Peggle.

    This topic seems frustrating, especially coming back to the (shoot him again) messenger, because the problem with MMOs lately has been that they’ve failed to deliver on content, content, content. Of course they’ll be in competition with asset-light competitors, because they’re lacking in the assets that they’ve delivered.

    That the cheaper made games are targeting the online market is no surprise, because it’s proven to be lucrative, even for the games that fail to live up to standards.

  9. Good comment, Rog. Asset-light is very subjective (and you might be right that it is just marketing hoodoo), and I can foresee (yet not envision) an asset-light MMO. It’s hard to envision because we don’t have much close. I would say the forerunner is Puzzle Pirates.

    In FPS, I would say that Battleground Heroes is asset-light. I would also say that Plants vs. Zombies is asset-light, especially in comparison to games like Defense Grid… or “true” RTS.

    Asset-light can mean so many things, but IMHO the best description for a developer/designer would not be a concrete number of assets, but more how elegantly assets are used to create, as you say content, content, content. Asset-light just sounds better than asset-constrained.

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