Many of us are suffering in silence; we pace about dilapidated rooms and shy away from the sunlight. We are the MMO addicts, we just want to chase the dragon. So we bounce around the official sites, news sites, reddit and fan sites - poring over every last shred of news for that hit we all need, here on the hype train.
I can tell you, for example, that Storybricks' Engineer Brian Schwab’s postmortem on the AI of Hearthstone is available for free on the GDC Vault. It’s a fascinating look at his approach to creating a ‘tag’ based AI system that’s designed to be intuitively manipulated. Sound familiar?
Of course it does, we can’t help ourselves.
Imagine my excitement when, in a brief exchange on twitter, the Director of Development himself Dave Georgeson made a point about MMO design in response to an article by the devilishly handsome Veluux over at EQHammer, that I believed to have been abandoned. Stay tuned to find out what it was!
This week, just like all the other weeks, I’ve been scouring the internet to find any fresh morsel, wondering what is it about the MMOs we love that cause us to feel that pull? What is the reason so many of us never quite get over our first MMO experience? Is it because of the sense of wonder it provided, before we knew how all the pieces fit together, before we started making spreadsheets and earnestly debating with strangers on forums about what kind of death penalty is objectively superior? I hope so, because that way we can get it back.
There is another point worth considering, the cynical among us could point to the hype train and the often borderline exploitative ‘retention strategies’ that draw comparisons to the Skinner Box. I have a tendency to point these aspects out when I feel the need to lash out at things beyond my control, but I also consider myself an optimist, and that’s why I firmly believe there’s more to it.
The drive to be lost in a fantasy world is strong in many of us, I grew up reading the Discworld series of novels by Terry Pratchett, and I have read every one without ever worrying what loot would drop at the end.
But... games! We exclaim, trying not to sound pretentious, games are different, an interactive experience requires feedback. Without progression players would just quit, they’d have no reason to keep playing.
Forgive me, my awesome readers (all two of you), when I say that in my opinion a novel is a far more interactive experience than almost any video game. Just look at the graphics, think of all the work we do to make up for that.
Alright, I’m half joking about the graphics thing, but when it comes to being drawn into an experience, the experience of being immersed in a different time and place, holding out for that particular purple helmet to drop is nothing compared to feeling such acute empathy for a character brought to life by our minds and a sequence inked shapes on paper.
I believe story is important. Of course, we all know that context is the basis for our motivations. I don’t think it’s possible to argue with such a broad idea, but it does seem sometimes like those responsible for making online games might have gotten confused about the best way to create that context.
Sorry to keep going on about Destiny but, well, there it is, it is there. If there’s one thing you can say about Destiny, it’s that it exists. A titan standing astride the console market, blotting out the sun to cast a pallid, dreary malaise over everything beneath its mighty sales figures. Bravo, capitalism in action.
The reason I bring it up is because the main criticism of the game is based around how tepid the story is, how it seems to flinch from making any kind of point about anything, and only using language that looks like it had to make it through several committees and focus testing cycles before being approved.
With such a hefty reported budget to match the resources and reach of a studio like Bungie, we can only assume it wasn’t considered important. Or worse—that it would be somehow distracting or off-putting to players.