Greg Costikyan, former wargame designer and current online gaming pundit, has a new article out. Unfortunately, it will cost you $500 to read it. Really! (Of course, if he sells one copy to Origin and one copy to Verant, he’s made a profit, even if Turbine reads over Verant’s shoulder.)
Here’s some excerpts from the excerpts:
Think about Ultima Online. EA gets maybe 50% of the retail price of the boxes it sells; call it $25 a copy. The rest goes to retailers and distributors. It gets $120 a year out of a player’s monthly fee …What’s more important, $25 or $120? Duh… They aren’t in the business of selling boxes any more. Selling boxes is a necessary evil; online subscriptions is where the money’s at…
Structure a game to reward inappropriate behavior, and that’s what you’ll get.
Despite the best intentions of UO’s developers, UO is a Hobbesian war of all against all, a chastening reminder of the horrors of anarchy and lawlessness.
[Origin] defined the use of macros as cheating. They said anyone caught cheating would be punished… the last thing they should have done is chosen a response that defined many of their own customers as cheaters, required them to punish their own customers, set up a situation of antipathy between the sysop staff and the customer base.
What Everquest represents is not “a graphical MUD done right,” but a graphical MUD done well enough to provide tantalizing hints of what a really well done graphical MUD could be.
Wide-open anarchy is appropriate for IRC or UseNet; it is not appropriate to a community. A community has standards, and it must have the means to impose its standards on those who would violate them. A commercially-operated community–which is what any online game is–must be policed, consistently and fairly, by the company that operates it.
Community is more important than the game.