GDC: Mobile Session Itself Goes Massively Multiplayer
Going by the online schedule, Gamevil, Inc. general manager Kyu C. Lee was to spend an hour chatting about mobile MMO games and communities, by way of his mobile MMO game, Path of a Warrior – in North Hall room 124, at 2:00.
In practice, the session was held in a completely different building and Mr. Lee was absent. With the blessing of the sound and technical staff, however, the small turnout soon took command, converting the session into an informal comparison of notes.
Dan Roy – game designer for The Education Arcade – served as impromptu moderator, posing questions to the audience and directing conversation. Of particular focus were the issues of conflicting audiences and the feasibility of real-time play – given a built-in lag of, at minimum, half a second.
Two representatives from Russia-based Nival Online used the projection system to show off their JRPG-styled MMO Entis. “How do you keep both casual and hardcore gamers interested,” Roy asked, as much hypothetically as of the Nival crew, “And how do they interact with each other?”
“This game is unique,” they replied, adding that it had only been out for a month in Russia, “so we’re not sure yet what audience it’s for.”
Another audience member followed up on the question, noting that clearly World of Warcraft does a good job of balancing between core and casual players, both attracting a broad and mainstream audience and rewarding obsessive play. How, he asked, do you follow that model in the mobile space?
Roy noted that WOW allows players to slip back and forth between hardcore and casual modes – solo and social models of play. In a sense it works as a massively communal single-player game, allowing people to go off on their own and pursue their personal goals or to just hang around when they know friends are going to be online. The closest mobile game Roy could think of that matched this model was “the game we came here to study”, Path of a Warrior.
What Path of a Warrior does, uniquely for a mobile game of its type, is chop game play into three-to-eight-minute missions. Although, Roy admitted, this is sort of a long time for a mobile game, and there is no obvious way to pause, it is a more or less reasonable hunk of time to devote to a game, allowing people to either pop in and out or sit in one place and work at the game for extended periods, thereby helping to accommodate both casual and obsessive play styles.
Another audience member raised the issue of location-based information to develop a sort of an augmented reality game – giving people missions based on real visual information in the world around them, thereby bypassing realtime concerns, as realtime passes in real space rather than in mobile space.
Roy followed up on this idea, referencing a project of his that had been used as a teaching aid – a PDA equipped with a GPS unit and specialized software. Students would use the GPS to find specific locations, then analyze the soil or use whatever real-world contextual information to solve problems, allowing the class to come to a group hypothesis.
As the discussion died down, Dan Roy brought the session to a close. The audience applauded Roy for his efforts, traded personal information and joked with each other, and left in high spirits.