You talk about meaningful social interaction. In most "social games", the social interaction is fairly limited. Obviously it's going to be limited in certain ways that are intrinsic to whatever the limitations in this game are, but it sounds like you want more.
SB: Yeah. And part of that is allowing group-based dynamics at all, like real ones. Like you're able to form a corporation or you're able to form a religion. When I say "religion", there will be a structured way of representing that.
When talking to you, pay-versus-don't-pay obviously makes me think of Flickr. I pay for Flickr. You don't have to to use it, but I do, partially because I like it and thus I want to give it money. Partially, it's the features. It's partially so I can have sets. It's both.
SB: For subscribers, you'll be able to have multiple characters per account, which you can't do with a free account. We'll give them more choices of skin color, a few things like that.
It's not like the game is crippled if you don't pay. I think that's enough. I mean, we'll find the right balance, but I think it's enough that the people who actually enjoy the game will say, "It's not an unreasonable amount of money."
There's some things that we talked about that really in an indirect way would affect game mechanics because you paid money.
So, one example is in-game advertising, which we'd never do for anything outside the game, but in the context of the game, buying a literal billboard space in a busy transit hub for something in the game, like you just started a new cult and you want to evangelize, or you opened to a store and you want people to go there or whatever, people pay money to do that and will get the attention to other players, which is what the feature is.
But if you're clever, you can turn other players' attention to game currency. That's like the closest we've considered, where you pay money and it has an effect on actual gameplay. The rest is just aesthetic.
This is like the unholy marriage of Animal Crossing and EVE Online.
SB: Yeah. That's actually a very good way [of describing it.] LittleBigPlanet is obviously an inspiration as well, in the aesthetics. I wish that we had a PS3 underneath this and that we're a lot better on 3D. But EVE, MOOs, and Animal Crossing have a cult following [here].
There's a couple of other ones, too. I guess the original... The early Sims, not that it's exactly the same thing, but just that idea. Yeah. There's a lot of them, but those probably are the two best.
Well, I've never played EVE before. I never got into it because it just seemed too hard to me. It's my favorite game to read about.
Most games are boring to play and boring to read about. I'm not sure if EVE's boring to play; it's just an investment I don't want to make. But it's fascinating to read about.
SB: And I've always imagined, as well, that while the fights can be exciting and it can be cool, you know, to have victory in one of the fights, it's not really what it's about. I mean, people are playing the game to create the world. They're part of the corporations because they're buying into the agenda, even if it's roleplaying, against some other agenda. That's where the fun is.
In EVE, you might have a very small role, but you know you're a link in a bigger chain.
SB: Yeah. And you get to work it with other people and actually change how the world unfolds, which is something that I think every little kid who played games always wanted to see what would happen, like if it was just not open-ended in a Grand Theft Auto way because that's not really open-ended at all...
I mean, the people just walk like this, and you can bump into them and stuff like that, and 98 percent of the buildings are just hollow, textured shapes. If you could really change it, if there's a potential that you could fuck it up, if there's a potential you could create things that people haven't thought of yet, then it's a lot more interesting.
You're right; it's going to be a challenge communicating what this game is to people. Well, you've got two really big challenges, which are, A, making a game that does that, which is non-trivial, and B, communicating to people that they can do this.
SB: Yeah. Maybe we'll stumble upon a way of communicating it. More likely players will stumble upon a way. It's interesting to see what people say about it like, just reading Twitter where people are mentioning it and stuff like that, reading reviews and comments about what impressions they get.
We never had that with Flickr either, by the way, you know. Four years after we started it, we had to come up with a vision statement for Yahoo execs, and that was "eyes of the world", and that was pretty good. But we never had it at the beginning.
We could never explain why it was better than Shutterfly to people. Oh, we could, but it takes 15 minutes. We needed the five-second version. And we were successful despite that. So, hopefully either we'll come up with something good in the next six months or someone else will, or we'll suffer from not being able to explain it in 30 seconds.