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Creating A Glitch In the Industry
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Creating A Glitch In the Industry


December 17, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 6 Next
 

You were talking about going back to the MOO stuff and having the ability to actually have an effect of the world. How much of an effect on the world are players going to have?

SB: Well, I mean, some of it is interaction with us. It's not totally open. We have a tool for location editing. I can drag stuff around. We're not going to give that to players. At least for the foreseeable future.

So people can't draw a penis using those bushes.

SB: Yeah, exactly. Some day, we might want to give some of that, open that up. Instead, we'll design the locations. And by the way, they'll be better, right? We're paying for people who are talented to do it so it looks awesome.

Players unlock new locations. So they kind of lay down where they're going to go. As they unlock them, we'll be a little ahead in terms of content development. Depending on which direction they push things, we'll go and develop more in that direction. We're also going to try a couple things like Tale in the Desert-style democracy for players.

The hardest thing of software development is prioritizing. You have a billion ideas. So, there are two things that we know we want to both of these, and we don't know which one we want to do first. Putting that up to the player, not as part of the game but outside of the game; a meta-game community.

This street [demos the game for Gamasutra] is a location. They're about 6000 pixels, like eight screenfuls wide. It was unlocked during the last test and upgraded a couple times by the players. They have choices in how they upgrade. All the different choices were pre-designed by us, but which ones they actually choose and how the world gets developed is up to the players.

It's almost like Wikipedia as a game, right?

SB: Yeah. It's a big sink of resources to develop this stuff. It requires a whole bunch of gathering stuff and working. People are learning skills specifically because there's a skill required to do this. The skill system is kind of half-Civ, half-EVE, but time-gated. As they push out in different directions, all these streets are new. We'll develop more of those.

Some people are just playing the game, leveling up. There's groups, there's a whole bunch of quests and stuff like that. People who are a little more advanced often go out to the periphery of the world and decide which direction they want to push it. And as they push it in that direction, we'll just develop more in that direction.

So, in that sense, they haven't. There's a real economy that's guided by vendors where we set the price for now. Eventually, we'll figure out how to like unpin each bit of the economy so that it floats free, but that's obviously really, really hard, and it will take us a while before we can completely float. That will be part of the gameplay as well.

You're spending a lot of time, especially for a free-to-play game, with a fairly high headcount. When we talk about the conversion rates that are typical in the industry, will those sustain you?

SB: I think they will. I think we'll have, I'm not sure if I want to say "a lot better conversion rates," but we're aiming for something that's a lot more deeply engaging.

I mean, you saw the trailer. It will have appeal to some people, and it won't have appeal to other people, and that's totally fine. I mean, we set out to do something that's strongly flavored in a sense... Because you want the people who love it to really love it, and that will probably apply to other people aren't going to like it.

Kotaku posted the trailer, probably 50 percent of the comments were like, "What the fuck?" or "Whoa, that was weird." And of the remaining, 30 percent were like, "Gay. It looks like MapleStory meets FarmVille," or something like that. And 20 percent of the people were like, "Wow, that looks really awesome." That's fine.

I think that it's possible to do something that -- like if you have the scale of maybe $1 per user per year that Zynga gets to the $280 that Blizzard gets for WoW -- if we can be like $30 or $40 per player per year on average, then we don't need tens of millions of monthly active users. You know, we're profitable at about 120,000 people playing the game, and having a million people makes it a really solid profitable company. Having the low number of millions would be a phenomenal success, and that's what we want.

So, there will be microtransactions for virtual items sales. There will also be subscriptions. And we're going to try a bunch of other things as experiments. So, for example, purchasable minigames on iPhone and Android that when you buy them, you unlock a new skill in the game, and when you get a new high-score, it increases your skill points.

Companies like Zynga that have a pretty good idea of what people will buy, it's still only a set of answers for a specific context of their specific game and their specific audience.

SB: Yeah. You know, it's pretty easy to burn people out completely, I think, if every interaction kind of resolves into increased purchase conversion experiment, then it's just not fun anymore. We can head back to that stuff in a while.

When you look at the successes of FarmVille, that's as anodyne as it can possibly be. I mean, that's a core part of its appeal. It's deliberate.

SB: I mean, Subway is a very, very popular restaurant... That's one way of being successful. There are definitely other paths.


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