And in that case, what creates a good game?
In an effort to figure out just what exactly draws people into a game I’ve done a lot of reading online about online RPGs, MMOs, etc to hopefully impact Ashianae’s Journey in a positive way. There is an incredible article at Gamesutra.com called “Rethinking the MMO” which can be found here – the article is good and provides some insight on features and concepts needed in order to successfully pull off an MMO. While the article includes a great deal of information for someone willing to read a bit, the most important aspect mentioned in the article is game play that is fun. That’s to say, one of the biggest game killers in game development can be “boring game play”. This leads to the question of “How do you make your game fun?” It’s a question that plagues me consistently, because while I can envision our game being fun, and including elements that tend to make games fun.. how can you be sure that your concept will lead to “fun” game play, and keep people engaged?
Two consistent answers seem pretty apparent in creating fun game play: an environment which is rich and full of depth, and an environment where “things” are happening. The second one may sound too easy to hold any water, but in fact is perhaps more important than the first. Depth is an important aspect of the game, but when even an encyclopedia contains said depth, it won’t be enough to make the game play interesting and fun (unless of course you just enjoy reading an encyclopedia through).
The aspect of making “things” happen, and making them happen frequently however is something that consistently seems to keep players entertained… and if you’ve established some depth in your game, then you should theoretically have all the more fire power to make some worth while game play and activities. In the game that we first began, and continue to work on here and there when there is time is a prime example of the above condition. AWRPG (the title of the server in Active Worlds) and Draeda (the name of the game) contain mind boggling depth which includes pages and pages of developer written contain, and books full of player written history and events. However, while this depth is something that makes game play very rich, the game clearly slumps when few “things” go on, on a game wide scale. From what we’ve seen in the four years of running it, more activity equals more players, more interaction, and more fun.
In fact this can be seen in most of the virtual environments I’ve ever encountered, whether they’re full blown games or not. Active Worlds itself (www.activeworlds.com) is experiencing an all time low in number of paying accounts online at one time partly due to a decrease in activity in the environment (at least, that’s my argument). In all cases, you can typically trace number of active users to the amount of events going on at any given time and in turn the excitement generated by said events. So the answer seems simple – make more events, make more “things” happen. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. In fact, even in large scale games like EVE Online that appeal to thousands of players at one time, I often find myself bored and lacking something to do, even in an environment so deep that I can literally do anything I want. In many cases it seems that something does not grab me, and force me to interact in an engaging way. So the question becomes, what things have you seen and been a part of in online games that have made them fun, engaging, and something you didn’t want to log off of? Dig deep and see what you come up with. For Active Worlds, many of those events were things like the AW version of survivor, community awards, building competitions, social gatherings, etc. In our game AWRPG, much of those events were world wide storyline events that grabbed people and compelled them to become involved.
What do you think? Is creating a fun game the biggest factor in game development and creating an online game? Share with us what keeps you engaged in the games you play, besides of course the motivational grind to be the best. And like wise, what causes a game to feel old? Is it the lack of new events, or the lack of events altogether?