Friday, September 7, 2007

One Hit Wonders

Oh boy. Here we go again. I guess by now most have read the unflattering reviews of Tabula Rasa with the recent lifting of the NDA. Richard Garriott's statement from last week "I think we´ve created something that´s really groundbreaking" doesn't seem to gel with the reports coming in. Many beta testers did indicate that the game did seem to try to break MMO design molds, but that it felt half-hearted and didn't quite deliver.

Two of the issues that stood out to me were poor character creation and steep computer requirements. Another issue is lack of end game options. Players are expected to clone and replay the content with a new class. I'm sure though they will still have a market for Tabula Rasa. There are plenty of players tired of the fantasy mmo's and just looking for something different.

So what is it with the hype involved when someone has already put out a successful game? It's starting to feel like all games are just recycled versions of previous mmo's. Gaming companies want game designers who've already brought a game to market. So designers shuffle from company to company and we get the same stuff. Yeah I know they need people with experience but do they ever hire just creative idea guys?

Once upon a time, I worked for a surgical device company. More specifically, I worked for the department responsible for creating new devices. The guys there had been with the department for 10-25 years. They were great people but they just ran out of ideas. They would approach surgeons and ask what kind of instruments they might want. If the surgeon had an idea, usually the engineers would think on it and say "no, that can't be done." They would acquire patents of devices that other people created and then spent a year or two trying to make them actually work.

Then one summer our department hired a guy just out of school It was just a temporary job mainly to do some drafting type work. He had observed several surgeries, and rather than asking the surgeon for ideas on instruments, he had several of his own on how to make the surgery more efficient. He pitched the idea to the engineer he reported to and he didn't think it could be done. But he made it work. And the department developed their very own surgical device from scratch for the first time. The surgeons themselves hadn't even thought of that type of device and it was a huge success. Of course he was hired on full time.

I know there are people out there like this who would do the same for the MMO industry. I worked with this guy for four years. If he were involved in making games, he'd be the guy pulling 18-hour shifts creating a new gaming engine because the same one that everyone else uses won't accomplish what he wants to do. He'd be observing existing games and coming up with completely new ideas, rather than asking players what they want in a game. Because frankly we don't know what we want, especially if it hasn't been done yet.

Looking back on how that department worked, it has me wondering if some gaming companies might work the same way. We had Team Leaders who pretty much got the credit for the entire project, even though the people under them contributed just as much and sometimes more.

So attaching a name to a game certainly is no guarantee for any second success. Odds are they've already used up their good ideas and spent too many years listening to what players think they want.


Tholal said...

Agreed! There was a lead developer at Origin that was a HUGE Blizzard and Diablo fan. As a result of his influence, UO lost track of its roots and took on many Diablo-type features, and the veterans of UO cried on the inside. He didn't bring his own ideas, or even really work by sculpting the partially formed clay that was UO. Instead he brought a pre-formed mold from another game and used that to stamp his changes into the game.

Hmmm... guess I got off on a bit of a rant there. Creative ideas abound in the gaming community. Hopefully the plethora of do-it-yourself engines and addons will spark people to work on making their ideas reality. The hard part is getting these concepts noticed.

Ms. Heathen said...

My hubby is in the Tabula Rasa beta because he has a FilePlanet account. He seems pretty hooked on it, I wasn't impressed with what I saw. I liked the character creation function, I'm a big fan of customization. I also liked the cloning option, great for people with chronic 'altoholism'. However, I thought that the graphics lacked both originality (looked a lot like COH) and a cohesive stylistic flavor. Steep hardware requirements always tick me off, I know I need a new graphics card, but I'm not nuts about every game pushing the price tag of the next one up by another $100.

I don't know, we needed a new sci-fi themed game, definitely, but I don't feel that this is the one. I like games that let you tell the story of your character a lot more than games that thrust you into their story and drag you around by the nose.

Aspendawn said...

We also got into the TR beta through Fileplanet a couple weeks ago. I couldn't play more than a half hour or so. It's just not for me at all. Hubby has been playing it off and on though. At first he really liked it, but after a few days he lost interest. The whole ammo thing was annoying him.

I thought the female faces were horrible. I couldn't believe there were over 40 choices and I didn't like any of them. All had big noses with mad faces.

And I'm with you on the graphics thing. Few seem to realize that most people don't upgrade their computers every two years and they're just severely limiting their market.