Against the Gods

Against the Gods
Raph Koster on Fire

Allen Varney | 25 Jul 2006 08:01
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"I'll make an exception for the NGE. I don't think you can or should change a game that radically out from under a user base. You dance with the ones that brung ya, whether they are the market of your dreams or not. They have invested their passion and built expectations about where they want the game to go. Changing things out from under them isn't fair in my mind, especially given how they have been loyal to you in times of trouble. It's like dumping the girlfriend who has always been patient and loving to chase after the supermodel who probably won't love you back."

"I wanted to do things that weren't really possible at SOE, for a variety of reasons. Oh, we'd had our disagreements, too - the NGE changes in SWG, for example, were a big one. But it boiled down to the fact that I had a few projects and directions I really wanted to pursue, and SOE wasn't at a place to pursue them. They couldn't fund the projects I wanted to do, because of other projects already going. They generously let me start working on going indie before the contract term was up, even, which they didn't have to do - it was a very amicable departure.

"I really wanted to get back to working hands-on on a game, and I also have firm ideas about the next directions online games are going to take. The cost of making things like World of Warcraft is pretty much completely unsustainable for most companies, and it's mostly in making endless numbers of static quests and awesome artwork. The next generation of MMOGs, outside of a few blockbusters, will have to be about something different: lower cost development, smaller mountains of static content, more embracing of techniques that reduce those costs.

"I don't doubt the DikuMUD-based game we're all still playing will have legs as long as there's people who still haven't tried it out, but it won't keep the current players happy forever. That means new sorts of virtual worlds have to come into being, or else all those folks will just flow right back out of the market. It's way, way past due that we get out of the tank-healer-nuker game I got bored of back in 1993.

"I am working on a startup company, but we're running quiet for a while. I've got that book to write. I also have two or three game ideas banging around that I really shouldn't work on, since I need to focus on the startup! The public doesn't get to see it, but I usually design a dozen games a year, of different sizes. Sometimes they are trivial little card games you can play in five minutes, and sometimes they are complicated German-style board games that take an hour or more to play. Sometimes they are puzzle games on the PC, and sometimes they are online worlds. I just enjoy making games, so I imagine I'll keep doing it."

Allen Varney designed the PARANOIA paper-and-dice roleplaying game (2004 edition) and has contributed to computer games from Sony Online, Origin, Interplay, and Looking Glass.

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