89: The Future of Massively Multiplayer Isn't You

"Mike Goslin is Vice President of the Walt Disney Internet Group's Virtual Reality Studio. He was one of the principals on Toontown Online and is presently focused on Pirates of the Caribbean Online, which is approaching launch. Both of these MMOGs target non-traditional audience segments, children and teens respectively. He's clearly a believer. 'I agree with the premise. The only thing that I would add is that we can [either] wait for the audience for games to diversify and have this audience begin to demand more diverse games, or we can create more diverse games and accelerate the process.'"

The Future of Massively Multiplayer Isn't You

The Escapist Staff:
[quote]Goslin thinks "the big difference between casual and hardcore gamers is the amount of time they are willing to invest. To attract the former, you have to get them engaged faster, because their time is limited. Once they're playing, however, the game needs to be challenging, deep and fun, if you want them to continue. If you succeed in creating a game that's challenging, deep and fun for a casual player, it will likely also be fun for a hardcore gamer."

While this is in part a simple question of terminology, this statement is still fundamentally incorrect. The primary difference between hardcore and casual gamers is their willingness (and desire) to fully explore all the options a game provides. It is also a question of skill and experience.

Time is not a factor, in my mind, when determining the difference between a hardcore and casual gamer; hardcore gamers may be more willing to dedicate a lot of time to a game in general, but casual gamers can spend a ton of time playing games, and hardcore gamers can spend little.

For example, I am a hardcore min/max style gamer. I almost never spend more than 10 hours a week playing any given MMO these days, but the time I do spend is carefully approached and maximized for efficiency.

On the flip side, while I was a Community Relations Manager on EverQuest II, I met a number of gamers I would consider casual, in that they spend most of their time in the game hanging out and slowly advancing, but they played the game 4+ hours a day. They never maximized efficiency, watching TV while playing or wandering in and out of the room in which they played, casually chatting with friends, looking around, etc.

I understand part of this can be that what I view as a hardcore player has different goals than a casual player (character advancement being one of them), but I look at a casual player as being someone who simply doesn't put forth a great deal of effort while they are playing a game as compared to a hardcore player (whether their motives are character advancement, monetary gain, socialization, or otherwise).

I don't know... I consider myself a hardcore gamer, but I'm casual about the games I play. My family jokes about me having three or four different games up at once on a computer, and doing something else (reading or a game boy usually), all at the same time. I don't min/max my charecters, though I do get into role playing and the community while I'm into a game. And I don't usually play a game for more than a month or two at a time, before taking a break, and coming back later.

By either the standards of Ryan or the article, I am a casual gamer. And yet, I am the person who promises, repeatedly, to make "the most awesome game ever": a promise I have every intention of keeping. Perhaps I am "just" a hardcore game designer, rather than a hardcore gamer: except that most of the game concepts I've designed I treat like any other game: I go at them for a while, then move on, and come back some months (or years) later.

However, I really don't want to get into a debate about what defines a hardcore gamer. I want to discuss the idea that MMOGs, as we know them, will never hit the mainstream. Aihoshi suggests that the monthly subscription fee keeps many people away (including me): perhaps this suggests the popularity of Puzzle Pirates (2 million, speaking english and german) or Maple Story (50 million worldwide), as opposed to Everquest (430K english speakers) or WoW (6 million worldwide).

I think Ryan, you are defining a "Power Gamer" which is not the same as a "Hardcore Gamer". My friends are definately more hardcore, in my opinion, but they have a strong focus on developing a character in terms of background, social relations, etc. They are "Hardcore Role Players".

I, on the other hand, spend less time in the games that I play but I spend almost all of it leveling up. My play style of choice is "power gaming", but I have trouble considering myself a "hardcore gamer". I feel that my style reflects what I like to do in the game, not necessarily how devoted to it I am.

I agree, though, that the statement is an over-simplification. We can't boil down the forumla into time played = level of hardcore.

As far as what Zac is saying at the end there: I agree and disagree. I think video games have to be accepted into the minds of the average person before we can say what will work and what won't. I see an issue with getting poeple that don't play games in general to understand paying monthly. I have no trouble relating to friends that play games but don't do MMOs.

However, I'd like to see monthly fees removed. I don't see the current methods as practical in any way, though. Being able to purchase in game items bothers me quite a bit, and I certainly don't want ads all over the place. I can't imagine walking into a an Inn in WoW only to find that the name of the establishment has changed to "Starbucks" or anything else that will force my mind out of the fantasy and further away from immersion.

You can count me as someone who doesn't "get" the future of MMOGs. If the whole point of them is socializing online, then I'll either A) use instant messaging, or B) have better luck hopping into a random IRC channel on a random server. Second Life is too free for the style of roleplaying I'd want to do online, and I have no problems expressing my restless creativity in my first life, so things modeled after that are a no-go.

I "get" the present of MMOGs, I'm just not satisfied with them.

Side note: when I think "hardcore gamer," I think a person with discriminating taste in video games, regardless of how that taste is expressed through actual play, or whether it's any good. A game connoisseur. Doesn't matter how often they play, how much of the game they consume, or whether they're doing something else at the time: if they know enough about games and their production (by which I mean theory, not trivia) to perceive and appreciate a game's subtleties, and make meaningful (if not strictly insightful) criticism, then as far as I'm concerned they're a hardcore gamer.

MMOs aren't only a way to socialize, they are a way to socialize within a video game. It is more acceptable to play a different role, live out a fantasy life, within an MMO. Some people what to prentend to be trolls or orcs or whatever. I can't imagine AIM as being a good platform for that. Also, not long ago there was a piece about MMO cross-dressing which ended up bring forth some interesting ideas surrounding ethics in MMO RPing.

It took me a while to get on the MMO bandwagon myself, but now that I'm on it its hard to get off of it. Single player games are fun but they aren't the same; they feel like they are missing something.


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