World Theory


devil: worlds as web

What can you learn about virtual world design from the web-sphere? Game design guru Raph Koster sees a lot of connections. Of which some hit closer to home than others. I look at the others... and take the liberty of playing the Devil's Advocate. Feel free to put me in place. Just remember that this Devil has a pitchfork. You have been warned.

From the slides:

The value of the software is proportional to the scale and dynamism of the data it helps to manage.

Hardly! This is 100% contextual and depends on the particularities of the application. Does this even translate to a game or virtual worlds? Are bigger more convoluted games, better? I am sure players and researchers of GO! have a different opinion on the matter. Are bigger and more complex worlds better? Not for a roleplayer it isn't. What happend to the aesthetics of minimalism? When did maximalism become a goal?

The fail fast, fail often method: Users must be treated as co-developers.

Hardly! By exposing the evolution of the system to the playerbase a small segment get the upper hand. From an immersiveness perspective you want the underlying engine to be completely invisible. Bugs and evolution expose the details. You want players to live in a world, not in an engine. Unfortunately, current worlds are too shallow to benefit from this, but that is no excuse! We want the perfect world, after all.

Release early, release often

No, no, no, no, nooo! Release often if you want the user-base to be forum-whiners craving changes to the world rather than experience the world as is. Virtual worlds aren't TV, they are self-contained universes to be explored as is, not a series of soap episodes.

Small pieces, loosely joined: lightweight programming [...] Loose couplings (e.g. XML and HTTP, not SOAP, not custom protocols) [...]

Oh dear! Let's create a massive bandwidth and space problem, right from the start! Anything that is stitched together with a mess of verbose protocols is going to be costly to develop and maintain. XML and HTTP? Hello, welcome to the stone-age! We want compressed binary dedicated protocols designed with a particular world model in mind. Anything less is throwing bandwidth out of the the window in favor of sloppy performance.

Above the level of a single device. Meaning, make no platform assumptions.

Rrrriiight! Let's create the entire game with SMS in mind and then scale it up to a full-blown Playstation 3 world. You cannot design without making assumptions. The more assumptions you can make, the more freedom you get to make something great.

The service automatically gets better the more people use it.

I absolutely loved to see my favourite community being ruined by a swarm of snot-nosed eros-ridden teengers. Not not not! Few people, tends to mean higher identification with the system and better socialization. Call me a snob, if you wish. What's wrong with designing for snobs?

I guess that's enough whining for today. Go read all the slides, not just this tiny selection, it's worth it. Learn from the web if you must, just don't translate it into virtual worlds. Please?

(Disclaimer: I don't have audio hooked up so the above is entirely based on the slides. Which probably sound different than they read. Feel free to flame me over it. I am the Devils Advocate, after all.)