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Will Wright on Spore and MMORPGs E-mail
Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Will Wright, the mind behind games like Sim City and The Sims, was recently interviewed by Popular Science.
In this long and extremely interesting interview he gives more info about his upcoming project Spore , but also express his thoughts about World of Warcraft, Second Life, his own The Sims Online and MMORPGs in general.


Here are some answers that we found particularly interesting:

One of the oddball things about Spore, when you look at it, it's sort of a single-player massively multiplayer game, which seems at odds… I kind of like the idea that I won't be killed by a 14-year-old who has more skills than I do, but did you consider having it live online player versus player?
We thought about it. In fact, technically, based on all the stuff we've already done for it, it wouldn't be very hard at all. We've already solved all the hard problems we would need to do a persistent online world version of Spore. The hard part is, what happens when you come to a planet and the planet's offline? Which would be the case. In fact, one of the reasons why I kind of went down this path is that nobody has really explored the hybrid model. And this really is a hybrid, it's what we call a massively single-player game, where we try to get the benefits of an online game, which is all the people building the world collectively together, without the liabilities, which is that the 14-year-old can kill you or that you've invested all this time in your planet and somebody comes along and blows it up, and therefore you had to put everybody on the same level treadmill. And I hate these level treadmill games, and I wanted the players to feel really empowered. You know, you have this whole universe and this UFO and you really want to go out there and do epic things, but in an online game you couldn't. So trying to get the best of both worlds, figuring out what the sweet spot is between the features available through a shared universe experience and then the power available to a single-player experience. The intersection of those two things is kind of where Spore ended up and why it ended up there.

 

Speaking of which… Sims Online seemed like a slam dunk, got huge press, it was going to change the nature of gaming. And it still exists, but it wasn't the raging success people were expecting.
I think that's actually the reason, because with The Sims, I think people love controlling this experience, and creating everything, and playing out these stories, and having the ultimate power to shape the experience and environment to whatever they want to. In an online game you can't even pause the game, or speed it up – you can't control time at all, because everybody has to be on the same time sync. So I think the empowering part of The Sims is one of the reasons it was so successful, the fact that I could be creative with how the experience unfolded, but the limitations of an online game meant that you really couldn't have any power over other players, or much control over the environment itself or even over the timeline. So those two things felt like they were really in opposition to me. Plus the majority of our players of The Sims, sort of our mainstay, are teenage girls for the most part. And these were also players who never played any other game. So the prospect of getting them to actually subscribe to a game for $10 a month was a very difficult business proposition to these people, who a lot of them don't even have credit cards. I mean I'm a hardcore gamer and I don't subscribe to any online games, and getting a casual player to do the same, it's totally different.

I find I don't subscribe to World of Warcraft – I appreciate what they did, but I have maybe a half hour to play, an hour to play, on my own schedule. I can't join a guild and make commitments – I have enough trouble keeping commitments to my own family.

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