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Now orc free

November 14th, 2002 · No Comments · Uncategorized

One problem with the existing raft of massively multiplayer games is the high geek factor. As Steve Johnson wrote in a recent Slate piece, it seems you can’t get away from the orcs (excepting maybe fan-boy science fiction.)

With the Sims Online, there will finally be a game that isn’t about killing stuff to get experience points. Maxis is not targeting the geek gamer who scoffs at namby-pamby open-goal games like the Sims series, but the same masses who have made the Sims the huge hit it is. People who generally don’t play computer games haved played the Sims. Maxis is betting a lot of those people have Internet connections and are looking to graduate out of the chat rooms and into a massively multiplayer game.

It’s a good bet. They are going to have a big success on their hands.

Steve Johnson observes this about the Sims Online:

The test of the Sims’ reality principle will be whether the final version lets a little menace into the mix. If the game is going to satisfy our craving for multiplayer realism, you should be able to carjack your fellow Sims, not just make pizza with them.

I’m sure Steve Johnson is way smarter than me, but I think he might be too much of a geek, because he’s missing the point. The Sims Online isn’t about reality at all. It’s trying to make a social space that is better than reality.

There’s been other game environments that have experimented with social Darwinism, and in the end it turned out even geek players didn’t want that much strife. Trust me, you do not need to explicitly engineer player conflict mechanisms into the game design. Players are smart, they’ll find plenty of ways to engage in conflict. And very little of it will be enjoyable, except for those few wack jobs who enjoy making other people miserable.

Just because a massively multiplayer game attempts to minimize conflict between players doesn’t mean there aren’t avenues of competition between players seeking competition. But there’s a lot of people who don’t even want to compete in the first place.

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