“Don’t make them walk,” was the advice given to an audience of developers at the Online Game Development Conference, where Mike Goslin, vice president at Disney Online’s Virtual Reality Studio was delivering a talk on building massively multiplayer online games for the mass market.
Goslin, a veteran of Toontown Online, is currently focused on development of Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and MMO based on the popular films. His talk cited examples from the game, and, in this case, making players walk across vast spaces. Certainly there are objections to such teleportation. “Yeah, sure, you’re deconstructing your world. Who cares?”
People are in the virtual world, Goslin said, to have fun. “This is a paradox, because your business people are telling you ‘you’ve got to keep people playing. The walking takes up time, and time is money.’”
Goslin believes this is a trap that developers fall into. “Let the really hardcore people go through your game faster than you’re comfortable with,” he advised, saying that while some players will do so, others are interested in playing with friends and family. Pirates of the Caribbean Online
, he noted, will also have a player matching service.
Say you’re looking for a game of Tortuga Hold-Em, and you’re a medium level skilled. The game will match you – across servers, and, Goslin said, you can “teleport from your ship out at sea, directly into that game."
“We’ve totally broken down the rules of the world to get people into the fun really quickly,” he explained. “[If] your band of pirates is attacking the town… you just go right there.”
There’s no reason to prevent that, believes Goslin, “other than trying to convince people that you’re a real world and that you’re very serious. I think that’s a mistake.”
When people are having fun, they’ll end up spending time in your game. Their time will be spent doing “stuff they want to do, not frustrated and walking around.”
Goslin further believes that, in online games, creativity is under-served. “It’s really compelling to be able to go out there and role play,” he said. For a mass market game, with a focus on a youth market, however, this raises an issue. Mom wants kids to have fun, “but her primary concern is safety.” Kids want to explore themselves and experiment sociably with low risk.
This raises issues that Disney addresses during the development process. Once that’s accomplished, Goslin thinks “you can make the community extend beyond the game.”
Only ten percent of players are online at any time, he says. “If you’re playing any of our games, the ‘friends lists’ works across games.” Another step Disney will be implementing is reaching people on their phones, with the example of a text message with your pirate fort is being attacked. But the lesson is: “Let people stay connected.”
When appealing to that mass audience, there is a diverse level of commitment. Goslin also had a few points on how to reach them. Disney’s experience has yielded success by using non-network television to advertise their worlds. “You’ve got to think about TV – I know that’s expensive,” he said.