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Multiplayer Games and Mobile Communities GDCmobile: March 5, 2003 Dan Scherlis © 2003 Dan Scherlis Agenda Why massively multiplayer? Publishers & carriers 3 myths about MMOGs Challenges to MMOGs Business. Technical. Creative Learning from PC MMOGs

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multiplayer games and mobile communities

Multiplayer Games and Mobile Communities

GDCmobile: March 5, 2003Dan Scherlis

© 2003 Dan Scherlis

  • Why massively multiplayer?
  • Publishers & carriers
    • 3 myths about MMOGs
  • Challenges to MMOGs
    • Business. Technical. Creative
  • Learning from PC MMOGs
  • First steps: sample games
why massively multiplayer
Why Massively Multiplayer?

Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs)

  • Profitable
    • Players pay for these
  • Differentiated
    • Most downloadables: commodity games
  • Sticky
    • Much play/month. Many months/player.
learning from wired games
Learning From Wired Games

On the Internet:

  • “Basic” games lose money
    • Classic-arcade & puzzle games.
    • “Ad-supported.” Simple play.
  • “Premium” online games make money
    • Deeper play. More-involved development.
    • People pay-to-play these games.

These “premium games” are MMOGs

3 myths about mmogs
3 Myths about MMOGs

Myth 1. “MMOGs require broadband”

  • Don’t need hi bandwidth nor low latency
  • Must design for the network you have

Myth 2. “MMOGs are a niche medium”

  • This generation are core FRPGs
  • The next generation will be bolder

Myth 3. “Server costs are prohibitive”

  • No, but their development costs can be!
  • Server (and bandwidth) is low-risk, COGS
mobile operators a better fit
Mobile Operators: A Better Fit?

Unlike game publishers, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) …

  • Understand community
    • They know: they connect people
  • Do not fear servers & services
    • Understand the economics & operations
  • Prefer subscriptions to one-time sales
    • Optimize ARPU, not units
mobile mmogs challenges
Mobile MMOGs: Challenges

What problems must we address to deploy mobile MMOGs?

First, a review:The base elements of game creation (Wireless changes every element)

holistic content strategy
“Holistic Content Strategy”

When one of these elements is changed, you must adapt the others to fit:

  • Business model

(Consumer-revenue model & B2B deals)

  • Technology

(Device, network, or infrastructure)

  • Creative vision

(Game design & concept)

business model under rated
Business Model: Under-Rated?


  • Disappointing WAP-game biz results

(Was lack of rev-sharing sufficient?)

  • 1995: Big changes in PC-MMOG designs

(Online from hourly-pay, to monthly)

  • “TV shows” are not “movies”

(Bus-model alone can define a medium)

Bus-model drives design: Reward MO-SMS? Sub’n? Connect time? Downloads? Views?

all aspects of tech drive design
All Aspects of Tech Drive Design
  • Every aspect will shape design concept:
    • CPU, graphics, display, input, audio-out, network bandwidth & latency …
    • [Example: fighting-game type vs latency]
  • Example: fast J2ME device + slow net
    • Fast tactical play locally, dealing with effects of player/player strategic moves
    • Compatible types: 4X games (Risk, Empire)
    • Graphical landscape as a metaphor …
latency bandwidth
Latency & Bandwidth
  • [Chart & examples of fighting-game types at different latency levels.]
what to learn from pc mmogs
What To Learn from PC MMOGs

Essential aspects of MMOGs:

  • Persistence of character, of story
  • Investment by player in character
  • Social experience (community-based)
  • Gameplay-focus:What does the user do?
more about social aspects
More About Social Aspects
  • MMOG players come for gameplay, but stay for each other.
    • Sizzle (attraction): Brand, graphics, etc
    • Steak (substance): Gameplay
    • Chocolate (addiction): Social experience
  • Two-player games, tournaments, eventsare not community
  • IM, chat, nicknames, boards, matchingare not community (they’re features)
to create community
To Create Community
  • In-game interaction must be rich
    • Rock/paper/scissors is too ‘bot-like
  • Game design must foster interaction
    • Reward collaboration
    • Provide complementary roles
    • Balance excitement with slack time
  • Social contact must be supported
    • Not easy for mobile (and console) MMOG
social contact what works
Social Contact: What Works?

Perhaps the greatest challenge to MMOGs

  • Keyboard: None
  • Keypad: G1? hrd 2 use.
    • But Americans have a uniquely bad ‘tude
  • Voice: sure, but “multimodality” is rare
  • Canned or iconographic msgs: Limited
  • Out-of-game (voice,SMS): Challenging
pc mmogs what works
PC MMOGs: What Works…
  • Essential elements:
    • Persistence. Investment. Social. Gameplay.
  • Important aspects of MMOGs:
    • Ability to affect the world
    • Chance encounters with others
    • Multiple & overlapping social structures
    • Clear display of player status
    • Player control over player/player risk
pc mmogs what not to learn
PC-MMOGs: What Not To Learn
  • Bad habits of classic role-playing games:
    • Up-front character design
    • Fussing with “experience points”
    • Open-ended play with unclear objectives
    • Rewards for length play time
  • Difficult gameplay. Challenging to learn
  • Settings associated with core gamers

Beyond core gamers… to normal folk

example games
Example Games
  • [Screenshots & discussion of example mobile games, showing different aspects of social, persistent, community-based gameplay.]

Columns from Mobile Entertainment Analyst:

  • Culture Clash(Issues in telecom/games convergence)
  • Le Jeu, C’est Les Autres(Looking for community-based mobile games)

See for sample issue.