Wednesday, January 12, 2005

If I had just one Wish

For those who follow the gaming industry or the virtual world industry, you've probably heard that Mutable Realms has cancelled the Wish project.

Even though there have been quite a few virtual world projects that have failed in the last year, I was still surprised by Wish. Why? Because it actually made it to Beta (Beta 2, in fact). The other projects that I heard about (and, because of their demise, I have forgotten with the exception of Ultima Online 2) did not even make it that far.

The reasons for Wish's failure aren't clear. Some speculate that it's financing, while others believe that the Wish system just wasn't able to perform as Mutable Realms had hoped -- they called themselves the first ULTRA MMORPG, purporting to support (or be able to support) 10,000 simultaneous users in a single world (without "cheating" with zones, facets, etc.)

I don't know why other projects failed, either, but they were earlier in the lifecycle. Perhaps those others realized earlier that today's hardware couldn't do what they need it to? Perhaps their investors finally realized how expensive it would be? Or perhaps their game just wasn't turning out fun or appealing?

Of these reasons, only the first bothers me. I have no financing for my own engine, except for my own free time, so unless that gets cut off (which it very well could, I suppose), I'm good for "investment". The "fun" or "playability" reason doesn't really apply to me either, for the primary purpose of MMORF is not to make a game (though that's a great secondary purpose), but to make a game engine. This is why the first reason concerns me.

Did Wish fail because they couldn't support 10,000 players as they wanted? Was it because they didn't have the talent, or that hardware can't keep up? Was it their design that was flawed, or could no one do it?

While I haven't set any goals, benchmarks or targets for MMORF yet, I'm sure there will be some reasonable expectation about performance that I'll want to meet. Knowing that Wish has been cancelled, and guessing that it might be because of a lack of performance (Viagra jokes aside), I worry that I might design or code myself into a similar situation, which is of course what I don't want.

Could it have been the playability that sank Wish? I had wanted to be in the Beta (especially because they had specifically targetted Ultima Online players), but I didn't make it in. While my goal isn't to create a game, specifically, my goal is to allow others to make a game on top of my system, which means that the game has to be able to allow the game designer(s) to do everything they need to make the game appealing. This means that any decision I make that might be seen as a "restriction" is something that I'll have to give careful thought to, so as not to make an engine that is lacking.

The other theory I've heard about Wish's demise (and a reason that has been cited for other failed worlds) is "the competition". Specifically for Wish, it has been said that World of Warcraft (WoW) is what made Wish not come true. Apparently the sales of WoW are staggering, and that might have led to investors to bail out of Wish. Or, perhaps the gameplay of WoW was above what Wish had, and thus there was no point in releasing a game that was already "obsolete" in terms of playability, features, and design?

Again, this doesn't concern me that much, because I'm not looking to compete with WoW, or UO, or anyone else. This is for me. However, one thing that will always been on my mind is "can MMORF do this like UO/WoW/EQ does?" Not whether any game built on top of MMORF will do these things, but whether MMORF can support a game that does.

Basically, I want it to be possible for you to write UO on top of MMORF, to write WoW on top of MMORF. Granted, I don't have any experience with most of the "surviving" MMORPGs, so I'll have to learn there, too -- read fansite or strategy sites to know how each game works, what it allows, and to be always asking myself if MMORF could do that too.

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