There is something deeply humbling about looking up from a book about people dealing with an impending doomsday and using a slip of paper smaller than a folded napkin that contains a brief history of my working life as a bookmark. Of course, I’m writing this while tired with a whole day of classes stretching out in front of me, so I doubt I’ll be particularly coherent from here on out, but I’ll try.
Recently I got the chance to listen to Chris Martenson’s Crash Course on the American economy and where we stand overall. Of course I haven’t done further research to verify, so I’m not willing to call it gospel, but the underlying prediction isn’t so different from what I’ve been thinking for years. Quite simply, what’s coming is not going to be as big as what came before… and that means bad things if the underlying presumption of the business is constant growth. Which means especially bad things for corporations, since growth, read profit, is essential to sustain a corporation of any size. They need profit the same way a fish needs water or a person needs air, and unless we start rethinking what we get and how… well it’s not going to work out too well.
This effects my thinking on the industry and current business models a great deal. Right now I rather feel we need to focus on two areas, making the content creation process cheaper and more accessible, and increasing the artistic quality of our works such that they can stand on their own as great works. Frankly, I don’t think I’m entirely alone in those priorities, though I may be more unique in my reasoning.
Spore was a good, if gamey, step towards the first section. Lots of tools for the creation of content and sharing of said content, but unfortunately a bit… strict on the rule sets governing that content for my tastes. I’m trying to have high hopes for MetaPlace, but I find my hope to be somewhat thin on the ground these days. Who knows, maybe I should have been an avid Second Life player/activist, but I find it significantly hard to form any amount of excitement over SL.
The second has been a much touchier issue lately, at least in the MMO space. Single player games have been doing better on some fronts, we’re seeing some serious play with physics and world environments along side some very focused story telling.
I want to get the controversy out of the way early here. As many of you already know, I was quite firmly on the WAR too close to WoW side of that debate, more recently a Blue commented on everything they plan on taking from WAR. I’m pretty derisive of it, but contrary to at least one commenter’s opinion I’m not some shit stupid cynic who bitched without any thought for the sole purpose of bitching. What it all comes back to is homogeneity, that is my great problem with the current MMO sphere. We have a few budding sub genres, but so far it’s a battle between dungeon crawlers and sandboxes, of course I’m sure if you compared the sub base between WoW, WAR, LOTRO, AoC, EQ1/2, DaoC, AC1/2, AO, Neocron and TR, with that of EVE, SW:G, Ryzom, MystO, and Second Life the concept of a battle begins to seem patently absurd. You can talk yourself blue about there being no great innovations in RTSes, but the simple fact is they exist and evolve alongside FPSes, RPGs, 4x, Racing, Sports, and a number of other genres. MMOs on the other hand tend to patently ignore the best features of single player games, meaning either the they simply aren’t evolving alongside or they can’t evolve alongside. This begins to paint a rather grim picture as we find ourselves in a state of stagnation where the surrounding genres have failed to evolve in the parallel state needed to retain evolution in the primary genre. From this perspective, WoW stealing things that do set WAR apart rather than focusing their development dollars on the aspects of gameplay that make them unique is just another step towards homogenization in a dangerously homogenized market.
But the question in my mind is how many magna opera do my generation have left in us? Have we really hit the kinds of peaks that can grant us the respect to last through at least of a century of cultural starvation? If I honestly felt we had a century or two to perfect the art I’m not sure I’d be so vocal about it, at least to the offline people who have to listen to me. Problem is, I’m not sure we have forty years; it’s certainly probable the industry will last that long, but inevitable… hardly. So have we built games that will still inspire people even after centuries… actually, better put, if worse came to worse, would future generations of game designers achieve greatness because of us, or in spite of us?
I guess meanwhile, I’ll keep working on the business theory I never actually outlined in this post. Keep working with what I’ve got towards where I thought I was going. All though, I am curious if anyone heard that initial 500k number for WAR and immediately thought, “that’s it?”