Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Theory: The Orc Wars

We had a good session of M&M last night and afterwards James, Joel, Aaron and I stuck around and talked about game design for about two hours.

It's interesting to talk with people who AREN'T designers about what they like and why... finding out how many people still love the tick-tack nature of dungeons crawls and killing orcs.

I'm always amazed that games like World of Warcraft don't satisfy this ADVANCEMENT craving that exists in gamers and that stories and game style haven't evolved beyond "rescue the princess" or "kill the orcs."

When people talk about the "demise" of gaming, I always point to this as one of the causes. Gaming didn't grow up with the consumers. It didn't mature or evolve. The process of "counting" in gaming can be done so much faster in WoW or Everquest or Diablo or whatever you're playing, that tabletop gaming needs to emulate something else other than round after round of sword swings in order to resolve a mere fight with an orc.

The stories aren't more evolved than a Kevin Sorbo movie. The published material is more ego-centric than ever. And the small-minded nature of gameplay is getting smaller.

Before someone gets offended by that last statement, let me explain.

If someone released an RPG where you were a KING of a country, the majority of players would (within hours of playing) begin abusing their power and eventually want to get off the throne and kill something.

This sort of game probably wouldn't sell well if it were about ACTUALLY rulership.

However--this is just an estimate--90% of books publishing under the 3.0 and 3.5 dynasties were targeted at PLAYERS and not GMS, indicating a shift in marketing and publishing to garner more money from the consumer (make more books about the PCs and you can sell 3-5 times as many books).

And this shift leads to an more egocentric role where the books are written about NEW CLASSES and NEW FEATS which benefit players and less source material and world information which benefit the story.

I don't think I'm talking about anything new here.

But I think when you hear people talking about the industry "dying" you have to take that with a grain of salt... weigh that against an industry that hasn't grown up at all and that expects a game to sell, simply because they put it on a shelf somewhere.