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9:19am on Wednesday, 18th July, 2007:

Famous Last Words


So, yesterday I received a bunch of questions by email from The Guardian for their games blog. There were 10 questions in all, although some were multiple and I split them up into pieces. The last one was: "If you could take over control of one major MMORPG - which would you choose and what would you do with it?".

OK, so it was basically a throwaway question at the end of a lengthy interview, but hey, it was asked, and given that there is zero (0) chance of my actually getting control over a major MMORPG I could have answered: "I'd cure disease, eliminate war and give all the world's children a teddy bear". I decided, though, that in the spirit of the interview I should perhaps keep my answer on topic. The problem is, I wouldn't actually want to take control of anyone else's MMORPG anyway, major or minor — I'm a designer, I want to design worlds, not tinker with the designs of other people. I considered repeating my view that a virtual world should give players an honourable end, to allow them to feel they've "won" (maybe print off a 3D model of their character as a token/boon), but that would have entailed a long, boring diversion explaining why I thought this.

The question used the word "major". So, what major virtual worlds are there? Well, there's WoW, and ... er ... some in Korea? Whereas 5 years ago we had several major virtual worlds (UO, EQ, AC, DAOC, AO, ...), now they're all minor compared to WoW. WoW has done a fantastic job of engaging with players, giving them a great experience, and educating them in the ways of virtual worlds. If it weren't for WoW, ... Hmm. Actually, now WoW has done all that, if it were to disappear overnight then it would be a huge boost to the rest of the industry. OK, so there's my easy answer: if I were given control of a major MMORPG of my choice, I'd choose WoW and I'd close it down. It wouldn't take long before the majority of its players found the same new place to nest, but enough would stick in the smaller, up-coming worlds to give them a chance to shine, too.

Yes, doing this would be guaranteed to make 8.5m people very upset, so it would be stupid actually to do it, but it's not as if I'm ever going to be given control of WoW...

The headline of the blog was: "I'd close World of Warcraft!" MUD creator Richard Bartle on the state of virtual worlds.

Oh great. People who read the actual quote will see where I'm coming from, and indeed have done so — there's some intelligent discussion of the point over at Broken Toys, for example. However, I have that awful feeling of doom that comes with the knowledge that that some individuals will only read the headline, infer that I actually want to close down WoW, and start sticking pins in their Bartle voodoo dolls as a result.

I wonder if the fact I worked up 3 level 70s in WoW myself will save me?

Referenced by Rather Too Broken.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).