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Friday, January 19, 2007

Koster Talks Web 2.0 MMO

The fact is that Web 2.0 is increasingly encroaching on entertainment's turf. It tends to be shallower, less immersive entertainment than the big budget productions that the traditional publishers create, but it's still entertainment. There's now a massive and rapidly expanding ecology of games and game developers that bypass the mainstream industry altogether, and a lot of those folks are approaching it from the web side: stuff like Club Penguin, Gaia Online, Habbo Hotel, and so on, aren't the sort of thing that would ever be made only within the game industry.
-- Raph Koster talks Areae

Having worked in web developed since ... well, since about the web ... I've been wary of the whole Web 2.0 concept. That it is one part marketing to try and sell niche web services is honestly undeniable. However, it's also provided the web with some useful new ideas and some interesting new frameworks.

Personally, though, I think with the launch of Twitter, Web 2.0 has officially upgraded to Web 2.crazy. I don't believe that most people either need to know what all their friends are doing at a given instant nor do I think anyone needs to spend the time updating information so that all their friends who do not need to know could know. I'm a smartass - this is what my twitter will always be. The notion that social networking is the secret potion to better essentially any venture and that as long as you are sharing information into a group - it's viable - I find dubious at best.

It's not that I don't believe in the net's power to help organize and socialize people - I do. One still has to stay true to the core of their design, however. In e-commerce, for instance, I'm not convinced shifting that core to a social network would have any real benefit. User reviews are, as an example, a very mixed bag. When I go to NewEgg or BoardGameGeek ... I know I'm getting reviews from hardcore users of the material. When I go to Amazon, I'm quite possibly reading the mad rantings of a drunken fratboy coming down from a serious rave high. One useful, one not so much.

So when game developers start to grab for that secret potion, I get skeptical. For one thing, gaming is already very socially networked. Game forums are about as lively as television forums. When I admin'd a Counter-Strike server - all the admins essentialy did double duty as forum moderators as well. When people weren't playing, they were often online chatting or posting.

I don't mean this post to be a straight up "Koster is crazy". Let's not forget the flickr is the product of game design. Plus, considering I'm developing a roguelike with an emphasis on user content and content sharing ... I think that would be a tad hypocritical. Much to the contrary, I'm very interested in what he has in mind. I'm just always suspicious when Web 2.0 is the focus on the discussion and not the product itself. However, his blog post on what 2.0 has to teach games seems pretty right on.

I guess in the end I'll just know if I can be excited when I hear more about the actual game "later this year".

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