Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Third, creating the features necessary to a social network is hard work,
requiring hundreds of man-years of engineering and user interface design; this
probably isn't the core competency of most game development teams, and those
are resources that could potentially be better used making the core game better.
Do you really need to invent your own chat systems, mail systems, and so on?
Finally, when a user decides to quit World of Warcraft , or any other game
with a self-contained social system not part of a larger social network, they
are simply gone from the system. With games that exist inside a true exter-
nal social network, the user returns to the host system even though they've
tired of the particular game; it's much easier to lure them back into the orig-
inal game or into another of your similarly situated products. When I quit
a Facebook game, I still come back to Facebook, because that's where my
friends are. What they play next, I'll probably play next, and that shared
space helps retention and reacquisition numbers greatly.
However, spending five minutes in the “General Channel” of any MMO
like World of Warcraft or on the online forums of any major retail game
should make it clear that a social ecosystem can exist outside the context of
the game itself … if the game is big enough. Like tailgaters outside a big foot-
ball game, people show up just to participate in the social forum, and the
time they spend at the event only tangentially relates to “playing” the game. If
your game is popular enough, and you invest enough energy in social feature
design, it can become a social network of its own.
2.4 Just Being Multiplayer Doesn't Make You Social
Other games of the time, like Dan Bunten's classic Modem Wars , offered far more
engaging interactions between users—direct synchronous gameplay between
two humans—in what would end up being a precursor to modern RTS (real-time
strategy) games like Command and Conquer or StarCraft . However, for our pur-
poses here, Modem Wars was not a truly social game. Certainly, it was far more
interactive than solitaire, but the connection to another human was brief, and
what little connection there was neither offered nor relied upon a social “net-
work.” (You had to know each other's phone numbers and direct dial in, let your
modems “handshake,” then play the game—while praying that line noise or your
mom picking up a phone in another room didn't kill the connection and thus
the game.) There was no concept of a larger, socially networked structure driving
players to try out the game. (You had to learn about the game from an existing
friend, read about it in a magazine, or learn about it from a user group, then go
buy a copy at a retailer like Babbage's.) There was also no element of stickiness;
each game was self-contained and was over when you lost the connection or one
player won. There were no leaderboards, no achievements, or anything else to
keep a player coming back the next hour or the next day (except whatever fun
there was in playing the game itself). This example illustrates an important point:
just being a head-to-head or multiplayer game doesn't make something a “social”
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