Game Development Reference
Interview with Ryan Cleven: Social Platforms—cont'd
A: Because it requires such a massive personal investment. First, there is
the $60 initial investment and then a $15 monthly subscription, then a
many-gigabyte client download. It then requires countless hours of your
day just to be in the same strata as the person you want to play with. If
you have been playing for three or four months, and you are level 80, and I
just joined, sure, you can go create a character that is parallel to mine, but
it's not at all the same experience. Because the relationship we are using is
just the personal relationship; the virality has not augmented that in any
way. The game you actually care about is not overlapping with mine at all
because our level of experience with the game is so different. The tight rela-
tionship we have outside the game doesn't impact the play unless one of
us concedes to start again. This isn't scalable. As you add people through
virality, you have to keep starting over. Conversely, Wo W is great at mak-
ing new friends. People develop new out-of-game relationships through the
play in Wo W due to the exact reason virality is challenging for it.
So there is a relationship between the depth of personal investment in
play and how well virality works. If you put in virality, make sure that the
play puts players on similar and comparable strata so they can actually
develop relationships based on the play with each other. Otherwise, the
virality is not adding anything to the play. Virality typically requires shal-
low play, meaning that two players, regardless of how long they have been
playing, have similar play experiences. That is unless you target a certain
market that already has experience with the play style you're aiming for.
Wo W is trying to solve some of the barrier to entry by providing “free
below a level” or “free for a time,” which definitely helps. But the 3D
world, with 3D navigation, with extremely challenging controls will
never be a numbers match to the gathering play of Facebook games, at
least when it comes to virality for a very broad audience.
Q: So, would chess be a game that could have an inherently low level of
virality because the difference in player skill can be so great?
A: Right. The difference in player skill would mean that real, meaning-
ful virality would be almost impossible. Sure, you can invite a friend and
have a nice time together, but the chess part isn't going to help you have a
nice time together. You'll invite me, I'll come in, you'll lay the smackdown,
and I'll lose. You can consciously choose to adjust your play style to match
mine. If you play at your level and I play at mine, I'll be at such a serious
disadvantage that I'll be forced to seek people who are not you in order to
learn enough that I can come back and even be a part of your chess world.