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Reader Comments (54)

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:25PM Dalano said

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Stephenson's essay is brilliant, and tying it to the MMO scene is only slightly less so. Kudos.

I don't think you take it far enough, however. Stephenson also calls on SF writers to stop poking around in dystopias and get back to inspiring scientists with grand ideas. The same call could be made to indie game developers, writers, and designers who are wallowing in the doldrums of the post-WoW MMO culture. *Something* needs to shake up the status quo, and SWTOR or even GW2 aren't it.

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:27PM SunnyRavencourt said

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That doesn't look like the challenger explosion. What explosion is that?

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:38PM Jef Reahard said

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@SunnyRavencourt

It was an unmanned Indian rocket of some sort, I forget the name of it.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:38PM (Unverified) said

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@SunnyRavencourt

That's an Indian rocket that exploded on takeoff.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-video/8225049/Indian-rocket-explodes-after-take-off.html
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:35PM Crovak said

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Very interesting article Jef, thank you. And this quote right here really bugs the hell out of me:

"There is no such thing as 'long run' in industries driven by the next quarterly report."

Very true that this is a stifling factor for new innovation in games, and other industries as your article points out. *shrugs* Sad thing is you can hardly find fault with investors on this one. But the all powerful subservience to the almighty profit will be our undoing as a people I fear.

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:37PM SunnyRavencourt said

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Well, the difficulty is that we've discovered that the hill on our side of the valley is pretty big, and there might not be a bigger hill on the other side of the innovation valley. I think a few billion dollars sounds pretty good to the new breed of MMO. And can we really imagine an innovative game doing better than that financially (and yes, that is all that matters for those footing the bill.)

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:45PM Saker said

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"There is no such thing as 'long run' in industries driven by the next quarterly report. The possibility of some innovation making money is just that -- a mere possibility that will not have time to materialize before the subpoenas from minority shareholder lawsuits begin to roll in," Stephenson writes."

Well written! Laissez-faire-style capitalism at it's worst. And don't forget "companies are people"!

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 5:45PM Space Cobra said

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Here is my thought on this matter:

1) All industries are stagnant. That goes for movies, MMOs, games, and various others. Basically we are in a period of the Italian Rennaissance, where there are artists that *want* to push the envelope, but the Rich Merchants and Lords who buy their works of Arts hold a subtle sway over what they can make by virtue of their patronage and money.

This is similar to today's situation, but you replace those Venice Merchants with various banks, Venture Capitalists, Chief Financial Officers, and Stock Holders (and those overlooking stocks).

New example "A" : Marvel just announced layoffs, although it is *making* money, thanks to its comics and movies. It's not anything to do with Disney, but a new boss/CEO who wants to "cut corners", even though many feel Marvel is profitable as-is.

It's been like this for a few years. Big Banks don't want to loan on un-proven business ideas and they want assurances and "hand-holding" that they'll get their money back with a tidy profit (more than they pay US peons if we have Savings Accounts), meanwhile, they take risks (bad investments) and then roll-over and cry that they are "suffering" and not making the money they used to, all the while, raising fees to keep their (false and lying) bottom line the same, even in troubled times.

People want safe bets. Hard to take risks, especially in these enviroments.

2) Good news is, it's not impossible. Gaming and entertainment find new ways and actually, there are several outlets (that have yet to be corrupted, but could be in a year or 3). YouTube brings out more productions from independents without a big start-up capital, and for MMOs, Mobile gaming is a way for businesses to release things for less start-up costs.

This is why Beau points to Mobile; while they might need better and "deeper" games, it is a way to make games and fund even more games that could be "deeper". It really is the "new Wild West" and Devs see and realize this so that's why many are going toward browsers and mobile gaming. It's less oversight from "the man" (or big banks). Lower cost of entry.

Look, it's easy to say. "I want a big triple A game," but that requires ALOT of money and only certain studios have that kind of cash on-hand to give out regularly, in the meantime, you have to put up with their opinions and "back-seat driving". Staying independent is a tough, yet liberating experience. But even then, "innovation" is different in "the eye of the bbeholder": One man's view of it is different from another. Totally artistic and off-the-wall games and concepts may not be accepted wholesale by the masses. But, there is always a "cult following" if a game is good. The thing is, big studios don't want cult followings", they want constant and big profits.

The little studios and independents, they are the masters of much of their own destiny and design.

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 7:32PM Jef Reahard said

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@Space Cobra

You make some good points, and I admit to overlooking the mobile segment for personal/subjective reasons. My idea of gaming has always involved some sort of big screen, so there may well be some noteworthy innovation going on in that scene that's worthy of a mention whenever this discussion comes up.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 9:13PM Celtar said

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@Space Cobra
Great additional points SC to Jef's very well written article.

I'm just finishing up "REAMDE" right now, on the last couple hundred pages
and as per norm I don't want the Stephenson book to end.

Thank you Jef for the link as well to Neal's article. Honestly I don't have anything to add to what you and SC have stated.



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Posted: Oct 26th 2011 12:38PM StClair said

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@Space Cobra
Good point about AAA vs. mobile and indie. It's almost impossible for a massive dino (and all the investment that must go into it) to be as agile as a shrew.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 6:04PM Resurge said

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Bottom Line: We're all getting "Reamde'd" .....





aw c'mon, thats funny....

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 6:33PM Utakata said

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I know you mentioned GW2, Jef...but my question to you is: Do you think the likes of GW2 and Wildstar are moving away from that stagnent direction (presuming they're successful)?

I am also not sure about the issue of "polish," because ulitmately no matter how innovated the MMO product is, it should have some high standard quality when released. Thus you'll be left with the problem of having an innovated turd otherwise; which can be in many ways just as worse if not more so than a polished turd. Just saying.

Posted: Oct 25th 2011 7:26PM Jef Reahard said

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@Utakata

I think GW2 is attempting some new things, and I can't wait to see how it pans out. Wildstar doesn't strike me as particularly noteworthy or different at this point, but honestly I haven't done much reading on it as of yet.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 8:38PM Irem said

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@Utakata
I'm hoping that ArcheAge turns out to be both good and successful, because if it has substance to match its looks, it might be the thing to bridge the gap between AAA production values and sandbox gameplay.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 9:33PM Celtar said

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@Irem

I'm keeping an eye on both GW2 and Archeage, though Archeage really is potentially more in line with some of what I am searching for, I have a low opinion of some of these game developers from over seas anymore.

GW2 has some people I really like working for them and though I have some concerns about some parts of game play, other parts I like the feel of. So it is a mixed bag for me in regards to them.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 11:37PM Utakata said

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@Jef Reahard, Irem & Celtar

...thanks for sharing that everyone. I hope GW2 comes through too, along with this ArcheAge (which I should be paying more attention to). I need something to really fix my WoW withdrawls...without reminding me it's trying to be WoW. :)
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Posted: Oct 26th 2011 12:40PM StClair said

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@Utakata
As someone who's actually looking forward to WildStar, I have to admit I don't think it will be so much revolutionary as evolutionary. Thing is, I'm fine with that. I'm interested in the setting and the small-i innovations it promises.
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Posted: Oct 25th 2011 6:45PM Angn said

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"Developers and developer apologists like to say that current-gen MMOs are in fact innovative but that the innovation comes in the form of small refinements to the existing formula."

When you frame your article on the premise that objective and demonstrable incremental improvements are not innovation, I question the worth of commenting on an intellectually dishonest article.

If you're going to pine for innovation, and then disqualify work that makes a real, practical difference, however minor in your consideration, the least you could do is tell us what your idea of innovation is, lest we suspect you're bankrupt of real ideas and merely parroting a technologist with too much time on his hands.

The assertion that it's not innovation unless it's mindblowing is an indefensible position dependent on personal whims and subjective non-standards.

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