ARG: MMOs for poor designers

In the summer of 1990, I played my first game of Dungeons & Dragons with a group of kids that lived in my neighborhood. I’ve played it on and off since then, along with other table-top RPGs. When I switched into digital RPGs something was lost. I never knew how to describe it until I began to study game design in college. The multiplayer aspect, the emergent story line and game play, the group dynamics. All of this was gone when I switched over to the world of digital RPGs. Not to say that digital RPGs aren’t fun in their own right, they just don’t have this aspect.

Then in the summer of 2000, 10 years after starting down to becoming a full fledged RPG nerd, one of my old D&D buddies introduced me to EverQuest. Here was a digital RPG with multiplayer aspects and group dynamics. I was addicted. For the next seven months I explored the world. I finally lost interest after I discovered the repetitive nature of the MMO genre. While I never got to end game content, I felt I had explored enough to get a firm grasp on how the game worked. Many MMOs followed in it’s wake: Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes/Villains, EverQuest 2 and the one I’m still currently playing, World of Warcraft. I’ve stayed with WoW longer than any of the other MMOs because I know more people in game than in any of the other MMOs I’ve played. That group dynamic and multiplayer aspect has me hooked.

Six months ago I was introduced to ARGs after being killed by Brenda. Brenda claims that you are “dead to her” if you fail to know something important in the game industry, and I had never heard of an ARG. The mechanics and dynamics behind ARGs intrigue me greatly. The ability for designers to break the “circle” and enter into the real world, instead of just existing inside of the virtual, is one of the keys of ARG mechanics. After a quick read of John W. Gosney’s Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming, I decided that I wanted to make an ARG for my Studio 2 Project. Many different factors lead to this decision: the amount of time we have to create the projects (10 weeks), the type of content that needs to be created and the “newness” of the ARG genre.

One of the biggest factors in wanting to make an ARG is my interest in MMO design.ย  Unfortunately for me, Raph Koster’s Metaplace (which I mistakenly originally associated him with being a part of Multiverse. Sorry Mr. Koster!) is still in closed Alpha and I don’t have the resources to be able to create my own architecture for an MMO. An ARG will allow me to explore some of the mechanics that MMOs offer over traditional digital RPGs without having to setup all of the server and client framework. The ARG will let me create multiuser experiences without the overhead of creating all the technology.

While I can’t wait for Koster’s Metaplace to go public, so that I can create one of the many MMO ideas that I have, the ARG project that I am lead on grants me the ability to explore some of the mechanics thatย  I lost when I switched into digital RPGs.


9 Responses to ARG: MMOs for poor designers

  1. Raph says:

    My project is actually Metaplace. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. jeffmcnab says:

    I was wondering why I couldn’t find your name associated with Multiverse on their website. Must be why.

    :: tries to fix the gun wound in his foot now ::

  3. bbrathwaite says:

    Talk about dead to me… Multiverse? Dude… ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. ai864 says:

    Wow, Raph himself pops into a student blog just to correct you? That’s got to be one of the most horrifying things, ever.

    Like, you could make a survival-horror game based on the concept.

  5. jeffmcnab says:

    ESRB rating would be AO due to psychological damage. Of course, it would never make it through the major distribution channels and would be labeled as an Indie title. Legal issues would be brought against me for making a game that caused a large decline in game designers due to the trauma of just having to go through the virtual experience.

  6. bbrathwaite says:

    I hope you’ll be posting soon on Will Wright’s lasting Mario legacy.

  7. Raph says:

    Heh, it’s all thanks to the power of vanity searches. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Brian Shurtleff says:

    Oh man, these comments just completely brightened my day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    That said, some ARG related ramblings:
    running SCAD’s improv club as I do, I was passed along a request that a soon-to-be company in Savannah needs improv actors.
    I haven’t done improv anything like professionally in a long time, so I honestly don’t know why I checked it out, but I’m glad I did.

    The company’s service appears to be sort of tour experience meets ARG.
    Customers get a tour of Savannah, only done through an ARG-like format with a narrative and puzzle solving, etc.
    I’m intrigued, so I’m going to look more into it.
    Might be a fun little job on the side.

  9. […] creating an ARG for my senior studio class. You can read about why I wanted to do an ARG in my post here. (Be sure to check out my major faux pas in the comments section.) One of the issues that our team […]

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