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Raph Koster on Fire 41

This week's Escapist has a in-depth article talking with Raph Koster. Author Allen Varney and Mr. Koster go over his best-selling book, the Ultima Online days, the debacle that is Star Wars Galaxies, and what he's planning to do next. From the article: "I'll make an exception for the NGE. I don't think you can or should change a game that radically out from under a user base. You dance with the ones that brung ya, whether they are the market of your dreams or not. They have invested their passion and built expectations about where they want the game to go. Changing things out from under them isn't fair in my mind, especially given how they have been loyal to you in times of trouble. It's like dumping the girlfriend who has always been patient and loving to chase after the supermodel who probably won't love you back."
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Raph Koster on Fire

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  • I had thought that Koster was pro-NGE initially, and was one of the guys cited whenever there was static over it.
  • "Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."

    That's odd. A link to a story about a man set on fire, and there is nothing to see? I know, it's off topic, but the graphic imagery instilled by the summary title, with the nothing to see body... it's just ironic.

    -Rick
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @11:58AM (#15785252)
    Disappointment is seeing the phrase "Raph Koster on Fire", and not even seeing a black-and-white screenshot [wikipedia.org].
  • Whose next?

    I'll take egotistical game developers for $600 Alex
  • Kosner Sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JavaLord ( 680960 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#15785342) Journal
    This isn't a flamebait either. This guy has a huge ego, and for what? Because he was in on Ultima Online? The funny part is, most people who look back fondly on ultima online do so because of the all-out PK'ing that went on. Kosner went out of his way to discourage it. Then, we can talk about Star Wars Galaxies...was that not a complete and total failure? The star wars franchise is much more appealing than the world of warcraft one, yet WoW managed to sell copies to people who weren't even interested in Warcraft lore (myself included).

    He can write about " A Theory of Fun for Game Design." all he wants, he still doesn't 'get it'. What people want is world of warcraft from levels 1-59 and early WoW/UO PKing. The funny part is, you don't have to spend a zillion dollars making new content every 3 months if the players become the actual content and you give them meaningful ways to effect the world and each other. (ie, real pvp objectives).
    • Re:Kosner Sucks. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CadetUmfer ( 858057 )
      Koster created virtual worlds with UO and SWG that are unlike anything that exists today--particularly the completely directed experience that is WoW 1-59.

      Not to mention he's one of the few developers trying to let players "become the actual content" and "effect the world."

      I could play all of WoW and never interact with anyone outside of my guild. Koster's worlds throw everyone together, force dependency, and say "you figure it out." I'd take that over the "shared single player" of WoW any day.
      • Re:Kosner Sucks. (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What the grandparent _should_ have said is 'What _MOST_ people want is world of warcraft from levels 1-59 and early WoW/UO PKing.'

        You, my friend. are in the minority. Koster's changes KILLED UO. Then he ruined SWG. I'm not saying he isn't smart or he doesn't know online gaming. He just doesn't have a good marketing sense. Don't take my word for it, though. Just look at the number of subcribers to those games before and after his 'direction.'

        • What's wrong with being in a minority? Niche is the future for these games--no one can really afford to compete at WoW's level. Case in point: Eve.
        • Considering that Koster was one of the original developers for both games and left later on, how have his changes affected the game?

          I don't know UO's history, but Raph Koster left SWG's team less than a year after launch, before the dreaded CU and NGE updates.
      • SWG is/was bad. Koster doesn't really have a clue what's going on the MMO space. He may grasp how to handle a MUD/MOO/whatever text-based system, but those are at least 2 or 3 magnitudes smaller than what an MMO ideally handles. Many would argue that UO didn't take off until after Koster left.

        If you want players becoming actual content and affecting the world, play EvE. 0.0 space is completely controlled by players. CCP did a better job at that then Koster did with SWG.
      • Re:Kosner Sucks. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JavaLord ( 680960 )
        Koster created virtual worlds with UO and SWG that are unlike anything that exists today--particularly the completely directed experience that is WoW 1-59.

        WoW 1-59 is totally 'directed'? Really? It seemed pretty open ended to me, you can get experence from doing almost anything. You want to quest? There are billions of them. Some are as simple as "go kill 10 of whatever" while others are long questlines. You can get experence from pvp'ing within battlegrounds. You can get experence from simply gr
        • Re:Kosner Sucks. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by snuf23 ( 182335 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @03:23PM (#15786653)
          "WoW 1-59 is totally 'directed'? Really? It seemed pretty open ended to me, you can get experence from doing almost anything. You want to quest? There are billions of them."

          Yes you can choose which NPC to talk to get a scripted quest (well actually even there the quest has to be in your level range). Or you can grind. Or you can use the basic gathering/crafting system.

          The point is that this is not representative of "emergent gameplay". The concept where you put together an environment that is complex enough for players to discover the interactions without having to go to NPC Bob and get a "kill 10 goblins because they are bad" quest. It is players iventing how to play the game within the construct of the gaming world rules. WoW doesn't really lend it to this type of behavior because it is a very structured game.
          One example of "emergent gameplay" was the player casinos in the early days of WoW. Boy that got shut down quick due to scams. Now you do see other examples of this especially since a lot of players have been playing so long that they are bored of the main game. We used to have naked Gnome alt boxing tournaments or race your level 1 alt across Azeroth contests.
          I'm not trying to bash WoW, I honestly don't think open ended gameplay is better than structured games - I think it's certainly easier to provide a better gaming experience if there is structure. Of course this isn't always the case, I enjoyed just messing around in the GTA world for example, but found the missions boring.

        • Re:Kosner Sucks. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by aafiske ( 243836 )
          "WoW 1-59 is totally 'directed'? Really? It seemed pretty open ended to me, you can get experence from doing almost anything. You want to quest? There are billions of them. Some are as simple as "go kill 10 of whatever" while others are long questlines. You can get experence from pvp'ing within battlegrounds. You can get experence from simply grinding. You can level any of a number of professions."

          I dunno, one of my friends tried to advance the idea that WoW was open-ended and you could do what you wanted,
        • "Yet he believes that he should be cracking down on behavior he doesn't like, rather than allowing freedom which is what most people want in a virtual world."

          Yes, because not being able to the enemy race for fear that little kid's might get offended is such a world changing freedom brought to us by WoW. In UO I had many enemies, and most were born out of arguments, revenge, petty things like that but at least there was some sense of reason. In WoW you make enemies based on which one of two buttons you cli
      • So would I.... in concept.

        Unfortuanetly until he can put it together in a game that is playable, all this will ever be is a good idea. I'll take WoW over SWG any day of the week and twice on Sundays simply because the game is more complete, more polished and more playable. There are no totally broken and useless classes (droid engineers? carbineer? wha?), there is actual content, and things just seem to work. Doing anything in SWG was a chore cause of the unfinished state of the game. The bugs were

      • Not to mention he's one of the few developers trying to let players "become the actual content" and "effect the world."

        The reason he wants players to create their own content is because everything he touches turns into a steaming pile of crap. The player based economy in SWG was pretty decent, but the PVP part (which is what he wanted most of the content to be) just sucked incredibly.

        Hiring Koster for SWG was a really bad move fromt he beginning. Promoting him to head creative guy was one of their worst d
    • Yeah, Kosner sucks. I mean that ridiculous movie where he hangs out with wolves. Then the once were he swims like a dolphin and the world is totally flooded. Damn that was stupid.
      I'll NEVER forgive him for Robin Hood though - especially because of that Bryan Adams song.
    • The funny part is, most people who look back fondly on ultima online do so because of the all-out PK'ing that went on.

      By your lack of reading and spelling skill and by this quote, I'm guessing you were one of those PK'ers.

      No, my generalizing friend, most people do not remember the rampant PK'ing fondly. Did you read the article? Did you see in black and white "most players moved to Trammel."

      I had numerous friends who started UO and quit shortly after due to the PK problem. I tried to get my wife inter

  • by zolaar ( 764683 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @12:17PM (#15785367)
    It's like dumping the girlfriend who has always been patient and loving to chase after the supermodel who probably won't love you back.
    Umm, yeah, about that.. You're going to need to use an analogy that we here at slashdot can relate to, chief.
    • It's like dumping the girlfriend who has always been patient and loving to chase after the supermodel who probably won't love you back.

      Umm, yeah, about that.. You're going to need to use an analogy that we here at slashdot can relate to, chief.

      Yeah ! Where's our car analogy ?

  • Whatever (Score:2, Insightful)

    You would need to TRY to fail in making a Star Wars MMORPG fail.

    Yes, I was suckered into it. The combat in the game was useless - you could solo anything in the game. The crafting system was the best I've ever seen in a game, but with the combat flaws and high rate of durability loss it didn't matter. The "Entertainer" professions were a joke.

    There wasn't interesting quests. There wasn't unique enemies that required special tactics. It was one of the most poorly designed games of our generation.
    • fail or fail not, there is no try.
    • Re:Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SB5 ( 165464 ) <freebirdpat&hotmail,com> on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @01:19PM (#15785837)
      Note: Raph Koster wasn't really involved with SWG from October 2003 on. Essentially after release, he wasn't really part of the team that screwed SWG up.

      Plenty of things went wrong with SWG. Such as, released too early, in beta there are a ton of things you can change, that you can't change after release, take combat for example. The other thing is lots of game systems were rushed or cut, just to meet the release deadline(release deadlines don't work for MMOs, you are making a game that should be used for years onwards by at least a hundred thousand users). The skill system was not the ideal one that Raph had in mind, he said the first guy that worked on the skill system left the company the second guy had no idea how to do it, and by then Raph said he would do it the way he wanted, but they ran out of time, so they it the way it was, "the onion" skill system. The way it was supposed to be, was like you take up some scout skills, and some marksmen skills, and soundly, you have a title of sniper, and with that gain some minor abilities. And the way this system worked, is players may take branches that didn't give them any title, but the devs could always add that later on quite easily, they may see players take dancing and hand to hand fighting, and they could add a special title there for those that did that, with some minor abilities and stats added.

      http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/07/19/community-bui lding/#comments [raphkoster.com] is an article where he talks about such things and responds to comments.

      And just a note, what he did, was made a game people love. Its been well over 9 months since the NGE, and people are still calling out for the "pre-CU" game of SWG on the SWG forums, and other forums themselves. To me, that screams that they had a loyal community and SOE abandoned them on the roadside.

      The only time I remember being able to solo anything was during the buffs and comp armor debacle. One of the darkest times in SWG, essentially you needed buffs just to put on comp armor, and buffs were so strong, you could solo almost any MOB in the game and never die because you regened health too fast. Although the recent CU and NGE, I heard you could solo a ton then too even though buffs were essentially removed. This is not what SWG was meant to be, but this is the direction it was pulled into,

      AI in almost all MMOs are notoriously weak, and some did require special tactics, those tactics mostly being, the MOB had high resists to some types of damage, so you had to use other types of damage to actually damage him. As a rifleman I was limited in my damage types, but when I did damage I really could pound it out.

      He was also responsible for Pre-Trammel UO, and I still hear people talk about that game. So yes this man deserves an article.
      • I loved the things that were hard but allowed me to create value to other players.

        I loved being able to craft tools, and then learn how to market them face to face by traveling from one hospital to the next telling the docs how better crafting tools [atombender.de] would help them craft more effective medicines.

        From there I moved to harvesting top quality materials and creating large quantities of powerups. I came up with a naming schema which allowed the customer to immediately see and select the powerups they wanted, an
    • YOU ruined SWG. Not Raplh Koster. You soloed everything as the anti-social being you are. He merely made it possible. He is a person who believes in personal liberty. One of those idiots who believes that if you let people to their own devices they will do the right thing. Yeah right.

      In reality, and UO/SWG and the net in general prove this every day, people can barely be forced to not be complete assholes at gunpoint. People just ain't nice unless there is someone standing behind them with a very big stick

  • Anybody else read this and thing "Blood Elf Paladins?"
    • Tbh, no. Blood Elf paladins may be a lazy balancing effort, an unfortunate pandering to whining, or just something Blizzard actually thought would be a good idea. They are not a thorough betrayal/reversing of the game that everyone's been playing all along. I don't even particularly like WoW anymore, but suggesting the expansion will make the game totally different is ridiculous.
      • ...Blizzard actually thought...

        I could swear you were posting in English...those words make sense as English, one at a time... but strung together like that, they're incomprehensible.

  • Content: Richard Pryor
  • Why this article? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrCopilot ( 871878 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2006 @02:25PM (#15786313) Homepage Journal
    Who cares? Put him out.

    Out of all the articles that get linked here from the escapist, I never see the good ones. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/55/20 [escapistmagazine.com] Titled :The Short, Happy Life of Infocom by Lara Crigger

    News for nerds indeed. Actually most of the articles in this issue are better, 20Million Sims Online Failure, CyberSex

    Thanks for the text editions http://www.escapistmagazine.com/print/55/18 [escapistmagazine.com] Sims

  • I think I suffer from the same delusion that Raph does. I believe that people are basically good in nature and only turn to evil when the situation warrants it. I've debated this issue with friends and online for years. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to lose my faith in the human race and change my own mind. MMO's have been good social experiments to support the counter: people are basically evil in nature and only good when they expend the effort.

    Granted that MMO's are a subset of society in general: those

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