I am what I would call a jack of all trades. It has been my distinct pleasure to have been born with an inquisitive, capable mind. I can learn anything, and I can learn it fast. I'm what most people call analytical. I however, am human, and quite prone to mistakes and flaws. One of these flaws is the short-sightedness of mortality and the limited perspective of a being that can live a short time, and be only one place at each instant.
I have been contemplating video game design these past few months, and have come to a realization that I cannot help but feel is a massive departure from my past way of thought.
Foomer was the first to show me that massively multiplayer online gameplay was perhaps best left undone. I thought he was a fool, at first. But now, I see that my thoughts in the past were made at the height of my ignorance.
Will Wright, the designer of Spore, and founder of Maxis, may have failed miserably to create a truly groundbreaking, unique digital simulation, but he did succeed in opening the door to further development. He had all the resources to make Spore a multiplayer game, but decided it was better to limit players' interactions to mere content-sharing.
Why? Why in the age of the internet make a game that hardly includes other players in your own experience?
I first present to you Will Wright's own idea. First and foremost, in a single player game, you are free to shape the world as you see fit, and you can play the hero without fear of another player ruining your enjoyment, or you ruining theirs.
There is a lot of thought put in this simple analysis. In an online game, players must either compete or cooperate, but often times, at least, in the spirit of the internet, we find competition to be much more common than cooperation.
Why is this? I won't get too deep into my theories of human behavior, but I believe it lies deep in our psyche. I believe it has to do with our instinct of placing anything or anyone intangible, or out of our own perspective in a category other than ours. We are not immersed in the game fully, no matter how immersive it is, and as such, never truly associate ourselves with our other online counterparts. We tend to associate them with anonymity, and thus tend to distrust them.
Really, there are far more practical and logical reasons to avoid online game development. Online games are very limited as compared to single player games.
In online games, lots of data has to be streamed to multiple clients, and the more players the more this data increases, and the more resources you have to dedicate to just informing the clients of the world around them. This limits the flexibility of this world severely, and makes for a generally more streamlined, simplistic game.
With a single player game, much more detail and layering can be added to graphics, gameplay, and environment.
However, the experience can be quite lonely for players who crave companionship.
Perhaps the real answer is to limit the online experience to just a few players. Perhaps four to eight players on any given player-server would be best for both parties.
Then again, game design isn't about entertaining everyone, it's about entertaining yourself, and hopefully finding a niche that is also quite entertained with your work.