Friday, December 29, 2006

Escapist article on 'Boutique MMORPG'

Allen Varney over at the Escapist just posted an interesting follow up article to my Lessons from Touring Band essay. He provides some solid number and lots of wonderful examples of village games. You can read it here.

A hundred petri dishes
I'm impressed that Allen tracked down so many great examples. One thing that I noted was the fragmented nature of the market. This market is nothing like the mainstream world (aka WoW land) where you have a unified gamer press all discussing the same game. Every month that passes, I end up hearing about new titles that had existed for years, but for some reason I had never heard about. This delights me and give me great hope.

Market consolidation generally leads to the emergence of standardized product offerings. Niche games targeted at niche audiences are like a hundred petri dishes, each brewing their own particular gameplay potion.

Such companies may not create the over the top productions that you find in AAA titles, but they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that new mechanics, new social systems and new business models work. Think of village game companies as a vast network of diligent prototypers. These working examples do far more to get big, risk averse money flowing (albeit slowly) towards new ventures than the most well reasoned pitch docs.

The reward? Many of the folks running these boutique shops do quite well. That also delights me.

Village games learn the lesson of casual games
The ease of use is also starting to improve as we see the 'pick up and play' philosophies of casual games applied to the traditionally dense MMORPG genre. I stopped by the Sherwood Forest game and was presented with a single link. Instead of jumping to the website that explained how I might, if I wanted, think about talking about trying the game, I was dumped immediately into the game world. Boom, I give a name, pick an avatar and I'm off slaying monsters.

I'd love to see this 30 second rule applied to more games. I should be playing and enjoying the game within 30 seconds of hitting the link. No fiddling with controls, waiting on loading or download screens. Portable games do it. Flash games do it. So should online games.

take care


  1. Danc,

    (I didn't want to do this as a public comment, but I couldn't find an email link for you anywhere.)

    I'm the creator of Sherwood Dungeon. A friend just sent me the link to your blog entry. I just wanted to say thanks. I appreciate the kind words. Here's a link to my developer diary if your looking for a bit of history on the game:

  2. As I tried to say in a (belated) comment on your Touring Bands essay, thanks for the plug for my Escapist article. I don't see my comment posted there -- possibly some Blogger messup? -- so I'll mention again that I posted a companion blog entry on The Escapist Lounge, "Your Own MMOG?" It discusses the business and coding priorities for making a low-budget MMOG.

  3. Dan,

    The 30 second rule is a good one, I wish more games did it. I loved the opening to Indy Jones and the Fate of Atlantis for that (if you remember that one).

    I wish Gameboy/DS titles were better at this. I would think that being an "on-the-go" device that they'd want the games to start quick so you can get games in when you can ...

  4. Both of these are great an inspirational articles that I constantly share with my friends, I think it gives a lot of indie developers some hope and encouragement.

  5. Hi

    We here at Edge forum ( are planning on making our own development games project. So far, we are presently in the early phases as we are presently recruiting (on a volunteer basis) for programmers, artists and other eminent positions that enable us to work towards a goal of making an indie game. In case you would like to know, the thread which prompted such an action is and I hope we can get as many talented developers as possible.

    Thank you for reading this. I hope that we can glean a genuine respone from people who are just as passionate about games as we are.



  6. Hi,

    A couple more indie MMOG links.

    Earth Eternal

    Rise & Ruin

  7. Hi.

    I couldn't agree more on blending casual game elements with "village games".

    In fact that's something my company is aiming at doing right now :)

    I would've sent you an email with additional info / questions but I couldn't find an email address.

    If you're interested you can contact me through my corporate site:

  8. hello

    i read your article on DIY touring bands with interest and was wondering if you would be willing to contribute towards my forthcoming e-zine/website. please do get in touch at


  9. I wish Gameboy/DS titles were better at this. I would think that being an "on-the-go" device that they'd want the games to start quick so you can get games in when you can ...

  10. Great article, thanks!