Quote of the Day – Worlds and Race Tracks

You can’t live on a race track. Races tracks are for racing. You go around a few times and quit.  Why subscribe to that?

Edward Castronova, The Decline of Worlds

Ever the virtual world visionary, Professor Castronova, in the post linked above, takes a quick look at how he feels being a “world” might affect which revenue models people are willing to accept, with Star Wars: The Old Republic and EVE Online trotted out as examples.

I think this ties into another quote from him:

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

That probably works both with the subscription model as well as the in-game economy.  And it certainly applies to elf, Minmatar, and Twi’lek alike.

Do you think that the “worldliness” of an MMO impacts what revenue model will work for it?

Does this play into the “three monther” issue?

10 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – Worlds and Race Tracks

  1. SynCaine

    I don’t think it’s rocket science, yet the industry makes it seem like it is.

    If you have X months of content (because your content is dev-driven), you will get X months of subs minus the suck factor.

    When X is not dev-driven, and your suck factor is acceptable to the target audience (size depends on disillusion of grandeur), you have a sub-based MMO.

    How is it that the devs behind UO got this, yet 15 years later people still release something like SW:TOR…


  2. bhagouss

    What we tend to disagree about is what constitutes a “world”. To me an MMO world is primarily the geography plus the NPC culture. Get that right and I will “live” there indefinitely. “Activiities” are less relevant (although not irrelevant). Generally if the set is sufficiently well-dressed I’m happy to write my own script.

    The tropes of “sandbox” MMOs don’t really add (or take away) anything much. Economies, pvp, land-ownership, politics etc etc are just another kind of background to the stories I tell myself about my characters. I don;t see them as fundementally different, better or worse than, quests, stories, events, raids, whatever. I can tell myself stories about pretty much anything, although I do like to tell those stories along with a few others, and hear their stories wind around mine, which is why only MMOs and online worlds work for me and I get little from offline worlds no matter how brilliantly constructed.

    In other words, a world is something you make for yourself and with others, not something you’re handed, and if you have the imagination you can make a world out of just about anything, as almost any child knows.


  3. NoAstronomer

    I think that there is a lot of truth to Castronova’s post, though I disagree with some of it. If I can finish off this system doc before 6 maybe I’ll comment over there.


    I think that the concept of ‘content’ as a metric is a distracting factor for both game developers and players alike. You can certainly measure it but does it have relevance? How many months worth of ‘content’ does EVE have? Or is the problem more that if a game developer brags about how much ‘content’ they have then all they’re doing is saying how long their race track is?


  4. Asmiroth

    I pay for carrots on sticks. When I get that carrot, I need to have another one. EvE’s ability to put huge time spans between carrots is no different than Farmville’s. The quality of those carrots, the drive that says “this was good, I want more” is the difference.

    A world, an effective, like the real one we live in, is made of carrots. Otherwise, what’s the point?


  5. HarbingerZero

    Mr. Castronova will be surprised to learn that the virtual world I’ve spent the most subscription money on so far is World of Tanks. But then, I suppose my brain has always been wired a little differently.

    Outside of that, in general, I agree. The more interesting the world, the long I will linger there.


  6. Coppertopper

    WoT has infinite content in that player interaction means infinite possibilities in that little scrap of map. Plus there is a good feeling of progression from game to game. I imagine LoL players feel the same as you (and have probably spent even more money). There really is a big lack of an open world MMORPG PvE game that offers the same feeling that keeps drawing you back for hrs on end of non-repetitive or grindy feeling fun of Counterstrike or LoL or WoT. GW2 is close though, a many would argue eve is it.


  7. Jenks

    First of all yes a thousand times, I’ve been ranting about the disappearance of worlds in MMOs for a LONG time, though never as well as Mr. Castronova.

    You’ve shaken loose a new thought for me. I sort of agree and yet I don’t. These carrots, there are differences. In a game like Farmville, there are unlimited carrots. You pay money or spend time, and you will get a carrot. Recent MMOs, with all their instancing, are like this. Everyone can be finishing the same quest, or killing Arthas, or whatever. Everyone can be getting their carrot.

    Old MMOs were not designed this way. There are finite carrots entering the world at any period of time. Everquest is a perfect example: people harp on the time it took to camp an item. You may spend 6 hours camping lguk for an SMR. Sure, it is widely recognized that is a pain in the ass, and that carrot was hard to obtain. But that isn’t what separates it from the above. Lguk wasn’t an instance. For those 6 hours, no one else got an SMR. That carrot really was special.

    The difference is obvious, when you think back to seeing someone with a smr, or rubicite armor, or a fiery avenger, etc. Carrots like that simply do not exist in today’s MMO design, where the philosophy is that every user needs to see every bit of content and have access to everything.


  8. HarbingerZero


    I didn’t remember him saying anything about progression or possibilities in the article. He spoke only of “downtime” and “exploration” – WoT and LoL give you none of those. And yet, as I said, I agree with him in general. I think WoT/LoL are MMO’s but not MMORPG’s – and that is the distinction that allows for them to be successful. In terms of MMORPG’s – yes, I agree that EVE fits the bill, and GW2 has a great start on the paradigm as well – though, like Rift, it lacks in the “downtime” department.


  9. sean

    curious to see the reaction this one article gets: Castronova uses it do argues who MMOs are dying (are they? but anyway…); it makes Lum so cranky he actually makes a post on Broken Toys… Coincidentally, on the same day Ben Kuchera posts a long, impassioned screed about how broken and corrupt ‘games journalism’ is.

    Who is correct? I suspect it depends largely on whether the opinion-piece meets (eg: Syncaine) or doesn’t meet your own personal opinions. I’ve some sympathy for Castronova’s position; but Lum makes an important point that an article of this low quality is not usually seen on Gamasutra. That leaves me saying ‘yeah, but..’, which admittedly I seem to do most of the time anyway.

    One final point, in response to HarbingerZero: the whole point and benefit of the Dimension system in Rift is that it provides the ‘downtime’ that Rift is otherwise largely missing. What then does it say about the following post here on TAGN, that was critical of Dimensions largely *because* they provide unwanted downtime to the author? :P


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