The difference between games and toys
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 February 2014, 3:12 am
Syl is writing about an admin mode in EQN Landmark: "It is also safe to say that without a creative mode (meaning flying and unlimited resources without gathering), many of these wonderful servers simply wouldn’t exist. It’s not realistic for an individual player or just a small group to manage the sheer volume of growing, harvesting and gathering required. And that’s not considering the time spent on planning and coordination. More importantly, it would be considerably less fun and less motivating an endeavor for the more productively inclined." I find that discussion interesting, because for me the difference between admin mode and not admin mode is the difference between a toy and a game.

Lego is a toy. Given enough Lego bricks, you can build whatever you want within the limits of the physics of blocks and your imagination. Make those blocks virtual, and the limits change, but the result remains a toy: There is no real goal, no gameplay. It is a great expression of creativity, just like you can express your creativity with writing, painting, or composing. But it doesn't have the structured play which is the definition of a game.

But if you add gathering, suddenly a game emerges. Playing now has a structure, of planning what you want to build, gathering the necessary materials, and executing the building. Where Syl complains about the "sheer volume of growing, harvesting and gathering required" and the "planning and coordination", I see a great cooperative multi-player game in the making. To me it makes total sense if a single player could build a house, but it would require a guild to build a city or large castle. And we could have materials that are safe to gather, while others would be dangerous to gather, at the bottom of monster-infested mines. Then you get emergent gameplay between the gatherers/crafters and the adventurers protecting them and receiving gear for that.

In admin mode, Landmark would not only be not a game, there would also be no reason to run it in multi-player. Lego doesn't make for good multi-player, the different creative visions tend to come into conflict. But if there is a big gathering effort required for making a castle, not only does it make sense for the gathering to be done by multiple players. You also get a strong social interaction, as the group will have to work out how to make compromises with the artistic vision of each participant. Again we can add more gameplay features to that: Minecraft and related games usually have monster attacks at night, so your castle does not only have an aesthetic function but also a practical one.

SOE could always sell "Landmark - The single-player toy" as a separate product, with admin mode as standard, for people who just want to build without limits. But I think for Everquest Next with Landmark, as massively multi-player online games, gathering is absolutely required.
Tobold's Blog

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