What defines a successful world?

Obviously, there is the commercial definition: one that pays for its own development in a reasonable amount of time and costs less to operate than it takes in as revenue. I’ll ignore WoW here, but many of the older commercial worlds are commercial successes; even if they are not blockbusters. The trend in AAA worlds is that the development costs have skyrocketed so high that they are generally doomed to failure in the economic sense.

But what about hobbyists’ worlds? What defines a success there? When is a world successful?

Thoughts?

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About Dave

I’m a 38 year old American who has lived the past 9 years in Germany and India.
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6 Responses to What defines a successful world?

  1. D^t says:

    A successful world is one that is immersive enough to be believable. I think that’s why Middle Earth was so instrumental, it was fully a realized past, present and future where the cause of few changed the outcome of many.

    The real question I think worth asking is, in video games what makes a world immersive enough to be believable? I think the answer to that is the right mix of choice, consequence and achievement, but finding that right mix while staying believable is truly what separates the men from the boys.

  2. Edward says:

    I’d say it depends on the type of world. Commercial worlds are easy, as you said; they’re successful if they’re profitable. Virtual worlds are becoming more popular for education, training, and research; these are pretty much straight simulations, and could be considered successful if they’re realistic and people learn from them.

    Hardcore roleplay worlds need to foster immersion and roleplay. They don’t need to make a profit, but they do need to be financially self-sustaining (even if they depend on fundraising drives to make up shortfalls — whatever works is fine). They need to be open to player input but avoid letting their basic purpose (hardcore roleplay) be changed. And they need to be constantly improving; they will never be finished, because the degree of realism required for immersion will constantly increase. What was immersive five years ago is not immersive today, because our expectations advance along with technology.

    Having a clear mission statement is probably crucial for any world.

    • Dave says:

      >What was immersive five years ago is not immersive today, because our expectations advance along with technology.

      Don’t say that on mud connect. In fact, I’ll argue that text MUDs carry many advantages in immersiveness in that they allow prose to take the place of modeling and texturing and allow the player’s imagination to take the place of emote animations and debugging model clipping issues.

      Commercial worlds have to pay for themselves. AoC has 100 thousand subscribers at the moment, but is starting to be considered a failure because its development costs were too high for such a subscriber base. AoC may very well drive Funcom into bankruptcy. At the other end of the spectrum, a hobbyist world that costs the owner nothing more than the electricity to run the server (presuming light traffic on a flat rate connection running on an old box as the server) can operate indefinitely. But is it a success? An zombie server with no players can’t be called a success no matter how long it operates.

      I’ve been thinking about this. I think my answers are too long for a comment and I’ll probably write a follow-up post.

  3. Edward says:

    I would guess that the requirements for immersion depend on the player base. MUD players probably have sharply different expectations from MORPG players. Perhaps many MORPG players don’t find MUD’s immersive — and vice versa.

    Some tabletop RPG gamers don’t play MORPG’s because they don’t find them immersive. Tabletop RPG’s are similar to MUD’s in some ways.

  4. D^t says:

    Not speaking of conceptual worlds (my original post), I’d say successful “worlds” are ones that foster communities. The world of monopoly feels immersive if played with the right people, same for MUDs, MMOs, forums, web communities, blog sites, big, small, successful, unsuccessfull…. ect.

    Even in standard rpgs, if you can create a realistic community out of NPCs, then the gamer will lose himself quite quickly in that world. If you compare the different iterations of Final Fantasy, you’ll notice the most successful ones had fully realized communities inside of the game with each npc having it’s place and backstory, much like a normal community of people.

    Create a world where the npc and pc lines blurr, and I’d say that it will foster a strong community and be successful.

  5. Pingback: A Definition for Successful Worlds « Dancing Elephants

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