Cuppycake made an incendiary post the other day about MMO design blogs asking whether designers actually knew anything, which she later clarified (in a comment on Lum’s response) into design bloggers being full of shit. She scored high marks in what – paint me cynical – she probably set out to do, make a splash to help build her personal brand within the game industry. Wolfshead, Scott Hartsman, Lum the Mad and others took the bait and it makes for an interesting show.
I’m not a professional designer and like Tobold, I never intend to be one. I’d be trading half my pay for twice the hours, what I do now is already a lot of fun and I don’t think there are too many designers on the expat circuit that go hiking in elephant country on the weekend. Nor do I claim any level of competence beyond that of someone with experience behind the scenes in NWN persistent worlds.
But I do blog. Not lately as I’ve been too busy trying to get the interpreter for a design language, called Memotica, into beta. Yes, hobbyists can also be ambitious.
Why do I blog if I’m an amateur with no clue?
It gives a place to discharge my observations working in the Neverwinter Nights PW scene into coherency. The blog form also allows those who I know from that scene to see my thoughts and comment on them. With exchange of thoughts comes refinement and reflection; especially if there is argument. For example, I’ve drawn different conclusions at times than Thrym and his observations are useful to me.
Secondly, it is a way to put my ideas onto paper. I could vent my ideas into a notebook instead. I do this as well. When I’m done wrestling with its interpreter, I plan to revisit a world that I first built as an NWN1 mod and put Memotica to use. The engine technology within the reach of the hobbyist in 2009 is perfectly capable of building a world of modest scale and a year or two from now, when Memotica is ironed out and integrated into one of these engines, I can point to prospective team members and say “this is the design philosophy”.
I write about a very specific niche that is likely not to be of much interest to commercial designers beyond those already in the überniche of hardcore roleplay text world. Nobody writes specifically about roleplay centric design. Muckbeast touches on it on occasion though.
The last reason is advocacy. There are so many hardcore roleplay MUDs, NWN persistent worlds and even roleplay heavy MMOs such as Planeshift that are not designed for RP. The community muddles along, but there is always an underlying problem. The players are torn between a culture that discourages too much emphasis on the mechanics at the expense of roleplay and a world design that gives concrete benefits from doing precisely that. I’d like to see more worlds designed from the ground up for roleplay.