Judy Tyrer highlighted today’s meeting with an excellent presentation on her project, “Ever, Jane”. This is an MMO that emphasizes social interaction. Based on the novels of Jane Austen, it looks to me as if this thing really could bust the doors down. Here are just some of the design features that struck me:
Natural language input. We all know that it doesn’t work, but we also know that the future of interactive storytelling requires it. Ms. Tyrer intends to take a very serious stab at the problem; I think that the degree of success she attains will determine the success or failure of her game. She recognizes that the first generation probably won’t be good enough, but expects to be able to improve the technology in subsequent generations. I’m biting my fingernails in the unconfident hope I have for her success.
Spatial orientation. This has long been a big bugaboo for me; I strongly believe that we should dispense entirely with spatial factors and concentrate all our efforts on the social interaction, for which we need only the simple construct of a stage. However, Ms. Tyrer is committed to a traditional 3D universe, and there are a few situations, such as making eye contact, that require this. I fear that it might chase away female players because it “looks just like a video game”. We shall see.
Complex rules of etiquette. The social system in Regency England was most complex and difficult to master. If Ms. Tyrer succeeds in emulating it, then she’ll have difficulty communicating the rules of etiquette. I suspect that this is a problem that will hurt only at the outset; once the game has a reputation for excellence, people will be willing to absorb the complex rules system.
All in all, I think that “Ever, Jane” may prove too complicated a design to get working properly, but if it does work, then it will be a great success. I’m rooting for it.
You can see the game at http://www.everjane.com.
Our next Phrontisterion will be on Wednesday, February 19th, at 0900 Pacific Standard Time.