In an age when just about everyone has a blog, it’s rare to find a well-written new MMO design blog that causes you to pause, think, discover and learn. One such site that has recently come to my attention and meets this criterion is That’s a Terrible Idea. Authored by Evizaer and Motstandet, it’s a delightful repository of thoughtful essays on MMO game design. It’s not just about what’s wrong with MMOs today, it also offers solutions.
I’m impressed by the in-depth analysis of many nuts and bolts MMO mechanics such as balancing, skill advancement and more. If you are wanting breezy, light fare that has come to characterize the average gaming blog out there then in my best Jedi impersonation: this is not the blog you are looking for.
Their articles are succinct, impeccably researched and written — to be savored like a fine wine. They also make use of graphics that help to amplify many of the concepts they discuss.
Here’s what the website is all about in their own words:
That’s a Terrible Idea is a tag-team blog about designing better games. Though we focus on MMOs, we both are avid gamers that happily reach beyond the mainstream to find the games that suit us the best. We aim to offer insight and analysis on design decisions in existing games and constructive suggestions for the future.
Though we are both amateurs in game design, we spend many hours thinking about this stuff and want to create a place to cultivate useful discussion and analysis. We encourage experts and professionals as well as fellow amateurs to critique our work. Please help us improve the quality of the material here with your insight and knowledge.
We’d like to move past punditry towards a small, close community of gamers and game designers. Above all else, we want to facilitate the design of better games.
It’s unusual to find a MMO blog that has this kind of rare insight and probative depth from writers with no actual experience designing video games. While there is much to be said for the realities and practicalities of actually having worked in the industry, good analysis is still good analysis regardless of industry experience or lack thereof.
Here are a some of the articles that you’ll find at That’s a Terrible Idea that may be of interest:
A Path to the MMO Revolution – Interesting predictions on where the next big thing in the MMO world will come from.
Accountability is the Currency of Dynamic Worlds – Can players be made accountable for their actions in virtual worlds?
Massively Meditative Online Games – Why we play MMOs. Good mention of concepts such as “control” and “flow”.
Aion: No – A hard-hitting, no holds barred review of Aion.
On Balance Part 1: Strategy and Depth – Sirlin’s notion of “balance” amplified with a look at strategy and depth in MMOs.
Defining Moderate Simulationism – Discussion of “the 5 Why’s”, game rules, immersion and more.
What I admire most about these guys is that in an industry dominated by predictability and stagnation they have the courage to challenge the conventional wisdom of MMO design seemingly locked into a holding pattern currently circling a snowy campus in southern California.