MMO Tidbits

Perspectives on MMO Design and Production

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    Contents Copyright 2009-2010 Arnold Hendrick

About Tidbits

The History of MMO Tidbits

In 1999 I was Senior Producer at Kesmai handling the Air Warrior MMO product line. There I greedily soaked up the company’s experience building and running online games since the early 90s. Big industry deals were in the making, ultimately resulting in EA’s acquisition of Kesmai in 2000. Many “Kesmoids” had never known another game company. To prepare them for the peculiar business logic of the game industry I began a weekly in-house email called “Tidbits.” The title came about because I wrote it while eating my brown-bag lunch.

“MMO Tidbits” quickly acquired a life of its own that survived the death of “EA.com” and Kesmai studios. After the “great  dip” of ‘02-‘03 the industry recovered, then exploded with WoW’s success in 2005. Keeping up became a part-time job, soon complicated by the my employment as a producer in the entirely new field of MMO “serious games.” Inevitably the day job triumphed and the email newsletter faded away.

Friends have urged me to transform the original email newsletter into a blog. They liked my “dual vision” marrying game design ideals with game production realities. When considering how to approach a blog, this philosophy seemed more useful than another regurgitation of MMO industry news sauced with flippant punditry.

The uncommon ingredient I bring to the field of MMO games is historical perspective. It’s not just my 25 years in the computer game industry. My original academic training was in history. MMO game development now has enough history that past experience can be useful in evaluating future possibilities. If you are unaware of past failures, your chances of repeating them are higher. If you don’t know about past successes, you must reinvent them rather than build on them. Of course, there remains plenty of room for originality. Every game has novelties; some work well, some fall flat. To continue the learning process I plan to review various games from a design and production perspective.

History is not about trivial detail or silly over-simplifications. It is about interpreting masses of data and using representative examples to create broad understandings. There are many possible interpretations of the same event. Each interpretation provides new insights. For example, conventional histories of European politics in the 1920s and 30s describe how Germany caused WWII. In 1961 A.J.P. Taylor authored a famous book (The Origins of the Second World War) that demonstrated how political blunders by France and Britain caused the outbreak of WWII in 1939. Both are correct “from a certain point of view,” to quote Obi-wan. In a similar spirit I expect controversy here and welcome the dialectical process.

One Response to “About Tidbits”

  1. […] just a small sampling of Arnold’s unique perspective on MMO design: The uncommon ingredient I bring to the field of MMO games is historical perspective. […]

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