EventAustin Game Conference - MMO Rants, Brian Green

Nothing brought down the house at the Austin Game Conference like the MMO Rants. Brian Green, of Near Death Studios brought his rant to the author Stephen King. For if players can tell game makers how to make their games, then surely readers can tell writers how to write their books?

Dear Mr. Stephen King,

You do not know me, but I am writing about your book Dreamcatcher. It is a good book, but I think it could be made much better. I am not a professional writer, but I have taken alot (that's two words, right?) of writing in college. It was mostly in Spanish and C++ but I still know how to write. I am sure I know your book better than you do because you have written many books since 2001, but I just read your book so you should listen to me and do what I suggest. I am writing this letter to help you make better books. I have read lots of scary books so I am a master at knowing all about scary books and you could obviously learn a lot from me, so read carefully what I tell you in this letter.

First, what is with the retard kid? Nobody likes retards so you should take him out of the story. Instead you should have a ninja, or maybe a pirate. Everyone likes ninjas and pirates, they are very popular. All my friends agree that ninjas and pirates are cool but nobody likes retards. You should also change the name because pirates and ninjas don't have names like "Duddits". I think a story about pirates and ninjas and aliens and maybe cowboys would be so cool and everyone would buy it. You would probably sell about a billion more books if you took just this one idea.

And what is with the other guys? They are not cool at all. They are like the loser friends I had from college. They have no cool super powers and they kind of suck. I think they should be changed, too. Maybe they could be cowboys, because cowboys are also cool like ninjas and pirates and aliens, but Duddits should be special and the rest of them shouldn't be like him. I know it is important to the story that Duddits be special. And what is with the dreamcatcher? In the movie it was hanging from the ceiling and it did nothing when the people were being attacked by the orange stuff. Dreamcatchers are magical items that help protect you from bad things at night and that dreamcatcher didn't do anything. I think the dreamcatcher should be magical. Maybe a ninja "Duddits" (with a new name like "Duddits-san" because ninjas aren't named like that) could use it as a magical throwing star that would go out and come back to his hand after it was thrown. He could attack the enemies like that and be much cooler. Maybe it creates bullets for the cowboy friends' six-shooters, which are cowboy guns.

I also think the army guys are not very cool, either. They seem very uneffective (ineffective? Can't expect me to catch every mistake!) and I think the military is cool. They should have been more like Rambo, with guns blazing and taking out bad guys! Make more of the aliens so that the army guys have something to attack. Also, it is so obvious that you ripped off that colonel guy from another story. God, why can't you writers be original for a change? It isn't hard to write about something that has never been written about before. I am sure it is not. Also, would a colonel be in charge of an army group like that? I do not think so, and since I pay you money I expect you to catch every mistake like that. If you do not, you are obviously a lazy writer that can't write and you should let me have more control over your stories so that you don't make so many stupid mistakes or nobody should buy your book and you should be poor. I also think you suck as a writer. I read one of your other books and it was about baseball. All you talked about was about the Red Sox and how they played the game in only one year. It had a stupid name like "Faithful" which I thought was going to be like the book Misery which also has one word for a title and is a feeling but it wasn't like Misery at all! It was very boring because I don't like baseball, and it wasn't scary at all. You obviously do not know how to write scary books at all and you should let me write them instead. I have a lot of great ideas that I can share, and I know a lot about scary books because I read a lot of them and obviously that makes me an expert at writing them as well. I do not require much to share these ideas, you just have to tell everyone that I am your best friend and so smart, and put my name on the front cover of the book.

You are also too greedy. I think your older books should be like free because they are old and we all know old things are not as good as new things. I would pay full price for a new Harlequin romance novel even though I do not like romance novels because it is new and new things are worth more. I think you should ship me a hard cover edition of Carrie and Christine and a lot of your older books. Why do you charge so much for your older books when they do not cost you anything to write them anymore! You have finished writing them and therefore they should be free. And don't give me a cheap paperback, either, I want a nice hardcover and I want you to sign, but don't personalize it because that lowers the eBay value. Please send me like a dozen of the older books for free for my personal collection. I have spent a lot of time reading these books so I think I should own them.

In closing, let me say that you should listen to me because I am your paying customer. I have purchased a number of scary books that you have written, and I have given you a lot of money. I have also spent a lot of time reading your books, and I think that I have invested so much time reading Dreamcatcher that I probably own the story. I photocopied the book and sold the original version because of this strong feeling of ownership. I think this is fair because I feel that I own the book and as we know the old saying goes, "feeling is 9/10ths of the law". In case you are not as cool as I thought you were I can say that I just sold the book and that I could have memorized the story, so the photocopy is not illegal. I just sold the book, not my memory of the book, which is totally legal under copyright law as I read about it on Slashdot.

Remember, listen to me because I am a paying customer. I have invested so much into reading your books and I have invested so much time that I think I am part owner for your books and I should have a say in how you write and sell books. I am so much smarter than you are and I write so much better so you should listen to me or you suck and I will go post about it on every internet forum I know of.

Your friend, Brian.

So, what does this letter really mean? Contrary to what some people think, I'm not saying we should completely ignore the players. Player feedback is important and should be taken into consideration as the game changes.

But, there's something to be said for having a strong direction for your game. Whether you like him or not, Stephen King's books are his own. If he started taking writing advice from random strangers, the books wouldn't be his anymore. In fact, he'd likely upset people that buy his books because they like his writing style and topics. Similarly, if developers change their games depending on which way public opinion goes, then our games lose their direction and they become wishy-washy.

In a way, this goes back to what Jeff Hickman was ranting about in the session: why do we change our games and alienate our fans? The answer is because we think that by changing the game we'll get more people to like it. We cater to the people that go and play another game, hoping that they'll notice that our games have the some of the same features that attracted them to the other game. Yet, we forget that people came to play our game, and are there because they enjoy the game.

Of course, this also applies to the game before it's launched. Your game has to have a strong central direction; you can't just say, "We're like this other game, only better!" The people playing that other game are already playing it. There's enough variety out there that if they were unhappy with the game they could easily find another alternative. So, you have to do something different, show that you have something new to offer, and not let your design get watered down by trying to please everyone. Otherwise, you'll end up attracting fewer players to your game.

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About the Author, Brian Green (A.K.A Psychochild)

I'm an introvert that extroverts well (especially online). I'm a pretty typical computer geek, able to spend long hours in front of a computer focusing on a project or game.

I was born to be a gamer. Some of my most vivid earliest memories are of creating games to play while I was bored. As a child, I was naturally drawn to computer games. Even though my conservative religious friends thought D&D was "evil", we still got into fantasy role-playing through computer games. I played on the computers at school when I could, and played on the game consoles I could afford to buy at home.

It was my love of games that lead to me to programming. I finished my assignments in class and then spent the rest of the hour working on little games. This continued into college, where I learned about text MUDs. I started coding on them and spent many late nights in the computer lab.

It was around graduation in college when I realized that a career in the game industry might be a good fit for me. After working in a boring corporate job for a bit and thoroughly hating it, I started looking for work in the industry. I was hired on at 3DO to maintain an online game called "Meridian 59".

After working at 3DO then working at Communities.com (both currently out of business through no fault of my own!), I helped start Near Death Studios, Inc. We bought the rights to Meridian 59 from 3DO and have relaunched the game commercially. (Details at: http://www.meridian59.com/)

I'm currently doing design and programming work on Meridian 59 while sneaking in as much gaming of all types (computer, board, paper RPGs, etc) that I can.