I have been thinking a lot about MMO's lately. Not of the traditional MMO's that are out there like WOW, DDO, or Everquest, but of an MMO that I would like to play. One that would not require me to invest 90 hours a week. I'd like some kind of play space that I could own and control and change and allow others to see these changes. A space that would allow me to set up scenarios, puzzles or story lines that I could put out there for others to play around with. Part of the appeal of sites like "My Space" or just creating a blog is that these things provide a framework for a person to post their thoughts, ideas, likes and dislikes which can include music, links, photos, etc and then throw them out there into the void to see if anyone responds. Kind of like shouting out at the top of your lungs at the edge of the Grand Canyon and yelling "HELLO?" You may hear your echo for a minute or two, but the excitement of hearing someone out there, somewhere, respond.."hellooooo" is pretty cool. Making that connection that you might not have expected might draw you in to find out who that person is that responded to you. It's this hook, or notion that a simple thing like this could draw you in made me start to think of additional things that could do that, but within a MMO play space.
SEED: A source or beginning;
Imagine if a stranger ran up to you one day and handed you a small leather pouch and told you, in winded breath, that what was inside of that pouch were some magic beans. Each bean has different magical properties and even he was unsure what each bean would do if planted. A second later that man collapse and dies. Oh the mystery, the drama! Would you plant those beans? What would each day bring if you did. How would that bean grow? What would the plant look like? What fruit would it bear, if any? What magical properties would it provide? What dangers or benefits would come of planting that bean. Would these questions provide enough incentive for you to return to the pot to water and check up on it. Would you take care of this seedling each day by making sure it had the appropriate sun light and minerals? It would only take 5 minutes a day. Would you be curious enough to make that kind of time commitment? The idea of the magic bean is a hook.
HOOK: Something that attracts attention or serves as an enticement;
A game should try to hook a person into playing, staying and potentially paying for additional content. The company making the game doesn't have to be sneaky about it like some net providers, or larger "traditional MMO's", but can do it in a playful way. Simply reward a player with something that will enhance their experience slowly over time. The Magic Bean is a perfect example. A casual player first must be introduced to a very small, very simple experience. An experience that might even feel trivial at first. It could even be as simple as a game of tic tac toe. (probably should be slighter more interesting, but for sake of discussion...) Once the casual player wins, and hopefully they win a game of tic tac toe, you present the player with a Magic bean planted in a pot as a reward and you leave a web link shortcut on that persons desktop that will lead them back to their magic bean pot anytime they click on the link. You make it clear to the person that they WON this thing, that it has magic powers and that it is going to grow into something interesting over the next few hours/day. It also tells you to feel free to return to this site at anytime to see it's progress. What this hopefully will do is plant a seed in the players mind to check up on their reward. If somehow you are able to get the persons email address, in a legitimate way, prior to the tic tac toe game, you might even be able to send out an email to the person that their plant is done growing and that they should see what it has to offer. The goal, especially in the beginning, is to draw that person back to the game, offer a new mini game, reward and hook, and repeat, allowing the big vision of the game to slowly unfold to present more situations and deeper game play options. Hooks like these have been used in traditional games for years, but the casual market is what I'm shooting for. The folks that don't have 90 hours a week to invest. Now the Magic bean is just one visual that can represent potential. A few others might include an Egg that is about to hatch, DNA, a Treasure Map, Key, an unopened present/package that was mysteriously delivered to you. Each one of these examples contains within it, potential if only pursued.