Paul Boutin reports that Chris DiBona has left Slashdot to join a startup that will produce a new MMORPG. The other founders are also well known members of the Linux world. They claim that the key feature of their game, Rekonstruction, will be massive scalability that lets many more players play in the same world at once than is possible with the current crop of games. Sounds interesting, but that’s the claim made by every single MMORPG when it’s in development.
One issue, obviously, is whether the game’s servers scale well enough to allow so many players to inhabit the same “space” at once, but another is the amount of content required to entertain huge numbers of people at the same time. Put simply, think about MMORPG universes as amusement parks. DisneyWorld can comfortably support some number of people, if you want to double the number of people it can support, not only do you need more infrastructure, but you need a hell of a lot more rides, otherwise you’re just going to have long lines and more disgruntled customers. In a game like EverQuest, there are only so many fun things to do at once, and building more fun things to do is expensive and labor intensive. It’s easier to just split people up onto many servers and create less content.
One way around this conundrum is to provide for player-created content. If players can add to the game world, then the amount of content might more easily scale upward as the number of players increases. Of course, the other side of the coin is that many people will create garbage, and you either have to get the player base to accept garbage or review the content to weed out the garbage. The worse problem is that people cheat. Players will create content that can be exploited to gain advantage in the game, and tell their friends how to exploit it. People who run these games have a hard enough time preventing exploits without the added wildcard of player-created content, when anybody can create anything, it takes more scrutiny to keep things under control.