Why FastCrawl matters

| January 22, 2007

OK, so I praised a simple dungeon-crawl game that can be completed in 30 minutes. You may ask, why?

Well, here’s this report (in the New York Times, no less) by Seth Schiesel about The Burning Crusade, the new expansion to the massively-multiplayer on-line role playing game (MMORPG), World of Warcraft:

The big draw in massively-multiplayer online games like WOW is that they bring together thousands of people into one shared real-time virtual world. And so when a new expansion arrives, providing a bunch of new areas to explore, a natural land rush mentality can emerge among some players as they compete to conquer the new content.

In the new World of Warcraft expansion, called The Burning Crusade, that has been the race to level 70. Since the original game was released in 2004, characters have been capped in power at an arbitrary level 60. The main attraction in TBC is that it raises the level cap to 70 and provides a host of powerful benefits who players who reach that plateau – first among them the ability to fly, or at least to buy a flying mount like a gryphon.

Each of WOW’s hundreds of servers, or copies of the game world, is home to thousands of players. (The game has more than 8 million subscribers total.) And so on each server – within each community – the big question on many players’ lips as the expansion approached was “Who will be the first to level 70?”, “Who will be the first player flying around?”

I am proud to report that on my server, it was me. After racking up about 76 hours of playtime in a little more than 4.5 days of real time, shortly after 4 pm Saturday my warlock became the first character to hit level 70 on my server. Unhealthy? Probably. Exhilarating? Definitely.

Thirty minutes at a sitting (for a complete game, no less) is more healthy than 15 hours/day for five days in order to move from level 60 to level 70. At least, IMHO.

But beyond that, I am far more impressed by minimalist game design — that is, letting complexity emerge from a small, carefully selected set of rules. The ultimate example of that is Go, a game I learned in college (for a graduate CS class in artificial intelligence). Go has only nine rules and is played by placing black and white stones on a grid, but it is such a tough and subtle game that computers have made only slow progress in playing against humans. I’m also a big fan of FreeCell, a solitaire card game found on Windows systems, because it is (a) simple, (b) quick to finish, and (c) in most cases (though not all) winnable — which keeps me poking at a given game, even when I appear to be stuck.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t like big, complex games; indeed, my favorite genre is the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) class of games, such as the Civilization series, the Galactic Civilization series (no relationship), and my all-time favorite, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (alas, it is now dated and over-played by me; Firaxis Games should really come up with a new-and-improved version). But I tend not to keep such games installed on my computer simply because I don’t want to get sucked into a game that keeps me from getting other things done.

This is also one of the reasons why I gave up on MMORPGs as well. (The other reasons include the tendency of most on-line communications to devolve to the level of a 13-year-old male who thinks that illiterate scatological spewing is the height of eloquence, and the lack of a sufficiently interesting end-game; on the latter, see the NYT article above). I prefer games that I can readily pick up and readily put down again; I rarely have time for anything else. Speaking of which…. ..bruce..

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Category: Games, Information Technology, Main

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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  1. Samhain says:

    I agree, FastCrawl>WoW