Wizardry: The Mad Overlord and the Online Generation
Part 4 of our interview with RPG forefather Robert Woodhead.
MW: Wizardry Online seems to maintain the series' pedigree of uncompromising gameplay, challenging players with the threat of character permadeath in their multiplayer dungeon crawl. Have you played it? How does this fit into your ethos? What are you feelings about the Wizardry heritage has evolved?
RW: I popped into the game briefly during the beta, but didn't have the time to play it extensively, so I couldn't give an informed answer to this question. I was, however, hit in the face by a baseball bat of nostalgia, there are so many touches in the game that are clear references to the original.
As for perma-death, while I think there needs to be significant risks to make the rewards sweeter, I think it has to be done carefully. Even in the original Wizardry game, people learned that they could write-protect the floppy disk or copy it to save their characters.
MW: Your affiliation with EVE Online makes sense, as I recall its original designers cited Ultima Online as one of the inspirations for the emergent gameplay model. For a long time EVE Online has been the lonely leader in a niche market for this kind of sandbox environment, whilst most major development studios have previously favoured more a theme park model. Why do you think this is? Are we starting to see a gradual shift toward more player-led game content in MMOs?
RW: I think it's inevitable. Given the number of hours people put into these games, you simply can't crank out enough theme-park content to keep people engaged indefinitely. EVE's secret-sauce has always been the depth of the social interactions between the players, and EVE development is all about providing new ways for the players to interact. Fortunately, the fact that EVE players are horrible people who like to interact by being nasty to each other makes this a bit easier... :)
Next: Wizardry: The Wider World of Woodhead