Barnett On: “My Five Favourite MMOs”

We finally find the willpower to return to the task. For those who are latecomers to the series, earlier this year Mythic’s Creative Director Paul Barnett and I met up in a London bar and set a dictaphone rolling. Three hours later, we stop. We’re serialising it in handy topic-based chunks. This time: Paul talks about what his favourite MMOs are. They’re not, strictly speaking, MMOs.

Three notes, for those who are following this ridiculously epic serialisation of pub-chat:
1) This interview happened considerably earlier in the year, before the release of games like GTA4.
2) Last time I wrote up a section, it kind of blew up into a cheery internet link-a-thon game taking Paul’s comments on why he went to LIFT rather than GDC and tabloidising them into “Why GDC is shit”. While a good chunk of my peers acted responsibly, many of them really didn’t. Do try harder, because by acting otherwise, you’re training developers to not say anything other than what’s on the Marketing shout-sheet. Oh – in the case of the ones who just quoted a couple of lines and didn’t link to pretend a context, do try at all.
3) The second bottle of something boozey arrives half way through this bit of transcript, so you can presume we’re going downhill quickly from here on in.

KG: Anyway – where were we?

Barnett: I was recently asked what my favourite MMOs were. Which is a preposterous thing – it’s like after [first] watching Toy Story and saying “So – what’s your favourite computer generated long movie? Eh – what is it, eh?”. That’d be… Toy Story. Because that’s all there is. “What about all these obscure Hungarian things which didn’t make any money? Can’t you show off how clever you are?” No I can’t, really.

I wrote down a list of what I thought was really, really good.

Rainbow Islands was better though.

Barnett: Bubble Bobble is one of my favourite MMOs. Which doesn’t sound like it when you first hear it. But Bubble Bobble is all about Co-operative play, one of the bedrocks of MMOs. It’s got lots of lovely hidden features. It’s girl friendly – and boy friendly. It’s got repeatability. And it’s got a cutsie factor which is somehow macho.

KG: They’re dragons.

Barnett: And they can breathe fire at certain points, as well as eating cakes. And umbrellas. And bubbles! They blow bubbles. Anyway – people go “That’s a bit cheap, as you haven’t really picked an MMO”. And I go – but I have picked an MMO. It’s massively multiplayer in so much as it’s two people – or, if it’s an arcade machine, lots of people coming up one after another. What I was getting at is the joy and interest of the design of Bubble Bobble – not necessarily whether it was played with a subscription model or whatever. And that lead me back to Civ1…

Sid Meier's civilization would be ruled by those in lovely pullovers

Barnett: I think Civ1 is the best civilization ever – and that’s only an opinion, which is a jaded, bitter opinion from someone wrapped up in the need for nostalgia. But it’s in there for a reason. It’s there because Civ1 looked crap and had lots of really weird things in it – it had Elvis in it, for God’s sake – and clearly cheated. We know it cheated. We know it used to create things off in the black map and send them in to bother you. But it didn’t matter. There was something joyous about it – in having to live with that initial tech, it did lots of really really cool things which I really like. And I don’t like any of the other Civs. They’re much less joyous. I think they’re better built. I think they’re slicker. I think they have better graphics with lots of interesting things. A few of them took a few weird design choices – I think the turn-based strategy square thing a few of them dabbled with was a bit lunatic.

But I don’t care. I like the first one. As a concept, the first one was the strongest one – and now I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first one I saw, and I’m bitter and jaded as everyone else, or whether there was something in it which I really responded to. I’d take that with [A pinch of salt]. These are my Desert Island Discs.

We were in a bar a bit like this, but with more booze. Until we were finished, then there was less booze. I hope we're not glamourising booze. Man!

KG: So that’s Civ and Bubble Bobble. What’s next?

Barnett: Star Wars Lego. I love Star Wars lego. I love Star Wars Lego for lots of reasons. First reason: I would never have bankrolled it. I can just imagine the meeting. I’d have the money. Someone would come and knock on my door and say “We want to do a game. We want to buy the Lego licence”. That’s nonsense. The Lego licence doesn’t sell. It doesn’t really work as a computer game. You’re an idiot. So there’s a big cross. What’s the second thing you want to do? “We also want to get the Star Wars licence”. Oh – you want to pay for two licences! That’s insane. And the Star Wars licence?

KG: Cheap, I hear.

Barnett: It’s hardly cheap. And George can get a bit protective – quite right, he owns it. And isn’t every Star Wars game rubbish? Oh – and I discovered that there’s a new answer to that. Well – there’s three answers now. The first answer used to be – isn’t Star Wars (apart from the original arcade game) rubbish. Then it used to be isn’t Star Wars (apart from that Tie-fighter game) rubbish. And now it’s isn’t Star Wars (apart from Star Wars Lego) rubbish.

Man, KOTOR looks rubbish nowadays.


Barnett: That’s not a Star Wars game! I had this debate with someone when Bioware were acquired – of whether KOTOR was a Star Wars game. And I don’t think it is, because it’s sort of like going… “We’re going to pay for the history of WW2.” Right – and where exactly are you going to set the game? “Burma” What? “Yeah – and in 1843”. What? “And it’s not going to feature Adolf Hitler or the nazis or tanks or airbourne divisions… but it is going to be about basically the same people fighting a war with completely different technology in a completely different setting. Right?” And how do you want to do that? “We want to buy the rights to WW2”. Erm… let’s go through this again. You want WW2? “Yes, absolutely!” And then you want to make a fighting game set in the 1800s. “Yes!” What they did was build a great game. Be under no illusion – it’s a great game. But what it isn’t is a Star Wars game.

Anyway – back to Lego Star Wars. So I wouldn’t have given the Lego license. I wouldn’t have given them the Star Wars licence. And I certainly wouldn’t have given them licenses of Lego and Star Wars together. And on top of that, they said – they want to do the new movies. WHAT?!?! The new movies? Clearly that’s madness. And they went: “No – we want to do the new movies, with Lego and Star Wars”. And I’d have gone no. Absolutely not.

And what I love about Lego Star wars isn’t just that it defeats my I wouldn’t bank roll it – not that I have any money – but what they produced defied my ability to design.

KG: In what sort of way?

Barnett: The drop-in/drop-out play is sublime. So sublime that it passed my genius test. I went, “Yeah, that’s the way I would have done it”, lying to myself, as I’d have never done it like that. Their concept of aiming it at the two markets – dad and his seven year old boy. Genius. I’d like to say that I’d have thought of that, but I didn’t. And their way of wrapping it up – the cinematics of the new movies in Lego is the best and most interesting those movies have ever looked. They were actually good when I watched them like that.

Dropping in and out with my boy? I was playing the first one as Qui-gon Jinn – as obviously he’s best – and my boy was young Obi-Wan Kenobi and playing it we got to the bit where we were fighting Darth Maul. And Darth Maul killed me. And my boy said “DAD! HE WILL PAY FOR THAT!”. And he charged in and smashed Darth maul to pieces: “You’re not going to kill my dad!” It was absolutely tremendous. A bit later on we played the original trilogy – as SW is backwards so it just confuses everybody – and whenever we play, I’m constantly using the same lines on my boy: “I am your father, Luke”. Every time. And… it’s so wonderful and so joyous.

No camera control? I don’t care. Collectors mentality? I don’t mind. The ability to play as the wrong characters in the wrong episode? I rejoice. Their ability to hold their ground on the character types having different powers? Brilliant. They basically went this one can’t do this, this one can’t do that and this one can’t do that. You want to throw those detonator bombs? Be a bounty-hunter. There’s no ifs, buts and ands.

KG: What didn’t you like then?

Barnett: There’s only one thing I went “Hmm: with hindsight, I wouldn’t have done that”. And it’s not even their fault. It’s that the first one’s too good. They gave away far too much of their hand. You play it, and when you’re playing it to unlock levels, characters and special abilities… and you hit a tipping point where the effort to earn a million studs changes from twenty minutes of hard effort to 0.3 seconds of arsing around. And at that point, the remainder of the game is unlocked in under 40 minutes when the rest was unlocked in four hours. I have the complete trilogy and you can have a x728 multiplier without too much effort where hitting four things earns you a million studs. And apart from that one thing – which I’m not going to take away from them, that’s just something in hindsight I love it. There should be unlockable content online.

I want to say the word Mondrian just to cement my pseudish standards

KG: Okay. Bubble Bobble, Civilization, Lego Star Wars and…

Barnett: Tetris. I really, really like Tetris. People come up to me and say stuff about Design. And you go – actually, graphics are irrelevant. Sound is irrelevant. It’s all going to come down to two things. Which is, control system and then ease of understanding to get to Fun. If you look at all the games that are Great – and I mean GREAT – hardly any of them are technologically astounding. There’s a few – but even the ones that are, are usually just gameplay defining. The one I’d always plug is – and apologies to anyone who plays Ant Attack – is Knightlore on the spectrum. Knightlore on the spectrum is astonishing from a technical point of view. What it actually is, is gameplay expanding. What it did do was show you a new way of gameplay. Wolfenstein was reasonably astonishing, but is gameplay expansive, in terms of showing you what a first-person shooter could be. There are very few games that come out in a genre that’s already defined which use a technological wow!-ness that actually survive games that have nothing but gameplay.

That’s why we struggle to reinvent Elite – because it was gameplay awakening. If you just slap really pretty graphics on it, there’s always something missing from an Elite remix. Because they’re re-making the wrong bit of Elite. Anyway – I like Tetris because it survives everything and shows an intuitive leap instead of design equations.

Warrior needs sex, badly.

KG: Tetris, Bubble Bobble, Lego Star Wars, Civilization…

Barnett: And I love Gauntlet. I love Gauntlet because it’s a great MMO. It’s 4 players, 4 players all the time. What a group mechanic! What a selfish mechanic! What an ability to get iterative gaming out of very simple repetitive gameplay systems! What a wonderful attitude for the characters: This guy’s very good at fighting but is crap at magic. This one’s good at magic and crap at fighting. This one’s a bit of an all rounder. And…

KG: This one’s the Elf?

Barnett: This one’s no good at anything, but boy, can he run a lot. And they held their ground – that’s what you are. People talk about balancing characters in MMOs. And you go… it’s not that hard. Yes, all things are not equal… just some things are more equal than others.

KG: It throws me how good Gauntlet was when it came out. I bullied my parents into playing it at Butlins on a family holiday or something. It was like nothing else.

Barnett: The thing about Gauntlet is that it’s ruined every time you take away the subscription model. When you play Gauntlet when it costs you money, it’s an interesting game. When you play Gauntlet and it has a limited amount of credits… it’s an interesting game. When you play Gauntlet and there’s no limit on the credits… it’s really bizarre. It’s a game which only maintains its joy providing there’s a finiteness to it. That’s not necessarily true of many other games. Some other games – like, say, Paradroid is in no way made a lesser game by allowing you repeatable lives. But Gauntlet is literally destroyed. Like unlimited ammo on a tactical shooter.

KG: Or infinite money in Poker?

Barnett: Actually, that’s much stronger than my version. Pretend I said that: It’s like infinite money in poker. And that’s really weird, as it cuts to one of the design philosophies you’re always hearing on MMOs: were they say “death has to mean something”. Designers who come to me regularly with enormously elaborate ways of punishing people for dying. And… I have to try to explain to them that it’s not the same thing. Gauntlet’s drop-coin subscription model isn’t the same as an all-you-can-eat buffet model of an MMO. The death-cycle in Gauntlet is so strong because of the way it’s built. It wouldn’t be as strong in a monthly subscription MMOs. It would hurt a monthly subscription MMO. They’re not the same game, they just happen to have wizards and goblins and sorcerers and elves in them.

KG: Idly, what do you think would happen if you did run an MMO like Gauntlet? As in, when you die, that’s when you pay?

Barnett: Well, your customer service costs would go through the roof, the legal indemnity would cost you billions and you’d probably have to put it off shore in some outback third-world country where no-one can get at you. So probably not a great idea. Er… that leads me to Elite. Now,I love Elite but I’m very opinionated on it. Shocker.

I am Elite, a lover, baby you'll discover, life with me could be so sweet - because I am unique! One day we'll stick Elite the musical on for you guys. It's quite the thing

KG: Opinionated you. I didn’t see that coming.

Barnett: Elite – it’s great. And everyone goes on about it being great. And people keep remaking it, and it’s crap. How can that possibly be? Even the people who made Elite remake it, and it’s crap. And I know they argue it’s to do with bugs and it wasn’t finished, but even if you took Frontier and took every bug out of it then it’ll still be no good. Which is interesting, and you wonder why it is. Why is it fabulous? Well, it’s not fabulous for most of the reasons people think. The Space Trading is almost irrelevant. The difficulty level – everyone forgets how hard Elite was.

KG: The Docking.

Barnett: Grotesquely difficult. And playing the stock market was endlessly boring and trying to buy a docking computer would drive you mad. And the supposed secret missions were nothing of the sort. It was just rubbish. So it’s not that – it’s not space, and it’s not its difficulty level. Now I believe – and I have not proven this – that the reason Elite was marvelous were…

Number one: truly, at the time it came out, there was nothing like it. It was different. And you can’t under-estimate that. The Sims is a great example of something which is tremendously different and capable of being wondrous.

Number two: Elite came out with a fanfare. People don’t remember it, but when it was released, journalists were taken to an underground rollercoaster. And it was shown on big television – which was the equivalent of hiring a cinema. And the Box was enormous which came with a novel and a load of background and load of information about the world which was irrelevant. Like how to understand the bodylanguage of aliens. It came with lots of toys.

[In passing to American readers, the fancy-box full of stuff seemed a lot later coming to UK games than the US. Or, as Walker would put it, you guys got more cloth maps than we did. – KG]

Number three – Which is the one, from a game design point of view, the vital reason – is that Elite played a neat trick. It basically said, you can be a bounty hunter. You can be a smuggler. You can be a merchant. You can be an explorer. You can be a police-man. You can go be a tourist. You can be Han-Solo. You can do all these things… but it uses the same game mechanics for everyone. You never once get to see what you look like. You never once get to see your space-ship… except when it blew up, and you only got to see that in the later versions. So that level of open-ended character expansive play was tremendously exciting, and that’s the bit is what everyone misses.

Some videogame or another. It'll never catch on.

KG: So where did that go?

Barnett: The closest thing I can find in a modern gaming era to Elite is GTA3. Which is a sort of mixture of Elite and Pac-man. You look at Pac-man and goes… gobbles dots, avoids ghosts, picks up power-pills, eats ghosts and cherries. You look at GTA and it goes – gobbles money, avoids policemen, picks up mega gun, shoots policemen picks up special things in maze. Take that, with Elite, you get GTA3. And that’s being exceedingly mean to GTA3, which I think is exceptional, so I’ll note that on top of that, GTA3 also does something which the Americans are completely confused about: if you want to realise America, what you need is lads from Britain who have only ever watched Miami Vice, Dukes of Hazard and American Movies, and preferably have never been to America. Because the Americana they will realise is an excitable, strangely out of focus bizarre Americana which is wholly fitting. If you actually give it to Americans to realise, they will actually map the city correctly, the police will arrive at the correct response time, they’ll all be carrying the right guns and the amount of prostitutes per square foot will be correct. While the British will go… it’s like this, innit? There’s a big boat. You don’t wear any socks. You get a big machine-gun. There’s lens-flare when you do a jump with your car.

KG: It’s a dream of America?

Barnett: What it is, is a realisation of what America is inside an American’s head. I was talking to some guys who were playing GTA3. They’re Americans. This was like six months ago – and I asked “Why are you playing it?”. The guy turned to me and said: Dude – this is the most American game of all time. And I went: Really? And all four of them around the machine went, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. Really”. What I find astounding is that they had no idea it was built by British guys. None at all. They had no idea of its heritages. When I tried to explain to them that it was Pac-man meets Elite meets Americana they went “I hadn’t thought of it like that – I just like going around and shooting things on the back of my motorbike”. And I just found that really enlightening – which is why GTA is astounding, which is why it’s the modern day Elite, which is why Elite is fantastic.

At which point I’d completely lost track of whether GTA3 or Elite was in his five favourite MMOs, and it was too late to go back, as we were hurtling onto the topic of old, retro games, which we’ll deal with next time…


  1. araczynski says:

    the only title i agreed with in this read was Elite, that was a kick ass game. well, ok, gauntlet was great back in the day as well.

    but including elite in the list made up for all the other ones. good read.

  2. Matt says:

    Did he forget the Massively from Massively Multiplayer?

  3. Alex says:

    I would call KOTOR the one Star Wars game that actually managed to convene some of the atmosphere found in the original films. Star Wars basically is about Sith vs. Jedi, the game seems to have gotten that right. Just because it doesn’t include the couple of storytelling stereotypes we all love, it wouldn’t be a Star Wars game?

  4. garin says:

    I agree with him about Civ. None of the more recent iterations have captured me the same way.

  5. rei says:

    I’m no expert on Star Wars, but I believe that by Barnett’s definition half the novels aren’t “Star Wars” either.

    I get the feeling he likes to consider himself Different than Other People. He shouldn’t try so hard.

    That’s right, I just felt like leveling an ad hominem or two against the guy and not add anything of value to the topic!

  6. monkeymonster says:

    All I remember of civ1 was thinking for ages – why have I got a weird smiley face – then it was oh, that an old wild west stylee wagon: settler. Or watching my two brothers crying of their loss when they docking computer crashed them or waiting for when the thargoids interrupted your jump and gave it that extra special noise.

  7. Nick says:

    I’m highly amused someone agrees that Elite is a top 5 MMO, I think you are missing something.

    Semi-drunken (or just a bit bonkers) ramblings that are entertaining nonetheless – actually his point about GTA3 is a good one.

  8. Mike says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this again. Obviously, when he says MMO, he’s trying to make you think of it in terms of the gameplay mechanics that make up the modern MMO, rather than… well, none of those games are playable online, so…

    But great. Again, chatty, he has some nice ideas. More reminiscence in this one, but I enjoyed the GTA anecdote at the end.

  9. deliberror mistake says:

    Hey, maybe the prequels aren’t Star Wars either! That would explain a lot.

    I thought Elite 2: Frontier was great. I never played 1, but his reasons for preferring it don’t make a lot of sense… some games journalists getting to go on a rollercoaster in the 80s doesn’t really affect the quality of the game I played 20 years later.

  10. Ragnar says:

    This was like six months ago – and I asked “Why are you playing it?”. The guy turned to me and said: Dude – this is the most American game of all time. And I went: Really? And all four of them around the machine went, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. Really”. What I find astounding is that they had no idea it was built by British guys.

    That reminds me of how the producer of the TV show House thought that Hugh Laurie had this really American accent (he being a Brit).

  11. Aubrey says:

    Nick: Yeah, although, as the saying goes “every game is pong if you boil it down enough”.

  12. Nick says:

    Oh, I know what Barnett was on about, it just tickled me that the person was like “only one I agree with in this list is Elite”, like it was a serious top 5 list for contention.

  13. Paul Moloney says:

    “When you play Gauntlet and it has a limited amount of credits… it’s an interesting game. When you play Gauntlet and there’s no limit on the credits… it’s really bizarre.”

    Good point; it’s why playing Gauntlet on a PC/console feels so less satisfying compared to playing it back in my schooldays in the local arcade. Especially less satisfying when stunning a schoolmate with your arrows, then stealing their food, hah hah.


  14. Noc says:

    @Deliberror: you’re coming at this from the wrong angle. You don’t like something because there are good reasons to. You like something first, and you don’t know why. Then, later, you sit down and try and figure out why.

    So it’s not “Hey, guys. Here are things that Elite had that Frontier didn’t, and that’s why it makes more sense to like Elite more.”

    It’s “Wow, I really loved Elite when it came out. But Frontier really disappointed me. Maybe this is why.”

  15. Conlaen says:

    “Paul talks about what his favourite MMOs are. They’re not, strictly speaking, MMOs.”

    Not in any definition of the word: A massively multiplayer online game (also called MMOG or simply MMO) is a video game which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously. By necessity, they are played on the Internet, and feature at least one persistent world.

    These games are neither massive, nor online, and most of em are not even multiplayer!

    I agree, they are great games. But why not just call it: ‘My five favourite games’?

  16. Xilnold says:

    Seems some people are missing the joke.

  17. antonymous says:

    The only thing about Elite was the new level of programming, everything else except the fights was dull. And the one half of the team was into martial arts and psychedelics and never went to make boring sequels and that sucky stuff which makes everyone here so “jaded and bitter”.

  18. deliberror mistake says:

    Noc – You’re right, I didn’t read between the lines: “I liked Elite because of the junket but I didn’t get sent to Alton Towers for Frontier so I think that game sucks.” :P

  19. Matt says:

    Barnett’s view on why GTA works – “a realisation of what America is inside an American’s head”, which is a beautiful way of putting it – is the very reason why Vice City will always be the best. It was so overstated and so clearly derived from all those media influences that it’s perhaps the purest GTA of all.

    Also, the soundtrack. But you knew that bit already.

  20. Nick says:

    80’s America should be the setting for more games.

  21. Pidesco says:

    He’s a pretty smart guy, but he’s completely wrong about KOTOR. First, it really isn’t a particularly good game. It’s just a cut down, dumbed down version of BG2, with design choices that really undermine character development. Also, the two main characters are just fucking atrocious.

    The other thing where he is wrong about KOTOR is that it was a Star Wars game. The one thing Bioware pulled off very well in KOTOR was the setting, and the whole feel you were a Jedi hero fighting against evil forces, in a Star Wars movie. It might have been set in a different time than the movies, but it was definitely set in the same universe and talked about the same themes as the movies.

  22. Butler` says:

    I’m no expert on Star Wars, but I believe that by Barnett’s definition half the novels aren’t “Star Wars” either.

    I get the feeling he likes to consider himself Different than Other People. He shouldn’t try so hard.

    Rei, you just completely summed up my thoughts after reading this post. :p

    Maybe we’re missing something.

  23. Paul Moloney says:

    “He’s a pretty smart guy, but he’s completely wrong about KOTOR.”

    I just finished KOTOR and enjoyed it, but (admittedly it’s a 4-year old game) failed to see what the hype was about.

    What surprised me about the game was how buggy it is – out of a grand 2 side-plots that I was 90% of the way through (Mission’s and Carth’s), I couldn’t resolve either plot due to bugs. And quite a bit of the dialog is of the click-to-skip-through-it variety.


  24. tmp says:

    The other thing where he is wrong about KOTOR is that it was a Star Wars game.

    I think he’s got wrong analogy going there with the whole WW2 thing — it’s more like buying a license from Dodge/Chrysler etc and then using it to make Street Rod game set in the 60’s rather than Viper simulator. It might not be what one would immediately expect, but the game is still about cars.

  25. Flimgoblin says:

    The reason Kotor isn’t star wars is the dialogue is about 5 times too good ;)

  26. Muzman says:

    Quick pointless aside: When blurting “KOTOR!” at someone in a face to face interview how does it come out? Is it KOTOR! ? Is it K.O.T.O.R! ? Is it more sort of Kotor! ? Or is it Knights of the Old Republic-or! ? What is the accepted practice?
    I promise to stroke my chin at any answer as though it reveals all sorts of telling personality details.

  27. Jim Rossignol says:

    In my experience people say “Co-tour!” Or occasionally “Cot-or!”

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’m the latter, because I’m a midlander.


  29. Bobsy says:

    The GTA4-Frontier analogy doesn’t fly. While it follows a clear evolutionary line from Elite, GTA4 is hand-crafted, every street, mission and character made by the loving hands of a Rockstar chap. Frontier is all procedural, which makes it a billion times bigger than GTA could ever hope to be. Elite 4, so long as it retains the procedural ideal will turn into a very different beast to GTA.

  30. Grill says:

    He’s just a big troll, isn’t he? Every single thing he says seems designed to make the internet argue with him. I’d love to argue with him.

    Also, I’m with Kieron – Cott-Ore.

  31. Kris says:

    I dont agree that method of content generation prevents parralells between Elite and GTA. I took from his point that both games presented you with enough freedom of interaction to accommodate a freedom to imagine what your character / motivations were. Whilst much of GTA 3 is a revenge piece, you left enough gaps in the character’s history and enough chances to do good to counter the idea that your character is just another evil crook.
    I’m for Co-tour, and I’m from the midlands, assume Gillen is from the East Midlands i.e. wannabbe Midlands but not really ;)

  32. Acosta says:

    I say Knights of the old Republic because I’m cool like that.

    Very good points overall. The way he describes GTA and the american factor of it is really nice. And I’m completely agree that making a MMO Top 5 is worthless given almost all of them are a dress with different cuts . I think is very cunning when he tries to identify the elements of non-MMO games that should exist in MMO.

    I’m especially interested at the Elite point as it is something I always suspected. Elite was not great for its mechanics or its pace, it was great because it really offered the illusion of freedom and offered enough toys to make you believe that. This is something that few MMOs have tried since Ultima Online in a convincing way (you could argue if UO really did it in a convincing way).

    I find GTA really limited when compared with Elite, its mechanics are much more tight and it’s more satisfactory to play and control, but lacks the illusion of being able to be what you want to be in that virtual world. There is one thing I am not really agree with Paul here: I’m agree with Braben when he things Frontier failed for the bugs, Frontier was on the right track to improve the Elite formula in a much more satisfying way, and I like to think that more procedural approaches could expand on the feelings and satisfactions you had on Elite.

  33. Myros says:

    Really the only reason older games like civ1 and elite are considered classics are that they were the 1st. They broke new ground and defined standards for what came after. All of the elements from these games can be seen over and over again, it’s just that we have already experienced them.

    It’s the exact same thing for someone who started gaming just a few years ago (like my daughter,) that generation of gamers have a whole different but similar perspective on the 1st games they played … it was new to them and sticks with them as the ‘standard’ they compare newer games too.

    The truth is “you can never go back”. It’s like your first hit of hard drugs, you will forever be chasing that special high and you will never get it back. But if you keep an open mind the great thing is that there are still creative people out there who at least make the effort to try new concepts and paths in game design.

    So the moral of this post is … quit taking the same hard drugs, go try some new ones :)

  34. Gorgeras says:

    Midlanders are like Highlanders, only you have to cut off their ass instead of their head. That’s why they’re so skinny down there; no ass to chop.

  35. Paul Barnett says:


    Er, that was one of my basic points.

  36. Grill says:

    You had basic points? Everything seemed to be advanced, master or expert points from this angle…

  37. Eamo says:

    The article should be entitled “Paul carefully avoids mentioning any rival MMOs whatsoever”. Not like he is going to give a list of 5 real MMOs for people to go play with their own release just around the corner …

  38. Erlam says:

    “These games are neither massive, nor online, and most of em are not even multiplayer!

    I agree, they are great games. But why not just call it: ‘My five favourite games’?”

    Am I the only one who noticed the quote like, two sentences in, explaining this?

    “Barnett: I was recently asked what my favourite MMOs were. Which is a preposterous thing – it’s like after [first] watching Toy Story and saying “So – what’s your favourite computer generated long movie? Eh – what is it, eh?”. That’d be… Toy Story. Because that’s all there is. “What about all these obscure Hungarian things which didn’t make any money? Can’t you show off how clever you are?” No I can’t, really.”

    See, look there. He’s saying he can’t pick five, straight up ‘favourite’ MMO’s, because there are so few to pick from.

  39. MacQ says:

    Basically the guy is saying he doesn’t have a clue what MMO’s are and he doesn’t see further than the tip of his nose. Well, except maybe to WOW. According to the statements he doesn’t even know what DAOC is.

  40. Kieron Gillen says:

    Kris: West Midlands actually.


  41. Bobsy says:

    I would LOVE a WW2 game set in the 1800s. Seriously! A flashback-and-forthy type adventure which explores the deeper origins of the conflict would be awesome-cool.