Over two years ago on this blog I decided I was going to investigate the idea of building a game where the player was only allowed to create one character.  From thinking about it on my own and from discussions on message boards, I came to realize that most MMOs simply couldn’t do it.  Mainly because their design has actually come to not only expect but actually count on players playing more than one character.  With shared bank space to easily swap items and continuing to limit characters in the number of trade skills and other aspect, as well as encouraging people to play alts and race through the old game again and again removing as many barriers to speedy leveling as possible, you simply couldn’t release a clone of any current DIKU-style MMO that only allowed one character.  You’d need to rebuild the game from the ground up.  And most MMO players simply weren’t interested.

Enter the Facebook game.

By default, the design of almost every Facebook game is that you only have one character.  As well, there is only one world and everyone shares it.  It is this element, and this element alone that has me taking a second look at the Facebook games that I originally dismissed.

The game play of most Facebook games still irritates me.  Some of them are what I refer to as “intensely casual”.  They are casual in that they require very little effort, but they are intense because their design is that there are actions to take and buttons to click all the time.  These games often provide so much micromanagement that a player can get lost in there quite easily.

I’d love to see some games that can dial back that intensity, like D&D Tiny Adventures (though they go a little too far and it barely feels like I’m playing a game at all), and I’ll keep looking for them.  Sadly, though, Facebook games are almost less diverse than traditional MMOs, so it won’t take long at all to go through them.

But maybe this is what it takes.  I said that to do one character in one world that MMOs would need to be rebuilt from the ground up, and maybe Facebook games are where that rebuilding can happen.


  1. als1701 says:

    I think you’re forgetting about another group of game that shares some of the qualities you discuss, some of which you’ve mentioned here before. The browser based MMO’s (Travian, Evony/Civony, etc) are another form of game that sort of bridges the gap between the extremes of WoW and Farmland. While you can’t guarantee that there is a one-to-one relationship between players and player accounts, most of these games forbid multiple accounts per player and will lock the accounts of players found to be circumventing this restriction. So for the most part, these are single character restricted MMO’s in the truest sense (the worlds are actually more massive due to the nature of the format requiring less bandwidth than the “traditional” MMORPG).

    As for the social aspect of these games (which I infer from your writing is a major point of interest), true, they don’t have by default the same interactibility as a more immersive graphical world, but as with all things, you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve seen external forums and skype channels spring up around guilds with as much activity as any other gaming site. I don’t know what social features are included in the facebook games having never played any myself, but being another form of browser based interface, I can’t imagine them being much better/worse than Travian et al.

    • Jason says:

      There is a new FarmVille clone that includes a real-time IRC style chat system for people who are grouped/neighbors/whatever.

      I’m not really forgetting Travian and Evony except that they are both abysmally designed games, and as much as they say they police multiple accounts, I know people who run five and ten accounts in both games. Now, I do know one person who has gone so far as to make a second Facebook account to play multiple characters in some of the games, but he is an extreme anomaly. Most people just wouldn’t work that hard for it.

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