March 25, 2005

“Interactive Drama” in Matrix Online

by Scott Rettberg · , 3:15 pm

Gamespy reports that Warner Brothers has employed a full-time troupe of 20 actors who will interact live with players of Matrix Online. “These people will assume the roles of popular characters, interact with players, and generally move the stories in ways that only live “actors” can.”

14 Responses to ““Interactive Drama” in Matrix Online”


  1. Jason Says:

    Hopefully it will really work well for them. I remember a series of similarly staged events in Asheron’s Call, and they were a real hoot (including making a bad guy mad enough so that he would teleport you a mile *above* one of the cities. It was a long fall).

    The trick seemed always to make the “appearances” last long enough to generate interest, but short enough so that by the time word spread in the world (which happened quite quickly), the “actor” was gone – mostly because a thousand people teleporting to a certain spot had this amazing effect of slowing everyone down to about 3 frames per second.

  2. Corvus Elrod Says:

    I think this is an idea that we will see implemented more and more as the technology improves. It puts me in mind of the Ractives in Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age.

  3. Chris Crawford Says:

    This strikes me as more of a stunt than a design idea. There’s no way that this can provide interesting interaction for more than a handful of people. It’s more like a sweepstakes for a product: buy our corn flakes and you might be the luck winner of a free trip to Acapulco. Doesn’t make the corn flakes any better.

  4. Chris Crawford Says:

    On second thought, perhaps I should call this a good marketing idea as opposed to a good design idea.

  5. Erik Says:

    So basically they are saying gamers can’t act or can’t learn to have fun in the games by themselves?

  6. Damion Schubert Says:

    Most other MMOs just call this an ‘events team’. Sounds less pretentious, although I do admire that they’re gonna try to have a team of 20 people devoted to the group.

    Problem with events teams, as Chris surmised, is that they don’t scale very well. A good event is probably the single most memorable thing that can happen to a player, but if you can’t distribute the goodness to more than a handful of players, your event team becomes a money sink, and is at risk the first time that the bean-counter’s Eye of Sauron focuses on your live team.

  7. Corvus Elrod Says:

    I still think it’s a good start. Having seen the positive effect of one good role player on the general channel of WoW, I think it’s a bit premature to say they’ll only be able to affect a handful of players. As a long time veteran of a Renaissance Festival, I can tell you that I managed to speak with well over 500 people a day. Those 500 people carried the interaction (whether good or bad) into their next interaction, and so on. It’s like a pebble in a pond, the ripples go well beyond the actual point of impact. I can see no reason it wouldn’t happen that way in a virtual world as well.

    Erik, you could look at it that way, but perhaps they feel that gamers deserve an environment that isn’t completely canned and static because they can act and shouldn’t have to figure out how to have fun all by themselves.

    Now, I’m not saying the WB is putting quality people into these positions and I’m not saying their implementation is anything more than a marketing strategy, but I think the idea has merit.

  8. josh g. Says:

    Corvus, it’s not just blind cynicism that’s leading others to say that it only affects a small percentage of players. All other major MMORPGs have done something similar, from as long ago as Ultima Online. It’s a simple numerical fact that not everyone can be directly present for one-time events. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t indirectly affect more than those, as news of these events generally spread on fan sites and by word of mouth.

    Chris, I’m not sure it’s fair to call them just a marketing move, either. If you’re simulating a persistent game world for thousands of players, how do you drive story? History in the real-world is not experienced equally by all participants, why should a virtual world ignore that completely? MMORPGs already push a lot of the fiction into backstory and quests which can be re-completed by multiple players through duplicating plot. These are excellent choices for core gameplay design, but they improve gameplay at the cost of the world’s believability. Having unique events can bring a deeper sense of reality to virtual worlds.

    You can maximize the effect of these events through good marketing after the fact, ie. encouraging or hosting news reports or the like. But I think the appeal that the events hold on players is more akin to the appeal of a rich environment to explore than to a good marketing pitch.

  9. Corvus Elrod Says:

    Sure josh, I can see that. I’m just arguing through my filter of how I interpreted the WB announcement. I read it not as a decision to have twenty people sparking off one time events, but as a decision to seed the world with notable character, played by professional actors. Characters who could take on any number of roles. I’ll be interested to see reports of how these 20 people really get used in game.

  10. Erik Says:

    Yes my question was a tad unfair. I would also be interested in how well they do, and whether there are rules of thumb that help such role-facilitators.

  11. Louis Dargin Says:

    I agree with Chris that this is basically a marketing gimmick. I think that it is different than a sweepstakes in that the winners, by drawing their friends into the game, can multiply the customer base. Personally, I’d prefer that they don’t do that. To me, seeing someone play Neo or Morpheus in an online game would be like seeing someone in a big Easter Bunny costume.

  12. chrisf Says:

    And the game itself seems to be completely crap, so they need all the marketing they can get.

  13. tiger fart Says:

    the game aint crap maybe you should get a demo. try it before u accuse yall and who gives a turd about the actors playing the game, as long as ur sitting thier talking to neo or morpheaus or trinity or anyone its like talking to any other person you would meet in a game except u can brag about it.

    and the thing about marketing. my friend has mxo and he found morpheus before his speech like 10 other people and lucky him had a short chat with morpheus…quote
    “inferus:yo the forums are saying your doing a announcement of some sort in abnout 10 mins?
    morph:yes i am inferus. im also choosing poeple to witch i will give a secret quest for the new gunslinger skill and grandmaster skills. the quest is very obtanible. stay around for my speech.

  14. Bald Eagle Says:

    I agree with chrisf. The game didn’t fall far from the movies. The concept is still pretty interesting though. If this is an emerging trend, I like it.

    “In a world gone mad, only the lunatic are truly insane.”
    - Homer Simpson

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