History is full of tales of impossible dreams. In Don Quixote, one of the earliest European novels, the hero decided that he was going to be a valiant knight of the old legends, but ended up tilting at windmills. These days, reality television has largely replaced novels as the most popular outlet for public entertainment, so why not create a reality show about a modern-day Quixote?
Such a story has begun on the web site games.net, with the first installment of a multi-part series entitled Creating Kaos. The documentary follows part-time doorman Damon Grow, and his quest to develop a massively multiplayer online game. Not just any MMORPG, mind you, but the best game of its genre. His ultimate goal: to beat the reigning champion, Blizzard Entertainment, currently sitting at over 6.5 million subscribers.
“We want to be a AAA title—nothing less—we totally want to be the best. I got it from everyone: ‘It’s impossible, you’ll never do it,’ and that just drove me more.”
The first segment of the video features quotes from John Romero, id co-founder and creator of the infamous Daikatana. Romero knows a thing or two about impossible dreams. After leaving the company that made DOOM, he decided he would build the ultimate games company, Ion Storm. The rapid rise and fall of Ion—and Daikatana—made for a cautionary tale for the digital age.
Romero estimates Grow’s chances of beating World of Warcraft at an optimistic “1 in 100,000,000.” Grow’s chances are further diminished by the fact that he and the 20-odd geographically dispersed developers helping him are working on a strictly volunteer basis.
So if the aspiring game developer has virtually no chance of succeeding, what makes it a compelling story? What makes it any different from any random group of strangers on the Internet deciding to get together and maybe make a game? The difference here is in the sheer level of dedication shown by Grow, and the human cost that his dream has wrought. Grow has already has become separated from his wife and young child due to his obsession, and if the hints from the first installment are anything to go on, he may lose his job as well. Yet despite his obvious anguish over these events, he still hangs on to his dream:
“I’m doing a lot of this for [my son] too… because if I make it, he makes it. He’ll have cool stories to tell at school. ‘What does your dad to for a living’? ‘Well, my dad is a game designer, and he made this awesome game that everyone in the world loves…'”
What is it about computer games that drives people to this level of compulsion? I have to admit that I have been bitten by the game design bug myself on more than one occasion. From my attempts at a Freespace 2 mod to my entry in the recent Bioware Writing Contest, I’ve found it hard to ignore the dream of creating my own game content. However, as many others have found in the past, it is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming process.
If Grow does not succeed in his 1-in-100,000,000 quest, I think he should take his existing work and look into alternative methods of delivery, such as the recently-announced do-it-yourself MMORPG kit from Multiverse networks. While it may not end up being the top MMORPG of all time, at least it might have a greater chance of actually being delivered.
New episodes of Creating Kaos will be posted each Friday on games.net.