I did not hype this article nearly hard enough in my last post. I skimmed the article and linked it because it looked good. Only tonight did I get down to really reading it. "Prescient" would be an utterly idiotic understatement when describing it. It was published in 1991, and many of the major issues in modern MMO design were described with perfect clarity nearly a decade before UO and EQ came out. A few quotes:
On bandwidth requirements for future games:
Even in a more technically advanced network, however, bandwidth remains scarce in the sense that economists use the term: available carrying capacity is not unlimited. The law of supply and demand suggests that no matter how much capacity is available, you always want more. When communications technology advances to the point were we all have multi-gigabaud fiber optic connections into our homes, computational technology will have advanced to match.
On procedural versus handracfted content design:
It is really not a problem if every apartment building looks pretty much like every other. It is a big problem if every enchanted forest looks the same. Places whose value lies in their uniqueness, or at least in their differentiation from the places around them, need to be crafted by hand.
On what happens when you let real human beings loose in a carefully crafted virtual space:
Social engineering is, at best, an inexact science, even in proto-cyberspaces. Or, as some wag once said, "in the most carefully constructed experiment under the most carefully controlled conditions, the organism will do whatever it damn well pleases."
Really a great read, imo. Well worth wading through even if it is a bit stuffy in places. As an aside, I plan to track down the book this article first appeared in. If the date is not legit, I'll update this post.