Nov 23, 2005

Pulling for Attention

A  year ago I wrote "Language is power in MMOs" (MMO Language as a Power-up).  Recently Ross Mayfield (Many2Many) extended this thought by way of  ideas on Social Verbs.  He concludes a pull model of attention management is better than a push-based model as such would be based on interruptions that won't scale in social software.  Furthermore, asynchronous interaction empowers users with choice and ability to control their pace.  Kaye Vivian (Dove Lane, Nov. 23) suggests that social verbs provide low-risk means of exploring social contact.

Another thought here involves the value of protocol to establish the structure by which we can push back and take action while minimizing social risk (e.g. in turn-based systems, ref. Is Love and War Turn-based).  Dramatically, "Sorry, I really had to invade..."  Or more opportunistically, how the expectation of a "thank you" after a gift exposes another moment for conversation.

I also found myself the other night musing upon the "Need vs. Greed" dialog window in WoW...

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Posted by nate on November 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Zimmerman’s Dev Rights

Given the current debacle over Star Wars Galaxies and the rights that Sony Online Entertainment may or may not have to go changing SWG into what some see as effectively a different world - Eric Zimmerman’s recent intervention into what it is to be a game dev is most timely.

Titled “A Bill of Rights for Game Developers” Zimmerman outlines 13 Points (summarized below but explained in full over at Gamasutra) that focus on the developer as an individual with a set of putative rights. It's a fine follow up to Koster’s famous Declaration of the rights of Avatars and an interesting take, from the perspective of people at the code-face, on a wide range of issues discussed over here at TN. 

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Posted by Ren Reynolds on November 23, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 21, 2005

ARGs and Utopian Dreams

Lastcallpoker_4Ron Meiners contributes an essay about the social possibilities in alternate reality - from Burning Man to Last Call Poker.  A selection: "The ARG creates a median space between the two poles: participatory but guided. Social, but driven by the need for collaboration and the self-selection of the participants and the underlying knowledge that the space is ultimately a protected one...which creates very strong social ties and consistently transformative personal experiences that she [Jane McGonigal] described as “pronoia” – the irrational conviction that the world is conspiring to your benefit in subtle and consistent ways..."

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Posted by Edward Castronova on November 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Order 66

Some time ago, I wrote here at Terra Nova that MMOGs really don't get a "do-over", that later changes to the game almost necessarily sit on top of old mechanics, that design is cumulative.

The live management team for Star Wars: Galaxies set out to prove me wrong with their "combat upgrade" and "Jedi revamp" a while back, and I watched with some interest. I couldn't see how they planned to change the rest of the game at the same time as the combat upgrade, given how tight the interdependencies of the game were. In fact, I predicted on the official SWG forum that any serious attempt to realize the ambitions of the combat revamp was going to take a major rethinking of the entire profession system and crafting along with it.

I was closer to the mark than I would have guessed: the live management team recently and with breathtaking suddenness announced and then pushed to live a massive overhaul of the entire game, the so-called "New Game Enhancement" or NGE. Unfortunately, the live management team seems to have ignored another long-standing criticism of SWG by many observers: that their design and implementation process is a disastrous mess. Never more so than with the NGE: whatever it is conceptually, in practice, it's roughly on par with an alpha build of a MMOG.

Or did they ignore it? It's just possible that SWG's latest flaming car wreck resulted from deliberately driving over a cliff.

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Posted by Timothy Burke on November 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (125) | TrackBack (1)

Nov 20, 2005

Book and Volume

Bv_coverGrand Text Auto is kind of our evil (good?) twin in the industry/academic video gaming collablog space -- a bunch of really smart folks blogging together about games.  While we focus mainly on virtual worlds here, GTxA focuses mainly on interactive fiction.  (If you don't read it regularly, there's an index here with a topical list of posts.)

Besides being smart, the GTxA folks are creative to boot.  Most of our readers are probably familiar with the ground-breaking Façade by Stern and Mateas, hailed by the New York Times and gaming theory guru Chris Crawford.  Last week, Nick Monfort, author of Twisty Little Passages, released Book and Volume -- an interactive fiction work available for free online.  If you're interested in thinking about future possibilities of the MMOG form (i.e. is there an alternative to rat-whacking and FedExing?) you should take a look at this stuff.  Plus, it's free -- can't beat that.

Posted by greg on November 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 19, 2005

Interview with a Price Fixer

I've noted elsewhere that I've been spending some time getting a handle on the WoW economy, and wanted to report from time to time of my adventures in the auctionhouse (AH). Today, I wanted to talk about the AH and price fixing, and to share with you a few thoughts from a practitioner of what can only be described as "Economic PvP." His name is Alex Tabony and below the fold we discuss the nature of the AH, the problems with relying on certain types of add-ons, and how you can game others within the AH.

Read on...

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Posted by Dan Hunter on November 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 18, 2005

A Massive Matrix

Attention players of The Matrix Online: prepare to get served

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Posted by Betsy Book on November 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (1)

Nov 15, 2005

Delusions of granter

One thing that I've been thinking about a lot lately is my set of experiences over the past two years reviewing for large grant agenices. While my experience is still a bit limited, it has been intense, and I have developed some impressions (and that is really all they are, given anyone's limited point of view relative to these funding agencies) about the current trends in social science research on technology in general (and virtual worlds in particular)...

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Posted by Thomas Malaby on November 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 13, 2005

I need a hero

Coat of arms of the People's Republic of China. All video games are works of ideology. Often the ideology is so much akin to that of society in which they are developed and consumed that it goes un-noticed.

Games that surface an agenda stick out. A case in point is the new mobile game Airport Insecurity by Persuasive Games. Works that have government backing stick out still further. A couple of years ago America’s Army was the hot topic. So it should come as no surprise after the recent coverage of gaming in China that the Chinese government would want to get in on the act too. Step forward (or is that march forward) Chinese Hero Registry a Virtual World that the blogshpere suggests is planned to be developed by Shanda on behalf of the Chinese government.

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Posted by Ren Reynolds on November 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 12, 2005

Methical in MSM

The Methical EQ II dupe story has made it to the mainstream media.  Mark Turner writes a piece for the Financial Times about the incident (mentioned previously here), quoting Ted and Josh, among others.  Ted says: "The phase we're in right now is that everyone is ­trying to apply the proper metaphor. This is terra nova; a lot of these phenomena are frontier phenomena."

Posted by greg on November 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 11, 2005

The Disappeared

When my kids were younger I introduced a small fiction about the fate of avatars and monsters I encountered in games.  They did not die, I did not kill them, they just disappeared.  Intended as a gentler exile, it was also a softer verb that blurred cause and effect...

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Posted by nate on November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 10, 2005

Secondary Market Sinks

To prvent gold piece inflation, designers build in "sinks", places where currency drains from the system. What about using that metaphor to defuse incentives to secondary market trading?

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Posted by Edward Castronova on November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 09, 2005

Industry Bodies

Why isn’t there a trade body to represent the interests of virtual world developers?

In the UK we have trade associations for body piercers, cartoonists, the greetings card industry, television camermen, packaging companies and homeopaths, among others. Why isn’t there any organisation at all for virtual world developers?

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Posted by Richard Bartle on November 9, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 07, 2005

Goods and Services

In looking at the economics of WoW, I've been struck by the absence of a market for services. There is an active market for items, of course, since Blizzard built this into the system and, as we've discussed many times before, it's really hard to build a game-style MMOG that doesn't develop its own internal market for valuable items. But there is almost no market for services, either game-supported or player-created.

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Posted by Dan Hunter on November 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (52) | TrackBack (0)

Nov 04, 2005

The Future Cost of a Good Synthetic World

Linear projections out of the current data set are completely irresponsible and should be avoided at all costs. But I just can't resist the temptation.

A film like Return of the King costs something like $100m to make, for perhaps ten hours of entertainment (I've watched the film 3 times). That's $10m per hour. Now, a good SW occupies users for more time than that. An intense user will go in for 40+ hours weekly, for three or five years. Let's be more conservative and say it is 25 hours a week for one year. 25x52 = 1,300 hours. 1,300 hours of entertainment produced Hollywood-style would cost $13b. The projection suggests that a fully mature game industry might be willing to put $13 billion into the construction of a fantasy world that provides entertainment, in terms of quality and time, equialent to to watching a string of great movies 3 or 4 hours a day, for a year.

It's an irresponsible calculation, but it just makes me think that, well, we may be pouring truly massive amounts of money into synthetic world creation in the future.

Posted by Edward Castronova on November 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack (1)