Yes, just to keep you on your toes, here’s a link to the thumbsucker I just put up at The Last Weblog:
Mass Queens and the Clarity of Game Mechanics
Yes, just to keep you on your toes, here’s a link to the thumbsucker I just put up at The Last Weblog:
Mass Queens and the Clarity of Game Mechanics
I apparently started a new blog about a year and a half ago, posted ten posts there, then didn’t touch it through all of 2010. Well, I’m back! I’ve just put up a post there about the game that I’m making, and immediately got a chill down my spine, just a little taste memory of the heyday of 3pointD, South by Southwest (which I skipped this year for the first time in five or more years), podcasting, meetups, the whole bit. I don’t plan to jump back into blogging, etc., in the same way I did in 2006 — “blogging, etc.” is not at all the same these days — but it was interesting to be reminded of what the blogging life was like. So… if anyone out there is still listening and interested in what I might be up to or have to say (and you’re finding my Twittering a bit too shorthand), do join me at The Last Weblog and say hello. I may occasionally post here as well, I think, but hey: it’s 2011, and this place is so, well… so 3pointD!
Use code MWVIP to get $200 off an all-access pass to Engage! Expo, happening September 23-24 at the San Jose Convention Center. Looks like a nice line-up, including:
* New keynotes include: Jeremy Liew, Managing Director, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Mark Pincus, Founder and CEO, Zynga.
* 125 speakers covering the subjects of virtual goods, social media, digital law and 3D learning.
* Best Buy’s innovative social media strategy keynote: With Best Buy’s Gina Debogovich and Jason Parker.
* Super Social media case studies from leading brands: Walmart, Best Buy, Intel, H&R Block, and Kodak
* Virtual goods case studies from Playdom, Six Degrees Games, MyYearbook. Plus hear from Habbo, Zynga, Social Gaming Network, Playfish and more.
* The venture capital point of view: Hear from Lightspeed, Rustic Canyon Partners, SVB Capital and Venture Capital-Private Equity Roundtable
* Get the latest market research from from Strategy Analytics, Interpret, Pearl Research, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, VGMarket and ThinkBalm
* Get your hands dirty on the expo floor with demos of the top new technologies.
* Understand the critical legal ramifications pertaining to games, social media and virtual goods
* Learn how to use the latest 3D technologies within your enterprise to save money now.
If you’re planning on heading to New York for the Engage! Expo (formerly the Virtual Worlds Conference) on March 10-11 — as I am — you can still get an early-registration discount today. (Prices go up tomorrow.) My co-conspirator Jerry Paffendorf will be jowboning there, and it looks like I’ll be moderating a panel as well. The conference has undergone a name change, but it’s still one of the most interesting gatherings of metaverse-related personages going. Join us.
(And don’t be surprised if you see more 3pointD posts here in the near future. I know, it’s been a while and there’s a lot of cleanup to do, but I think things may be picking up speed, if not here then in a related location. Stay tuned.)
Edward Castronova’s MMO, Arden, is being released today. It’s available to play, download, and modify as you wish.
His new book, Exodus to the Virtual World, is also now available. I’ve been flipping through a copy, and it looks pretty interesting. Whether or not you agree with the thesis — that game mechanics are going to increasingly influence real-world governance and society — there’s a lot of fascinating research packed into its pages.
Michael Arrington is reporting that the AOL Games Group may be getting ready to launch a social network for World of Warcraft players, since the company owns wow.com. Could AOL’s reach make wow.com a category-killer? Sean Fanning’s Rupture, another WoW socnet, hasn’t particularly taken off, as I understand it. New entrants to virtual world social networking include Koinup as well. More on the subsector at GigaOm.
Japanese writer, blogger and game designer Shigesato Itoi‘s site, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, is running a series of articles taken from a conversation with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. The first three (of eleven) are already up on the site, and there’s some good stuff there, not just for game designers, but for designers of software in general, especially at a moment when more and more people are coming to recognize the importance of game mechanics to user engagement. Parts four through eleven unfold over the next ten days. Whether you’re interested in Nintendo’s perspective on game and software design, or you just want to hear from “the world’s number one researcher of Miyamoto studies,” this is pretty much required reading.
GoPets CEO Erik Bethke is set to break new ground in the area of virtual worlds by proposing to turn his service’s end-user licensing agreement and terms of service document into a plainly written bill of rights. [Via GamePolitics.com, pointed out by Nate Combs.] In a recent LiveJournal post, he offers $5,000 for help in drafting the document, but sets out 16 points for discussion, starting off, rather remarkably, with a right of due procedss and habeas corpus. If Bethke can get all this in place, it will represent a great step forward for virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online games. In his post, he mentions Raph Koster’s Declaration of the Right of Avatars, which <pimp alert>Peter and I reference in our book.</pimp alert> There isn’t a terms of service doc out there that comes anywhere close to this. But if virtual spaces are to have a real, robust future, they’re going to need much better governance structures than they enjoy at present. Bethke’s new style of ToS, if it can be implemented, would be a big first step down that road.
It’s South by Southwest season again, or at least the run-up to it. For the last two years I’ve headed to Austin for the excellent South by Southwest Interactive festival, a fun week of geeks and great conversations that takes place each spring in one of the greatest small cities in America. The process of choosing who gets to take the stage there, though, starts early. Hugh Forest, who runs the place, has just posted this year’s SXSW Panel-Picker, the mechanism by which a fair portion of the panels are chosen. I’ve proposed two, which I’m going to insist you all go vote on forthwith. Here are the titles, links and descriptions:
â€¢ Presence: Building the Social Web
“Despite social networking, the Web remains a lonely place: a billion people browse it, each one alone. This session examines efforts to make the Web a more social medium by bringing “presence” online. Help us imagine a Web that works less like a library and more like a multiplayer game.”
â€¢ Kicking Virtual Ass and Taking Avatar Names
“What is it like to run the virtual world’s most notorious tabloid? Where do you draw the line between good taste and bad, between information and sensation, between virtual and real — if such a line exists? Explore the role of a very free press in the evolution of online worlds. Dual presentation with [Second Life Herald founder] Peter Ludlow.” Continue reading
The crew at PC Gamer UK are without a doubt the best games writers in the business. (Put it this way: I pay over $100 a year for my subscription, and I no longer read any other games mags.) Every month, PCG(UK) provides the most sophisticated, most critical, most creative, and the funniest (without being too scatological — though they could still stand to dial back on the sexism) games writing out there. Now, a sub-crew of PCG writers — including Jim Rossignol and Kieron Gillen — as well as some friends, have launched a new site where they can range even more freely. Check out RockPaperShotgun, where there’s already some great stuff up (check out Gillen’s exclusive interview with Bioshock’s Ken Levine, for instance), and where I expect you’ll be able to find a higher level of games writing (at a lower cost) than is available from even the best games sites on the Web. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Escapist.)
Susan Wu, who was instrumental in arranging the Virtual Goods Summit I moderated a panel at in June, emailed me some embargoed news earlier today, and though I begged and pleaded, she asked me wait until midnight to post it. However, I see that the news is already out there, so I have to apologize to Susan and jump the gun, if only slightly: The news is that Charles River Ventures, where Susan is a partner, has just co-led a $5.5 million Series A financing of Conduit Labs, which is “building cool social entertainment destinations for you and your friends. We are bored of the same old social networks, virtual worlds, and MMOs,” according to its placeholder site. Over on Conduit’s blog, CEO Nabeel Hyatt is talking about the investment, and also tells the interesting story of how the comany got started. It’s hard to tell exactly what they’re building over at Conduit, but it sounds like a browser-based games network that’s somehow differentiated from what’s out there already. “We want to deliver a completely new kind of massively multiplayer experience â€” one that requires minutes, not hours, to access and learn, and one that is as rich and social as real-world activities like shooting hoops or jamming in a band. And we wanted it all in a browser, as accessible as your email,” Nabeel says. Later on, he puts Conduit “at the nexus of a lot of whatâ€™s happening on the social web, from Twitter to Areae” (which are both also CRV investments). I’ll be very interested to see what Conduit is cooking up, and whether there’s a form of “social gaming world” that could be that different from current offerings. Considering its backers, though, it’s definitely one to watch.
I’m wearing my Virtual Goods Summit t-shirt today, which isn’t really interesting except that it gives me an excuse to tell you that videos from the event have now been released. This was an excellent day of deep-diving into various business models and approaches to virtual goods — and probably features more information and more angles than you expect. The summit was arranged by Susan Wu of Charles River Ventures, and Charles Hudson, who, until recently, was in new business development at Google. What is Charles up to now? No idea. But he is super smart, very well connected, and friends with the super-smart and very well connected Susan, so whatever it is, it’s probably going to be interested. Stay tuned to his blog for updates.
God bless IBM. Of all the big bad corporations doing business in the virtual world of Second Life, these guys — and, on an individual basis, the company’s employees — are near the top of the “most creative and ambitious” league table (mostly, I suspect, because they can afford to be). The latest: an IBM employee with his own private island in Second Life has had some coins minted that are each worth one Linden dollar. That’s right, you can now hold the Linden dollar in your hand and actually spend it — if, that is, you’re on »Tender Island«, which has been owned by IBMer David van Gent since March.
The coins come complete with an “SL” mintmark, and are “accepted as legal currency on Tender Island.” Before you get your knickers in a twist over who’s allowed to mint coins denominated in a particular currency, keep in mind that in the U.S., at least, creating your own tender is perfectly acceptable — you can print all the money you want (as long as you’re not counterfeiting dollars), it’s just a matter of whether you can get anyone to accept it. Linden Lab, of course, is not a government. But their rhetoric (“I’m not building a game, I’m building a country“) indicates there shouldn’t be anything objectionable in Tender Island coins. Continue reading
With the success of Nicktropolis and even more so WebKinz, Club Penguin, and things like GoPets and more (Animal Crossing, anyone?), virtual worlds for kids have become the hot ticket this summer. Two new ones are on their way: one an educational 3D theme park, the other a cool 2D “world” designed in part by Aardman Animations, the outfit behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit cartoons.
The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading
There’s yet another virtual worlds conference that’s just popped up in my email. This one’s Serious Virtual Worlds, September 13-14, in Coventry, England, of all places (it’s being put on by something called the Serious Games Institute and sponsored in part by Coventry University). It’s bloody expensive, as our British friends would say, but only a few of the speakers have been announced as yet. That combined with its location in what’s vaguely equivalent to the Research Triangle of the UK is another sure sign of the (pre?) maturation the virtual worlds sector. Any industry that can fill a conference center with guys in suits has certainly arrived. All that said, there’s the potential for this to be a vaguely interesting couple of days. If it can spread the word to wider quarters then it’s done its job. The press release for this one too leads off with the word “first,” however. Read it after the jump. Continue reading
With the news a few days ago that MMO space opera EVE Online had hired an in-game economist, most commentators focused on how much fun he would have compared to all the other economists in the world, and how curious it would be to read quarterly reports from an imaginary universe. I think it has broader ramifications than that, particuarly when it comes to economies such as that of Second Life and Entropia Universe, which are explicitly tied to real-world currencies. Though Second Life pushes itself as a place where real money can be earned, it has consistently done a very poor job of making any useful economic information available. Its reports don’t resemble traditional economic and business reports, and in any case lack clear explanation of their methodology. They’re useful as far as they go, but they don’t go nearly far enough — which is an inexcusable state of affairs for a place that’s advertised as a capitalist paradise. The presence of EVE’s new economist should provide at least some distant motivation for Second Life to get its economic act together. Continue reading
Meet the new boss
Good news, all you obssessively grinding World of Warcraft addicts: “Success as a business leader may depend on skills as a gamer,” according to Jim Spohrer, Director of Services Research at the IBM Research Center in Almaden, California. IBM has just done a study with Seriosity (one of the cooler companies at the virtual goods summit) which found “significant parallels between online gaming and the future of work,” according to a press release. “Today’s gamers are learning collaboration, self-organization, risk-taking, openness, influence, and how to earn incentives linked to performance and be flexible in the way they communicate.” That’s a lot better than the hand-eye coordination that most people think as the limit of what games have to teach. More below. Continue reading
Google’s Charles Hudson, a host of the Virtual Goods Summit, moderated the last panel of the day, on virtual goods and entertaiment.
Charles: What motivates people to stay engaged, and how do virtual goods play into that?
Ryan: For us it’s about self-expression. When our users spend 4-6 hours online, self-experssion as they show themselves in their IM, in their blogs, in the game, is incredbly impoertant to them. Our most loyal users are female. Unlike in Second Life, where they routinely blow up the American Apparel store, it has to be a conscious choice to engage with the brand. We find our users actually associate with brands. It comes down to, I’m online and I want to express something about my identity to everyone else. Continue reading
Reeves: The human brian is not specialized to differentiate between virtual and real. Same neurons fire when an avatar smiles at you as when a real person smiles at you. Seriosity is looking at what happens when you create an opportunity to do serious things with virtual currency attached, such as sending email messages with virtual currency attached. The result? You open the email faster when currency is attached. Virtual money changes real behavior. Continue reading
Min Kim of Nexon gave a presentation at the Virtual Goods Summit and said the company would probably announce the release of its KartRider in the US soon, which has been in closed beta. Kim also said Maple Story has been “kicking ass” in the US, with 3.5 million registered users. The company is also introducing prepaid cards at Target that can be used to buy virtual items, which it expects will push up sales as well. It also just released Audition, which already has 100,000 registered users, more than half of them female. Continue reading
Kyra Reppen of Neopets gave a presentation at the Virtual Goods Summit on MTV’s Neopets. Like other MTV presenters before her, she began her presentation with a video. Perhaps the most interesting part, though, was about the new NC Mall that Neopets will introduce in beta next week. It’s about customizing and self-expression. It’s complementary to the Neopoints economy, no exchange between the two. Themed items around Neopian events. Launching with PayPal. Why do we think this is going to work? Digital is real life for this audience. Technology is invisible. Emotional connection makes the pixels go away and it’s about these experiences. Virtual worlds and virtual economies are simply applications to achieve those four core goals: fun, self-expression, social needs, and control. Kids ages 6-14 have $60 billion in income. One important feature of NC Mall is try before you buy. Continue reading
I’m off tomorrow for California, where I’ll be moderating a panel at the Virtual Goods Summit being put together by venture capitalist Susan Wu and Google’s Charles Hudson. I’ll also be hanging around Supernova just to see what can be seen. I’m very much looking forward to the summit, especially because, as Susan points out, it’s now clear that “virtual goods represent a real, viable business model and will likely have a huge impact across all of the consumer Internet.” (More thoughts from Giff.) That means not just as part of gaming or even as part of virtual worlds, but most everywhere. I’m not sure what the recording and archiving plans are for the conference, but look for reports from 3pointD, since plenty of excellent speakers will be in attendance who hopefully will have plenty of interesting things to say.
Games designer and researcher Ian Bogost is liveblogging the Games For Change conference going on at the moment in New York, and has a good post up about the panel titled Virtual Activism: Exploring Nonprofits in Second Life, as well as a couple of the other presentations that were made yesterday. Worth noting.
I’ve been interested in what little information is available about Outback Online and the “user-generated spaces” that Yoick CEO Rand Leeb-du Toit is building there, so when I read (in an article I’ve since lost the link to) that Australian research institute NICTA had developed the peer-to-peer technology that is supposed to make Outback more scalable than any 3D online world we’ve seen before, I got in touch. NICTA’s Dr. Santosh Kulkarni was kind enough to give me some time on the phone. Between what Dr. Kulkarni was able to reveal and what I was able to understand I seem to have got a rough outline of NICTA’s technology that hopefully sheds some light on the new techniques being developed there. Continue reading
Honestly, I had no idea. When I blogged yesterday about the possibility that EVE Online players might soon get new governance tools, little did I know that Seth Schiesel would have an article about it in today’s New York Times. And indeed, the announcement today is that EVE players will soon be able to elect a player-staffed oversight committee that will be regularly flown to Iceland to “audit CCPâ€™s operations and report back to their player-constituents.” To insure the elections are free and fair, “CCP says it will call in election monitors from universities in Europe and the United States.” Pretty brilliant. (And thanks to empeekay for the screenshot.) Continue reading
I was just over in Iceland, visiting with CCP Games, makers of my favorite massively multiplayer online game, EVE Online. I was there to swap wisdom with some devs and attend CCP’s tenth anniversary party. We heard about a raft of new developments EVE has in the pipeline, most of which have been previously reported. One, though, was merely a tantalizing hint from CEO Hilmar Petursson, though it merits closer inspection, if you ask me. EVE and CCP have been hit lately by a raft of accusations that close ties between players and devs have made it easier for some in-game groups to dominate. In a blog post, the company acknowledges that a previous accusation has merit, while denying more recent claims. I haven’t followed the issue closely enough to have an opinion on either side, but it has certainly rocked the community and had a big impact within CCP itself, where there is now an Internal Affairs team to look into such allegations. It also sounds as if EVE may be in store for some new governance tools at some point in the future, tools that could help players resolve these sorts of conflicts for themselves. I’m basing that only on comments from Hilmar that “something big” is in store in that area, but considering that it’s EVE, that something could be very interesting indeed. [UPDATE: EVE will indeed get a player-led oversight committee.] Continue reading
June 13 will see cable new network CNN kick off something it’s calling a Future Summit with a “landmark television event.” Why does 3pointD care? Because the series, which looks like it will unfold more on the Web than on the air, starts with Future Summit: Virtual Worlds, featuring everyone from Linden Lab CEO Phhilip Rosedale to Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield, Funcom CEO Trond Aas, and people like EA co-founder Trip Hawkins, Jimmy Wales and Nick Yee, among others. There’s precious little information on the site about just what’s happening and when, but it sounds like it should contain a lot of information of interest to metaversal types. Continue reading
Cool British journo-researcher Aleks Krotoski has a couple of really good interviews up on the Guardian Gamesblog with veteran games designer Mark Eyles, who’s now in academia. In part one of their interview, Eyles talks about “ambient gaming,” and describes the thinking behind his game, Ambient Quest. (In part two, he talks about academia.) Ambient Quest is PC-only and requires a game-master, of all things, so I haven’t checked it out yet (and I actually have a hard time understanding how it works based on the description on its Web site), but the idea is cool — although it strikes me that it’s hardly as ambient as Justin Hall’s Passively Multiplayer Online Game, where I’ve become a level 77 Seer by dint of doing almost exactly nothing. Regardless, the ideas that Eyles is exploring are fascinating (read his paper on ambient RPGs), and dovetail with thoughts that have appeared on 3pointD and elsewhere in the guise of things like lifelogging and ideas about bringing game-like feedback mechanisms into the workplace (a la Seriosity). The interview raises some interesting questions — Where is the line between gaming and recording behavior? Does PMOG qualify as a game just because it lays the trappings of games atop a record of the things I do every day anyway? — and is well worth the read. And if you can figure out how to play the damn thing, let me know.
The virtual world of Second Life got a little bit stranger for me this week. I went over to see Destroy Television the other day at the gallery where she’s hanging out at the moment, and my avatar, Walker Spaight, ended up marrying her! (That’s Destroy’s rock at left.) Now, if you know me and you know my Second Life, this is slightly unusual, since for me there’s very little space between myself and my avatar(s) in the virtual world. I use Second Life as simply an extension of my first life; there’s nothing virtual about it. But here I was role-playing the lovestruck journalist to Destroy’s hard-to-get videographizing vixen. Walker even started a Tumblog about his romance. The formal ceremony was yesterday afternoon (Walker was all nerves — though he didn’t show it), and you can view images of the happy couple together on Destroy’s Flickr stream.
It struck me at some point that what I was doing — along with Annie Ok, who was driving Destroy at the time, and Jerry Paffendorf and Christian Westbrook, who conceived Destroy and brought her to life — was creating a little Alternative Virtual Reality Game, in a way. I don’t write a lot about alternate reality games (ARGs) — i.e., narratives that involve audience participation, which usually have some real-world component, and which often feature a prize or reward at the end — mostly because I don’t really roll with them as a genre. Things like Perplex City and World Without Oil are very cool, to be sure, and I’ve been fascinated to see how this stuff is developing, but I’ve always found myself rubbed the wrong way by this “alternate reality” moniker. But it wasn’t until I started getting my alternate reality on, via Walker, that I realized why. What’s going on in all these cases looks to me less like “alternate reality” than it does like fiction, and fiction being formulated on the same level as broadcast media like television — i.e., it’s just the same kind of fiction that’s happening in a TV show like Law & Order, for instance, only with the audience involved in writing the story as it goes along. From some angles, it looks like there isn’t any such thing as an alternate reality game at all — there’s only the fiction / narrative / media of the future. Continue reading
I had a brief visit with Second Life resident epredator Potato today (that’s him in the audience with me above) at what is currently »the main court« of the French Open tennis tournament in Second Life. epred, of course, is the SL avatar of IBM metaverse evangelist Ian Hughes, whose virtual Wimbledon of about a year ago was more or less responsible for galvanizing IBM’s attention to virtual worlds and 3D technologies. The Roland Garros version of the build does the same shot-for-shot replication of live matches as epredator’s original Wimbledon, but uses SL’s physics engine to pitch the ball back and forth across the net. You can also “play” the points, or at least view them from the player’s-eye-view, which is a nice touch. Walker took to the court with his golf club, which you can see after the jump. Continue reading
Icarus Studios, which makes tools for building 3D massively multiplayer online games, virtual worlds and other similiar environments, has a new next-gen platform and suite of middleware tools out, according to a press release from the company, which you can find below. (The Icarus platform is currently in use by “two unnamed clients covered by NDAs,” as well as the forthcoming MMO Fallen Earth.) It’s interesting to note what the release says about how well Icarus-built worlds can be integrated with the Web and other external functions. Icarus will feature “integrated working browsers, dial-out to real world phones, and real-time video streaming,” apparently, and will support functionality such as “user-generated content, in-world social and entertainment activities, diverse revenue models, and in-world profiled marketing on a secure and scaleable platform.” I don’t imagine middleware solutions are generally the best way to build open, Web-integrated, general-purpose 3D spaces, but this kind of thing could move standard MMOs further toward something of the sort, and generally get more people used to the idea of a 3D world that interfaces smoothly with the 2D Web, or that’s useful as a social-networking app, thus opening the door for 3D spaces to assume more and more of the functionality we now associate with the Web. Continue reading
Two SL videos, an interview with Little Big Planet, and the first presidential campaign to have an official SL presence. I suspect headline-writing is going to be the hardest thing about these D-Briefs I’ve started doing. By the way, does anyone have a “briefs” icon I can use for these? Feel free to send it along. Continue reading