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
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
NASA, the U.S. space agency, is getting ready to launch its own exploration into virtual space. NASA’s Learning Technologies arm has issued an intramural call for proposal ideas [UPDATE: now postponed, oddly] for the development of a massively multiplayer online game that is intended to be “the front-end of a larger synthetic environment.” The program is funded to the tune of $1 million a year for fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009. [UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline from “earmarks” to “budgets” per Daniel Laughlin’s comment below.] While the call for proposals is internal only, “Each proposing team must include a partner with commercial-quality game development experience. It is expected that this requirement will necessitate partnering with external organizations and that the majority of funding will be used for game development.” [Emphasis added. And thanks to Troy McLuhan of the International Spaceflight Museum in Second Life for sending over the news.]
While the Web page doesn’t say so specifically, NASA is apparently compiling its own list of potential outside developers for the project, and Daniel Laughlin, the contact for the project, is also looking at Second Life as a possible platform. For more information, you can download a PDF of the 16-page CFP. It describes the MMO as an educational project “with the primary goal of engaging young people in NASA’s mission. It also mentions that several projects will be taken on in the first year, and then a single project will be chosen from among those to receive the balance of the funding. So whether you’re an SL developer, a Multiverse world-maker or some other kind of MMOist, strap on your oxygen tanks, and email your space credentials to Daniel.D.Laughlin [at] nasa [dot] gov. Zero-gravity virtual world here we come! What a fantastic project. I love when I get to use the “space” tag on 3pointD. Go, NASA!
Will Wright gave the keynote talk at the Hilton Grand Ballroom on Tuesday, the last day of 2007’s South by Southwest Interactive.
Justin Hall introduces: Will Wright is a famous successful computer game designer. He created SimCity, which mapped birdseye urban planning into millions of minds. Working on a dollhouse for boys he created the Sims, which allowed all of us to manipulate suburban households. Billions of dollars of revenue, putting him in the highest echelons of entertainment. What does a guy like him do for a hobby? He runs the Stupid Fun Club in the East Bay. I visited the club, and the night I was there, there was a video shown of a robot laying on its side in theh street asking for help, and someone had taped the responses of passers-by to what was basically a homeless helpless robot. Then someone handed me a plastic visor and body suit, I put it on in the spirit of the evening, and suddenly this robot was rapid firing ping pong balls at me. I could see in the back of the room Will Wright behind the controls steering and watching and I think wondering how long I would stand there. This idea of experimentation and testing with things, he’s made it possible for all of us to experiment with the systems around us. Now Will Wright is building a simulation of the universe. Wow.
Will Wright (one arm in a sling): All those pictures you just saw [projected on screens before the talk] are from the Hubble. I broke my arm skiing, before you ask. I had way too much coffee today, so I’ll go fast. They asked me to speak here, I decided I’d come and talk about story. Then a week ago I read that I would be demoing Spore, so I’m mashing the two together. Continue reading
EVE Online gives rise to some of the most interesting economic gameplay in any MMO. EVE fans and those who pay attention to these kinds of things may remember the EVE alliance known as Interstellar Starbase Syndicate Operations, which started selling shares in its in-game outposts (huge, player-built and player-run space stations) to the public almost 18 months ago. Now, ISS is going one step further, and is selling shares in the alliance itself. It’s non-voting stock, but it turns the alliance into something different, something that’s rarely if ever been seen in EVE before: a mega-corporation that’s beholden to its shareholders, a company that will publish financial statements, and whose first order of business will be the maximisation of shareholder value. With its IPO, which is still under way, ISS is seeking to take emergent economic gameplay to another level in EVE, and is making a pretty fascinating step toward a new kind of player-generated content in the game. I just had a chat with ISS principals Count TaSessine and Serenity Steele, who had interesting things to say about both their in-game goals, and about the kinds of gameplay they want to help generate in EVE. Their plan is so ambitious that it almost constitutes a kind of user-generated patch to gameplay. Continue reading
Fans of the short-lived series Firefly will be interested to learn that the show’s ‘verse will be turned into a massively multiplayer online game on the Multiverse platform, at least a beta version of which should be available by sometime in 2008. I’ve just done a story on it for Wired.com, where you can read more details, but note that they haven’t chosen a development team yet, so it’s anyone’s guess what the final game will look and feel like. Here’s hoping it’s as cool as the series. Which rocked.
For those that haven’t heard the news: Second Life is under attack! But it’s not W-Hats this time, it’s Martians! Take a listen on the latest episode of SecondCast for more details. Or maybe you want to wait for Halloween.
Trendspotting astrologer Philip Brown has the zodiacal explanation for the ongoing explosion of interest in virtual worlds: a Uranus-Neptune mutual reception that’s having noticeable effects on pretty much everyone under the sun:
The Uranus-Neptune mutual reception creates a longing for a Utopia and, since the everyday real world sorely lacks such perfection, the online world is becoming the closest thing some people have to a Utopian community.
Brown goes on to give Habbo Hotel and Neopets as examples, and mentions that he talks about avatars in his forthcoming book. Be warned, though: the current mutual reception lasts only until 2011. Let’s hope the virtual world is firmly established by then. To that end: someone get this guy into Second Life. I want my avatar’s chart read.
VRoot has the news that the Royal Academy was offering 3D tours of a virtual Mars at its annual Summer Science Exhibition, which has just ended. Cool. The article VRoot links doesn’t say what the technology behind the tours was, but if you drill down into the Royal Society site, you find its Rough Guide to Mars page and Life on Mars project, including a link to Google Mars, which is, of course, very cool. And on the about page of that app, the interesting question, “Can I see the Mars data using the Google Earth client?” And the even more interesting answer, “Not yet, but we’re working on it.”
The X3D community blog has link to the PlanetQuest app built by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, flagging it as a “brilliant” example of the power of the X3D open-standards 3D Web format. I’m still not convinced — though I’m still open to persuasion. The app shows off the Milky Way galaxy from various angles and is nice looking on the first go-round, but it was also totally browser-breaking, for me, and I didn’t feel like I was looking at anything terribly new. Why not build something with the same functionality in a virtual world browser along the lines of Multiverse? At least make it so the music stops playing when I close the app and the Web page. I suspect I’m running into some technical difficulties here, but I’d still like to see more. For now, I’m sticking with Celestia.
The moon in Earth orbit — but not Google Earth
Thank the stars for readers. A few posts ago I was pondering how cool it would be if Google were to come out with a Google Space application, and reader Adam Blumenthal pointed out that such a thing already exists, not from Google, but in the form of a free app called Celestia (for Windows, OS X or Linux), which, if you know what’s good for, you’ll download and check out before you even read the rest of this post. I don’t want to tell you how late I was up last night playing around in this thing. Continue reading