« Other Players Proceedings Posted | Main | The Daedalus Gateway »

Dec 07, 2004

Comments

1.

This is clearly the key! Very encouraging to hear you talk like this..

The only two speed bumps are trust and convienence. Figure out how to hammer those down and everything will be smooth sailing from here on out..

2.

users will build the rest. absolutely they will. security is a major factor only if you insist on storing all the data inworld. a better solution is to force persistent storage of user defined data to external hosts and let the provider worry about transferring that data via a window (plugin) they provide for their customer's client.

this is, of course, assuming that there is a client api.

it is VERY encouraging to hear you talk like this.

3.

You know, I don't see the Everquest 2 station stuff as extending the Everquest world. It extends the experience, but there's nothing world-like about the station website stuff. Not trying to pick a semantic argument here, but it's not the same thing at all.

4.

I suppose you're in a better position to know than me, but I suspect that if I, as a dev, went to the commercial architect of EQ, SWG or another big, commercial world and said "and this XML-compliant, standards-based data format will let our players take their umpteenth-level avatars and play them in other worlds! How cool is that?!?" he would wait just long enough to make a joke about removing my "barriers to exit" before throwing me out his office.

Maybe he'd let me write an *import* routine. But export? No way. The only people who'd do that would be the idealistic or "ain't the tech cool" hobbiests. I'm not saying the idea isn't just plain lovely (I'm a tech-obsessed hobbiest), but I am not, you may not be wholly surprised to hear, in charge of any 100k worlds.

5.

Endie wrote - ...he would wait just long enough to make a joke about removing my "barriers to exit" before throwing me out his office.

Your assessment of the scenario seems correct to me, except you wouldn't be thrown out of his office.

It's about politics and strategic decisions.

When a company is confronted with an industry-wide API it asks itself what it stands to gain from supporting or not supporting it, what it stands to lose, and how its decision will influence the definition of the API along with the decisions of other companies in the industry. The decision-making process is like playing a chess game with 10 sides (one per competitor) and trying to think 6 moves in advance.

An API/standard is like the "spice" in Frank Herbert's dune. He who controls the spice controls the galaxy. An API won't empower a company control the galaxy, but APIs can be pretty powerful stuff. (By the way, if you can't control the spice, you wan't to make sure no one else does either.)

I had written a longer essay with many more details, but it got a bit boring, so I snipped it.

6.


An API/standard is like the "spice" in Frank Herbert's dune. He who controls the spice controls the galaxy. An API won't empower a company control the galaxy, but APIs can be pretty powerful stuff. (By the way, if you can't control the spice, you wan't to make sure no one else does either.)

It may may be worth distinguishing between an API -- implying an implementation -- vs a standard for the *how* to communicate (protocols, formats, etc). As long as the latter is open, I don't think proprietary implementations (former) would necessarily imply a new spice world.

7.

Speaking as someone who plays Asheron's Call, Second Life, City of Heroes, and (hopefully very, very soon) World of Warcraft; as well as someone who has a LiveJournal, a TypePad journal, and Blogger blog; as well as someone who chats on IRC, AIM, and a few other systems...

I don't want to be able to move accounts around, I want to be able to communicate outside of the games as well as do more while I'm in the games. There are a large number of people who, when they're playing, Role Play; they immerse themselves in the game, become the characters, etc. There are other people, though, who play the game as themselves. My experience has taught me there are more of these than the former.

Most everytime I play as a Taxibot, the Taxis talk anout fares as much as they talk about being Taxis, having "alts', having to go make dinner, or "brb". When Khamon and I used to play Asheron's Call, we'd play across from each other in the same room, and more often than not we shouted back-and-forth at each other instead of using the chat system. In Second Life, I'm never "in character" and I don't know of anyone who is.

Being able to communicate between servers, accessing the web from inside a game, and having an API is something that will appeal to my demographic, because it extends the utility of the game. It allows me to play CoH at home and "shout" across servers to Khamon in SL, just like we used to in AC. In my humble opinion, that's why we need a kind of standard/API.

Exporting characters, pardon my candor, is stupid. It ruins immersion, it ruins the imaginative pleasure of a game, and it's awkward to a point of debilitation. I have a character named "Jarod Godel" in three games, "Felecia Station" in two (three if you count my defunct There account), and some form of "Kerovia" in two (three if you count a defunct FFXI account) as well. As a semi-roleplayer, if I feel the need to extend characters' lives across "universes", that burden should fall on me.

MMOG's are a form of entertainment, and while it's a fun idea to imagine being able to level up to 50 in CoH and waltz across every game like a little godling, where's the entertainment of it? What kind of story would "A Connecticut Yankee in King Authur's Court" have been if the hero had brought an entire fortune of gold with him and as well as a regiment of guns. It would have sucked. Instead it's a fun story because it shows what a smart, adaptable person can do in an alien environment. Allowing character import and export ruins the challenge presented from trying to figure out a new world, taking old lessons and applying them (for better or worse) in a new place. Exporting and importing characters messes with that detrimentally.

It also allows power gamers to get bored more easily, because they have their ub3r-1337 character, and thus they don't need to stick around as long... Don't need to pay for their subscription as long. It also ruins sales for high-level character sales on eBay, why buy a level 40 mage when you can just import your level 50 dancer from SWG?

Importing and exporting hurts the immersion, the imagination, and even the business of MMOG's. It's stupid, and it's pointless to everyone who wants to play the game as a form of entertainment -- except ub3r-1337 power gamers who would enjoy this kind of feature like they do cheat codes.

8.

i forgot the code to stop my head from spinning. here's a more simplistic view of what, i think, jarod is saying.

mmog characters are composed of three things: stats, art and the user who plays them. we can already export & import users. it's becoming easier to "import" the art as minute customizations are developed.

exporting and importing the stats won't satisfy anyone. people who want to play the game appreciate the fun and challenge of building a character from scratch. power gamer types will not be happy with imported stats because they won't be on par with the proprietary characters.

game programmers and marketers will not simply dumb down their character abilities to suit an mmog character standard. they'll build two types of characters into their code. we'll have the option of importing matching stats and artwork from another game into a gimped character that can never take full advantage of the proprietary skills and stats. or we'll be able to create a native character that will have access to all the abilities provided.

power gamers aren't going to settle for a gimp. and role players want to develop a history in each environment they encounter. i just don't understand who a character export standard would serve.

9.

Nathan combs wrote - It may may be worth distinguishing between an API -- implying an implementation -- vs a standard for the *how* to communicate (protocols, formats, etc). As long as the latter is open, I don't think proprietary implementations (former) would necessarily imply a new spice world.

There is some distinction, but not that much.

Whomever controls the definition has power. The power can be given to a 3rd party, like the W3C, but then there's the issue of which companies on the committee have the most influence. If a major company strenuously objects to a feature, or pushes one, they're more likely to be listened to than a small upstart company.

Plus, the company or companies that supply the implimentation also have a large measure of control. If they don't want to impliment part of a standard, they don't. If they add extras to the standard, those extras become de-facto standards.

10.

Standards are power in the same way that APIs are power. There is no neutral language. By choosing a specific way of expressing a standard, one inherently makes some implementations easier and others harder.

Consider the lack of standards in representing 3d geometry. Or more precisely, the excess number of standards.

Consider a Cube. I could represent a cube in a number of ways. I could list the faces of the cubes and then the positions of the points on those faces. Or I could list the points of the cube and the faces those points are attached to. Or, I could describe the cube in terms of point/face duals (and then be unable to represent non-manifold geometry)

A lot of these very different languages have their own advantages and disadvantages. Standards thus tend to embody only one representation (and hence bias towards systems that have that representation internally), or try to encompass all representations (and hence become so complex everyone only implements part of the standard, which, of course, becomes the defacto standard)

Returning to MMORPGs, what I want in standards is mere communication standards. I'm not so convinced the worlds themselves need to provide this, however. I think so long as they play nicely in a window, existing standards like ICQ, etc, could be effective.

- Brask Mumei

11.

Khamon wrote:
mmog characters are composed of three things: stats, art and the user who plays them. we can already export & import users. it's becoming easier to "import" the art as minute customizations are developed.

You forgot history. That's tough to export too.

--matt

12.

>> You forgot history. That's tough to export too.

Is it? I mean, the only form of history that matters with your avatar is measurable, because it is in written in the figures which comprise it. That which does not kill you may make you stronger, but that which doesn't make you stronger (or weaker) might as well not occur. Especially where you are now in a world where the interactions were with imaginary, other-worldly forces. Just dreams, really.

The un-measurable history - the history of how and why and when things happened ("badge hunters" aside) can change. It may change because of my historical revisionism (um, yeah, I was there that night), or because of a "policy" decision (I am no longer a brave, orphaned paladin fighting the evil Mongzar, but a sneaky trowel-thief raised in a bourgeois home but gone bad), or it may change because I sold my toon to Jimmy McEbay, who decides it is now an underwater guy who controls the sea (and sadly doomed, as many will know, to be killed by ten million pounds of blue-stater sludge).

All you can do is supply text boxes into which a mutable and slanted history (is there any other sort?) can be maintained. And that is very easy indeed to export.

13.

And you forgot to close your italicisation tags. Permit me.

14.

Khamon wrote it's becoming easier to "import" the art as minute customizations are developed.

The only major (100K+) graphical games that allow players to import art will be those whose operators are comfortable with seeing regiments of characters displayed as ten-foot-tall penises with neon ground effects dominating the screen. Importing art from players is something everyone wants to do, right up until they realize the terrible Pandora's box this opens up.

Stats and abilities are another issue, even if you could create a language sufficient to represent all of them -- including ones for games that haven't been invented yet. And then there are game-balance issues: how do you normalize for the differential effect of a particular skill, tech, or magic item in one world vs. another?

Finally, there are just plain syntactical issues. Other industries have meta-languages or formats for representing complex data. I've worked on products that had to use these in the CAD and medical imaging industries -- two different areas with complex data and transferability issues. The critical ability is getting to the point where you can take a character from game A to game B, back to A, back to B, and back to A (two round trips) and have it be exactly the same as before it was transferred. This is a highly non-trivial task to say the least. And from the POV of any one vendor, it's both out of the control of themselves or any other vendor, and out of the control of the language/API. What this means for games is that approximately ten minutes after an inter-game format is released, someone will post a 'transfer utility' that allows you to transform your level 1 character into a level 60 uber-character for whatever game that supports the protocol.

These are just a few of the problems with inter-connectivity on the character/data level. OTOH, Andrew's comment about wanting to be able to communicate as a player with people on other servers or in other games... well yeah, that should be something we do today.

15.

(Ahh it's the attack of the un-closeable italics!)

16.

Mike> The only major (100K+) graphical games that allow players to import art will be those whose operators are comfortable with seeing regiments of characters displayed as ten-foot-tall penises with neon ground effects dominating the screen. Importing art from players is something everyone wants to do, right up until they realize the terrible Pandora's box this opens up.

I don't agree. Everyone (including me) likes to site Snow Crash, but we've not had too many problems with nudity in PG areas. It comes and goes, but the community standards and social norms have evolved to limit it. Sure, we're only 20% of the way to your definition of major, but asserting that nobody understands how to allow user-created content is incorrect.

Also, I think that it is a mistake (as I've said elsewhere) to think of world connectivity as "moving my avatar between them." Like Peter's call for open source worlds, it's an idea motivated by good underlying thoughts but is perhaps the wrong execution. Some worlds may share avatar standards, most won't, but we should instead be looking at interoperability from the standpoint of player needs -- just like rather than open source, what control, protection and security concerns does Peter have that make him desire open source? I think that we'll find that the needs appear more as communication, reputation, federation, payment and identity issues rather than avatar sharing.

17.

The whole open source conversation may become moot when the EU allows for software patents.

Don't believe me? Already DVD software and MP3 software have been denied distribution because of patents.

Also, BTW, you may give up your rights to patents if you open source your own software.

I don't see much of a future for open source software..

The biggest leap forward, btw, for connectivity right now would be a shared methodology for content creation. It doesn't even have to be the same format, just the same premise.

For example, I have been trying to write code to import doom / quake maps into SL. It's very challenging, and in fact I may have to give up. The map specs for quake 3 use the intersection of planes as described by 3 colinear points.

SL, for reasons of optimisation and user friendliness, use 'primitives' which don't map so well.

I think overcoming that particular problem should be #1 on the way to creating interworld connectivity. This would let us, among many things, use all those quake editors and leverage a rather large library of pre-existing VR content.

18.

i did not forget history. i lump it into the user category. khamon's history in dereth is well documented in my memory and on my drive. khamon fate has pictures of his namesake in his second life inventory.

cory beat me to the other point that second life avs are utterly customizable, and occasionally offensive, but not generally. the company has been quick to ban people that dared walk around representing adolf hitler or a giant penis. it hasn't taken many examples for people to get the point.

19.

I just looked at SL Exchange to see what it was. Does anyone else find it odd that even given the ability to have LSL-coded vendors in-world, people have reverted to selling Second Life items on the web? Granted, it's two different interfaces and not everyone can run SL at work, but...

Does it not seem like a step backwards?

20.

Khamon wrote:

cory beat me to the other point that second life avs are utterly customizable, and occasionally offensive, but not generally. the company has been quick to ban people that dared walk around representing adolf hitler or a giant penis. it hasn't taken many examples for people to get the point.

I believe this to be the effect of a smaller community that doesn't attract as many hardcore MMO players. I was a GM on UO, which does not have avatars that are customizable to the point of being offensive, but does have houses that can occasionally resemble something offensive, as well as the ability to lay pieces of cloth on the ground to create a swastika, or spell out a "zero tolerance" word, etc etc. I did more than my fair share of bannings in that game for offensive "user created" content, and UO doesn't even really have a user created content system.

I was also in the room for the very first banning of a player from The Sims Online for offensive content, and again, it was because the player had named his house something offensive, made swastikas out of floor tiles in his yard, and spelled out a racial slur in floor tiles that could, literally, be seen from space (or at least, the several-miles-up view of the neighborhood). IIRC, this was less than a week after the game was opened to the public.

If players are given the ability to make any content of their own, even if its just deciding how to lay down floor tiles, someone will eventually make or write something offensive. I am not against user created content, and at that level, its been my experience that it is just viewed as a part of the customer support job: banning the people who cross the line.

However, I do not think that having a policy of banning players who cross the line with user created content is actually a deterrent. If we believe Richard Bartle, that virtual worlds live or die by their ability to attract newbies, and assume that a major (100k+, as stated earlier) VW would have a large and constant stream of newbies, there are constantly people entering the world that don't know that its not ok to walk around calling yourself Hitler. (Case in point on that one: in UO, at least when I was a GM a few years ago, you were not allowed to name yourself Hitler on either of the two European servers, but it was ok on other servers. American players would go to the German server and name themselves Hitler just to get a rise out of people, not realizing that it could be grounds for banning.) The larger your VW is, the more turn over of newbies you have, the less of a deterrent a policy of banning people for inappropriate names/content is.

The other side of this is, of course, hardcore MMO players, who will often powerlevel through the game, get bored, and then decide to see how much havoc they can wreak in game before getting banned. The more main-stream combat-oriented MMO-type your VW, the more of "those sort of people" you'll attract. (And I would argue, at least at this point in time, no VW can get to 100k+ without catering at least somewhat to the hardcore players.) Even if your game is not at all swords/spaceships hack-em-up, if your game is well known at all, or even approaching 100k players, hardcore players will come check it out just to see what its all about. Since it isn't a game designed with them in mind, they'll get bored even faster, and since hardcore players tend to see everyone else as below them, they are very likely to go into griefing mode and see how many "carebears" they can piss off before getting their account banned. We saw this with The Sims Online, even though Maxis wasn't trying to attract hardcore players.

There are many VWs that are so small and such a tight community that they hardly even need policies on what happens when someone does something offensive: the community will handle it themselves. But I would argue that any VW that small and close-knit isn't making any money, and certainly not WoW levels of profit. Because of the cost to make VWs is so huge these days, I think most of us want to at least break 100k. The larger the community, the less able the community is to handle offensive content on its own, and the less policies of banning act as a deterrent for offensive content. I can 100% guarantee that if UO, or WoW, or EQ, or any of the others you see up there in the "100k Group US" decided to put in completely customizable avatars tonight, by tomorrow morning you wouldn't be able to go anywhere without seeing ten-foot-tall penises with neon ground effects.

21.

Back to the topic of moving characters from world to world. I think the original point was that most MMOs now are offering so much character customization that players are able to re-create their basic look in whatever game they move to, and so importing art from another game is really not necessary. Sure, each game has its own set of races, but if you really care about being able to look similar in every game you play, always play a human.

However, I think the argument against moving characters from one VW to another has been made sufficiently. The problems with the system outweigh any possible benefits. There are other things we can do to give the players a sense of continuality across VWs (at least within VWs that are all published by the same company), and a sense that they can establish an online persona that will be recognized in other VWs, that are much easier to implement than character transfer would be.

For example. Blizzard just came out with World of Warcraft, and one of my characters' name is Synistrae (I was lucky enough to be able to keep this from closed beta). Lets say in a few years, Blizzard comes out with World of Starcraft. They offer you the ability to add a WoS subscription onto your WoW subscription for a discount, and offer you the ability to reserve your WoW character names for WoS, if you pre-order WoS. That way, once World of Starcraft comes out, I can continue to be Synistrae.

There are issues with this system as well, such as another Synistrae on another WoW server trying to reserve the name on the same WoS I try for, but its far easier than allowing me to actually transfer my WoW character to WoS, stats and all. World of Starcraft would be, I would imagine, significantly different from World of Warcraft, so not only would Synistrae's skills as a rogue not transfer all that well, but I would loose out on the experience of discovering WoS for the first time as well.

OTOH, cross game or cross game-server communications is a great idea, I think. I don't know if the best way would be to try to harness an existing instant messenger like ICQ, or if it would be better for someone to make MMO-IM or something, and then allow all MMOs to include functionality that would allow players to talk from inside any MMO or none at all. If you could have MMO-IM on your desk top, and be talking to a buddy playing EQ2, a buddy playing WoW, and be checking your email at the same time before logging into a third game, would that be something you would use?

22.

I just looked at SL Exchange to see what it was. Does it not seem like a step backwards?

In some respects I think it's a step backwards, but I think the SL community will decide whether the advantages provided by using a web site outweigh the disadvantages of not having the interface inside SL itself.

It reminds me a bit of the early days of the web, where web sites would often reference other services like Telnet, Gopher and Newsgroups, but as the web interface became ubiquitous the interfaces to these services became more seamlessly embeded or the functionality was reimplemented as a web service.

I think the way forward is to allow interoperation and let the people decide. We might see web interfaces to SL applications or SL interfaces to web applications flourish. We might see both. We might see web interfaces flourish until SL allows rich enough interfaces to allow those applications to exist in world.

The comments to this entry are closed.