Not living in the U.S. anymore I get my updates about the hot topics there in delayed, sometimes random, ways. I had heard a bit about the steroid uproar that happened on the heals of Jose Canseco's recent book and now just got a chance to read a review of it. In it the author (Steven Shapin, The New Yorker, 18 April) talks about the how Canseco sees steroid use as actually part of a new era of "clean living" in baseball where steroid use was part of a larger fitness trend where "you saw bigger, stronger, faster, and healthier athletes, instead of those raggedy, fun-down, pot-bellied balls players of previous eras." Shapin also recounts how President Bush dealt with the issue in his 2004 State of the Union address saying that performance drugs are bad because "it sends the wrong message--that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character."
It also hasn't taken long for other MMO publishers to give their opinion. Mark Jacobs, Mythic's President and CEO, cut loose in Game Daily Biz:
I'm disappointed with the decision from a leader in the MMO industry to go down a path which in the past, has been an anathema to them and remains so to just about every other MMORPG company in the industry. I think that not only supporting the sale of in-game characters, items and currency, but also taking a 'cut' of those sales, is not only a mistake but one of the worst decisions in the history of the MMORPG industry
We remain committed to keeping our games as games and not as opportunities to encourage behavior that runs counter to their spirit of creativity and entertainment.
In satisfying the broad player demand for a service such as Station Exchange, SOE is again innovating, and any innovation is bound to have its critics
Worst decision in the history of the MMORPG industry? Acceptance of the inevitable? Brilliant move? Talk amongst yourselves.
It's Estonia, Basically. Or Maybe Cote D'Ivoire. OK, Malta.
Last August, our intrepid econometer Dr. Ted gave us a back-of-the-envelope GDP for the virtual world economy that pegged it at about $4.74 billion, or roughly level with Namibia. It’s time for an update.
In addition to the "troll" and the "flame", we now have a new forum archtype - the "Dank" - born out of this WoW forum thread. Sometimes people do something so tragically funny that they can coin a word overnight.
In other news today, Daniel Terdiman also reports that the consumer-side of There is being spun out of its military uses by a couple of its execs. Whether it can thrive outside the military simulation market is an open question (it had a bad time of it last year, and since then Second Life has become much stronger). I for one hope that it takes off. I've always had a soft spot for There.
Update Fixed a typo and added some markup [9:41am]
Sony Online is announcing today that they are going to establish a player-to-player market for the sale and purchase of virtual assets in Sony Online Entertainment games.
We'll let that sink in for a moment...
Yes, this is for real. It's called "Station Exchange".
The magisterial Daniel Terdiman at Wired News has the story with commentary by assorted Terra Novans. Other commentary has leaked out (thanks to Aaron Kurtz for the headsup), though we're trying hard to abide by the press embargo.
We thought this was such a Terra Nova moment that we all should have a chance to comment, in a kind of virtual roundtable. Here are initial thoughts of as many Terra Novans as we could afford to fly to our hunting blind in the undisclosed location:
Yesterday I attended the Advertising in Games conference here in New York. Most of the conference was off topic for virtual worlds enthusiasts, as there were very few references to MMOGs. However, it offered interesting insight into the current ad agency mindset and I enjoyed catching up with speaker Ian Bogost from Watercooler Games. Read on for a brief summary of common conference themes and a few metrics gleaned from the presentations.
I've just added a link to the Accelerating Change 2005 Conference. Terra Nova is
shameless overwhelmingly delighted to accept the briefcase of unmarked, small denomination bills play the role of media sponsor. ("Look mom, I'm a media outlet/journalist!")
With keynotes from Vernor Vinge, Ray Kurzweil, Joi Ito, and others, it looks like it's gonna be a gas. (Now, if they can just resist having a blogging panel, my joy will be complete)
Bring on the schwag.
I rediscovered an old flame - an online game (Allegiance) that I played circa 2000. As I reminisced, old questions surfaced regarding team-play, role-specialization, and the degree to which the "duty" of players can be reasonably expected and incentivized in virtual spaces.
This is a follow-up to the Skinnable World post -- a few hacks and papers are making their way through the blogosphere that seem worthy of mention:
First and most memeworthy seem to be those related to extending Google Maps to deeper functionality and greater potential for folksonomic markup (for much, much more on folksonomies, see Many-to-Many). Google Maps has added satellite images, which were marked up with personal narratives related to the spaces by the Flikr group Memory Maps, and then Craig's List apartment listings were scraped and integrated into Google Maps. Fun.
As an update to the post on the Accelerating Change Conference readers might like to listen to some audio of the roundtable conversation between Brian "Psychochild" Green, Jamie "Gaming Open Market" Hale, Daniel "Three Rings" James, and Steve "IGE" Salyer. The moderaterateror is our very own Cory "They like to call him "Linden Labs" but we call him "TerraNova"" Ondrejka.
Also on the same site, you can have a listen to Bill Gurley's massively multi-player market talk from O'Reilly's Web 2.0 Conference.
Suppose you go to see a movie and find yourself sitting next to Stephen Spielberg. Two hours later, when the movie has finished, what could you possibly say to him about it? His knowledge of movie-making is so much deeper than yours that he'll have seen things you haven't seen, picked up on nuances that passed you by, understood symbols you didn't even know were symbols: it's almost as if you've watched two different movies.
Yet you may have had the better experience. For you, the magic is still real.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a medium that enables radical transformations of locations, objects, bodies, and identities into living fantasies of idealistic perfection. A medium that purportedly allows people to achieve more fully realized, well-rounded, capable, or desirable selves. Sound familiar?
The April 2005 Regional Economist suggests that employment success is often dependent upon an "appearance-wage" bias (see "So Much for That Merit Raise: The Link between Wages and Appearance"). It would seem that folks who are more physically appealing tend to do better. Thinking about virtual worlds...
In Cyworld, you can set up avatars who interact with your visitors. If you want better avatars, you need to pay for them with acorns ('dotori'). Acorns are available from the company, for the equivalent of 10 cents US each. You can buy them with your cell phone and give them as gifts.
Of course, with such small unit prices, acorns are only a $200,000 business. Every day.
And now, in the mirror image of /pizza, you can buy dotori in stores.
On World of Warcraft's Elune server, two players recently bought out the entire contents of the Auction House in Ironforge, with the exception of premium-priced high-level weapons and armor (e.g., they bought all the trade goods) and then resold all of what they bought at a higher price. Which, for the most part, people were willing to pay. The same players have also been running an informal storage service designed to underprice the Ironforge bank, but with a bite to it: if you don't pay the storage fee on a weekly basis, they auction off all the goods you've stored with them.
Seth Sivak of gametruth.org reminds us that Matrix Online has been launched, and points us to what might be a unique feature or might be just dressed-up GM'ing: Actors who will play out narrative sequences live. While I can almost hear the eyes of the MUD-Dev-ers rolling, Seth asks some good questions about this.
A question that is probably as old as clay tablets is whether mediated-sex (be it via phone, email, IM, SMS or in a VW) really counts as cheating on ones partner. While some of us muse about the ethics of this, others have gone ahead and based business models on it.
This year marks the third run of the Computer Games festival. Or the first run of the Interactive Entertainment Festival (depending how seriously you take the re-branding). Last year was lots of fun so if you fancy the shows, the parties, the street entertainment and some industry chat I’d get your ticket and a hotel room - asap.
Terra Nova now offers a targeted editing function for its users. If you do not like anything on Terra Nova's main page - an author, a link, a post, whatever - you can now delete it by clicking on the 'edit' link below:
We're confident this tool will improve the site. Enjoy!