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Jan 25, 2006

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Comments

1.

Well, active population is the first indicator of the popularity of a game. Since they are at their heart Social mechanisms for many people, this is the only raw indicator of whether or not the world will provide an active social network when you play it. For PvP types of course, its an indicator of how easy it will be to engage in that type of competition. I think these are the only really relevant reasons I consider the population of a game as part of the process of determining whether or not I will participate in it.

As for what a "user" is technically, thats a big question. For me the most relevant definition would be players who have appeared in the world inside the last month or so, and regularly do so. Of course then we must define "regularly"... :)

A rising or steady population gives a good likelihood that I will be able to participate in the social part of the game for the forseeable future, a falling population suggests it will be increasingly disappointing over time, and thus is less likely to provide an enjoyable social experience.

Population is only one of a host of criteria I would just a game by of course, and hardly the most important one.

2.

A simple and short answer, is yes, TN, or another site with the appropriate credentials (i.e. not just a random group of ya-hoos) should help define industry standards for population measurement.

I respect your decision to post games that you as authors of TN have participated in, and I think that nicely colors your discussion topics. But aren't you missing a rather key VW? Certainly one of the largest VW's to date (by nearly any measure I'm sure), World of Warcraft is oddly missing. Or are you just rotating a list?

3.

Like Warren says, population of a virtual world is but one of many factors that seperate these worlds from each other.

Personally I would consider it one of the least important ones, especially since most of the most popular MMO's and virtual worlds feature a population that is simply spread around in chunks of anywhere between 500 and 5000 people.

To me, it would suffice to know wether a virtual world is in decline as far as population would influence my decision to participate or not.

And even there, population only gives you one side of a story. One that I feel the average Terra Nova reader would either be only marginally interested in, or would be able to get elsewhere.

I much prefer discussion over straight factual information when it comes to getting to know virtual worlds and their specific characteristics.

4.

Is World of Warcraft omitted for a reason? :)

Population certainly matters, since the whole point of virtual worlds and MMOs is to play with many other people at once. In that sense, peak concurrent users on a single shard/realm/server/whatever-you-call-it may be a more interesting stat than total number of users.

5.

While I'm at it. After re-reading my response, I was thinking that perhaps the concept of establishing a standards organization for VWs is ripe.

Your ever increasing steam of RW-VW blurrings is evidence that we are at the precipice of some possibly giant steps forward in the evoltion of VWs. (Metaverse.. I know you're coming!)

I can imagine a commitee that is helping to define standards (starting with user measurement standards) and providing expert council to those in the RW who have little to no acquaintance with VWs(Judges, Accountants, Lawmakers, Police, etc.).

Further, I can think of no group of people I would like to see more at the helm of this commitee than the authors of TN.

6.

I think Terra Nova authors should definitely attempt to find a standard way of utilising user statistics for VWs. Coming up with a tight explanation of what numbers like the following actually mean for a MMO game:

  • average # logged on at once

  • average user age

  • % sex of users m/f

  • Total user population vs. total subscription

  • Maybe TN authors would be most useful discussing not only research standards, but also what said standards and their results mean for a given VW, or all VWs...

    7.

    I can think of no group of people I would like to see more at the helm of this commitee than the authors of TN.

    Russell, that was more or less my feeling; I think we may have or eventually come into some form of social responsibility and contribution along these lines. However, there are significant difficulties in suggesting that. First of course is that folks at TN have their own loyalties, and may have a resposbility to appear either impartial or completely partial to the group they work for.

    Second, there's no way to determine if a figure supplied by a virtual world operator is "correct" even if we could agree on what correct meant. A standard like "unique accounts logged in in the past N days" where N is most likely 7 (what WoW uses) or 30 (what others seem to use) could be helpful, IMO... but when VendorX reports "we've had ten skillion unique logins in the past week" how do you verify or debate that? It seems like you need to either take all data at face value (a situation ripe for being gamed by those seeking good PR), figure out a way to verify the data indepedently, or report no such data at all. For now at least, TN has chosen the latter course.

    8.

    This is a bit tangential, but regarding the Some Worlds list...

    Play.net is not a game or a world. It's a website. It's the website for the company of Simutronics. Simutronics is not a game or a world. Its most popular fieldings are Gemstone IV and Dragonrealms. Those are games. Or worlds. =P

    And two, I don't see a change on that list from where someone mentioned that World of Warcraft wasn't on there.

    I know you guys play WoW. I'll contribute something less tangential later. Maybe.

    9.

    Yph > Is World of Warcraft omitted for a reason? :)

    List-crafter here.

    World of What-craft, I’ll google it see if they have a web site, guess I’ll put them on if they have, they probably need the traffic.

    10.

    I have a very hard time swallowing that Star Wars Galaxies still has in excess of 100,000 players. Most of the estimates that I've heard recently are anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 players.

    Now 100,000 plus disgruntled ex-players...that I'd completely believe.

    11.

    I rather like comparing populations (or no. of users) of VWs. The numbers make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Plus it's a little voyeuristic - I can see where all the MMOG players are spending their time. I just wish there was a reliable way to do so. I'm not even speaking of a common metric to use but the lack of reliable information.

    The only reliable information (in my opinion) is that which comes from or can be produced by independent third parties. I'm talking about things like WOW Census that enable third parties to collect relevant data. And even there, you need a standard metric to put the data in perspective. If WoW Census doesn't let us see a one-month snapshot (to pick a metric), it won't help us determine current population. (Not even looking at what "current population" stands for.)

    If the information scarcity can be overcome, perhaps through utilities like WoW Census, then we can seriously debate the specific metric to employ with an eye towards implementing the metric and applying it to MMOGs (and re-enabling the TN population bar).

    As a side note, personally, I'm in favor of two metrics. The first metric should tell me where people are now. The second metric should give me an idea of where they've been - i.e. changes in population, migration patterns. The first one might involve active accounts and/or peak concurrency. The second might involve total subscriptions or comparisons between current data and past data.

    In any case, I respect your decision to remove the population bar, I just wish it were possible to maintain it based on (more) reliable information.

    12.

    THE LIST TODAY: I agree with earlier posters that only the homepage of a specific currently operational virtual world should be on the left bar. I want that to be a link to get to that world, not something else. If there isn't a way to get into a VW right now, it should not be on the list. You can add links for upcoming VWs, and perhaps a "dead worlds" link to a list of those that are defunct (AW, E&B, MCO, AC2, etc.)

    THE NUMBERS GAME: There are actually a number of problems here.

    (1) Should Terra Nova be part of the numbers game? If so, the lack of internationally accepted standards means TN is obliged to set them.

    (2) Can TN acquire these numbers? The information profit and non-profit organizations wish to give will determine your standards. After all, a standard is useless if it's impossible to collect the data.

    Like a scientists planning an experiment to test an hypothesis, I believe that the kind of data you could reasonably hope to collect determines what kind of numerical standards you can set. A great many proposals for standards have no chance of practical application companies would never part with the data.

    Based on what I know about the industry, and suggestions in the earlier "Numbers Game" thread, I would like to propose two possible criteria. I think there is some chance many companies would voluntarily provide this information. Hopefully other useful criteria will be proposed here.

    Then, the only way to make this happen is for some enterprising TN contributor, unaffiliated with any commercial enterprise, contact the key operators in the VW business and see which numbers they'll voluntarily contribute. Depending on what commitments you get, you might actually see a useful standard appear.

    Finally, to encourage companies to contribute, make this an ongoing no-charge service, with results released to any and all interested press outlets (such as online game news sites, NPD group, etc.). Wide distribution of the resulting information again encourages VW operators to contribute.

    Personally, I see this as a way that TN can make a positive and very helpful contribution to the recognition of VWs throughout the world. Right now we're a debating society. And that's on TN's better days.

    POSSIBLE CRITERA: Having been producer of a VW myself, and watched the industry with care for some years, I'd like to suggest two psosible criteria that have already seen enough use there is SOME hope companies would regularly report this information:

    PEAK USERS PER MONTH: The maximum number of people simultaneously present the VW during a calendar month.

    Why: Asian companies already report this for many products. Every functioning VW needs to know this information to manage their server loading, so not having the data isn't a reasonable excuse. This value is payment agnostic. Yes, this value can be manipulated by "ratings sweeps" style specials, but once all firms start doing it, the effect balances out. Especially when done monthly.

    ANNUAL INCOME PER QUARTER: The total gross income of that VW from all sources during a calendar quarter (three month period). This includes all sources of income, and is calculated based on the original price paid (which is shared among operators and middlemen depending on the distribution system). Sources of this gross income include:

    - one-time payments by users, including box purchases, download purchases, virtual property purchases, etc.

    - recurring payments by users, including subscriptions

    - time purchases by users, including hourly time paid to internet cafe operators

    - RMT by users to the operator such as buy virtual property, virtual characters, character advancement, etc. Payments to third parties (like IGE, etc.) are NOT included because of the virtual impossibility of tracking this.

    - Advertiser payments for appearance in the virtual world, whether one-time or recurring fees for both product placement and

    - Do NOT include intra-company transfers, such as marketing department "payments" for its advertising within the VW. In other words, the funds must come from outside the company.

    Why: Public companies must reveal this information for quarterly reports. Smaller companies reveal it directly. Larger companies may roll up multiple products into one value, but it shouldn't be much imposition to provide the separate, "unrolled" values per title.

    13.

    Mike Sellers wrote:

    Russell, that was more or less my feeling; I think we may have or eventually come into some form of social responsibility and contribution along these lines. However, there are significant difficulties in suggesting that. First of course is that folks at TN have their own loyalties, and may have a resposbility to appear either impartial or completely partial to the group they work for.

    Second, there's no way to determine if a figure supplied by a virtual world operator is "correct" even if we could agree on what correct meant. A standard like "unique accounts logged in in the past N days" where N is most likely 7 (what WoW uses) or 30 (what others seem to use) could be helpful, IMO... but when VendorX reports "we've had ten skillion unique logins in the past week" how do you verify or debate that? It seems like you need to either take all data at face value (a situation ripe for being gamed by those seeking good PR), figure out a way to verify the data indepedently, or report no such data at all. For now at least, TN has chosen the latter course.

    Good choice. There is no way for you guys to verify most of the information you'd need and in the absence of that, all you're doing is passing along messages from a company's PR department.

    --matt

    14.

    Fine! I'm now renaming my next project to AARDVARK ONLINE so I can be at the top of the list.

    15.

    Bruce Rogers wrote:

    Fine! I'm now renaming my next project to AARDVARK ONLINE so I can be at the top of the list.

    Funnily, there was a period of time in virtual worlds when this actually worked.

    When Mudconnector was the top virtual world destination, it was advantageous to name your MUD in such a way as to appear near the top of the list, since Mudconnector, at that time, had a lot of its traffic going through one big alphabetical list of MMOs.

    This is why you have major text MMOs with names like "Aardwolf".

    --matt

    16.

    I'm still enamoured by the unique users active within the past 30 days metric, despite it's lack of verifiability.

    Somehow I'd prefer if that didn't include things like 2 week free trials for subscription games, but it all becomes a bit hazy with non-subscription and pay-per hour schemes. Unique users older than 30 days, active within the last 30 days might be better just to avoid the transitory "pop in and look then move on" crowd.

    I basically want to know how many people any given virtual world has as a stable audience. How many people it reaches and affects and retains for even a short period - which is what the concept of subscriber numbers gave you under more traditional western billing schemes.

    17.

    Warren- Well, active population is the first indicator of the popularity of a game. Since they are at their heart Social mechanisms for many people, this is the only raw indicator of whether or not the world will provide an active social network when you play it.

    Playing devil's advocate here:
    Severs have a capacity, and games split the population over multiple servers. Does it matter whether you have 6 servers at a 10,000 user capacity or 80 servers at 10,000 users capacity... you still only have the 10,000 concurrent users to possibly encounter.

    In fact, a game could be rather tightly-packed and growing yet be much smaller (number-wise) than an older, declining game. WoW's servers could be at half the capacity of other games someday and seem much emptier, even when their concurrent connections or registered users exceed other players.


    Arnold-
    PEAK USERS PER MONTH:... Yes, this value can be manipulated by "ratings sweeps" style specials, but once all firms start doing it, the effect balances out.

    Ah, but if I don't want to be compared, I just claim I don't BECAUSE of the "sweeps" corruption, or explain away any discrepency. It's also assuming that the same representative sample IS attracted to event-like elements to bring things in...

    Also, if I make a game that is very playable to the "time-limited player" with at most 2 hours per night, and you play a game catering to the AFK macro'er that often has 20 hours logged on (ahhh... the good old SWG hologrind...) your concurrent rating will be higher even as active subscribers are lower.

    Does more time online mean more successful?

    ANNUAL INCOME PER QUARTER:
    1) much of this information isn't DIRECTLY available through the reports, or is selectively generated. It isn't required to be reported in the breakdown you identified, and the reports often masterfully discover new ways to present required data that masks any comparative value.

    It doesn't take into account the differences in business models. If I were a "buy the box, no monthly fee" developer, my game would appear in a constant state of decline after the "release date madness.." and as numbers are often used by players to justify the belief of a sinking ship, I'd be darn concerned about such a comparison...

    And many companies are notably Mum on the subject. Sony Online Entertainment didn't even appear in the parent company's annual report last checked (it was raked over rather hard when the NGE people when ballistic, searching for any fact). Can anyone provide a financial report from Blizzard? Haven't seen one.

    2) By focusing only on sales- and the starting box price, we ignore the business models that will differentiate between successful business models and not-so-successful. Just the fact that game developers PAY for prominent site placement at game stores distorts such a value. Did their sale (a measure of popularity) offset that expense?

    Then there's the difference in infrastructure. Some games require a significant amount of data to be updated (particularly when data on what's being worn can change rather regularly and in a granular manner) and some game engines are less forgiving in the rate of updates (fps vs hidden-turn models). and this (and plenty of others) can drastically affect the infrastructure requirements for a game.

    A high-infrastructure, highly marketed game could be a white elephant, notable for its success, but unable to financially benefit from it.

    3) Finally, such a model would not adequately measure the impact of more "open models." If you use dollar values as a metric for popularity or intrinsic value, then "free" products, regardless of their popularity or business model, are biased against.

    ---
    The fact is, we don't have access to "real numbers" and we can't dictate what game companies report. Only the top-dog company has any interest in releasing any results, and the rest need to insure that they keep any comparison to "comparing apples to oranges" and aviod the herd mentality or the "rats on a sinking ship" attitude.

    I prefer the elimination of the 100k list and a discussion of the interesting elements of the individual products, regardless of their market representation

    18.

    Here's a thought:

    What if a lot of these numbers are farmers?

    What if these companies knew they were farmers, and like camping chairs in Secondlife, they are letting them log into to pump up the #s?

    In fact, maybe WoW or whatever only hates farmers that LOOK like farmers. If you can make yourself look like a contributing member of the team they are all happy for you to show up.

    After all, the more the merrier!

    19.

    Blaze wrote:

    What if a lot of these numbers are farmers?

    It's not really possible for dedicated farmers to make up a large percentage of a games' population. If everybody was a farmer (ie a seller), there'd not be enough demand from non-farmers to keep them going.

    --matt

    20.

    It's not really possible for dedicated farmers to make up a large percentage of a games' population. If everybody was a farmer (ie a seller), there'd not be enough demand from non-farmers to keep them going.

    Maybe he means bots.

    21.

    It's not really possible for dedicated farmers to make up a large percentage of a games' population. If everybody was a farmer (ie a seller), there'd not be enough demand from non-farmers to keep them going.

    Maybe he means bots. It's way too "conspiracy theory" for me, though. If the corps really were managed by The Man, then maybe, sure, but... they're not. Which is disappointing to a dragonslayer, naturally, but come what may.

    22.

    1. Dropping the numeric groupings is probably the best course until/unless a verifiable apples-to-apples measure can be identified and applied.

    Personally, I favor "unique account logins per week" because that answers the question I'm most curious about: How many people are actively playing this game?

    Less than a week misses those players who put in lots of time on weekends. More than a week isn't what I'd call "active." And unique account logins is a better measure of population than cumulative time because it's not as skewed by spikes or dips due to holidays, promotions, or summer vacations. It's also better than a revenue metric because it doesn't require additional knowledge of how many accounts are on which pricing tier or scheme.

    Ultimately I'd like to see TN (or someone, but TN would be a good choice) accepted as a source of some standard for reporting usage statistics. I don't think it's going to happen, but I wouldn't mind being proven wrong about that.

    Until that happy day, probably the only way TN could be accepted as an expert source of population numbers would be to persuade trustable players to be census enumerators. Get them to pick a reasonably high-traffic spot and sit there for an hour (two or three different times a day) to count how many different avatars go by.

    That method is fraught with all kinds of error, but it would at least offer a standard methodology wherever it's applicable.

    Which would be a lot better than what we have now.

    2. I second Michael's comment about it not being terribly accurate to list play.net as a virtual world. Simutronics not only has several actual games which are hosted on play.net, it's developing a full-scale graphical MMORPG called Hero's Journey intended to compete directly against the usual game worlds.

    3. Speaking of Hero's Journey, shouldn't it be listed if Vanguard, which also hasn't been released yet, is listed?

    I also agree that it might be helpful to show virtual worlds grouped by their operational status: historical, operational, and not yet released. In that latter category would go games like Vanguard, Hero's Journey, Age of Conan, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and Star Trek Online, just to name some of the biggies on the horizon.

    (Of course, if you really wanted to get silly, you could apply appropriate tags to every virtual world -- name, launch date, developer, publisher, genre, current population, etc. -- then let TN's users pick the category on which they'd like to sort the known worlds.

    Useful service? Or gimmick that other web sites can do?)

    --Bart

    23.

    "This is why you have major text MMOs with names like "Aardwolf"."

    I was worried for a second, but then I realized 'v' comes before 'w'! Whew!

    24.

    I guess my probably is I can easily envision a scenario where you have umpteen computers lined up running bots logged into an MMO.

    If the management imperative is small to deal with them, at least the ones that look like real players, then the growth in these bots could become significant very quickly.

    I've runned the analysis, the electrical consumption on these babies is pennies, and if you're making more than the 10 USD monthly bill, then why not?

    I mean, wasn't mithra running like 30 computers just by himself?

    Take a group which is pretty well organised (perhaps even using VMware) and having banks of 100s of computers is not that hard to visualize.

    25.

    As one of the administrators of a smaller world, I'm happy with this change. Especially since my game is now actually listed on the list instead of a side-mention on Skotos' link. ;)

    I think numbers are silly to focus on, personally. Given the theories about the Dunbar number, a super-large game really doesn't necessarily indicate more social opportunities as some people imply. In fact, many people find it easier to make social contacts in the "small town" feel of smaller games compared to the "large, impersonal city" feel of the larger games. So, a larger game doesn't necessarily mean more socialization opportunities.

    Also, using numbers to gauge the popularity, and therefore the quality, of a game is also troublesome. From a developer's point of view, it means that we absolutely have to keep catering to the widest possible audience, which generally means going for the least common denominator in our games. There might be some really great gameplay in some of the smaller games, because they willingly focus on a niche that you might be part of. Supporting popular games for the reason that they're popular means we'll see less money being invested into making new types of games; people will just continue chasing after the same type of audience with the same types of games, and the industry will slowly die of stagnation. Not something I'm eager to have happen.

    My thoughts,

    26.

    If we wanted somehow to measure the relative sizes of populations in virtual worlds without the co-operation of the developers, we have to ask ourselves what information is available to us anyway and figure out what we can do with it.

    Probably the most useful data that we can access concerns player characters logged in per server. Many virtual worlds have a way of finding out how many people are on an given server right now. Sample the servers systematically, and you can get a picture of how many users there are at any one moment. If you can get their names, you can check whether it's the same characters (if not players) from day to day.

    That's the best we can do at the moment. Otherwise, we're looking at secondary data such as web site traffic, which while related to the size of the virtual world shows too much variation world-to-world.

    Richard

    27.

    Richard> Probably the most useful data that we can access concerns player characters logged in per server. Many virtual worlds have a way of finding out how many people are on an given server right now. Sample the servers systematically, and you can get a picture of how many users there are at any one moment. If you can get their names, you can check whether it's the same characters (if not players) from day to day.

    Without active participation from the developers, that's probably about the best we can expect, though we'd have to be sure to check the specific differences between the games: Do "hidden" players count toward the total online? Are there instances where people won't appear on the lists? It's also still affected a little by the AFK and macro-ing enforcement policy (if the population is the same, but logged on afk macroing, there will be more concurrent users).

    Also, we probably couldn't use the character names to identify individuals, given the abundance of alt accounts on many games.

    28.

    Brian - I'm not sure the popularity thing you've expressed is true.

    If anything, I think that current popularity of WoW, when compared against its polish and experience, should intimade anyone trying to follow behind it with a clone greatly. A recent interview put Eve's subscriber base at 96k, which I think is a resounding endorsement for niche games with strong concepts, as are some of the not independently verified figures for other games out there.

    If anything, knowing how much money a virtual world is making seems profoundly disinteresting to me. I'd rather know that Linden Labs was continuing to grow their SL audience in a steady manner than whatever financial numbers they've got coming from it.

    29.

    Paul Hyman writes in the Hollywood Reporter that the industry needs standard ways of measuring the eyeballs that hit in-game ads too.

    30.

    Chas wrote:

    It's also still affected a little by the AFK and macro-ing enforcement policy (if the population is the same, but logged on afk macroing, there will be more concurrent users).

    Concurrent numbers are potentially affected in a massive way by AFKness. I've seen MMOs where half the players online were AFK for 25 minutes or longer.

    --matt

    31.

    Playing devil's advocate here:
    Severs have a capacity, and games split the population over multiple servers. Does it matter whether you have 6 servers at a 10,000 user capacity or 80 servers at 10,000 users capacity... you still only have the 10,000 concurrent users to possibly encounter.

    No, it really doesn't matter - unless that number per server, or number of total servers is likely to decrease. Its the trend more than the actual numbers that matter potentially I think. If the number is increasing or holding steady, then the game has the appearance of popularity, if the number is decreasing then its a possible indicator that many players have decided some other game is a better choice or are just disatisfied with the current state of the game - and thats a criteria that might be useful in deciding whether to play the game. Of course such numbers are subject to a seasonal variation as well, going up in the Winter months and down in the Summer months based on personal experience.

    As a counterpoint I ought to note that with City of Villains/Heroes, it doesn't matter at all to me. I group with my RL friends who are all formed together in a guild pretty much exclusively, so the population could drop to near zero and provided that my guild was still playing and my server was still active it wouldn't affect me at all to be honest. In this game the social element is only of minor importance for me.

    In fact, a game could be rather tightly-packed and growing yet be much smaller (number-wise) than an older, declining game. WoW's servers could be at half the capacity of other games someday and seem much emptier, even when their concurrent connections or registered users exceed other players.

    Yes, there is most likely a relative number, depending on the game, that will ensure the game doesn't have a "Ghost Town" feel to it. Provided the population is over that value (and I am sure its entirely subjective), it should feel "alive" and active. Below that people may leave the game simply because it feels like everyone else has, so they must be missing something :)

    With regards to establishing population figures, has anyone considered organizing players to retrieve some data? In the city of Victoria, BC, Canada where I live, they have an annual "Flower Count" where they encourage citizens to count the flowers on their property and report them. Its entirely tourist oriented in my opinion, and I am sure the data is somewhat subject to questions concerning its reliability, but if we took say World of Warcraft, or Dark Age of Camelot, and arranged to have volunteers do a "who all" (or equivalent command where available) on each of the given game servers for a game at a specific time and date, we could gather some sort of rough numbers concerning population couldn't we? Yes, there are plenty of reasons why it would be an imprecise result (people who are Anonymous, the fact that some games like SWG have always lacked a general "who" command etc) but surely that would give some raw data, and the overlap between reported values coming from many sources for the same server would verify the results somewhat I would think. Yes, it would require a "Player Count" website, database and some effort, but not an impossibly hard task to manage if someone was inclined. Just a thought that occurred to me...

    32.

    Daniel Speed wrote:

    If anything, I think that current popularity of WoW, when compared against its polish and experience, should intimade anyone trying to follow behind it with a clone greatly.

    It doesn't. With the subscription business model, more people = more income, and that is the magic equation for people funding these things. They ignore the fact that there's a well-known developer name and a well-known brand in addition to a good game behind those numbers. You are correct, though, these things should scare off people attempting to make a clone; sadly, this is not the case.

    A recent interview put Eve's subscriber base at 96k, which I think is a resounding endorsement for niche games with strong concepts, as are some of the not independently verified figures for other games out there.

    Yes, but the problem is that if you use these figures as a measure of popularity, and therefore quality, EVE fails compared to other games like EQ1. (From what I know EQ1 still has more subscribers than that. Could be wrong.) EQ1 has more people, possibly has a higher peak of concurrent users, makes more money, whatever you want to measure. Does that really mean EQ1 is a superior game? Not necessarily. And, yes, EVE probably has more growth potential than EQ1, but that's even harder to measure accurately than other things. EVE is a great game and likely profitable, but you can't measure that on a census of the number of people play.

    My further thoughts,

    33.

    mmm, how can anyone consider NWN an MMO?

    if so, Diablo II would more qualify -- with USWest and USEast being actual persistent "worlds..."

    Individual NWN modules might be persistent, and so people might argue, well, they're crafted using the Aurora engine, which also happens to make NWN... But then you'd have to start listing TinyMUSH's and MUCK's, or the engines... etc.

    I would put up Guild Wars before I ever put up NWN. Guild Wars has persistence and uniqueness -- there is essentially only one "world" across all territories/servers.

    34.

    Brian:

    I'm not sure it's possible to come up with a measure that directly implies popularity and directly implies quality, or that can't be misinterpreted by someone that wants to find a specific meaning in them.

    I think we just have to throw out any wistful ideas about a measurable quality heuristic that can be verified somehow.

    Given that conclusion, I'd just like a quite measure that can show me very simple things like the relative strength of WoW's launch and the huge audience it has had, rather than a measure of its quality. I'm just going to have to look at the quality of the game subjectively, among other things, to try and decide what that means.

    35.

    So does this mean Furcadia could finally have a link over there? It's not only larger in size/usage/population than some of the worlds listed by any measure, but I think it's of historical significance for a number of "firsts", and of academic and sociological interest for a number of the unique features and for the nature of its community. (Admittedly, some of what we have is now more like "almost unique" since Second Life launched a couple years back. But we certainly have features they don't, and they have features we don't, so I think it's well worth listing both.)

    We'll try to get over 100,000 users by our 10th birthday (middle of this December) - we estimate ourselves to be around 60,000 now. But I am glad to see that Terra Nova is listing and linking to some of the important smaller games now. A Tale in the Desert in particular is something that I think anybody looking at MMORPGs from an academic standpoint should study, they're a very important innovator. Good to see the link there. :)

    36.

    Since this list of "Some Virtual Worlds" is not about sheer numbers anymore, i would like to see my co-favourite (along with Eve) Mmorpg here: Neocron (www.neocron.com). While its playerbase is small (imho <10k) it is well established (retail launch in late 02) and gives you a rare blend of post-apocalyptic cyberpunk, an in-game cyber-space layer, rp-heavy trader professions and fast-paced FPS-action in neverending faction wars.
    and yes, i wasted some of the best years of my leisuretime on it :)

    37.

    So, no one at Terra Nova ever tried World War II Online?

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