Let’s face it a serious Second Life media backlash is going to happen in ’07. The only questions are – what form will it take and when will it hit.
Place your bets,,,
The New York Times cited Terra Nova this past week. They highlighted Dan's tongue-in-cheek poke - the 2006 in Review. Yes, the internet is a murky place. Don't understand the problem, surely you must get the solution? Don't grasp the solution, just worry about the community, right?
Admittedly I've been sceptical of e-crowds of late [1.]. After all, who cares if the Mechanical Turk could be used as "a community substitute:" if you can't aggregate enough wise friends to your site, just hire them (see also [2.]).
My grumble could end here were it not for another internet-driven excitement that is bothering me: Ruby On Rails (RoR, Fn1). Sounds arcane. Consider it as a metaphor for Web 2.0 and its symbiosis of people and technology, and I will explain my squeak.
The recent flurry of attention to SL and its numbers (here, here, here, and, most recently, here) leads me to think that folks might be interested in having a chance to chew through some methodological stuff, along the lines of the "Methodologies and Metrics" panel on which Nic, Dmitri, and I served at the State of Play/Terra Nova Symposium early this month. Below the fold, some tweaked ideas from some emails I circulated among the panelists in preparation for the panel. While I'm not discussing virtual worlds and the methodologies we'd use to understand them specifically, I hope this will be helpful background for such a discussion.
This just in via CNET...
The International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies (IAVRT) has just announced plans for the Neuronet, an initiative that "will evolve into the world's first public network capable of meeting the data transmission requirements of emerging cinematic and immersive virtual-reality technologies".
"Today, the best and the brightest innovators in the world are pushing the boundaries of virtual reality and gaming. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, The Sims, Everquest, and World of Warcraft continue to attract legions of followers while new game systems from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft offer near life-like character renditions. In business, companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems are investing heavily in virtual reality business applications. These VR trailblazers, and many others, have been limited by the confines of the Internet. The Neuronet's communication bandwidth and real-time VR and gaming data transfer protocols will enable them to reach their full potential."
Have they really been limited? I'm not so sure. But certainly thinking about fancy infrastructure for the MMOs that might exist from 2009 onwards (the date this will be ready for 'consumer applications') must be a good idea, right?
Domain names - .vr (for 'immersive virtual reality neurosites') and .cin (for 'cinematic virtual reality neurosites') - will be available next year...
I'm AFK for a couple weeks and I miss a crazy series of threads on SL. Well, as a sociologist/statistician, I'm going to avoid the politics here and simply state what I would like to see for universal metrics of virtual world use--something to get us in the ballpark of apples to apples. The intent, after all, is to have agreed-upon baseline numbers which you then argue about being indicative of something.
Here are my potshots on what those would look like:
It still flies under the radar of most of the MMORPG community, in part because the hardcore gamers aren’t interested in yiffing, and in part because it’s like so many other of the niche MMOs: isometric, low-end graphics, and far deeper design than most want to give it credit for.
Gratz to Dr. Cat!
Seriously, if Clay Shirky weren't just so damn good, I'd feel really bad at how he's doing our job for us, getting to the bottom of the dirty little secret that is the press and its relationship to Second Life.
But really, he is that damn good.
Curse you Shirky. Curse you.
For those of you who want to escape family obligations today and tomorrow, tell them that you have to work on a submission for this call for papers! It's for a special issue of the Games and Culture journal, focused on Gaming in the Asia-Pacific region. Read on for details...
Michelle Hinn a PhD student at Illinois alerts us to a program running on NPR about gamers with disabilities. She'll be interviewed, among others. It airs on the Weekend Edition Sunday and if you are in the US, it should be on during the second hour of their 8-10/11am show (most of the NPR stations follow this in their own time zone). It'll be archived here.
So it's nearly 2007, and this is the point where lazy editors tell their lazy pundits to knock out a couple of hundred words structured around the topic: "Top Ten Moments in X for 2006", where X stands for whatever the hell the magazine/blog/thinget is allegedly about.
It turns out that I'm even lazier than those lazy editors and lazy pundits so instead I figure that you can tell me: What are the Top Ten Moments in Virtual Worlds or MMOGs for 2006? Your response only needs to be a couple of hundred words and of course Terra Nova will pay your usual freelance rate on a per word basis.
And as I sit here on the deck of the "Extraneous Load", the newly commissioned TN yacht, sipping an extremely good vodka gimlet and watching distressingly attractive women swim by, can I wish you all our best wishes for the Season. My only recommendation for this time of year is not to get into a Texas Hold'em game with Constance Steinkuehler...but that is a story for another day.
As a conversation analyst and an
than-once-and-in-the-last-60-days, I am interested in how communication works (or doesn't work) in Second Life and other virtual worlds. One of the things that has always bewildered me about communication in SL is its "group IM" system. Compared to guild chat in other MMOs, group IM in SL gets surprisingly little use, although there is as much need in SL to find answers to technical questions and find other people to play with.
I have just recently blogged about this on PlayOn where I argue that this under use of SL's group chat channel is likely simply the result of a poor UI design (see details). In a nutshell, compared to guild chat messages in other MMOs, group IMs in SL are much more disruptive of game play (and needlessly so). Consequently, SL players seem to have developed a shared practice of discouraging their use and considering almost any messages to the group "spam." Just imagine if in any other MMO, you asked your guild, "does anyone want to do something?," and you received the response "DON'T SPAM THE GUILD."
Have any other Second Life residents (who have logged in more than once) observed similar practices around group IM?
I've run across something funny about Second Life numbers, and wonder if any Terra Nova readers can help me out?
I've been trying to figure out how many return users Second Life has since posting my original question. Since the Second Life stats don't include historical Total Users numbers, it's hard to compare the growth of 'Last 60 Days' use with growth in total use. (You'd need the historical Total Users data to separate new signups from return users over time.)
While looking for that data, I came across this Next Net post, saying that a) Second Life has added a million to its registered user count between October 18 and December 14th and b) had only 829,537 people log in in the last 60 days.
How can both figures be true? How can they have added a million users in under 60 days, and have any return users, and still have less than a million logged in in the last 60 days? Since Linden Labs specifically says that the total number does not include "Folks who start the signup process but never complete it", I don't understand how Total Logged In can be less than Total Users Added in the same period? Did 150,000+ people bail after signing up but before even logging in? Or is this something else? Any elucidation greatly appreciated.
Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2006 is a mashup of you and Web 2.0: "(you) who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana."
The deeper tale of the day, however, must be C/Net's latest on the Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network (VATSIM) universe: "Into the wild blue virtual yonder." It again emphasizes the tension underlying Web 2.0 + simulation + people: from the economy of add-ons, to the varied sophistication of user interaction, to their impact on real world systems. See also Slashdot's related discussion (Fn1) and our previous topics (Fn2).
Rumors of an ultra-secret Terra Nova hideout have been confirmed; a photo has come to light. Here for the first time, a glimpse into the inner sanctum of this dastardly cyber-cabal: Witness The Terra Nova Hut.
Alex Engel, Community Manager for Nest Egg Studios and formerly a volunteer with CCP and Eve-Online wrote to us on CCP's merger with White Wolf. I'm posting it on his behalf below.
Surprisingly, I haven't seen anything on Terra Nova about the recent merger between CCP hf, the creators of Eve-Online, and White Wolf, creators of the World of Darkness.
"CCP hf. and White Wolf Publishing, Inc. today announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement to merge. The creators of the single largest persistent online role-playing world and the world's second-largest developer of offline role-playing, strategy and collectable card games will create the industry's largest independent Virtual World developer ? The combined company will introduce new online and offline gaming products across the science-fiction, horror, and fantasy genres."
Once upon a very long time ago in a universe called Sun Microsystems, James Gosling and a project named "Oak" emerged (1991). In 1995, Oak became Java and "write once, run everywhere" came upon us. Like virtual worlds - Java started with a big vision. More than a programming language. Like virtual worlds it became part of the idom of a networked world. It is now eleven years old and Java SE 6 is here. The journey to this point, is a parable for the likes of virtual worlds, perhaps...
The inimitable Clay Shirky has just posted a wonderful essay about the recent hype on Second Life, and the relevance to our understanding of the New New Thing (tm).
There’s nothing wrong with a service that appeals to tens of thousands of people, but in a billion-person internet, that population is also a rounding error. If most of the people who try Second Life bail (and they do), we should adopt a considerably more skeptical attitude about proclamations that the oft-delayed Virtual Worlds revolution has now arrived.
God, I wish we'd been able to able to buy him when we started Terra Nova. There's no way we can afford him now.
While I think the result of the virtual taxation discussion is going to be the adoption of an entirely non-controversial cash-out rule, I was shocked at the subtext: are we seriously willing to give up private property to avoid taxes? We need to remember why we like private property in the first place.
Imagine the following virtual world: the government owns everything; players own limited trading rights in personal property, but no rights in real property. The government is the final owner of everything, and uses its power to keep some people from gaining an unfair advantage in terms of game wealth.
UCLA's film, television, and digital media e-journal would like to solicit contributions from the TN community for the features and reviews section of an upcoming issue.
Read on for more details... (but hurry, deadline is Jan 1, 2007!)
Jon Schnaars attributed to Dan Shanoff the claim (made in "The Daily Quickie") that "(v)irtual is the new reality" [1.]. The comment was directed to Madden NFL 2006. Too, Shanoff was also noted to have said "(f)an-dom was a full time job." We're now up to Madden Football 07 and along comes the Washington Post with a different cross-over...
My evening start out harmlessly enough, until I found a post of an obscure 1990 paper by Peter Norvig [1.] on quines. From there I moved to replicating object attacks in Second Life, forkbombs in LamdaMOO, the game of self-reproducing programs, and a charming tale about the toaster and the computer scientist in a kingdom not far from here...
The problem with the addiction issue is that it often splits people up into simplistic "yes/no" stances with no sensible middle-ground alternatives. When the SF Chronicle did a piece on the plethora of dangers lurking on the Internet (which included online games), they noted that:
The Internet once was seen as a golden "information superhighway" transporting the next generation to the Promised Land. Now it may feel more like a minefield -- seductive on the surface, but seeded with subterranean hazards.
You know there's trouble when allusions to heaven and hell enter any discussion. On the other hand, companies like Wal-Mart use "addiction" to sell games (click on thumbnail). Between this demonization and casual treatment, it may not even be clear what a sensible middle-ground stance would look like.
I'm going for a first-time event here: a triple cross-post at Easily Distracted, Cliopatria and Terra Nova. I'm at a meeting on law and virtual worlds at the New York Law School, and there's a really interesting panel discussion of methodologies in virtual worlds. Douglas Thomas just pointed out that when we talk about qualitative methods in virtual world research, we always tend to define that as ethnography, when there are other kinds of qualitative methods that are potentially important, including history.