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Dec 23, 2006

Comments

1.

Isn't what we have a king penguin insisting that it's a puffin, and therefore the history and experience of emperor penguins is meaningless?

2.

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3.

I don't think it's kind (or accurate) to drag the good people of Simbu province down by comparing them with Prokofy. Isn't it exactly the shared heritage of TNers and SLers that entitles the TNers (as it were) to insist that SLers ought to know better? The evolutionary imagery seems to posit TN as the highest point on an evolutionary totem pole that everyone else is still only climbing up. Now, this might be true (I have confidence in you guys ;) but the argument being made here about cultural similarity, difference, diffusion, and innovation is going to have to be a bit trickier than that if it is going to work.

4.

To look at it in a slightly different light, when one wandering tribe declares itself to be "God's Chosen People", what do all the other tribes think about it?

Some amusement, some anger, some hostility, some disdain is my guess. But then, the self-Chosen tribe starts writing books and making claims and generally acting in a way which endangers (as they see it) all the other tribes.

That's pretty much where we are.

5.

PS: I wish i got comment-spam that polite.

6.

Nate>What if in the Central Highlands of New Guinea a bunch of tribesmen on a slow season figured out the internet wave, and "Mount Wilhelm!" someone got this virtual worlds idea.

Well that would be a separate, isolated tree, cut off from the main tree in the same way that virtual worlds such as Avatar on the PLATO system are separate from those that grew from MUD1. As such, the tribespeople could legitimately consider their virtual world as apart from the rest.

Second Life is no such thing, though. As far as I know, Linden Lab were aware of other virtual worlds when they designed SL, therefore it can't be considered as a new tree. A new branch, perhaps, but not a new tree.

Raph>as a whole, the community of SL tends to see SL as highly exceptional, whereas those within the larger cluster don’t.

We had the same thing around 1990 in textual worlds, where the TinyMUD branch (which includes MOOs, MUCKS and MUSHes) wanted to distance itself from its past. Players would refer to the game-like worlds as MUDs and their own worlds as MOOs or whatever, using MU* if they wanted to talk about the concept of virtual worlds as a whole. Everyone else kept calling all of them MUDs, much to the annoyance of the MOO separatists.

To a SL player, the difference between SL and WoW could seem so great, and the connotations of the two so different, that they might wish to say that SL is a new tree, not a new branch off an old tree, just as many of the MOO players of old did. To MMORPG players, though, SL just looks like another MMORPG with the G removed.

The schism in the textual worlds never really was resolved, so I don't know how this will turn out. I do know, though, that if SL advocates do manage to deprecate the term "virtual world" as an umbrella term that encompasses SL, WoW, LambdaMOO and DikuMUD, we'll need a new term to replace it. They're just too similar ever to be fully separated.

Richard

7.

To MMORPG players, though, SL just looks like another MMORPG with the G removed.

In other words, actually pronunciable and a contender for an actual acronym. That wins it automatic points.

PS: I wish i got comment-spam that polite.

Irony: That spammer just got his emails ripped by a spambot and will be spammed.

8.

actually pronunciable

More pigs! More pigs!

9.

Apropos of almost nothing:

MMORPG is not an acronym; it is an "initialisms." An acronym is a special type of initialism in which the letters make up a pronounceable word. "RADAR" is an acronym; "USA" is an initialism.

MMORP could be an acronym, therefore.

Personally, I am so offended and troubled by the overuse of acronyms in our world that I founded a special organization: M.O.N.K.E.Y. Which stands for, "People For The Incorrect Use of Acronyms."

Forms available in the lobby.

10.

Whether or not Second Lifers have established a cultural desire to reconstitute the hermit kingdom is interesting but it also feels like its a red herring to a deeper trouble.

Um, those still trapped in the closed, synthetic games in the cycle of questing-killing-stocking-up-leveling-up-questing-some more are the ones in a hermit kingdom on the endlessly redundant men-in-tights loop. In their obscured looking-glass, they feel like all the others are crooked.

In fact, those in SL who are connecting to the wider world of RL and the rest of the Internet, and even those inside the snowglobish sorts of things in SL, are making their own content and making new worlds and lives. I would have to say they're the ones in the wider and more open place, not those in the old MMORPGs.

11.

Re: "drag the good people of Simbu province down by comparing them with Prokofy. I have no idea who these people are. But if they have an idea who *I* am, then who is in the wider world? : )

Frankly, you have to remember who this latest vexation of Raph's got started. I wrote in response to Clay Shirky's fussing about SL's numbers a post called "The Geeks Got to Go". Raph took umbrage, came on my blog, and said, wow, what I will do is whack the whole cultural thang of SL, and decide to define SL culture as whatever Prokofy says, since Prokofy is an easy target to use as somebody who doesn't know game pedigrees and legends and other Game God Lore.

Of course, that isn't a fair fight. In fact, I know some Lindens even that probably could give Raph a good joust on the Game God Lore stuff. But for some reason, he took a fit around the "culture" issue deciding that if I said geeks were geeky and in the way of progress, I must lack in culture.

From there, it embroiled into a discussion on my blog, his blog, whatever, and now it is morphed into *this* post in which a near doctoral dissertation is being prepared all on the fact that this guy didn't like my post of weeks ago in response so some other guy's post. Honestly, could we get a little more *academic rigour* than that?

How on earth are we to decide what is cultured and not? You have to wonder whether some of the things that have gotten started in SL in terms of cultures and ways of life and communities won't in years to come -- when they've had as much chance to age and grow as MUDs and MOOs have -- surpass their ancestors.

I also think Raph's map needs a really, really, thorough analysis and filling in quite a few of the trees.

I was baffled why clickableculture.com and 3pointD.com weren't on the tree. And a lot of the key SL blogs as well. Of course, Raph is in the center of his map. That's fine. We out here in the dark edges of the Metaverse far, far away from the Sun God Ra's rays would also like a little star to glimmer on his map.

12.

I think most people in Simbu have better things to do than play SL or worry about you, Prokofy. SL is a luxury that most Papua New Guineans do not the means or time for.

As someone whose research specialty is the highlands of PNG, I have to take issue with the idea that highlanders are 'out of time' or 'cut off from the wider world'. This is simply ridiculous. As anyone who has ever watched Xena on EmTV, attended church, or sold coffee in Papua New Guinea can tell you, Papua New Guinea is embroiled in the same mass media, religious, and political economy as everyone else in the world.

Richard has picked up on the important point however, the SL/Shirky dispute (if I can call it that) tend to be phrased in a _generational_ idiom: old vs. new. But an important thing being argued over is a sense of the connection between SL and WoW-type mmogs.

The argument seems to be this: If SL is part of the mmog genealogy, then this shared heritage becomes the grounds on which Shirky et. al. can make criticism. If SL is sui generis, then what SLers think becomes 'their culture' and something to be tolerated in the name of difference. Shirky accuses SLers of bad faith, Prokofy accuses Shirky of short-sightedness.

The danger of course is that all this will turn into ad-hominem attacks. Despite professing desire for academic rigeur, it seems to me Prokofy's heliocentric imagery in the post above makes him more guilty of hitting below the belt than Koster.

The INTERESTING question about cultural connection, however, is not about SL, but about people who are not Standard Average Europeans getting pulled into the games literature genealogy. For this reason a more interesting area of research for cross-cultural adoption of mmogs is not Melanesia but, obviously, East Asia. How well will Clay's sense of superior vision play at Beida?

13.

There seem to be two questions being asked. First, is SL descended from a longer genealogy of MMORG, meaning that it is part of a pre-existing culture that it is now diverging from. It seems to me not so much. The MMORG of the past were exactly that: role playing games. No doubt there are games like WoW that are direct descendents of those early games, and there is no doubt that within SL there are communities that draw from that lineage in their role playing. But in SL community Neil Stephenson’ Metaverse concept is widely accepted as the system’s its intellectual precursor. SL thus comes from a literary/sci-fi tradition as its direct inspiration. Any previous games, such as those posted by Nate Combs, can only be considered false starts, unless they actually influenced, or continue to influence, the development of SL. Comparison with other Massive Multiuser Online (MMO) environments, such as AOL and ICQ chat rooms, probably has a closer relationship to SL than video games. Like the puffins, SL coevolved along with role-playing games, but any resemblance to them is due to the same medium of the computer hardware, as puffins and penguins look similar because they inhabit similar environments.

The second question even if SL co-evolved with MMORPG, should it necessarily integrate with the MMORPG? I think no, not yet. SL is radically different, in that the content is player-generated, multiple radically divergent story lines exist under one platform, and there is the possibility for creating a non-fiction representation of yourself or your company in SL in ways that you cannot do in a role playing game. These are radically different from MMORPGs. Even the role playing experience is almost incomparable to the computerized version, more similar to board-based role playing than video game role playing. In the future, when role playing becomes more player-generated there might be more of a cross-over between SL’s model and the well-established tradition MMORPGs. But in the mean time, the metaverse model will continue to evolve independently of the gaming industry’s model.

14.

But in SL community Neil Stephenson’ Metaverse concept is widely accepted as the system’s its intellectual precursor. SL thus comes from a literary/sci-fi tradition as its direct inspiration. Any previous games, such as those posted by Nate Combs, can only be considered false starts, unless they actually influenced, or continue to influence, the development of SL.

Randy Farmer did consulting work on SL. There is some influence right there. :)

I am pretty sure Neal Stephenson was aware of some of the MUDs and MOOs when he wrote Snow Crash. I know for a fact he was aware of Vernor Vinge and the other cyberpunks, and I know for a fact that Vernor Vinge and the other cyberpunks were aware of MUDs and MOOs.

Lastly, let us not minimize the sheer quantity of non-game building worlds that were out there in say, 1995. The combined number of MUSHes, MOOs, and similar codebases easily constituted a third to half of all MUDs running. This was not a case of a few isolated worlds bucking the trend.

15.

Happy Holidays. Some specific data poins::
* Randy consulted on the GUI but most of SL's design was already firmly in place at that point. The major changes since then -- such as IP ownership, business model, free singups, etc -- did not involve Randy.
* Nobody in the core development team at Linden Lab was a heavy MUD, MOO, MUSH, or MMORPG player. Most of us had played them a bit, but none of us were very into that scene or community.
* We spent no time researching text worlds or older graphical chat worlds. We spent some time in Active Worlds but they were obviously declining at the time.
* We did a fair amount of research on the MMO secondary markets and economies -- thank you Ted! -- as we tried to figure out how to make the SL economy work. Since we knew we weren't going to be level-based, not much applied.
* We were fairly serious FPS, console, and other game players. Counter-Strike was the office game for nearly 3 years. My background was arcade, combat/race, and race games, all about as far removed from MMOs as you could get.
* Yes, we had all read our Stephenson, Vinge (and Gibson, Brin, Weber, Flint, Drake, etc . . . we are geeks, after all). I find it a little ironic to see MUD/MMORPG folks claiming Stephenson, since the "gameplay" in both "Snow Crash" and "Diamond Age" is about as far removed from D&D leveling as you can get, but that's my opinion. YMMV.
* Raph saw SL while he was still working on SW:G, which seemed to impact the Galaxies character creation screen. We appreciated his estimates of customer service loads and other management data that we didn't have experience with because none of us had done MMOs/MUDs.
* Pavel Curtis has graciously spent a lot of time chatting with me, but FWIW we talked almost nothing about LambdaMOO, instead focusing on the difficulties of "undo" in a multi-user space, language design, and permissions systems.
* Similarly, Chip Morningstar has been somewhat invovled with our permission redesign as part of the Bay Area capabilities cabal. While he and Randy surfaced the capabilities issues in Habitat, the working group is looking at the issues in broader internet/operating systems terms.

Not sure if this helps the debate but figured someone would appreciate the actual data.

16.

That makes a lot of sense now. I was wondering why so many of the social and technical mechanisms looked like reinventing the wheel.

Cory, honestly, take a look at those text-based virtual worlds. So many headaches that go around the grid have come up time and time again in the past, and have been addressed or solved in a variety of ways.

You'll be surprised. Then pleased. :)

17.

Not wanting to sound too negative, but this discussion reminds me of the age-old question, "How many angels can stand on the head of a pin?"

Exactly where the ideas for SL came from seem somewhat irrelevant (to me). How SL/mush is different from WoW/Diku is important, particularly at fundamental levels. What's more important is figuring out how they fundamentally differ, and seeing if other genres of virtual worlds (that are not Diku/Mush) are theoretically possible.

Returning to the evolution analogy, deer and kangaroos are the same thing. Kangaroos are more closely related to tasmanian tigers than to deer, but tasmanian tigers are fundamentally different to kangaroos in the way they operate/survive.

18.

Cory>Nobody in the core development team at Linden Lab was a heavy MUD, MOO, MUSH, or MMORPG player. Most of us had played them a bit, but none of us were very into that scene or community.

You were aware of them, though, which means SL wasn't a brand new seed with its own tree grown from it (in the sense that, say, Monster was).

The fact that you hadn't played MOOs etc. much makes a lot of sense, as it suggests you were essentially designers/developers rather than players.

>I find it a little ironic to see MUD/MMORPG folks claiming Stephenson, since the "gameplay" in both "Snow Crash" and "Diamond Age" is about as far removed from D&D leveling as you can get, but that's my opinion. YMMV.

I agree. I didn't read Snow Crash for years after MUD1, and it is indeed more like SL in my view than it is a gaming world. That said, I don't see Snow Crash as much of a viable model for the future metaverse.

>Not sure if this helps the debate but figured someone would appreciate the actual data.

I certainly do - thanks!

Richard

19.

Richard, I wasn't trying to imply that it had. Much like your review of leveling, everything new arrises within the environment of the past and present. However, some influences were more heavily researched/embraced than others. Of far great importance than any game, SL was impacted by the broad adoption of the web, broadband, and general 3D use. As for the designer v. player question, as I mentioned many of us were pretty heavy game players -- just not of MUDs and MMORPGs.

20.

Prokofy's sometimes on-target when it comes to VW society, but is comically ignorant of software development, and has a giant personal vendetta against software developers (which makes his decision to spend significant time with the products of the people he so despises very hypocritical), and so his comments on that subject should be treated with the same respect you accord a priest speaking about evolution.

As for Raph's "isolationist" blogosphere, that's an artifact of him deliberately leaving off all the largest SL news sites, which do in fact link out to games sites in the rare event that there's something of common interest. This has been pointed out to him multiple times.

However, all of that is somewhat irrelevant to the real issue: Non-game VW users do, by and large, ignore games, because they're not playing games. Why should someone who doesn't play games care what gamers are talking about?

Get over yourselves and quit whining. You don't get to be the center of attention for people who aren't into your hobby.

And, because I know what kind of people post in this den of scum and villainy, before anyone makes a strawman attack that I don't know anything about games or MMOs, I'm an indie (and formerly corporate) gamedev and VW developer, and I do play games and even mention some of them on my 1L and SL blogs.

21.

Cory>Richard, I wasn't trying to imply that it had.

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to give the impression that I thought you did! I mentioned it because some of the SL isolationists that this thread is referring to seem to have this opinion (much as the MOO isolationists did 15 years ago).

>Of far great importance than any game, SL was impacted by the broad adoption of the web, broadband, and general 3D use.

Yes, this makes sense (not that people will take note; I still read that MUD1 was inspired by D&D, even though "The Lord of the Rings" was a greater inspiration).

Richard

22.

Richard> I still read that MUD1 was inspired by D&D, even though "The Lord of the Rings" was a greater inspiration.

Yes, but what do you and Roy really know about that ;-)

23.

Gosh, Rex, d'ya *think*? I'm well aware of the *real-life* Simbu likely even more than you are -- I figured that because this is a blog about games and virtual worlds, the reference was to some province in Wow or something I hadn't heard of, that merely used that name as a kind of stand-in for exoticism. That was a facile put-down; please, spare me.

24.

>As someone whose research specialty is the highlands of PNG, I have to take issue with the idea that highlanders are 'out of time' or 'cut off from the wider world'. This is simply ridiculous. As anyone who has ever watched Xena on EmTV, attended church, or sold coffee in Papua New Guinea can tell you, Papua New Guinea is embroiled in the same mass media, religious, and political economy as everyone else in the world.

Are we comparing the culture of real-life to games and worlds? or games and worlds? Topic, please. If we mean games and worlds, yes, they're both cut off from RL. Next? If we mean games vs. worlds, games are more cut off from RL than the world of SL. This is fairly easy to demonstrate, because of the wide variety of well-documented uses of SL at this point from entertainment to education to business.

25.

Cory,

re: "Nobody in the core development team at Linden Lab was a heavy MUD, MOO, MUSH, or MMORPG player. Most of us had played them a bit, but none of us were very into that scene or community."

I'm puzzled. Lawrence Linden then, developer of the LinDex is...not a developer then? His resume is in a MMORPG.

Ventrella Linda (is that the right spelling of the name) from There...so...he's not a developer? or There is not a MMORPG?

And...where was it you played that is the new golf aga in lol?

26.

>The danger of course is that all this will turn into ad-hominem attacks. Despite professing desire for academic rigeur, it seems to me Prokofy's heliocentric imagery in the post above makes him more guilty of hitting below the belt than Koster.

But Raph is really at the center straddling both/all cultures, and it's a fair heliocentricism; however; it merely needs some independent commentary. That's not hitting below the belt, merely asking for some corrective that surely is out there.

>"but is comically ignorant of software development, and has a giant personal vendetta against software developers (which makes his decision to spend significant time with the products of the people he so despises very hypocritical"

This is one of the more silly things I've read lately. I don't see why it is a "personal vendetta" as a consumer of worlds to be rather sharp and pointed in the critique of those who make them and rule them. I would expect to behave no differently than I do in my own country or in another country where the critics of that country asked for support if they were oppressed.

I don't assume that remaining a citizen of the United States somehow makes me a hypocrite regarding support for replacement of the Republicans in office; why would that discredit me in a game or world?

Honestly, there will be a lot more people just like me along any minute now...

We don't need to know the history of the watch to wear one and tell the time; if the watch is broken we can be critical of the watch-maker. We need a better watch.

I think most priests these days have no problem with evolution; I think you're confusing priests with fundamentalist preachers; they might simply believe there's more to the world than evolution as the explanation of its provenance and governance.

Really, people begin to stoop to such outrageous tendentious stuff when you poke at their received wisdom. I'm always marvelling that this blog, which is supposed to be this free-wheeling, informal place of intellectual discourse and debate is often a place where people merely lay out their set pieces that they've engraved in stone and then call you an infidel for disbelieving in their articles of faith. Talk about priests!

>I'm an indie (and formerly corporate) gamedev

Are we to understand, then, that the greatest orthodoxy about games and software come from indies? Surely that can't be so.

>As for Raph's "isolationist" blogosphere, that's an artifact of him deliberately leaving off all the largest SL news sites, which do in fact link out to games sites in the rare event that there's something of common interest. This has been pointed out to him multiple times.

On this, we absolutely agree, Kami, and I pointed out first on Raph's blog in this latest round, and I pointed it out here first -- so why am I having a tinfoil hat parked on my head???

secondlifeinsider.com which is a child of the parent Joystiq is a good example of this link that could be on Raph's blogopshere.

27.

As for Raph's "isolationist" blogosphere, that's an artifact of him deliberately leaving off all the largest SL news sites, which do in fact link out to games sites in the rare event that there's something of common interest. This has been pointed out to him multiple times.

I did not "deliberately leave off" any sites at all, and certainly not based on subject matter. I explained the method I used in the post accompanying the graph. I DID set the threshold for incoming links fairly high, and that resulted in fewer (but more "central") sites being graphed.

I also suggested that it'd be valuable for someone to do an SL-centric graph. I actually started one, but alas the app crashed. It still seemed to show almost no overlap with the rest of the MMO blogosphere, though.

28.

Raph, I read your paragraph at the get-go, and I can't help saying that while I may be certifiably and "comically ignorant," Kami would seem to have the credentials as an "indie dev" etc. to not be misreading it -- yet he did.

The methods you set are simply opaque, and while they may make some internal sense, when rendered pictorially and glanced at, as people tend to just glance at things on the Internet, it becomes misleading.

Again, I'm more than happy to concede your pride of place. I just want to see more spokes coming from the wheels. I'm still baffled why www.clickableculture.com and www.3pointd.com aren't on there, but perhaps they aren't game-y *enough* (seems odd, especially for CC).

If there is no overlap between SL and the MMO blogosphere than...why are we here?

29.

Prok,
Neither of those folks were around during the design, initial architecture, or release of SL. I was speaking to the 5 or6 people who made the initial decisions on what SL would be and the 20 people or so who were around for the substantial IP rights and business model changes of late-2003.

c

30.

I just want to see more spokes coming from the wheels. I'm still baffled why www.clickableculture.com and www.3pointd.com aren't on there, but perhaps they aren't game-y *enough* (seems odd, especially for CC).

So last night, in response to this, I did a few more graphs. I set the incoming links threshold to 10: that means that only sites that had lots of people talking about them, linking to them, were included. I set the horizon to "All" so that it would keep searching outwards. And I made EVERY SINGLE SL SITE that met those criteria be a "center," meaning, I expanded every single one of them. Every site that linked to or was linked from these core sites made it onto the graph, if they were big enough (eg, ten inbound links).

The app crashed before I could take a screenshot. But the list was something like this, based on my overnight memory:

SL Forums, SL Herald, SLOG, 3pointD, Anshe, Torley's, SL itself, SL Boutique, and about ten more.

All of these linked extensively -- to each other. There popped up peripherally. So did WoW. But they formed a tight cluster of self-referential sites.

Then there were three sites that were notable "bridges" to the SL cluster: mine, Clickable Culture, and Terra Nova.

Then there was "everyone else", which did not form a tight cluster, but instead spread out in a map much like the one I posted previously.

When the app crashed, I did it again, but with looser criteria -- 6 inbounds instead of ten. The island was still very visible.

If there is no overlap between SL and the MMO blogosphere than...why are we here?

I think, in ths case, and without meaning any offense, because you are bought into many aspects of SL, and to some degree, the discussion is seen as a discussion of the validity of SL. Which certainly wasn't my intent. Saying that the discursive center of SL's blog commentary is not linked to the rest of the MMO blogosphere isn't an insult. It's an observation. If SL truly is exceptional and different and a new way of doing things, then it's not even surprising.

31.

what the hell?

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