Greg Lastowka died last night. I really can't find the words, if you can, feel free to comment below.
In 2004 (yes we’ve been around a long-ass time), I wrote Bah, Humbug & Digital Distribution, talking about the tensions between getting physical and virtual gifts. I’m yet to see a break down of the stats from Star Wars The Old Republic (SWTOR) but I’m guessing the physical : virtual is going to break new ground.
Back on ’04 I was musing about the impact of virtual gifts on xmas – I still do, how many of you bought someone a dead-tree-book rather than a kindle edition so you could give someone an object (do they sell some kind of token you can give, like a card with a code on it, if not why not?)?
The ritual I’d either forgotten about or something that was not such an ‘event’ in ’04 was the midnight launch. As the guys (and they all seem to be guys) on pod casts such as Mos Eisley Radio were lamenting many game stores did not have a midnight release event for SWTOR, which as the people are starting to note is a gamer ritual that some of the hard-core are starting to miss.
There are multiple reason for why midnight release was not a big thing in the case of SWTOR: Digital Download / Amazon et al pre-ordering; but possible most of all the phased early entry process that was used. There are god management reasons for having phased entry, though for those of us that sat in popcap queue for a long time last week load balancing did not go perfectly (though possibly as well as it could). But, there did seem to be a lack of an event, a communal moment for many players – though as podcasters have noted some people shifted from standing in line to waiting in server queues on vent with their buddies – we always find a way to be together I guess.
May the force be with youTM….
Maybe a little unorthodox for TN, but a colleague at Bioware Austin asked me to post this ad and I'm betting someone who reads here is a potentially good fit, or knows someone.
Also, I happen to love analytics (post on the same to follow), and I'd like to see a smart person get this job. I like that the games industry is starting to take data and analyis more seriously. Plus, I mean really, it's dragons and Jedis . . .
Interested folks can find the posting below at jobs.ea.com or look up Craig Fryar at Bioware and ask him for the 411.
It's that time again... the persistent rush at the beginning of each new cycle of time to reflect and predict. Well, we like that sort of thing around here. Sometimes we're right, sometimes wrong. But we're always trying to draw out our inner oracles...
My 2011 (and onward) predictions:
- our small people will continue to overrun our Facebook accounts as they fiend for more and more digital bling, especially since Facebook apparently doesn't let kids under 13 have their own accounts. I will continue to shell out the credit card for $10 of 'presents' for my kid's best gamer friends. Perhaps this economic boom will fuel the 'maybe we will survive this media change!' mentality.
- the fantasy MMO reaches saturation levels except for the truly committed. This is not a lore problem, but a pattern matching one. Expect regeneration in 5-10 years or when the new LOTR movie comes out. Oh wait. Guild Wars 2. Does war count as fantasy?
- more 'brand-affirming' virtual worlds. Some might be good.
- more alternative/augmented reality and transmedia MMOs (mobile plus tv plus Kinect plus books plus movies plus 3D-everything). More and more exodus.
- more sci fi, speculative fiction, near term possibility exploration (simulation, as predicted by Ted eons ago)
- Is the MMO inside out yet? More and more I find myself gaming with people like my ex mother-in-law (lovely woman, not a gamer of any description tho!)
- More worlds, fewer games? (does Facebook count as a world?)
- The phrase 'casual gaming' will die as everyone begins to game, casually and otherwise. Already so in South Korea (I find it useful to consider parts of Asia as possible reflections of our future(s)).
- The gaming industry will more fully begin to fund and rely on research.
There are far too many of my interests resurrected in this post. Please add your favorite memes and join me in documenting our predictions! (how will we otherwise remember?)
Earlier this month, Linden Lab released a demo of a hands-free interface for movement within Second Life. While they were careful to explain that this project is still in the early stages of development, the interface as it stands would allow players to walk and fly through the world using only the positions of their bodies. Apparently inspired by the controls on Segway scooters, a 3D camera would capture players' movements as they stand a number of feet in front of their computer screens--or, as in the case of the demo, conveniently ginormos televisions. Linden also claims that the technology in development can sense facial movement and expressions.
While other bloggers are seeing a potentially ground-breaking new way to interact in a world whose current user interface is a giant pain in the butt, I'm wondering: what will going hands free do for sex in Second Life?
Both Alice and Cory happen to have noted the "review" of social worlds over at Second Life Games, so Onder is getting quite a lot of play over his view of significant social worlds. Leaving aside the odd choice of worlds that he chooses to discuss, I am weirded out by his criteria of assessment:
"Since these are entirely formed from my little brain, we’ll call them “Onder’s Big Three”. They are:
- Cash transactions must be easy and readily accommodated flowing both into and out from the system.
- Users must be able to create unique content and retain some form of ownership over it.
- The fabric of the world itself must be possible to affect. IE: land ownership, room decoration, or some other content that remains viable even when the player who created it is logged off. (”Pervasive” is the word I’m groping for here…)"
I was dozing on the train this morning when someone on a podcast read the news headline “College Student Loses First & Second Life On The Same Day”. I snapped awake pretty quick at that. I knew SL could make you rich but not kill ye’ ass.
Just saw a truly wonderful talk by Karrie Karahalios from UIUC about the relatively-understudied role of audio in social computing. She makes a compelling case for using social computing methods for visualizing and incorporating audio within the various social software systems that people are building.
Which was interesting because last night I was playing WoW in the same room as some of my guildies and also the leader of another guild. The most remarkable thing, for me, was the amount of Teamspeak voice chatter that the other guild engaged in. Our guild only ever uses Teamspeak for instances and raids, and so to hear the other guild just chatting was intriguing.
Greetings from St. Louis, where I had the opportunity yesterday to give a presentation about virtual worlds with fellow Terra Novans Cory Ondrejka, Josh Fairfield and Mike Sellers, at the annual conference for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Unfortunately I missed Cory’s presentation, which was moved to the morning session. Josh, Mike and I covered the afternoon session and it was quite a range of topics.
I recently had a character powerleveled, for some research that I'm doing. This morning I logged on to that account for the first time to have a look at the results. I have to say that I came away disoriented, and vaguely disturbed.
Just to let all the spammers out there know - here at the TerraNova global media HQ, well at least in my palatial penthouse office suite, we are full to over flowing with prescription meds, genital extension / expansion / engorgement aids, cheap mobile phones, low rate mortgage packages, offers to help out relatives of ex-high up people in far flung countries that just happen to have millions of dollars that they would love to entrust to us (for a small admin fee of course). And personally I don’t have the time to meet potential brides from Russia, what with all the WoW playing and eBay’ing I need to do to pay for the hookers and crack.
So to this end - you, good readers, might notice that the comment section on threads mysteriously closes for no good reason. This is NOT because we have grown bored of the topic or think that the commentary we are getting is just not up to standard or an attempt to shut down on anyone's rights to yell at us. It’s simply because certain threads seem to attract spam engines and get filled up with junk, junk that some might find offensive, so when this happens we will try to clear it out and then probably close comments. When this starts happening to a current thread one of us will try to trim out the spam so we can keep things going.
This is only related to virtual worlds in the most tangential of ways, but some things just need to be blogged. This afternoon I got my first taste of alternate reality gaming, 4orty 2wo's "Last Call Poker." More specifically, I spent the afternoon at the Italian Cemetery playing "Tombstone Hold 'Em," a surprisingly fun poker variant that -- you guessed it -- can only be played at a cemetery. Full rules are here. It was a blast. Other than forgetting that Aces were high despite being mundane gravestones -- my team kept building King-high straights and flushes and getting pasted by danah's Ace-high straights and flushes -- it was a great way to spend an afternoon. In addition, as part of the game, various Last Call clues were dispensed and I'm sure the ARG community will be buzzing tonight.
Read on for more . . .
I'm sick with sadness and I need your advice. I don't think my player cares about me any more. After we first met I thought that the relationship would be wonderful. He spent lots of time with me, sending me mail, taking me to interesting places in Ironforge--the auctionhouse, the postbox just inside the commons, the bank. We even once went to the Great Forge (though I think he might have been lost). He was always showering me with gifts: first was 20 bales of wool, then a magic belt, 6 linen bags, and some gnoll spittle. I thought "this is the real thing!!!11!!"
But since then things have deteriorated. We never go anywhere except the bank, the auctionhouse, the postbox, then the auctionhouse, and back to the postbox. But even worse than this, I think that he has another avatar on the side. He makes me wire money to her, money that I've earned in the auctionhouse through my own hard efforts. I think that he's just using me.
I don't want to give him up, but I can't go on like this. I'd like to take the relationship to the next level, but I wait and wait, and never hear a "ding".
What can I do?
Yours in desperation
Mule (lvl 1)
My two-year-old son said said something interesting yesterday. He had just made his own MOG character for the first time - surprisingly easy, and this was EQII, not WoW or YPP - and he was running around and figuring out targeting. He highlighted a snake or a rat or something, and I pressed the 'attack' button. The combat sequence scared him, though, so I turned his guy around and ran off. But I did that only after standing there with my mouth open for a second. Because he didn't say 'turn the game off' or 'help my guy' or 'what do I do'. He said 'Get me out of here.'
Perhaps because of his still-uncluttered appreciation of reality, he was already mentally immersed in the virtual world. He was already in there.
Nate and others have talked about their kids. Anyone else have child or family stories?
I took a header off my bike earlier this week, but luckily I was traveling at speed on blacktop and my face broke my fall.
This resulted in a couple of new developments in my life: some pleasantly-unflappable surgeons kindly sewed my lips back on me, and then they introduced me to Percoset (aka ocycodone). I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this drug. But that is for another day.
The combination of the drug-induced reverie, large amounts of time recuperating in bed wondering whether I will always speak like Sylvester Stallone, and the facial damage naturally got me thinking about what everyone thinks about in these situations: yes, instanced worlds and the films "Abre los Ojos" & "Vanilla Sky".
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 debate has erupted about avatar-clothing options in World of Warcraft [insert obligatory fanboi disclaimer here]. What obligations do the developers have in terms of clothing options? Suppose the uber gear is indecent according to the standards of some appropriately defined community. Is it a problem? For extra credit - was this an issue in text-based MUDs (everything was, I think), and how was it handled?
[Ed: Posted on behalf of Stanislav Roudavski]
I need some advice please.
What interesting examples of virtual architecture (i.e. spatial structure of the game-world) do you know of? To explain, I am not interested in style, or in picturesque backdrops, or in realism. Not for their own sake. Rather, I am looking for examples where spatial structures are designed (or gradually grown) to respond to and guide in-world behaviour.
I've played many MMOs over the past few years (EQ, DAoC, SWG, RO, CoH), but I've never felt compelled to take screenshots of anything in them. But since I started playing WoW last week, I found myself constantly taking screenshots because of how gorgeous the scenes were. I've put the screenshots up (3 pages of thumbnails) and just wanted to share them.
These screenshots are totally unenhanced, but I do run the game using the "Full Glow Effect" option.
There's a lot to talk about in the report, and I may return to it here for a later entry. But my attention was drawn by a fairly peripheral point in the document--that many within EA resent the general attention within the business community and in the wider culture to companies like Pixar or even Microsoft whose size, market capitalization and/or economic performance are actually smaller than EA. This seems to me to touch on something far bigger than EA or its economic success.
Games researchers in general are keenly aware of the degree to which the economic importance of games still does not fully translate into a perceived cultural or even business centrality in the US or the global economy overall. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I want to focus on one: the lack of a usefully critical, thoughtful mode of games criticism published in newspapers and major magazines in the US.
With Fizik's permission I've posted screen shots from my recent tour of Avalon in Second Life.
The first three shots show the Mrs. Jones clothing gallery. An avid Mrs. Jones collection wearer was nice enough to model a few pieces for me. And yes, most of them would give the wearer very unusual tan lines in RL ;)
The remaining images relate to Avalon's artists in residence. They have living quarters and a sculpture garden with some interesting pieces. The most intriguing one is a cat surrounded by a flock of birds. It looks like a still sculpture, but Fizik told me it's actually a moving sculpture with an extremely slow motion setting. You can't see the sculpture moving but every time you come back it's progressed to a different position. The early 20th century Italian futurist movement lives on in 2L.
I didn't really get a shopping mall vibe from Avalon. The Mrs. Jones gallery was definitely commercial in the sense that there were logos and products prominently placed throughout, but it felt more like a funky SoHo boutique than your average American mall.
When is the best time of year to release an MMORPG?
Major single player games all seem to come out for the Christmas buying spree; film releases seem to be timed to coincide with school holidays - but MMORPGs don’t seem to fall into any seasonal pattern at all.
Back to ducks… it has been argued that virtual items (including gold pieces, credits etc) might look so much like property that they would be considered to be property. Certainly they are used as if they were.
When it comes to money the EC has provided a handy definition of exactly what it considers e-money to be and hence what organizations it feels it has to regulate, but what if people even worse that eBayers start to utilise virtual goods to move value around the world?
(1) Can this description of this game be true?
(2) Would any sane person play it?
(3) If they did, would they need counselling later?
.hack / infection (Dev: CyberConnect2, Pub: Bandai / Atari, Plat: PS2) is an RPG with a plot centred on a fictional MMORPG.
So you’re a single player, playing the character of person that is playing a character in a multi-player game, replete with fictional friends that want to trade with you, I mean your character, I mean your character's character – ohh I need a lie down.
... and if anyone even mentions the Matrix they get a /slap.
Question for the hive mind: Isn't it the case in table top RPing that there are ways of inserting a new player into an ongoing campaign? Argo, Flim, and Buxley are all level 12 and find themselves deep in the Caverns of Crud, when Balabad somehow shows up, not as a level 1 newbie but as a level 12 character with appropriate gear. What are the stories used to avoid breaking the fiction?
The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result. It lives in many places, but three or four places in particular hold a massive amount of this data (ie MSN, Google, and Yahoo). This information represents, in aggregate form, a place holder for the intentions of humankind - a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, supoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends. Such a beast has never before existed in the history of culture, but is almost guaranteed to grow exponentially from this day forward. This artifact can tell us extraordinary things about who we are and what we want as a culture. And it has the potential to be abused in equally extraordinary fashion.
The annual film awards show is wrapping up here in LA and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King has won in 10 of the 11 categories in which it was nominated, with only Best Picture to go [Edit: It just got best picture too]. Earlier in the night, I was watching the awards for things like Sound Editor and Visual Effects. The recipients there wore tuxedos and glamorous gowns, just like the actors and actresses, but they also had more of a techy look to them, as if the clothes didn't exactly fit. I imagined that is what game developers might look like, were there an Oscars for games. There are game awards, of course; we're looking forward to the next round at GDC next month. Still, the contrast between that ceremony and the star-studded gala on Hollywood Boulevard is striking.
Yes, game software and hardware now outsell Hollywood's box office. Games may even have more overall impact on behavior than movies. But games don't have anywhere near as much cultural whuffie as the movies. Not even close. Why not?
[Disclaimer: every idea in this post has probably already been written down by a ludologist. I haven't done my homework, and know absolutely nothing about games as art. I'm sure that will become obvious in a moment anyway.]
Ok, I promise, this will be my last post this week on politics in-world:
Andrew Phelps, over at Corante's Got Game reports on the killing in Everquest of Kerafyrm, also known as The Sleeper. This supposedly unkillable beast was defeated by in a battle that "...lasted approximatively 3 hours and about 170-180 players from Rallos Zek's top 3 guilds were involved." The Sleeper was designed to be practically unkillable, with a mind-boggling hundred billion hitpoints.
Ok, so now tell me that political direct action (and concerted-and-centrally controlled user response from within guilds) is not a powerful, undesigned feature of these games.
What to make of this I have only the vaguest idea. But never let it be said that the people don't have power over the gods. They just need to be given the appropriate challenge.
After noting Ted's post on The Alpahville Herald, I had a look at their mission statement. Very interesting, especially (at least for me) inasmuch as they're doing something very different from us here: they're documenting the social history of one world and indeed one shard of that world. In years to come social historians, theorists, statisticians, economists, etc etc etc will all give thanks for resources such as these: deeply embedded accounts of what actually happens in-world. As Ted has noted elsewhere, it's really really hard to do research in these worlds, because they're so opaque to non-participant inveestigation.
Which leads me to ask whether there are other local histories or social accounts of various worlds. Where does one go to find out, for example, about the economic system of AC2, the social stratification of AO, the politics of There? My off-the-top-of-the-head list would include accounts of lambdamoo (and not forgetting Julian), EQ (though there are a number in this category), UO, Second Life, and now TSO. And there are the various gameboards like IGN or Stratics that are helpful but involve a lot of wading (not to mention pushing up the gain on the l33t-filters)
So where else is the social history of these worlds being written?
As many will know, Dave Rickey, a regular contributor here and game designer at Mutable Realms, has a column over at Skotos.net. It's a great resource generally, and this week he's talking about how academic interest (like this blog) in MMOGs may translate to problems in the long run for game designers and worlds.
It's a fascinating read. Comments probably should be directed to the forum at skotos, since that's where Dave posted his essay. But I'll leave the comments open here, in case there is some reason why posting here is an alternative for some.
Some time ago Ted mentioned how simplistic the economics of game worlds tend to be (I wish I could find his comment). The obvious area where this can seen is in the faucet-drain economic model of resource movement which we've discussed elsewhere, but I'm sure there are a number of other examples that people can think of.
One that occurs to me is the observation that we found massive hoarding of resources as soon as people were able to own virtual property. So, as Raph Koster explained to Elizabeth Koster and she told everyone, entire resource systems were broken in UO almost immediately and one guy ended up owning 10,000 identical shirts, because...well, because he liked having lots of shirts. The observation that a virtual resource would be subject to the endowment effect would have been unremarkable at a behavioral economics conference, but it came as something of an unpleasant shock for Origin Systems.
Alternatively one can fairly easily make the case that eBaying arises as a consequence of a poorly developed economic model that fails to capture (internally) the value of the resources within the system.
A few thoughts/questions/ideas for the TN collective intelligence:
1. Are there other examples of simple economic models which have caused (or are causing) grief? I imagine there must be, I just haven't scoured the literature (Oh, that's right, there isn't any "literature". We're making it here).
2. Does it actually matter if a developer screws up the economics, or has an overly simplistic model? Sure, some assets or classes or other aspect of the world are gonna get nerfed and Dave or Raph are gonna have to pull a few all-nighters re-balancing their worlds. But, so what?
I suspect that a tentative answer to question 2 is "it depends", and it depends on whether the world is economically self-contained. A while back I was talking to Will Harvey, the founder of There. We happened to be discussing how There saw themselves, in part, like a themepark where third party providers could build content/games/etc (Second Life are similar in this) and these third parties got to keep a percentage of the money that they attracted to their attraction. Since there is an official Therebucks<->$USD exchange rate, this is real money. Under these circumstances a simple "re-balancing" is gonna involve very, very, serious redistributions of real money
I'm looking to put together a glossary of unusual gaming/vw terms. It's hard to do academic work in this area when everybody keeps inventing new terms. You feel like an idiot when a friend says "So I was hanging out in UO, pulled a twink, then went afk, and they did a wipe and I found my Morningstar-of-Extraordinarily-Crushing-Damage had been nerfed!" And you say, "Right..."
So, anybody want to give me terms and definitions that should be included in a dictionary that the media and television arm of TerraNova Enterprises, Inc. might publish?
My current favorite candidates include:
"twink" (v/n) the action of a higher-level player helping a lower level player rather than the lower level player doing everything themselves. Usually means providing higher-level assets (swords, rares, etc) than the lower level character could obtain themselves. Often used where a single person has multiple avatars at different levels, and has the higher level avatar provide the asset to his/her lower level avatar. Source: Koster, LegendMUD, UrbanDictionary. (Not to be confused with "twink" in non-gaming, sexual contexts)
"nerf" (v, trans) the action of developers reducing the strength of an in-game asset where the asset is too powerful and unbalances other parts of the game. Arose when swords in UO were rebalanced and the characters felt they were hitting each other with nerf swords. Source: Koster, LegendMUD, UrbanDictionary.
So I've been catching up on some required reading, to wit, the entire corpus of the slides from the first Austin Game Conference. Too much fabulous stuff to list here, so let's pick one at a time.
The reading for today's sermon is from John Lee, Director Corporate Development and Strategy, Softbank Corporation, and is an "Overview of the NE Asia online gaming market - China, Japan and Korea". As we've noted elsewhere, as outsiders it's hard to get a handle on what is happening in the gaming world in SE Asia. Of course there's the standard texts and commentary which, understandably, are almost always about South Korea, PC baangs, and Lineage.
Lee's overview covers Korea, Japan and China, and this latter market is the most interesting one for me, since I've seen so little on it. Some personal highlights:
Apart from the numbers, I'm interested in the nature of the gaming in SE Asia as against the US. Clearly there are differences in the communal nature of the gaming (in PC baangs or PC cafes) and also in cultural differences between these Asian countries and Western countries. At the risk of being ridiculously coarse and ludicrously coarse-grained, the US (and to a lesser extent) emphasizes the individual as an atomistic, independent actor, whereas the asian nations tend to emphasize the individual as an actor within a community. This goes some way to explaining why Lineage and other MMORPGs that emphasize communal action are so successful in Asia, and have struggled in the US.
Bruce Woodcock, Mark Jacobs and Dave Rickey note that eventually the US market is going to feed off itself (though they differ on when it flatlines) and so the developers are going to need to look to new markets. If these markets are in Asia, what is the future of MMORPGs?
The comments by DivineShadow on a previous posting got me thinking about the relationship between taxation and virtual worlds. There are some interesting aspects to virtual world taxation that, so far as I know, haven't been addressed much in the nascent literature. So let me spitball for a bit, and Ted (and Julian and Greg and everyone else) can correct my mistakes.
First, it's interesting to note how taxation can be used to mediate server resources. In the goode olde days of lambda and others, resource allocation was performed by the VW equivalent of the central committee of the politburo, aka the Architecture Review Board. As Julian explained in MTL and elsewhere, disk quota was centrally capped, just like all elements of capital and production under Stalinist rule. Requests for deviations from the default allocation had to be justified, and, of course, quota decisions that destroyed, say, beautiful gardens based on the I'Ching were viewed as arbitrary, unfair and destructive. Though various alternatives were mooted--my favorite was Julian's quota lottery or "Quottery"--none of them have the majestic indifference of the market. This, of course, is the central lesson of capitalist economics, and we now are seeing new elements of this emerge in VWs.
I see now that Second Life is using market economics directly to mediate server resources. In 2L if you use resources in building content then those resources get taxed. Of course this leads to the "no taxation without representation" trope, mentioned elsewhere, but it does have the great benefit of working like consumption taxes IRL: those who consume server resources have to pay for it. This is unlike the monthly fee of UO or EQ or any number of games which are much more like the (socially regressive?) flat tax regimes, much favored by the rich. In EQ, no matter how many hours you are online, no matter how many server resources you use, you still pay the same amount. Which, of course, tends to encourage over-use, but this has (some? limited?) social benefit in VWs since it encourages community.
The problem with taxation, at least for developers, is that they can make the case that resource taxing is fair--the user pays depending on the amount she uses. The developers can even tie the tax directly to one's real life money as Entropia tried to do, which also has some benefits. But they're still left with the fact that, well, it's a tax. You can call it a fee, a levy, an impost, or a contribution. People still know that it's a tax. You'd be better off calling it the "Pit of Death." People would prefer that to a tax.
Another way of imposing a tax is much sneakier, and therefore much more fun. You create a market for goods and tax the transactions surreptiously. This is also socially progressive (?), since it taxes at the point of consumption. But it's much better for the developers because it can be spun as a commission (à la eBay). And this is especially good if the developer can make the case that they're simply internalising the market that otherwise would go elsewhere. Then the tax appears to be just a "cost" of running an efficient market, and not a tax. And hell, you can even claim that it's the cost of reducing fraud that would occur in those "unsanctioned" markets. It's the same outcome in terms of server resources and potential revenues as a tax, except you don't get people throwing virtual tea into the virtual bay, and dressing up like Paul Revere.
The sad thing about this problem is that taxes also work to solve (in part) one of the great problems of VWs, that of hyperinflation caused by addition of resources. It's now well established that developers need a resource drain, however spurious, to pull some of the capital out of the world. Otherwise everybody ends up as unhappy as the good burgers of the Weimar Republic who wheeled barrowfuls of marks to the bakers to buy a loaf of bread. The need for resource drains means that we end up with hair dye, or some other equally vapid excuse for retiring capital. But if developers tax the system, then a chunk of resources are pulled out of circulation automatically and, praise be to the gods, deposited in the developer's pocket.
This is helpful, and interesting, and of course completely unacceptable to most players.
I don't pretend to have a lesson here. As usual, this is more in the nature of observations for comment. I do have a number of other thoughts about Julian's desire to be taxed IN REAL LIFE for his transactions in UO. But that will have to wait for another day...
From the BlogRolling Dept.
Dislogue--"Books, Culture, Fishing, and Other Games"--has a very thoughtful posting about the ethics of virtual asset trading entitled On the "Moral Repugnancy" of External Markets for Virtual Goods. This was brought about by Julian's appearance on NPR and the almost universal distaste of the callers-in for his method of making cash. (He should have stayed the honest brothel-keeper that we all knew and loved)
I could seek to summarise the Dislogue posting, but this would end up a little like the guy who speed-read "War and Peace" in 10 minutes and, when asked what it was about, suggested that Russia was involved somehow.
Since you all can read, I'll just suggest that the following quote is the endpoint, but the journey to this point is very interesting:
"I've come around to thinking that online massively multi-player games should encourage out-of-game trading. "
Head on over.
Who really gets this area, Americans or Europeans or Asians?
In the States, I've been at conferences about games and stuff where everyone has a laptop linked by 802.11 to the world and each other, the whole thing being live-blogged, comments flowing around, everyone clicking and clicking and clicking. Nobody's playing avatar games though.
I just got back from Manchester. There wasn't any wireless, but there was lots of reference to buzzing academic activity - game-design programs all over the place, government-sponsored game research from places like Ireland, the Game Research Center at ITU Copenhagen (/em drool), the Ludologists, etc.
I've never been to an academic game conference in Asia, don't even know if they have them. I've never met, or even heard about, a MMORPG researcher who has played Lineage. (Grad students: will someone PLEASE get a Fulbright to Korea on this?) But they have subscriber numbers that dwarf those in US/Europe.
So, Asia has the code and the users, with the US a distant second. Europe has the government interest and the research centers, with the US again a distant second. What does America have? Highspeed internet access in the hotel, so you can ditch the last conference session and go do some more blogging...
I'm making worthless generalizations of course. What's the reality?
While Ted is in the Old Dart and Julian is busy making money, I thought I'd venture an economic question. I was chatting with Julian the other day and he mentioned that business seemed to have taken a downturn of late in the UO world. Though his HammerTap figures look upbeat, there seems to be a migration over to the new kid on the block, Star Wars Galaxies.
A quick look at cat 1654 shows that SWG stuff is showing up there, though Ted's new empirical research project has meant that we don't have any hard data yet. Any anecdotal responses from those at the sharp end of these transactions? Is the smart play money heading over to Tattoine, and if so, is this because there is more money to be made on the new frontier?