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Sep 14, 2004



I for one like the fact that the tech pavillion floor is still small. The larger it gets, the more marketing sees this as a way to show off their new products, which is what is happening with GDC. Of course, GDC is no E3 yet. And AGC is like the old, cozy GDCs of 10 years ago.

Oh, and you might want to change the title of this entry. I saw a thing on The Daily Show about how Texas was sending out cease and desist orders to people who were "misusing" the "Don't Mess With Texas" slogan. :)



Bruce> I for one like the fact that the tech pavillion floor is still small.

As do I, so I wish that they would do something other than put it in the middle of that huge area where it felt so lonely and sad. If they had broken it up into multiple, small rooms, I think that it would have been more consistent with the rest of the show.


Sounds like, overall, the good outweighed the bad-- funny how you say the biggest corporate players, tho, seem so inclined to throw wet blankets on anyone else's MMORPG enthusiasm. Something situational about their role in the social sphere as major psuedo-imperialist platform owners? Or is it just some kind of dispositional "we're not the geeks we sell to" notion? (Sounds like a healthy amount of both, from your description.)

I'm really curious to hear that panel on licensing and MMORPGs (though *not* for the Jacobs/Garriott exchange, which does seem much like the issue of Al Gore and the IntarWeb). I also would have loved to hear Ted's keynote.

I assume it was all recorded by the coordinators? Any idea if/when/how they'll make the media available?


Yes, it was all recorded and I'll post when the put the .mp3s up. Ted's talk is absolutely amazing and is a "must hear"!

WRT Sony and Microsoft: I think that they see an opportunity to really own this space. The only publisher who could really fight them, EA, still seems somewhat befuddled by this whole "MMO thing" and lacks the kind of clear strategy that they bring to other endeavors.

The Lord British incident is funny, but perhaps more interesting because it paints such a clear picture of NCSoft's approach to marketing (as that is almost certainly who wrote it). They do want to appeal to the MMO space and to own it, although I don't think that they are yet big enough to fill the leadership position that EA has refused to take.


I have a good friend who is a couple reports away from the CEO (he's a VP though, really) at SOE. EQ is dying apparently and they're gambling it all on EQ2.

Given that their P/L statements are all red and their business is declining, you can imagine the fear and frustration that management must feel.

Statements like "MMOs are for crazy hardcore geeks and don't matter" aren't really that surprising when you're trying to downplay the failure of one of your business units.


Ted's keynote will be long remembered as giving validation to the incipient value to society of these places for the exploration of myth and the imaginative processing of our eternal human struggle with order and chaos. It is available on CD right now, for a modest $13 bucks. Guaranteed it is something you will want to keep and share - contact info for the recording co. is (714) 838-1327 or [email protected], the number of the talk is #2.

Raph Koster explicitly called for intense arguments at his panel, "Design Risks we Should be Taking." Alas, while there were some threatening glances, for the most part the panelists were well behaved. The discussion evolved into whether it was the responsibility of larger or smaller companies to take risks and we really didn't really get to hear many "risky" ideas at all.

A good bookshop exhibitor was missed. I like being able to browse and buy a speaker's book or recommendation.

I have photos of the TN gathering, and, in fact, some from the E3 gathering as well. Is there a home for them somewhere?


No risky ideas? Didn't you stay until the end when I ranted and said the panel had a failure of imagination, and proposed games that cured cancer, affected elections, and solved terrorism? :)


Yes! I did stay! But I expected the entire hour to consist of the ideas you expressed, instead of just 35 seconds of blue sky with much of the rest devoted to different ways to express skill aqcusition or the economic responsibility of the marketplace.

I was there expressly to hear about games that make you fall in love with NPCs, that "teach you how to play an instrument", that find creative ways - supported by the marketplace or not - to have us inhabit the Secret Garden Divine that Ted spoke about so glowingly.

Respectfully, I don't know how much of the blame lays at your feet, as the moderator or with the panel - at least one member whom I admire deeply as a designer. The topic seemed to veer off early in the hour. I left hoping that there would be a session next year with that wide-eyed agenda - something wildly creative as hell that starts important little ideas ticking in designer's heads.


I have photos of the TN gathering, and, in fact, some from the E3 gathering as well. Is there a home for them somewhere?

Bridget, I placed them here for now:


All, guess the names to the photos. Included is a mystery photo, special extra credit.



But I expected the entire hour to consist of the ideas you expressed, instead of just 35 seconds of blue sky

I thought the conference as a whole was superb, but I agree with Bridget in that the "Design Risks We Should Be Taking" session was slightly dissapointing. The title seemed to imply "we know that commercial MMOs are currently risk averse, but what would we do if we could", but quite a lot of the talk was about how risk averse current MMOs are. I think Raph did a sterling job of trying to steer the discussion towards blue skies, but I got the impression that the majority of the audience were too focused on their bottom line or weren't going to spill the beans on their revolutionary idea in front of the competition. I was pleased to hear MMOs that reconnect with reality and comment on political and social issues being suggested though, as it's something I've been thinking about a lot recently.

For blue skies and the white heat of technology the TN dinner was the place to be. Raph and Cory were on fire while Ted and I tried to fan the flames.


It just so happens that I had reason to digitize an article that might provide some fodder for the "father of the online gaming" debate over at Habitat Chronicles.

Sounds like I missed something special.



For the record, having Ted, Jim, Raph, Brian, Bridget and the rest of the folks who showed up at the TN dinner in one place makes for one really fun and informative evening. There is a real opportunity for the folks who care about online spaces to spend more time bouncing ideas around -- especially in relatively informal settings.

Regarding the design risk panel, hopefully next year they'll have some folks who are really living on the edge on it. Established players talking about revolutions bring different points to the table than the fringe elements. I personally find the discussion most interesting when you can directly compare, contrast and debate the two -- this is what made the TN shindig so much fun!


Just want to echo what was said here and add my voice.

The Austin conference is the one conference you NEED to attend if you do online games. It's full of mostly good sessions, a high concentration of interesting people, and a lot of good fun. The size means it focuses more on developers instead of making money.

The whole "Garriot as father of online" thing was, frankly, insulting. I have a lot of respect for NCSoft in general, but this marketing angle is just disgusting. And the fact that I run a game that launched pre-UO has very little to do with this; I'm a serious student of history, and I can sympathize with Mark Jacobs' point of view.

I headed up a panel on developing online games on a budget. It was similar to a panel we gave last year. Fairly well attended, and we took questions from the audience. Didn't get through many questions with the variety of people on the panel, but it was still a good cross section of people.

I'll agree with Bridget and Jim about your panel, Raph. It didn't contain nearly enough talk about risks. I especially thought Matt Firor was funny, given that even with a secure budget and no market pressures he'd still make a "safe" game. Next year try inviting one of us smaller developers to the panel, Raph, and we'll give the audience an earful. :)

And, I was glad I went to the TerraNova get-together. That was very cool to listen and talk with a bunch of very brilliant minds.

My thoughts,



Damn it, I forgot to add something:

Ted's keynote made me cry because it reminded me how doomed I truly am. To quote Dave Rickey, "I make these games because I have to." That keynote explains exactly why I have to make these games.

I didn't expect that subject from an economist, but it certainly struck a chord with me.

Cheers, Ted.

Have fun,



I didn't do the inviting to the panel, Brian. :) I guess I was expecting people to bluesky a lot more--I certainly felt like I did a lot of prodding. On the other hand, I know all those folks, and they are all really smart and therefore it was probably my lack of preparation of the panelists (I didn't realize that I was the moderator until I got to the conference).


BTW, Randy, I forwarded your link on to the Oxford ENglish Dictionary, and they said they will change the attribution of avatar (finally, it's only been two years). That printed reference was what they needed. :)


Quoth Raph, "I didn't do the inviting to the panel, Brian. :)"

Didn't mean to be too accusatory, Raph. I just thought it was funny that you comment that the smaller developers are probably going to be the ones to innovate and there was a relative lack of smaller developers there. Not laying the blame on you, just saying in general.

I do agree with your summary at the end, though. I think, however, that for all our scholarship and discussion we're still in a rather primitive state in virtual worlds. We still need to work out some of the basics before we go off curing cancer or any of the other noble goals you stated.

My thoughts,


Curmudgeon alert, be warned.

So it sounds like the conference was fun, but was it actually useful to anyone who wasn't a speaker? I've already had this discussion with Chris Hecker and some others regarding GDC, so my apologies if they're reading this and have to hear it again.

I understand what speakers get out of this kind of conference: Ego boost, opportunity for networking, and so on. What does the audience get from the sessions themselves? (The audience, of course, can network on its own.) More specifically, what does the audience that's interested enough to read Terranova or mud-dev get, if anything? Was there anything new being said that's of enough practical value to be worth the time and money to attend? I thought about going but everytime I did, I also thought, "I could spend those couple of days producing something tangible instead."

I guess my question boils down to whether this kind of conference is basically there to promote the speakers (which is certainly a valid motivation for the speakers, but is useless to the audience that's paying to hear them speak) and provide opportunities for socializing, or is it there to really help the audience? And does it actually really help the audience? If so, how?




Well, I found the session on Toontown to be remarkably insightful. The stuff that Mike Steele and Patricia Pizer showed on social network mapping confirmed that the stuff I talked about in Small Worlds was viable as an administration tool--that was a nice ego-boo, but there was also a lot of learning to be had in the specifics of how they applied it. Most of the panels I went to had something that was new learning for me.


was it actually useful to anyone who wasn't a speaker

Well, I wasn't a speaker (this time!) and I thought it was really useful. From the sessions I learned a load of useful stuff about MMOG infrastructure, coding best practices, an approach to server architecture (although I didn't agree with it) and creating IP (Richard Garriott may not be the father of online gaming, but he had some interesting things to say about IP). Even when the sessions weren't saying anything new it was reassuring to find out who was going what. I probably could have found a lot of it on MUD-Dev or elsewhere on the web, but there were a number of speakers who I haven't encountered online.

From a networking perspective it was great and again I think there were lots of people there who I wouldn't meet online. Getting to actually browse the BigWorld code while chatting to their lead developer is something I wouldn't normally be able to do. Giving the great and the good a close up of Warhammer was also very worthwhile.

So, it was absolutely worthwhile going, in fact it might prove to be the most worthwhile thing I've done all year. I hope to see everyone again next year!


the talk was very hard to give. the genesis was a conversion moment i had while reading a biography of tolkien. all of a sudden the vocation of world-making seemed like the last hope of humankind or something. i had a big rush of emotion, and it was hard to share it. i am very glad that some people were validated, because that was the intent. thanks for the kind comments. onward.


Regarding Ted's posting above:

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)
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Beautiful. I wish I could have been there. Please do post a link to the audio.


>> was it actually useful to anyone who wasn't a speaker


You're question is certainly worth asking as it's one every attendee or potential attendee makes when they decide to (or not to) attend such events. As one of the Austin Game Conference organizers it's a question we ask ourselves throughout the year - from the early planning stages to just days prior to the event. Our goal is to provide a conference environment where attendees can primarily achieve with three (general) goals:

1. Learn specifics on how to make better games (ranging from technical, design, production/business and service.)

2. Network with peers and leaders in a casual environment where they can engage in quality one-on-one conversations or in a small group environment. We try to build in enough time into the program so people don't feel hurried and can chat between sessions about issues that are important to them (conference related or otherwise).

3. Get some "business done". That could mean new business for your company or advancing your personal career in some way. I'm sure you know how these things work... Get enough people in the same place and something will combust in some fashion or another.

Obviously we have other goals as well but we do spend a considerable amount of time focusing on providing a valuable service to attendees. And of course we try our best to keep costs down as well.

Sounds like you've had similar conversations with others (about GDC and otherwise). I'm always interested in chatting, looking for feedback, and on ways to make it a better conference.

More of an answer than you were looking for, no doubt ;-) But then only the attendees can tell you whether we actually acheived our stated goals or any of their personal goals.



I got more out of it than I expected to. I stayed in that same "design" room most of Friday except for the panel on cheapy multiplayer games (that I enjoyed despite Brian making fun of me!).

I was glad I was able to speak on the perils of episodic content delivery since it's one of the many things we seem to have adopted without thinking through.

It was also a good place to promote my book, but then I forgot to wave it around in my session. :( Thanks, Raph, for the mention during the Risk panel. I just hope that some day when somebody asks about storytelling in one of those sessions they can point to a whole clutch of malcontents huddled in the corner, instead of just me. Oh and as far as I'm concerned you and Patricia were the only two on the panel who seemed capable of addressing the topic.

I still found the conference way too interested in technical and marketing issues, and not nearly interested enough in the content creation and delivery of the stuff the technical innovations and marketing is suppose to support.

And to cap it off I managed to make that cannabalism vs. growth bet with Mark Jacobs, so I expect he'll be buying me dinner next year. :)

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