« Ragnarok Musings | Main | Letter Griefing »

Nov 17, 2004



But if that profit comes for providing a much-needed service, then I say so be it. Instead of complaining that '98% of all player generated content is crap,' it would do us well to actually honor what the purchasers want.

Just maybe, the profit incentive works also for the public benefit: charging small increments for guild organization and (social) networking services could perhaps serve also to improve the content quality. If Sturgeon's Law is a given, those whose produce crud are least incentivized to pay to publicize it. If then quality improves, more consumers... and so, perhaps the virtuous cycle.


Of course:

"By submitting (e.g., uploading or transmitting) Content to an SOE Communication Feature, you automatically grant SOE the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. In addition, you warrant that any and all so-called "moral rights" in the Content have been waived."

(from http://sonyonline.com/tos/tos.jsp, which I think applies to the EQ hosted sub-boards. Couldn't find the TOS for that specifically easily as I don't have a EQ login)

This is somewhat reasonable when we are talking about EQ2 message boards, or support questions. However, when we are talking about people's guild pages?

- Brask Mumei


I don't remember dissing what you were saying, Constance... I do seem to recall commenting that it would be somewhat expensive. Well, it was. :) I can't take any of the credit for it, though, our wonderful platform group deserves that. They did an awesome job.

Brask, that sort of clause seems pretty standard to me...?


Mr Koster said:
> Brask, that sort of clause seems pretty
> standard to me...?

Standard, but thankfully not universal. Thank goodness for innovators like Second Life. But I'm as capitalist as the next person, and if SOE (and others) can get away with seizing ownership they charged people to create then well done them. Pecunia non olet and all that.


Raph> I don't remember dissing what you were saying, Constance...

I was there, and as I recall, her argument did push the Devs into their 'user-content-is-crap' mode. It was a moment where I realized how being a dev affects your response to forceful suggestions. How do you adapt to having 10,000 people screaming at you all day, every day, that feature X should be changed? And then when someone makes a suggestion, there's a first reaction of "Yeah right, we've gone over that a million times and the answer is no no no NO NO NO NO!!!!!" Later, behind closed doors, everything is discussed reasonably I assume. But the first public reaction seems necessarily to be a kind of harsh rejection, a practice built up from hundreds of incidents of being pestered and hounded by people who have no idea what they are saying.

Anyway, it did seem to me that the plea for more guild tools at Mud-Dev last year was received less than warmly by the crowd as a whole, and the only way I could understand it was through this weak theory of dev socialization. They must get thick skins and deaf ears from all that yelling.


I agree here with Constance... I have been very impressed so far with the EQ development team's cognizance of the importance of the meta-game for even the solo play experience (the fansites, guild tools, avatar biographies, meta-narrative etc..). It make sense to try and provide some structured tools (the equivilent of institutions in RL perhaps) to facilitate this. I look forward to seeing what the next generation meta-game will look like because of this.

We can all be thrilled when players take charge of their own game (resistence to corporate hegemony and all that) but they'll do this anyway IMO. What interests me is how they will do it, and what they will come up with.


<sarcasm>I can't believe that developers haven't really thought about this before!</sarcasm>

Some random threads:




her argument did push the Devs into their 'user-content-is-crap' mode

It's a fairly widely held belief, sadly. I think it can be illustrated by comparing Half-Life2 to the nifty Peter Pan project within SL. The Peter Pan project is amazing, carefully done, and quite interesting. But developers use the Half-Life2 yardstick, and frankly, so do most gamers.

As you know, this isn't a way of thinking I agree with, but many many many developers do.

it did seem to me that the plea for more guild tools at Mud-Dev last year was received less than warmly by the crowd as a whole

I think there may be many more reasons. Two obvious ones that leap to mind are

1) The sort of tools that Constance was asking for are only applicable to guilds and games of a certain scale. There were very few representatives of games of that scale present at the MUD-Dev conference, which thankfully still draws most of its audience from muds, not from massive commercial projects.

2) In the large scale games, these are the sorts of tools that the userbase tends to start creating themselves. Given that the dev teams never have enough time to make all the parts of the game that they want, something like what she was asking for ends up being somewhat peripheral to the main course of development.

if SOE (and others) can get away with seizing ownership they charged people to create then well done

The clause doesn't claim ownership... it claims the right to use the material?


Raph> But developers use the Half-Life2 yardstick, and frankly, so do most gamers.

Fortunately for most developers, gamers buy and play plenty of games that can't be held up to the HL2 yardstick. Hell, show me *any* MMOG that can be held up to the HL2 yardstick . . .

(Following paragraph not directed at Raph since he knows and gets this)

Disruptive technology, which MMOs are when compared to single player titles, generally doesn't solve existing problems quite as well, yet slides in as the established technologies force each other up-market. User created content is another disruptive technology. Sure Neverland pales compared to HL2 for now, but do you really want to bet against that gap closing over the next several years?


I apologise for being a bit off topic, but over at Geek Out http://darktips.typepad.com, you can find out how to become a professional gamer. if you have ever thought about it, this might just be your chance.


I saw the presentation at MDC and thought it only interesting, but not especially useful. (Since, my email address has been labeled spam by MUD-Dev, so I'm still deciding what to think about that..) Especially since one of the most brilliant phenomenons I've ever seen is how all of the original, and most of the low-key current, MUDs were all free of charge and was filled to the brim with unpaid, but highly devoted workers who put hours upon hours of time into development in all aspects.

Of course they should be provided tools to do this well. The guild leaders you mention definitely ought to be provided those tools. But why make the devs do it?

I've no specifics on EQ2's implementation, but the dev's job is not to mess with the metagame. If they do that, then it becomes part of the game actual. Not that I object to linking web-based with real-time graphical and/or text-based... but that's not what the devs are supposed to do. The metagame is incidental, but important.

For a company like SOE, it's the job of another department. For a smalltime business or independent host, it's an amount of work they shouldn't spend time on. You said, in your presentation, that guildleaders spend time doing administrativa when they should be playing; the devs should be deving, not making webtools.

That said, what SHOULD be done is a service similar to the idea of IGE or GOM. Make a game-independent company that will hire itself out to people and provide just these webtools. If they can figure out how to price it well, it might turn out lucrative.


Michael Chui wrote - That said, what SHOULD be done is a service similar to the idea of IGE or GOM. Make a game-independent company that will hire itself out to people and provide just these webtools. If they can figure out how to price it well, it might turn out lucrative.

Except that a company can do so much more with the service when it's integrated with the world's databases, as some of the screens for "Station players" point out.

"Station players" is only scratching the surface. I was thinking about a similar concept and came up with many more possible features than "Station players" has implimented. (I'm sure they thought of most of the same ideas I did, but had to cut them due to time constraints.)

A web page from a different company (which cannot access the game's internal database)cannot impliment many of features.


The EQ2Players stuff is nice. But my instintive reaction to it was "No way am I going to pay $2.99 per month for this!", and I guess I'm not the only one here. Most guilds already have guild message boards, or are easily able to obtain them for free. And as every guild will have some people preferring free over $3 per month, the guilds can't really use the SOE guild boards.

The hall of fame stuff is cute to look at once, but if maybe one guild officer is paying for it, it will be enough. The information that you are the 37th largest guild, but are 51st in the number of scouts in your guild is not something that is fundamentally going to change guild life.


About the TOS:

It is, unfortunately, a pretty standard clause for MMORPGs or company run message boards. I don't think it is a standard clause for a web hosting service, however?

Sony appears to be offering webspace for $2.99 per month with the hidden rider that they own anything you post to the webspace. I personally hope there is a seperate TOS covering guild webpages which doesn't contain such language.

- Brask Mumei


Can a separate webtool/webhost business survive at $2.99 per month. Based on some hosting prices with open source tools, yes.

Is it something a MMO developer should get into? For EQ2 and other games with heavy guild focus, it's an competitive advantage.

It may even catch eyeballs (hey, remember that term) and drives mindshare and ad revenues.


What effectively is $3 bucks a month, I have to say that it's not exactly a break the bank kind of cost for a few extra services. If it's all intergrated then that'll give it an extra edge to GM's and guild members to go for it.

The only real down side you ask me is that it's putting an exceptional amount of extra strain on Sony's network, which already has to deal with the MMOG itself which isn't cheep. So the question is, while it's nice they can offer something and it makes it easy for anyone to use, their is a strong possability that it'll put a lot of extra traffic on the network and possably reduce performance of the main game. or I could be blowing wind out of my ars, who knows.



I have a very simple spin on this. I don’t think it’s really a disruptive technology/designer hubris/strategic marketing thing so much as it is a path-of-least-resistance/water-flows-down-hill thing.

Why should it matter that user-created content is crap? Users don’t seem to care. And, frankly, as we all see everyday, designer-created content is crap. Creating non-crappy content is hard and fairly rare, so if user-created content satisfies users even a little bit, regardless of its relative level of crappiness, then I'm sure designers will shovel in the direction of user-created content.

The only dilemma here – if there is one at all -- appears to be how designers can best profit from this imbedded desire for user-created content. Rental fee, occupancy tax, sell little party hats? Cause while, for the user (I’d much rather say “player,” by the way), the experience of creation is the rush, for the designer/developer (here “user” is just fine, actually), the outcome of creation (the ownable, marketable, copyrightable) is the cheese. And, alas, the designers say, my cheese is all crap!


Someone's crap is another person's diamond :)

It's the body of culture/mindshare that is of general value to everyone.

It's the argument about the business strategy with D&D franchise all over again.

"Hey there are more google links to my MMO than your MMO!"


Raph> But developers use the Half-Life2 yardstick, and frankly, so do most gamers.
Cory> User created content is another disruptive technology.

Obviously, I totally agree with Cory on this one. By the 'user-content-is-crap' yardstick you would have expected Blogs to have lost their luster sometime ago, and yet,well...you are reading this now aren't you.

That said, it's very possible and fairly probable that, like blogs and mainstream media, user-created-content worlds become content/idea feeders for the mainstream MMOGs, at least for the short (2-5yrs) to mid-term (10-15yr) range.



I have to say, the strain on their servers offering the content has been extreme - many times I'm hardpressed just to access my character information let alone the guild website (which right now is currently free, thankfully, and that brings me to...),

It's nice that they offer the service, and it's going to help guilds that really don't have a programmer/webdev or for people who want info on their guildmembers updated dynamically. But the tools are very buggy. I don't mean like a little inconvenient, I mean you can't add forums currently, your users get logged in and out randomly type stuff.

This is where I get perspective as a business person and say that I understand they weren't prepared for the traffic and interest. But as a business with a large player and fan base, they -must- be ready for their subscribers to hit their web content fullforce before the unveil anything like online guild management.

I just wanted to add my experience as a player - while it may seem very romp in the forest-y that they added the web features - in practice it's not working out very well.


Bruce, I agree with Cory too. :)

That said, remember Sturgeon's Law. Most blogs HAVE lost their luster. They are only read within very narrow circles. The BoingBoings of the world are few and far between.

I don't happen to think that's a problem. But people who are professional content creators or work on content industries tend to focus on the fact that not many people can create good content, and they dislike

- "diluting" their work with the bad content provided by users
- legal liability that arises from hosting content

I don't agree with either of those arguments, but they can't be dismissed lightly, because there's a lot of truth to them.


It seems to me there's an opportunity lurking for someone down the road. Granted that Sturgeon's law dictates that 90% of the user-generated content will be garbage, some of it will be good. (Counter-Strike, anyone?) What's needed is an 'editor' to go through the 'slush pile' and find the good stuff worthy of publication.

I think that this model would create more content for the players, more quickly - leveraging both the talent and enthusiasm of the fan base, and the skills of the devs, from whom I think the 'editors' would need to be drawn, in addition to their laying down the basic framework and initial content. If they are the gatekeepers, so to speak, which user content has to filter through, they can't object to having their work diluted by bad user content.


Apropos the discussion, here's Jack Emmert, lead designer of City of Heroes, on this topic today on Slashdot:

I think user based content - where the player creates nearly all the material from preset building blocks - is a red herring for game development. The problem is that most player created generated content isn't very good. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone; good level designers, for instance, spend hours and hours on creating good fun play experiences. It's no surprise that someone creating levels in their spare time isn't as good. Naturally, game design requires talent and experience, so that the really good novices will produce cool stuff.

But if that content is regulated in some way - either by the tools or some sort of player feedback - then I think I agree that user generated content is the wave of the future. For example, our City of Villains product (target release for 2005) includes super group bases. Players will be able to lay out their rooms and hallways according to a basic template.



I remember when SWG was considering "Printable Charecter Sheets". Later developers seemed to like the idea of some form of Html page generated where players could view their inventory, stats, and other information while out of game. The idea was a clear hit with the player base.

Like all big games, various features could not make the final release. The “Printable Character Sheets” feature was pushed back to and was said to be something SWG would try to include sometime during the first year. Sadly it never materialized.

I was thrilled when I saw Station.players. Many gamers think about their characters when they are out of game, or away from their gaming PC. The ability to view stats, view inventory, and plan future game play while out of game is something the industry has long overlooked.

It is simply a service that many players want.


Raph> Bruce, I agree with Cory too. :)

Whoops, sorry, didn't mean to imply otherwise.

I think you have a pretty solid history of advocating for player created content, while keeping many of the issues that developers face in full view.



We've been working on guild packages for Furcadia too - hope to have them out within the next few months. They'll have both web-based features linked to game data, and in-game features. We're mainly selling the latter, but at the same time we'll probably be rolling out auto-generated player pages for each character in the game. They may allow a little custimization. Letting people access something game-related when they can't get on the game (or take a quick peek when they don't want to log onto the game) keeps them feeling more involved.

Regarding user content is crap - not only do I have to agree with the remark above that much professionally created content is crap too... But for a lot of people, "crap" made by their best friend, family member, or loved one is more desirable than high quality content made by strangers they'll never get to talk to. Content is communication, and propogates an increase in "shared context" for future thought and discussion. (Granted, professionally made content does that too, if everyone in a social group watches the same movie. But it doesn't "bend" as strongly in the direction of the type of context that peer group wants or needs most the way user-created content does.)

Regarding the idea of editors reviewing the content to promote the best stuff - I've been intending to do this with Furcadia since before it opened, and STILL haven't. Other than the role that our dream contests play in promoting some of the best stuff - but very temporarily, my old plan to put in permanent copies of the best stuff is still not implemented. However, I have to say I think a user rating system (like the way they rate posts on Slashdot, or the way they rate books on Amazon) is a lot more scalable. Staff ratings means if your user population triples, you need to hire more editors. With user rating systems, triple the population means triple the players rating stuff, and you hopefully break even.

I also think it's important to have multiple sources you can rely on for ratings, rather than a single monolithic entity that may not reflect your tastes well. I envision having message forums someday where several well known, vocal members of the community compete to develop the biggest following of subscribers to their moderation scores. So I can not only say "Only show me messages that rate 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10", I can say "Show me only 8 or higher according to Lenny's Ratings Service".

More advanced though is the kind of thing first (to my knowledge) developed on Firefly, where the system attempts to analyze "What do people that seem to have similar tastes to you like?" Netflix seems to recommend movies with a system of this sort, and Amazon has "people who bought this book also bought..." - a cruder version, but still useful.

Regarding $3 a month - I think that price only scratches the surface of what guilds will be willing to pay for packages of services that appeal to them sufficiently. Unlike a service that's for a single player, I envision there'll be some expensive premium services where big guilds will have multiple players chip in to pay for it (or occasionally have fund-raising events, auctioning off artwork, in-game items, or what-have-you). The trick, of course, is designing the right sort of services to sell them. (Ask me in six months, and I'll tell you if I guessed right!)

-- Dr. Cat


I think Dr. Cat has a very good point regarding user content being "crap".

I wrote a lot of Ultima Online Stories. I freely admit that they are crap. However, because they were reports of in game events, the people involved in the events certainly did not find them crap!

This actually suggests things like Slashdot ratings are *not* needed for user generated content. Instead, what you need is the ability for users to build their own localities.

It is not very important to make sure users can find the good content. It is important that they can find the crappy content that their friends made!

For example, if when I wrote a story about Player X I could also have a link to Player X embedded. Player X would see in their RSS feed that Brask wrote a story about them, and get to read the report.

The power law has some benefits. While some people have so many incoming links that such a service would be useless, it is also the case that the majority of your players will only have a few such cases, which means they would be valued.

I know when I think about these tools, I think about how to enable the few members of one's game that can actually produce good content. Perhaps it would be better to think about how to enable the majority of the players to produce crappy content? Ie, have as one's goal crappy content.

- Brask Mumei


I don't think crap content is the point. If it was, then the internet would be a waste of good technology.

It's about community. $3 a month for you uncle & aunt to leave their awful vacation pictures is a godsend to those that normally have to set through boring slide shows.

$3 a month for guilds to feel closer and connected could be priceless.

They're paying for it, so who cares that it not valuable or good. It's all relative anyway.

They can claim ownership and liability for it. I'll pay them to take ownership :)


There's no one "right answer". Part of what people want is to see their friends' stuff, but that's not all they want. When I enjoy a short story my friend wrote or play through their "halloween quest", that doesn't dim my enthusiasm to go catch the Incredibles in the movie theater, read the next book by a favorite author - or see whatever cool new dream everybody's talking about in Furcadia or the winner of the latest dream contest.

A society hooked together ONLY in six degrees of separation style, by "friend content", would be very fragmented. Having a few best-made things "everybody's talking about" ties the community together a lot more closely. This is a good thing.


This is really nothing new at all. Although I'm not familiar with a game providing this exact service, plenty of games have provided plenty of out-of-band services. See, for instance, the Camelot Herald (www.camelotherald.com). This includes provided scoreboards in XML format that guilds can incorporate into their own websites.

Basically, if SOE is doing it, it's a safe bet someone else did it first, and better.


I read that and I mentally said "*meow*"... sheesh, who claimed SOE was first? In the MMOG world, UO had something similar though less full-featured back in 1998 (it's still up, called "myUO"), and I would stunned if some of the Kesmai games hadn't had something similar...

Why the instant animosity?


Raph posted - I read that and I mentally said "*meow*"... sheesh, who claimed SOE was first? ... Why the instant animosity?

It's the law... whatever company is #1 in an industry is suddenly a subject of suspicion and derision. As long as SOE is on top, nothing that SOE does will be done properly, and/or it will all be a derivative of someone else's works. (Of course, everyone's work is flawed, and we all stand on the shoulders of giants.)

I always found it interesting when people would say that Microsoft ripped off the idea of a GUI from Apple, but neglect to mention that Apple (as well as Microsoft) got the idea from Xerox Parc. Many of Xerox Parc's GUI inventions, were, in turn, borrowed from previous user interfaces or conventions outside the computer industry.

Conversely, many of the claims about Microsoft being an aggressive company were true; except that many of the companies crying foul (such as AOL, Oracle, Novell, etc.) were just as bad as Microsoft, or would be if given the chance. The press took up the "Microsoft is too aggressive" theme, but neglected to mention that the companies next-in-line were like the pigs in George Orwell's Animal Farm, eager to overthrow the farmer so they could take his place.


Don't get me started on Oracle....


While there's a clear pattern of people instinctively expecting the worst from the 900 pound gorilla of any given scene, and blame it for all sins (starting with stealing underdogs' ideas and stomping them purposefully), there's also a long history of people and institutions becoming both thinner-skinned and self-complacent as they grow in established influence.

It makes for a nice feedback loop of lynch mobs antagonizing the 'rich', who then whine in outrage or patronize the masses for their disrepectful attitude, before they eventually stop listening altogether.

I suspect there's a comforting element in this, as it eventually turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy with all parties living up to the opposition's expectations.


No animosity. The original post may not have said SOE was first in so many words, but that sure seemed to be the implication. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due.

The comments to this entry are closed.