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Jun 30, 2006



Yeah, I just got started on it -- it's fabulous. It is, like all of Julian's stuff, a real page turner. Run, don't walk, to the mouse click. (Though I actually don't know if it is publicly "out" yet.)

Wrt the last post, I was actually going to post on Julian's book, but I figured we had never announced Synthetic Worlds with the fanfare it deserved, Ted -- hence the marquee of wood pulp solution. :-)


/thirded. I'm reading it and can already see assigning chapters to grad students in the fall. Good stuff, Julian.


It's out; a pre-order from Amazon showed up a few days ago. I read it yesterday. A great lesson in how a designer can have no clue what is actually going on in their game. :) I'll review it on my blog soon, once my stack of books gets big enough to do a "bunch of reviews" post.

There were hanging threads left, however: what happened with Lee Caldwell, do we know?


Thanks, guys.

And yeah, Raph. Whatever *did* happen to Lee Caldwell? If I'd had more to report, I would have. Something tells me I'll be hearing from him soon, though. :)

Anyway it's very interesting to me that you think the book might be an eye-opener for developers. Certainly my biggest regret about it is that I didn't really get the developers' perspective into the story at all -- which is partly negligence on my part but mainly a function of my narrative focus. For the gold farmers and traffickers and lumpen players I was hanging with, you guys are just these distant voices of authority, and your distance in the story reflects that. But I'd really love to hear more responses from the dev side of the line.


I just finished it and loved it.

I liked the back story I got, I always wondered about the posts on Julians blog and how certain events came about or about the seemingly missing peice that has now been explained.

My new curiosity is the effects of "fair market value" tax laws and how they could effect the different economy models that virtual worlds have.

The difference between a game that can provide you with a real world ATM card has to be on a different level than a world that can be turned off at any time.


6 figures a month? Only if you are running farming sweatshops. You cannot do that as a solo player. You can't make 6 figures a year as a solo player either. Unless, in certain games, you can setup multiple accounts and run bot trains. Anyhow, as was seen by a previous article on farming organizations, as soon as there are more entrants to the mmorpg market, items go down in realworld monetary value. Also, most games are switching to a system (e.g. WoW) where gold can only get you so far. To get the real high end items you either A) have to join a guild to run 40-man instances, B) play (or hire somebody to play) enough PvP. High end items just cannot be sold/traded for real world money in many of the recent games, and I have a feeling that trend will continue.


I couldnt wait J, I ordered it yesterday and read it in about 4 1.2 hours. Am I that much of a blabber mouth? Didnt seem like it at the time.

It was very refreshing to see the different angle on the different events of the time. I tend to get tunnel vision :) I am suprised that you didnt mention that I was actually InTheKnow :).

Anyway, great all arround, a must read for everyone.



Julian, my copy arrived today. :) Classic commentary! I was so nervous you would get the facts wrong ( you know how journalists are ) hehe, but you did a great job. :) A real shame the 15 trillion gold piece exploit didn't make it into your book in time.



Love the book! Tore through it. It has a "real" feel that I haven't found in a true account since I read Marley And Me. If you want to know what's coming (and what's already going on) read this!



I finally finished reading your book today, and was a bit disconcerted that everything took such a depressing turn toward the end. Yours will be a memorable experiment nonetheless. :)

At the beginning, virtual loot farming has the appearance of novelty and "fun", but in the end it takes on serious shades of "work". Your anxieties are not unique in this industry. I for one find it difficult now to "play" games at all, having seen the man behind the curtain. Do you too have difficulty relocating the magic circle? There was a time when I enjoyed UO as well, and was addicted, but I believe I inevitably reduced it to something mundane. My secondary interest in working the game had long exceeded my primary interest in playing it. Eventually the distinction blurred for me as well, and, well, writing robots and dismantling MMORPGs for me became the game. It is certainly a puzzle. My friends that I used to game with complain now that I'm no fun, since I won't look at a game unless there is an opportunity in it. I think the problem lies somewhere in the fact that participation no longer requires an act of imagination. My interest in UO evolved out of the single player Ultimas, which is curious, because despite their graphical crudeness, these games were compelling because the mind must fill in the holes, much in the same way a reader builds a mental scene while reading a book. That is the heart of immersiveness, not merely reading the player a story, but engaging him creatively. These early Ultimas were coarse representations of a fictional universe that only achieved clarity and form in the mind of the player. To enjoy an RPG is to have an intimate, collaborative experience between the player and the story-teller. Ultima Online borrowed heavily, at the outset I believe, on the stored wealth of these intimacies, and when it failed to reinforce them, to develop them, nothing remained of Ultima save the mechanics of a virtual world and the assholes who populate it. At times I wax nostalgic, but there is just no going back. I've tried. Once the magic is gone, its gone and there is no return to innocence. The problem is almost that we are no longer interested in hearing a story, because we are thoroughly and repetitiously convinced of the inauthenticity of the experience. All games have a life cycle of interest and disinterest, its a common concern of game developers everywhere. Becoming a seller of virtual goods though.. ...really... puts one on the fast track to identifying that point of absolute disinterest, and then overshooting the target by two years and a mile. And perhaps this experience is a metaphor for life itself.

I have found however that the solution to my own personal malaise has been to throw myself into the task of creating games ( and only cheating at them between times ). At once I become the player and the storyteller, and I resurrect the essential creative act that gives the fantastic its realistic quality. Perhaps you too will find a similar solace through creative writing. :) Good luck in whatever new endeavor you may undertake.


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