Game talkThe SL cultural gap

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Dec 132006
 

Reading recent discussions here and on TerraNova with Prokofy and other SL users, as well as this post over at in The Grid prompts me to some thoughts on the “culture gap” between SL and the rest of the MMOsphere.


In the Grid suggests that

It’s no secret, of course, that the Linden Lab staff gets irked when people refer to Second Life as a ‘game,’ and so do a lot of long-time residents; maybe what this chart is revealing, then, is that the rest of the MMO community is finally catching on to this, and deliberately placing them outside of the traditional gaming sphere of conversation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I think; most would agree, I believe, that Second Life is an utterly different experience than most of these online videogames, while the games themselves are mostly better/worse variations on each other. Perhaps ten years from now, we’ll see yet another web just as strong as complex as this gaming one, but with Second Life at its center and the subject of MMO as a communications platform being its unifying theme. Or, hmm, maybe we’d actually see such a web now, if Second Life were to be placed in the middle of a new Google Touch Graph. Anyone out there want to try it and send me a screenshot of the result? I’ll definitely post it as an update if someone does.

Which I don’t agree with. I mean, even the premise that SL is “an utterly different experience” feels wrong to me, given that the currents of social and user-content-based worlds are far far more intertwined than that, historically and likely into the future. (Uh, hello, Cory Ondrejka used to make arcade games).

So I see it as an interesting take on what the graph means. As someone who visits both worlds regularly, I can tell you that for all the disdain that many of the gamers have for SL, they still TALK about it all the time, with in fact as much discussion going towards SL as towards, say, Pirates of the Burning Sea, or D&D Online.

Whereas I think the opposite is not true. As an example, CopyBot discussions happened aplenty on places in the center of the graph, and folks who run may of those central sites jumped in on the comments elsewhere: people from my site, TerraNova, Broken Toys, f13, Psychochild, Zen of Design, to name just a few, all participated. I rarely see something from the SL cluster point back. Where’s the discussion on the ramifications of Eve Online happening within the SLogosphere, of the Leeroy Jenkins meme, of whether Entropia is a scam or a brave experiment?

If anything, this reinforces for me a certain insularity that exists; as a whole, the community of SL tends to see SL as highly exceptional, whereas those within the larger cluster don’t. I think in general they see it as part of a tradition that includes AlphaWorld, OnLive Traveller, Cybertown, Habitat, LambdaMOO, and many others. This (and the emphasis on “non-game” and “evil tekkies” and whatnot) has resulted in strange cultural gaps. I worry a bit that the fact that SL as a community largely talks to itself and (yes) the Web 2.0 techie crowd is causing it to become a bit more insular that it ought to be.

There is no doubt that the gaming world, as you point out, could benefit hugely by embracing more of the SL way of doing things as regards UCC; however, the PRIMARY lessons that SL seems to fail to absorb are ones that severely stunt its acceptance: instant enjoyability, guiding users, rewarding experiences on a regular basis, obvious interfaces, a premium on seamlessness (no lag, no disruptions, etc). if I had to pick which side would benefit more from a cultural exchange, there is zero doubt in my mind that it’s the SL side.

Over on Second Thoughts, Prokofy’s post about Why the Geeks Got To Go throws this culture gap into sharp relief.

In the discussion of the blogosphere graph, I pointed out neighborhoods that are webbed together but nonetheless clearly visible. You can trace a path easily from pure gamer sites through devs to game studies folks or serious games people; had I left in the mainstream gaming world (consoles and so on) almost any MMO blog would be two hops away from sites ranging from political activism to digital art to general technology news. The central web is far from a monolithic community — it’s tightly webbed, but it is very diverse, even in this highly reduced graph. It also has a ton of institutional knowledge and history.

When I look at SL itself, what jumps into stark relief lately is this whole “techie versus users” thing, this sense that there is an inherent culture clash within the system itself between the techies who made SL and the people who are creationing business, emotional connections and so on within SL. Make no mistake, SL is far far more on the techie side of life than the entire central clump in the MMO blogosphere graph. It is born out of techie ideals, it derives its press from techie sources, and its early adopters are far more geeky techie than the average MMO game player.

Now, their users now aren’t, it’s been pointed out to me several times. This means, to me, that the culture gap between the game MMO sphere and the SL citizens is really not as big as it seems.

Hell, the gap between the MMO devs and the SL devs is probably bigger. Why? Because the games are not made to fulfill some lofty technical ideal or some cyberlaw-based philosophy or grand technolibertarian governmental ideals. They are made for mass market entertainment, and as such, they tend not to bother playing around in what they regard as useless intellectual masturbation. They’ll be happy to watch SL, like many other ventures into user content creation, get arrows in the back, and then adopt the smallest, most constrained set of features from it in the slickest and most mass market way possible.

Consider this quote from Prokofy’s post:

for young people, or newly-enabled and tekkified old people, especially women and non-Americans who have taken to SL by leaps and bounds, these old fuddy-duddy concerns like “skepticism triggered by the historical failure of things like LambdaMOO or VRML” don’t compute. What the hell is LambadaMOO? I never heard of it until I branched out from SL into geek-world; I’m certain I wouldn’t recognize VRML if it bit me in the ass; but I have a full and engaging Second Life.

Taken in isolation, this reads like someone who has stars in their eyes so big they cannot see around them. Now, I know that in aggregate, Prokofy’s opinions are more nuanced and sophisticated than that. But I do wonder if the lack of connections to the rest of the ongoing discussion is a big part of the problem. Because the game folks have zero trouble or cultural issues referencing anything from MUD1 to PLATO, Medievia to TinyTIM, The Realm to Blaxxun. Plenty of people had full and engaging virtual lives in Cybertown or WorldsAway or even The Palace — if not on a commercial level, at the least on an emotional level. And much of the point that Prokofy is trying to make about virtual property rests on the emotional value, not the economic value.

Prokofy points out that

The geeks of Web. 1.0 once shook their heads that their bosses and leaders didn’t use email; today we who use email, too, shake our heads that they don’t get the value of a 3-D life online. But fortunately, increasingly, we’ll be making do without them and their purchasing decisions and their gate-keeping and barrier functions. Thank God, there are no more webmasters; everybody can be a webmaster.

But that’s not how it’s actually happened. Email was adopted, but remained in continuous use, and folks who helped define its initial protocols are still active contributors to tech today. I think we can expect history to keep being an ongoing tapestry, honestly, and that means that the geeks won’t be superseded because they are being built on. Regarding SL or anything else as exceptional in this absolutist manner means not examining the foundations on which you are building. (And I can tell you for a fact that the SL management and development team certainly knows their virtual world history).

At the recent Project Horseshoe, the working group on online ended up asserting that

Generally, our problems all fall into the very broad category of Institutionalized Hubris and Ignorance. We do not share knowledge, and we are not very open to knowledge that others try to share. Culturally, we all need to open ourselves up to actually learning from the mistakes of others. Practically, however, we need to begin by solidifying, clarifying and then sharing our hard-learned lessons.

(Expect the working group’s report to be posted in the next day or so, by the way. I will link it here when it goes up).

Most critically, this leads to people who ought to be pulling in the same direction instead pulling against each other. This shows up very specifically in the disdain we see flowing in both directions.

(In particular, though, it rankles me a bit to be lumped in as a techie elistist by Prok in this latest post. I don’t think of Clay Shirky as being particularly on the techie side either. Not all tech-savvy people are cut from the same cloth. In this essay Prok conflates several different points of view and lumps them all together under “tekkie.” Copyleft is a separate issue from atomicity, which is a separate issue from property, which is a separate issue from community, which is a separate issue from hype. And it is possible to have nuanced opinions about each of these issues individually.)

As I said in a comment on that post:

Frankly, many of the comments sound… well, parochial. They are so absolutely centered in just one way of doing things, when there is not yet One True Way for online worlds. I don’t mean that as a slam; I’m just trying to point out that you seem to be implying that you & others “get it” while those who have been working hard in this field for years to decades and who are trying to point out some of the pitfalls “don’t get it.” Frankly, that’s silly and shortsighted. Everything you have said about emotional connection, frontiers, bringing in the common people — every word of it is something that I, and others have said already. We’re ON YOUR SIDE on this, but also have been around long enough to be able to point out some of the realities.

I hope you and those like you CAN walk around those pitfalls like they weren’t there. But I guarantee that five years from now, you’ll look back and say “damn — look at those huge pitfalls — we didn’t even notice, but it’s a good thing we walked left in the darkness right then.”

It is entirely possible to agree with Prokofy that the emotional connection to an object or entity in a virtual world grants a certain type of reality to it whilst also saying that under the logic of code AND law, they have no ownership stake in it whatsoever. And it’s not, as Prokofy says, “backsliding.” It’s about complex issues that have multiple angles from which to view the same thing.

  94 Responses to “The SL cultural gap”

  1. Terra Nova and its centrality in that game sphere map resurfaced on Raph Koster’s blog. This time embedded within a substantial essay suggesting that Second Lifers are insulated from the broader MMO tradition. It is a nuanced essay that deserves reading and comment there. If I had to abbreviate the point, however, I would choose this passage:

  2. applications (as here, here, or here) which do offer some interoperability between Web and world. This guy was a loser because he didn’t mystically know which ‘essential’ add-ons make the game usable. At this point, it seems useful to point out Raph’s post where he essentially described those who talk about Second Life as insular and detached from reality. Second Life is a good idea that is hampered by overwhelmingly complex UI, an utter lack of direction, and movement that feels like wading through

  3. Penguins and Puffins Nate Combs Terra Nova and its centrality in that game sphere map resurfaced on Raph Koster’s blog. This time embedded within a substantial essay suggesting that Second Lifers are insulated from the broader MMO tradition. Continue reading “Penguins and Puffins” December 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (30)

  4. [...] Alec Austin (alecaustin) wrote,@ 2006-12-13 14:55:00      Entry tags:c3, mmogs, second life More notes on Second Life Raph Koster’s got a lot to say about the culture gap between MMOGs and Second Life, and most of it sounds about right to me. The UI concerns that he brings up are probably going to be one of the centerpieces of my research production for next semester.(Post a new comment) [...]

  5. however, the PRIMARY lessons that SL seems to fail to absorb are ones that severely stunt its acceptance: instant enjoyability, guiding users, rewarding experiences on a regular basis, obvious interfaces, a premium on seamlessness (no lag, no disruptions, etc). if I had to pick which side would benefit more from a cultural exchange, there is zero doubt in my mind that it’s the SL side.

    I actually intended to make a reply about such things in response to your ‘jam’ post. A good jam doesn’t kick off without any music, someone sets the tone for the event. But if that person has their own personal sound guy with them mixing and doing effects, it ruins the jam.

    Similarly with all games, there is a spectrum of world-setting. You can start with an almost blank slate, like 1000 blank white cards or Second Life, allowing amazing freedom but requiring great investment and potentially putting people off until the next jam if they don’t like the feel. You can start with a vague world description and let players explore the concept. You can provide a strict world which players become fearful of altering (DnD forgotten realms crpgs? :P). Or you can provide a strong setting, then give players the means to make it their own (the UO RP croud is still very strong).

    Second Life didn’t like the idea of priming the world, in the manner that more typical virtual worlds would do. And what has now emerged is frankly off-putting to those of us who look in from the rest of the MMOG player scene. Whilst RP OOC politics is annoying, there is at least a game to many other virtual worlds, whilst second life’s game often seems to me to be politics and money making, much like the web itself. I registered for an account, but I’ve just not felt like putting the effort in I’d need to in order to make something of that jam session.

    Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant about SL.

    That said, I still keep an eye on SL, and I know it’s developments are important for the VW industry. The adiction to microtransactions, the SLEX, the UCC rules, even the ToS blogsphere discussions and technology talks. I see aspects that can be used in further game models, means to make a living, and useful social experiements. I might even use that account one day to look around, as the actual experience of playing is a vitial one to true understanding. I actually see a fair few people outside of SL discuss similar things, I’ve seen such things appear on forums from time to time.

    My walk through the SL blogsphere reveals that, as you say, the SL community does feel quite different. Part of me suspects that a lot of this is related to the problems that a lack of world priming has allowed.

    Even in the most stratified of cases, most other MMOGs with strong world priming tend to still have a somewhat united playerbase. PvPers may hate PvMers and vice versa, but they still will agree on a few things, and come to understand the value in eachother. This also applies to worlds where players can build the world, but the world started off with such a strong primer that people built upon rather than worked around.

    Second Life, however, does seem to have a number of distinct, non-meshing player groups within it:
    There are the furries, who need little more than a means to talk to create their fun.
    There are the FOSS and other ‘tekkie’ geeks, and I would strongly bet that these formed part of the initial critical mass needed to get SL off the ground.
    The new media industry is looking to SL, too, and journalists, commentators and professionals are all invovled.
    Academics find a lot of it facinating, with a good few postgrads studying aspects.
    Commercial players are one of the aspects unique to SL, ranging from traditional business to the get-rich-quick players.
    The regular person, who has found the game through all the promotional features that SL has seen.
    The gamer-geeks, who want a game to play.
    In some aspects, these different groups do support eachother. But from my reading, there is little they agree on aside from the “amazing significance to the future” of SL. Which, infact, is all that SL seemed to be primed with, and the biggest bit of information about the world that anyone outside of SL ever really hears (I can’t think of a nice word to describe this, help me out someone).

    On the issue of emotion and code, which you touched briefly on at the end, I am reminded very much by some of the discussions over at Groklaw. A lot of these things really get very complex, especially in matters of law and design. From a design point of view, I find this truth over VW objects both academically interesting and rather frightening, because it highlights a degree of trust and responsibility that has to be considered.

    Which thankfully brings me back to the topic at hand in order to close. Once again, the priming of the worlds and of the communities comes back into play. Such issues are typically resolved within the more-gamey/worldey (as opposed to UCC-ey or real-world-trade-y) games by a measure of the world priming. There are few illusions about who owns items, and in many respects I would argue that trust is placed more in the shared game, rather than in items and percieved ownership. As the ammount of primed game reduces, and the importance of UCC and real-world-trade increases, the importance of trust increases.

    (This post was brought to you by the word “prime” and the numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17…)

  6. The more I think about it, the more I feel that community seperation and meshing is strongly related to the initial priming of those communities, how those communities react to drift in their focus, and how communities present themselves to the outside world.

    This is a greater issue than one just present within VWs, one which relates strongly to a lot of current international politics.

    From a VW perspective, however, the challenge of shaping this priming and promotion is certainly an area for investigation.

    SL’s priming towards ‘uniqueness’, isolating the community, may infact be why the game has been so easily adopted by the regular press. They don’t have to investigate any history or other products to understand the image put forward, and hence to attract SL more players. Fixing the weaknesses in SL you talk about would increase the priming level and make it less ‘unique’, damaging their current promotional model.

    I’m afraid I’m tired (which explains the long ramble, I’m sorry), and I can’t quite take the above onwards any more. What would be the benifits of allowing the promotional model to change? Would the rewards of improving the new user experience (essentially the problem outlined) outweigh the damage to the priming and promotion that it would cause?

    It’s a very strange business model to consider when going to bed.

  7. I’ll give your post a more thorough reply on my own blog, Raph, but I have to say, your remarks sound to me like some of my English literature professors who used to fuss and fume about people who wrote poetry without knowing any classics, and not knowing the Four Quartets by heart, or not knowing sonnets, or not knowing what a simile is. But college kids, well, they just write poetry, some good, some bad, and even if they go through the formal training and learn all the protocols, they may actually still suck as poets.

    Oh, I grant you SL is insular. But it’s a big insular with a lot of open possibilities — certainly by contrast with WoW. You are forgetting that I did spend a lot of time in TSO and ATID and also visited There, and WoW and Runescape and things like that I tend to think of as war games for kids. I don’t see all this rich conceptually interesting stuff there that you and the TN types do.

    I don’t get why we should be dismissed as insular, parochial, and not knowing the history of our betters just because we never sat and slogged through the geeky wonkiness of a MUD. I never want to have to go in the MUD, Raph. Do I have to??? Why? Aren’t we past that now? Can’t we be?

    I don’t expect to completely absorb the history of a country when I visit it to appreciate it. In fact, if I go and “play” a country, it is only by entering it at its current, present level that gradually, I might unfold its history in some meaningful way.

    I wish, instead of drawing elaborate pedigrees and geneologies and family trees you would speak more distinctly to the *issues*. To strain them out of this or that game context, and articulate what they mean. And that’s what is missing. You can’t have an interesting discussion about CopyBot with 14 other gameworld geeks who don’t have user made content in their worlds.

    I don’t think of myself as having stars in my eyes about SL, or about being some hippie tree-hugging type that gets all giddy about some emotional high in SL. More often than not these days, you have a low in SL, not a high lol. But what I try to do is outline the various faculties of the human being. There is this or that spiritual faculty or property, this psychological property, that physical property. And a thing like SL reaches different places.

    And don’t be all bent out of shape over me selecting to criticize what you’re writing about this, not only is it not personal, but I think of you as the only enlightened game god we have really talking to customers/players/residents these days. I’m certainly not going to be getting Cory Linden to be talking to me about CopyBot; even if he had his pedigree in arcade games, I’ve now been banned off the Linden official blog merely for posing a question to Cory calling for accountability in his endorsement of libsecondlife, whose members made, deployed, and justify CopyBot.

    I think a lot of what I do write about is probably inside baseball to SL, and it may come out as sounding more meta than it is. But please don’t make me sit and struggle to level up in some dumb shooting game just to be part of the conversation about virtual worlds. I resist.

  8. Michelle,

    One of the key things I took away from danah boyd’s recent paper on friendship and social network sites, was this:

    The networked nature of impressions does not only affect the viewer — this is how newcomers decided what to present in the first place. When people first joined Friendster, they took cues from the people who invited them. Three specific subcultures dominated the early adopters — bloggers, attendees of the Burning Man festival, and gay men mostly living in New York. If the invitee was a Burner, their Profile would probably be filled with references to the event with images full of half-naked, costumed people running around the desert. As such, newcomers would get the impression that it was a site for Burners and they would create a Profile that displayed that facet of their identity. In decided who to invite, newcomers would perpetuate the framing by only inviting people who are part of the Burning Man subculture.

    Summarily, whoever makes the first mark on a blank slate will find the world revolving around them, whether they like it or not, whether they intended it or not. That’s pretty standard in terms of adoption curves, but it’s a little inverted. The designer has the first opportunity to make a mark, and the content team thereafter may as well. In the case of Second Life, they chose not to make a mark in the world at all and let the early adopters do that.

    Part of the reason companies these days are encouraged to start a blog is so that they can “take part in the conversation”; and it’s pointed out that the conversation will happen without them if they don’t say anything. This mentality deserves getting ported over to community development: when you take part in the conversation, you lend in the Official Stance, which is all too easy to get absorbed by people who are true believers. In your average game, it’s far easier to become a true believer: that’s the point of roleplaying, to be immersed. So believing that the world is full of orcs and elves is pretty easy. Linden Labs did it differently; belief is about their status in the greater context of business, the Internet, and similar technologies. It’s harder to make true believers out of that, but clearly, it happens. Sigil is doing the same thing with Vanguard (“third generation MMORPG”, they say, not that I’m convinced), only less radically and not exclusively.

    In response to Matt Mihaly’s post on the Shirky write-up, I said, “SL ought to set up a game for the newbies inside a dome… and have normal SL outside it. You could come-of-age by stepping outside the dome Forever.” It might work; I have no idea.

  9. Gaaah, that’s an awful concept, you leave your mark on a world just cuz you got their first and indelibly bork it forever? That’s not fair. And yet, you are right, that does happen. Reminds me of the chapter “The First Joke” in C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle” when they all came to the dawning of the creation of the world.

    It’s true that the Lindens cultivate all this technolibertarian stuff and can get fairly aggressive about it but I think at this point, they have a world where even Le Pen has opened up a sim there and an ACLU chapter member got started poking around. I mean, it’s got everything from soup to nuts. It’s like you too RL and reshuffled the deck.

    A dome for newbies? They have that. It’s called “Orientation Island” or “Welcome Island”. But you can’t really have much fun there, and who wants to sit and read notecards. You learn by doing in these places and having something you want to do badly enough that you’ll learn how to do it. And that’s why a lot of people don’t stick — they don’t want anything there badly enough to stick it out, and if it isn’t served up quickly enough, they leave. I find lots of 15 year old Little Princes tapping their foot and demanding I do for them even at my rentals level, and if the world won’t load, or they can’t rez or something else is awry, they go back to WoW lol.

  10. Michelle, why would we need to prime worlds? I agree that a bit of a framework and even a very light overarching rule-of-law type of framework would be good, but why all this priming that sounds so intensely controlling and indelible? Couldn’t you just leave it to people to prime their own sim?

  11. Fair enough, Prok. And I hope you know that I am not saying this in any sort of aggressive way, but more as detached commentary.

    By and large, your English professors were right. It is extraordinarily rare to come across a good poet with no exposure to what has been done before, a musician who has never learned someone else’s music, and so on.

    A user doesn’t need to know about the history of other virtual worlds. But I think that for those who wish to be involved in commenting on, discussing, debating, advocating, dissecting, analyzing, developing, extending, or otherwise getting down and dirty, it’s essential. It’s hugely valuable. At the very least, it provides common ground for discussion. You aren’t a tourist visiting a foreign country anymore — you’re writing guidebooks for others. You’re critiquing, you’re advocating change, you’re prescribing.

    Keep in mind that what I described as insular was primarily the SL blogosphere, which is all made up of pundits. The pundits are the folks we want to be more widely read. (I like to think that part of the reason why people come to this blog is because though it is relatively tightly focused, it’s also broad and catholic in its references and sources. But maybe I’m wrong).

    If I could give you an Xmas present, it’d be Julian Dibbell’s first book, My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World, because I think you’d both really appreciate it, and because I think it would help give lots of context that would make our discussions more fruitful.

    As far as interesting stuff — yeah, Runescape is a war game for kids. But the fact that there are extremely large networks of 11 year olds across multiple countries engaging in large-scale economic activity within it is fascinating. The way in which ATITD experiments with things like gender behavior research as part of their game design. The dynamics of voice chat versus text chat in high-level raiding organizations in WoW. Heck, WoW’s UI alone is a master class for Second Life in general.

    Can these be separated out, strained from the broth, so to speak? Sure. I have done that before… I did it with reputation systems and I did it with trust mechanics, if you recall. I did it with multiplayer vs single-player, I did it with metrics and with interaction patterns and attention. All of these apply to the SL universe and worldview just as much as to any other VW, honestly. Heck, part of the reason to make the case about how the MUDs and the graphical worlds are the same thing is precisely in order to force us out of looking at each VW or style as being somehow radically different.

    I am glad you think of me as enlightened. :) We will be announcing our startup in the next couple of days, and when we do, believe it or not, I hope you’re among those who are interested.

  12. Regarding your link to the Tree of Remembrance.

    I appreciate this story; I appreciate that it is written in 1998; I appreciate that this represents a generic issue for all worlds and games, the nexus between the real person, who might die, and the avatar, who might find a way to live beyond death.

    And it even mentions the Velveteen Rabbit, something I was going to raise here, but felt would only lead to be being harassed and pilloried on sites with names like Vom This or Vom That. But it’s like that.

    But…Raph, seriously, do you think that if we hadn’t read that essay that is a touchstone for you from 1998; if we didn’t know the Norwegian girl; if we didn’t grok through the wierdness involved in this:

    “Code was changed so that items left in this manner became permanent parts of the world.”

    (gaah, a player has to *die in RL* to get these devs to change their damn game!).

    But that’s ridiculous. To say that sort of thing — which you seem to be doing with all your pedigree stuff here — is to say something like, oh, in RL human experience, the African mother who loses her son to a war and weeps in the desert three centuries ago is unconnected to the Russian mother who loses her son in a war 25 years ago or an Iraqi mother who loses her son in a war today. They all have the same common human experience. They all lost their sons. The Russian mother didn’t have to first bone up on the African mother’s experience and learn the history of grieving to be able to know that she hurt over her son’s death.

    that’s what I don’t like about your premises — the idea that those of us who didn’t realize, “Wow, a person online that I can come to know in some unique special way” through a MUD, instead of say, The Sims Online, or even Yahoo Messenger, are somehow lesser participants in virtuality. We aren’t. These experiences are available to be had, over and over again. People have died, and have been mourned in the Sims, in WoW, in SL, without ever having genuflected to the Norwegian ur story.

  13. I’m not Michelle, but I will offer some answers:

    – because most people who come to something do not want to be contributors instantly, they want to soak in something first.

    – because most people never actually graduate to major content contributors; they prefer to contribute in minor ways, and be content consumers most of the time, so priming the world gives them something to do.

    – because most content creator of all stripes are imitative (this is not a bad thing nor a knock against them), and you want to provide them something to imitate and build off of.

    – because you want to provide a trellis to shape what grows; priming a bit can help the eventual arrangement of “furries over here, boutiques over there” and thus minimize eventual pointless conflicts.

    – Beyond that, you may have goals like “we want the content users make here to be socially valuable” or “oriented towards economic activity” or “safe for children” or whatever. Priming provides cues as to what is the sort of contributions that people should make.

    These are just some reasons. None of them preclude everyone still making their own sim with whatever they want. It’s akin to hinting to people that this is a nice view by putting a bench there.

  14. Raph, she isn’t here to have this convo, but honestly, I think that’s not what she means.

    I’m grateful to our Lindens that they primed the world of SL by putting up those basic brown hills, asphalt roads, and lovely Eric Linden’s Ideal of Nature trees. It’s all good.

    And I’d like even a bit more priming with things like “hey, let’s put laggy clubs with stupid chatting devices over *here* and let’s have quiet residences over *there* so they don’t fight endlessly and clubs have a veto on everyone else’s FPS*. But, I take it as it comes.

    Finding a balance of priming and not priming enough has to be awfully hard, and you probably have to say in the end, in an open-ended world, we’re going to leave the priming to the residents.

    The Lindens sure front-loaded the “content creators are socially valuable” stuff WAY overboard in some ways, but there are enough other balancing factors now that you can’t even fault them too much for this.

    As much as you think I need to put myself in the strait jacket of visiting and groking all your synthetic closed worlds, I do wish you’d take more of a gander at the open-ended world of SL.

  15. I’m not sure what you think she means then…? I read it as literally “priming” as in “priming the pump,” as in providing initial activities, settings, etc. Stuff like interfaces and newbies experiences are all part of that.

  16. “Code was changed so that items left in this manner became permanent parts of the world.”

    (gaah, a player has to *die in RL* to get these devs to change their damn game!).

    Um, even in SL, leaving an object on someone else’s space results in it getting cleaned up, yes? Cleaning up objects isn’t weird. :) In a gameworld, you can’t have dropped objects remain everywhere, or the world would be full of junk.

    In any case, you misread my intent in my putting that link there. It was there in support of your argument about emotion conferring value, and to point out that I’ve used exactly the same argument myself, and that lots of people have, and we share many of the same ideas and ideals about these things — and yet, I still disagree about your conclusion on property. :)

    It’s not about the date on which it was said, or in which world it happened, at all.

  17. Following Michelle’s and Michael’s lines of thought and thread of conversation, I think Matt Mihaly’s suggestion to create a newbie zone in SL for the gamer demographic is useful as an entry stage to connect the two spheres.

    Following on Michael’s quotation of Danah Boyd’s recent paper on friendship and social network sites, I recall Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives where people move from impressions to the subsequent stages: (1) remembering, (2) understanding, (3) applying,
    (4) analyzing, (5) evaluating, and then ultimately (6) creating.

    WoW does a good job of guiding newbies through the first five stages and don’t offer much in stage 6 (UI customization and social institutions). SL, on the other hand, doesn’t do much to guide people through the stages. You get a fat-tails of people in the remembering stage (excellent PR effects) and in the creating stage (excellent creation tools). The result is that the users of WoW fits into the well-known learning curve or the pyramid distribution. SL, on the other hand, does not.

    Thus, the idea of priming worlds does have currency and have network building benefits. Adding opportunities for the creating stage in WoW and more opportunities for the stages lacking in SL will bridge the cultural spheres.

    Frank

    P.S. I’m using WoW and SL as examples only because they are the most well known. WoW stands for MUDs and SL stands for MOOs. My thoughts on SL applies also to Multiverse. Both can benefit from creating entry points for network/spheres to connect/overlap along the various stages. Well, as Prokofy said, we’ll just have to wait for the residents of SL to prim the world for themselves (e.g. recreation of WoW raid scenarios in SL).

  18. Raph,

    In SL, you can opt to have autoreturn on, or not. You can opt to let people build, or not. To leave objects only set to a group that you invite them to, or not. To have the autoreturn only return non-group objects, or not. To deny even object placement by those banned. So there’s more and more granularity there. And yeah, I got the idea that stuff gets left around. You’re forgetting that I spend probably 50 percent of my many hours on Second Life clearing prims, precisely because I can’t leave on autoreturn. The merciless god autoreturn makes newbies scream at me that I’m deleting their furniture or “my land is eating their furniture” so until I can get them to join the group, activate it, figure the tools, to keep the stuff on their land, I have to leave it off in some areas.

    The way you set up your argumentation here, it seemed to me that rather than supporting my concept of the emotional or spiritual relationship one can have to virtual things, you were harkening to the glorious revolutionary past were you could say We Did That Already. See, you have to admit your reading references can only be seen in that light, given how assiduous you have been in explaining that those of us who came later and missed the memo on MUDs have no context and no appreciation.

    Of course you will always and everywhere disagree with my notions of property because you pwn the property in a 101 ways. I’m here to rest it from your game-god hands, however, so that I, too, can have a world!

  19. [...] A fascinating discussion on SL as one of many multiplayer experiences can be found at raphkoster.com – if you’re interested in sociology (and who wouldn’t be!) then have a read through. The premise of the article is that SL residents could perhaps learn a lot of useful lessons from other MMOs. [...]

  20. I wanted more detail, Frank, so I found this site on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Faculty site, so I assume it’s credible. He swaps 5 and 6. http://faculty.washington.edu/krumme/guides/bloom1.html The taxonomy seems more to be a directional list.

    I wrote this a couple years back: http://raccaldin36.livejournal.com/506551.html and also wrote http://www.aqualgidus.org/definition-of-love.html#3.2 this summer.

    I never thought I’d apply my musings on educational content to virtual world design, but it makes a surprising amount of sense. Thanks. So, digging in.

    The first thing you have to define is an educational objective that you’re actively trying to achieve.

  21. I wanted more detail, Frank, so I found this site on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Faculty site, so I assume it’s credible. He swaps 5 and 6. http://faculty.washington.edu/krumme/guides/bloom1.html The taxonomy seems more to be a directional list.

    I wrote this a couple years back: http://raccaldin36.livejournal.com/506551.html and also wrote http://www.aqualgidus.org/definition-of-love.html#3.2 this summer.

    I never thought I’d apply my musings on educational content to virtual world design, but it makes a surprising amount of sense. Thanks. So, digging in.

    A dome for newbies? They have that. It’s called “Orientation Island” or “Welcome Island”. But you can’t really have much fun there, and who wants to sit and read notecards. You learn by doing in these places and having something you want to do badly enough that you’ll learn how to do it. And that’s why a lot of people don’t stick — they don’t want anything there badly enough to stick it out, and if it isn’t served up quickly enough, they leave.

    That’s the point, Prokofy. “Orientation Island” is NOT the dome, because Orientation Island is bloody boring. The vast majority of games have an equivalent, but they’re a touch above boring. Most of these at least have you committing the great rite of killing your first virtual helpless blob. But it’s more interesting than reading a bunch of information.

    The first thing you have to define is an educational objective that you’re actively trying to achieve. In the case of Second Life, I’d suggest it be becoming an active builder, to use MOO terminology. If you don’t make it that far, you would at least have sufficient knowledge to be a decent critic. If you don’t get that far, you would at least have sufficient exposure to be able to enjoy it as it is, rather than having a skewed image of it. The step after builder would likely be business owner, and LL is already working on that with SLdevU, and I’m still pissed they held in SF where I couldn’t attend.

    So, I would put “desire to know” first up. The way you do that is by showing off things that other people have made. So the dome should include a museum gallery of sorts, windows into other places. Heck, make an interaction with them capable of transporting you there. James Au seems to feature a couple places every so often, and I know some other people are doing something similar, so that’s plenty of fodder.

    Then you’d need to provide tutorials for actually building things. Last I checked, these didn’t exist. So take, say, three disparate components. Maybe a cube, a texture, and a cone. Teach them how to build something simple with these.

    Then do something mindlessly simple as feedback. Have “recipes”, where the idea is to construct some arrangement/texture. Succeeding at this gives you points. The points are absolutely useless, though maybe you could convert them to L$ at a 1:1000 rate. Or perhaps let residents offer special deals or exclusive activities as rewards. Take these points, though–okay, I lied, not totally useless–and use them to unlock new recipes. Eventually, you unlock all the recipes. Intermediate arrangements should include scripts. Naturally, the last ones will be pretty hard to create, but succeeding will still give you that fiero of achievement.

    When you’ve built it all the way to “the end”, you have nothing left to do, so like a college kid whose parents have gotten fed up with him, you get tossed out on your butt and you have to figure things out from there. If people don’t stick after they’ve spent all this time on the tutorials, then they probably wouldn’t stick anyways.

    Whew. That was kinda fun. I have no idea why system design is fun for me; I just get an idea and start spinning yarns. Anyways, all the ideas re: the newbie dome/zone in this comment are free for the taking. No credit necessary, blah, blah, yay for MIT licenses. And now I need to spend some quality time with my subconscious, and whatever dark fantasies might lurk in those depths.

    …like…angler fish? Pretty light…

  22. But that’s ridiculous. To say that sort of thing — which you seem to be doing with all your pedigree stuff here — is to say something like, oh, in RL human experience, the African mother who loses her son to a war and weeps in the desert three centuries ago is unconnected to the Russian mother who loses her son in a war 25 years ago or an Iraqi mother who loses her son in a war today. They all have the same common human experience. They all lost their sons. The Russian mother didn’t have to first bone up on the African mother’s experience and learn the history of grieving to be able to know that she hurt over her son’s death.

    Yes, but if the Iraqi mother is interviewed on television, and it turns out that she believes that she is the first mother ever to lose her son in war, what she says – while undoubtedly poignant – will not be terribly useful in constructing a better care model for others.

  23. You could say that the SL chatsphere is inward looking, maybe it is… There’s an element of siege mentality with us sometimes. On the other hand, you could say that a thriving multi-cultural exchange buzzing around all the other MMO things isn’t any more outward looking, because under the skin all those games are just the same thing. It’s like a lot of people enthusing about 100 varieties of apples pointing at the couple of people in the corner who got hold of a satsuma, and saying “aren’t they inward looking, they never talk about apples, they know nothing of the history of apples. What’s the big deal about oranges anyway?” People are still arguing over what kind of fruit SL is.

    Michelle’s posts are a good reminder of the game/no game debate. She wants more priming to give people a clue to the rules of the game. I don’t like the game label for SL, not out of some need to rise above anything, but because it’s just really unhelpful. It’s pragmatic to say SL isn’t a game. You play whatever game you bring with you, or join someone elses. It’s playground stuff. You can play in the sandpit, or on the climbing frame, or play tag or dolls. The way people used to play before someone had the idea of feeding them scripted interactive vignettes to star in.

    In some ways we are priming new user experiences- where they end up in their first couple of days can define what SL is to them, at least for a while. Just like in RL, where your “world” tends to consist of the places you visit daily- home, work, family/friends home, sports club, pub etc. All our worlds are different, and overlap in various places.

    So when I signed up to SL last July, it was to visit a building that Always_Black made- a virtual construct of his website called the _blacklibrary. I looked round it for an evening and left SL for about two months not seeing any point. The next time I looked in again, there were people there to talk to, and something clicked. I’ve been in SL since, and did what I could to help out at the library, making it my home location for months. New people would visit, and I guess in some way their SL was primed for them by the group of people that hung around at the library- the same as was and is going on at all kinds of locations in SL. Most of the ones that hung around for a week with us at the library I still see showing up online- they “stuck”. I’m not saying we were the ideal greeters, but I suppose our group appealed to a certain kind of visitor, and they liked having a familiar feeling peer group with them while they discovered what was in SL for them on their own terms.

    I am a big fan of the language of spaces and constructs- I like doors and stairs in a world that needs neither, for their iconic reasons as much as the fun of walking up or through them. So yes, a bench is a good indicator of a view to be admired. What’s better, though, is someone sat on the bench to say “Hi there, come see the view.”

    Any kind of priming will have an agenda behind it- that’s the point, after all, to influence the early experience and development of the people in the world. What you want really is a way to catch new people to talk to and encourage without being uncool in the way that “help” or “orientation” places are. Who reads the manual, let alone submits to being lectured at? I put myself in the place of the “good stuff” new people rushed to- a sex club. Get people talking and you find they hit these places out of curiosity mainly, but when they develop friendships out of discussion they go on to do “more productive” things with their time.

    That was longer than I meant for it to be.

  24. Can we not do the “Web 1.0″/”Web 2.0″ thing? Until somebody makes a dramatic change to http, the web is exactly what it has always been, we just exploit it in new ways now and then.

    More on-topic, i agree with both Raph and the SL Booster Brigade – SL is not a game. We merely disagree on other things it isn’t. It isn’t the “multiverse” and it isn’t the future of online communication.

  25. I think Prokofy doesn’t understand why it’s useful to look at the experiences of previous virtual worlds, text or graphical. It’s to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes that were made in the past. Yes, Prokofy, you make a good point by saying human experience is the same regardless of time and place, but if that’s all you use to defend SL, you’ll make the same mistakes other people make (regardless of time and place).

    By training I’m a political scientist, and a large part of doing political work is analyzing what went wrong in the past and how we can avoid that in the future. I approach virtual world design the same way: what’s worked best in the past, and how can we adapt it for our own world? Raph does this as well. “I did it with reputation systems and I did it with trust mechanics, if you recall,” he says. “I did it with multiplayer vs single-player, I did it with metrics and with interaction patterns and attention.” That’s what good designers do, so we don’t have thousands of people making the same mistakes that were made with Pong or Duke Nukem Forever (I still hold out hope!).

    I agree with Raph on SL’s insularity as well. Prokofy, it seems like you can’t understand why we’ve visited SL and not been affected by it. “I do wish you’d take more of a gander at the open-ended world of SL,” you say, but many developers have already. We’re not unimpressed, but rather we can say “oh, look at this logical progression from worlds like LambdaMOO.” Maybe you need to look at the larger context and realize that while SL is impressive, fascinating, and a legitimate phenomenon, it’s only part of online virtual worlds.

  26. On the other hand, you could say that a thriving multi-cultural exchange buzzing around all the other MMO things isn’t any more outward looking, because under the skin all those games are just the same thing.

    I actually see SL on the same slider as other MMOs. If the variable is more or less creative freedom, then SL is just on the extreme edge of “more.” Games like DDO are on the extreme edge of “less.”

  27. Its interesting to see the different reactions in the “main stream” i.e tradiational gaming world to getting what the game companies want to get. By this I mean over the last few years you see article after article by the game makers talking about reaching a wider audience – finding new demographics etc.
    When SL acually does this – the player base is largly different than “the core gamers” that the companies have been trying to reach past to widen markets. Its amusing to see the reaction of the “core gamers” and to a large extent the game makers that were pontificating about the broader marke when they see an example of what they are asking for.
    Its like the Newtonians vs. the Quamtum guys all over again :)

    Im not attacking either side , Im just saying its strange to see the huge reaction as people try to fit “what they say they wanted” ( in the case of the game makers, I dont think the core audience cared if the field broadened or not they already had what they wanted) into thier view of the game world. SL is just the first differnet online “game” to get big enough to have been noticed and I think we will see even wilder reactions in the future to new directions if the industry acually does spread out to new things and new approaches.

    The natural reaction of all the sides trying to fit it into one view will be a larger hurdle than creating the products that reach wider or new audiences. And I think ulimatly futile. Most people will realise that there isnt one view of whats right or correct and all the hub ub will die down. The SL hype and the SL bashing will die off as the Newtonians realise that Quantum doesnt invalidate thier view it just discribes a different solution to a different problem and there is room for growth in all the areas. and the Quamtum guys will realize that thier stuff isnt that revolutionary and didnt spring full born from the navel of god and just get on with growing in thier area.

    While they both gang up to fight off those new String Theory heritics.

  28. I think that society has potentially caused itself all kinds of problems with the word ‘game’. We’ve ended up having discussions over what should or should not be considered a game, without actually looking at what matters. Why do people begin to get involved with something? Why do they stick around? Is it fun?

    Making something fun and enjoyable does not automatically make something a game, and the more fun something is, the more likely people are to dedicate themselves to it.

    That’s why I’ve been using VW (Virtual World) rather than ‘game’. If you look at many of the industry leaders, the game itself as provided is fairly minimal, and a fair percentage of the playerbase is involved more in other activities than the game as originally provided. They run guilds, they roleplay (some games prime the roleplaying more than others, however), they create content.

    If you look at the activities of many of it’s editors, Wikipedia has clearly become more of a virtual world than an encyclopedia, and certainly some people play the wiki game.

    A theory of fun (the concept, rather than the book, but I hear it’s good ;)) is required before you can build a theory of ‘game’. Thinking briefly on the topic, a game is simply something that is taken less seriously than what you are comparing it to.

    Ultimately, we could create a plane of ‘worlds’, with seriousness on one axis and by-design priming on the other. ‘Real Life’ is the most strongly primed, and very serious. Most MMORPGs are medium-to-strongly primed, and not that serious. Second life is without priming, but is not sure where it wants to be in terms of seriousness. Those using SL for business wish it to be very serious, yet those who arrive at SL from reading about it in the press are more likely to wish for something less serious than their ‘first life’.

    Ace is entirely correct in saying that the users of Second Life provide the priming, as it is within internet forums and IRC. I’m not entirely sure however of the suitability of this for a commercial enterprise, however.

    Michael puts forward an interesting idea for a means to help introduce players to SL, but this was the dilemma I was talking about in my second reply. A detailed new user experience along such lines would be stating that the point to SL is to make in-game items. Although this is how a significant number of players enjoy themselves, I don’t think this is something they would agree on, and it runs quite contrary to what Linden Labs needs to present in order to ensure their press appeal.

    The discussion of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is exactly why I partake in things here. Thank you, you’ve introduced me to a valuable resource for design theory!

  29. Note that my above example basically treats history and content creation outside of living memory of the users to be by-design priming, as the two could be considered indistinguishable.

    If you add in an axis for the potential for enjoyment (eg, priming on x axis, seriousness on y, enjoyability on z), you get an interesting representation of worlds, although longevity and accessability may also be needed to complete the exploration. Accessability is a bit of a tough one, since you need to compare the worlds to some other world to form this metric (well, moreso than you need to do for the others, which also technically need this to a degree).

  30. Orrey, WoW is also reaching past “core gamers,” only it’s getting ALL of them to pay, and in significantly larger numbers — two orders of magnitude larger. Hence the game industry’s attention is aimed there.

    SL isn’t the first virtual world to have gotten big enough to get noticed in this fashion. It’s just been noticed the most. The hype factor is familiar — this is what Randy Farmer was referencing. It’s not that it isn’t more merited now, because it is. But the very phrases are remarkably similar.

    you could say that a thriving multi-cultural exchange buzzing around all the other MMO things isn’t any more outward looking, because under the skin all those games are just the same thing.

    I have two answers for you. One is that under the skin, SL is also the same thing; it varies more in its business practices than in how it works and what it is. And the other is that all those other MMO things are a lot more varied than you think.

    The way you set up your argumentation here, it seemed to me that rather than supporting my concept of the emotional or spiritual relationship one can have to virtual things, you were harkening to the glorious revolutionary past were you could say We Did That Already. See, you have to admit your reading references can only be seen in that light, given how assiduous you have been in explaining that those of us who came later and missed the memo on MUDs have no context and no appreciation.

    I listed those because you specifically said “why don’t you talk about the issues in a way that goes beyond just one world or one world type.” So I provided a list where I had.

    I wonder, would it be helpful to the entire discussion if I provided the high-level encyclopedia-level post on what the overall context is?

  31. Raph, the idea I’m trying (and deleting overly long posts about) to get across is that I think “MMO culture” is pretty generic- I have friends who all flit around half a dozen games together, but don’t do SL. The “MMO culture” sees SL as part of it, but a freakish laggy messed up porn riddled part. Most people I meet in SL these days (not like a year ago) haven’t ever done anything with an MMO. MMOs are not their thing, but they’re in SL. A year ago it was people who played WoW or Final Fantasy online. Now it’s people who really are not part of that overall culture of gaming. These are the people I see anyway. It’s fine to say under the bonnet or at the concept level that SL is no different, but I think the perception is otherwise- there’s a one way glass on that join to the MMO crowd. And that, more than some sniffy aloofness from SL advocates explains the lack of integration in discussion. I think.

  32. I thought I would throw my perspective into this as an MMO player (ok, sometimes an armchair designer, but really just a player).

    Recently, someone visited the forums for our SWG guild/city and made us a pitch about how we should all come play Second Life, where other ex-SWG players had created sets of Star-Wars themed skins, lightsabers, and all sorts of other Star Wars goodniess. And hey, it’s free to play, unless we want to own land, and that costs some money.

    The response from just about everyone was a resounding “no thanks”. For many it was the idea that we’d have to shell out real money, and in some cases a lot of real money, if we wanted to do some of the things that we can do in very unlimited way in SWG for a $15/month subscription. To a lot of players, whether they’re the more social/roleplay oriented type of player or whether they’re the more adventure/hack-n-slash type of player, the whole RMT/microtransaction model is a scary prospect, because everyone is worried that they’ll actually end up spending more than they would have with a subscription (not to mention the social stigma around RMT in general – even in a world where it’s part of the world, people still feel a little wrong doing it). So that was a big reason that a large part of MMO user base just doesn’t “get” SL.

    My response, and you can take it for what it’s worth, was that I am actually put off by a completely free-form world. I consider myself a “contextual roleplayer”, by which I mean that I roleplay within the confines of the established setting and use the setting to help build the persona of my character. In a setting-less game, it would be much harder for me to build a unique identity and roleplay within it, and I’d end up out-of-character more often than not. Now I realize that it is very possible to create settings in SL for people to roleplay in, but there would always be that knowledge out there that not everyone else is playing in the same setting is me or has agreed to be bound by the same rules of that setting, and at least to me, that threatens my level of immersion.

    To use Michelle’s terms, I actually prefer VWs that do some priming by providing us a setting, and a ruleset of some form. It provides a sense of security – of some sort of rules of the reality that I’m playing in. It gives me as a player the expectation that everything I encounter is going to fit into an established context. I understand that’s not what SL is trying to accomplish, and it’s not really trying to be a “game” at all, but I think that this sort of thing may be a very big piece of the “divide” between SL users and other MMO users. Heck, I know a lot of MMO players who are all over stuff like MySpace who still don’t really think SL would be very fun.

    It also doesn’t help normal players like me that nearly all the press we see about SL is about someone making real-world money by running a virtual business. We all look at that and say “it’s cool that they can do that”. But at the same time, we also all realize at some level that other players, potentially many other players, are the source of all that income. The press makes it seem like this is what SL is all about. Most of us struggle enough to achieve financial success in the real world, and we’re not really interested in risking what little of that we’ve had by trying to do it again (in our recreational time) in a virtual world. In other words, as long as it’s just Monopoly money, we’re cool. We’ll go earn it (in-context) and spend it freely. But tie it to our real world wallets and we’re much less likely to want to do that. Maybe if the media focused on other things – like some of the amazing user-created content that’s in SL – instead of focusing on how much money people are making there, then more people might be interested and might buy into the concept.

  33. I think Prokofy doesn’t understand why it’s useful to look at the experiences of previous virtual worlds, text or graphical. It’s to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes that were made in the past.

    However, sometimes the exact opposite occurs: poor choices and mistakes are repeated.

    In product development, there’s not a few examples of new products that came along (e.g. the breadmaker) that were developed based on purely situational constraints (they used some existing components to speed development) but which then set a standard for others who were *not* similarly constrained and could have developed a better solution. But instead they replicate the mistake like bad genetic code passed down from generation to generation.

    Hence, it’s not always true that it’s useful to refer to a predecessor. People often make mistakes by trusting that a previous development group made sound decisions and chose the best development path (and now there are whole aisles full of poorly-designed breadmakers bc no one questions the original format… they should be accessed on the side and not through the top; not my observation btw).

  34. David, I agree heartily with absolutely everything you say, word for word. Stay in SWG. Please. Do NOT come to SL. Please. Please. Spread the word that it is not a good choice. Do a public service. It’s a waste of time and money for what you seek; it is also a huge devaluation of OUR time and money because most people in SL trying to build and script and do things there are NOT making combat games and do NOT want to play shoot-em’-up.

    I’ll be blunt: all you get to do with the SWG/Star Wars/Jedi sort of themes in SL is pose in your kick-ass avatars with your kick-ass weapons and make screen shots, socialize, and fly around and do a bit of skirmishing but nothing at all even remotely like the fighting you can do in a real game. At best, use it for the times when your favourite shooting games are in maintenance, to plan raids or make fan fic or costumes. But don’t expect to *transplant* your game into this setting.

    The lag, the problems, and the limits of the engine for doing FPS games are all huge obstacles. Trying to portray SL as some kind of sturdy war games structure is absurd. It just isn’t. Many fanboyz nobly try to lipstick this chicken — it doesn’t beautify it.

    As a result, what you have, are angry, frustrated SWG players who have spent a mint sometimes on an island they’ve spent months building out with really beautiful builds which are only stagesets. And in their frustration, they turn to becoming griefing assholes.

    I’ve had so many bad experiences with griefing, cheating, prim-overloading Star Wars RP types that today, I have to simply reject them as tenants. I say: “No RP here” simply because they will never be changing their true stripes and suddenly dropping guns and shooting and war RP just because they are in a suburban rental. I find that because I have some large and cheaper rentals, I get aggravated again and again by kids who play Star Wars dying for some place to go, since they are locked out.

    The problem is that when I used to pay the tier on an entire sim and had a free and open combat sim, a lot of them couldn’t cope with the openness of it. They didn’t want a game that would wipe daily. So I made a non-wiping sandbox. I said, let’s have builds stay, just for a very small token price. But, like everything else in SL, instead of being a place where various teams could come and make interesting builds and play, it became a place you had to constantly police for people either putting up money scams or griefing the entire space in order to make it unusable. I was just a dilettante making a combat sim, without enough knowledge. It was one of my biggest mistakes in SL and I sold it quick.

    A far more competent fellow named Clubside Granville, with 20 years of programming experience and a manager of various websites and other online games, came in and build a very compellilng and well-built combat sim. It had everything you wanted. It was even possible for a rube like me to actually walk into it as merely an observer and have the others not shoot me because I wasn’t armed and wasn’t signed into the war game. So it was a lot of fun, for shooters and non-shooters. But, like many such projects in SL, it died for a host of reasons — lag, builds disappearing, patches, and I think probably the inability of LL to find the time and the will to engage with the makers and users of a combat sim that were *not* in their ilttle circle of friends. Bedazzled once made an FPS sim too — it was a laggy disaster too.

    It’s stupid. You can call me discriminatory as I personally attempt to deal with this constant problem in SL, but I don’t allowe shooting, weapons, pushing, security orbs because most adults coming into SL in fact are females and older males these days — look at the demographics. They don’t yearn for the activities of the younger male demographics involving shooting and first-person RP war gaming.

    So please, stay in SWG. It’s more fun. You are absolutely right. You can only wind up spending way too much money on Star Wars memorabilia and assets that may look good in a screenshot, or be fun to play, but are like an elaborate museum or backdrop – you can’t really play them.

    There’s a reason why games are like they are — closed, proprietary, even static. It’s because all those things are required to render the game experience people want. It’s not fair to take people who are shooters and then spend time chasing them around the grid trying to ban them for 3 days because they are shooting — I hold the Lindens solely to blame for that, because in their zeal to sell this platform, they cravenly appealed to the MMORPG shooter game crowds. They come in guns ablazin’, annoy the shit out of everybody in the welcome areas, and treat the whole of SL as their war sandbox. The builds that people have struggled to make for completely different purposes are constantly subjected to bombing and strafing and griefing sessions because the SWG types think, well, game gods have made this interesting setting for me to have my instance in. They aren’t wrong. They have, through their indifference and slavish devotion to licentiousness.

    I totally agree that money-making should not be a facet for entertainment. The ruleset of expectations should not place the stress on people to go make money even to play the game. It would be one thing if, like the Sims Online, they had a ready-made job object to click on and get started with instantly to survive. But in SL, only the legions of dance-pad camp-chair kings that create a gambling economy are available, along with the sex industry, as readily available jobs. If the MMORPG expectation of having “jobs” that in fact are things like quests or pizza-making in TSO were available OR if it were made abundantly clear that there are no such “jobs,” then the annoying camp-chair phenom might die out.

    In this sense, the idea of having the Lindens prime the world seems logical — shoudn’t they can the shooters on their front web page and the avatars in shiny armour, and focus on the couples and the socializing and the creativity of people making gadgets? But…they don’t. That is, advertising, that isn’t quite a “prime” of the world, might be a good place to start to dump the FPS types.

    of course, I’m certain a fanboy will come on now and say, why, I have a sim with a combat game that is state of the art and we have 20,000 traffic blah blah blah. But, let’s face it — it’s laggy and doesn’t work. None of these lag and rez problems ever occur in WoW because they have their own content and not competing custom content.

    what the Lindens have done instead is not prime but make it free. They say, well, try making a shooting game. Try keeping shooters out if you don’t like them. So instead of priming, they make ever more elaborate parcel tools to control every aspect of the shooting process. First, make it an option only to be pushed, Then remove all script action by non-group scripts. Then remove the ability of others to make objects. Or to even fly in at all, etc. etc. This confusing menu of options now is a hurdle new people have to cross — first they have to get shot, and seek help, before they begin to toggle all the right switches (that is why I proposed that all lots be defaulted to non-push, making the minority of shooters do the toggles, instead of the majority of non-shooters).

    The Lindens persist in their licentious libertarianism — but then, they have their logic, as they want to make a world free for everybody and they want YOU to do the prime. But…I still feel a tiny bit of guidance wouldn’t hurt.

    Don’t forget that their first moments in their own created world were dominated by them shooting the hell out of everything, breaking up buildings, and even accomplishing terraforming by bombing land to smithereens. There is a real inherant destuctiveness in this creativity that isn’t controlled. And it’s because they, too, came out of arcade and mmorpg culture which largely involves shooting and killing everything.

    I think it will take more than a generation to evolve that violent facet of their creation out of them and other game gods. Or maybe never, as it is an inherent feature of the real human being, too.

  35. csven: However, sometimes the exact opposite occurs: poor choices and mistakes are repeated.

    The point is to look at the past, not copy it. Poor choices and mistakes are repeated without looking. Why do you think Richard Bartle (used to be) on a near-constant rant about people on Terra Nova not having read the MUD-Dev list? They were asking the same questions over.

    Michelle said: Ultimately, we could create a plane of ‘worlds’, with seriousness on one axis and by-design priming on the other. ‘Real Life’ is the most strongly primed, and very serious.

    Real Life is actually very weakly primed. Like social network sites, you’re primed by the people who bring you in. Your parents, in this day and age, or whoever raises you, provide the first lens with which you see the world.

    Michelle said: Michael puts forward an interesting idea for a means to help introduce players to SL, but this was the dilemma I was talking about in my second reply. A detailed new user experience along such lines would be stating that the point to SL is to make in-game items.

    And I’m not convinced this isn’t actually true. (And if it isn’t true, then I would guess I could develop a learning curve for that, too.) There isn’t a whole lot to do in SL that’s generic to the world. Sure, you should learn interface controls, but that’s basic and as a friend of mine who tried Second Life last night put it: “kinda clunky. Also, it keeps crashing, which is obnoxious.” I’m actually a touch impressed she tried several times.

    What else can you learn? How to chat? That’s covered by Orientation Island. Seeing new things? You get a deeper appreciation for that by building things and seeing what’s easy to do and what’s hard. Interacting with objects? Also covered by Orientation Island, though bad enough that I still can’t get the jet I have a copy of to work. Maybe it’s not supposed to work. =P

    Come to think of it, I think my main barrier to SL is the fact that it’s graphical…

  36. Thanks for the response Prokofy…I think it helped point out one of the main reasons that there’s a big divide – and that’s because the rest of the “MMOSphere” is focused on providing an establish setting and a game, whereas SL is really trying to be a platform for people to literally invent their own settings and games (as well as everything else).

    One thing I do want to point out though is that I think you have the wrong impression of MMORPGs. Granted, there are many players who play the games for the “combat sim”. But there’s also a substantial population of players who aren’t as focused on the combat sim, and instead like to engage in economic activity/crafting, or in simple social activity. Witness the growing player demand for features such as player housing, being able to perform music and dances in a game, and so on. Not really part of the combat sim. Even in games that don’t specifically provide mechanics for it, players often gather in large numbers for purely noncombat activities. So it’s not all about combat. But it is about staying within the setting the game provides you. I don’t expect someone in EQ2 to come at me with a rocket launcher any more that I’d expect someone in SWG to be piloting a giant transformable fighter jet/robot. Those things just don’t make sense in the context of the world’s setting.

    But that doesn’t mean that I can’t attend a concert or play put on by other players, or purchase items for my home from other players, or go on a nature hike with a bunch of friends avatars. Those things happen all the time in the “game” worlds too – they’re not unique to SL.

  37. The point is to look at the past, not copy it.

    You think?

    Michael, I’m very aware of that, as I suspect are you and others here. But that doesn’t stop otherwise intelligent people from repeating seemingly stupid mistakes. From my experience, it’s far easier to understand that point than it is to apply it.

    I do not for a moment believe Prok needs to be reminded why knowing history is important. In fact, I suspect of everyone here, Prok is the most likely person to best understand that. Given that likelihood, ask yourself why it is that Prok is taking people to task for those comments and you might conclude as I have, that someone is trying to make a point stick.

  38. “I think Prokofy doesn’t understand why it’s useful to look at the experiences of previous virtual worlds, text or graphical. It’s to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes that were made in the past.“

    Why would I be foolish enough to ignore the experience of other worlds and previous worlds? State the case, and we’ll look at them. Unfortunately, the experience is about things that don’t apply at all in SL — they are all about a synthetic world, where the big debates seem to be things like “Gee, they made this level too hard!” “Gosh, they allowed gold-farming and ebay sales!” “Awww, they removed my favourite form of combat!”. I’m sorry, but these don’t get as intellectually compelling for me as issues like how you administer a land market to remain free and have equal access (if not outcome) in an emulated-land world, etc. — the issues are just more complex and more interesting. I realize that the TN eggheads can wrest the most bizarre thinky stuff out of games like “gender this and empowerment that and identity the next thing” in keeping with all the fashions of academe but again, it seems neither intellectually compelling or even academically rigorous.

    No doubt there are many issues that are interesting — then articulate them? Don’t expect people to sit through weeks of leveling up and enjoying the WOOT in order to “get it”.

    And, just because I don’t feel particularly moved to go sit in a MUD and see if my tiny me can be raped by some other tiny me, or learn whatever lesson I’m suppose to learn in an online environment *again,* doesn’t mean I don’t find it interesting. I always keep up with Raph’s blog precisely because he is able to write about the primarily game/war worlds in a way that *is* intellectually interesting and fun.

    Ultimately, I remain puzzled why Raph felt he had to extrapolate from my one lonely battle against a prominent geek-hero like Clay Shirky that all of SL is a cultural wasteland filled with the “parochial” who are doomed to repeat history because they didn’t read about it in one of his books or another game god book.

    I have no idea what csven’s insinuation is here, I won’t tackle it.

    David, if the economic/social/crafting/puzzles aspects of these games were really the center of gravity you say — I’d be in them. I tried ATID for a good long while, but I just got sick of having to be forced into groups to “level up”. It was too hard and boring. I must have walked thousands of miles in that game, never finding a soul, carrying a sack of mud.

  39. Gabriel, I’d have to say that if you came to SL and took a gander only at the technical side or got a superficial look into the activities there, you didn’t understand the issues at stake. I don’t know what to tell you. Read my blog, read the Herald, read other papers like slinsider.com and see what the issues are about governance, law, economics, etc.

    Take reputation systems. We don’t have them anymore. They were junked. Now the plus system is a vestige of a previous reputation system gamed and used to harass and vex (and BTW not by me, who awarded exactly 7 triple negs for very good *cause* — one to Philip Linden for GOMing the GOM).

    So…there *is* a reputation system *anyway* in SL of a different source that is more intricate, based on group membership, speech at events, forums postings, income or whatever — more like RL, yet synthetic enough to watch in wonder how it is gamed, or not gamed, how it can be tweaked, or not tweaked.

    I guess for christmas, I need to think of the top 10 intellectually compellilng WOW things about SL that would get someone who is a political system to run, not walk there and get in to the most amazing experiment.

  40. *who is a political scientists interested in systems

  41. First, let me say that the exchange between Prok and David is fantastic. :)

    Prok, I didn’t extrapolate solely from your one post. It was also the blog map, the comments on other blogs, and so on. I’m not basing it solely on what you have written, for sure.

  42. As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
    The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
    Burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
    So one generation of men will grow while another dies.
    ~Homer, Iliad

    Face it, you guys are getting generation gapped by Prokofy. Back in the 60’s when I was doing the generation gapping I knew that what the geezers had to say was irelevant because we were different and so was the world. Turned out we weren’t so different nor was the world and we got generation gapped ourselves. Might as well relax and enjoy it because it’s unavoidable. Instead of trying to convince Prokofy that everything is not ‘new and different’ now, just let it go.

  43. Prokofy said: Why would I be foolish enough to ignore the experience of other worlds and previous worlds? State the case, and we’ll look at them.

    To quote Raph, “however, the PRIMARY lessons that SL seems to fail to absorb are ones that severely stunt its acceptance: instant enjoyability, guiding users, rewarding experiences on a regular basis, obvious interfaces, a premium on seamlessness (no lag, no disruptions, etc). if I had to pick which side would benefit more from a cultural exchange, there is zero doubt in my mind that it’s the SL side.”

    csven said: Michael, I’m very aware of that, as I suspect are you and others here. But that doesn’t stop otherwise intelligent people from repeating seemingly stupid mistakes. From my experience, it’s far easier to understand that point than it is to apply it.

    It’s a very common argument on why you should learn history. Yes, of course. I’m sure you know the argument as well as I do, which is why I’m so puzzled that you don’t see the point. Knowledge of history is the first, and necessary, step. Once you have that, then you can abstract away the details to formulate general rules, like the maxim of “power corrupts”. Our equivalent is Raph’s compilation of the Laws of Online World Design. A relevant one, perhaps, is “Ownership is key”. This is something most games can learn from SL. Or another would be “Violence is inevitable”, though I like J.C. Lawrence’s bit on utopias.

    JuJutsu said: Instead of trying to convince Prokofy that everything is not ‘new and different’ now, just let it go.

    Why? It’s interesting. I might be a failure in Prokofy’s School of Argumentation, but it’s far better to talk and bicker than to shut up and stare at people sullenly, having no idea what’s going through their minds.

  44. JuJutsu said: Instead of trying to convince Prokofy that everything is not ‘new and different’ now, just let it go.

    Why? It’s interesting. I might be a failure in Prokofy’s School of Argumentation, but it’s far better to talk and bicker than to shut up and stare at people sullenly, having no idea what’s going through their minds.

    I’m naturally argumentative, I’m a great fan of talking and bickering [my colleagues call it discourse but we know better :) ]. It’s fun and a great way to learn stuff. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away this guy Eric Berne wrote a book called Games People Play. My favorite was called ‘Yes, But…” As long as you recognize that you’re playing a rousing game of Yes, But great. But for me the operative word above was ‘convince'; I suspect it won’t happen….for anyone involved in the discourse.

  45. I have no idea what csven’s insinuation is here, I won’t tackle it.

    Apologies to Gabriel and Michael. I appear to have given credit where in fact none appears due.

  46. David, if the economic/social/crafting/puzzles aspects of these games were really the center of gravity you say — I’d be in them. I tried ATID for a good long while, but I just got sick of having to be forced into groups to “level up”. It was too hard and boring. I must have walked thousands of miles in that game, never finding a soul, carrying a sack of mud.

    That sort of thing frustrates a lot of players. You’re not alone at all in that frustration. It’s usually the result of a poor design. Unfortunately there are many MMOs that still prioritize the combat side of the VW first and then add everything else in as a companion to combat. To some extent they do that because combat is easy, I think, or because it’s a guaranteed draw. But a well-designed game will consider combat, economic, social, and other systems as seperate but interdependant, and implement them in a way so that you can do one without being forced into doing the others, if you don’t like.

    There have been very few games to do this to a point where noncombat-oriented players can really thrive. Games that Raph has had a hand in come to mind, UO and SWG specifically. EQ2 has started down that road, although it doesn’t go as far as it probably should. EVE Online is a good game for this. Vanguard will likely work out well if the interdependency requirements aren’t too harsh. Pirates of the Burning Sea should as well. This is just a small sampling off the top of my head – there are others out there.

    Someone should probably start an index and rate current and upcoming MMORPGs in terms of different playstyles. PvE, PvP, Crafter, Social, etc…of course, this would mean that someone would need to actually define those playstyles properly first, something that hasn’t really been done in a way that’s stuck yet, at least not that I’m aware of.

  47. I’m sure you know the argument as well as I do, which is why I’m so puzzled that you don’t see the point.

    Michael, I’m not exactly sure what point it is to which you’re referring. All I can say is that studying history is no guarantee of not repeating it. In fact, it happens all too often.

    The seemingly mundane example I provided isn’t so mundane to people in those industries, just like virtual world development isn’t mundane to those of us posting here. Those products are their livelihoods. And no one should assume that they and all the other people just like them out there doing the same kinds of things are merely stupid. They’re not. Yet they still repeat the mistakes made by those who preceeded them even though they’re aware of those mistakes. The question is: Why?

    No book, no amount of studying, and no amount of warning will prevent many intelligent and well-educated people from repeating the mistakes of those who came before them. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is.

    So the point I was making was that studying history is not necessarily the answer to avoiding mistakes, because it’s never really been *the* answer for many people.

  48. Argh.

    All I can say is that studying history is no guarantee of not repeating it.

    1) Studying history provides knowledge of history. 2) Knowledge of history permits comparison between the past and the present. 3) Comparison permits seeing patterns, such that you can anticipate the future based on similar patterns. 4) Anticipating the future provides you with the opportunity to change its course.

    If you do #4, then you are either A) lucky, B) genius, or C) a student of history.

    Please tell me that’s more clear.

  49. Michael, I’m not arguing with the logic. I’m simply telling you that people – even intelligent people who should know better – do not behave logically. Obviously you believe otherwise, and therein lies the disconnect.

    I suspect this is probably a difference of opinion we’ll not overcome. Consequently, all the best.

  50. I think you need to go beyond just the SL vs Everything Else aspect. There’s a WHOLE lot of games the veteran crowd isn’t talking about, and which are way more relevant to the future of the genre than the 36k paying members of SL.

    To me, all of this highlights the conservatist outlook many of the larger veteran-focused sites have on the space. They can safely ignore the Habbos and Maplestorys of the world. While between them those games have more registered accounts than the rest of the genre combined, because they weren’t discovered by vets and don’t use the same exact metrix of the monthly flat tax, those games are for wierd “other people”.

    It’s an insularity entirely too common in anything once only enjoyed by envelope pushers and trendsetters. It matters not that the rules of six years ago are no longer the only ones.

    I’d love to see that graph bringing in many more games and blogs about them, with a focus on “not covered by MMOGchart” stuff.

  51. This whole thing reminds me of the debate that went on/is still going on over AOL Vs. The Web.
    Back in the day AOL was a large proprietary community that didn’t really communicate beyond its own virtual AOL walls with the rest of the internet. The internet generally treated AOL as a subset that was fairly disconnected. Yeah, they are there, but they have very little effect on the Web community as a whole. They are/were ignored.
    Now with Second Life you have a very similar thing. The people of SL mainly talk within their own virtual walls and the rest of the Internet community pretty much pretends that they don’t exist.
    IMO, as long as proprietary methods are used for creating these worlds they will always exist separate from the rest of the web community. It is with an actual, web based 3D enviroment that is open to everyone that true virtual worlds of the future will be built.
    Until then all the current worlds will eventually shrivel up and die, in their time.

  52. instant enjoyability, guiding users, rewarding experiences on a regular basis, obvious interfaces, a premium on seamlessness (no lag, no disruptions, etc). if I had to pick which side would benefit more from a cultural exchange, there is zero doubt in my mind that it’s the SL side

    I had to burst out laughing at this, Michael. Seriously.

    Sounds to me like what you want is a *game*. You want this to be *entertaining like a game is*. But it isn’t. That’s not a cultural gap on the SL side, it’s a cultural gap on the game side. No, life doesn’t have instant enjoyment often; neither does second life. You don’t have a rote routine to enter in that assures you instant and sustained enjoyment end to end; you enter an open-ended situation where you might make your own enjoyment, or you might not.

    It might be enjoyable for you to log on an have a game where a guy tells you to go spear the boars and you go spear them. That may give you inner satisfaction. It doesn’t me. I log on, there’s no guy, there’s no spear, there’s no pigs. I either decide to make the spear-pigs — see *I’m* the guy! — or I don’t. And I do some other thing. I go watch a guy script a chicken; I buy his chicken to decorate my yard, whatever.

    As for obvious interfaces, what would that mean? the Wow interface looks to me as complicated as an airplane pilot’s console. I watch kids playing it and I don’t know how they can follow all the menus, boxes, inventories, points, powers, etc. It’s awesome. It’s obvious to them, but not to me.

    The SL user face and activity is 100 times simpler than WoW, trust me. Or Eve OnLine, which I’ve also visited and tried to play. These games are damn hard. “The Escapist” once covered an article about a woman trying to figure out these things — they are not intuitive.

    The SL user panel has stuff wrong with it — but it’s different stuff than you think, like parts of it being too geeky and Windowsy — it needs to have SEARCH moved from the bottom to the top, centered, and made bigger, even cartoony.

    As for lag and disruptions, well, some of the things that create enjoyment create lag. I’m sure the 50 people at a concert or a sex club tolerate the lag better than you who find it boring because there’s no shooter game, or what there is, is consumed with lag.

    Seamlessness is probably something you cannot expect in a world where there are other people making stuff. But that gives it its surprise and life.

  53. Okay, so should we just shoot the people who act illogically and leave them in a dumpster? What’s your point? What does that have anything to do with knowing the history of your interests?

    Yes. People are stupid. What does that have anything to do with history? I know. Some people can’t count no matter how much book-learning they do. Why teach math? Some people are never going to figure out the subtleties of Cervantes. Why teach literature?

    Now I’m getting pissed, so I’m just going to back off and leave it. Then again, if I did that, I might have learned something from my own history. Gee whiz, what a thought.

  54. That wasn’t Michael’s list, Prok, it was mine.

    Yes, for SL’s target audience, which as you have mentioned many times over is non-techie folks, its interface is still way too complex. Yes, a seamless experience matters, because that audience isn’t tolerant of having giant penises pop up next to them for no reason. Yes, rewarding people regularly matters because nobody likes feeling stupid. Yes, guiding users matters because people who are confused walk away from things. Yes, instant enjoyability matters, because you lose people who find tasks onerous. People quit jobs because they are onerous, put parents in assisted care, walk away from their loved ones — mere Second Lives fall far lower down the scale than those things.

    Absolutely nothing about what SL is would have to change. And you could have MORE people empowered, MORE people discovering everything that is good about SL, MORE people period.

    These aren’t “game” principles. They are principles for designing a toaster oven, or a park, or a jacket.

    This thread really does kick ass, btw :)

  55. Darniaq, YOU are out there talking about them. And so am I. And really, we aren’t the only ones. I grant you that it’s a pet peeve of both of us that they don’t get their fair share of discussion from the likes of the f13 crowd, but… hey, the f13 crowd posts about every new Korean game that launches. It’s webbed in, even if those aren’t the games of choice.

  56. 500 Star Wars fans contributing $15 per month could do *something* amazing with SL. With organization and determination. At least until the DMCA hits- but that potential is there, and maybe not around finding ways to hit each other in slicker ways.

  57. Ace, maybe they could, but that’s nothing new. Star Wars and other fictional universes have had dedicated MUDs for 15 years, still running. Determination isn’t enough though. You need to create a separate sphere and attract lots of players to get hold of the ones that can keep the community together. The initiators tend to leave after a year as they are in it for the technical challenge. Doing so for SW might be hard, because there is solid competition. Probably easier for other fictional worlds.

    I also disagree with the idea that the initial adopters dominate a system. Empirically, that doesn’t hold. Systems (often) change radically over their lifespan.

    Prokofy is right in players not having to know the history, but I also see no reason to study SL or WoW. Based on what people say and write, I don’t see what I could learn from them that I didn’t learn from MUDs, AW, Realm, Palace, M59, EQ, AO… etc. I currently learn more from systems like Flickr.

  58. [...] Buried in the comments on Yet Another Second Life Post on Raph’s blog, Raph says the following: I am glad you think of me as enlightened. We will be announcing our startup in the next couple of days, and when we do, believe it or not, I hope you’re among those who are interested. [...]

  59. Aside from the UI and performance issues, I think SL’s helter-skelter mash-up of genres, clothing, and quality of craftsmanship leaves a lot of people cold. As a friend of mine said, “I tried SL, but I logged off when Darth Vader and Tinkerbell asked me to play hide-and-seek.” Tinkerbell is cool, and Darth Vader is cool, and I know cross-genre games like Kingdom Hearts 2 have sold like crazy….but it’s hard for some people to withstand the level of welcome-to-the-sci-fi-convention shock experienced in SL.

  60. Okay, so should we just shoot the people who act illogically and leave them in a dumpster?

    I’m not suggesting that at all. I’m warning against the kind of arrogance I’ve seen over the last half century and which I’m starting to believe I’m seeing now.

    What’s your point? What does that have anything to do with knowing the history of your interests?

    My point was simple: knowing history is no guarantee of avoiding its repetition. Assuming someone like Prok is merely ignoring history is a mistake. There’s a big difference between ignoring something and knowing when it applies.

    What does that have anything to do with history? I know. Some people can’t count no matter how much book-learning they do. Why teach math? Some people are never going to figure out the subtleties of Cervantes. Why teach literature?

    Cute comments don’t change anything.

    Now I’m getting pissed, so I’m just going to back off and leave it. Then again, if I did that, I might have learned something from my own history. Gee whiz, what a thought.

    But you *didn’t* back off. Your sarcastic comment lost its edge the minute you hit “Submit Comment”. Was it arrogance that led you to submit this post after I was willing to let it drop?

    However, as you’re getting emotional and do wish to pursue this, then let’s do so logically and without emotion.

    Let’s start with a very simple and logical question: Is historical documentation flawless and complete?

    And by that I mean, is it always objective or does it include subjective perspectives? And also by that I mean, does it include every facet that would be required to absolutely avoid repeating it? For example, if I read a history book about some event, will it include an accurate and sufficiently complete accounting of *all* the elements that went into the decisions made (including the personal thoughts and motivations of the decision makers)?

    Ever heard the phrase, “The victorious write the history books”? Ever heard the term “revisionist history”? Ever heard news stories of school textbooks being revised due to inaccuracies deliberately passed on by those who didn’t want some things documented?

    Given those things, does anyone believe that the articles we read on places like Gamasutra about the making of “game x” are unbiased?

    I don’t. The people providing those 20/20 hindsight pieces are, you can be sure, careful in what they communicate. After all, they still have to work and earn a living, don’t they? Just imagine if a producer admitted that a project was late because instead of putting in the hours he was getting addicted to a drug on the side, or having an illicit affair. That kind of honesty would make the news because it’s almost never going to happen.

    Now, if historical documents do *not* provide the kinds of rigorous scientific documentation necessary to treat them with the logic you seem to believe they deserve, then how are humans supposed to avoid repeating mistakes based on intrepreted, biased and often incomplete data?

    They can’t. History is not scientifically rigorous. And *even* if people had the information they needed to make better decisions, my experience is that one failing above all others will lead them to repeat someone else’s mistakes: arrogance. Never fails.

  61. [...] Raph Koster said (here and here) he will announce his new studio soon. I’m not exactly sure where he’s living nowadays (California or Texas?), but this should be interesting to watch. I half expected him to get snatched up by one of the new studios (BioWare Austin, Green Monster Games, etc), but there’s something to be said for being your own boss I do expect to see games where you have to apply a little brainpower. No straight hack-and-slash from Raph. Maybe an MMOBFS (Massively Multiplayer Online Bird Flight Simulator)? [...]

  62. “I sometimes think that nothing really is new; that the first pixels were particles of ochre clay, the bison rendered in just the resolution required. The bison still function perfectly, all these millennia later, and what screen in the world today shall we say that of in a decade? And yet the bison will be there for us, on whatever screens we have, carried out of the primal dark on some impulse we each have felt, as children, drawing. But carried nonetheless on this thing we have always been creating, this vast unlikely mechanism that carries memory in its interstices; this global, communal, prosthetic memory that we have been building since before we learned to build.”

    That’s from William Gibson’s blog, speaking of roots. Can’t find a Neal Stephenson blog, though. (I’m wondering where they hang their virtual hats these days)

  63. And yet you can only say any of that because of your knowledge of history.

    You see a pattern where people who are otherwise intelligent repeat mistakes even though you believe they should know better. You anticipate the future and judge, based on these past patterns, that knowledge of history will not change the arrogance of people.

    Your argument is that because some people are arrogant, there is no point to learning history, because those people won’t get anything from it. Do tell if I got that wrong.

    I never claimed history was a silver bullet. Nothing is. To address your objection, you should be condemning arrogance, not history.

    My claim is this: knowledge of history provides the opportunity to make decisions based on the anticipation of the future. The opportunity. That was what post #43 was about.

    Knowledge can never provide anything but opportunity.

    I’m not dropping it because I don’t think you’re stupid, because I think you agree with me, and because I cannot understand why you’re still disagreeing, and I want to know why you are. And most especially, if I’m wrong, then I’d prefer to know so that I can throw away these big, fat books that I’m now being told are worthless, or at least con people into giving me lots of money for them.

  64. Hi, Raph and Raph’s fans — it’s Miller Copeland of “In The Grid,” who wrote that quote you reference and respond to here. First, thanks for weighing in with your opinion on what I said; and now that I’ve seen it described this way, I think there’s definitely something to what you say about SL’s self-proscribed insularity. And more, I think most SL regulars would end up insulting people more when trying to justify the insularity, lending a lot of credence to the charge you mention of considering SL “exceptional.” For me, I can only answer to what I know; that Second Life is the first graphical computer “game” I’ve “played” with regularity since Galaga in 1983, and that I’m one of many middle-aged people who completely missed the entire console and Windows-heavy online gaming phenomenon. Like I said, now that you’ve put it this way here, I can see how that’s part of the problem; that to make SL more a part of the general conversation, maybe we in SL should go out and explore more systems ourselves.

    A big part of it, of course, is that Linden Lab lets people have a powerful experience for free, as long as they want; not a lot of these other MMORPGs work under such a system. And of course that Second Life embraces Mac owners in a way that most of these other systems don’t; and I’m a lifelong Mac person (a former graphic designer — what a surprise!), who doesn’t necessarily want to give that up if he can help it. Also, as a former professional creative, the idea of a completely open-source universe is a powerful one; I’m just not sure how many of these other systems I’d be able to take for very long, if I wasn’t allowed full control over building my own stuff and running my own entrepreneurial projects.

    I’d be willing to explore more MMO environments, if these things were to come to pass at more of them; or if I could just make some more discretionary income soon, and buy myself a screaming-fast Windows set-up that can actually handle all this gaming software. Maybe if I and other “SL exclusives” can branch out to some other environments, other MMO gamers could start embracing a little more of the SL ethos; and maybe finally we could get an environment with console-style speed and complexity but Second-Life-style user content (a goal I think many of us would like to see; how about it, Multiverse developers?). Thanks again for your thoughts, and for letting me see the subject in a new light.

  65. No mater how “gamey” or “worldly” you make SL, it will always be a subset of the net. Games draw those who wish to play games. They have a built in motivation to seek out and learn the game, even if the controls are extremely difficult.
    But a world tries to entice people with no particular desire other than to mingle and waste time. There is no built in motivational factor. It is why I do not go to SL. What would be the point? Even if it was very, very cool I still have no desire to go.
    When I can create an Avatar on my own computer and use it on multiple “worlds” as I desired and it can be as interactive or non-interactive as I wish, then I may mozy on over to SL to see “who’s hangin out” over there.
    And when I can create a web portal/community space that people can bring their own Avatars to so they can mingle as they desire, then I think the concept of a “virtual web world” may start to form.
    Until then Second Life will be just a game with no purpose to the bulk of the net.

  66. And yet you can only say any of that because of your knowledge of history.

    No. I say that now because of my Personal Experience and Insight, not by reading or studying about someone else’s.

    You see a pattern where people who are otherwise intelligent repeat mistakes even though you believe they should know better. You anticipate the future and judge, based on these past patterns, that knowledge of history will not change the arrogance of people.

    No. I see a pattern where everyone – including myself – falls into the trap of arrogantly assuming that someone else’s mistakes will be avoided because of an assumption that they were lesser individuals or because they didn’t have History to guide them. That’s not based on history. That’s based on us being fallible, imperfect creatures with an occasional tendency to be overly certain of our own abilities.

    Your argument is that because some people are arrogant, there is no point to learning history, because those people won’t get anything from it. Do tell if I got that wrong.

    You got it wrong. I never said there was “no point to learning history”. I’m saying that learning history is not enough.

    Furthermore, whether we fall prey to the same mistakes is often (not always) a measure of how well we deal with our own arrogance… and that applies to all of us. I’m plenty arrogant, but I try very hard not to assume that I’m smarter than the person who came before me and failed. I do that now based on my personal experiences. Instead, I tend to apply my arrogance to those behind me.

    I never claimed history was a silver bullet. Nothing is. To address your objection, you should be condemning arrogance, not history.

    And I wasn’t responding to you in regards to this subject. I started off by responding to someone else who made a claim I considered too far-reaching and presumptious. You then lept in to defend it by effectively arguing that knowing history and applying logic allowed people to avoid mistakes. Recall your assertions:

    1) Studying history provides knowledge of history. 2) Knowledge of history permits comparison between the past and the present. 3) Comparison permits seeing patterns, such that you can anticipate the future based on similar patterns. 4) Anticipating the future provides you with the opportunity to change its course.

    If you do #4, then you are either A) lucky, B) genius, or C) a student of history.

    To #1 – incorrect. Studying history provides a limited knowledge of what has gone before. Not absolute knowledge.

    To #2 – incorrect. Sometimes what we understand and know historically can be used in a comparison. If the information is biased or otherwise flawed or doesn’t sufficiently account for any number of variables, the comparison suffers.

    To #3 – comparison sometimes permits seeing potential patterns. Nothing more.

    To #4 – anticipating the future may or may not provide an opportunity, because any anticipation – especially any prediction based on limited, non-scientifically rigorous historical data – is only a guess.

    My claim is this: knowledge of history provides the opportunity to make decisions based on the anticipation of the future. The opportunity. That was what post #43 was about.

    Opportunity is not a guarantee. You seem to believe that by studying history one can avoid repeating the mistakes of those who have come before; to seize an opportunity and be successful. Recall your: a) lucky, b) genius, c) student of history. You somehow forgot d) failure. Because you neglected to consider that there even *is* a d), you’re saying that this “opportunity” always leads to success, thus you’re showing signs of arrogance. Welcome to the club.

    Knowledge can never provide anything but opportunity.

    Again, that includes the opportunity to fail. Knowledge that a bird flaps its wings X beats/minute led plenty of early aerospace engineers (one of my professional fields) to their death by mimic’ing them. By breaking from established convention, humans solved the problem of flight. Had they followed your guidance, we’d either still be trying to mimic birds and fly by flapping or would have concluded – as many did – that humans were not destined to fly.

    I’m not dropping it because I don’t think you’re stupid

    I try not to be. I’m not always successful.

    because I think you agree with me

    No. I don’t.

    and because I cannot understand why you’re still disagreeing, and I want to know why you are.

    And I cannot understand why someone who would apply logic to this situation would *not* carry it further and thus realize that there is no such thing as a perfect understanding of history. And that’s what you’re suggesting.

    I don’t even understand some of what I do. How on earth can I ever get into the head of some historical figure, which is only part of what I’d likely need to avoid making the same mistakes under the same circumstances? How can anyone presume to think that they can fully put themselves into the place of someone else? That requires a level of arrogance even I don’t possess.

    And most especially, if I’m wrong, then I’d prefer to know so that I can throw away these big, fat books that I’m now being told are worthless, or at least con people into giving me lots of money for them.

    Once again you’re drawing conclusions that seem odd to me. I never said knowledge of history is “worthless”. I said assuming that studying history ensures us that we don’t repeat its mistakes, is a fallacy. We cannot have a perfect knowledge of history because our understanding of historical events varies in accuracy and relevance, and because historical events are not always accurately recorded.

    Consequently, one can only look to history as an imperfect guide and attempt to apply it judiciously… as Prok is apparently doing. Nothing more. And one can only guess at the future based on that imperfect guide. How well one adapts what is understood of what occurred previously to the almost certainly different circumstances ahead, will determine success or failure.

  67. you’re saying that this “opportunity” always leads to success

    At least now I know why you were disagreeing with me. You’ll see that you do not only agree with me, but agree with me perfectly, once you stop putting extra words in my sentences and interpreting me into extremes. I can hardly fault you for this, since I have a tendency to do it, too.

  68. You’ll see that you do not only agree with me, but agree with me perfectly, once you stop putting extra words in my sentences and interpreting me into extremes.

    That’s an extraordinarily arrogant comment, Michael. Congratulations on proving my point.

  69. It’s great to see someone else taking on csven and getting the csven treatment, so that we can all see it’s not just my problem : )

  70. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t attend a concert or play put on by other players, or purchase items for my home from other players, or go on a nature hike with a bunch of friends avatars. Those things happen all the time in the “game” worlds too – they’re not unique to SL.

    Well, yes, David, I’ll have to take your word for it, but I just have never seen this happen and when I watch others playing WoW, they aren’t goofing around, listening to concerts or taking hikes. I think of all the people I know doing these games and discussing them, only Zero Grace (Tony Walsh) seems to do wierd stuff like just hike around WoW and look at it. I’ve tried it myself, but it’s hard, because you’re always feeling this pull, that you should be fighting, leveling.

    I realize that the games Raph made had this berry-picking stuff. But frankly, hey, I know when I’m being put on the slower girls’ baseball team and when I’m not put at the Big People’s table. I know that if I’m on the berry track, I’m lame. That’s been abundantly clear. You can pat me on the head, but I know I’m on the feebs and choads list.

    Yes, a seamless experience matters, because that audience isn’t tolerant of having giant penises pop up next to them for no reason. Yes, rewarding people regularly matters because nobody likes feeling stupid. Yes, guiding users matters because people who are confused walk away from things. Yes, instant enjoyability matters, because you lose people who find tasks onerous. People quit jobs because they are onerous, put parents in assisted care, walk away from their loved ones — mere Second Lives fall far lower down the scale than those things.

    Raph, the miracle of Second Life, if I could put it that way without getting another whallop for being starry-eyed, is that even when the giant penis materializes in your community sandbox (yecth I had like 10 of them the other day, and set on physics and flexi prims and operated by 2 griefing script kiddies)– you somehow just keep going because it’s a footnote. The first member of our group called SimArts in the Sims Online who came to SL got the giant ramming penis treatment near the entrance gate, and got called names, but he still came back a month later and today is one of the main architects and content-creators. If ever there is a place that makes you feel stupid, it is the SL user interface, yes. Imagine, I owned an entire sim, before I found this thingie on the panel finally that actually showed my land listed so that if I needed to teleport to it I could. Once I bought some land and couldn’t remember where it was and had no idea how I’d ever find it again, and actually went for days not knowing about this obscure pulldown from a pulldown from somewhere — it’s really got a lot of under-the-hood type skirts showing that really, don’t need to show. (Like…I’m going to know what debugging is and want to change my avatar vertex — whatever that is lol — must be something abuot turning — if I’m not a total geek?)

    But again…a footnote. It’s not the center of gravity. I also came to SL and then left for a year, it was too hard to fit in and figure out what to do.I guess I see a fair amount of that, frankly, people exist for 3-6-9 months. I realize that it’s not a solution for you. But obviously you’re the kind of guy who just makes your own game rather than wait around for everybody else to get theirs seamless : )

    What I always say about SL is that it is good *enough*. Tekkies and geek types especially have huge demands on it. I’m easy. If the avatar footsteps don’t have shadows or the prims rubber band when being torqued, ok, well, fix it when you can, I’m good.

  71. On the blog map, I guess it’s no accident, comrade, you have placed yourself at the center or near-center, Raph : )

    I find the SL corner of it shockingly underreported. Where’s the Herald, for God’s sake??? Virtual Suburbia? Slatenight? Planet SL?

    and for that matter, how were you drawing the ganglia leading from and to the various neurons or whatever — for example http://www.3pointd.com isn’t even on there. Perhaps it seems not gamey enough, though Mark Wallace writes about all games, mainly Eve Online and SL. He writes for The Escapist, too. So would that qualify to put a ganglia then roping in SL closer to the Escapist?

    It’s hard to judge this map unless you are a totally immersed gamer and could know and understand all those publications and their distinctions.

  72. You can try putting together your own map — I’d love to see an SL one. But part of the reason why the SL stuff is underrepresented is because I had a threshold for minimum number of incoming links, and a lot of the SL stuff fell under that limit. When I set it low, the rest of the map got too cluttered. An SL-centric map wouldn’t have that problem, though.

    As far as me being near the center — the arrangement of where the nodes sit is based on how connected they are. I didn’t pick the center, I landed there. I did start with this site, which pushes me closer to the center, but I added dozens of “central” nodes.

  73. Well, Raph, I don’t dispute your place as the Sun God Ra at the center of the gaming and world metaverse. You *are* the Sun God Ra at the center of the gaming and world universe. Still, in our dark mal-worlds, we do have more points of light than you have described. Your threshold thing seems wierd — what, a social software mapping thingie that can’t show more connections? Huh? And…there is the question that you decided to describe the world, made the links, and then you naturally fit near the center lol.

    TBH, I don’t think I could wrestle with and learn that software you are using so quickly, nor have some huge take on the gaming/world ‘verses to be able to be the best chronicler of this — I’m just pointing out an underdeveloped corner.

  74. Well, give me the URLs for five or so key SL sites, and I can easily do a map for SL.

    The threshold value works like this: there’s actually hundreds of nodes on the graph, but if you show all of them, it gets to be very hard to “read.” So you set a threshold of only mapping the nodes that have at least 5 incoming links, or 3, or whatever. This drops off the least popular and least visited nodes, so you can see the “skeleton.” It doesn’t make those nodes less important — there are actually far far more of them, and their readers in aggregate often exceed the number of folks in the high-value nodes. But each one is like a small dirt road compared to the “highway map” that I did.

    As far as my centrality, check this list: http://www.virginworlds.com/pg.php?n=4836

    For better or worse, lots of stuff points here.

  75. [...] Suddenly, all that time Raph has been labouring talking to gamers and Infamous Antagonists on his blog seems to make sense — if a new and different thing and better thing will come out of it. An interesting discussion on whether games or worlds are better is going on here. [...]

  76. Excellent article, as someone who has been involved in online games since the late 80’s, spent significant time in several of the MU* that you listed, started graphically with Meridian 59, and have looked at every MMO out I feel like I have finally read an article on SL from someone who, to cop a phrase, “gets it”.

    And I hate to get off topic like this, but Prokofy, do you do anything besides write about SL? You post more on the subject, and I’m willing to bet have written more on the game than Linden Lab itself. While I’m not going to get into a copy and paste session of your statements it seems quite obvious that you do indeed have SL tunnel vision. There were virtual worlds LONG before SL, and there will be virtual worlds long after SL closes down. How can anyone who drones on and on about the virtues of the virtual who has never heard of LambdaMOO be taken seriously? I mean seriously! You seem like the type who must always champion some cause, and you have chosen SL, in a world such as ours its sad that you devote so much energy to rooting out the evils of a game.

    I look forward to Raph’s upcoming project, and will be one of the first in line to get in, here is hoping its soon.

  77. I sure do write more on Second Life than Linden Lab, that’s not hard to do, they hardly have anything on their official corporate website, perhaps one white paper from Cory Ondrejka. They do write more on their Blob, as we call it, but never really anything that much thinky and meta. So I think it’s a job that must be done, and I wish I had more company doing it.

    And yes, I do lots of other things in RL other than write about SL and write about others things, but that’s not relevant.

    It’s fine if you view me as having SL tunnel vision; I think even if true, it’s a very good corrective to the tunnel vision you all have on games : )

    I don’t think there has ever been anything like SL, sorry. And I don’t say that as a fanboy. I’ve been in TSO, ATITD, World of Warcraft, etc. They are all closed systems. SL is synthetic, but an open system. No comparison.

    I don’t feel it necessary to have to trump game boards with RL stuff but hey, I have definitely done the causes in real life and still do them lol. You have no idea. And — it doesn’t matter, because to me, the most loathsome thing people can do on games forums is try to trump someone else with RL cards, or make them reveal their RL, or tell them they have “no life” or are off their meds, etc. I dunno, google witch-hunt me or something?

    SL is a very important thing to be thinking about and writing — the issues are beyond gaming, frankly.

    There must be something I’m not getting about this blog map.

    Example: these two sites are missing:

    http://www.3pointd.com
    http://www.clickableculture.com

    If you can put http://www.gamegirladvance.com on, why not http://www.clickableculture.com

    This reminds me of one of those long family tree charts in Rolling Stone about which rock group influenced with rock group, and then everybody forgets to put on John Cippolina

    Start with this one:

    http://planet.worldofsl.com/

    I will try to get the betters ones listed later.

  78. “It’s fine if you view me as having SL tunnel vision; I think even if true, it’s a very good corrective to the tunnel vision you all have on games : )”

    So having a broad background in online games is bad, being able to look at the bigger picture in terms of a games place in the history of online games, not good. SL-vision is good. I see.

    “I don’t think there has ever been anything like SL, sorry.”

    That says it all right there and basically is what Raph was saying about the “cultural gap”. LL strapped havok onto MUSH/MOO code, thats is all. And there are other systems out there that are doing the same thing, they just do not have the Hype Factory churning out the bile.

  79. Just as perspective of one of the 20 million or so professional software developers in the real world, in terms of the difference in value. Creating a text based game/world, a MUD or a MOO, Diku or LambadaMOO, would be a weekend project, maybe a week if one slacks, for most of us. And that sort of thing is often mid level college coursework for computer science students. Whereas a 3D world where you can have x thousands of avatars that are completely unique, much less a viable real dollars economy surrounding that and the virtual real estate market, much less allowing scripting in a singular world, much less allowing citizens to stream audio dynamically, much less map travel, event lists, most popular destinations, etc etc… well, I for one would have no idea where to even begin with that concept.

    So pardon me for laughing when I read SL is basically LambadaMOO. I can’t imagine how jaded one has to be to devalue the art so much by making that statement.

    You can say Active Worlds is an ancestor of SL, though. It is a great product and has been around for 10 years or so now, a publicly traded company. Even so, LL has progressed remarkably the state of the art and thus deserves much of the hype. Still, LL is likely the EQ of purebred VWs, where AW is probably the M59. We shall see if Raph’s new “thingie” can be the WoW, and I think it can, because it is the right idea at the right time. Even that lofty accomplishment, however, would be well short of the potential of this industry.

    *shrug* I guess if you’re a professional 3D artist you could have the exact opposite perspective. :)

  80. OK, to start with, I assure you that a full-blown MUD or MOO is significantly more than a weekend’s work for even the most badass professional developer. You can get the basics up and running, but you’re minimizing how large and complex they were even ten years ago. Quite a lot of the tech you list as needed for SL is in fact in mud codebases.

    (In fact, ActiveWorlds is a less complex codebase in many ways than some of the mud codebases).

    No, it’s not fair to say that SL is just Havok on top of MOO. There’s significant innovation above and beyond that.

  81. When people try to push the Kool-Aid of all the MUD-type of games as being like SL, and being proof that “nothing has been like SL,” they really are stretching their points way past the breaking point.

    It’s like saying The Sims Online is a great social game that is part of the Metaverse. You can say, uh, ok, but it’s 2-D. It has no user-made content. It has very hobbling game constraints like having to go to the bathroom and feed yourself all the time and make money to prevent death, etc.

    So TSO is nothing like SL at the end of the day — they only superficially bear some family resemblance. SL has user-made content, no game constraints, etc.

    The idea that family resemblances should not only establish paternity and direct lineage, but also be invoked to maintain patriarchy just doesn’t wash with me : )

    Sure, all the things that came before are like SL, but SL is quantitatively and qualitatively different. For those bent on clinging to their MUDs or wargames, of course it seems the same or even worse. That’s fine. Any objective study of the features and field testing will undo these prejudices. If they don’t, they are probably deeplly ingrained.

    Active Worlds is an ancestor of

    All of you are like saying, in a way, that Neandrathals and apes are ancestors of human beings as we know them today.

    Yes, you can trace a line, especially if you are an evolutionist.

    So?

    Yes, those who are saying “SL is basically LamdaMOO are basically pretty silly, looking only at some basic characteristics and not other issues of scale and quality. You can say human beings are apes. You can say even that they are only $23 worth of carbon and other chemicals in a bottle. Or you can say there is something pretty different and amazing about creatures that can talk and think and affect their world far beyond what apes or a glass of chemicals can do.

    I sincerely hope that Raph doesn’t try to make Just Another Wargame like WoW and also falls into the spell of Gigantism.

    There is something to be said for allowing a world to be smaller and grow more slowly like Eve Online or even SL.

  82. Sure, all the things that came before are like SL, but SL is quantitatively and qualitatively different.

    True, but WoW is quantitatively and qualitatively different from DAoC, which was different from EQ, which was different from the oodles of DikuMUDs. And yes, I do mean “to a significant degree”. They should each receive special treatment, too, yes? (They used to get it, too, but their time (aside from WoW) seems to have passed.) I mean, I guess if you don’t care about those particular distinctions, then it’s easy to dismiss their existence and lump them away.

    Similarities are as important as differences. That’s why we can talk about game worlds using that term. Second Life is special, but the irony of this is that it’s special in the same way World of Warcraft is special: it’s bigger than its predecessors, it’s in the mainstream press, and it has a large enough userbase where the cashflow begins to matter to the mainstream (i.e., the IRS).

    Shall we call them adolescent worlds?

  83. I can’t get over the idea that most MMOs are all basically the same, and SL is different to them. It may be that they’re all different and unique, it may also be that they’re all exactly the same at some nuts and bolts level, but I do think that the just-below-the-surface ideas of SL versus other MMOs is on a different part of the map. It’s why I see a link map like this and think of course the mainstream style MMOs are hugely linked up- you make a site about MMOs you put in WoW, Eve, CoX, EQ etc, you don’t think “Oh and SL.” Because up until the hype gorilla broke out of the zoo, nobody cared about some dumb glorified chat client full of saddoes. The people are different. I have friends who choose EQ2 or WoW, based on some nuance or mechanic or because of other friends and wanting to whack rats/dragons with their established group- the same way they choose a Ford or a Peugeot car. The people in SL aren’t looking for a car at all.

    I think the MMO sphere is pretty well entrenched in general computer gaming spheres, SL isn’t. Why else do all these “gamers” show up in SL and get frustrated and leave, because they can’t cope with complete “contingency”, they need a theme park with rats here, orcs there, making leather bags over next to that. You give them the power to create and they blink, or call it gay and shoot some people in order to find some kind of game to play.

    SL is like the lonely kid at nerd school that the other nerd jocks and heathers sneer at for being standoffish and aloof, but it’s mostly because it won’t wear the same preppy clothes and listen to the same music as the rest of the mob. I know that doesn’t apply down to the level of the users themselves- as cliquey, drama prone, shallow and socially competetive a bunch as you’ll find anywhere, but at the overall level, it seems to be like that.

  84. The very fact that you can call them all MMOs means that they have a significant level of similarity. That similarity is in part the definition of an MMO. The parts that aren’t are the places innovation can explore.

    Think of it this way. We have a really large bucket labelled MMO and we can dump all of these things into the bucket. That’s useful when we’re comparing them to other buckets, like the Casual Game bucket or the Interactive Fiction bucket.

    But it’s not useful when one of the items is World of Warcraft and another item is Second Life. So we don’t talk about MMOs; we talk about finer distinctions, like “game worlds” and “social worlds”.

    If you’re a gamer, you probably won’t find much appeal in the social world bucket, but you might find lots of interesting stuff in the game world bucket. So interesting that you want to have lots of smaller buckets, like Diku-derived, space opera, skill-based, forced grouping. It would be unfair, however, for a gamer to write off all social worlds just because they’re in a different bucket, even if they might likewise write off skill-based games, because they like class-based or hybrid ones.

    But if you’re interested in the social world bucket, then you might find lots of interesting distinctions there, too, like significant RMT, object oriented design, user-generated content, inter-user interaction. It would likewise be unfair for a social world enthusiast to write off game worlds, just because they’re in a different bucket. I’m biased, I know, because my background was in games, even though I have never tried out a graphical MMO aside from Second Life.

    The differences between Second Life and other social worlds is important. They’re important because there are similarities. The similarities need to be acknowledged in order for the differences to matter. Some of the differences are good; some of them are bad; some of them… not so sure about. :D Similarities are context for differences; predictable patterns are context for disruptive changes.

    Oh… and I hope you’re wrong about the gamers, because it suggests that, for those of us who want to change the game industry, there is no hope. And I like hope. I really like hope.

  85. [...] Previous 20 Вт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:41 yettergjart: Давно мы фигнёй не занимались Your Birthdate: July 31You don’t love lightly. For you, love is always a serious undertaking.However, you are able to love many types of people. You can bring out the best in almost anyone.Love surprises you often. You never know when or where you’ll find it next.Number of True Loves You’ll Have: 2Number of Times You’ll Have Your Heart Broken: 1You are most compatible with people born on the 4th, 13th, 22nd, and 31st of the month.What Does Your Birth Date Mean For Your Love Life?via opposto Tags: фигня ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 00:37 iten: Мне бы в небо. После воскресного разговора мне запала в голову одна мысль, от которой я никак не могу освободиться. Pigbig сказала о конкретном человеке, о том, что этот человек пытался «прыгнуть» в другой социальный класс, но не довёл дело до конца, не смог. Я слушал и думал о себе: о том, к какой страте я принадлежу, о том, был ли у меня такой прыжок. О родителях я уже писал – у них было образование, но их жизнь совершенно не была связана с академической средой или чем-то подобным. Получается, что я, отучившись в университете и аспирантуре, связавшись с работой в университете, вроде как поднялся на социальном лифте немного повыше. Хотя это моё ощущение можно вполне оспорить: в нынешнем обществе столько разных систем иерархий, что мой путь наверх вполне может быть сведён к нулю, в силу невозможности сравнить позиции. Опять же, этот мой путь не был продуманным шагом: я получил образование, а потом устроился на работу в соответствии с квалификацией, не думая при этом о том, что так я приобретаю какой-то неведомый статус или избавляюсь от «проклятия» социального происхождения. Правда, мне иногда приятно было думать о том, что я поступил в университет, а некоторые из тех, с кем я учился в школе, не поступили и, в полном соответствии с законом социальной преемственности, отправились, допустим, на завод. Всё же я могу сказать, что мой статус стал немного выше, мои занятия более интеллектуальны, диапазон разговора шире. Однако, вот что меня заботит: насколько я действительно вписан в ту среду, в которой я сейчас нахожусь, насколько я согласен примерить на себя какие-то достижительные маркеры, вроде «защиты диссертации», насколько я не плебей? Я ведь чувствую собственную планку, чувствую отсутствие того, что можно обозначить тривиальной метафорой английского газона, за которым ухаживали целую кучу лет: я вырос среди книг, но это скорее случайность, чем закономерность, и я не являюсь результатом тщательного воспитания в определённом духе. Может, я тоже плохо и неудачно прыгнул? Для меня это очень интересный вопрос: однажды, в компании, мы спорили до крика о том, может ли человек преодолеть ту социальную среду, в которой он вырос. Музыка: Дэвид Боуи Jump, they say ссылка Оставить комментарий | 1 комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:25 a_k_e_l_a: Тоскливое Иногда очень хочется свернуться калачиком у кого-нибудь на коленях. Чтобы гладили по головке, перебирали спутанные волосы на затылке и нежно шептали на ушко, что меня любят и что все обязательно будет хорошо. И пообещали купить петушка на палочке. Осталось найти такие невъебенные колени, на которых я бы поместилась.Нет в жизни совершенства.ссылка Оставить комментарий | 2 комментарияВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 00:27 d_a_p: Aerae Интересный пост о SL и похожих разработках.Анализ интернетных сообществ с точки зрения разработчика.( Автор поста Raph Koster сам недавно открыл Start-Up Aerae)Особенно мне понравился вот этот граф расползания новостей по блогам :) Tags: nosup, sl ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:21 yettergjart: Оправдание рутины Обменявшись с aletehia репликами о свободе и рутине (http://yettergjart.livejournal.com/156798.html?thread=1630334#t1630334 ), я подумала о том, что только недавно – на своём сорок втором году – начала как следует чувствовать огромный освобождающий потенциал так называемой «рутины»: повторяющегося, автоматического… Устойчивого и защищающего в мире вообще так мало, что по-настоящему перевести дух можно только внутри того, что делается и повторяется якобы “само собой”. И ДУМАЕТСЯ в этом – причём о самых общих и отвлечённых вещах – великолепно. «Рутина» прекрасно освобождает нас от всего, что не-она, – надевает на нас эдакий защитный футляр. Именно внутри такой защитной конструкции и разворачивается самое разнузданное внутреннее разнообразие!! Честное слово.На самом деле удивительно, как с течением времени начинает восприниматься в качестве надёжного источника свободы то, что в начале жизни ничем, кроме окаянного закрепощения, не казалось. Рутина. Работа. Жёсткое расписание. Сидение дома (в противоположность (а) странствиям, (б) хождением по гостям и вообще (в) разговорам. Тот же возраст. А сегодня у меня очень остро и ясно переживалась мысль об освобождающем потенциале – самом, наверно, большом и надёжном из освобождающих потенциалов – неизбежной смерти. Tags: выращивание свободы, из разговоров с френдами, оправдания ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 00:25 eigi: Пеку рождественские пирожные. Опять начался мой крестный глазурный путь.ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:19 jekfat: Новое слово Мой коллега – шеф-редактор детской программы – сегодня заметил, что у нас в стране с детьми работают либо педофилы, либо педофобы.Второй термин пришелся по вкусу многим, работающим с детьми на ТВ. Tags: ТВ, дети, работаCurrent Location: Москва, дом ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:26 another_kashin: Из переписки с читателями ссылка Оставить комментарий | 7 комментариевВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:20 francinemarine: Три слова ( Original Soundtrack Shrek ) Настроение: indifferent Музыка: Rufus Wainwright Hallelujah ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:13 alexclear: Макс, с днем рождения!ссылка Оставить комментарий | 2 комментарияВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:14 yettergjart: О незащищённости …чувствую я, человек вообще – новичок в мире, сколько бы ни прожил. Ох как прав поэтому мой френд nemo_ru, сказавший недавно (http://yettergjart.livejournal.com/155935.html?thread=1628959#t1628959 ), что в опыте есть что-то успокоительное. Есть, конечно: всякий опыт (глубоко и неизбежно случайный по самой своей природе) создаёт нам видимость опор, видимость надёжности – видимость очевидности. Tags: из разговоров с френдами, экзистенциальное ссылка Оставить комментарийВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 01:03 sali_revised: пока привезут макароны Первое место уже больше года таки удерживает комбинация циниковские чесночные гренки + Массандра. За второе готов поспорить альянс щупалец осьминога с Джеком Дэниэлсом. Единственное, что обидно — как бы ни стремился к культурному росту, а все равно идти за активированным углем.ссылка Оставить комментарий | 2 комментарияВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 00:53 im_foto: Ещё немного и слово “контакт” исчезнетбудет: индекс-принтв 70_ые Ральф Гибсон издал книгу “Контакты”, где на разворотах слева на вылет были контакты, а справа Фотографии, можно было следить за “мыслью” и почерком, почти сотни ФотографовЕсть контакты (или вернее негативы) с которыми не работалиа выбросить вроде жальСССР, Москва 1985(м.б. 1986) “Коррозия Металла”: Паук, Сакс, Боров и др.(+ Миша Молочников!) Tags: архив, рок ссылка Оставить комментарий | 2 комментарияВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 00:55 alexclear: В комментарияхЛОХИ И НИЩЕБРОДЫ.ссылку надыбал на топе blogs.yandex.ruссылка Оставить комментарий | 14 комментариевВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 00:19 a_k_e_l_a: О работе и государстве Во-первых, о работе. Нахамила шефу. И не терзають меня совести угрызения. Вот совсем и не терзають. Дело было так – в очередной раз заученным и заунывным тоном поинтересовалась у начальства, а как, собственно, обстоят дела с перерегистрацией любимой организации (ебись она конем!). Дела, разумеется, не обстояли никак, как, впрочем, и 1,5 года назад. И тут шеф выдает фразу на-гора:- А когда, собственно, ты сможешь подключиться к процессу полноценно, а не сидя дома?- ??????- Ну, когда ты сможешь выезжать? (Интересно, ребенка, подразумевается, я должна таскать с собой или куда его девать?)- А какой процесс ты имеешь в виду?- Ну… перерегистрацию.Стервенею. Все понятно – в очередной раз пытаемся спихнуть свои обязанности на меня.- Вообще-то, перерегистрация организации не входит в обязанности главного бухгалтера.- Не входит.- Впрочем, я готова хоть сейчас. Но – за дополнительную плату.В ответ – тишина и озадаченный шефов взор, полный бессильной ярости. И нехуй! ( Во-вторых, о государстве. ) Tags: Политика ссылка Оставить комментарий | 6 комментариевВт, 19 Дек, 2006, 03:46 samir74: Москали сегодня акцию провели на Мете – человек 15 новых голосов голоснуло, потоки ругани, все такое. Закидали мету антиукраинскими, антирумынскими и антисибирскими агитками.Эта ночь – черная луна, наибольшая активность сил зла. Так что неудивительно, что бесы в них именно сегодня так забегали, и их на очередное сатанинское дело потянуло.ссылка Оставить комментарий | 5 комментариевПн, 18 Дек, 2006, 15:46 piony: [...]

  86. [...] умные тексты. Ударение на слове длинные :)(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread) egmg 2006-12-18 10:38 pm UTC (link) 2ое и 3ье не существенно, носложнее. Я не слышала про не-резидентов.(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread) d_a_p 2006-12-18 10:46 pm UTC (link) Да, с Магистерской быстро неесть Латвийское гр-во тоже, это что то меняет ?(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread) egmg 2006-12-18 10:51 pm UTC (link) ну просто на магистрантов,вариант. Ну или искать где-то самому грант.(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread) d_a_p 2006-12-18 11:01 pm UTC (link) Ясно, здесь та же петрушкаto this) (Parent) (Thread) egmg 2006-12-18 11:04 pm UTC (link) мне жаль, я бы Вас приняла сto this) (Parent) (Thread) d_a_p 2006-12-18 11:08 pm UTC (link) Ну хорошо, буду считать себясильно в жизни помогает, но чем-то приятно :)(Reply to this) (Parent) d_a_p 2006-12-18 11:11 pm UTC (link) Думаю, Вам надо сюдаstudying aspects.http://www.raphkoster.com/2006/12/13/the-sl-cultural-gap/#more-869(Reply to this) (Parent) (Read comments)- [...]

  87. I’m probably making a mistake by piping in, but can’t resist stating the following:

    1. This discussion sounds like a worldy VW vs a gamey VW discussion, except now it’s about next gen MUDs vs MOOs.

    2. Richard Bartle may drive by and comment that conceptually this has been discussed and perhaps resolved intellectually in the MUD-DEV.

    3. I’m starting the “Guess Areae Game” by stating that Raph’s new venture will slience the issue. There is a continuum in terms of the degree in which the operators of the VW allow users to impact the VW. Raph’s new project will likely to be both worldy, gamey, and USERY (hah, a new term). We may see WoW, SL, ATITD, Eve, etc. as amazingly different, in a class of its own. However, I would guess that conceptually Raph and the Areae team probably.

    For example, I can argue that SL is just a 3D extension of the web page. From this perspective, it’s not surprising that PORN is one of the first adopters of this extension. The other groups for first adopters are academics, builders and companies. Not surprising there too. The statement that “the Client is the Browser” may ring hollow now, but I see that as a natural progression and I predict that Areae will advance this.

    I’m predicting that Raph is combining beardy, gamey, worldy, and USERY. He has state before that conceptually he see the platform layer in which worlds can be build on. Games and other user-impactful content can then populate the worlds.

    Moreover, I don’t think he is blind to the advancements of the Web 2.0 principles, the direction of Asian online evolution, the unique Japanese focus on consumer products (a legacy of the Nintendo and Sony models), etc.

    Lastly, I don’t think he’s blind to what’s going on in the console universe from both the user and developer level. There are a lot of interesting things going on at the developer-side in this world that could be of interest in this dicussion.

    Frank

  88. [...] Amid the increasing chatter as to whether Second Life is hype or substance, the centrally satisfying aspect (at least to me) is that it’s worthy of debate by smart folks. As the service signs up resident #2,000,000 (w/ likely 500,000 of those active users), here are a few thoughts on the press, SL’s growth and its future.1) Hype can either be the result of willful misleading disinformation or expectation outstripping reality. Second Life is a firm case of the latter. A reporter listens to Philip’s vision, sees examples of some really amazing stuff in world and gets excited about the possibility. People are hopeful, they love the idea of a user-created world filled with meaning. They imagine what they would do in such a space. They write a glowing article. But what they describe isn’t always what SL is today, it’s what they imagine it could be. No different from its residents, whom i’d suggest are 20% there for what SL is today, 80% for what it could become.2) The press cycle is being driven by folks outside of SL. Bloggers, companies, media are the ones driving this story, not Second Life. Well, with the exception that Philip seems to really like speaking at conferences. That being said, I think SL hasn’t managed their messaging optimally and have been too willing to sell into the froth. Philip needs to add this statement to every interview and speech he does:”The growth is really exciting but Second Life is a hundred year project to build a virtual world.”This perspective and sense of timeline would give a needed credibility boost to the nature of this project. And it’s not inconsistent with how other CEOs handle similar situations. Eric Schmidt at Google has said it will take 300 years for Google to accomplish its mission. It sounds noble and cognizant of the challenges which remain. A humble stroke that Linden’s press sometimes leaves out.Oh yeah, and stop the “walk your avatar to the virtual Amazon store” idea. It reminds me of the folks who suggest the avatar should walk to the mailbox to pick up email.3) Fix the search and UI. Two of the most important aspects of the user experience – the UI and search – are just begging for revamping. You could probably double retention rates if these were improved. The UI was originally designed by James Cook, one of the smartest folks I know, but its crying out for a wholesale rethink.4) N+1. I used to tell Philip we needed to design for the N+1 user — what could we do to the product which would continue expanding the reach. While the world has certainly grown, at times it would appear that the team is still developing for the same user type, believing more and more average consumers will evolve to demonstrate those characteristics.Raph Koster had an interesting post on the SL cultural gap which reflects how SL doesn’t listen so much to ideas from outside of its world. In some ways this is what has allowed SL to be successful – if Philip, Cory and others had listened to all the skeptics in 2000-2004 SL would have evolved into something like 3d parlor games accompanied by avatar chat. As a strong-willed founder who believes in his vision, Philip is going to follow the path he believes in right. And the degree to which it is correct will always be the greatest determining factor in SL’s success.Labels: secondlife [...]

  89. Richard Bartle may drive by and comment that conceptually this has been discussed and perhaps resolved intellectually in the MUD-DEV.

    Where did you think I got my arguments? :P I’m still owed either 20 bucks or that CD with the talks on it. I want to hear John Arras’ MDC talk, dang it. All I have is a bunch of indecipherable LISP code on a piece of paper. Even a transcript would be acceptable.

  90. Building worlds is not the same as being able to build *within* worlds. I hope to see more of the latter in the future, not so much “modding/engine tools” if that makes sense. This spontaneous asset creation ability is something that sets SL apart from most, and being able to roll your own static world isn’t the same thing. I guess I’d like to see more poetry forums on the internet, than I would tools for people to make their own static poetry pages, to go with a web analogy- giving a soapbox to everyone is great, but giving people a space for conversation and collaboration is even better to me. I don’t know how that relates to Areae, we’ll all see that when it happens.

  91. [...] Долбозлобъ (d_a_p) wrote,@ 2006-12-19 00:27:00      Aerae Интересный пост о SL и похожих разработках.Анализ интернетных сообществ с точки зрения разработчика.( Автор поста Raph Koster сам недавно открыл Start-Up Aerae)Особенно мне понравился вот этот граф расползания новостей по блогам :)(Read comments)Post a comment in response: From:Anonymous OpenID Identity URL:  Log in?  LiveJournal user Username:Password:Log in?  Subject: [...]

  92. [...] Link | Leave a comment | Add to MemoriesRandom linkiesDec. 23rd, 2006 | 08:36 pmposted by: _mikeAwesome graph at Yglesias’s. Agree, disagree, ignore his commentary, it doesn’t matter; but it is the quintessential political graph.Raph Koster griping about Second Life’s insularity (from TN). One of the reasons I don’t read TN as much as I ought is the interminable tiresome debate about just how different SL is from everything else that’s ever happened ever–for a while Richard Bartle would lay the “we resolved that one ten years ago on MUD-DEV” smackdown on anyone who didn’t show enough history, but he’s apparently distracted or gotten bored of that one.And… oh, yeah: on the MMO shop talk front, Three Rings is getting new office space, which is damned neat. Dunno how effective it actually is as a space to work in, but it’s fun to look at, at least. (and they’ve got a flagship product and associated theme, which makes it easier. to say nothing of whole-heartedly embracing schtick.)Tags: games, mmo, politics [...]

  93. [...] This guy was a loser because he didn’t mystically know which ‘essential’ add-ons make the game usable. At this point, it seems useful to point out Raph’s post where he essentially described those who talk about Second Life as insular and detached from reality. [...]

  94. [...] This guy was a loser because he didn’t mystically know which ‘essential’ add-ons make the game usable. At this point, it seems useful to point out Raph’s post where he essentially described those who talk about Second Life as insular and detached from reality. [...]

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