Recent News

 Posted by (Visited 8902 times)  Game talk, Music, Watching
Jul 042002

A minor update: four new Snippets under the Gaming section.

I’ve been reading a lot on scale-free networks, and been talking about them with Patricia Pizer and Will Wright among others. Sometime very soon, I think an essay on their applicability to online world design (and marketing!) will emerge.

I got my DVD of Avatars Offline. You can order it from the official site.

I’m going to be at SIGGRAPH for the first time this year, on a panel with Lorne Lanning, Will Wright, Scott Miller, Warren Spector, and Jason Della Rocca. The description reads:

The Fate of Play: Game Industry Revolutionaries Speak Out

Tuesday, 23 July
12:30 – 2:15 pm
Ballroom A

Prominent members of the International Game Developers Association investigate and discuss the direction of the game industry and how interactive entertainment will influence our future. This panel of game-industry revolutionaries explores how game design, character development, online connectivity, business models, and social and cultural implications all weave together with advances in technology to power the industry.

I am also going to be doing part of a workshop at the University of Texas. Other people involved include Richard garriott, Rich Vogel, Starr Long, Warren Spector, Carly Staehlin, Bryan Walker, Jay Lee, Tim Fields, Bill Randolph, and Rick Hall.

In other news, got about half a new CD done. Been writing as usual for both writing workshops, and am now trying to read Locus Online daily to keep up with the SF/F writing world.

GDC round-up

 Posted by (Visited 9228 times)  Game talk
Mar 312002

I’ve posted the slides for the two lectures I gave with Rich Vogel at GDC 2002. They’re under Gaming/Essays, or just click here:

I’m waiting to hear back from Gordon Walton for posting the slides from the tutorial we did. If you want to read coverage of the panel or other online world stuff, here’s some links:

What was the panel like? Well, the audio snippet Joystick101 has is almost incomprehensible, so here’s a transcript of that bit:

Question: How do you make it so that if other people want to start playing in that, either it works out, or it’s a good story, or… what do you do?

Gordon Walton, panel moderator, exec producer The Sims Online, former Tyrant of UO: I want to paraphrase this, let me paraphrase this. What are we going to do when these unwashed people actually start, you know, putting stuff in front of us and you know, spoil our beautifully crafted world to hell. But uh, so that’s the paraphrase, the one paraphrase. The other is, how are we going to get over the 99% of everything that’s crap. Right? So that’s a real problem, if 99% of everything is crap, and most people, you know, have the desire to be creative, but most of them don’t have the actual skill to be creative. It’s a real challenge, I think it is a real challenge. Why don’t we see it today? That’s probably a big part of it.

Raph is dying to say something… this is probably the last question, so start filling out your little forms, you know, and mark ’em “1” for Jessica. [rest lost in laughter–Jessica Mulligan was one of the panelists, and I kept contradicting her, and it had turned into a running joke. Basically, Jess said a dirty word, and I said, “Shame on you, now that’s on tape!” and she said “Yeah, like they never heard that word here…”].

Me: Let me say, sir, that I really sympathize. I’m an artsy type, as Jessica is fond of reminding me, and you know, I have an MFA. I spent much of my life training to write crafted experiences. There’s an intense amount of learning and craft and skill that goes there, and I hate to say this to say this to all the film directors, writers, poets, um, painters, and everything else out there in the world: get over yourselves, the rest of the world is coming. Okay? People value self-expression. Is story going to go away? No. Is careful crafting going to go away? No. Are the professionals engaged in that going to go away? No–well, except that IP, the concept of intellectual property, may; but that’s a whole other side discussion.

The thing is that people want to express themselves, and they don’t really care that 99% of everything is crap, because they are positive that the 1% they made isn’t. Okay? And fundamentally, they get ecstatic as soon as five people see it, right?

So we can move to a meta-level of crafting experience. We can try to take a step up and say… you know, we can do what Lego did, which is give them the building blocks, so that they fundamentally can’t make something so screwed up that everyone ends up leaving. Okay? And that’s a different level of authorship than what we are used to, but it’s a really exciting area of authorship.

It’s all them, guys, and fundamentally, authorship is about us. And it’s the wrong medium for it–it’s not what the medium is for.

Another moment I liked was when we were asked what the fundamental appeal of online worlds was. I said, “Do things you can’t do as someone you aren’t, somewhere you can’t be, with other people.”

All in all, GDC was a lot of fun. Avatars Offline was quite good, I got to chat a lot with people I never get to see (like Will Wright & Gordon), and the dinners out were great.

Recent News

 Posted by (Visited 8650 times)  Game talk, Music, Writing
Feb 202002

It’s been a while, as usual. Well, here’s a major update for you. I’ve been working on the site for several days just trying to get it up to date, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the news portion.

Many of you may know about the two documentaries being made on the topic of online worlds. I was interviewed by both of them, as it happens. Avatars Offline will be screening at GDC–and that will be my first chance to see it, too! Daniel Liatowisch interviewed me many months ago and I don’t remember what I said. I hope nothing embarrassing.

The other one is called Real People, Virtual Worlds, and Tracy Spaight interviewed me for it at the recent UO Faire here in Austin. He’s got a video clip of part of my interview up on the website, retelling “A Story About A Tree.”

There’s also action on the print front. I got permission from Computer Games to reprint the interview with Mark Asher, so that’s up here now. But there’s also a question and answer I did for the IGDA website on junior designers up too. There’s a new book forthcoming, by Mark Stephen Meadows, called Pause & Effect which is on interactive design in general. I’m interviewed in it, as are other folks such as Harvey Smith. I also answered a brief interview for Eric Zimmerman (he of SiSSYFiGHT fame) and Katie Salen for their forthcoming book from MIT Press entitled Game+Design: An Interactive Design Handbook.

There’s more possible action on the book font, but nothing I think I can talk about yet.

In music news, once again, I’ve been asked if my music could be used on the soundtrack of those snowmobiling shows in Canada done by Lucas Productions Video. Once again, I said yes, sure! I also recorded a bunch of new pieces for them. No word yet on whether they’ll get used or where or when. Since the last update, I’ve gotten a full digital home studio up and running, so recording those new pieces wasn’t too hard. Audigy sound card, new mics to replace ones lost in the fire so long ago, new software–so I’m working on two CDs at once. One will be called “Longitude” and will feature all-new songs. The other has no title as of yet, but will be a collection of instrumental guitar work.

I should have updated the “Books Read” page because I have a backlog of literally dozens to include. But I didn’t just because I don’t know that anyone cares, and the backlog is so darn huge. Some of the notable things along those lines though–traded a few emails with Vernor Vinge after reading True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier, because he wanted to know about real-world antecedents to his story. I pointed him to the Online Worlds Timeline… also been trading emails with folks at the Oxford English Dictionary, trying to get Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer and Habitat credit for the VR use of the word “avatar.” the OED tried to credit it to Neal Stephenson and Snow Crash

I’m in two writing workshops now. One is still Turkey City, birthplace of cyberpunk, yadda yadda yadda. The other is an offshoot called Tryptophan. This forces me to write fiction twice as often. However, since I’m going to actually try to publish some of those stories, I won’t be posting them on the website. What did get posted? Ah, glad you asked. Here’s a brief list:

GDC is coming up again, and I’m going to be there, running around like a checking with its head cut off. I’m doing a tutorial with Gordon Walton and Rich Vogel on running a Live service. I’m doing a panel with Gordon, Jessica Mulligan, and Rich Lawrence on 3rd generation online games. I’m doing a design lecture with Rich Vogel on “storytelling in the online medium,” and a production lecture with him as well. Plus there’ll be a MUD-Dev dinner, as usual, and I think also a storytelling designer’s dinner.

Which reminds me–that exact same dinner gathering at the last GDC led to hosting a two-day workshop on exactly that with a whole slew of folks here in Austin, in October of last year. Among the attendees: Steve Meretzky, David Perry, Ellen Guon Beeman, Particia Pizer, Eri Izawa, Warren Spector, Mark Terrano… and uh, more other folks than I can remember. It was great. I believe that at some point the transcripts of the sessions will be made public.

I’m sure there was more news, but if I keep going, I’ll have to change the date on the news post to tomorrow. So I’ll stop now… 🙂