Game talkMusicThe Beatles game

 Posted by (Visited 5045 times)  Game talk, Music
Oct 302008

The news is everywhere: a new Harmonix music game featuring the music of the Beatles. According to People, it specifically will not be a Rock Band title

Whether it will also include the band members’ likenesses is still unclear, although the game will feature different eras of the band’s career visually, starting with the black-and-white feel of the early ’60s, and moving into the mod Rubber Soul years, Yellow Submarine, and their final hippie phase. (No word yet on whether the game will introduce new instruments, but here’s hoping for a plastic sitar.)

Game talkAvatar-the-word

 Posted by (Visited 6382 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , , ,
Oct 292008

I turned to F. Randall Farmer, a creator of the online multiplayer game Lucasfilm’s Habitat, for the origins of the term’s current incarnation. He and Chip Morningstar invented the game in 1986, when they also coined avatar in the “online persona” sense (though gamers had already been exposed to the word’s Sanskrit meaning with the 1985 computer role-playing game, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.) “Chip came up with the word ‘avatar,’ ” he recounts, “because back then, pre-Internet, you had to call a number with your telephone and then set it back into the cradle. You were reaching out into this game quite literally through a silver strand. The avatar was the incarnation of a deity, the player, in the online world. We liked the idea of the puppet master controlling his puppet, but instead of using strings, he was using a telephone line.”

–On Language – Avatar –

Very nice, but — “toon” does not come from Toontown, Randy! I first heard it in connection with Sierra’s The Realm; I remember being slightly confused when some Realm players logged into UO and started talking about how small their toons were.

Most mudders, of course, referred to this as a “character,” taken from D&D, and that carried through into UO, since we were mostly mudder types. But to my mind, both the avatar and the character are the same sort of thing — a graphical version of what we tend to call a profile in a broader web sense. Be it icon, textual description, or a/s/l, it’s just identifying information.

It may be that Second Life is indeed why “avatar” is so widespread today, though I would be just as likely to give the credit to Snow Crasha major inspiration to many of the virtual worlds of the 90s. There were bokos and conferences called “avatar” during this time period. Snow Crash frequently got mistaken credit for the coinage.

Another minor sidelight: a few years ago, the Oxford English Dictionary was running a project on finding the earliest citations of science-fictional words, and I did manage to get Chip & Randy proper credit. 🙂

Oct 272008
Dan's STARS model of game atoms

Dan's STARS model of game atoms

Dan Cook continues to outpace me on game grammar work, now with a delicious set of slides on applying skill atoms to application design. I already mailed it to several folks here in the office.

Lost Garden: The Princess Rescuing Application: Slides.

I just saw that a book was released the other day that teaches people how to use GoogleDocs. The more complexity that you add, the closer you get to something like Word. When we add ‘features’ we hurt learnability and end up turning off users.


  • Segmenting features by user skill level,
  • Layering less commonly used or expert features so they are out of the way.
  • Creating a unifying UI metaphor that lets users understand new tools more easily.
  • Elegant information architecture and clean visual design.

Game talkLaundering money in MMOs

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Oct 272008

It’s starting to happen, after there being years of rumors and little concrete evidence. And where it happens on large scales, regulation cannot be far behind.

Last week Korean police arrested a group responsible for laundering money generated by Chinese gold farming from Korea back to the mainland. Over 18 months, the group wired $38 million from Korea to a Hong Kong paper company as payments for purchases.

— Virtual Worlds News: Group Laundered $38M in Virtual Currencies in 18 Months.

To repeat one of my favorite quotes, heard at a conference years ago, “well, that’s not drug kinds of money, but it’s certainly terrorist kinds of money.”

Game talkGame folks vs web folks

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Oct 272008

I missed this blog exchange a few days ago between Andrew Chen (web guy) and Adam Martin (game guy).

“4 major cultural differences between Games people and Web people” is where Andrew says,

  1. Eyeball worship vs. Game genre worship
  2. Distribution vs. Content
  3. Utility vs. Experience
  4. Open vs. Content gating

And then Adam says in “Cultural differences: game developers vs web developers”:

Continue reading »

Game talkEnterprise VWs already slowing?

 Posted by (Visited 3881 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Oct 272008

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the recent Virtual Worlds London show as the guest of Chris, Joey et al at Virtual Worlds Management this week. To say it was a mixed bag would be an understatement. The media, kids and games sessions where alive and vibrant, and absolutely full of excitement The enterprise sessions were lackluster, stale and unconvincing.

–Stagnation in the enterprise virtual worlds space | Clever Zebra

Oct 272008

VeeJay Burns of the MindBlizzard blog has kindly translated the Court Ruling in the RuneScape Case that was the subject of a post a couple of days ago.

As the virtual amulet and virtual mask as defined in the case at hand meet the aforementioned criteria, the court is of the opinion that these virtual goods are to be included in the concept of ‘goods’ as provided for in Artcile 310 of the Penal Code and belonged to the declarant.

What is most curious to me is how shallow the treatment of “possession” is here:

Case law has previously determined the foregoing is not applicable in case of a PIN number, computer data and phone call minutes in a subscription bundle. In this case the virtual goods, namely a virtual amulet and a virtual mask, were in posession of the declarant. Only he had actual control over these goods.

Manifestly, Jagex has greater “actual control” but the issue of Jagex’s interests in the case doesn’t seem to come up at all.