Some offbeat hard-boiled reading

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May 312009

Sometimes hard-boiled stuff pops up in genres you wouldn’t expect it. I mean, I think most fantasy fans are probably familiar by now with Butcher’s Dresden series (start with Storm Front). But I suspect most haven’t taken a deeper look and found Liz Williams’ Detective Inspector Chen series, set in a future Singapore where all mythologies are apparently real. The first one is Snake Agent, and there are two more after that, The Demon and the City and Precious Dragon. Inspector Chen works the supernatural beat, dealing especially with cases where Hell and Heaven intercede, and ends up partnered with a demon. He’s got a motley assortment of sidekicks, and the tone moves from gritty to somewhat madcap.

Similarly, I have recommended Tamora Pierce’s stuff before, even though it is hidden away in the young adult fantasy section. Her first book featuring Beka Cooper, Terrier, was a seriously hardboiled adventure, and the long-awaited follow-on, Bloodhound, is similar. This time there’s a counterfeiting ring that necessitates a trip to a port city, there’s political corruption, thieves’ rings, prostitution, the works. Check out what kids are reading these days…

Finally, the series that prompted this post in the first place is the unfortunately difficult to find pair of Sarah Tolerance books by Madeleine Robins, perhaps better known as the author of The Stone War, which was a rather well-reviewed book. I got pointed to these from John Hemry’s website (he who now writes under the name Jack Campbell), and I took his advice to look past the cover art — because despite the look of a romance novel, these are actually “hard-boiled Regency” novels. Sarah Tolerance is a Ruined Woman who now works as an “agent of inquiry.” Her lover was a dueling master, so she’s handy with a sword, and she lives in a small cottage behind her aunt’s upscale brothel; her cases take her from locating a mysterious Italian fan with great political consequences in Point of Honour to clearing a well-reared lady’s name when her husband is found bludgeoned to death in her bed in Petty Treason. The detail is extraordinary, and if you think Regency must mean romance, these are the books with which to learn about “birching houses” (Regency S&M parlors) and other underbellies of polite society. The novels even take place in a slightly alternate history, so you can even justify them from an SF/F perspective if you want. Highly recommended — it is very unfortunate there are only two.

Funny how small the world is — I found Robins’ blog, only to get pointed to a site where she co-blogs with a number of other folks including several favorites of mine. And lo, there’s Caroline Spector, better known to many readers of this blog as the wife of Warren Spector, but a fine writer in her own right.

In any case — if you’re tired of mundane gritty mysteries, these all make a fine change of pace.

Top 20 influential MMO people 2009

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May 282009

Beckett Massive Online Gamer has once again put together a list of the 20 most influential people in the MMO industry. The list seems to be half new faces, and half returning. I’m flattered to be among the returnees this year, landing in the #11 slot (down 2 from last year, eep!) Grats to all the many folks I know on the list. 🙂

The full list:

1. Rob Pardo
2. Hilmar Pétursson
3. John Smedley
4. Jack Emmert
5. Mark Jacobs
6. Todd Coleman
7. Jim Crowley
8. Andrew Gower
9. Chris Cheung
10. Michael Capps
11. Raph Koster
12. Rob Seaver
13. Jeffrey Steefel
14. Russell Williams
15. Gaute Godager
16. Richard Garriott
17. Min Kim
18. Gordon Walton
19. David Perry
20. Jeff Hickman & Paul Barnett

There’s also some honorable mentions, but I guess we need to get the magazine for that! As well as the justification for these names, of course. The print issue hits retailers this week…

For reference last year’s list is here.

Richard Bartle Q&A log

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May 262009

The full log of a great Q&A session with Richard Bartle in Metaplace has been posted up on the Metaplace Forums. It was a wide-ranging discussion, attended by over 70 people. Richard’s dry wit was, as usual, on full display.

A typical, provocative, snippet:

[05/26/09 13:13:10] gguillotte: I’ve been watching procedurally generated content for a while. Love comes to mind, a PG MMO. What sort of impact is this going to have, where content generation is automated?

[05/26/09 13:13:45] Richard: it depends if the generation of the content is the game or is filler
[05/26/09 13:14:11] Richard: procedural content can work – I’ve spent many, many hours playing Rogue for example
[05/26/09 13:14:42] Richard: using procedural content to create a canvas for virtual worlds seems a perfectly rational thing to do
[05/26/09 13:15:22] Richard: however, the designer has to put their soul in it somewhere: either this is by modifying the procedural content or by creating the framework that creates it
[05/26/09 13:15:59] Richard: now the former is the traditional way for designers to speak to players; if a designer wants to speak through the content-generation rules, well
[05/26/09 13:16:12] Richard: that would be possible but we don’t have the vocabulary for it yet

[05/26/09 13:16:28] gguillotte: Thanks.

[05/26/09 13:16:31] Richard: that makes it an interesting time for us

[05/26/09 13:16:38] gguillotte: Indeed 😀

[05/26/09 13:17:11] Richard: Metaplace is a similar thing, btw – we’ll see things here that we haven’t seen the like of before

[05/26/09 13:17:21] Cuppycake: (We already have!)

[05/26/09 13:17:24] Richard: which is why I’m so enthusiastic for it
[05/26/09 13:17:55] Richard: I don’t mean new worlds, I mean new ways of communicating through world creation

Facebook & virtual currency

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May 202009

I wrote a blog post about this yesterday, but alas, I lost it.  CNN has an article about Facebook’s virtual currency plans, which are already moving into alpha.

Facebook is researching the idea of creating a unified currency but is “very early” in the process and has not committed to it, the site said in a statement to CNN.

Currently, applications on the site — which allow users to play games with each other and trade gifts — are powered by currencies made by the application’s developers, not by Facebook.

These developers are making good money on the system, and Facebook is missing out on profits in that area, said Hudson, of the Virtual Goods Summit.

— ‘Virtual currencies’ power social networks, online games –

Now, Facebook already has a virtual currency — credits — which you use to buy gifts. But what is being talked about is opening up an API to their currency system through apps.

For those who haven’t noticed, the open APIs Facebook is creating are allowing access to data such as login from anywhere on the Net. So in effect, this could lead to a fairly standard currency fo any site that accepts Facebook logins.

The real play here, as Information Week notes, is to become a “gold standard” of sorts, similar to the way in which Facebook and LinkedIn are already becoming stronger standards for online identity than OpenID is (the flip side is, of course, than you can now use OpenId to log into Facebook!).

The notion of “customer ownership” starts getting very blurry in a world like this. It won’t be long until you see major MMORPGs allowing you to log in with social networking credentials rather than requiring you to create their own account (we at Metaplace already allow this). And if these currency plans move forward and go far enough, we could see many users just paying their subs or their microtransactions with Facebook credits.

For smaller apps and websites, this can make a great deal of sense. Lots of other players are trying to establish base virtual currencies that work across sites and apps.

May 152009

I’ll be at this Idea Exchange event on Virtual Economies, which is happening cross-world in SL and Metaplace today at noon PDT (which is a bit over an hour from now). You can go straight to the Interval world with this link, and you can just log in with your Facebook or other credentials if you like.

On April 17th of this year, Alicia Ashby of Virtual Goods News wrote that based upon performance data released by Linden Lab and despite the current downturn in world economies, Second Life’s virtual economy appears to be growing. (The news was also picked up by CNet.)

In this second in a series of Idea Exchange events hosted by GSD&M Idea City, we will invite Alicia Ashby and several other virtual world industry insiders the likes of Raph Koster of Metaplace, Richard Acton-Maher of Linden Lab, Sibley Verbeck of Electric Sheep Company, Adrienne Haik of Metaversatility, Robert Bloomfield of Metanomics, and others to join us in an open discussion about the role that virtual economies will play within the context of our real-world economic recession.