Jun 302009


I’m doing a fireside chat sort of thing with Cory Ondrejka as part of the Metaplace Creative Series. You can log in to TheStage above at 2pm Pacific to participate — we’ll be taking audience questions too. We’ll be having a nice conversation about the future of virtual worlds. Cory, of course, was a prime mover at Linden Labs, makers of Second Life, and today is at EMI (yes, the record company!). The chat will be embedded on his blog as well.

Game talkEmbed virtual worlds anywhere

 Posted by (Visited 12478 times)  Game talk
Jun 302009

Today is a big day. We’ve released a feature that I personally think is highly significant for both Metaplace and for virtual worlds in general. As of now, you can embed a virtual world on pretty much any webpage, just like any other widget. It’s a small embed code, much like a YouTube video — and in fact, it’s smaller than a YouTube video in terms of download size. And because of the capabilities Metaplace offers, you can do some very interesting things with it:

Check out the CNet Webware write-up of the feature here! Or you can head to the Metaplace Wiki to learn more about it.

There are some limitations yet, of course; you can do communication between the world and the web, but it’s still a bit hard. There’s no SNS apps just yet. And yes, you do need a Metaplace account at the moment. But as more usecases emerge and we get more virtual worlds splattered all over the Net, I expect we’ll see these limitations fall away as we keep marching towards making virtual worlds a first-class citizen of the web.

I’ll be talking about this and other virtual world issues live with Cory Ondrejka (EMI, formerly Linden Lab) at 2pm Pacific on TheStage — and I will have it embedded right here! 🙂 In the meantime, stop by my place in Metaplace, embedded here using the freshly released WordPress plugin by Dara Roesner (Miki in Metaplace), which makes it incredibly easy to drop a world onto a WordPress post or page:


Press release after the jump:

Continue reading »

Game talkChina Bans Gold Farming

 Posted by (Visited 7860 times)  Game talk
Jun 292009


In addition to its ongoing crackdown on Internet porn, the Chinese government has declared that virtual currency cannot be traded for real goods or services.

Virtual currency, as defined by Chinese authorities, includes “prepaid cards of cyber-games,” according to a joint release issued by China’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Commerce on Friday.

— China Bans Gold Farming — InformationWeek.

This is going to have huge ripple effects.

Jun 292009

My wife and I used to joke about making a mixtape of nothing but versions of “All Along the Watchtower,” with the Michael Hedges version, the Hendrix version, the Indigo Girls version, the Richie Havens version… (I know, I know, the very notion of a “mixtape” dates us… sorry!)

It’s hard to come up with many covers of Michael Jackson songs. It’s something that has been on my mind since he died; after all, there’s all these encomiums calling him the most significant musical artist of the last 40 years. And yet when you think back on it, it’s a very different sort of significance from someone like Bob Dylan, whose songs have taken on a life of their own well beyond the performances of the original artist.

Oh, there’s the few “Billie Jean” versions, of course, and a few others scattered here and there. But by and large, there’s a paucity of great Michael Jackson covers. Maybe it’s attributable to nobody being able to do it better than he did, but I suspect that’s not the reason. To me suggests that there’s a paucity of great Michael Jackson songs. And yet, the original music is still incredibly compelling.

The right production on a s0ng can make a tremendous difference, and changing the tone of the bass guitar could make the difference between an enduring hit record and one that fades away. Several times on this blog, I have mentioned the song analysis stuff done by both for-profit companies and audio engineers as they look for the sonic characteristics of hits. All of this leads towards optimizing music recording towards a particular goal.

A recording is of course the capturing of a specific performance, and with the rise of the recording industry we got the notion of “studio bands,” musical performers whose goal it was to create a specific performance in the studio, rather than a piece of music to be reinterpreted. When we look back at the work of Michael Jackson, the comments that come up are always about what an amazing performer he was, about the collaboration with Quincy Jones, about the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo in “Beat It,” about the videos. It was about the shaping of the music, not the music itself.

This makes me think that most of the game industry is about music production, not about songwriting.

I usually use the analogy of the salad and the dressing, and say that the game design is the salad: the interplay of mechanics and rules, the mathematical structure that makes a game a game, and not an interactive story or a movie. There are relatively few games on the market, if we ignore the dressing. We could regard Far Cry 2 and Half-Life 2 as being different performances of the narrative first-person shooter, for example, ones stamped with the particular performance qualities brought to them by their bands, er, teams.

This isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always advocated for more attention given to the “songwriting,” because, well, it’d be nice to hear some new music from time to time. But the art of a great cover, a great performance, is an art nonetheless. And we can spot a “karaoke” version a mile away, can’t we?

Game talk3d printing can do metal now

 Posted by (Visited 4692 times)  Game talk
Jun 292009

Shapeways just announced they can do 3d printing in stainless steel.

It is pretty cheap too! The future is rushing in at an astonishing rate!

I suppose I don’t need to elaborate on the huge significance of this. Just think “open source objects of all sorts, made from most common materials, printable by anyone, some assembly required.”

[via ReBang, who tells me “In case you weren’t aware, 3D printed metal isn’t a new development. This is infiltrated. There are laser melted versions.”]

Game talkTorque 3D goes for a web plugin

 Posted by (Visited 9530 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Jun 262009

Torque 3D looks to be challenging Unity for the 3d game in a plugin market; check out this feature on their home page:

Deploy any Torque 3D project from the World Editor to a web browser in seconds with our web publishing options. Torque 3D supports all major browsers and operating systems, including IE7, FF3, OS X and Chrome. Games perform at 100% native speed, with no performance cost, completely in your browser.

Both solutions,  of course, require that the plugins that host the native client be widely deployed, which is the biggest challenge. The gap between something like Flash or Javascript, and something like this, is measured in the hundreds of millions of installs. Of course, what you get for the native renderers in the plugins is desktop quality graphics.

The push on the other side, of course, is to upgrade the graphics in a form basically native to the browser, so you don’t need a plugin at all, or if you do it’s one you already have (because you visited YouTube once).

MiscLockhart’s Lament

 Posted by (Visited 7099 times)  Misc
Jun 252009

Mathematics is the music of reason. To do mathematics is to engage in an act of disvovery and conjecture, intuition and inspiration; to be in a state of confusion — not because it makes no sense to you, but because you gave it sense and you still don’t understand what your creation is up to; to have a breakthrough idea; to be frustrated as an artist; to be awed and overwhelmed by an almost painful beauty; to be alive, damn it. Remove this from mathematics and you can have all the conferences you like; it won’t matter. Operate all you want, doctors; your patient is already dead.

— A Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockhart (PDF).

Jun 252009

The headline reads, “Confirmed: Second Life, online adult games to banned outright in Australia“. But I don’t know enough about the issue.

If true, it’s boneheaded. I dont think Australia bans books and movies intended for ages 15+, do they?

A spokesman for Censorship Minister Stephen “Goebbels” Conroy confirmed to Fairfax newspapers that “under the filtering plan, it will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.” In Australia, the MA15+ rating means that the content is restricted to those aged 15 and above. Australia does not have a R 18+ or similar rating for computer games, with all adult games automatically being classified as RC (Refused Classification.)

A commenter in the thread notes,

The reason it’s news now is because Conroy just got around to answering the latest batch of Senator Ludlum’s questions on notice in which he confirmed that games will be blacklisted – prior to this, many knowledgeable people in the debate assumed that they would somehow make an exception for games. See QON 1496(13) from the Hansard of Monday, 22 June 2009.