Game talkA glimpse into SL’s CS calls

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Sep 302009
 


Tyche Shepherd has posted some great analysis and charts that give a glimpse into what it takes to run Second Life in terms of customer service.

Last week I mentioned that I had been storing Second Life Incident Reports since the beginning of the month to build up a database similar to my Region Survey Database. A forum lurker who wants to remain anonymous, who read this , contacted me in-world and sent me the full past 28 months worth of published incident reports (21600+). I cannot thank the person enough for providing this data…

In total I now have data which seems complete from 7th Jun 2007 up to the current time, at the moment this comes to 21665 published incidents.

What did the naughty people do ? – SLUniverse Forums.

For contrast, I just saw a Tweet from the #nygames hashtag (NY Games conference of some sort?) saying that

#nygames Playfish uses 3 support people to support is 50 million players – focused on users helping users to hold costs and scale up

Obviously, very different circumstances, but it still makes you think…

Game talkThe UN recognizes virtual worlds (wink)

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Sep 252009
 

Or at least France does. But only in contrast to the real one. 🙂

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was more pointed than Obama in his criticism of Tehran, listing offers made by world powers to Iran in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and this year, with no real response from the Islamic Republic.

“There comes a time when stubborn facts will compel us to take a decision if we want a world without nuclear weapons,” he said. “We live in a real world, not a virtual world…”

— via Security Council Adopts Nuclear Weapons Resolution – washingtonpost.com

I’ll have you know that virtual worlds have their share of stubborn facts!

Nukers, too.

[via Mark in the comment thread to the last post.]

Game talkSpeaking of terms…

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Sep 252009
 

Dusanwriter blogs about the alleged challenges that came up for adoption of virtual worlds by enterprise at the Engage/3DTLC show, one of which is — gasp — the term virtual worlds in the first place.

But Ron Burns, ProtoPrez, lay part of the blame for a lag in industry adoption of virtual worlds at the feet of Second Life, saying that virtual worlds have a reputation for being a place to ‘goof off’, and this fit into the broader meme that we need to stop CALLING them virtual worlds at all, which Erica Driver was of course all over with robust Twitter nods, preferring her term Immersive Internet which is meant to paint a broader picture to include – well, to include what I’m not sure, because ThinkBalm doesn’t often look at things like PaperVision or augmented reality or, dread term….games.

— via Dusan Writer’s Metaverse » Has Second Life Poisoned the Well for Business? Thoughts from 3DTLC.

One solution to this, of course, is to quit trying to sell enterprise. 🙂

Dusanwriter likes enterprise, but not this overall line of thinking. He reports that the reason the term is apparently now passé is that

– We can’t call them virtual worlds anymore, it sounds frivolous, it reminds everyone of furries and ‘goofing off’.
– We can’t ever ever use the “game” word. Talking about games or play is like giving a corporate mandate to employees that they can play solitaire all afternoon (or, the modern equivalent, watch youTube videos when the boss isn’t looking).

Leaving aside whether enterprises this blinkered are long for this world, let’s please not go inventing yet another term.

Game talklose/lose

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Sep 252009
 

Here’s an interesting game experiment — shades of Ender’s Game, in a way!

Lose/Lose is a video-game with real life consequences. Each alien in the game is created based on a random file on the players computer. If the player kills the alien, the file it is based on is deleted. If the players ship is destroyed, the application itself is deleted.Although touching aliens will cause the player to lose the game, and killing aliens awards points, the aliens will never actually fire at the player. This calls into question the player’s mission, which is never explicitly stated, only hinted at through classic game mechanics. Is the player supposed to be an aggressor? Or merely an observer, traversing through a dangerous land?

via lose/lose and @mrseb

Video is below. I am amused that the top player blew away thousands of files on their hard drive.

Continue reading »

Sep 242009
 

Massively asked a bunch of us in the industry our opinion of the term “MMO”, and the result is a rather nifty article. Here was my answer, but go read everyone else’s!

Raph Koster, President and Founder, Metaplace:

“I think now, at this point, now that we’ve chopped the ‘RPG’ part off of it and just say ‘MMO,’ which by itself is a meaningless acronym. Massively multiplayer online… The problem is the very word massive is not particularly useful. Sorry Massively website! But the problem is that “massive” is kind of relative. New York is a massive city, until you go to Shanghai. It’s completely relative. …

“I was never that crazy about [the term ‘MMO’]. We’ve been here before. There was a huge turf battle over the term ‘MUD’… There were people coming up with MUVE, multiple user virtual environment… random acronyms people were coming up with to describe the field. Several of us kept saying, ‘These are just virtual worlds, damnit!’ Part of the reason why that was working okay was it was fairly easy to say, and MUDs do have a very specific kind of family tree that we can point at, and they all fall under virtual worlds.

“That was great until people started calling things — without any games in them — ‘virtual worlds,’ excluding MMO-anythings. This is where you get people saying, ‘Well, [World of Warcraft] is a MMORPG, it’s not a virtual world.’ And it’s like…errrr. Because the battle has started all over again with people trying to appropriate the term ‘virtual world’ to mean Second Life or to mean Habbo Hotel. So now you have things like social virtual worlds and generic virtual worlds, and people think it means just Second Life, and that’s… wrong. I’ll say it bluntly, that’s just wrong, because WoW is a virtual world and so is Second Life, and so is YoVille. A lot of people don’t want to claim YoVille as being in the family, but it is. I much prefer to define these things by what they are rather than how many people they hold.

“I do still say MMO, because at this point it usually has the connotation of game. If you say ‘MMO’ people assume you mean a game. … Even us design types, we still need to know what we’re actually doing. The terms, right? We need to agree on a language so we can talk about it. Disclaiming something that is a massively multiplayer, comma, online, comma, first-person, comma, shooter, and saying, ‘Well, it’s not actually massively multiplayer online’… whatever. That’s clearly marketing talking.

“There are people that call them MWOs, people that called them MOGs, and people that call them POGs. There’s PSWs which is an art term for a specific sub-set of virtual world so that one gets misused all the time because it means ‘persistent state world.’ … There are some others… PIG, I’ve seen PIG, ‘persistent interactive game.’

Massively: I don’t think a game maker would like to call their game a “PIG.”

“Probably not.”

Game talkGDCA: Schubert on The Loner

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Sep 232009
 

Gamespot has a writeup, and Damion has posted his slides. I missed the talk, but it sounds like it was a good one!

“The irony of being alone in an MMO is inescapable. Being a loner is OK, but feeling lonely is not.”–Schubert, on why even solo players care about a well-populated world.

via Old Republic dev discusses massively multiplayer loners – News at GameSpot.

Slides are here (in PPTX format).

Sep 222009
 
Using isomorphic graphs to analyze MMORPG combat

Using isomorphic graphs to analyze MMORPG combat

I have posted up the slide deck (PPT) and a page of images of slides for my GDC Austin talk, “Games Are Math: 10 Core Mechanics That Drive Compelling Gameplay.”

This talk starts out with some game grammar stuff that may be familiar, then moves into looking at a definition of NP-complete problems, then provides ten examples of how they can be used to look at games, then finishes by examining cognitive bugs in the brain that many games exploit. Please note, I am not a mathematician nor even claim to be very good at math. 🙂

As usual, this along with all my other talks can be found on the Gaming Presentations page, reached by clicking “Games” on the top bar of the site, then choosing Presentations from the sidebar. For those of you who never click the top bar and think all that is here is the blog — there’s a wealth of stuff available there. 🙂 I’ve recently updated it to include a few presentations that were buried and hard to find, such as the audio for my Games For Change closing address, the videos for Living Game Worlds IV and Siggraph Sandbox, and more.

Sep 222009
 

Randomness has been part of games since their earliest inception — and when I say “earliest inception,” I mean deep into the unwritten Neolithic past. Game scholars sometimes point to The Royal Game of Ur as the earliest known game, and in a sense it is — but we also know of games from any number of Neolithic cultures that survived into the modern era, many of them documented by Stewart Cullin in a series of books for the Smithsonian, published in the early 20th century.

— Play This Thing! | Game Reviews | Free Games | Independent Games | Game Culture.

Go read, it is awesome.

Game talkVivaty implements X3D in Flash

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Sep 222009
 

First, the link to the blog post:

Vivaty in Flash (Sneak Preview) « Vivaty Blog.

It isn’t a full version of Vivaty — you can chat with one other user, and the space does not look customizable right now. There’s effectively an “upsell” to the plugin-based client.

The Flash version of Vivaty is a great way to get introduced to the experience, explore parts of the world, and meet new people. Currently, you can hangout with one person at a time, but you’ll soon be able to build up your friends list, and mingle inbetween both the full Vivaty experience and all of the big parties and events and the more intimate scenes that are in the lightweight version of Vivaty.

from the FAQ

The rendering looks pretty darn good for Flash 10. I wasn’t able to find a way to go look for a specific other person — looks like it does random matchmaking right now. And my avatar (and theirs) went invisible after a while. It is nonetheless an impressive technical achievement. According to Tony Parisi in the comment thread, this is literally a port of their X3D client:

From the outset, we made a conscious decision to use X3D as our delivery format for the 3D. As you can imagine, that made the task of developing our Lite application much easier, essentially a port. And of course since so much of our service is driven by the back end, it was really just a client port plus a slight simplification of the content.

That comes from a discussion in the comments to the blog post, where people are attacking the project on the grounds that X3D is all about open standards, and implementing it in Flash is a betrayal of core principles. These people need to get a grip. An open standard that is used by effectively no one (statistically speaking) is no standard at all regardless of what bodies back it. The sad fact is that technical superiority, openness, and official acronyms have zero to do with whether something really becomes a standard, which is all about getting lots of people to use it.

The way Vivaty are approaching this uses Flash as a gateway to the full experience. If this lines up with the way it has gone for others who have tried this, the Flash version will get dramatically more usage than the plugin version.

(Thanks to len for the heads-up!)

Game talkWebGL in Firefox & Webkit

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Sep 192009
 

WebGL has made it to the nightly builds of Firefox now, which means users willing to put up with unstable versions of FF can download it, flip a preferences flag, and start messing with it. It’s also now in WebKit:

Along with the Firefox implementation, a WebGL implementation landed in WebKit fairly recently. All of these implementations are going to have some interoperability issues for the next little while, as the spec is still in flux and we’re tracking it at different rates, but will hopefully start to stabilize over the next few months.

via WebGL in Firefox Nightly Builds at Vladimir Vukićević.

WebKit is used in Safari, iPhone, Palm Pre’s browser, Chrome, and more.

The battle for 3d web continues…