Game talkVivaty is closing down

 Posted by (Visited 11456 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , ,
Mar 312010

The shakeout continues in virtual worlds, as more worthy projects fail to gain enough business traction to keep going.

As one who has spent years making Vivaty a reality and then trying to make it a success, it pains me to announce that as of Friday the 16th of April, will completely shut down. I apologize to our loyal users that this must be so. is a rather expensive site to run, much more than a regular web site, and Vivaty the company has been running out of money for some time. Our business model was to earn money through Vivabux sales, but that has never come close to covering our costs. We tried for months to find a bigger partner that would support the site, but that didn’t work out.

Vivaty Shutdown Party « Vivaty Blog.

Vivaty is X3D-based tech, and the folks there have a very long history with the VRML community, going back to when they were called Media Machines and had a product called the Flux Player. Most recently, they caught my eye for having done an implementation of X3d in Flash.

Game talkRequiem For

 Posted by (Visited 10751 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Mar 302010

Celia Pearce has written a thoughtful and touching article about the closing of that will resonate with anyone who has ever watched the closure of a virtual world they loved.

As an ethnographer who has devoted six years of her life to serving as a kind of emissary and folklorist for the people of, I feel both a sense of loss and a special sense of responsibility. The book I published on the Uru culture in was meant to describe a living, breathing culture. But, as real-world anthropologists know, when a culture is eradicated, anthropology can tragically become history.

via Worlds In Motion – In-Depth: Requiem For A World.

I agree with a lot of her assessment of what There did well, too — a bit unsure on the UGC aspect, but the social design she describes was really excellent, and inspirational for aspects of SWG.

MiscGreat description of how blogging has changed

 Posted by (Visited 27280 times)  Misc  Tagged with:
Mar 242010

Fair warning: this post is mostly just a giant quote. 🙂

Our social media connections represent a spaghetti bowl of decentralized networks for the distribution of content, but the meat of that content typically resides behind a link to a site or a blog.

In other words, Twitter and Facebook and Friendfeed gave us a means of circumventing the broadcast-pipe advantages of mainstream media, but these channels weren’t themselves always the thing being communicated. The best perspective on this change came from Robin Sloan, writing at Snarkmarket in January:

There are two kinds of quan­ti­ties in the world. Stock is a sta­tic value: money in the bank, or trees in the for­est. Flow is a rate of change: fif­teen dol­lars an hour, or three-thousand tooth­picks a day. Easy. Too easy. But I actu­ally think stock and flow is the mas­ter metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind peo­ple that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple dis­cover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time.

I feel like flow is ascen­dant these days, for obvi­ous reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audi­ence and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a tread­mill, and you can’t spend all of your time run­ning on the tread­mill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got noth­ing here.

And this is how we have to understand blogs today. Four years ago they were flow, and for a lot of news organizations, they’re still viewed as little more than low-grade, ephemeral dross. But in the real world of the Web, where we are relentlessly building a new-media economy and culture whether we openly acknowledge it or not, blogs are now the stock.

Xark!, “Blogging in the new decade”

For what it’s worth, my “back catalog” of posts way way way outdraws new blog posts on just about every single day. You can see over on the Popular Posts page that longer essays tend to dominate too, barring what are probably SEO quirks on some random posts…

MusicThe Sunday Song: Dubious

 Posted by (Visited 7760 times)  Music
Mar 212010

Another little piano improv here. It starts out a bit rough, sorry. By the same we get the second statement of the theme, it’s a bit more surefooted. Sorry about that. 🙂


It’s nice to feel like I can sit down at a piano and just bang out stuff like this again. I was never very good on piano, and still am not really “good” in any technical sense. It has been a couple of decades since I stopped noodling on keyboards in favor of the guitar. Now when I go back to it my comfort with chordal structure and progression is so much greater that it’s making it a rather different experience, and a lot of fun. Maybe I should get around to relearning how to read music…

Mar 182010

The culture clash between social games and core gamers was on full display at GDC. I have been called a traitor to the cause of core gamers, even. 🙂 At the awards show, when a Zynga rep claimed the social games award for Farmville and did a little bit of recruiting from the stage, he was not only booed, but someone shouted out, “But you don’t make games!” This is a common sentiment out there in the usual gamer haunts.

I have many many thoughts on all this — and I have been posting some of them in various places when discussions arise.

Yes, Farmville is a game. It just requires fairly little skill compared to games for “advanced” gamers. But by any reasonable definition of game, it fits perfectly. Continue reading »

Game talkReadingFiveBooks on games

 Posted by (Visited 5938 times)  Game talk, Reading  Tagged with: ,
Mar 162010

FiveBooks is this neat site whose tagline is “The best five books on everything.” Basically, they pick a subject matter expert, and that person talks about five books that cover that subject. Tom Chatfield picked FiveBooks on games, and A Theory of Fun was one of them, alongside  classics like Homo Ludens and Flow. Quite nice company!

While you are there, check out Aleks Krotoski’s five books about the Web; and props to Julian Dibbell, who gets a book on each list!

Between the two lists, there’s only one book I haven’t read — and it’s the one on sports. Hmm.

Game talkGameBreakr interview

 Posted by (Visited 6900 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , , , ,
Mar 142010

While at GDC I did an interview with Gary Gannon of GameBreakr, and it’s now up on the site as two video clips. They were posted up with, and I can’t figure out how to embed them here… topics discussed include why core gamers should be excited about social games, where do AAA MMOs sit, and trends at GDC like 3d displays. But the link lets you watch them both back to back — it’s about 20 minutes worth of me blathering on.

Edit: here’s the vids!

Continue reading »

Game talkGDC10: Scaling Social Games, Robert Zubek

 Posted by (Visited 29271 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Mar 122010

Scalable Social Games, Robert Zubek of Zynga (liveblog)

Social games interesting from an engineering point of view sinc ethey live at the intersection of games and web. We spend time thinking about making games fun, making players want to come back. We know those engineering challenges, but the web introduces its own set, especially around users arriving somewhat unpredictably, effects where huge populations come in suddenly. SNSes are a great example of this, with spreading network effects and unpredictable traffi fluctuations.

At Zynga we have 65m daily players, 225m monthly. And usage can vary drastically — Roller Coaster Kingdom gained 1m DAUs in one weekend going from 700k to 1.7m. Another example, Fishville grow from 0 to 6m DAUs in one week. Huge scalability challenges. And finally, Farmville grew 25m DAUs in five months. The cliff is not as steep but the order of magnitude difference adds its own challenge.

Talk outline: Introducing game developers to best practices for web development. Maybe you come from consoles or mobile or whatever, the web world introduces its own set of challenges and also a whole set of solutions that are already developed that we steal, or, uh, learn from. 🙂 If you are alreayd an experiened web developer, you may know this stuff already.

Continue reading »