I’ve said this before, but in the wake of the viral success of Pokémon GO, it needs to be said again. Augmented reality is just a virtual world, an MMO, a MUD even, with all of the same design issues, plus a few new ones.
The goggles fallacy
I asked a high-powered Silicon Valley exec about the ethical implications of social VR and AR. Their response was “what ethical implications?”
To some, particularly vets of online worlds of various stripes, this may seem obvious. But most days, it feels like the average person working in social VR, AR, and the like, is ignorant of this. It’s evident in the very large pile of past lessons they are failing to heed in their designs.
Oh, it’s hard. But it’s rapidly becoming commodity hardware. That was in fact the basic premise of the Oculus Rift: that the mass market commodity solution for a very old dream was finally approaching a price point where it made sense. The patents were expiring; the panels were cheap and getting better by the month. The rest was plumbing. Hard plumbing, the sort that calls for a Carmack, maybe, but plumbing.
Rendering is the dream of a game industry desperately searching for a new immersion, another step in the ongoing escalation of immersion that has served as the economic engine of ongoing hardware replacement, the false god of “games getting better.” It was an out: the plucky indie that bucked the big consoles but still gave us the AAA. It was supposed to enable “art.”
I’m speaking at Casual Connect tomorrow at 11:30, in the Recital Hall. Topic:
Ten Lessons from Game Design for Games-As-Service
Designers design inside of contexts: the business model, the distribution channel, the platform, the intended audience. Sometimes, these change, and the change profoundly affects how we create games that players like to play and pay for. Few changes have been as profound as the move from games as fire-and-forget products to services played for months if not years. Raph Koster, VP of Creative Design at Playdom, has been working exclusively in games-as-services for over fifteen years, and in this talk he’ll present to you the top ten lessons you need to learn for this environment: What does “service” really mean? What mechanics always work? Why and how do you measure things differently? And what, in the end, makes the games fundamentally different?
I’m only at the conference for one brief day — fly up in the morning, and back in the evening. As usual, I will have slides posted up here after the talk.
Lately it has been hard for me not to see recent trends ranging from gamification to the increasing prevalence of robots in the household as a sign of the way the real world is starting to imitate a virtual world.
We’re adding friends lists via well, everything
And bots via robots
and reputations via LinkedIn
and auction houses via eBay
and secure trade via Craigslist
and profiles via Facebook
and virtual currency with Facebook Credits
and quests via serious games
and points for meaningless grinding via gamification
and strategy guides via Quora
and guild chat via status updates
And stats to ourselves via ‘quantified self’ approaches
And classes and skills via the march of specialization in job roles
Now, you may say that all of these are things that existed before. Yes, and we then built adapted versions of them for the virtual world that accommodated the fact that they were being simulated in a virtual space. And now those adaptations are being ported back to meatspace. We could call these three stages of development:
This is indeed a powerful development. The Kinect has been selling like hotcakes (8 million of them in sixty days), and as a result, there’s now a pretty substantial install base that could get into this.
It’s clear to see the potential for sales of virtual goods and the like; right now, they offer scenes in which you can conduct your chats, but over time, adding in the features to make those into virtual apartments is not at all hard to picture. Add in robust enough objects to buy and the ability to customize your space, and you start getting something that feels like, well, Metaplace.com or Second Life with voice chat and kinesthetic controls. But for now, it’s more like IMVU or Lively, probably, and we shall see how it goes.
One thing that is interesting is that Live is centered on avatars that are pseudonymous but strongly identifiable; there’s an intrinsic extant reputation system there that this system will effectively plug into and leverage. This may reduce the amount of prurient chatrooms and the like (which something like the Kinect surely invites!). It is also telling how little the video centers on technology and how much it centers on women.
Given the connectivity, I cannot help but ponder why avatars as an intermediating technology, rather than video chat.
Avatars intermediate; this lets you put all participants in one environment, rather than stitching together disparate couches and living rooms
There may well be plans to leverage the pseudonymity into synchronous social game experiences
The avatars do allow for a more radical expression of personality that video would, essentially making for a richer profile; I can’t have my weird pet from Limbo cavorting around me in a video call, but I could here.
All in all, an interesting development; I look forward to trying it out.
But to someone who cut his virtual world teeth on more immersive, 3D environments like There and Second Life, these never-ending announcements of new companies trying to jump on the social gaming bandwagon have left me with one nagging question: Where is the innovation?
The innovation lies in making something that matters to ordinary people.
Now, I am a virtual world person, obviously. I don’t see much distinction between the game worlds and the non-game ones like Second Life. I have been working with them since the text muds, for over 15 years, which doesn’t exactly put me in the true old dino category where Richard Bartle and Randy Farmer reside, but I think it is fair to say that I have been closely identified with the space for a long long time now.
And I think that they aren’t over, but the form that they have taken is.
Thanks to the astonishing growth of games on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, the U.S. virtual goods market is poised to clear $1 billion in revenues in 2009, up more than 50 percent from a year earlier, according to a new report.By 2010, revenues could hit $1.6 billion as users become more comfortable paying for virtual goods in small transactions that are executed in a seamless fashion.
These days, it’s more likely that the money flows in the other direction, but it’s interesting to see nonetheless:
Over the weekend the government run General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and National Copyright Administration issued regulations designed to limit the influence foreign companies have in that region. US companies that wish to operate in China will need to license their content rather then enter into a joint venture.