Jun 162011

GDC Vault – Social Mechanics for Social Games [SOGS Design] is a link that takes you to the GDC Vault where you can watch a full video of the presentation, with the slides side by side, for free.

Of course, you didn’t need that, right? Because you already paid to get access to the utterly awesome GDC Vault. 🙂

There are a couple more free talks released today as well, including the AI rant and an inside look at the Humble Indie Bundle. You can check out all the free talks here.



Game talkDesigning for community

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Feb 012011

Yeah, yeah, I’m writing about this again. 🙂

Tobold’s got a post on community in MMORPGs.

We can’t get to a really better community, where all the goodwill is felt from the bottom of the heart, without the players themselves contributing to that. I still remember my first day in Everquest, where a complete stranger helped me and even gave me a magic necklace, for no gain to himself. It is hard to blame developers for the fact that such behavior has become so rare.

Designers design the social environment by commission or omission. If they ignore it altogether, then there will be an accidental mishmash of features and the result is fairly unpredictable.  Mind you, this doesn’t mean that paying close attention to it is going to work well either. Players respond to the environment they are given.

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Game talkWorldy vs gamey in one sentence

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Jan 142011

Lum has forums again. No, I don’t know what madness has possessed him.

However, there’s a fun thread there asking “what is the real difference between gamey MMOs and worldy MMOs?” There are detailed replies, like geldonyetich’s, which give nice coherent answers. But the fun answers are the one-liners.

Alas, the good one-liners are all on the gamey side. 🙂

Games are fun, worlds are work.

— Soulflame

So I started trying to come up with my own one-liner riposte. But mine weren’t funny and sharp. They were stuff like “Worlds are varied, and games get monotonous” or “Worlds offer choice, games don’t.” But these kinda suck.

So I figured I’d invite you readers to solve the problem for me. We need a comeback for Soulflame’s pithy statement. 🙂

Worldy gamers, attack!

Game talkNot an MMO anymore

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Nov 122010

Dusty Monk has a thought experiment up where he describes an MMO of the future. Core bullet points:

  • a single-player or co-op multiplayer campaign you can play through that is heavily narrative
  • a matchmaking lobby where you can select between types of games to play with other players
  • games include group PvP matches or co-op matches against the AI
  • A UI screen where you purchase upgraded gear and character attributes for real money

As he describes the game, it of course sounds like an FPS game with matchmaking, and that is exactly his point.

He’s not really advocating the evolution of the MMO in this direction; he’s merely saying it is inevitable.

But I think that it is also important to note that this isn’t a virtual world at all.

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Game talkReadingFor The Win

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May 112010

For the Win, Cory Doctorow’s new novel, is out today (in bookstores and also as a free download). And it’s about gaming, and its consequences.

Now, you know I am biased, because not only is Cory a friend, but I even supplied a blurb for the book’s back cover. I also reviewed the manuscript for him and supplied gaming advice. That said, this is a book that people into MMOs and virtual worlds should read.

Why? Because it isn’t about what happens inside the worlds, it’s about what repercussions they have outside them. The story is sort of a large-scale version of his short story “Anda’s Game” (which was collected in Overclocked: Stories of the Future Present and also published on Salon.com), in which guilds are organized on multiple sides of the gold farming wars: a guild to kill gold farmers to protect the game,  a guild to defend them so that they can earn their subsistence wage…

In For The Win all this is taken to a larger scale. Essentially, it extrapolates gold farming into a multinational corporate phenomenon, and looks at what this means for the lives of the people on the front lines — kids, usually, living in India or China, looking to make money but finding that the act of grinding gold “for the man” becomes all too literal in sweatshops. And the upshot is that they organize. As in unions.

As in unions modeled explicitly on the Wobblies, in fact. The novel wears its politics on its sleeve, certainly, and that may be a turnoff for those who don’t see unions as a natural stage in the evolution from free-for-all robber-baron economics to a more mature model. That said, the book comes down pretty hard on all forms of totalitarianism

The in-game stuff is dead-on. But as I said, the book is more about the ripples the games cause, than about the games themselves, because that is where the real psychological action is. It is more about the relationship between a gamer kid in San Diego and his parents who don’t understand his hobby, than it is about the stuff he does inside the game (which does include a pretty awesome boss battle near the beginning). It’s about the ways in which running a guild teaches a girl who barely has any education how to organize large groups of people in real life. In the end, the book argues a point similar to Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds: the characters come to know themselves better because of their hobby, and it enables them to take real steps into adulthood.

Game talkDynamic POIs

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Apr 302010

Way back in Pre-CU [Star Wars Galaxies] while ‘walking’ from Eisley to AnchorHead a Twi’lek (I think) stated my avatar by name (could be wrong) and gave me a disk then some stormies spawned and killed her then came after me.

Anyone ever finish this quest? What was it like?

This was a rather complex quest. Does anyone know how this was coded? Why would my avatar be chosen over others?

Daylen, posting over at RLMMO.com

The Twi’lek slave girl quest was part of what we called “dynamic POI’s.”

A normal POI is a “point of interest” — something to break up generic wilderness. it was a term we used back in the UO days that we got from Richard Garriott, and was probably older still. POI’s are normally placed by hand, of course; you sculpt a location for them, add a little bit of something unique or flavorful, maybe some interaction, and there you go. They can be as small as a little faerie mushroom ring, or as large as a bandit camp or something. In other words, they are the static content of a world… usually not the main quest lines, but just “interesting stuff.”

Of course, adding these in by hand is excruciatingly slow and requires an army of developers. That’s the cost of content. In a game as large as SWG, we had a real issue here. At one point, there was a large roomful of junior developers who did nothing but put down little interesting locations on the maps… and it was nowhere near enough, particularly since they had no interactivity with them.

Part of the solution that we wanted to try, then was dynamic POIs.

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Feb 262010

Dan Terdiman at CNet engages in some handwringing over the fact that kids worlds and social games are taking over the hype that used to belong to virtual worlds.

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.

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Dec 172009

The latest results from the giant EQ2 data research project came out a few days ago, and this time they center on gender. I’ll just point straight to the summary from Terra Nova:

  • Men are more driven to achieve within the game space, and women are more driven to socialize, although these differences are not as large as one might expect.
  • Female players fall into two distinct categories: stereotypically feminine players, typically brought into the game by a partner, and very hard-core players.
  • The hard-core women are more intense than their male counterparts: “The top 10% of male players played an average of 48.86 hours per week, while the top 10% of female players played an average of 56.64 hours per week.”
  • Female players are healthier offline than the males. This is especially true among older players.
  • When males and females play together within a romantic relationship, the males are less happy and the females more happy. When not playing in a romantic relationship, these outcomes are reversed: the females are less happy and the males more happy.
  • There are a surprisingly large number of bisexual females playing, but not males. While male bisexual players stuck to the national average, females were about five times higher than the national baseline rate.
  • Females under-report their playing time more than males.

via Terra Nova: Gender differences in MMOs.

The full paper can be gotten here (scroll down a bit) but you have to register or purchase it.

Oct 072009

Randy Farmer (he of Habitat fame, and much more besides!) and Bryce Glass have been posting excerpts from their upcoming book Building Web Reputation Systems on a blog, and today’s has a great anecdote in it that hammers home all the math behind negative reputation systems.

“Hi! I see from your hub that you’re new to the area. Give me all your Simoleans or my friends and I will make it impossible to rent a house.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m a member of the Sims Mafia, and we will all mark you as untrustworthy, turning your hub solid red (with no more room for green), and no one will play with you. You have five minutes to comply. If you think I’m kidding, look at your hub-three of us have already marked you red. Don’t worry, we’ll turn it green when you pay…”

If you think this is a fun game, think again-a typical response to this shakedown was for the user to decide that the game wasn’t worth $10 a month. Playing dollhouse doesn’t usually involve gangsters.

— Building Web Reputation Systems: The Blog: The Dollhouse Mafia, or “Don’t Display Negative Karma”.

There’s whole rough drafts of chapters on the site — totally worth reading, pondering, absorbing, and using.