June 2006

You need help. Yes, you.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing:

1) That Holland now has a detox center for online gamers, or

2) That three of you sent this to me this morning. CRY FOR HELP, PEOPLE!

“We have kids who don’t know how to communicate with people face-to-face because they’ve spent the last three years talking to somebody in Korea through a computer,” Bakker said. “Their social network has completely disappeared.”

It can start with a Game Boy, perhaps given by parents hoping to keep their children occupied but away from the television. From there, it can progress to multilevel games that aren’t made to be won.

Come on, there are co-eds in Washington that are pining away, because we are all fixated on upgrading our pants. Clearly, this is a battle that MUST BE WON. I recommend starting with alcohol.

Second Puzzle Pirate Life?

Daniel James follows up on his “absurd and unsustainable” CNet quote with an interesting dissection of Second Life, both in theory and practice.

That said (you were waiting for it, right?) I naturally have issues. Most of these stem from one of the strengths of Linden Lab\’e2\’80\’99s culture; Second Life has been built and operated more like a religion than a consumer-oriented business. I like to joke that Philip went up the mountain and came down with stone tablets describing how to build \’e2\’80\’98The Metaverse\’e2\’80\’99.

He concludes with a horrible tease: a note that Three Rings plans to eventually develop a similar user-crafted-content product.

Karl Marx got design credit on this

Paradox just sent out a press release announcing a new expansion pack for Victoria (the fatally flawed 19th century sim). No link yet, so I’ll just copy and paste the press release and screenshots after the cut.

Hopefully the “overhauls” include lessons learned from HOI2. Victoria was a fantastic idea married to a completely unplayable economic system. Anyway, I’m looking forward to it.

Continue reading…

Dr. TwisTer’s WorSt NightMare

I spotted echoes of this story when I was in Korea and now Arnold Hendrick’s Tidbits newsletter (email only, so no link) found the original story: NCsoft gets a criminal court conviction, Lineage bot makers cry foul. Many echoes to the past here. (note: 1000 Won = $1, or at least it did before the dollar collapsed JUST BEFORE I EXCHANGED MONEY)

“We think that NCSoft themselves want those cheating tools to be used,” a program engineer at Otobox, one of numerous Bot sellers, said in a telephone interview. “Many gamers pay service fees for two accounts at the same time, one for himself and one for the Bot. If NCSoft bans the use of Bot that means its revenue will decrease by half.

“Officially, NCSoft tells the users not to use Bots. But as a programmer, I know that NCSoft purposely designed the game to easily go with the Bots,” he said.

Of note also is NCsoft’s response, aimed at the non-game playing public (which in Korea may be three people).

Game bots are like a cancer, inflicting severe damage on both the gaming industry and gamers. Regular gamers who get frustrated by the bots decide to leave the game in the end. For gaming companies, bots accelerate the depletion of game resources and result in an additional burden of R&D expenses. In addition, those who use bots are often connected to cash transactions of game items, leading to various social problems.

Quitting While You’re A Head

Seed“, an MMO where you are an intergalactic repairman, also launched during E3. Consensus seems to be: interesting graphic look, some good ideas, doesn’t actually work.

Or as Soukyan posted on F13:

Apparently, I am a floating head now. I don’t know if this is a beta tester perk or what, but while I do feel godly at times, more often the other kids just point and laugh at me.

Be sure to follow the link for a screenshot of a man who’s just a head. (And yes, it took me a month to notice this. I’m slow.)

Atari in response to NWN1 furor says “Hey! Look, over there!”

Atari’s response to FiringSquad about recent yanking of support for NWN1: Hey, uh, fans can still make modules and, uh, NWN2 is way cool!

As a comment to the story said:

When someone answers your question with the answers to a completely different question; you can be sure their answer is no.

Obsidian’s community rep, meanwhile, hinted broadly on their forums that Atari wasn’t at fault in the matter (which would leave Wizards of the Coast as the owner of the D&D license). Speculation on the Quarter to Three thread is that this is due to cash-strapped Atari’s ditching its publishing rights to D&D, which would not be amusing news in some quarters (and would also make publishing NWN2 um, somewhat difficult…)

Apple: Games Are Bad, Mmmkay?

An interesting opinion here that states, bluntly:

Apple has no real corporate interest in the gaming community and does not see computer games as a path to success or a better image for Apple.

Why, given the multi-billion dollar level of return on investment in gaming? Well… uh… they’re bad for you.

I want to close with a comment on why Apple’s culture is so mixed on the subject of games. I think it’s a recognition by Apple’s management that this is a fact of life for most of its younger employees. But amongst many more senior managers, including Steve himself, I suspect there is some lingering concern about the essence of the game market. Computer games, as we’ve come to know them, are mostly (not always) about aggressive behavior, conflict, battle, wars of power, domination, and sometimes, in the worst cases, some very unwelcome social behavior. To put it bluntly, death and destruction.

Apple’s public culture appears to celebrate, on the other hand, creation and life. When you have several hundred senior managers at Apple who are most likely married and typically have children, you’ll find a culture of affirmation, family, and life.

Yes, because only unmarried death worshippers play games.

Second Life has too many servers, in danger of eating Internet

CNet has an interesting article questioning Second Life’s fiscal sanity:

“Second Life” currently runs on 2,579 servers that use the dual-core Opteron chip produced by AMD. Each server is responsible for an individual “sim,” or 16 acres of virtual “Second Life” land. At peak usage that means that each server is handling about three users.

Well, uh, thats… um… I’ll let everyone’s favorite pirate respond.

“My understanding of (Linden Lab’s) back-end requirements are that they’re absurd and unsustainable,” said Daniel James, CEO of Three Rings, publisher of the online game “Puzzle Pirates”. “They have (about) as many peak simultaneous players as we do, and we’re doing it on four CPUs.”

Philip Rosedale, Linden’s CEO, responded that their architecture was similar to Google, so no worries. Not mentioned: Google has slightly more concurrent users than Second Life, and probably serves more than, uh, three users per server. A more tenable response is that SL actually sells server space; owning “land” in SL can run a user up to $200 a month, which is in line with many rack-mounted server solutions for other web applications.

When thought of as another type of internet daemon, this almost makes sense. When thought of as a game server, it makes my wee head explode into goo.

(Thanks to AFKgamer for the link)

It’s All About The Rabbits

Raph Koster weighs in with a fascinating discussion of what went into UO’s gloriously failed ecology design. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

The last big element, however, was that there were a fair amount of team members who saw the whole system as a boondoggle, and not worth pursuing. Alas, one of them also ended up in charge of implementing it in beta.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing drives how and why things in MMOs are implemented more than you’d think. Or about the same, if you share my distressing lack of faith in human nature.

Regardless, Raph is far too modest (as usual). Ultima Online still has one of the most advanced economy models for a virtual world, years on. Only Eve currently comes close, mainly because it clearly read the playbook for both UO and its “successor state” SWG. Suffice to say I’m also stealing like a bandit taking notes.