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A few things Mark Wallace

Tag: mmo

The Board Game That Led to the First MMO

Richard Bartle's Wizards & Heroes board game

In our book on virtual worlds and online games (The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid that Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse), we give a lot of attention, fittingly, to the first persistent multiplayer online world. Known as MUD1 and dating from 1978, the Multi-User Dungeon was designed and developed by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle — the latter of whom had an interesting post on Google+ last week about a board game he designed that had influenced the computer game.

The game, originally called Wizzards & Heros, was “inspired by a make-your-own game article I’d read in the magazine Games and Puzzles,” Bartle writes. As he describes it: “The basic idea was that you were a wizard or hero (or, later under D&D influence, priest) who was out seeking treasure. You would get treasure mainly from killing monsters, [but] simply killing a monster didn’t get you treasure: you had to have an advice card telling you that the monster had the treasure. Advice cards were acquired by ending your turn in a village (red circles on a road) or in a city (red hexes). You couldn’t sit in a village to get more advice but you could in a city; however, in a city there was a risk of plague, so you wouldn’t want to stay there long.”

There’s a great description of the game in Bartle’s Google+ post, including a very cool “corpse run” mechanic that’s common in electronic MMOs but which I’ve never encountered before in an analog game.

One misconception that Bartle corrects: The game predated his and his friends’ knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons, which is often cited as an ancestor of MUD1. D&D had an influence, but perhaps not as much as many writers (including myself) have assumed. “Much has been written about the influence of D&D on the development of MMOs, but in MUD‘s case at least there wasn’t a lot. I drew far more on games I’d made myself,” Bartle says. Another argument for grabbing your magic markers and scotch tape and getting started making board games.

Channel and Content: Facebook vs. the Virtual World

Uberstrike: Kill your virtual friends on FacebookI had the pleasure a few days ago of writing a piece for Wired magazine’s Opinion site on How Facebook Killed the Virtual World (which you can feel free to go and read, if you haven’t already — I’ll wait here). It garnered a predictable raft of reactions from virtual world fans. With a title like that, how could it not? But one comment in particular sparked some additional thoughts. Ramzi Yakob wrote:

To be honest, I don’t see how Facebook bears any relevance to MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. You’re effectively arguing that a CHANNEL has the ability to replace CONTENT… which it can’t. The ability to use Facebook as a channel for games isn’t something I’d dispute – whether or not it has the ability to disrupt multi-billion dollar ventures that produce very high quality content is completely ridiculous.

There are some interesting semantic things going on here. I’m not arguing that a channel can “replace” great content. But I am arguing that channels have a great deal of influence in determining what content we consume. And by extension, I’d say that content on its own merits doesn’t have as much power — and that its power wanes as channels mature. This is the “build it and they will come” fallacy of Internet services: it almost never works that way. You have to put an enormous amount of effort into getting your content, no matter how great it is, in front of the people who may want it. And this is something Facebook facilitates very well — so well, in fact, that it is likely having an impact on our patterns of consuming even expensively produced, high-quality content like top-shelf MMORPGs and the like.

I say “likely” because it’s tough to measure, but there is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence. And there are definitely plenty of (moderately) happy Facebook investors and newly minted Facebook millionaires who stand very firmly behind the idea (as I do) that Facebook can disrupt enormous and established industries that trade in high-quality content. Spotify (for which a Facebook account is necessary) is a great example of this, as are all the marketing campaigns on all the Facebook pages for all the movies, TV shows, games, and consumer products you’re buying every day.

Below the jump is the response I originally made to Ramzi’s comment: Continue reading

What’s the Best Definition of Pervasive Gaming?

I’ve just noticed that the Wikipedia page for “pervasive game” redirects to the page for “location-based game,” though I don’t believe the two are congruent. Location-based games leverage the player’s presence at a specific location in some way, while pervasive games don’t necessarily need to.

Humans vs. Zombies, for instance — in which college students hunt each other around a campus — takes place in the physical world around the players, without being dependent on particular locations. One could imagine a host of other gameplay possibilities that leverage mechanics that depend on interactions with other players or with categories of objects or locations (“coffee shops,” for instance) rather than interactions with particular locations (“the Starbucks at 2nd and Market”).

With that in mind, what’s the best definition for a class of games we could call “pervasive”? Here’s my current thinking:

A pervasive game is a game that takes place in the physical world, concurrently with the normal activities of players’ everyday lives.

Let’s pick that apart a little:

  • a game that takes place in the physical world
  • a game that takes place concurrently with the normal activities of players’ everyday lives

Explicated below:
Continue reading

Hell is Game Ads

It’s a bit brilliant that online anime-styled MMO AdventureQuest (from @ArtixKrieger) now punishes players for dying by making them watch a 9-second advertisement. From the press release:

…players of the popular AdventureQuest Worlds MMORPG are being punished for dying in-game by being forced to see an advertisement for nine seconds before being allowed to return to life.

Previously, AdventureQuest Worlds players who died in-game would be faced with a grayed out screen showing their character on the ground and a nine second countdown before they could return back to life. With this new change, when a player dies, Death makes a personal appearance on the player’s screen and says a witty line while showing a static ad of an Artix Entertainment-related game or item.

“For years our players scoffed at how there was no real punishment for dying in AQWorlds,” said Adam Bohn, CEO/Founder of Artix Entertainment, LLC. “So we added a fate worse than death… ads!”

Already, AdventureQuest players are up in arms — singing exactly the tune Artix no doubt wants them to: “now when i die im threatened with ads…i rather pay 100 gold NOT to have ads when i die

Will it work? Who knows? But it’s the most amusingly innovative instance of in-game advertising I’ve seen in some time, and exceedingly fitting, if you ask me. Great incentive to level up your game.

Four Second Skin T-Shirts to Give Away

Just realized I have four t-shirts to give away for the film Second Skin (in which I appear very briefly, giving an interview to the filmmakers), a documentary about online game addiction. The film is actually very good. It’s a little slim on explaining in a positive light what’s so engaging about games like World of Warcraft, but it does a great job painting portraits of the film’s subjects, a handful of gamers who have truly got it bad.

If you want a shirt, email your address to me at themetaverse at gmail dot com and I’ll get one off to you. The design is essentially the same as the cover of the DVD, but in green instead of red.

Conquer Your Neighborhood in Parallel Kingdom

Parallel Kingdom is a location-based game that lays a massively multiplayer online role-playing game over the top of a Google map of your current surroundings. It’s not the only game of its kind, but it’s a very cool concept, one that points toward the future for much of mobile gaming — and for the mobile incarnation of social media as well. Think of location-based gaming as the teaspoon of sugar that’s going to help people swallow location-based services in general.

PK is fairly straightforward, giving you simple mobs to hunt down and resources to collect, within half a mile of your GPS-determined or tower-triangulated location, whether you’re on an iPhone or an Android handset. One note: I got the game going on my iPhone for about a day, but haven’t been able to get it launched since. According to a recent interview with the developers, however, there are about 70,000 more or less active players, which sounds fairly respectable to me, given the nature of the game. Continue reading

Online Game Addiction: DVD Giveaway

I have a few copies of Second Skin to give away, the recent documentary that looks at the phenomenon of addiction to online games like World of Warcraft. (I appear briefly in the film, commenting on virtual worlds in general.) The movie doesn’t do much hyperbolizing; the players that are followed in the film really do have it bad. The portraits are well drawn, and the games themselves aren’t really demonized, though if the film has a shortcoming, it’s in not adequately portraying the positive aspects of online gaming. Definitely worth watching, if you can find a screening. (It’s in San Francisco at the end of September.) If you want to check it out in the comfort of your own home, send me your name and address at themetaverse at gmail dot com, and I’ll fire off DVDs while supplies last (which isn’t going to be very long). I may have some t-shirts to give away as well.

Mothballs: the End of an Eve Online Corporation

I’ll begin this blog with an ending: My friend Jim Rossignol writes this week (over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a site he co-founded) about the five-year spree of StateCorp, a player-run “corporation” in the massively multiplayer online space opera known as Eve Online. (Eve’s corporations would be known in most other games as guilds or clans.) Jim helped run StateCorp over the entire course of its life — for much of which time he was arguably its lifeblood, without which it would have broken up. I was a member for a couple of years near the beginning, and on and off throughout. Now, with the corporation “in the process of moth-balling and disbanding,” Jim looks back at what he calls “the lengthiest and most fulfilling gaming experience” of his life. Considering the impact it made on me, I can understand his effusiveness. Continue reading

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