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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

RICHARD BARTLE: THE STEEL CAGE DEATH MATCH COLLOQUIUM!

Second Life: revolution, or reiteration? Next Sunday, an online world pioneer comes to SL to engage Residents on the topic...

Way back in the day, Richard Bartle built one of the world's first multi-user dungeons, and a lot more recently, authored a canonical guide to creating virtual worlds, and for some three decades of consistent kickass in the field, earned himself a coveted pioneer game developer's award.

He's not all that convinced, however, that Second Life represents a qualitative leap in the medium he did so much to invent. After all, he once argued, in retort to the claim that Second Life was such a leap:

... In a textual world, I can stand in my own mouth, seeing my surroundings get light and dark as I open and close it. I can be part of a painting I am carrying under my arm. I can appear as a frog to one person and a beautiful princess to another. I can have internal organs. I can photograph an opinion. I can share control of my body with another player. I can drink from a Klein bottle. I can be of no gender. I can unerupt a volcano, store the world in a box, hold a soul in the palm of my hand, dance with the colour cyan.

Do that in your 3D world.

Or framed another way, "What's Second Life, but a graphic and audio-based attempt to create a simulated world that words can depict better, and more deeply?"

Quite a challenge. Rising to meet it, the folks at SL Future Salon invited Richard in-world, to speak on the matter. August 14th is throw down day between the forces of Second Life exceptionalism, and this wisened advocate of textual preeminence. To make matters more funky, dancing will also happen, and Richard's words will be mixmastered, into something with a backbeat. Thus, even if no agreement is reached, all conflicts will at last be smoothed away by the copious busting of moves.

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Comments

This is not exactly a new debate: Second Life is to textual worlds what movies are to books.

Posted by: Jaynius Shaftoe at Aug 10, 2005 8:18:31 AM

How does that annoying soundfile go? "All hail the Great Shamalamadingdong"? It's very appropriate ~ set to the maximum of sarcasm, thank you ~ in this context. And even that comment serves as a case in point: can you hear the sound of it as I text it? No, you cannot. And could you SEE the same thing I see in a 3-D world, if that world was instead being texted? No, you could not.

One of the main differences ~ if not the main difference ~ is that a textual world is a conglomeration of island universes: the overlapping but (at best) vaguely corresponding worldviews of each participant in that texted world. And the only way to TRY to get beyond vagueness? Is through precise, complex description. And you wanna talk about lag? Better to wear five pounds of bling on one's avatar and share a nightclub with three dozen others and their Benshees, and everything half-rezzing, than to attempt texting whatever it takes for all co-texters to even begin imagining a red pony the way *I* imagine that red pony.

Texted worlds perforce rely on the skill of the texters. Thus Margaret Atwood or Neil Gaiman would text a more entertaining, complex world than, say, John Grisham ever could. And you know what? Most people, bless their hearts, couldn't reach one-tenth of just Grisham's putative skill. And that's who we'd be interacting with? And, if not, just how wordsmith-elitist would that world therefore be? The analogous FIC would be those with the best vocabularies and the most evocative phrasings? Feh. Because, even if none of that were the case, it'd still be all about reading, wouldn't it?

And one wants to READ oneself a world? Not *this* one, unless we're talking about BOOKS, and certainly not when there's an immersive, visual and auditory 3-D alternative such as provided by, oh, Linden Lab ...

I don't want to READ Second Life; I want to EXPERIENCE it, and to know that my fellow inhabitants are experiencing the same world I am --- through their senses of sight and sound, at the least --- and not merely attempting to INFER that world from half-assed or even expert implications delivered via text.

Steel cage death match, Hammie? I'm not sure if I'll be inworld for the Bartle Battle, but if I am I'll have my foreign-object-enhanced piledriver at the ready.

Posted by: Memory Harker at Aug 10, 2005 10:49:18 AM

Check out Cory Linden's Ce n'est pas un monde virtuel post on Terra Nova about text vs. graphics followed by a record-breaking 216-some comments. It's the Santa's-list-sized back-and-forth that led to this salon.

Jaynius Shaftoe > This is not exactly a new debate: Second Life is to textual worlds what movies are to books.

Jaynius, we'll present this as the first question/comment of the salon. It's a good inroad to Richard's ideas. After reading Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good for You I wasn't even so sure that movies are to movies what movies are to movies. (I'm not exactly sure what I just said, but I have to recommend that book :-).) Not a new debate, no, but an interesting one that takes on new light over time, and Richard's the man here.

To stir the pot, Richard recently made another observation about the similarity of behavior in SL and earlier textual worlds, suggesting there's nothing fundamentally new happening here:

"In textual non-game worlds such as MOOs, MUSHes and Tiny*s, here's what people tended to do:
1) Make stuff, either for fun or as conversation pieces.
2) Politick about resource allocation.
3) Create games.
4) Indulge in virtual sex."

Now I'm all abizout the 3D w00t graphical w00t open source w00t interoperable w00t post-browser w00t Metaverse w00t, but this Sunday I'm looking forward to Second Life getting its MUD on! When we get Firefox cracking in here I betcha text MUD is the new Tringo ;-)

Posted by: SNOOPYbrown Zamboni at Aug 10, 2005 11:51:19 AM

Richard Bartle wrote:

"... In a textual world, I can stand in my own mouth, seeing my surroundings get light and dark as I open and close it. I can be part of a painting I am carrying under my arm. I can appear as a frog to one person and a beautiful princess to another. I can have internal organs. I can photograph an opinion [...] Do that in your 3D world."

Well, we can. We do. 3D worlds can contain textual worlds or have textual worlds layered upon them. So comparing text-based to 3D worlds seems a bit like comparing a VCR unit to a DVD/VCR unit. In SL we can do the text-world thing AND/OR the 3D thing.

Posted by: Neal Stewart at Aug 10, 2005 2:53:12 PM

Looking over Richard's "I can" list again, I'm finding at least a few of them that I've actually reported on. Can anyone else find references/cites for the others?

> I can be part of a painting I am carrying under my
> arm.

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/09/burning_man_bur_1.html
(Well, the first part, at least.)

> I can share control of my body with another player.

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/08/permission_to_h.html

> I can be of no gender.

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2005/04/furry_like_me.html

> I can... store the world in a box...

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2005/07/post_2.html

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Aug 10, 2005 4:29:17 PM


> I can appear as a frog to one person and a beautiful princess to another

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2005/07/mr_froggs_wild_.html
http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=590
http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/12/the_nine_souls_.html

> I can have internal organs

External organs anyone? :)
http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=350
And of course we can't forget the heart:
http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2005/05/your_cheating_h.html

> I can photograph an opinion

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/11/red_staters_mee_4.html
http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=914

> I can be of no gender

http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/06/instant_reflect.html
http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2005/01/man_and_man_on_.html

> I can unerupt a volcano

If you can erupt them, you can unerupt them.
http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/04/tiger_tiger_bur.html
http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/03/the_great_exped_3.html

> hold a soul in the palm of my hand

Will the body and blood of christ do?
http://secondlife.blogs.com/nwn/2004/04/where_two_or_mo.html
Or the digisoul:
http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=749

Posted by: Neal Stewart at Aug 11, 2005 1:10:23 AM

"... In a textual world, I can stand in my own mouth, seeing my surroundings get light and dark as I open and close it. I can be part of a painting I am carrying under my arm. I can appear as a frog to one person and a beautiful princess to another. I can have internal organs. I can photograph an opinion. I can share control of my body with another player. I can drink from a Klein bottle. I can be of no gender. I can unerupt a volcano, store the world in a box, hold a soul in the palm of my hand, dance with the colour cyan."

Some of the things Richard wrote about are spatial impossabilities, like standing inside your own mouth (although its certianly possible to put an avatar inside a giant mouth).

"Appearing as a frog to one person and a princess to the other"...as long as he doesn't mean "at the same time", grab a frog avatar and a princess avatar and switch back and forth between them. It would be much the same as having a frog @desc and a princess @desc and switching between those (I used to play in and still hang around MUCKs).

Drink from a Klien bottle...I looked up what a Klien bottle is and realized that I've seen one appear in-world recently. It's on display at Montmartre 84,124 - it's currently giant sized, but I immagine it would be trivial to shrink it down add a standard drinking script to it (Particles to simulate the liquid flow are optional).

Share controll of my body with another player: A more direct corilation would be animation bracelets that have this function built into them, one of which I own (I bought it before I figured out how to get Francis Chung's animation overrider to work): they're frequently used by BDSM practitioners and machinima directors (Hamlet, didn't you do an article about the "Movin On" sitcom production?).

Internal organs? Sure. I can attach stuff inside my body. I can make prim organs. ...ok, a lot of people already make prim organs, except they tend to be *cough* not internal.

Unerupt a volcano? Definately doable. Script it so the eruption goes in reverse.

Dance with the color cyan? Dancing's the easy part. You'd just need a good abstract artist to create a representation of the color cyan to dance with.

Photograph an Opinion: Well, photographers already do that in real life. Hamlet has many photographed opinions posted on this blog.

Posted by: Elle Pollack at Aug 11, 2005 1:29:48 AM

Neal Stewart > 3D worlds can contain textual worlds or have textual worlds layered upon them. So comparing text-based to 3D worlds seems a bit like comparing a VCR unit to a DVD/VCR unit. In SL we can do the text-world thing AND/OR the 3D thing.

Right. Jade Lily posted an interesting example on the text vs. graphics thread. People playing Shadowrun, a tabletop story/text RPG, in Second Life: post here and pic here.

Posted by: SNOOPYbrown Zamboni at Aug 11, 2005 9:15:47 AM

As much as I'm a fan of fantastic textual description, I think one of the upshots of something like Second Life is it is not enough to merely say, "I am dancing with the color cyan." You must have a concrete visualization of what that means. This isn't much of a loss, since those things you cannot represent in some fashion tend to be gibberish to begin with.

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