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May 14, 2006

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» Metaverse Grudge Match from 3pointD.com
In the wake of the Metaverse Roadmap (are you tired of hearing about this event yet?) a really interesting distributed conversation has developed that has as its main interlocutors massively multiplayer game designer Raph Koster, chief technology offic... [Read More]

Comments

El-Rik

I would never consider giving time to the likes of that Neva entity. To call it the most obnoxious and poisonous forum poster on the internet would be too kind.

Jason Pettus

I haven't gotten a chance to check out that link yet, but what you mentioned here makes me already think of something important: that Second Life is bringing in a huge amount of people who would otherwise never play an online videogame. I'm a good example - I'm playing in SL now as Miller Copeland, and absolutely love it, but is actually the first time I've played a videogame with any regularity since Galaga in 1983. I would've never tried SL out, frankly, if it wasn't for its open-world format; no offense to gamers out there, because I understand why you like it, but I personally just have no interest in runnning around a forest in tights, sticking my sword into other people. I think this is an important thing about SL that needs to be acknowledged - that it's pulling in thousands and thousands of people right now who have never in their life given a thought to playing an online videogame.

Anyway, my two cents; and now I'm off to go check off that link!

Prokofy Neva

Erm, the name is *Prokofy* though I am pretty *perky* : ) Read my post, but the short form is: no, the future will come from social virtual worlds because they will have the malleability and flexibility and absence of a persistent fourth wall and be able both to create more effective *and* more permeable buffers or bridges to and from RL and other worlds. I continue to conceive of SL as kinda of the Woods Between the Worlds (like C.S. Lewis' Magician's Nephew), maybe not a terribly interesting world qua world for sum, but the gateway to others, and the enabler of the magic.

As I said, LL took the game out of the game and made it more fun. To the extent they can keep doing that and also root out all these vestiges of MMORPG culture, they'll be at the Metaverse cutting edge but the other guys in gameworld may also suddenly jump over their own knees and shed all that medieval skilling and battling and guilding drek and make some really different new thingie, too. Maybe they'll play leapfrog.

Cory Ondrejka

Prokofy, I'm so sorry. Problems in putting posts together late at night. I wonder if virtual worlds will ultimately change how we learn names since the default names we're used to no longer apply.

Mike Sellers

Cory, I wasn't sure whether to post this here or over on Terra Nova -- so at the risk of fracturing or duplicating discussion I'm going to do both. We have a blurring of the blog-o-sphere going on.

You, Raph, and I agree and disagree on some fundamental issues. In this case I side mainly with Raph. Not because I know only game environments online, but because, having tried developing non-game environments and seen others do so, and having looked extensively at the psycho-social issues involved in the usage of such environments, I believe his points (from his blog, see below) are correct. Now I know you disagree: you wouldn't be in the business you're in otherwise. So to some degree this is a futile exercise, but OTOH I thought that some of the things you said above merit a response.

Raph said: "I personally believe this is a mistaken take on things. I’ll be bold and say:
- no, it’s demonstrably less fun, to the vast majority of people, in SL than in most any of the gameworlds"

You dismissed this with your own question: "How many people use the web versus gameworlds? (Being generous to the games, it's 20 to 1)"

Sure, but that's a straw man. 'Web' doesn't equal social worlds so inserting it here is irrelevant. How many people use game worlds vs. non-game social worlds? Conservatively there are about 100 times as many people regularly using online game worlds over social worlds (far eclipsing even your 20:1 ratio for web to game usage). The ratio of people who find non-game worlds to be more enjoyable/satisfying hasn't changed dramatically from what I can tell since the days of OnLive, ActiveWorlds, Blaxxun, WorldsChat, ClubCaribe, etc.

Does this mean there's no market for non-game social worlds? No. But claiming it's anything but a tiny portion (less than 1%) of the online game market isn't borne out by the numbers.

Raph continued: "the gameworlds have historically been what has driven adoption in virtual spaces"

On this there seems to be little debate.

"- the gameworlds have historically been what has driven lasting innovation"

You responded: "I still find the claim that innovation is happening in gameworlds somewhat challenging. Given the number of announced gameworlds trying to pivot onto Second Life innovations -- user creation, collaborative creation, user markets, content markets, pay-to-play, no subscription, digital delivery, single shard, streaming content delivery -- what are the innovations in the gameworld space?"

I can think of game worlds that innovated in most if not all of those areas prior to SL, and which have explored them more fully with exposure to and learning from orders of magnitude more people. I'm not sure on what basis you claim SL to be the innovative leader in any of those areas other than broad-based user-creation of functional (scripted) content. In that area SL stands above the rest.

Online game worlds do seem to have entered an innovative pause, I agree. World of Warcraft represents a phenomenal aggregation and polishing of prior innovations (along with some of their own, such as their early gameplay), and many games in development seem to be taking a similar approach, backing off of major innovations in favor of the tried-and-true. OTOH there are many innovative game worlds in development and I'm sure they'll continue to be the leading edge of online adoption.

As to your question, "what are the innovations in the gameworld space?", off the top of my head I can think of significant innovations in areas such as business models (even subscription was innovative at one time!), server technology (many, as I understand it, surpassing SL's server structure), 3D rendering, AI, user interface, server and client-side scripting, micro and macro social structures (housing, guilds, corporations, allegiances, etc. - though this is an area where early innovation has not been extensively built upon), and methods of responding to and working with active populations in the multiple hundreds of thousands or higher.

Finally, you said: "As to the question of fun or usage, debating it does seem a little silly. Second Life has show gentle exponential growth since it launched. Either that trend will continue or it will not. If it does, exponential growth combined with the fact that we address a much larger market than games means that we will dwarf gameworlds. If not, we won't."

You and I have been over this before. I don't think it's "silly" to consider this when game-world adoption outstrips SL's adoption by 100x or more, as they have historically done. I don't believe that counting 90-day trailing numbers presents an accurate picture of an online space's user base (much less counting everyone who ever logged in, as some other social communities try to do). 7-day trailing numbers appear to be a more accurate picture of actual active users. 30-day trailing numbers work only if you posit that a large portion (or even a majority) of the population check in just once a month and yet still feel that they are an active part of the community and contribute as such (monetarily and otherwise).

Alternatively you could discuss ARPU (average [monthly] revenue per user) which I hope/suspect will emerge as the only way to discuss apples-to-apples comparisons between online worlds, taking into account the entire spectrum of users from one-time registrants to free-riders to true believers. By that measure, for example, if SL continued its "exponential" growth to 1M registered users overall, it's residents would still have to generate an ARPU of about $95 each month to equal WoW's ARPU. That doesn't seem likely to me to happen any time soon (OTOH an ARPU of about $4 on a 1M installed base equals a "standard" MMO with 250K subscribing users, so there is some merit to non-subscription models even with large numbers of free-riders).

Going back to where I started, we seem to have a sort of religious divide opening up in online worlds between game and non-game adherents. To me that's unfortunate. I hope SL is successful and that we see many mroe non-game worlds (or worlds within SL or similar environments).

But I have come full circle in my belief that if this happens it is at least twenty years away. Not because games are inherently cool or anything like that, but because people consistently and demonstrably (by orders of magnitude) prefer spaces with embedded entertainment value over those without. I don't see the psycho-social realities underlying this changing any time soon, though there may be generational effects that we don't yet see. And despite having worked on this problem heavily in the late 1990s, I still don't see any rational basis for claiming that non-game worlds will soon, if ever, overtake game-worlds in terms of user adoption or penetration.

Raph

"I'm not sure on what basis you claim SL to be the innovative leader in any of those areas other than broad-based user-creation of functional (scripted) content. In that area SL stands above the rest."

Furcadia has had this via DragonSpeak for a decade. :)

Other than that, what Mike said. And I say that as a fervent BELIEVER in social worlds and user content, mind you. I find it deeply curious that I am being tagged as the opponent here when in the game industry I'm usually painted as the opposite. :)

Cory Ondrejka

To lesten confusion -- although these really had been intended as separate posts -- continuing discussion on TN

Prokofy Neva

>I wonder if virtual worlds will ultimately change how we learn names since the default names we're used to no longer apply.

Ermmm...Yes, in the Metaverse, Slavic names like "Prokofy" and "Ondrejka" will be utterly deracinated!

facesitting

here facesitting

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