Tag Archives: MMO

Redefining friendship: Facebook, MMORPGs and Dragon Age Origins

Blasphemous Geometries by Jonathan McCalmont


The Antiques Roadshow” – For an entire generation of people who grew up [in the UK – Ed.] in the 1980s, those three little words herald a wave of unease and bitterness.  Like a Renaissance magus, they conjure forth memories of Sunday evenings dominated by the looming return of school and the perversity of one’s parents’ taste in television.  You see, younglings… prior to the internet, cable TV and the explosion of cheap consumer electronics, most young British people were trapped not only in a four channel world, but in a world where only one TV channel was ever really accessible to them : the one that their parents wanted to watch.  Continue reading Redefining friendship: Facebook, MMORPGs and Dragon Age Origins

US$330,000 for a virtual space station?

For the vast majority of readers here, I expect virtual economies consume very little of your meatspace money, if any at all. But some folk place a huge real-money value on intangible virtual items… via Cheryl Morgan comes news of a guy who just spuffed US$330,000 on a virtual space station in the Entropia Universe MMO:

Entropia Universe is well known for its “real cash economy,” where $1 can buy you 10 PEDs (Project Entropia dollars) in the virtual world. The Crystal Palace is a huge virtual space station that orbits the Planet Calypso.

Well the auction just ended, and one “lucky” man (Buzz “Erik” Lightyear) has just won the Crystal Palace for 3,300,000 PED. If you haven’t figured it already, that translates to $330,000 USD.

[…] the purchase may be strategic — the owner stands to make money off the shops, transactions, and activities that occur on his virtual space station. And if online gaming and virtual currency continue their growth trends in 2010, the man could potentially make his money back.

As pointed out, a purchase of that size currently screams “rich guy with money to waste on having fun”(which I can’t bring myself to begrudge entirely), especially if you look at the video clips of the space station’s interior (which looks a lot like a custom level for the Doom engine, IMHO).

But virtual economies and entirely intangible businesses haven’t gone away, despite the headlines dying off periodically… I fully expect we’ll see more of this in the year to come.

Permaculture as an MMO?

permaculture produceTaking a brief break from grim predictions of hyperlocal terrorism and the decline of the nation-state, John Robb hypothesises about a way to solve the looming problem of localised food production: why not make permaculture into a sort of MMO game?

Riffing on the popularity of Farmville (which I suspect bears about as much relation to real farming as a round of Arkanoid bears to real atmospheric re-entry in a spaceship), Robb suggests that boosting the fun and competitive aspects of farming projects in meatspace could be a great way to build more resilient communities:

… the current state of software that aids the design of permaculture plots is pretty dismal. The best people can do is cobble together mapping software, 3D landscape modeling software, and some auto CAD. Of course, it is possible if the resources were available (my team of developers could do it), to build software that enables people to design, optimize, and share permaculture plots, that misses a great opportunity.

The real opportunity is to build a learning system via software, one that naturally trains the people that use it, gets better and more sophisticated over time, and is fun. The only way I know how to do that is build a game.

One of the first things to do, is build a simple Farmville type social game that helps people learn permaculture design principles…

I’ll admit to being cynical on this one; I think the fun elements of a social game based on farming would be swiftly forgotten when it came to the first day of digging irrigation channels under a blazing sun. But maybe not… and Robb’s idea might work well in developing nations where the bulk of people are already farmers, enabling them to learn and shift to new and more sustainable techniques over time. [image by JoePhoto]

Niche mag publishing model #271: World of Warcraft, The Magazine

Still looking for new niche magazine publishing strategies? I sure am – and here’s one that doesn’t revolve around free web content. Indeed, someone’s starting a high quality print magazine on a subscription model. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you World Of Warcraft: The Magazine. Take it away, Ars Technica:

Clearly, there is much to be skeptical about, but the team behind the magazine makes a strong case for a publication of this type. Here’s the scoop on how they plan to sidestep the issues of traditional magazine publishing and still make a profit.

“This won’t be driven by advertising; it’s based on a print-on-demand format. We will launch the subscription website on Friday, monitoring who is subscribing in what language, and print that many copies exactly,” John Gower, International Director of FuturePlus, told Ars. “This will be environmentally friendly—no waste.” This print on demand format allows them to keep publishing costs as low as possible, and releasing magazines to subscribers only—no newsstand—will make sure no copies get thrown away.

“I’m not sure gamers were walking into Waldenbooks to find the newest information anyway,” Dan Amrich, the magazine’s editor in chief, said. So how will the quarterly magazine be advertised? The magazine will launch at Blizzcon, with people being able to subscribe for $39.95, £29.95, or €34.95. That may seem high for four issues a year, but the team is promising a high-quality, large format magazine with heavy paper stock, a glossy cover, and 148 pages an issue… and no ads. “We want this to be a nice surprise when people get it in the post, like unwrapping a Christmas present every quarter.”

Now, the advantage WoW:TM has here over a more general magazine is a ready-made niche interest base of considerable size to pitch to, plus direct access to the information and content that that niche is going to want. But they’re also treating the readers with respect by removing the crappy ads that seem to fill more than half of most game or tech mags, and aiming for a quality physical product that you’re going to want to keep; I’m assuming the content will lean towards stuff that isn’t too time-sensitive. Furthermore, they save on the dreaded pulping margin by going with print-on-demand, keeping their overheads low.

So, I see two takeaways here for the genre fiction scene in particular. First of all, is this a potential model for the genre fiction print magazine surviving? We’ve talked POD in genre before, but I don’t remember it being combined with the no-ads idea. A magazine that makes the effort to be an artefact, a thing of beauty – I’m thinking more Interzone than Asimov’s on the aesthetic front, here – while also delivering 100% great content for a reasonable price… well, in some respects this isn’t that different a model to the existing one, at least in some cases. If WoW:TM succeeds, what will that say about the viability of genre magazines? Is the death of print simply a question of costs not scaling?

Secondly, and maybe more pertinently: World Of Warcraft: The Magazine strikes me as a damn good market for fantasy writers to pitch stories to.

The Iron Cage of Fantasy: World of Warcraft, City of Heroes and Fable II

If modern gaming is all about escapism, why do we choose to escape to virtual worlds that contain so many of the negative pressures of the world we’re trying to leave behind?

Blasphemous Geometries by Jonathan McCalmont


I’d like to begin this column by discussing escapism. Describing something as “escapist” has always struck me as something of a back-handed compliment. A tacit (and sometimes dismissive) acknowledgement of a work’s lack of topicality or verisimilitude coupled to an attempt to shift the critical yardstick from the aesthetic to the psychological : Yes, we know that this film/game/book is all about giant stompy robots hitting each other but it scratches an itch that we, the audience, need scratching.

The itch in question is the need to escape from an increasingly inhospitable 21st Century existence; an existence filled with long commutes, unpaid mandatory overtime, credit card bills, mortgage foreclosures, unemployment, failed relationships and the plethora of modern-day worries, problems and fears that many choose to medicate with alcohol. People justifiably want to escape to a world that is less oppressive and miserable. This explains why the grand-father of escapist fiction is J.R.R. Tolkien and not Jean-Paul Sartre. Continue reading The Iron Cage of Fantasy: World of Warcraft, City of Heroes and Fable II