Recently in Games Category

A few weeks ago, Stewart Brand emailed me asked if I was still playing World of Warcraft and if I had read DAEMON. I was still playing World of Warcraft and hadn't read DAEMON. A few days later, thanks to Amazon, I was reading DAEMON.

Years ago, I remember thinking about Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) and how much they affected people in the real world. I knew people who were obsessed with MUDs, the first Multi-User Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). I was obsessed. (I think the first time I ever appeared in Wired was in 1993 when Howard Rheingold with Kevin Kelly wrote about MUDs and mentioned my obsession.) In MUDs, people got married, people got divorced, people lost their jobs, people shared ideas... The MUDs I played touched the real world through all of the people in the game.

Unlike the World of Warcraft and more like Second Life, MUDs allowed players to create rooms, monsters and objects. When you entered a MUD, it was like entering the collective intelligence of all of the people who played the game. There were quests that were designed by people using their knowledge of Real Life™. Playing in their worlds was like walking through their brains. These worlds merged and collided as people from everywhere collaborated in creating MUDs of various themes with various objectives.

At some point in the evolution of MMORPGs, MUDs forked and we ended up with most of the people who liked creating objects and worlds in places like Second Life where, while you CAN make games, most of what happens is world creation. The "gamers" ended up in games like World of Warcraft where the game play aspect has been honed to a fine art, but the player content creation aspect has been completely lost. (Although most of the developers are former obsessive players.)

What I envisioned back when I was playing and hacking MUDs more was that if you turned the world a bit inside out and imagined that YOU were the MUD, the people who played your game were like little pawns or interfaces for you in the real world. They inputted content and created worlds and taught you about the real world. They promoted you to their friends. They played obsessively increasing experience points and commitment to the game so that they would forever feed you and keep you alive. They would set up servers and pay for hosting just to feed their obsession and protect their investment. If you became extremely popular, a group of your players would spawn a new MUD with your DNA-code and there would be another one of you.

The hardcore players would hack your open source code and keep you evolving. The Wizards would educate and add character to each instance of your code. The players would be your footprint in Real Life™.

When most of the gamers moved to corporation owned closed source games designed by a team of developers, I stopped having this dream. The games were no longer "alive" in the same way I had envisioned them evolving.

After reading DAEMON, this dream is back. Leinad Zeraus depicts a world where a collosall computer daemon designed by a genius MMO designer begins to take over the world after his death. In many ways, the vision is similar to the vision I had, but the author adds a macabre twist and many many more orders of scale to make this one of the most inspiring books I've read in a long time. The author is "an independent systems consultant to Fortune 100 companies. He has designed enterprise software for the defense, finance and entertainment industries." He uses his experience to make the book extremely believable and realistic and still mind-blowing.

It was super fun to read and is a book I'd recommend to any who loves the Net and gaming. I'd also recommend it to anyone who doesn't. It's a great book to learn about the importance of understanding all of this - before it's too late.

I’ve just joined the board of directors of Sanrio Digital based in Hong Kong, which among other things does the online stuff for Hello Kitty. It’s a joint venture between Sanrio and Typhoon Games which is run by my good friend Yat Siu. A full press release is on their blog.

I am now reachable at joi (at) hellokitty.com. ;-)

UPDATE: You can see the various services we are providing already at Sanriotown. You can get your free Hello Kitty email address there too.

Kara Swisher is one of the smartest, funniest and sometimes cruelest journalists I know. She is a co-host of the Wall Street Journal All Things Digital conference with Walt Mossberg.

For a variety of reasons she’s having a hard time getting an interview with Jerry Yang. She discovered that “Lunch with Jerry Yang” is the prize from DonorsChoose.org Bloggers Challenge for the bloggers who inspire the most readers to give. To participate/give, just go to the AllThingsD page on the DonorsChoose site.

So… in addition to loving Kara, I also owe her for introducing me to cool people and letting me stay at her house and stuff. When she says, “i need you to flack this…it is for a good cause. also funny” I guess it means I should blog about it. ;-)

Good luck Kara. Sorry Jerry!

But it is a good cause. Really. I’m going to give right now.

For a more complete description of this whole thing, which is admittedly slightly difficult to understand, see Kara’s blog post about it.

I was invited to GDC Prime this year to talk about "More than MMOs: Let Them Build It. How user-created content has transformed online games into a new web platform."

What is GDC Prime? "GDC Prime is an executive-level conference that takes place during the week of GDC. This event includes tailored content as well as exclusive networking and VIP access to GDC. Space is limited and passes are available by invitation only."

The next obvious question is, what is GDC? "The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is the official trade event "by developers for developers" of computer, console, mobile, arcade, online games, and location based entertainment."

If you're in the game industry, you know about GDC. If you're like me and were never a game industry professional, odds are you didn't know about it... at least until now.

Anyway, having never attended this conference, I decided not to prepare my talk until I arrived and got a good look at my audience. It's actually a fascinating mashup of the old-school, hacker, anti-establishment gaming culture that I remember and a slick Hollywood-style "buzz" of a multi-billion dollar content industry.

I'm in the middle of reading Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade. It's an HBS book from 2004 that argues that "they" (the baby boomer generation the authors represent) are misinterpreting and underestimating the size and impact of the gaming culture. They describe gamers as a newer and bigger generation than the baby boomers and assert that the thing that ties them together is gaming. They explain that gaming is bigger than the commercial Internet and only slightly smaller than TV in its cultural impact.

I had a slightly awkward feeling reading this book and talking to some of the game industry execs, I think I've started to understand. My first experience with computers was writing software in a research lab during the day and writing my own games on the lab computers at night. All of my teenage coding experience revolved around writing games or hacking game code. Later, I played MUDs and one of the main points of trying to become a max-level Wizard on a MUD was to be allowed to create your own worlds and monsters. Although I had interacted with parts of the gaming industry, for some reason, I still had the image of the gaming industry as a bunch of hackers who understand hacking... or at least the importance of "user-generated content."

The sense that I got yesterday was that the gaming industry was basically the same mass production and mass distribution content industry machine that Hollywood movies and television are. And... while there are certain companies and individuals who are bridging the gap between the gaming industry and the Internet, the gaming industry is making the same mistakes that the content guys have been making since the beginning of networked computers. They ALWAYS over-estimate the importance of the content and vastly underestimate the desire of users/people to communicate with each other and share.

History is riddled with examples like Minitel, the French videotex service that survived through personal communication despite the designers almost forgetting to put that feature in. There was Delphi whose architecture blew up because it was designed to deliver pages of information to users, not information between users. More recently there are the commercial video streaming companies continuing to struggle as user generated video sites like YouTube boom.

One way to think about this evolution is that as we empower the user through better computers and better networks, we are going from content to context. We used to listen to records and later CD's to wallow in our loneliness with self-pity laced teenage tunes. Later karaoke and video games came out which allowed us to interact with the content and feel a bit more involved and less lonely. Now we have MySpace, texting, blogging, Wikipedia and an explosion of online community generating content models. It is becoming less and less about content and more and more about context - less about professional content and more and more about us. The professional content is important and will never go away, but it is becoming more of a platform or substrate on which the users build their own communities, interaction and play.

My fear is that many game industry executives are losing touch with the new gamers that are emerging as our devices get networked. "Got Game" clumps MMORPGs together with other games as sufficiently similar to each other. I believe that for the purposes of trying to contrast the gamers from the baby boomers, this may be true, but I think that imagining that you can make games like you've always made them in the Internet era is a big mistake. The problem is that the gaming industry is so huge and profitable... and arrogant... that the lessons that we may be learning on the Internet are having a hard time penetrating the board rooms and design meetings of big gaming companies.

On the other hand, a lot of the usual suspects who "get it" are here and appear to be thoroughly networked. I'm hoping that these catalyst/bridge types will connect these two disconnected worlds and help the gaming industry from making the same mistake that the music industry made - getting disconnected from the needs of their users and waging a "war on piracy" against them.

My flying mount
Jonkichi my mage hit Level 70 this weekend. Just updated my Rupture profile for Jonkichi. The grind from 60 to 70 was relatively fun and I enjoyed the new content. I'm also really enjoying my flying mount, although I can't afford an epic one yet.

As you can see in my gear list, I'm still wearing my T2 hat from Onyxia, but have replaced just about everything else.


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I posted some links of videos and notes from my talk about the World of Warcraft at 23C3 on my guild forums.

Update: Emory posted it to Google Video. Thanks!

PS: I usually don't pimp my talks this much, but a few people asked for it so I'm following up. ;-P

I had lunch today with Jonathan Aronson, the Executive Director of The Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC).

The Annenberg Center for Communication of the University of Southern California (USC) supports leading-edge interdisciplinary research on the meaning of the new networked information age. Projects focus on drivers that will shape the future and on the impact of new communication and information technologies on politics, society, and innovation.
I've spoken at the center twice in the last year or so and have really enjoyed the interactions. My sister Mimi is a Research Scientist at the Annenberg Center. Among other things, she is interested in Anime, Otaku and... gaming.

So... when Jonathan asked me to become a fellow and I happily agreed. As a fellow, I am just required to drop in when I'm in town and talk to them about stuff I'm excited about and to participate in their conversations on things they are excited about. Sounds like a win-win to me. In addition to the nepotistic happiness of working with my sister I am officially able to make the World of Warcraft an academic research field for myself. ;-)

Of course, gaming is not the only thing they are working on here. Emergent Democracy, Creative Commons, consumer generated media/blogging and some of the experiments in video seem like things I may be able to work on with people at the Annenberg Center.

Thanks for the invite Jonathan and look forward to working with you all.

Jonkichi, the Gnome Mage from Azeroth (WP) often plays Joichi Ito in real life. His photo was recently accepted by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) as the character who plays Joichi Ito as the associate to the Executive Producer in movie Indian Runner.
Had our first meeting inside of Second Life today to talk about the island. Thanks to everyone who showed up. Special thanks to Aimee Weber who donated an amphitheater! She showed me how to play videos inside of Second Life. So... I tried making a very recursive video of me watching a video of me watching a test video of myself. Watching a video together inside of Second Life actually works well. The audio and video quality is excellent and you can chat about the video and other things while you watch. It's really neat sharing a space like this together...

I uploaded a video iPod format m4v and a AVI format of the movie. Too bad the audio does't work... or for your sake, maybe it's better that it didn't.

Jonkvisa
Phillip Torrone blogs about the future of credit cards on the MAKE blog featuring yours truly on the World of Warcraft card. ;-) He writes about the interaction of credit cards, real money and virtual game money.

Great Wired article by John Seely Brown about World of Warcraft and what you learn when you play it.

And that's exactly what Gillett is doing. He accepted Yahoo!'s offer and now works there as senior director of engineering operations. "I used to worry about not having what I needed to get a job done," he says. "Now I think of it like a quest; by being willing to improvise, I can usually find the people and resources I need to accomplish the task." His story - translating experience in the virtual world into success in the real one - is bound to become more common as the gaming audience explodes and gameplay becomes more sophisticated. The day may not be far off when companies receive résumés that include a line reading "level 60 tauren shaman in World of Warcraft."

The savviest employers will get the message.

This ended up becoming a longer and more rambling post than I expected, but I'm going to post it anyway since I don't write enough these days...

The other day, I was doing an interview for a management and strategy magazine and one of the questions that came up in the conversation was why the management structures in Internet companies often end up being very old-fashioned. There is clearly some innovation, but not as much as you might expect considering how much the Internet enables us to be innovative in our communications and collaboration. We talked a bit about leadership and I was reminded of some conversations I had about the Howard Dean campaign.

My theory is that Howard Dean was a "place". He was a cool place to hang out at and the cool kids hung out there. Some of the elements of a cool place is that there isn’t so much of an "authority" but there is a sense of safety. The community was vibrant and Howard Dean seemed to be listening more than he was asserting. Years ago I created an IRC channel called #joiito, at the time for a place for people I was communicating with to hang out. It continues to survive with about 100 people always logged into the channel. I don’t hang out there as much these days, but it survives as a cool place, all of the regulars taking their share of leadership responsibility. One interesting thing about the channel is that I have never had to exercise any "authority" and people don’t really look to me as anything more than a custodian or a quiet host. I was just the trigger for the creation of a place.

Recently I have started playing World of Warcraft (WoW). Our guild, created in September last year, has grown to about 160 people and we have just begun running "Molten Core. Molten Core is one of the higher-level areas that require around 30-40 level 60 (the maximum level) players. It requires a lot of coordination, a balanced distribution of classes, training and leadership.

People pay a $15/month fee to play WoW. In the real world, most people get paid to work. The members of our guild and our raids are people who are paying to participate in what is often very tedious and hard work. Although there are clear goals and rewards for putting time into the game, most of the people in our guild play because they enjoy being together.

I’m sure there are other guilds that are managed differently - our guild is very inclusive and I changed the role name of "Guild Master" to "Guild Custodian". The next rank in our guild is "Guild Admin". Like my IRC channel, so far I have not had to exercise power or authority and Guild Admins are focused more on mediating conflicts and providing stability more than dishing out orders or punishment. We have had our share of problems, but considering the diversity of backgrounds and the geographic and political diversity, it’s amazingly cozy and friendly. Hanging out and chatting in guild chat has slightly more purpose than an IRC channel, but is similar in many ways.

In a raid, the dynamics are quite different. There are dozens of people who have all decided to assemble after preparing various items to use during the raid, training, gearing up and otherwise preparing for the raid. Excitement and tensions run high and a little screw-up from one person can get every killed (a wipe), causing huge repair bills and delays that causes more tension. One of the most important things about a raid is the mood of the raid. When everyone is upbeat and having a good time, mistakes and wipes are shrugged off and people continue to push forward. A well-run raid is an amazing thing to participate in. Each of the classes has a class leader and a class chat channel. There are leader channels, healer channels and voices over teamspeak. Everyone uses all of these modes of communication to coordinate the activities and we are able to execute extremely complicated strategies with very minimal control. However, if one person begins to complain or become abusive, the bad mood quickly spreads and what used to be fun and easy becomes impossible and tedious. People start dropping out of the raid and it unravels. The primary role of the raid leader to mitigate this kind of corrosive behavior while making sure each of the groups are communicating with each other.

I am not the raid leader of our guild and I am in awe of Persimmon who is our raid leader. She works in a hospital in real life. She is the stabilizing force during the raids, supporting the class leaders, nudging the conversation and keeping the raid moving as fast as possible without moving too fast. I find that she reminds me of many successful open source project leaders or Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, except that what she has to do happens much faster and in real-time. Without her fully customized user-interface and scripts she would never be able to manage what she does.

The other leaders in our guild including class leaders and admins include unemployed bartenders, construction workers, students, a priest, a folk music singer, web designers, moms and government employees. Although WoW has been called “the new golf”, it isn’t about elitist country clubs and privilege but about an amazing melting pot of personalities and backgrounds tied together with a strong sense of sharing and belonging.

Although the larger raids are scheduled in advance with people preparing and showing up at the scheduled time, many smaller raids are organized at the spur of the moment where a leader is designated on an ad hoc basis. To be successful, a raid requires particular class compositions sometimes requiring our guild members to reach out to people they don’t know to join the raid. We are getting better at raiding and many of these “pickup” members end up joining our guild eventually.

The structure and the organization required to complete missions or quests in WoW adds a great deal of focus and complexity to the community compared to a chat room and the communications and management begins to feel much more like collaboration in a work environment. I think that the ever-evolving user interface and communication tools that we are developing might impact the future of management in the real world. My feeling is that what we are doing in WoW represents in many ways the future of real time collaborative teams and leadership in an increasingly ad hoc, always-on, diversity intense and real-time environment.

UPDATE: I chatted about this at SXSW in Austin yesterday and Daniel wrote about it in CNET.

I am considering buying an island on Second Life so I can donate land to various non-profit projects that I'm involved in. I've set up a wiki page for this. I will also probably set up a set for shooting video for video blogging and my TV show. If you're interested in participating in this project or have thoughts, please contribute to the wiki.

I did a funny interview with Jane Pinkard from gamegirladvance for 1up. It also ran in PC Magazine, The Inquirer and got picked up on slashdot. In it, we talk about WoW being "The New Golf". For the record, the first person I ever heard referring to WoW as "The New Golf" was Cory Ondrejka from Linden Lab when we were waiting for our flight in Berlin after 22C3.

Warning: World of Warcraft post

World of Warcraft was architected as a "sharded" system. There are probably over a hundred servers, each with a unique realm. There are several different types of servers like Role Playing, Player vs Player, Player vs Environment, etc. The rules are slightly different, but the games are essentially the same. The problem is, each world is unique and players can't move between the servers. Therefore, even though World of Warcraft is "the new golf", it very unlikely someone you meet in real life will actually be on a server where you can play together.

The other big problem with this sharded system is that some servers are very underpopulated and some are overpopulated. The server that our guild was on, Khadgar, became overpopulated. We often had to wait in a queue to log in, there was terrible lag and worst of all, new players couldn't create characters on our server. This meant that we couldn't invite real life friends to create characters in our guild. This quickly put a halt to the growth of our guild.

Note to self: When I make a MMORPG to beat World of Warcraft, make sure it is one world like Second Life is.

Recently Blizzard announced that they would be allowing people to transfer characters from Argent Dawn, Bloodhoof, Khadgar, and Zul'jin to a new server called Eitrigg. Transfers would start at 3AM PST on February 1st and end at 3PM PST February 8th. Transfers could only be requested from 3AM to 3PM each day.

A long discussion ensued on the mailing list and in guild chat. Many of us had built relationships with other guilds and other players. On the other hand, many were fed up with the lag, wait and inability to invite our friends into the guild. Several friends from other guilds said that they were ready to move. As I was being wishy washy trying to get consensus, Slashar aka Don Park, pulled what we call a Leeroy Jenkins and move his main character to the new server. It is a one-way transfer. Slashar is probably the most respected officer in the guild and his lead by example started an avalanche and we are now on a one-way street to our new home.

Interestingly, many great players from other guilds have joined the exodus and are joining our guild on the new server. It looks like our guild will be larger and possibly more unified after our move. However, I think several of our core guild members won't be able to leave their friends and family and many of those who are moving will be leaving their best friends. Watching all of the sobbing and heartfelt goodbyes to our friends on Khadgar reminds me of some sort of mass displacement... like a whole clan deciding to move to the New World...

Eitrigg will be closed for new character creation until the transfers are complete. If you are transferring to Eitrigg or want to create a character there and join our guild, let me know. There should be "We Know" people hanging around who you can ask for an invite. We have a healthy batch of low level characters, but also have enough experienced level 60's to probably be running MC shortly. See you there!

As many of you know, I've been spending most of my free time in World of Warcraft. We started the guild on September 3 and the guild is now 67 accounts and 109 players big. I've hit level 60 which is currently the maximum level for the game. My sister pointed out to me that most people really aren't that interested in the details of what goes on inside these games, but I thought I'd give you a short update.

It turns out that although it's quite a struggle to get to level 60, it's really just the beginning when you get to this maximum level. After that, there are several tiers of better equipment that you need to get in order to be tough enough to do the more difficult quests. Each item you need requires doing quests with groups of trusted friends. One of the difficulties at this level is that the groups of trusted friends you need to complete quest increases from five, to ten to twenty to forty. To do a forty person raid, you either need a very large guild or alliances with other guilds. I find myself spending a great deal of time networking with other guilds and players to try to put together the dream team while trying to grow our own guild. One of the tensions in growing a guild is that on the one hand, you want a small, friendly and social guild. On the other hand, you want a guild with enough diversity and number of high level players to go on quests together. We are slowing running into the growing pains of any growing community. However, like the #joiito community, which seems to have hit a stable size and culture, I'm confident that our guild will be fine considering the quality of core people we have.

I'm going to stop talking about Warcraft too much on my main blog. If you are interested, I suggest visiting Jonkichi's blog where he will be talking about his adventures. (Jonkichi is my character in WoW.) For other interesting blogs, I would suggest Kazpah's blog and Bastiana's blog.

20051102 03
photo from The Mirror
[004] Snowly of The World of Warcraft (Xinhua) A young girl nicknamed "Snowly" died last month after playing the online game "World of Warcraft" for several continuous days during the national day holiday. Several days before Snowly's death, the girl was said to be preparing for a relatively difficult part of the game (namely, to kill the Black Dragon Prince) and had very little rest. She told her friends that she felt very tired. A big online funeral was held for Snowly one week after her death (see photo from The Mirror).
With 4.5M users there are bound to be deaths in the World of Warcraft and gauging by the relationships I'm building with fellow gamers I can definitely see how an online funeral would be a very big deal. I often see players playing until they pass out, especially when they are questing in a group where their participation is required for the group to hold together as a team. (I've passed out a few times as well.) There is also a lot of pressure to catch up if you drop behind a group of friends in order to play your role in the quests.

However, I don't see this as a reason to bash these games. Clearly the addictive nature of these games are a risk from a productivity and health perspective, but I think that the sense of responsibility and teamwork that is built by the games exceeds this cost. I've seen a lot of coaching of young players by older players about behavior, responsibility, sharing and kindness that is crisp and makes a lot of sense in the game context, but might be lost in a conversation in the real world. Players typically stay up all night helping other players, not out of peer pressure, but out of a sense of teamwork and comradarie. The structure of the game and the rules make it very easy to measure the value of this teamwork and when a team isn't working. Most of the difficult quests require a very large group of people training and working together. It's hard to describe the sense of responsibility players gain to people who don't play, but I urge people not to discount it with playing.

I feel sorry for Snowly and everyone else whose lives are taken or ruined by games, but I think there is a social benefit. Like all new things, I think we will have to work on ways to support people who play to mitigate risks and manage addiction, but there is so much there that I hope news like this doesn't cause parents to prevent their kids from playing online games.

via Boris via Rebecca

I guess there's something about online games and the Year of the Rooster. I just remembered that the first post of this blog is a link to an article that Howard Rheingold wrote about my addiction to Multi-User Dungeons (MUD) back in 1993 in Wired Magazine. (The post is dated the publish date of the magazine article, not the date the post was written. This post dates back to before my blog when I organized various links on my web site.) Groundhog Day! It's 2005 and I'm doing the same thing. Eek.

I remember that trying to get onto the MUD server at Essex University was what got me to learn X.25. (A little more than KDD wanted people to know.) It was the people who I met on the MUD that got me an account on the University computer where I was first able to access APRANet. I learned more about computers from other players in MUD than anywhere else during my high school days.

I wonder what I'm learning playing World of Warcraft...

Snapshot 002-1
Thanks to Philip and Beth, I've purchased a plot of land in Second Life next to the MAKE plot (secondlife://Crescent/13/99) for #joiito members to hang out. (Nice neighborhood.) Feel free to drop by and mess around. You can join the #joiito group by searching for #joiito or "joi" in groups. The land is also listed. The SL URL for the plot is: secondlife://Crescent/29/86

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Tech editor of the International Herald Tribune seems open to publishing a column of blog-generated ideas.

I need topics of interest our newspaper's readers (wealthy global audience of frequent travelers with diverse interests in politics, economic and culture).

Conversations on this blog that might work have included my postings on Global Sociology of Online Shopping or Joi's post on ideas for new inflight software.

Input welcome on:

Layout - should it be in blog-style or reworked into a newspaper format. I tend to prefer reworking it, but my editor liked the idea of experimenting with a new formatting that might resemble an online chat.

Topics - Ideas for topics that would get the best response and interest our readers. I prefer things that are less about tech-issues than about ideas that may relate to technology.

Writing form - should it be written from a blog or could it be compiled on a wiki-style platform? This would require me to lay out the format and ask for people to help filling it in, but if someone has some appropriate social software platform, it might be fun to test the concept.

Online communities - A futher thought on the above concept is that it may be fun to involve specific online communities in writing guest columns. This would mean asking for the communities - friendster, asmallworld, openbc or another one. The idea would best to use a community with a particular purpose or outlook rather than a generic one. That would allow us to explore how these communities are different. Anyone senior enough at one of these communities should feel free to get in touch.

A large percentage of World of Warcraft players appear to be men, but there are quite few people who play female characters. The gender issue has always been interesting to me, but an episode a few nights ago was a special highlight. Jason started a new character and decided to pick a female character. I asked him why and he said that considering the number of hours he would be sitting there looking at his character, that maybe it would be more fun to have a female character. Jason, Sean and I grouped up and went on a quest. I noted to Jason that his character was pretty cute. As we jogged across the countryside, I noticed that she also had a nice bounce to her walk. In WoW you can type /flirt and your character will say flirty things and make flirty body motions to the target. I started flirting with Jason's character. Then something hit Jason. He suddenly said, "oh man, that's SO wrong..."

On the other hand, there is a very cute Gnome Warlock that I often quest with. I flirt with her too, but the guy who plays that character seems to enjoy the role playing.

I think that people's relationship to their online character is really interesting. It's clearly not the same for everyone. I'm on a normal server, but I'm sure that it's more interesting on the role playing servers. Has anyone studied this academically?

As the Web 2.0 bandwagon gets bigger and faster, more and more people seem to be blogging about it. I am increasingly confronted by people who ask me what it is. Just like I don't like "blogging" and "blogosphere", I don't like the word. However, I think it's going to end up sticking. I don't like it because it coincides with another bubbly swell in consumer Internet (the "web") and it sounds like "buzz 2.0". I think all of the cool things that are going on right now shouldn't be swept into some name that sounds like a new software version number for a re-written presentation by venture captitalists to their investors from the last bubble.

What's going on right now is about open standards, open source, free culture, small pieces loosely joined, innovation on the edges and all of the good things that WE FORGOT when we got greedy during the last bubble. These good Internet principles are easily corrupted when you bring back "the money". (As a VC, I realize I'm being a bit hypocritical here.) On the other hand, I think/hope Web 2.0 will be a bit better than Web 1.0. Both Tiger and GTalk use Jabber, an open standard, instead of the insanity of MSN Messenger, AOL IM and Yahoo IM using proprietary standards that didn't interoperate. At least Apple and Google are TRYING to look open and good.

I think blogging, web services, content syndication, AJAX, open source, wikis, and all of the cool new things that are going on shouldn't be clumped together into something that sounds like a Microsoft product name. On the other hand, I don't have a better solution. Web 2.0 is probably a pretty good name for a conference and probably an easy way to explain why we're so excited to someone who doesn't really care.

While we're at labeling the web x.0. Philip Torrone jokingly mentioned to me the other day (inside Second Life) that 3D was Web 3.0. I agree. 3D and VR have been around for a long time and there is a lot of great work going on, but I think we're finally getting to the phase where it's integrated with the web and widely used. I think the first step for me was to see World of Warcraft (WoW) with its 4M users and the extensible client. The only machine I have where I can turn on all of the video features is my duel CPU G5. On my powerbook I have to limit my video features and can't concurrently use other applications while playing. Clearly there is a hardware limit which is a good sign since hardware getting faster is a development we can count on.

Second Life (SL) is sort of the next step in development. Instead of trying to control all real-money and real-world relationship with things in the game like Blizzard does with WoW, SL encourages it. SL is less about gaming and more about building and collaboration. However, SL is not open source and is a venture capital backed for-profit company that owns the platform. I love it, but I think there's one more step.

Croquet, which I've been waiting for for a long time appears to be in the final phases of a real release. Croquet, if it takes off should let you build things like SL but in a distributed and open source way. It is basically a 3D collaborative operating system. If it takes off, it should allow us to take our learning from WoW and SL and do to them what "Web 2.0" is doing to traditional consumer Internet services.

However, don't hold your breath. WoW blows away SL in terms of snappy graphics and response time and has a well designed addictive and highly-tuned gaming environment. Croquet is still in development and is still way behind SL in terms of being easy to use. It will take time for the more open platforms to catch up to the closed ones, but I think they're coming.

Web 3.0 is on its way! Actually, lets not call it Web 3.0.

Today I went on my first World of Warcraft (WoW) raid. WoW has two "sides" Horde and Alliance. The Alliance are the usual "good guys", humans, elves, dwarves and gnomes. The Horde are undead, tauren, trolls and orcs. The designers have created stories for the Horde side that tell of the suffering and struggle of each of the Horde races and makes each one justified and lovable. One of the many parallel layers of the game involves the war between Alliance and Horde. In addition to the normal experience gained from killing monsters and completing quests, there is a whole ranking system based on honor points, honorable kills and dishonorable kills. Basically, huge mobs of players get together and raid towns and castles of the other "side". Killing civilians, even from the other side constitutes a "dishonorable kill" and can hamper your ability to gain rank. You basically kill guards and other players who have "Player vs Player (PvP)" turned on, signaling that they are non-civilians. Killing the leader of the particular city, fort or castle provides special honor. The ranks are based on military ranks and after you gain this rank, it is prominently displayed even when you're not fighting the other side.

It was my first raid so most of my energy was spent figuring out exactly what the hell I was supposed to be doing, but the whole mission was organized in a somewhat dysfunctional military way with teams and squad leaders. I have no idea whether I was running with a bunch of 13 year olds or professional soldiers (the game has many of both) but the raid channel chat was a bit noisy. What was disturbing was the hateful and some of the over-the-top role playing. Other members of the raid were clearly disturbed as well. I imagined a bunch of leaderless young soldiers raping and pillaging some village. I felt a bit dirty afterwards.

This is only one sample so I probably should not make a judgement yet. Maybe I should try a raid with my guild members... Or better yet, maybe I should get our Orc guild tough enough to defend the cities from these bad humans. ;-)

I was a bit too low level to be on a raid and I kept dying, but here's a picture of me on the steps of the lower level of the big Horde Undercity.

My apologies for all of the gaming posts recently, but I wanted to let any World of Warcraft players know that we are starting a new all-Orc guild on Khadgar. We plan to run every Saturday evening US time, Sunday morning Japan time. Each run will start approximately at 6PM Eastern, 3PM Pacific, 7AM Japan time. We'll start today. I'm just setting up the guild now.

The guild will be called "We Orc" and is the Horde affiliate of "We Know".

We'll play only once a week and anyone who misses a run can try to catch up to the level that we all go to during the run. We'll post the current level on the wiki. The idea is to try to see whether and how much more fun it is to have everyone at the same level collaborating.

My Orc character is named "Tasmanian". Whisper me if you want to join. I'll be hanging out at the spawn point to rendezvous with the new characters. Orcs all the way down... see you there.

UPDATE: Until we get the guild going, do a "/join weorc" to join the chat channel.

UPDATE: We got the guild started. Thanks! Here's a group photo.

Video of some people who like Warcraft. Funny. (At least to me.) Watch it to the end.

via Jason

Inspired by Cory's talk at Accelerating Change, I've started Second Life. (Someone described it to me as a home for retired Warcraft players. ;-P) My name there is... Joi Ito. I'm still pretty confused, but if you have a character there, please give me a holler or tell me something interesting to do. Thanks!

Update: Philip just flickr'ed a photo he took when I visited him in Second Life.

As you may have noticed, my blogging has been a bit light these days. This is partially due to the rigor in which I have taken on my research into the World of Warcraft (WoW). I'm still level 36 (out of a maximum of 60) so I am still a "newbie" but I thought I might share some of my observations.

First of all, it is no wonder over four million people play WoW. It is by far the most interesting game I have ever played. I started online multi-user games with the original MUD (Multi-User Dungeons) back in 1984 on the first server at Essex University. It was all text based and as far as I know, open source. After you became a Wizard, you could add to the world. In the original MUD, when you died, you were dead. I quit after my character died just a few levels before reaching Wizard.

Later, when graphical games came out, I sort of dismissed them, believing that a 3D world would never be as rich as text or as easily customizable and interesting. I did play my share of graphical games, but none of them had the same community feeling and the levels of social complexity that I had encountered on MUDs.

WoW has changed my opinion completely. With a customizable user-interface, WoW allows you to tweak and tune your interface to suit the race/class and type of play that you are interested in. Plugins allow you to automate and augment activities that you engage in most frequently. The interface for advanced users is as impossible to understand to other people as an airplane cockpit.

I started out poking around killing monsters and completing quests on my own. The early levels were a bit lonely, tolerable only because your level increases so quickly at lower levels. There is a lot to learn about how to play the game and use your controls (there are very customizable key-bindings). I think these early levels are really like a boot camp. Sort of like learning to type.

Later, I ran into "Way" in a ogre mound. Way was "farming" (killing) ogres because they "drop" (carry around and allow you to loot) silk. Way is a tailor (among other things) so she (actually a he) was picking up silk to make objects and to sell silk at the auction house. Way and I hunted together for awhile while chatting about philosophy and decided to start our own guild (we were in another guild together at the time) to focus on our own twisted sense of humor with our own friends.

I blogged about this and our guild was quickly populated by people we met online as well as people I know from blogging and IRC who had seen the post. At the moment, we have 36 people in the guild if you include people's alts (alternate characters). Being the guildmaster and feeling somewhat responsible for trying to build a foundation for new members, I decided to focus a bit on making some money. Way suggested the auction house as a good way to make money, so I downloaded the auctioneer plugin and got to work. Auctioneer scans the auction house and keeps a historical record of prices of things for sale. It is not immediately clear what each item is for, but the various online forums can tell you. The prices of objects fluctuate as quests are added that require items or rules change. It is also very dependent on supply which fluctuates as the volume of players in various areas change. Various professions allow players to gain experience and build exceedingly complex things.

For instance, I recently acquired the blueprint to make Aquadynamic Fish Attractors. These things increase your ability in fishing. (Some people don't seem to appreciate fishing, but it's a great way to pass time when you have low bandwidth and want to just relax.) To make one, you need 2 bars of bronze (which require a bar of tin and a bar of copper which require tin and copper ore which needs to be mined), nightcrawlers and corse blasting powder (which is made from corse stone, which is mined). You then use these fish attractors to increase your fishing ability so that you can catch, for instance, the Deviate Fish. These fish can be found in the lakes to the east of Ratchet in the Barrens. Add spice and cook these fish (if you have the proper cooking skill and recipe which is very hard to get) and you can create Savory Deviate Delights. So what? Well, if you eat a Savory Deviate Delight, you randomly turn into a ninja or a pirate.

So what? Well, it's cool. There are only a few people who are able to create these things so you rarely see ninjas or pirates running around. When I board the boat to sail to another continent or am in a group raiding a dungeon, I often transform into a ninja. To many people, I am the first ninja they have ever seen in the game. I then give everyone who wants one, their own fish. Soon we have a funny party of ninja and pirates. Why do I do this? Marketing. I sell Savory Deviate Delights at the auction house and I have a feeling this marketing increases demand. You can buy a stack of 20 of these for your next party in the Darkmines for a mere five gold or so. (The market price of the recipe is about 50 gold and about 0.1% of beasts in the Barrens carry it.)

One of the problems with WoW is that it is very difficult for characters at different levels to collaborate effectively in quests. If you have a high level character in your group, most of the ways to gain experience points are severely limited. Slashar (Don Park) yesterday, had a good idea and we all created new Horde (there are two "sides" Alliance and Horde) characters. The five of us all decided to choose orcs. We had heard rumors that developers at Blizzard play Horde characters themselves and that it was actually more fun to be Horde. We had a blast. You can type /dance and your character will start dancing. Each race has their own dance. Orc dancing was the coolest thing I had seen in a long time. Clearly the developers loved orcs. So now, in addition to our more formal Alliance Guild, "We Know" we have started a merry group of orcs which, so far is great fun because we are able to all play at the same level and collaborate more.

Anyway, I could ramble on and on, but I think I'll stop for now. I wonder if I should start another blog to talk about WoW in case people here aren't interested. Or better yet, maybe you should all start playing and we can talk there.

UPDATE: We're going to do an organized Orc run. We'll be setting up guild called "We Orc". Horde Guild on Khadgar. We'll run as a pack at 6PM Eastern Time on Saturday night every week or so. We'll hit a target level and people who miss that run should try to catch up by the next week. We're level 5 or so now. See you there!

I'm at the airport on my way to Hobart, Tasmania to give a talk at the AUC "Evolution of the Species" conference.

My apologies to anyone who cares for not posting very much lately. My travel has been getting continuously more crazy. However, I will be grounded for two week after this trip to renew my passport and hope to get thoughts and other things organized.

Thanks a million to Thomas for picking up the slack on this somewhat neglected blog. I will admit that my (cough) research involving multi-user games online has also been taking up a little time.

Anyway, see you one the other side.

Heres the skinny: Blizzard adds in a new instance, Zul'Gurub. Inside is the god of blood, Hakkar. Well, when you fight him he has a debuff called Corrputed Blood. It does like 250-350 damage to palyers and affects nearby players. The amazing thing is SOME PLAYERS have brought this disease (and it is a disease) back to the towns, outside of the instance. It starts spreading amongst the genral population including npcs, who can out generate the damage. Some servers have gotten so bad that you can't go into the major cities without getting the plague (and anyone less than like level 50 nearly immediately die). GM's even tried quarantining players in certain areas, but the players kept escaping the quarantine and infecting other players.
via Boris Via Wonderland

Then, I ask Jonas about this and:

It was a sight to behold. Some tell me, IF was finally usable and that the lag was gone for once, but Orgrimmar was fun nevertheless. Red blobs splashing everywhere, healing and renew/regrowth was being mass-spammed, and there were more bodies and skeletons around than I've ever seen, and I've raided IF before.

My biggest fun was screwing with those incompetent GMs. Some used their own chars to herd us, which made the plague transfer even faster, others messaged and threatened consequences if we did certain things. The idea was, to move all infected players into instances, where we could be by ourselves, so we hooked up into large raid groups, rezzed instead of corpse walked, and re-infected ourselves before hearthstoning back into Org. Bog Troopers, a huge horde guild in Org, raided Stormwind, which was almost empty, and killed the child king (no HK, there, you have to kill the Guardian) before walking into the Stockades, farming gold. The GMs congregated up on Honor's Stand, so we had a handful of players up there, stealthed, and infecting them. It was more fun than any other world event EVAR!.

Not much to add. Just hilarious.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Wrote a story in today’s paper about the new section of Charles de Gaulle airport being built for the A380, the world’s largest airliner.

Turns out that the aircraft is so big that it requires a reconfiguration of terminal and in some ways it could be good. The second floor of the aircraft, for example, means that you can have two almost entirely separate sections. For people flying business and first class – not me! - they would walk into a separate part of the airplane that could have separate style of reception.

The airport created a first-ever virtual visit of the new section for us to put on our website.

I wonder what other innovations could come of having such a large number of passengers in the sky? Massive online gaming within the aircraft?

Decided to play a bit more World of Warcraft this weekend. Wandering around Darkshire, I met the first person so far with a sense of humor. (Also the first person over 30 who I don't know in real life.) His name is Illuminus and he's a 37 year old philosopher/bouncer who likes to play mages. Anyway, we decided to start our own guild. It's called "We Know". If you're on Khadgar and want to join us, sign up on the wiki and look for me on Khadgar. We're still in the process of getting people to sign the charter.

Jonkichi
I'm trying to keep track of my friends on World of Warcraft. If you have a character on WoW and want to hang out, please register on my World of Warcraft wiki page.
Interfax China
PowerNet and China Communist Youth League develop "Anti-Japan War Online" game

Shanghai. August 23. INTERFAX-CHINA - PowerNet Technology, a Chinese online gaming firm, has developed a new online game in cooperation with the China Communist Youth League (CCYL) named "Anti-Japan War Online," which will begin commercial operation by the end of 2005, a PowerNet official said Tuesday.

"The game will allow players, especially younger players, to learn from history. They will get a patriotic feeling when fighting invaders to safeguard their motherland," a PowerNet Project Manager, surnamed Liu, told Interfax.

The background for "Anti-Japan War Online" is the Japanese invasion of China during World War II, from 1937 through 1945. Players are able to play simulations of key battles, but will only be able to play as the Chinese side...

The CCLY said in statement that few games on the Chinese market today generate a "national spirit" that can educate young players. As a result, the CCYL will actively partner with online gaming companies to jointly develop "patriotic" online games.

"'Anti-Japan War Online' is a patriotic online game that is both interesting and instructive, and can attract and guide young players," Chen Xiao, the CCLY official in charge of partnerships with online gaming firms, told Interfax...

I can imagine this game will be very popular. I wonder if they will let Japanese register to play. Is there any news about this in China? Do most people in China think this is a "good" thing? I'm very curious to see how the history is portrayed.

via Metafilter

I chose to be a mage on Warcraft. Mages are pretty cool, but they can only fight with one enemy at a time. They are useful in groups, but not good for playing alone. What's funny is that it's really hard for me to make friends on Warcraft. According to my sister, many people join Warcraft together and hang out with the real-life friends. Anyway, it's a humbling experience. I'm begging people to let me join their group and casting nice spells on people trying to earn their friendship.

If anyone has been considering starting World of Warcraft, please join Khadgar and be my friend. ;-)

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