Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

This should have been posted with the last post, but I wanted to check the facts with Rob before posting it...

Chris Anderson asked me to participate in giving a toast at the Wired Rave Awards dinner about why WoW was so great and giving a Raver award to Rob Pardo, Lead Game Designer of World of Warcraft (WoW), and his team. I had my own opinions about what made WoW so successful, but I asked Rob with whom I had the opportunity of sitting next to at the dinner. We had a longish conversation about games and WoW and was impressed by Rob's insights and practical experience.

Rob was a guild leader of a hardcore raiding guild on Everquest. Rob is a hardcore gamer. He loved the game, but realized that there were things that could be better designed. He looked at all of the MMOs and together with his team, built a game that was better in each of the different components than any of its competitors while keeping the core culture and functionality of MMOs. They added some important new features including the rest system, team PvP without segregating players from the opposing factions, and a completely quest driven experience, which were new innovations. They also paid attention to issues that existing games experienced or they anticipated would experience and designed WoW to deal with them.

For instance, WoW does not allow buying and selling game gold. However, according to Rob, it doesn't break the economy as some people think. The game is designed to minimize the negative impact of "farmers". The quests and and equipment are designed so that there are many key things that you can't buy with game gold. The issue of gold buying is primarily a matter of players feeling that it is unfair - the great thing about WoW and similar MMOs is that everyone starts equally regardless of what they do in real life.

Although Rob was a hardcore player in Everquest, he designed WoW so that it allowed casual players to have as much fun as hardcore players. It really shows and as a guild custodian of a guild that has many casual players, the ability for casual players to have fun in WoW is very important. Rob mentioned that one of they keys to success of a game is to make sure that the game is fun in the first 5 minutes. I think many game developers forget this and focus on gamers who are "serious" and willing to invest significant time to learn to play or wait a long time to have their first "fun event". I think it is the breadth and diversity of the players that Rob tried to appeal to that is the key to success of WoW and he did it through attention to detail and trying to get each part right rather than focus on a single killer feature.

It reminds me a bit of the book "From Good to Great".


Joi Ito & Rob Pardo @ Wired Rave Awards
Originally uploaded by JasonDeFillippo.

Jason took this picture of Rob Pardo, the lead game developer of World of Warcraft and VP of Game Design of Blizzard and me at the Wired Rave Awards reception last night. Rob and his team won a Wired Rave Award this year and I wrote the article for the magazine. It was a big treat to get to hang out with Rob and get his view on MMOs and WoW. Thanks Rob and thanks Wired!

I'm a Japanese citizen/resident. I use the Visa Waiver program to get into the US which is a green form that gives you a 90 day visa for entry into the US. The US DHS officer will staple the departure card half of the visa form into your passport that they collect when you leave the country.

When I was leaving LA for Toronto a few days ago, the agent looked at the visa and said, "OK. You have a visa and it is valid through your return." She didn't take the card and sent me to a 1 hour wait security screening line... anyway.

I just past through pre-sreening in Toronto on my way to the US. With Canada to US flights, they do customs and immigration when you leave Canada. A US officer frowned when he looked at my passport.

"You need to return this visa waiver when you leave the US."

"The gate agent didn't take it when I left."

"It is YOUR responsibility to return your visa card. The airlines do it out of courtesy to you, but it is YOUR responsibility."

"But... where..."

"It is YOUR responsibility. Although it visa SAYS you have 90 days, you must return the card and get a new one each time."

"But..."

"It is YOUR responsibility, not the gate agent."

(stern look from officer)

"Yes sir.. no sir.. yes sir... OK..."

I've had gate agents not take my card when I exited in the past. I don't know what the penalty is, but for anyone traveling on Air Canada to Canada from the US. If they don't take your thingie from your passport, I recommend you insist that they do.

UPDATE: Although... according to the FAQ it says that you can travel and come back when you are on the Visa Waiver Program to Canada or Mexico. So if you have to give your stub back, I wonder what you give back when you're leaving the second time. I doesn't say. Hmm...

Q: Can a VWP applicant for Admission Be Readmitted To the United States Follwing a Short Trip To an Adjacent Island, Canada, or Mexico?
A:

* Generally, VWP applicants admitted under the VWP may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period. This is provided they are otherwise admissible and meet all the conditions of the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier, in which case the inspecting officers have the discretion to grant the applicants entirely new periods of admission.
* The VWP applicant is admissible and may be readmitted to the United States under the VWP after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands provided the person:

1. Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
2. Plans to depart the United States prior to the expiration date of their period of admission,
3. Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the VWP, and
4. Continues to meet all criteria set forth in 8 CFR 217 and section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier.

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.


Undercity is a Horde city in the World of Warcraft. A few weeks ago some of our guild members and friends decided to take a field trip to Undercity. We snuck in through the sewers and pwned some guards and a battlemaster. I found the video on my hard disk this morning during the conference so I decided to edit it and put some music to it.

The music is Nebula Dub by _ghost that I found on ccMixter. The song is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license so this video is as well. It's about 5 min. (AVI / MP4)

UPDATE: yeah yeah... I know the AVI version sucks.