Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category

The Dildo In The Room

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Two interesting bits of news from the Virtual Worlds Forum.

First off, Peter Edwards, the director of the upcoming ‘Home‘ platform for the PS3 stated that they were very interested in consumer created content and that, as soon as it was possible, they would be including the tools for users to make their own objects.

And that there would be an economy where you would be able to sell them.

I would imagine that they would have to employ moderators clearing the content before it becomes public in order to avoid the ‘Dildo in the room*’ problem. Especially as I doubt that there will be an age restriction on using Home.

I have a few ideas how the Economy might work, but that is a subject for an upcoming post

The second rumour is just that, a rumour (and to be honest I don’t hold out much hope for it being true), but a person who works for There.com told me that there would be a Mac client ‘sometime next year’.

This person didn’t know what Boot Camp was, so I’m not too hopeful about this.

UPDATE: I’ve just had it confirmed from two other sources, there.com is working on a Mac client and are hiring people to work on it at the moment. There is joy in my heart, because I consider There.com much more social than Second Life.


*The ‘Dildo In The Room’ problem is that no matter the intended audience, if you allow user generated content, someone will make sex toys in your virtual world. Like the elephant in the room, people try not to talk about it. This is related to the ‘Time until penis” measurement*

‘*’Time Until Penis’ – The amount of time from software release until some bright spark crafts a giant penis out of whatever tools are available. (In World of Warcraft I think it was created out of gnome corpses…)

[tags]Dildointheroom, Timeuntilpenis, There.com, PlaystationHome, PS3, User-generatedcontent, VirtualWorldsForum, Mac client [/tags]

Oi! Winer! Keep Your Hands Off My Twitter

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Dave Winer on adding ‘payloads’ to twitter.

Dave, if you read this – Twitter is not email. This is the beauty of it. The need to sum up something in 140 characters or less is a strength, not a weakness.

If you want to start attaching sound or pictures to it you break the beauty of it, the immediacy and the poetry.

Turning twitter into a multimedia extravaganza would break it. If you want to do that sort of thing then mobile post to your blog, then people with RSS readers on their phone can follow you.

It’s like trying to improve a screwdriver by sticking a laser beam and a jet engine on it.

I’m not convinced that it even needs tagging.

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Tabula Rasa (And The Lie Of The Public Beta)

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

I’ve been playing the Tabula Rasa beta of late, actually it’s called ‘Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa’ presumably because his name is so well respected in the MMORPG market.

I should admit that I haven’t progressed very far in the game, coming late to the beta and having… well… a day job (and a night job). If there is anyone reading this who has alternate views, or can fill me in on the things towards the end of the game please leave a comment.

I’m going to explain some of the things that I like about the game, also why MMO’s these days have ‘beta’ periods.

The game sets the remnants of humanity against an evil invading alien army on a variety of planets in a near future setting. Sci-Fi settings have never done as well as fantasy settings for some reason, so it’ll be interesting to see how Tabula Rasa does in a business dominated magic swords and half dressed Elf maidens.

The short version is that it is a fun game and while it won’t replace WoW in my affections, it’s still a game that will take up permanent residence on my hard drive and will be used when I’m fed up of stabbing Orcs with my dagger of +1 disembowelment.

Quests and items

With quests Tabula Rasa doesn’t lead you around by the nose quite as much as World of Warcraft, but it’s not far short. Quests so far have been the standard ‘Deliver package X to Y’ or ‘Go to location X to find crate Y’. There hasn’t been a huge amount of ‘Kill 20 of creature type X’ yet, which is something I’m grateful for.

The ‘Kill 200 sheep’ quests are replaced by earning titles if you slaughter your way through whole populations. This is similar to Everquest 2, although there is, as yet, no in-game effect. But it’s nice to have the ‘Exterminator’ title just for killing forty giant purple flying octopi.

While I haven’t reached that far into the game I can see people on the global chat asking for others to ‘party up’ in order to enter the game’s equivalent of dungeons. What I haven’t seen is the more usual call for ‘healers’ and ‘tanks’. I wonder if the balance of the game is such that the mae-up of a party is less important than for games such as WoW.

There are only three attributes, Body, Mind and Spirit and you can find items in world that increase these statistics – for example I have a laser chaingun that (somehow) gives my Mind statistic an extra five points. Armour comes with bonuses like ‘take 5% less damage from fire’. Pretty standard MMO tropes here, although it is a little strange to see a ‘magic’ flamethrower.

There are recipes for upgrading your equipment and a way for you to dismantle your equipment in order to get the resources for crafting. I’ll admit to not playing around much with crafting – but it seems that you don’t ‘learn’ crafting recipes, instead needing a one-shot item that drops in world. I’m not too sure if this is a good idea and given my quick play I can’t see the economy of the game being as complex as other games out there.

Instances

The server setup is rather interesting and is something that I hope makes it to the final game. Each area in the game is instanced, so there can be multiple ‘versions’ of The Caves Of Ragna zone. Changing between instances is as easy as visiting a teleport pad (the in-game quick travel system) and selecting which instance you would like to enter. Unlike some games every area is instanced, even the town areas.

For example – one of the quests involves going into the caves of Ragna (or somesuch fantasy name – I’m afraid that after a while they all blur into one). The reason why you must enter the cave is so you can destroy six eggs laid by some monster or another. Said monster is guarding the eggs, as all good monsters should do.

On my first run through the cave all the eggs were already smashed – normally this would mean I’d have to wait until the eggs ‘respawned’ that is returned to the game in an unsmashed form. This can take a long time and if there is another player in the cave it can be a frustrating experience as you both chase around after the same eggs.

So what you can do is to head to a teleport pad (and luckily for me there is one just outside the caves) and select a less populated ‘instance’. You can then enter the game and find the eggs all intact.

This idea solves one of the bigger or the MMORPG problems – waiting along with queues of players waiting for items or monster to respawn so they can get on with the questing. It will also go someway to solve the problem of rolling a character on a different server than your friends, therefore being unable to play with them. In Tabula Rasa you just have to agree to meet in a specific instance.

Send in the clones

The other aspect that is new to me is the ‘cloning’ of characters – every few levels (5, 15 and 25) you have to make a career decision with your character – do they become a soldier or a specialist? A ranger or a sniper? In most other games if you make the wrong decision and grow bored with the character you need to start again from scratch. With Tabula Rasa the clones you make before every career decision enable you to explore other careers with much less risk. No more starting from level one as each clone is a copy of your character at the point you make the clone.

Finally an end to killing rats in the starter zone to level each character.

Much more fun for those of us who don’t have the ability to play all day.

The real reason for beta?

Traditionally beta-testing has been to release a piece of software to a group of users in order to bash the code around in real situations and to report bugs to the development team. This is done so that the final product is as bug free as possible.

With MMO games things are a little different. The game comes out, there are server crashes, bugs and rollbacks. There are lots of patches in the early days fixing the bugs and there are normally a number of server side fixes. The incidence of patching is huge during the first few months of a game. It’s one of the things that us early adopters to these sorts of games are used to and unfortunately accept as the price we pay for being the first people to explore the game’s content. I remember the WoW servers being up and down like a whore’s knickers in the first few months of play, of course they are a lot more stable now.

So if the initial few months of a game release are the ‘real’ beta, why have a ‘beta’ phase at all?

Publicity.

In this internet connected world a website isn’t going to cut it. What you really want is lots of bloggers linking to you and giving you good word of mouth. What you need is people who have played the game and can evangelise about it. Monthly magazines are too slow in a market where games websites update daily.

The wise company realises this – so by having a beta period not governed by a Non-Disclosure Agreement (Tabula Rasa’s NDA was lifted on the 6th of September) you can pretty much guarantee that bloggers will post, forums will talk and IMs will flit between people. This creates a nice ‘pre-launch buzz’. People get invested in the game and shout it’s praises by whatever mode of communication is available to them.

And we are happy to do this work for the company, we get early access to the game and we get to bash some bugs (hopefully before the game is released). We also get to feel out some of the game’s content and can therefore level our characters quicker than those coming new to the game.

In return the company gets free publicity from people who have liked the game enough to stick with it from a really buggy stage.

One of those Win/Win situations.

Look at the page for Warhammer Online, there are 432,050 applicants for the beta period. That’s nearly half a million people who are going to be willing to do your publicity for nothing.

Heaven knows I’m desperate to get in that beta programme… Maybe I should e-mail them my pageview count…

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International Talk Like A Pirate Day

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

What?

Are you all twelve or something?

Ninjas are clearly superior.

[tags] ITLAPD, International talk like a pirate day, Ifyouhavethatmuchdesiretodosomethingdosomethingforyourfellowman, secretspoiler [/tags]

Congratulations

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Quite simply one of the nicest things I’ve ever read.

Woke up (late) to email from
Laurenn, switched on the phone to
find text from Fraction: at 8pm
local time, Henry Leo was born to
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt
Fraction in Kansas City. Text ends:
“mother&son totally awesome.”

Brian Wood once commented that
when his daughter Audrey gets old
enough to Google, the first entry
on her will probably be on my
website, written a few hours after
her birth. Hank’s first entry will
be on Laurenn’s: but what an
interesting thought, that soon an
entire generation will find their
births recorded by friends as live
entries on a global communications
medium.

And, in little Hank’s case, that his
entire gestation has been recorded
online by his mother as a globally-
accessible lifebook.

And that he was born into an
extended circle of friends that
encircles the planet, who will watch
his back for his entire life.

Welcome to Earth, Henry Leo. You’re
going to do just fine.


From Warren Ellis (who normally writes much nastier stuff)

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The Speed Of The Sound Of An Explosion.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I heard and saw a picture of the explosion in New York over at Rachel’s blog far before the BBC have anything.

Make of that what you will.

[tags]NewYork, explosion, blognetwork, propogationofnews, New York, Citizen Journalism[/tags]

The End Of Yesterday

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

The reporting yesterday had to stop I’m afraid – I was so sleep deprived that not only was I barely able to string two words together I was starting to go colour-blind.

But I’m back today, and with no 40 hour sleep deprivation my sentence structure and grammar will be as good as ever.

I’m still trying to parse some of the things that I heard yesterday, I’ll be honest and admit that some of it just went over my head or seemed to be repeating the conversations I’ve been following on the internet.

Tom Coates gave a good talk though, bringing a sort of melding between evolutionary social theory and social networking. It was a chance for us to hear the talk that he gave at ‘The Future of WebApps’ in San Francisco. Explaining some of the reasons why people share he had some interesting thoughts on why certain social networking webapps fail and on why some are huge successes. Very thought provoking and I would love to see some of these ideas applied to the MMORPG market. On thinking back Tom could have entitled his talk ‘It’s not all about sex and death’.

He believes that Wikipedia is unique in being so successful, but didn’t mention any of those webapps that have failed in the past, something that I would have found interesting.

Thanks to the magic of the interweb you can see his slideshow here.

The other talk that I can remember is someone talking about digital comics – His name I’m afraid is lost to my sleep-deprived brain porridge. The talk was not hugely groundbreaking, part of it was an advertisement for his ComicBookLover application, something that acts as an iTunes for scanned comics, and relies I think a bit too much on illegally downloaded scans. He also spoke about how digital distribution could enable independent comics producers to break the near monopoly of Diamond. I guess that as someone who takes a great interest in this subject (even thought I don’t work in the field) I was hoping for something a little more… crunchy. But I suppose that he’d need to target his talk to a wider audience.

So far today I have broken a knife trying to spread butter on a fake beigel and admitted that I want to be Patricia Hewitt.

…Oh dear.

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Twitter

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

I’ve been using Twitter for a little while now, it allows you to post short snippets of text that get circulated to people who subscribe to your Twitter identity. For example, I may post that I’m making a cup of tea, everyone who has subscribed to that will get that little bit of information.

So far, so good, but it has something that makes it a little special. It integrates very smoothly with your mobile phone via SMS. I can be walking down the street and the desire to post overcomes me, I can then simply send a text message to the Twitter service and it will be pushed out to my contact’s mobile phones.

At first glance it seems utterly worthless, the posts are limited to 146 characters which makes it hard to write anything of substance. It is promoted as “A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?” and this lends itself to posts about making a cup of tea, or about how you hate tinsel. I am no better for my last Twittering was “I think, Like DG, I shall make myself a nice cup of tea before tackling WordPress install.“. Hardly ‘War and Peace’.

However, this belies the beauty of it. Once you have added a few friends (and more and more people are signing up as this meme spreads), then the inflow of short messages become like a Zen cloud of how people are feeling. Sure, Alice may be getting grumpy, but Bob is gearing up for a fun night out. You instantly become more connected to your friends even though this is a mostly one way communication.

In a world where many of our friends are our ‘blogmates’, where we are more likely to email than phone and where physically meeting people is becoming more of a rarity, Twitter allows us to feel more connected. The desire to keep in touch with friends, and to let them keep in touch with you leads to regular posting, and the less ‘important’ the post, the more you feel you are being allowed into that poster’s life.

It does spark some questions on privacy, while adults who have grown to use technologies like this are perhaps better prepared to self-censor, I worry a little about what children may divulge without considering the consequences. I also think that it is only a matter of time before someone drunkenly lets slip some ‘indiscretion’. We may have learned to not blog drunk, but with the ease of posting from a mobile phone it will be so much easier to slip. While you may make a fool of yourself at the office Christmas party, with Twitter you could reach a global audience.

I’m wondering what use other people or companies may put it to. It would be ideal for the organising of ‘flash mobs’ and on a more serious note it is an easy way to update people on the weather, local traffic and news or even sports results.

What Twitter may have unleashed is an ‘Open Source’ SMS subscription service and I am intrigued to see where it leads.
I think that Twitter is a lovely, lightweight web-app that may find surprising uses in the future.
You can see my Twitter here.

[tags]Twitter,social,sms[/tags]