Gaming Massively

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

real tax, fake money

There's a brief article on taxing virtual income (in the real world) up on the BBC. It doesn't cover a lot of new ground, but does give a nice background on the subject.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gaming Populations

Massively pointed me to some exciting number crunching going on over at T-Machine. The lengthy post looks at ways of measuring user numbers for MMOs, given the general secrecy concerning the numbers. There's a nice chart showing game populations based on several methodologies.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh boy! AT-ATs!

I enjoyed Star Wars Galaxies, back before the Change, and have often thought it was the best MMO made, in terms of appealing to a wide audience of casual gamers. Of course, it changed, and I haven't looked at it in ... five years? But that doesn't mean I don't get a little thrill seeing the roll out of content set on Hoth (from The Empire Strikes Back). So the pictures at Ten Ton Hammer of AT-ATs and such made me happy.

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Tabula Rasa, Player Ownership, and the Open Source question

So Tabula Rasa is going to be killed. There's something especially sad about watching a game you beta tested die (sounds like I may get to do it again with Conan before too long).

As always when a game is to be shut down, a wealth of articles proposing various ways of saving the game come out. This time is no exception, and I'll grab the one at massively as an example.

The usual idea with these things seems to be 'if players like the game enough to want to save it, they can all pool their money (which would have gone for subscriptions) and save it'. Of course, if every good idea only required cash, the world would be a much better place. To even begin to save the game, you would need people with particular skill sets to arrange the move to a player-owned game, and people with an entirely different set of skills to keep it going once the transfer had been made.

It's very difficult to separate the idea of 'player owned' from the idea of 'open source', not because they aren't different, but because they would behave so similarly. So, for example, with open source when you have a problem with the software, you generally go to the community and ask a question. There are three or four helpful people, three or four assholes, and several hundred people who might help if they knew anything at all about your question, but they don't.

Given what I've seen of MMO customer service, this part sounds workable, or possibly even better, than what you get with your paid service.

Of course, the trick with an MMO is that, in addition to supplying the software, the folks holding the game in trust have to supply some fairly hefty back-end hardware. This costs real-world money, and means that, despite the fact there is no longer a company to yell at, people would still have to cough up some maintenance fees (shall we call them 'subscription fees'?) And this is where I think things might break down.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of making this work, despite the high end hardware requirements. If you could get enough tech people interested in creating an open source gaming server platform, you might be able to have the servers supplied by the developers of the back-end. Additionally, because keeping costs in check would be such a high priority, the gaming servers would have a much higher incentive to be as efficient as possible. Whether the open source community could create a server platform that is more efficient than the gaming servers already on offer by commercial companies is debatable, experience would indicate that exposure to so many more developers would lead to a better platform than any closed source platform.

The other reason this might work is because you could open the server platform to other games. Creating a simple front end (or even a complex front end, though simple would be better) and allowing other games to access the same server technology (and hopefully, the same servers) would allow you to maximize server load, and hopefully thus use the equipment as efficiently as possible, and draw in the maximum number of paying players to keep the servers running.

If, as the massively article suggests, Tabula Rasa is breaking even, it might theoretically be possible to keep it running while transitions to a more sustainable business model took place. But the challenges of creating all the teams necessary to promote and develop the game (software and hardware) long-term are daunting, and I don't know if the gaming world is ready, or willing, to embrace the kind of changes that would be necessary to pull off a TR save.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wheel of Time MMO?

Slashdot, which seems to be chock full of gaming news today, has an extended article on the plans for movies, games, and an MMO based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. If you aren't familiar, this is a series of books that has been going on for two decades, and although Jordan passed away, he left extensive notes which Brandon Sanderson will complete the series with. There's apparently around 4 million words in the series (based on a post Brandon made), so heaven knows the IP is ripe for plucking. We'll see how well the folks at Red Eagle can pluck.

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Garriot leaving NCSoft

Slashdot is reporting that Richard Garriot has left NCSoft. That sounds like bad news for Tabula Rasa. Or maybe not - I never really got why people care about individuals - especially now that the game is launched. In fact, given the state it was launched in, this may be the best possible news....

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm back

Well, I took a little break from the crazy Lich King overload, though I read there are scads of world events taking place, which I approve of. It's too bad they're so technically difficult to do - I had expected WAR would have a more fluid feel to its world, but everything resets there, too. Anyway, some non-Lich news:

APB has new info out, indicating they are actually listening to their players (well, possible future players, I think). I'm interested in this game from a technical standpoint, although I'm not sure the real world cops and robbers theme is my thing.

A post over at /random addresses the question of how to tell your teammates they suck. I don't think it quite goes far enough, as a little politesse goes a long way in my book, but it's an interesting read.

Jumpgate is reporting over 150K beta signups, for whatever that's worth. I'm in the process of signing up right now, and you can do the same here.

I was also reading up on Free Realms, which has posted a handy 'What is Free Realms' video that, I think, did a fine job of telling me that I was too old for it.

Finally, on a slightly unrelated note, I wish to point out the making of a Schadenfreude Pie, complete with cute children doing sinister laughs.

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