March 2009

Second Life To Add Red Light District. No, Really, This Is Not A Joke.

Official notice. Short version: a new category of content (currently there is only two, “PG” and “Mature”) will be added, and users will have to verify they are an adult to access it.

Wagner James Au’s article (with interview with Linden Lab officials) amusingly denotes that most of what you or I would consider X-Rated isn’t, really.

I gave a specific example to Cyn and Roberts. One of the more popular roleplaying groups in SL is “Dark Den RP Group”, which by its own description, offers “Kidnap, auction and slavery RP”. Would that be designated as Adult? Surprisingly, both suggested it wouldn’t, since the wording is “not about sex and violence.”

How about “Capture” roleplay, generally associated with S/M sexuality? Again, they suggested, if sex wasn’t explicitly mentioned, it wouldn’t be defined as sexual.

Meanwhile, the official support page on the subject implies that most Resident skins (which include [NSFW LINK] photo-realistic nudity because, well, you know) would be flagged “Adult” under the new system. Responses from Linden Lab representatives on message boards have been, not surprisingly, contradictory on that point.

Which means that what this is really all about is corporate CYA. Linden Lab has to date made quite a tidy business off of creating a virtual world that has a squeaky clean public face and, thanks to a combination of libertarian lack of content filtering and the ability to create literally anything, a private face that, well, has people parsing what “capture roleplay” means. Or, as a commenter on the Massively coverage put it,

If you can’t find adult content in Second Life, your Internet must be out of pixels.

Considering that Linden Lab has been making mutterings about revamping adult content flagging for what seems like years now, it may be a while before any of this comes to fruition. Or, it could happen immediately!

Worlds.Com To Sue Blizzard, Linden Lab, Kathy Griffin, Lee Adama, The Kaiser, And Possibly Sony

In case you ever needed proof that the American legal system is so mentally retarded that drooling on oneself is a second-year law course, this case is your huckleberry. CEO Thom Kidrin is putting the entire virtual worlds industry on notice: His company claims the idea of a scalable virtual world with thousands of users is its patented intellectual property, and Thom told us he intends to sue anyone who refuses to enter into licensing negotiations — including giants such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, a property of Activision Blizzard (ATVI).

Already, Korean gaming firm NCSoft, maker of City of Heroes and Guild Wars, has been sued by Worlds.  (In East Texas no less, a jurisdiction infamous in intellectual property circles for plaintiff-friendly rulings in patent cases.)

Thom told us if he succeeds in his litigation, he “absolutely” intends to pursue follow-up suits against industry leaders Second Life and WoW.

That’s right: (or more accurately, their ambulance chasing blackmailers masquerading as lawyers) are stepping up to challenge Blizzard Legal Strike Force: OTTER. This can only end well.

direwolfskindarkblackBlizzard’s lawyers have no comment at this time.

Or more likely, like other patent trolls throughout history, the legal team’s fondest wish is to cash in on a “no, really, go away” payout that would be, for Blizzard, a rounding error. Isn’t it awesome when innovation and success has a Stupid Legal System tax? Because, clearly, it’s easier to just sue random people with blatantly frivolous shakedowns than to actually, you know, update your own website with news other than your adventures in legalistic blackmail.

Microprose Founder Really Wants You To Know He Was In The Military

Massively has an interview with “Wild” Bill Stealey, co-founder of paeleo-PC game company Microprose whose entire catalog I purchased several times. Sadly Master of Magic was NOT MENTIONED.

However, something was:

Whether they were in my regiment when I was in the Army, or in my squadron, or my wing when I was in the Air Force, or the guys in the Air Force Academy; those are the kind of people I trust my life to. So those are the kind of people I want to hang out with.

I’m a retired military officer, five of the guys who are associated with this are all Air Force Academy graduates. We’re working with two Naval Academy graduates; we have a bunch of shooters from Fort Bragg coming in.

In the military we’d have the ready rooms, we’d have the squadron break room or we’d have the Officer’s Club, and this is like our little Officer’s Club to go hang out in.

Remember: service guarantees citizenship.

The Other Hammer Falls

Warhammer’s European distributor Goa announced the imminent closure of 20 servers. Interestingly, that leaves 23 European servers open compared to 16 in the US, indicating that the bulk of Warhammer’s subscribers may be in, well, the continent where Warhammer originated.

Mark Jacobs posted a “State of the Game” address today, which didn’t address the server closures but spoke more generally about his hopes for the game’s future.

The last six months have seen an awful lot of excitement and change here at the studio.  We’ve launched another successful MMORPG but this time in the face of the worst economic conditions that most of us have ever seen.  We’ve done some things that we are very proud of, some things we regret, and some things that we are very excited about going forward.  As I’ve said about Mythic throughout the years, we are not perfect but we will always try our best to create great games.

However, he did address the closures in a post on the VNBoards:

Over the last few months we’ve been telling people to transfer off the lower population servers. Over this same amount of time people have been asking/telling/begging us to merge servers. So, now that almost all the people transferred off those servers, we’ve done just that. And of course, when we do that, some people here say “OMG Fail!”

As I’ve already said, if WAR was a PvE game, we wouldn’t have closed those servers but since WAR is RvR-centric, leaving those servers open with their current population would not be a good idea. While these servers have been low population for quite a while once we told people to transfer off of them their population dropped too low for an RvR-centric game.

Oh, and as an FYI, once again our number of paying subs in NA went up again yesterday as did our PCU (even with backing out the trial accounts). These are undeniable facts, not spin.

Hammer Falls On Warhammer Servers

In case you didn’t get the hint the last time ‘voluntary’ ‘suggested’ ‘server transfers’ were announced, Mythic just announced that 40 of its 57 US/Oceanic servers are going away soon. For those of you who find math hard, that leaves 17 servers total (including 1 test server and 1 reserved for beta testers). No word yet on European servers (which account for another 43 servers and, like World of Warcraft, are effectively a different company for purposes of billing, server and community management).

It’s an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, you need a critical mass of players for a PvP-focused game – or for any MMO at all, really – to be at all fun. On the other hand, it’s really hard to spin this as in any way a mark of success when you are closing 2/3 of your servers. On the gripping hand, well, I suppose someone decided that there was a better use for all that hardware than keeping up servers everyone had already been encouraged to transfer off of and could no longer create characters on.

So, good news if you’re a current Warhammer player, good news if you’re a bitter ex-Warhammer player looking for axe-grinding grist, and good news if you’re another EA project that needs a server array. Those for whom this is bad news is left as an exercise for the curious reader.

Lrn2Play 101: Don’t Stand In The Glowy Crap

WoW Insider discovers a fundamental truth about WoW raiding.

And, c’mon. It’s been about half a decade and near 12 million subscribers. Once you’ve done Nethekurse or Zereketh, you should know that you’re not supposed to stand in pink, black, or red circles. Really, just don’t stand in stuff. Is that really such a deep and meaningful skill that you have to relearn “Don’t stand in stuff!” for Kel’Thuzad? So, if the Wrath raids aren’t demanding a gear-based progression (meaning, it’s all a gear check), then we should entertain the idea that we’ve gotten pretty good at not standing in stuff.

My deathknight would like to remind you that as he, too, can generate glowy crap on demand, Raiding 102 involves learning which glowy crap is which.

Note that “Don’t Stand In The Glowy Crap” is a PvE skill. PvPers should move on to considerably more advanced tactics, such as “Killing The Dude With The Thing“.

Well, That’s Different

Rabbi discovers one or two video games involve killing Nazis.

As a Jew, being involved in virtually ending World War II allows you to experience the closest thing possible to killing the sense of victimhood created by the Holocaust. And you do it without actually hurting any real people. In fact, it’s so satisfying that when you get to shoot down the golden eagle on the Reichstag, while sniping headshots at flame-throwing Nazis, you simply don’t want the war to end.

I know if my priest yelled “BOOM! HEADSHOT!” more, I’d probably still be Catholic.

(Courtesy MTV Multiplayer)

A Brief Meta Note

Today was my last day at Webwars. The parting was on amicable terms, and I’m sure that they’ll have something you can dork around with soon enough. If you’re a designer looking for work, they’re hiring! (And yes, that’s the position I used to hold.) They’re good people, and I highly recommend applying if you’re a bad enough dude to rescue the President.

I have a new gig, which as of now, and most likely for quite a long while, I can’t talk about. Sorry. Rest assured I’ll be mouthing off all about it once I can.

We now return you to the endless PK vs. Carebear debate, already in progress.

This Is How The World Ends

In Tabula Rasa’s case, not with a bang, but with a whine.

It is probably safe to say that, despite decades of ever more spectacular Hollywood visions of extra-terrestial domination, humanity in its worst nightmares never imagined it would have to contend with spawn-camping aliens.

Brian “Psychochild” Green has a more bittersweet view.

So, while the big TR ending event might win them style and PR points, it fills me with a bit of sadness. Can’t games be special to people anymore? Was TR’s community really so weak that they needed a big event to make the ending special? Are online games becoming more disposable from the business, community, and development points of view?