Blizzard To Successfully Monetize Guild Drama

I'm saaaaailing away.....

Now your ENTIRE GUILD can individually pay $25 to collectively pack up and move to another server where you’ll no longer have to look at THAT STUPID BASTARD/BITCH/TAMPERPROOF FOOD PRODUCT  that totally destroyed your guild by hitting on your raid leader/whining about loot distribution/wouldn’t respec out of shadow.

(Actually, this is kind of a good idea, if still, um, kinda evil. So I guess that makes it a True Neutral idea. Which means that only druids can activate the  Guild Transfer service. You read it here first.)

(Pic credit here)


Aww, our little hobby made the big time

From the Orange County Craigslist comes this:

I got my WoW account banned yesterday during the archaeology bot ban wave. I wasn’t a gold farmer or seller, never bought gold. I just botted archaeology because it’s a boring profession. I’m looking for a WoW Account Admin (WoWAccountAdmin@blizzard.com) to unban my account for $1000 USD. No questions asked – your anonymity will be preserved.

This is a serious offer. I live locally and can meet you in person wherever you like with cash, PayPal you money as a gift (non-refundable and non-disputable by me), leave an envelope under a tree, or pay you in any other manner you prefer. You will definitely get your money if I get my account back. You will have my full information – name, address, everything. Email me and I will give you my phone number and we can talk.

Given that this has appeared on some high visibility sites now, I think it’s safe to say his account is going to remain banned for a while. Assuming, you know, it’s not a clever plot by Blizzard’s internal affairs team to flush someone out…

Speaking of money, Blizzard is about to print some more.

A Brief Primer On Geopolitics For Concerned Moviemakers

Successful leaders of totalitarian states wear good suits.

MGM has decided at the last minute that making a movie called “Red Dawn”  about China totally invading the US to death (instead of, you know, merely foreclosing) might not be a good idea if they were to have a successful release in a very important market!

Thus, the movie’s producers have made the extremely practical decision to turn every Chinese person in “Red Dawn” into a North Korean. No. I’m really not making this up at all.

The changes reportedly cost less than $1 million and involve changing an opening sequence summarizing the story’s fictional backdrop, re-editing two scenes and using digital technology to transform many Chinese symbols to Korean.

Apparently, someone really does believe that China and North Korea are just sort of interchangeable parts. I really can’t go into further detail without my head literally exploding in a cloud of racist American idiot-goo.

In the spirit of my previous helpful advice to Sarah Palin about where Russia actually is, and to hopefully educate the producers of “Red Dawn: ChineseKorean Boogaloo” and keep their heads from exploding into racist American idiot-goo as they rub Korean all over the China, here is a typical street scene in Pyongyang, North Korea:

And here is a typical street scene in Shanghai, China:

Here is a picture of  Shanghai at night:

And here is a picture of Pyongyang after dark:

Hopefully this will help you out with that whole switching-out-Chinese-ideograms-for-Korean-hangul thing. If you need to ask more, you could always consult John Milius, the original writer of Red Dawn, who insisted that the thought of China actually invading America was beyond the bounds of realism. Milius’ most recent writing credit is on Homefront, a game about a very realistic North Korean invasion of America.

Second Life Community: We REALLY Fear Change

It was good enough for me in 2004, it's good enough for me now, dammit.

Wagner James Au, one of the most relentless boosters for Second Life (he used to work for the maintainers, wrote a book on the subject and runs a long-running blog/news site) tells the collected user base of Second Life to dear god, just get over it already.

Virtual worlds the size and scope of Second Life need millions in annual revenue to survive, but Second Life’s existing revenue model, while currently successful, is not sustainable into the medium or long term. There are simply not enough people in the real world willing to pay hundreds of dollars a month for virtual land, and those who do now will slowly but inevitably leave for many and various reasons, making Second Life a candidate for lingering death from a thousand cuts.

The reason for this is because Second Life users like Second Life just the way it is, thank you, and kindly stop putting your Facebook in our Farmvilles. In fact, recent mishaps by Linden Lab (Second Life’s owner/maintainer) which I documented here essentially have turned the Second Life community into a battered spouse. “Just *stop hitting us* already! Leave us alone and let us do our thing, OK?” It got to the point that a casual mention of Second Life users maybe possibly looking into this newfangled Facebook thingy on their community site caused a frothing mass of panic and tears.

There’s a few points of failure here.

  • Failure of community management. Community management is a key part of keeping the users you already have, if not happy, at least not rioting in the streets. Yet Linden has gone through several community managers and several reorganizations in the past year and there hasn’t been a lot of outreach, at all, to the opinion shapers. What little has been done has been to the comfortable commentariat – like, well, the linked-above W. James Au – and not to the more irascible, rougher – and sometimes more noteworthy – opinion shapers. Why is there no one from Linden Lab posting on SLUniverse? Why is there no one from Linden Lab talking to Prokofy Neva? Part of community management, inherently, is talking to your community via outreach. And that doesn’t seem to be happening, and in its stead the community is shaping its own opinion outside of any input by Linden – and that isn’t particularly pleasant for Linden’s future growth.
  • Failure of implementation. The initiatives Linden’s done in the past year have not gone well, to put it kindly. The highest-profile – the much-hyped Viewer 2 revamp – has still only been adopted by a minority of users by most metrics. Things such as web-based clients have been announced with great fanfare, prototyped quietly, and then faded away without much notice. Other engineering improvements (such as the ability to import 3D meshes into the grid) have languished. It’s a fair question to ask what, particularly, is planned next, and it’s also a fair question for SL users to *fear* what is planned next, given recent history. Which leads into…
  • Failure of vision. Simply put, Second Life has been devolving from the mass media’s poster child for virtuality into a footnote. Linden doesn’t seem to have a plan for turning this around. To its great good fortune, its potential competitors have done even less well, but “hoping no one else looks in our direction” isn’t a particularly sound business strategy.

To turn this around, Linden needs a two-pronged strategy – one based at keeping their current (and at this point at least profitable) customer base happy, and one based at capturing the imagination of the media and users who have previously left/not been interested in Second Life.

The first is easy – well, that’s not particularly the right way to express it. Knowing what to do first is easy, actually iterating on it less so. What Second Life’s current users need more than anything else are small, easily added quality of life improvements. Nothing that changes how they use the service on a daily basis, but fixing what they already do. Community outreach is key to this – don’t assume you know what your users want. You don’t. Go ask. This is something that has served many MMOs well in customer retention; it’s not particularly undiscovered territory.

The second involves leveraging what Second Life already does well – the ability to be a platform for sometimes unhinged creativity – and moving that to a more accessible place. Be that Facebook, or the greater web, or whatever – but Viewer 3 (or maybe Viewer Reboot or whatever) needs to be *different*. Easier, more accessible, able to run on netbooks/iOS/whatever. And most importantly, not forced on the current user base, but concurrent to/alongside the now-hard-core-by-necessity user base. The beauty of client/server architecture, after all, is that you can have multiple clients. (which SL has already due to the open source nature of the Viewer publishing cycle).

But whatever is done, it needs to be communicated, and it needs to be communicated well, and that communication will be hard, and uncomfortable. Because, Linden, as even your best friends are telling you – you’re dying.

Lord British To Return To His Long Absent Throne, Possibly Look Around, Then Leave Again

Lord British, last seen in Ultima Online 3,647 days ago.

Do you have $3.8 million lying about? Richard Garriott wants to talk to YOU.

Lord British’s New Britannia (working title) will be a social networking game built around Garriott’s famous alter ego, which he wholly owns – as opposed to the Ultima universe, which Electronic Arts has the rights to.

Any actual description of “what a social networking game built around a guy who was in those Ultima games” entails was left as an exercise for someone (possibly the person(s) who get stuck with actually making Lord British’s New Britannia once the all important “Getting rights to the name”, “Getting $3.8 million in funding”, and “Turning my castle into a spaceship that can orbit the greater Austin area and rain down holy fire upon the just and the unjust” steps have been completed). However, Garriott had this solitary tidbit:

…the virtual world game is not just an ultra-light MMO shopped on social media. I think that would be a failure.

So, you know, it’ll have a lot of depth. He said so. Right there. Or it’ll be a failure. It’ll be one of those.

Meanwhile, nothing has been heard of a related project, SEE Entertainment’s Planet: Michael.

Forum Moderation Taken To A New Something

This is why we play computer games.

Be careful if you complain on Bioware forums about EA, or you may find that Dragon Age 2 DVD is so much shiny hurlock metal.

We’ve seen Arno’s correspondence with BioWare, and it’s fair to say that he’s not been as controlled as he could have been. While there’s been no abuse or inappropriate language, he’s certainly cocky. BioWare’s response so far has been to repeatedly state the rules to Arno, with a moderator explaining to him,

“It’s not like you get to pick and choose your own punishment when you break the rules. The various punishments, up to and including permanent bans, EA account termination, and loss of access to entitlements, is very clearly laid out and is part of the rules you agreed to follow and be governed by.”

I can’t wait until I’m blocked from entering bars for getting into arguments on Facebook!

So the takeaway for now: if you don’t want to get cut off with your digital romance with a dusky pirate lass, keep your opinions about racial diversity in Kirkwall to yourself.

EDIT: Oh wait, he’s not banned any more. Thanks, Internet outrage!

So there you go then. A strange one indeed, after he was told by both EA’s live support, and the moderator who locked the thread discussing the matter (who declined to speak to us), the opposite. But good news for Arno, who can finally play the game he’s paid for.

Eve Players: Strictly For The Headstrong, Only For The Hardcore

This never seems to happen in WoW.

In Eve, if you run an RMT shop, Eve players WILL TOTALLY HAX0R YOUR GIBSON.

Based in Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, Iskbank.com has been operating in its current incarnation since December of 2009, and claims to have been in operation for three years prior. The owner and primary operator of the site is known as Vadim, although it’s impossible to know if there is any relation to the Eve character of the same name. Records indicate that Iskbank.com has somewhere between 2 and 5 employees, although this is only an estimate. They appear to also operate eveisk.ru, a Russian-language mirror of Iskbank.com.

Oh, and a list of every character who’s bought ISK from them. BAM!

The RMT shop has a spokesman (really?) who denies everything (really!) but Evenews24 is on the case:

While we can understand why Iskbank.com would refuse to confirm the data we received, EveNews24 staff spent a great deal of time talking to customers whose names were on this list. The vast majority of those we spoke to confirmed that they were Iskbank.com customers. Some of their stories will be told tomorrow. In the mean time, we stand by our story.


Emmert In Charge

Jack Emmert to take over as CEO of Cryptic.

...of our days, and our nights...

As a colleague, I am sad to see John go, but our vision remains clear,” says Emmert. “Cryptic continues to develop great gaming experiences while ensuring the success of its current projects, Champions Online: Free for All, Star Trek Online and Neverwinter.

Of course, most gamers already thought Emmert was in charge, since ever since Bill Roper’s departure he was by far Cryptic’s most visible employee – but he has moved swiftly in the space of a year from Creative Director to COO to CEO. Next stop – orbital mind control lasers.

Some of Emmert’s greatest hits:

“After the first month, you lose two-thirds of your players, but the ones who stay – you can’t get rid of them.”

“No nerf ever caused a statistical drop in user base.”

“You’re seeing an absolutely catastrophic evolution in the MMO industry, and as a fan, you should be terrified.”