Archive for the ‘Online Worlds’ category

“LOST” and the Very Long Form Story

May 24, 2010

So yes, I was among the many people avidly watching the “Lost” finale last night.  I thought it was well done: good writing, pacing, additional character development, and summing things up in a way that was satisfying narratively and emotionally.

We’ve also been watching the series from the start (DVD and Hulu) and I’ve been impressed by how much of the story was in fact present from the very beginning: seeds of characterization, theme, and even plot points were carefully included from the first episode on.  Also how layers of explanation worked to the show’s advantage: polar bears and a smoke monster on a tropical island seem equally improbable, but it turns out only the latter was actually mysterious.  As the layers peeled away with time, we gained much more understanding of the island and of the main characters (who thankfully avoided becoming caricatures).

This six-year run of Lost with its successful conclusion brings me back to how such long story arcs are missing in games.  Most games (especially online/MMO games) present static worlds or have a single arc often with an unsatisfying end.    Can we learn from the success of “very long story forms” like Lost to increase the long-term world and narrative structure in online games? (more…)

A Moment of Silence at the End of Winter

March 31, 2010

In the last few days there have been at least three notices of MMO or virtual world projects shutting down.  It’s hard for me not to see these as indicators of the generational change in the now-traditional “heavy” MMOs/worlds:  Stargate Worlds, There.com, and Vivaty — all very different takes on the previous age of MMOs/VWs, are gone or going away.

They’re doing so in an online game/world/app market that is growing faster than we can track — just not where they are.  Not to be unkind (any effort in this area deserves some respect), but one way to look at these worlds is that they are the very finest in hand-made carriages for the elite set — right about the time cheap autos are rolling off the assembly line.

But looking forward as well as back just a few years (as I wrote in 2007 about the potential for a “Virtual World Winter“), it may be that this isn’t the depth of winter, but its end.  In December 2007 I wrote:

While I’m still bullish on virtual worlds and MMOGs for a number of reasons, that doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily go through a deep winter before we find spring again.    I’m often asked about what comes after World of Warcraft?  Can this market be sustained?

I think we have the answer; as usual, it’s no — and yes.

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GDC Week & Predictions

March 8, 2010

Like a lot of others, I’m heading to GDC today.  I’m mainly going for a couple of summits, some meetings, and to see people who are good friends whom I see once or twice a year.  It’s a bit of an odd sort of relationship, as it feels sometimes like a deadly serious meeting of circus clowns.

Anyway, I’m not going for the talks (and am not giving one this year)… and so I have pretty low expectations of anything significant coming out of them.  But as this is also sort of the beginning of the game-year, I thought I’d take a few minutes for some pre-GDC predictions for the conference and for the rest of the year – social games, MMOs, 3D, AI, the works.

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A Year Later and… Facebook it is!

November 16, 2009

I could have waited one more week and made this post officially on the one-year anniversary since my last post, but I hope to be posting more often, not less.

It’s interesting to look back at your posts from a year or more ago that have been perfectly preserved by the Internet.  In this case it turns out that my thoughts on Facebook are being validated — and that MMOGs are indeed evolving fast.

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The New Killer Platform for MMOGs is… FaceBook?

November 23, 2008

Since my last post was pretty theoretical, I thought I’d bring this back to earth a bit.

The MMOG market continues to be very hot, and possibly all but impervious even to our current economic chaos.  I continue to see MMOGs in development for ever broader demographics and more obscure (or focused) niches.  Despite the difficult times for some and the demise of others, investment and development in this area continues to be strong.

And yet technology continues to be a huge thorn in the side of any developer.  There are a number of middleware suitors trying to woo developers, but recently an unusual one has appeared on the field.  Can it be that Facebook will save MMOG development?

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VWs and MMOGs: The Great Divide?

November 14, 2008

What’s the difference between a virtal world (VW) and a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG)?

No, the answer isn’t “lipstick.”

VWs and MMOGs are like estranged siblings.  They share a common background and future, but right now at least, they don’t talk too much.  I think a lot of this is artificial or the result of odd circumstances having little to do with the online worlds themselves.  And as with many estrangements, I don’t think this one is particularly healthy.

So why are these separate, and what will bring them back together again?

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