Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scrabu-More!! Wordscraper

That didn't take long. Woo Hoo. Now I can uninstall that crap Scrabble plug-in (after defeating my wife, natch!)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Hasbro/EA's new Scrabble (Beta) Facebook app shuts Scrabulous down.

It happened, my favorite* Facebook app, Scrabulous, is gone. In its place is Hasbro/EA's Scrabble Beta Facebook app. I find it hilarious that the new Scrabble game is currently non-functional and there are over 400 threads (not posts, threads) full of anger and spite against the game giant and its strong-arm tactics. I'd say 1 in 50 has a nice thing to say about the new game.

No Scrabulous.
No Scrabble.

I imagine in a day or so we'll see what the real reaction to Scrabble will be. The reaction to a playable Scrabble game. I suspect the hard-core Scrabble and Scrabulous fans will play, though some reluctantly. Angry casual players (like me*) will abandon Scrabble in all its versions altogether, and new players will gravitate to it at a similar rate to the original Scrabulous.

* Yes, Scrabulous was my favorite Facebook app and still not particularly dear to me. Facebook apps don't do much for me, at least so far. The Spore app is my new favorite Facebook app.

Edit: Scrabble Beta is up and running now. My first word...tong.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WoW spelled backwards is...oh, never mind

Warhammer Online Creative Director says World of Warcraft "has had a corrupting effect" on game development.

I couldn't agree more. I saw it at Wizards of the Coast, I saw it at Hidden City Games. I haven't seen too much of it at my current gig, as not too many of my current com padres play.

Wizards appears to have drunk the cool-aid with their newest edition of D&D. 4th edition of D&D is designed to play more like an MMO. Maybe in the table top format, that's an improvement, but it sounds more like marketing/executive creative thinking than game designer creative thinking. I can't say for sure, as I haven't played 4th edition D&D.

All the developers and designers at Hidden City Games were neck-deep in WoW, and it seemed to me, who doesn't play, every single design choice for the Bella Sara website (yes, horses for girls was influenced by WoW) was compared to how it was done in either WOW or XBox Live. I don't mind telling you it became tiresome.

To quote Paul Barnett from the article a started this post with:

"You can't be the Beatles. If you try and be the Beatles, you'll end up as the Monkees,"


Virtual World vs MMO = Casual vs Hard Core?

It may be that the real difference between what we consider a Virtual World and what we consider a Massively Multiplayer Game is the sort of players that play the games, and how those players are catered to by the publishers.

I recently read an article (sorry, I no longer have the link) that made the assertion that so-called hardcore gamers are far more apt to purchase subscriptions than so-called casual gamers. Casual gamers, it said, preferred to pay using the micro-transaction type models.

While there are certainly examples of hard-core games offering micro-transaction content as well as casual games offering subscriptions, from a demographic standpoint, the division is obvious. Most Virtual Worlds are moving, at least in part, to the micro-transaction model. In just the last year, it's becoming generally accepted, despite the drawbacks, that the micro-transaction model is the strongest choice for a successful Virtual Worlds. World of Warcraft, and most hard-core MMO-type games, have settled on the subscription system as the way to go.

Hard-Core -> MMO -> Subscription Payments
Casual -> Virtual World -> Micro-transactions

No so much a rule, but a guideline.


Monday, July 28, 2008

All too Real for Faketown

Faketown files for bankruptcy

A shame really, as I have a fondness for sites that feature a lot of user generated content. Faketown was like a 2d Habbo Hotel with a lot of options for customization. I can't say I'm surprised, as I expect a bit of a virtual world shake-up in the next 12 months or so. Barring some unexpected uptick in the market (people staying home rather than driving around, for example) there won't be room for all of these worlds, even on a medium as infinite as the internet. It's still a zero-sum competition for people willing to provide those magical credit card digits. Let the best worlds win.

Faketown's 2d World

Worlds that feature user generated content must find ways to put the best stuff front and center. It must also have ample designed content to get people into the swing of things before they're ready to take off on their own. I'm not sure Faketown ever managed that, but I didn't spend enough time on the site to judge fairly. I did think it was neat, but, like many players, I prefer the more advanced 3d experiences available elsewhere.



The Scrabulous/Scrabble thing really got me thinking about platforms and how they relate to intellectual property (IP). Scrabulous did Scrabble a huge service by providing the game on a new platform. It's unclear whether or not there would be a Scrabble on Facebook unless Scrabulous proved there is a demand for it.

This puts fan-developers in a tight spot. If they want to introduce a beloved game to a new platform, they have to deal with the corporate command-and-control legal machines that still dominate our info-wants-to-be-free world. Hasbro has made their position clear. They don't want anyone having fun with their property unless they are directly involved. At least that's a position. In most other cases you just have to guess whether the 'rightful owner' cares whether or not you release a game on a new platform, be it Facebook, the I Phone, or whatever cutting edge thing is coming down the virtual pike. If you're lucky, unhappy IP owners will just tell you to stop. If you're unlucky, they might sue.

The creation of great ideas has never been the hard part. See: inspiration vs perspiration. The hard part is turning those ideas into something of value to the world. The law should go further to protect people (and companies) who create that value, rather than protecting those who have great ideas but are unable or unwilling to share them in ways that provide the most value to the public.

There are a lot of pitfalls in my suggestion, but nothing we couldn't sort out with some work. Just an idea that alone will bring little value to the world.