Thursday, December 24, 2009

Destroy All Critics!

There is ZERO reason to waste bandwidth complaining about the quality of a web comic. I can (and do) ignore most of them without anyone's help. PVP, on the other hand, is awesome, and everyone should know about it.

Back when content always cost money, the purpose of a critic was to tell you what was good and what was bad so you didn't waste your hard earned scratch on crap. That's still more or less true when it comes to things that you can't try out for free. The thing is, there's not much you can't try out for free these days.

With the free model in place, what does a critic have to do? Well, in the age of the internet, a role of critic gives way to that of an advocate. There's no longer any point to criticizing as everyone has access to the same (or at least adequate) content that a critic does, normally for free. The new problems is that of sorting the wheat from the chaff, and that's where the critic/advocate again becomes useful. There's hardly any use for 'bad' reviews these days. I can find things I hate on my own, thanks. What I need is a concentrated dose of what's awesome. What that is amazing would I possibly miss if the advocate doesn't alert me to it?

People seem more naturally predisposed to rant about what they hate, but that's of no use in the internet age. Useful information centers around what's great and why. Provide that, and you're contributing.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stubborn as a M.U.L.E.

My favorite game of all time. Suck it, Mario.

The original M.U.L.E. game, on the Commodore 64, is probably my favorite game ever. Yes, I'm old. While I've been able to play it on C64 emulators for years, controls and life in this modern age have prevented me from playing it as it was intended, with two to four real live human opponents. That has just changed.

The new version has got 'it' and 'it' is a big pile of tasty smithore. YUM!

Planet M.U.L.E.

After years of rumor, M.U.L.E. is once again available FOR FREE on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's brand new, buggy as hell, failed to run on two of the three computers we've tried installing it on, but on MY computer it works like a charm. The game is about 95% the same as the original, and most of the differences are bugs to be addressed in future updates or very minor improvements. The devs say on their forum they want to duplicate the original game as faithfully as possible before adding options that deviate (too far) from the classic's perfection.

While it runs on my PC, it seems like this game really needs to be on Facebook and on mobile phones. It seems perfectly suited to those platforms.


Monday, December 14, 2009

I am Dirk the Daring. Dragon's Lair!

There is no question that the original Casey's arcade left a permanent and powerful mark on my childhood. Even now, the smell of freshly popped corn brings me back to the hot, crowded, neon-purple-lit techno cave that consumed so much of my middle school years and so many, many, multi-colored tokens.

Casey's was the Everett Washington home of Dragon's Lair. For 25 cents (all the other games at Casey's cost a nickle, offset by a cover charge.) we could enjoy a visual gaming experience unlike any other. It was magical.

20 years later, Dirk the Daring still has running, jumping, grunting, and slaying to do.

Now that magic is captured on the tiny, tiny iPhone screen, and you know what? I can still smell the popcorn when I play it.


Friday, November 13, 2009

It's My Turn to Get the Pizza You Asshole I Need it More!

From Slate Magazine

Et tu, Mario?

Wait until Christmas? My wife thinks so...

Jesper Juul, a video-game researcher and professor at NYU's newly minted Game Center, argues that multiplayer games give us three things to balance. Players want to win and they want the game to be fair, but they also need to navigate whatever relationships they have outside the game—that is, if you shoot your friend in the head in Call of Duty, you'll have to answer for that in the offline world. My brother and the jerk from E3 were solely concerned with winning. I mostly cared about the game being fair. None of us, though, sat down and talked about the third factor—what we were planning to do during our journey as in-game teammates.

I recommend the entire article! (Don't worry, it's short)


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shut My Mouth, Open My Ears

I've been struggling with how to manage the ourWorld volunteers for around six months. Everyone agrees we should have them, but what they should do (and why they should do it) have remaining frustratingly elusive questions. To make matters more complex, the players really want to be volunteers. Requests to join the program (such as it is) have been staggering.

I realized, just yesterday (around six months late) that what the volunteers do is important, but a distant second to what they are really for. The primary job of the volunteers is to tell me what they think. My most important job is to listen to them, with all other jobs remaining important, but not the first priority. My old strategy for meeting the volunteers' needs was finding things for them to do. By doing that I would somehow take a step towards solving all the challenges of a volunteer program.

Starting this week, listen first will be the my volunteer motto. Listen and act.

Note: Listening is not the same as agreeing. The answer to many volunteer issues will be 'no', but it will be a considered answer, and an honest one.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Movie Time!!!!

Once again we're having an ourWorld YouTube contest. If you're an ourWorld player, you might want to give it a shot, as the top prize is 1000 Gems and all valid entries will get rewarded.

For details, see the ourWorld Blog


Monday, September 28, 2009

Virtual Security, Pretators and Solicitors

The economy of a virtual world is one of the most important aspects of its community. Normally, a robust economy is tied closely to the success of the site.

The down-side of an economy focused game with a free-to-play component is that there tends to be a lot more have-nots than haves, and in many cases the have-nots do not have the means to upgrade, even if they truly love the game. When they do love the game, they can get desperate. Enter predators and the solicitors.

Predators convince other players to give them their Login Information (Email and Password for ourWorld), usually in exchange for the promise of something, normally currency or membership. Other reasons player ask for Login Info include players offering to trade accounts for 'fun' and more recently as a membership condition for social groups within the game. Not sure if that last one is ever legit. I've only just noticed that in the last couple of days.

ourWorld's automated report system caught and reported me making this image! Also, nobody gave me their info. Better luck next time (KIDDING!)

Solicitors run around giving their Login information away willingly to anyone that will listen, often just announcing the info to whomever might be in the room with them. They hope that somebody will take over their account and load it up with free goodies. Its sounds crazy but it happens all the time. Normally by younger players, but not always.

Ramifications of these actions are still relatively limited in ourWorld. It's not possible to give or trade your items away directly, and the ourWorld Marketplace (that allows sales to other players) is still limited. Basically this means there is no easy way to profit from taking another player's account in ourWorld. For the most part, the worst a person can do is vandalize the account, spend the account's currency, sell the accounts items, and lock the owner out.

It is likely we'll add more robust transactions. Trading, maybe, and other ways for players to interact with each other in ways that may benefit one player more than the other. When that happens, suddently stealing accounts can result in a direct benefit to the thief's account. If you can dump items or currency into your account, its becomes very tempting to try and gain access to others. When players are running around announcing their passwords to strangers around them, it becomes pretty easy as well.

If more robust player transactions happen, people illicitly collecting Login Info will become a huge problem (not that it isn't now) and we need to be very strict about how we deal with it (not that we aren't now.) What we really need to get across is this one simple rule:

Never give your password to anyone for any reason, EVER.

Everyone follows that rule, and the problem simply vanishes. I am baffled about what more we can do to spread this simple concept.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Linear Progression - Two Versions

This is a revisit of a very old series of posts I wrote back when I was focused on card games, rather than virtual worlds. For the most part, the theories are the same, though I've split and clarified them a bit. My original post from 2007 described what I here call Consumer Progression. The second group, which I'll call Engagement Progression, borrow from the original, but describe a different sort of behaviors. In both cases, people move through the progressions until they stall, reach the end, or abandon the game. Making it easy as possible for players to progress is one way to ensure a game's success.

Consumer Progression - Three broad categories that describe the spending habits of consumers. The categories form a linear progression with each consumer starting at Tourist when they first experience the game. A purchase elevates them to Customer. A habit of regular purchases may then elevate them further to Whale.

Tourist - a person who has experienced the game without paying for it. In the case of games with a freemium model, these players often make up the largest portion of the games players. Other examples of Tourists could include free trial players, player who have borrowed or
played a friend's copy, and even players of pirated copies (depending on how you look at it, and the nature of the game.)
Customer - Anyone who has made any sort of purchase, no matter how small, becomes a customer. They are a radically different animal than the Tourist for a number of reasons. The most obvious is their value. The average customer's likelihood of making a second purchase is an
order of magnitude higher than the likelihood of the average Tourist making a first purchase. Because they make up the most profitable group of players, overall, it is essential that the needs of the Customers are kept as the highest priority.
Whale - A customer that makes either extremely large purchases, or extremely regular purchases, becomes a Whale (originally a casino term for extremely rich and profitable high rollers.) A customer that keeps their subscription active, but makes no additional purchases is a
great customer, but not a Whale. If I had to pin a number on it, a Whale is a customer that purchases at least triple that of the average Customer.

Engagement Progression - Categories designed to measure how much a player cares about the game, and to some extent, how emotionally involved they are with it.

Noob - Players that have just started. They have already decided to stick around long enough to give the game a chance, so its up to the game to impress them, entertain them, and not confuse or frustrate them. Noobs typically have no emotional connection to the game, and in the case of social networking games, they are a often a source of much anti-social behavior.
Player - Most of the people playing a game are players. They like it, they come back, they may even pay (if not required to.) They don't have any use for the crutches Noobs so often require, so its the game's job to either hide them or make them clever enough to not get in the way. If a player has an emotional attachment to the game, it is either weak or directed more towards the other players in the game.
Fan - When a player becomes emotionally involved in a game, that player becomes a fan. Fans are willing to take action beyond simple purchases. Fans write blogs and manage online forums. Fans volunteer. Fans are players who have formed an emotional bond with the game.
Elite (Super Fan) - Similar to a fan, but truly, truly dedicated. The 1%'ers, though in truth, they represent less than 1% of the players. These are players who get more out of a game than the designers could have ever intended, and they typically want to contribute back to the thing that gives so much to them.

Its always dicey categorizing people, but I believe looking at these categories, it is possible to make reasonable choices about new features, costs, and services. Combine these notions with information specific to your game, spending habits Whales vs. Customers, for example, or number of players showing Fan-like behaviour vs. simple Player behavior, and decisions become easier to make, with more chance of success.

GameGuts Blog

Friday, September 04, 2009

Noob Tools

Buy-in levels: Tourist, Customer, Fan

Experience levels: Noob, Player, Elite

Levels match each other roughly (but not always)

Noob needs are more distinct than the other two. In fact, many games allow the experience between players and elite result from a gradual progression, rather than a distinct shift in the game's focus when the gamer's status shifts.

Noobs, on the other hand, often require special attention in order to progress their status to the more rewarding Player status. Typically, Players find the attention Noobs require distasteful, so those features must be hidden as soon as they are no longer needed.

This means a game requires a robust 'Noob experience' that is clever enough to conceal itself as soon as it is no longer needed. The more complex the game, the more robust the Noob tools must be.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

This Isn't How It Was Supposed To Be

Despite what I do for a living, I don't actually buy that many PC games. Tonight's lesson explains why.

One of the first non-board games I ever played was the paper-and-dice Champions RPG. It's a cornerstone of my youth, and I still keep the books, though it's unlikely I'll every use them again. When I heard about Champions Online, I was sold.

Last weekend, I went to a BBQ with a bunch of my old gaming buddies, and they were all planning on getting Champions Online. I got excited, and when that happens, I act stupidly.

I talked my wife into letting me drop the $50 on the game and headed out to pick it up tonight. I haven't been this excited about a game since Spore (the last PC game I purchased.)

After two hours of frustration, I've come believe my laptop's video card isn't up to running Champions Online. I'm really, really upset. I've spent $50 that I don't think I'm getting back on a game I may never get to play. Buying a new computer is not an option. As I use a laptop I don't think getting a new video card is an option. It didn't occur to me the game wouldn't run AT ALL. I'm used to running with the graphics turned down, and that doesn't bother me.

Does. Not. Run. At. All.


This happened when I purchased the Orange Box for my old desktop machine a few years ago, but a $30 video card solved that problem. For the Orange Box it was worth it, but I don't have that option this time. I mad at myself for being so stupid about buying a game I can't play and I'm mad at Cryptic for building a game that I can't play.

This isn't how I was supposed to be feeling right now. I was supposed to be fighting crime right now. I guess the forces of evil will win this round.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ground Up in the Rumor Mill

This week there are ourWorld rumors regarding Gem Coupon Codes. To be clear:

There are no valid ourWorld Gem Coupon Codes being distributed right now!

For those not in the know, a Gem Coupon Code is a 16 digit, alpha-numeric code that, when valid, adds something like Coins, Gems, etc. to an ourWorld account.

Coupons Codes are activated on the ourWorld SETTINGS page.

We use Gem Coupon Codes for the following reasons:
  • Rewards for surveys and similar offers. (usually for 20 Gems.)
  • A special bonus for Newsletter readers. (always 10 Gems)
Both of these codes are designed to work once per account for a limited time. 20 Gem codes usually last about a week, 10 Gems codes usually last about two. After that, they just quit.

There is a second type of Gem Code Code that we don't use too often. The single use code. These codes don't expire with time, but they only work once, ever. Once HotZexyGrl12 uses the code, it's spent and her friends can't get those Gems.

Clearly a culture of Coupon Code swapping has cropped up in ourWorld. I wonder what the ratio of players who read the newsletter/did the survey is compared to the number who are swapping codes and getting them off of sites like this. There's nothing wrong with the swapping, but when we start getting angry letters from parents because the bogus code their kid got doesn't work, that's a problem. Yes, this is actually happening.

What's this all mean? It means our messaging about Coupon Codes has been lost or at least muddled. In a sense, they don't cost us anything (not counting my time.) That said, if the norm for collecting these codes no longer includes their designed purpose, we may need to change our Gem Coupon Code strategy. That might be very good news, or very bad news, for the players who rely on these codes for their Gems.

GameGuts Blog

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Free at Last

I've just finished the free audio-book version of Chris Anderson's Free: The Future of a Radical Price. While there is a fair amount of controversy regarding the book, free is the baseline price for most Web-based games, like ourWorld, Yoville, Club Penguin, and pretty much everything else in our category. In other words, we're neck deep in free, and living with the necessities, benefits, as well as the pitfalls of it.

Because free is the default base price for all of our games, the gaming public takes it for granted that the games will be free. In fact, we use the 'freemium' model, where the minority of players that do pay are supporting the vast majority who are playing for free.

The book relied most heavily on Maplestory for its gaming examples. In Maplestory's case, everything in the game could be achieved with effort. The non-free items save players time, but do not provide access to anything that the non-paying players can't achieve given time.

In ourWorld, we certainly sell items that save player time (subscribers level up 2x faster, and an assortment of non-free items can increase that multiplier even further.) In addition, there are items that the highest level players can earn with out paying, but players who don't mind paying can get whenever they choose. Unlike Maplestory, however, we have hundreds of items that only paying players have access to. These items don't do anything but impact how the avatar and living spaces look, but as looks and image is what ourWorld is all about, it's socially rewarding to have these "Gem-Only" premium items.

With free as the default price of online games like ourWorld, the challenge is really how to balance the free version of the game with the premium version. What should be free? What should cost money? When we started last year, almost everything was free. As the site matured, the ratio of free to non-free has shifted steadily toward the latter. As the players gaining benefits from this shift are supporting the site, this is not a problem at all. In addition, while growth is slower, the non-paying players still have more features than they did this time last year, even if glass-half-empty users only see the ever increasing number of features they 'unfairly' don't have access to.

I expect more and more aspects of ourWorld to become free as new non-free items are released. As non-free features age, the cost of giving them away gives way to the benefits. This happened with Condos (ourWorld living spaces) a few months ago, and the result has been totally positive for both the players as well as the bottom line of the site.

Free at last!

Gameguts Blog

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Too Much love

I don't use my main ourWorld character, Wylde, very often any longer. This is why:

Can I just Reply All?

Each of those '!' is somebody who wants to chat with me. I just can't keep up! Don't worry, I still play ourWorld all the time, I just use less well known characters.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Geat Idea, or Greatest Idea?

Plans under way for memorial to gaming icon in Lake Geneva

There are about as many opinions about Gary Gygax as there are numbers in the average bag of D&D dice, but there is little doubt that his influence upon hobby gaming was massive. It can be argued that in regards to gaming, he was the single most influential person, ever. If you narrow that statement down to 'hobby gaming', I don't even think there's an argument.

I'd love to see that statue. Of course, there's some concern that it'd come alive to defend treasure hidden somewhere nearby. We'll deal with that issue when the time comes.


The Amazing VooDoo Economics of Farmtown

My obsession of the month has been Facebook's Farmtown. I am particularly impressed with the way the Farmtown designers have bent economics to match the goals of the game, leaving real-world economics behind.

It's Pumpkin Season!

Like most virtual world-type games, the value of Farmtown money isn't based on supply and demand. The supply of both money and goods is, of course, limitless, so the prices are arbitrary. The demand has no impact on price, so the goal is to maximize demand (i.e. players) as much as possible by increasing the size of the player-base. Attracting more players is the baseline goal of all games, and Farmtown uses all of the Facebook viral tricks to achieve that goal. In addition, they use a novel approach to employment economics, which, while simple, is new to me.

If you are a Farmtown farmer, these are your costs to grow crops:
  • Plow
  • Buy seeds
Once the seeds are grown, you harvest and get paid:
  • Harvest and sell immediately OR
  • Harvest and store, selling at the Market for +10% price*
Here's paradigm shift. The Market is full of people who want to work for you, and getting that bonus 10% is how you find those players in the first place. Players who work for you get paid BUT:

Unlike in the real world, instead of the farmer giving the workers a cut of the farms income, the farmer gets paid MORE when using a worker and the worker gets paid by the game, NOT by the farmer. That means the farmer's choices are:
  • Harvest and sell immediately for the least money OR
  • Harvest and store, selling at the Market for +10% price OR
  • Hire somebody else to harvest, selling at the Market for +20% price, plus the worker gets 20% value of the harvest. Note: Harvesting becomes a bit of a chore, so you're saving time and effort as well as making more $
Hiring somebody to Plow your fields also is 25% to 50% cheaper than doing it yourself in addition to the worker getting paid. Again, it's a chore you get to avoid while saving money and the worker is thanking you for the 'free' money.

The game simply doles out more money for the cooperative behavior they choose to encourage. Unlike the real world, there's an infinite supply of cash, so this works with no side effects. I've always thought of virtual economies as trying to replicate supply and demand of scarcity based real-world economies, but Farm Town has proved that there are other options, depending on the goals of your game.

* note: I'm totally estimating the % benefits, but the gist remains valid.


Monday, August 03, 2009

It would be amazing...

If I could blog from my iPhone.


The End of Online

Most online games are played on a computer or video game system. The rise of these systems as a source of entertainment has supplanted TV, toys, sports, and traditional play as the primary source of entertainment for a lot of kids. The conventional wisdom, from the President on down, is that kids need to get off the couch and go play outside. I don't have a problem with that, at all.

My prediction: As being online gets cheaper and easier, smart toys will start appearing that making playing outside as cool or cooler than sitting on the couch. Off the top of my head:
  • Bats, balls, gloves, and sporting goods we haven't thought of that automatically record your stats and measure your records against your friends, and the world at large.
  • Action figures that allow kids to take part in grand adventures, shared by other kids all over the world.
  • Geo-cache style park games, played by individuals, small groups, or as part of a larger world-wide campaign.
These ideas are mostly 'old-toys-only-better', which means I'm certainly off the mark. The idea that people need to be sitting on the couch to get play benefits from the online world is just old fashioned thinking. Once smart toys are priced competitively with dumb ones, a new brand of old fashioned play will return in a big way.

Who wants to sit in from of that stupid screen all day, anyway? It doesn't *do* anything!


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

NeoPets Scam

Just read this and it looks legit:

"If you have children that play on the popular virtual world game Neopets, you might want to warn them of a social engineering scam gleefully targeting 12-year-old kids. Neopets users looking for rare items are sent private messages from the scammers, who direct them to sites hosting keyloggers & trojans. They then use the infected PC as a means to get to data the parents might have stored there, be it credit card details, Paypal accounts or online banking. Seeing the screenshots of some of these people talking about putting these children into botnets is just unbelievable — if ever you wanted proof that people up to no good online will go to any lengths to get their hands on some money (or even just feel good about outsmarting a 12-year-old), here it is."

There is no question that ourWorld players would fall for this sort of scam. I don't think I need to panic and change anything, as our filters and policies already do what's possible to prevent this sort of thing. I guess I just needed one more thing to worry about.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Member's Only

That's some cooooool water.

We added our first public Member's Only area to ourWorld yesterday. The players have been asking for a swimming pool since pretty much always, and we finally released a swimming area called the Beach.

Only Resident Subscribers can go there*.

As expected, there is a vocal chorus of "not fair!" from the free-play community. While I understand their reaction, it's hard to muster a great deal of sympathy from my personal perspective. Most of ourWorld is free, but new features more and more are for paying players. You know, the people who keep the site running with their dollars.

It's unfortunate how weak the free-player's position is, really. When they threaten to leave the site and never come back, the net loss to the site is usually close to zero. I wish it was a bigger deal. I wish the free-players could contribute more to the site so they could be given more in exchange.

If wishes were subscriptions, we'd all swim.


* Free players can go to the Beach if Grouped with a Resident subscriber, so it's not totally off-limits.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A World Record For OFF TOPIC!!!

Drum roll...

Here 'goes...


Friday, April 24, 2009

Now they've got it...

Penny Arcade has hit the virtual nail upon the virtual head, again.

It's Really Quite Simple

OurWorld's payment options.

Credit Card
5.99 for 1 month subscription, automatic billing (150 Gems/month)
49.99 for 1 year subscriptions (150 Gems/month)
5.99 for 100 Gems
20.00 for 600 Gems

Mobile Phone
7.99 for 110 Gems (mobile phone)

Pay by Mail
10.00 for 1 month subscription (300 Gems)
49.99 for 1 year subscriptions (150 Gems/month)
5.99 for 100 Gems
20.00 for 600 Gems

49.99 for 1 year subscriptions (150 Gems/month)
5.99 for 100 Gems
20.00 for 600 Gems

What could be simpler?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

ourWorld - Lookin' Good!

Welcome to the crowd!

No stormy skies in ‘ourWorld’ as virtual world maker raises cash
by John Cook
“OurWorld” has already attracted a whopping 1.3 million registered users. Many of those have signed up in the past two months following a crucial marketing partnership with the online gaming portal, Miniclip.

That’s the same distributor that helped Club Penguin, the wildly popular virtual world for kids that was sold to Disney for up to $700 million in 2007. Morton says that Miniclip has on the order of 57 million unique visitors each month, a tremendous base of traffic from which to draw.

In the next two months, Morton estimates that registered users for “ourWorld” will surpass two million. Much of that growth is being driven by Miniclip deal, which features an embedded version of “ourWorld” on its Web site.

Yep, that's about it.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, Stan!

What Does It Mean To Be An Industry Leader?

by Stan!

When WotC bought TSR in 1997, one of the first things Peter Adkison impressed upon us all was that he believed Wizards could be BOTH a supremely successful company AND a leader in the hobby games industry. That WotC could make a strong and growing profit and AT THE SAME TIME help grow the other companies and teach them how to make more money for themselves. He saw WotC as an evangelist for gaming as a hobby and leisure-time entertainment ... and was HAPPY when our actions helped other companies to grow stronger. He was close friends with the CEOs (not to mentions designers, artists, editors, and general staff) of MANY other hobby game companies and was HAPPY to help them both professionally and personally. Peter was, and remains, and Industry Leader ... and, as a result, under his management, WotC was a leader, too.
I recommend reading the whole thing.


Majority Report

We added a "Report" button to ourWorld this week. Players may now report naughty-doers directly to me and I can evaluate the report and take whatever action I deem appropriate. Usually I do nothing, sometimes I add an extra filter to the person's chat (and send an Email explaining this), and a few require full account deactivation. Of course, there's a catch.

Prior to the Report buttong we got 5-10 'reports' via Email per week.

Since yesterday I have received about 3000 reports with the new button. 90% are useless. Most are too petty to bother with. If we muted everyone in ourWorld who was marginally rude, we'd not have any members at all! Many are completely incoherent. There's room for improvement in the system. The funniest are personal attacks meant for the target of the report, sent to me by mistake. One such report was so profane that I had to take action against the reporter. It included in it the threat of being reported. Oops.

That's not to say it's not working. I've found and taken action again several players who were clearly violating the Code of Conduct. Really bad actors, trust me. The Report button provides info the players don't see which allows me to take action without taking anyone's word for it.

The system just needs refinement. We launched the Report button with too little friction (it's too easy to do) and with too little explanation about what it is and isn't for. No biggie. We'll refine it into an even more useful tool, and then I'll really be the man with the ban...hammer.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Registration Email from Legends of Zork.

Good stuff. Enjoy.

Hail Adventurer!

Are you ready to embark on a life of excitement, fame, wealth, and coconuts?
Yes, we thought you might be. Obviously, the fact that you’ve just registered with us was a bit of a give away...

Speaking of registration, here are the details you’ve registered with us:

Username: XXXXXXXX
Password: XXXXXXXX

Unless of course you haven’t registered with us? Perhaps some vagrant on the internet is running around creating Legends of Zork accounts for random people? Maybe he’s also giving out free candy and puppies, because frankly, if you haven’t just registered with us, that guy has done you a HUGE favour!

Nevertheless, congratulations on registering (or being registered) with one of the fast growing casual adventure games on the internet! This is without a doubt the smartest thing that you’ve done since you bought all that washing detergent at bargain prices, and it will be almost as rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, at Jolt Online Games we know that the work we do is top quality, but no one can argue against the joys of having your shirts whiter than white.

Happy Adventuring,

-The LoZ Team

Your Greatest Adventure Lies Ahead...and Down. Zork.

Legends of Zork

Don't know if it's any good yet, but I'll be checking it out big time in the next couple of days.

I am fully prepared to be eaten by a grue.


All the cool kids are on Facebook

And now ourWorld is too.

Dance Planet is the gateway into ourWorld.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009


My favorite new Facebook app is Living Social. I've decided to jump in to the book section with both feet. When you switch a book from 'reading now' to 'read' the app immediately asks you to review the book, which I did.

Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future (Facebook link)

Quote-leftA compilation of Cory Doctorow penned essays focusing on Copyright, DRM, and technology. Some of the older works (from 2+ years ago) are showing their age. For example, he takes shots at the failures of Amazon's Kindle (1st version) which, at least in part, ring hollow with Kindle 2's release.

A lighter, and slightly more reactionary view of copyright than what is found in Lawrence Lessig's Remix and James Boyle's The Public Domain, it's still full of style and insight. Of the three, I recommend Remix the most strongly, though all three books shed different light on the same subject.

If you find application of copyright in the digital world interesting, like me, or enjoy Doctorow's writing on sites like Boing Boing, also like me, you'll probably get a lot out of Content.Quote-right

Monday, March 30, 2009

Copyright Copyright Copyright - A 30 year thought experiment

Penny for your thoughts? Or are they copyrighted?

I've just read Remix by Laurence Lessig, The Public Domain by James Boyle, and I'm halfway through Content by Cory Doctorow. I'm swimming in progressive copyright theory right now, and it got me thinking.

What would the US be like if copyright lasted a flat 30 years?

In the public domain:
All the music, movies and TV of the 70's and earlier
Movies like Star Wars and 2001.
All earliest video games
Most of the 'classic' games. Monopoly, Dungeons and Dragons (early editions), Scrabble, Risk, etc.

Peer to peer file sharing would transform from a semi-criminal operation to a completely above board and essential part of everyday life. All of the old material would be available, for free, on the internet, all legal. In addition, an entire industry of compilations, reissues, remixes, and reimaginings would be possible. All free from licencing fees, permissions, and red tape. The majority of 20th century copyrighted works is NOT available in any form, nor are the copyright holders even known in many (most?) cases. Those works go from their current state of almost complete unavailability, to becoming completely accessible, with no effort at all.

The people most negatively impacted by a radical curtailing of copyright would be:
  • Large media corporations.
  • Artists who make money from work they did years and years ago.
  • Lawyers who make their living defending the previous two's "rights".
The purpose of copyright is to provide for the public good by ensuring that content creators can benefit from the fruits of their labors. The original methodology was to give creators an artificial monopoly over their creation that lasts long enough for them to get paid, but no longer. The sooner the content was in the public domain, the sooner the public as a whole could benefit from the work. That second part got lost in the shuffle and copyright has grown from the original, lasting 28 years from the creation of the work, to the current, lasting 75 years past the death of the creator.

Would George Lucas have created Star Wars if he had known he could only control it for 30 years? Would Gary Gygax have made Dungeons and Dragons? Would Dylan have written all that great music? I can't get into other people's heads, but I think most of the great works of the 20th century would still have been created, even with a far shorter shelf-life on the artificial monopoly we call copyright.

Would Lucas still have produced the new Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies if the source material was in, or soon to be in, the public domain? If not, somebody else could have. Is that a bad thing? Lucas is still the only person who can make 'official' movies, but what if they are forced to compete with everyone creating Star Wars content? That competition might have made a difference, quality-wise. Change the equation from 'who can make Star Wars' to 'who can make the best Star Wars'. Now apply that formula to everything (or at least everything 30 years or older.)

Make no mistake. Copyright is not a God given right given to content producers. It is not a reward to content producers. It is a legally created 'temporary' monopoly designed to encourage creative works.

What if anyone could create:
  • A Star Wars, Star Trek novel, comic, or movie.
  • A remix of Led Zepplin, Beatles, Bowie, Dylan, Hendrix song.
  • A video game starring Mario
  • Anything you can think of, from material created before 1980.
I believe there'd be a tidal wave of content using newly public domain works. Most would be terrible, but some would be amazing. Some would be of far greater quality than then current owners of the properties are willing or able to produce from within their monopoly protected walls.

What could you create?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Making Fun Obsolete

You are old and slow, Pac Man

I've just read a glowing review of Street Fighter IV (SFIV), recently released on (I think) XBox360 and Playstation3. It struck me that a 2d fighting game can get a 9+ out of 10 rating in a landscape dominated by 3d games. I'm sure at least some of the execs and designers behind SFIV would have preferred they abandon their 2d roots and make a 3d fighting game like all the other top fighters in the 21st century. That would've, of course, been a horrible mistake. The Street Fighter franchise now stands alone as the last great 2d fighting franchise, and a seemingly profitable one at that. Well done, Capcom.

Will there be a Street Fighter V? Will it be 2d as well? My guess is yes and yes. It may be that Street Fighter carries the torch of A-List 2d Fighters to the end of the genre's line. My money's on it, actually. Will anyone try to duplicate their success? Probably, but now that Street Figher is *the* 2d fighter, I doubt the public has any need for another. I also doubt there is the will among developers to try and create a "Street Fighter" killer-type game, designed to knock it off it's 2d fighter throne. There's just easier targets to hit.

Is the 2d fighter, in the form of the Street Fighter franchise, the oldest viable gaming genre? Older game archtypes like the maze game (PacMan), shooters (194x, Galaga, Tempest), seem to have run their course. All that can be done within the framework of those games has been done, it seems. Unlike 2d fighters, driving games, and platform games, some old games didn't have a way to grow as computers became more powerful. I think 3d games, both exploration and shooters replace those older game-types rather than enhance them. The old games were fun, but new games are more fun. The "new and improved" treatment either failed (most new Sonic games), or transformed the game so completely that it no longer resembles the original (Metroid).

If you love the old games, as I do, they are still there. That's all that really matters.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Twist and Shout!

Seth Godin once again transforms the obvious into the practical (making me wonder why it isn't easier to do.)

The pillars of social media site success

By Seth Godin

Why people choose to visit online social sites:

  • Who likes me?
  • Is everything okay?
  • How can I become more popular?
  • What's new?
  • I'm bored, let's make some noise

None of these are new, but in the digital world, they're still magnetic.

If you want to understand why Twitter is so hot, look at those five attributes. They deliver all five, instantly.

Is this everything? If not, it covers a lot. In the case of virtual worlds, making noise isn't the only solution to "I'm bored", but it's a great one. Boredom is the thing ourWorld players complain about the most, at least to each other. Perhaps they need a few more chains to bang around with. I'm not sure I've considered the ability to be heard and seen as a primary solution to the boredom problem, but it might be the key to it all.


They are so Ghey

I think this is very, very cool.

Aeria Games Adds Same-Sex Marriage To Dream of Mirror Online

Anyone who's spent any time in a virtual world knows that in-game 'romantic' relationships are as common as tails on squirrels. As a moderator for a teen-centric site, there are all sorts of aspects of these relationships that concern me greatly. In most cases, it doesn't matter what I think.

Its also concerns me that we have to ban the words "gay" and "lesbian" from the ourWorld chat because we don't trust our players enough to use the words in a positive light. Even a quick review of the chat logs shows that our fears are well founded. Both "gay"and "lesbian" are used almost exclusively as insults, thrown around with disturbing regularity (While technically filtered, it's easy to misspell a word radically enough to defeat any filter: ghey, g4y, qay, ga7, etc.)

For a game to look past all that and officially sanction same sex marriage is very, very cool to me. It shows that while many players haven't grown up regarding sexual preference, at least one game company has.


Monday, March 23, 2009


Facebook users are up in arms about the new, 'terrible', format. I can see why. I don't think I like it, either.

rom Slate Magazine:
But eventually we adjust. Over the next few weeks, you'll probably grow increasingly comfortable with the new Facebook. You'll discover the path of least resistance to get to the stuff you like best, and you'll learn ways to tame the noise coming from everyone in your network. (The site allows you to block certain people's updates from appearing on your home page; over time, you can expect Facebook to add more refined ways to filter what shows up.) Soon you'll also forget much of what you loved about the old site. In a month or two, the new Facebook will come to seem like home.
While I generally agree with this, I think Facebook may face another side of this problem. The new version requires a lot of attention. A LOT. I may grow tired of it at an accelerated pace, because as compelling as Facebook can be, I do not expect it to become essential.
I can quit any time I want to, I just don't want to.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Delightful Stuffy Monsters Based on Childrens' Art

Off topic, to be sure. Who cares?

Of 24 different beasties, this is my favorite!

Article from Boing Boing

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Resident Evil Racism - Part 2

Because my post originated in the comments section of the Huffington Post article, I didn't have room to say absolutely everything I wanted.
A hornet's nest

I have a fervent belief in the freedom of speech and how it applies to all forms of media, including video games. I think Capcom could have saved themselves a lot of trouble, at least in the US, by not having a Resident Evil game set in Africa. It may have also saved them trouble if the hero doing all the shotgun blasting is always the same race as the zombie targets. I admit, I would be more comfortable with those solutions. I do NOT believe that they should have to make those sorts of changes if they feel their game...the director's artistic better as is. That's their call, not anyone else's.


Resident Evil Racism

The following is a response to this article:
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Racism is a concern to everyone with any sense. That said, Resident Evil 5 is a game with the same plot as RE 1-4. A government agent character has to fight his way through an army of infected Zombie-people. The last installment, which I enjoyed, had our hero mowing down legions of undead Spanish peasants.

It's a zombie type horror game, and as such lots of extremely bad things happen to formerly alive, formerly innocent people. Once they become monsters, what exactly should the game have happen? Is Africa just off the table for the setting of a zombie game? Should Capcom abandon the white main character of the franchise because the setting is Africa?

The RE series are extremely violent, R-rated type games. While I wouldn't let my 7 year old play them (or watch me play them), I refuse to let others dictate to me what is and is not ok for me. I'm extremely liberal pacifist who happens to enjoy First Person Shooter video games. Sometimes it's aliens, sometimes its futuristic distopian cyber-soldiers, often times its Nazis (it's always okay to kill Nazis, they don't have feelings), and in this case is zombified people who happen to be African because that's where story is set. I don't think that makes me a bad person. I just want to play good games. I don't think it makes the people who made any of these games bad people. They're just trying to make good games.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Want vs Need

When I worked for Wizards of the Coast, handling support for Magic: The Gathering, there was a common belief that we released too many card-sets, too rapidly. The cries were frequently forms of "You are forcing me buy too many cards, I can't keep up."

The key word..."forcing"

Even the lightest application of reason concludes that we weren't forcing anyone to do anything. Entertainment products are not a "need", they are a "want", and as such optional. We weren't selling insulin to diabetics, we were selling slips of cardboard to teenagers.

That said, the hobby game industry was the beneficiary (and possibly the originator) of what we called the Repeat Purchase Model. For hobby games, it started with Role Playing Games. You purchased the basic set, books, or whatever, and the fans were treated to extremely regular releases of technically optional, but frequently essential, supplementary material. While fans frequently grumbled about the amount they felt obligated to buy, lack of such material was considered the death of the game.

The Repeat Purchase Model was advanced into hyperdrive by the invention of the Collectible Card Game. Now a single product could be sold over and over again to a single customer. Profits could be made from casual customers and fortunes made from a relatively limited number of fanatics. By establishing a culture where the newest cards replaced, rather than supplemented, the oldest, players were compelled to keep buying lest their investment be compromised. They didn't necessarily want to buy more cards, but if they wanted to keep playing, it was required spending. A Want was transformed into a Need.

The culture that created this system was to some extent accidental. When Magic was new, the game was not perfected and the cards contained errors and flaws that would not come to light until much later. Newer editions fixed, or attempted to fix, these problems through text and rules revisions. Tournament play addressed these problems by limiting what cards would be allowed in the most heavily supported formats. Eventually, older cards and card sets were deemed to be fun, but flawed. Players that did not have access to them felt slighted when playing against those who did. Using old cards was, and is, an offense just short of cheating.

While the culture started off semi-accidentally, it has been embraced by both manufacturers and players as the status-quo. It is now expected that the first editions of a card game will likely be flawed and eventually supplanted by newer, better versions. New cards will replace old. New rules will replace old.

This culture is not without its downside. Players who feel coerced into making purchases do so cognizant of what's going on. They may be spending money now, but the product must deliver EVERY TIME or else they'll get off the merry-go-round, doubtful to return. Once off, the ride is spinning far to quickly to jump back on again with any ease. There's always a new ride (Online MMO's, anyone?) to replace the old one.

With any product, including Virtual World subscriptions, of which I am trying to apply these lessons and theories, the goal is not to make a want feel like a need. There is a backlash when a purchase is made and the perceived need falls short of expectations. Also, its hard to feel good about purchasing something you need.

Wants, on the other hand, are all about feeling good. The customer (or fanatic) is making the choice for themselves. If the product falls short of expectations, as they do from time to time, there is less backlash when the decision to buy is owned by the customer, rather than projected to the publisher.

Virtual Worlds, like Collectible Cards, are entertainment products. They are about fun, and good feelings. Coercion is not the correct tactic. Enticement is.

Want > Need


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Less is More (4k Games) is cool. 60+ games, all under 4k. Sure, they wouldn't play on my Commodore Vic-20, circa 1984, but don't hold that against them.

4bsolution. Collect the glowy things. One of the prettier games, hence the photo.

Programming with such strict restraints is a fascinating, and entertaining, exercise. Each designer needs to focus on what is essential to the game's appeal, disregarding all else. Simple can be extraordinarily fun, as anyone who's played with a ball can attest.

Well Done!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dominion Chat Police

Lets accept the Club Penguin numbers that say 4% of all virtual world players make some sort of purchase. Let's also take into account that after two weeks, the odds of a player making a purchase drop by 50%. Very rough statistics, but I believe them.

So, how does that impact how I should treat free-account bad actors? What is the risk to the bottom line if those players simply vanish?

Free customers bring value to the site in three ways:
  1. They become paying customers
  2. They refer other players who become paying customers
  3. They add value to the site through participation in the community.
Lets say I get a report that PlayerX is leaving threatening messages. Without even confirming the validity of the report I can look up Player X's account info. I learn that:

Value possibility 1: Paying Customer. Player X has been playing for three months, and made no purchases. At this point there is a 1 in 50 chance something will happen turning him/her into a paying customer. 1 in 50 is not enough to give the player the benefit of the doubt.

Value possibility 2: Refer a Paying Customer. Player X has used the 'Invite Friends' promotion to refer one player to the site Assuming the reference is real. PlayerX has brought PlayerY to the site. PlayerY played six days, two months ago, for free. Didnt' refer anyone. There are other types of references, of course, but I have no evidence that PlayerX is a 'sneezer'.

Value possibility 3: Contribute to the community. PlayerX has generated one complaint from another player. You can assume that for every complaint, there's more people impacted, maybe a few, maybe dozens, maybe hundreds. How valuable are these players compared to PlayerX? Player X's contribution, based on limited evidence, is already a net-negative.

I don't make it a habit of deactivating accounts based on single accusations of wrong-doing, but if I did, I doubt I'd go far wrong provided I keep in mind what sort of customer is likely valuable, and which sort is not. What makes a player valuable?
  • If the player has made any sort of purchase, of course.
  • If the player has referred other active players or paying customers.
  • If the player has ligitimately contributed to the community (hard to measure, but if I could, I would.)
Also, my opinion is that most of the people who fall into one or more of the 'valuable player' categories above, don't have complaints made against them, with the exception of the occasional feud. Those player care about the community enough to take care of it. They usually provide solutions, not problems.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Face to Face ( to Face)

These are the three virtual worlds I'm most familiar with. I thought I'd compare their visual style next to eachother, with a focus on Avatars. I tried to get shots with both boys and girls, fancy and plain, in each. To make things simple, I also tried to get avatars just sort of standing around. All three of these games have dance-type moves, but getting a shot of each, of comparable quality, would have been tough.

The Dude hanging out on the beaches of SmallWorlds

Again, The Dude. This time in YoVille

No Dude in ourWorld, but it's still me.

I tried to get a shot of a boy and girl from Gaia Online, but I just couldn't manage it. Needless to say, they have very cartoonish, anime style avatars that don't, strictly speaking, animate. Not terrible, but not great either.


The End of Days

Every day I deactivate free ourWorld memberships. Every day I wonder why I'm doing it.

Boom, but why?

Some of our partners don't even offer the option to deactivate a free membership. You just can't. Technically we don't offer it either, but since I can do it, I do.

One player suggested she was doing us a favor, not requiring us to take up memory with her account info. I *think* the usual idea is that we jettison whatever information we have about that player, so they feel somehow more anonymous. Of course, we're not jettisoning anything, we just flip the switch so they can't see it anymore.

For a while, players were working our 'free gems' referral system by creating dummy accounts that fed into their real accounts. That's fine with me, except that a few of the players decided they wanted me to deactivate these dummy accounts for them. It's one thing to work the system for free stuff. It's another to take up my time doing it, for no reason at all. I was polite, but firm, with those players.

ourWorld is an eco-system. Players earn various forms of currency, they leave messages for one another, they become friends with one another, and the system sustains this action through the site's features. It also means the players are extremely inter-connected. It's not even possible to just 'delete' somebody, as that would throw all that inter-connectedness into chaos.

Deactivating free accounts for no good reason may be a mistake. Parents requesting thier child's account be deactivated is a legitimate request, so I'm not saying not do it at all. Potential customers may not be aware that I can reactivate the accounts, and therefore not return when they otherwise may decide to. A longshot, to be sure, but closing doors is generally bad policy.

What I'm saying is, don't expect a "Cancel Account" button on ourWorld any time soon.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

YoVille's Got It Goin' On

Yoville Hits 6.6M Monthly Uniques Across Facebook And Myspace

With 6+Million users, no wonder it's crowded

I have to say we're looking very closely at YoVille's success. We feel ourWorld does a lot of things better than YoVille (not everything, but a lot) , and we're very excited about our upcoming Facebook launch. Hopefully, there'll be a few players left for us.

I'm looking forward to a three way battle between YoVille, ourWorld, and SmallWorlds. May we all win!


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest!

Everyone has to be a new user at some point. The process, it seems, is hard on everyone. ourWorld uses a guest system for brand new users. Before you have even saved your character or chosen a name, you are a guest. Your name is simply "guestXXXXX" and you can roam around, chat, and play games. Many of the complex interactions are prohibited, for an assortment of practical reasons, but you can certainly get the gist of the game. Because we don't know how old guests are, they are also limited to the chat filter reserved for players under 13 years old, just in case.

Guests, however, have become somewhat controversial. They can be difficult, rude, annoying, and generally unpleasant. In some cases guests are existing players who want to be jerks without tarnishing the reputation of their normal identity. Many established players want nothing to do with them, and as a rule avoid the public places where guests spend most of their time. This means that guests only get to socialize with other guests. Even the well intentioned majority of players are subjected to (possibly) the worst social experience the game has to offer in a small percentage of highly concentrated anonymous bad actors.

We've discussed a number of possible solutions. Here's a sample:
  • Guest Island, a guest only location where new guests appear. Guests must register to leave Guest Island. That doesn't really solve the problem, it just insulated existing members from it.
  • Muting Guests - If you want to talk, Pick a name and save your character. This we're trying out. We're concerned that it will have too strong a negative impact on full registration. (I'm in favor of it, though.)
  • Limiting where Guests can travel. - Like Guest Island, but open to all players. The Boardwalk in ourWorld is already Guest-central, so this wouldn't be a huge change. This might be a good idea, provided the location we choose is dynamic enough to hold their interest.
All of these things narrow the Guest Experience, which seems like a bad thing, but its not. First, we want you to register, and its really easy. Requiring registration before getting the full free experience isn't too much to ask. Most sites require registration before you get in at all. Also, too much experience for a first-time can be overwhelming. ourWorld's complexity overwhelms a lot of new players. They stand there on the virtual street surrounded by choices having no idea what to do.

From a idealistic standpoint, I want a guest experience that is so clear and engaging, that guests don't have time or desire to be jerks. Players tend to be less abrasive once they've earned even the smallest quantity of social capital. I wonder if there's a way to provide that right out of the gate?


Monday, March 02, 2009

Gone Commercial (And Loving It!)

MiniClip is one of ourWorld's biggest partners, and to celebrate that partnership on this Blog I've added the MiniClip banner to the bottom of the page. No, I'm not trying to hide it down there, it just didn't fit on the sidebar well enough.

Hey, none of these games is ourWorld? Well, I'm sure they're ok too.

In case you're wondering, oh yes, you can play ourWorld right off the MiniClip site. Good times.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Show Me What You Got

I haven't had to hire anyone in quite a while, but I expect I'll have to again, eventually. I will type all the potential hires names into Google. I'll see what I can find on Facebook. I'll see what I can find on LinkedIn. In short, I'll see what I can find.

I'm not looking for embarrassing pictures from your college days (but I'll enjoy them if they come up.) I don't care about that stuff, unless that's all that's there. No, I want to know what you've accomplished, and if any of those accomplishments are reflected on web. Not everything we do is reflected on the Web, but plenty is. Example: I wrote an extremely mediocre story 15 years ago and posted it to a Usenet site. Google my name and it'll come up, I think it reflects well upon me that its there (provided nobody reads it.)

I've working on the internet for years, so there's a lot on me. I'm also narcissistic, so I keep close tabs on what Google thinks are the most important things about "Adam Conus". I wonder what Google thinks about you?

Edit: This post wasn't an excuse just to post Google's uber-cool Dr. Seuss graphic, but as that's the best part of the whole thing, I'm going to say it was.


Socially Networked

Not sure if it's Twitter or just dumb luck, but traffic to this Blog doubled in the last 24 hours. That's an average of about 13 readers per day to a record 26 yesterday!..I hope the Blogger servers can handle it.

I'm not the only one branching out. OurWorld is too.

ourWorld's Twitter Page
ourWorld's Facebook Page

If ourWorld posted similar % gains, that'd be something.


Twenty Six Hundred

Play classic Atari 2600 games online.
A whole bunch of them, all in your browser, all for free.

Adventure was always my favorite, and it's still great fun to play. The first game (that I know of) to feature an "Easter Egg". I love the fact that I still know my way around the mazes after 20+ years. Why can't I remember where my keys are from half an hour ago?

Atari 2600 - Adventure


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Virtual Pan-handling

One of the main reasons I play ourWorld is to experience the game as typical players experience it. When I play ourWorld, I do so as a regular player, with a regular membership. Nothing more or less than any other member with a paid subscription would have.

One of my policies has been to accept all friend invitations. I don't want to miss out knowing somebody who I really want to know. Unfortunately, that's not how it really works. Too many friends essentially eliminates friends as a useful tool. They're just random names on a 1000-strong list, and I still only know a couple dozen as 'real' online friends.

While my account is no different than any other, I do use it for a few official functions. When players win ourWorld Contests, I use my account to award the prize codes. An unfortunate side effect of issuing these codes with my main account is now people think it's okay to ask me for free coupons and Gems (ourWorld currency, normally only available for real money.)

I could handle one or two people a day asking for free stuff, and then taking no for an answer. Unfortunately, since awarding the contest prizes, I now get lots of people asking repeatedly. So many requests that it's sapping the enjoyment out of playing ourWorld, and that is intolerable.

My solution is semi-harsh, but I plan to stick to it. Players get one free pass. Ask me for free stuff (or give me a sob story about how you can't afford anything, which is worse) and you get one warning. Ask me again, and you're off my friends list.

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, players panhandling for free stuff are not the players who are ponying up their credit cards and purchasing memberships and virtual currency. That means my friendship is based on how actually friendly they are. Most of the ourWorld friends I talk to regularly are very nice and I don't care if they are members or not. Even huge sites like Club Penquin only have about 5% paying members. That said, if you're a high maintenance user, bugging me daily, you might consider making a purchase. I will happily contribute to a relationship based on social niceties. I will happily contribute to a relationship based on an customer/provider relationship. While its hard to mix the two, I think I do a good job with friends who are also customers as well. Bring nothing to the table, and I don't think it hurts me or ourWorld much to remove you from my friends list. That's all I'm saying.


Friday, February 27, 2009


It keeps coming up in media, in casual conversations, even at work. Twitter.

I signed up months ago, but this time I'm really going to try and sort out what Twitter can do for me. Heaven help me.

The book, Remix, really is worthwhile.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Know My Family Will Be Prepared

More debate over violent video games. This time with conclusions I can support.

Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They Know "Comfortably Numb" is Friggin' Awesome, Right?

Violent Media Numb Viewers To The Pain Of Others

Another study designed to support an established behavioral theory. i.e. video games are bad.

Let me make a list of things I think could generate similar results:
  • A bad day at work
  • Traffic Jam
  • Headache
  • Most media I define as 'awesome'
  • Pink Floyd, Slipknot, or Barry Manilow
  • Dealing with agressive pan-handlers daily
  • Being hungry
  • Being full
  • Wearing orange (don't know until you test it.)
My point: Lots of things can impact how we react to a given situation, particularly in the short term. People are drastically impacted by their environment, and video games are a kind of environment. Have the kids play violent video games for a year and see how they act (compared to a control) a year later. That might hold some weight.

I particularly like how the article paints the research as "[filling] an important research gap in the literature on the impact of violent media."



Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Simple Plan

I don't need another T-shirt. It's epic how much I don't need another T-shirt. I may NEED this T-shirt.

A Simple Plan

Available from

Another slice of awesome courtesy of Wil Wheaton.

Phone Privilege Day at the Home

PPDatH is an old Wizards of the Coast Customer Service phrase (coined by Jeff Harris, who should contact me if he reads this. DUDE!) We used it any time the day's ration of crazy/stupid/incomprehensible callers outnumbered the sane ones. We handled rules support for Magic: The Gathering, so the 'sane' bar was already set pretty low!

Nowadays, when I handle support, I do it mostly via Email. The primary advantage to Email is the ability to step back from the insane for a moment. Once my wits are in place, I can then tackle the problem du jour with the optimistic vigor I have worked so hard to cultivate. Still, there are days...

When I first started with ourWorld, I read up on community management. There was precious little usefull information out there on how to handle a large number of online contributers*, particularly teens. Most of the attention was spent on how to *be* a member of a community, rather than how to manage one. What written help the internet could provide, proved useful. I'll share the most imporant bit:

"You are a moderator, not a therapist."

It's shocking how often this phrase helps me do the correct thing. And there you have it.


* A quick Google search for 'virtual world community management' brings up a host of articles now. No idea if they're any good. When I have time, I'll need to see.