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