Do you or have you played MUDs?

Maren and I are giving a presentation on computer games for librarians next week “Bibliotekdagene i Bergen”.

LambdaMOO mapWe’re both super honored to be asked – as we both consider librarians to be the coolest professionals around. We worked on our outline last weekend and I’m very excited. I think we’ve come up with a presentation recipe that’s going to be a big success. I’m worried that we’re cramming too much in, but I have faith that our structure will allow for it. So we’ll be talking a little about the history of computer games from hacker culture to consumer culture. We both felt it was important for us to focus a bit on computer game genre and all that it entails. And the icing will be a bit of fan culture. I’ll translate and share here later.

But for now I’m in need of some help. I want to at least briefly touch on the subject of MUDs to MMORPGs – text based worlds to graphical worlds. And I want some good text avatars. I thought I had several but after tearing my bookshelf apart (yes – I have no order) I can only find one, which is that of Mr. Bungle in LambdaMOO: ” a fat, oleaginous, Bisquick-faced clown dressed in cum – stained harlequin garb and girdled with a mistletoe-and-hemlock belt whose buckle bore the quaint inscription “KISS ME UNDER THIS, BITCH”. And I’m thinking …. nawww … there must be something a little nicer. I want colorful definitely, but not this grim and dirty. So I’m asking – do you know of any text avatars I can use? Do you have a favorite? I would also love some good room descriptions and any fond memories you have!

And while we’re on the subject. Do you know of any MUDs/MOOs still alive? I ask because I have a sneaky feeling that text based games are on their way back. Just looking at Causal Gameplay Design Competition.

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Virtual Worlds stuff

Just a little list of observations and things on my ‘to read’ list. I don’t know why – but I’ve been so incredibly unfocused lately. I’ve actually been very social this weekend – which has been lovely but I feel I’m lagging behind on my feedburning!

1) Finland’s Game Research Lab has had what looks to be a really great conference/seminar (I’m sure someday I’ll actually care what the difference is) – Breaking the Magic Circle. What really struck me first was Vili Lehdonvirta’s contribution, Virtual Worlds Don’t Exist. I was instantly sucked in yesterday but three pages in I was rudely interrupted – and look at me now – blogging instead of reading! Vili’s one of those people who manages to see clearly and keep both his feet on the ground when it comes to virtual worlds studies – and I honestly can’t wait to finish his paper. Because the dude’s definitely on to something.

The abstract:

I argue that much of MMO-related scholarship is implicitly based on a dichotomous “real world vs. virtual world” model, which is heavily influenced by the “magic circle” concept in game studies. I show a number of shortcoming in this perspective and propose an alternative perspective based on Anselm Strauss’s social worlds (Strauss, 1978). The alternative perspective unbundles users from the technological platform and places MMO-centered social worlds in context with other worlds like religion and workplace.

I think Virtual World Studies are growing up – and that suits me fine!

2) There are now more than 100 youth oriented virtual worlds live or in development. Look – Virtual Worlds Management has a list!

3) The virtual world VizWoz is launching a virtual cinema on April 18th, according to Virtual World News. I had a 15 minute test-run of the place and I pretty much hated it. But I’m not a teen and 15 minutes is never enough for true judgment.

I’m really tickled by the virtual world cinema concept. It’s something I’ve wanted virtual worlds to get into for a while now. I’ve always thought that this would be the way for stupid licensing issues to disappear. But I wasn’t too happy about the fact that I needed to register if I lived in the States or not while getting an account – I, of course, lied – we’ll see if I can get away with it. I’m also eager to see the quality of the films they’re going to screen.

I applaud the initiative.

4) Speaking of April 18th – Funcom is together with GameSpot offering to play PvP Age of Conan from April 18th to April 20th for 15,000 gamers. I’ll be unwired in Gøteborg that weekend so I haven’t bothered to have a look at how I can be a part of it. Yet another sign that Age of Conan won’t be delayed again, I think! I wish them luck!

5) Have to read Raph Koster’s “Is there such a thing as a casual online world?”

Cory Ondrejka’s fabulous slideshow

Cory Ondrejka explains the complexities of Virtual Worlds so wonderfully in this slideshow. It’s selfexplanatory – simple – informative – and extremely tidy.This is the third slideshare I’ve seen today – and they’re all great. I sometimes wonder if I have it in me to focus entirely on someone speaking without a beautiful slideshow. Can I learn without visual stimulation anymore?

Second Life Coca Cola vending machine

“Not Coca Cola but the essence of Coca Cola” – well that’s branding for you. But it’s really well thought out and has to be one of the best commercial ventures into virtual worlds I’ve seen so far. They’ve really embraced the collaboration era and that has to be admired. Clearly understanding that avatars are “thirsty for experience” – I’m impressed. I’ll be eagerly monitoring their success. Although I was rather hopeful that there would be more “set your brand free to be played with” as discussed in the Building Businesses in Virtual Worlds panel at State of Play V. This seems to be more restricted ehm…gameplay? interaction? from what I can see. But I haven’t taken the time to experiment with them myself yet – so I really shouldn’t be too critical.

Accessibility In Virtual Worlds

BBC reports that IBM has designed a device that gives 3D sound “to create a sense of space” for the blind to be able to enter virtual worlds.

“Characters in the virtual world can have a “sonar” attached to them so that the user gets audible cues to alert them to when they are approaching, from which direction and how near they are. “

That’s just so cool!

Community Guidelines

I really enjoyed reading (via Raph Koster) Scott Hartsman’s “Beta Community Guidelines”. It was originally written for the Everquest II Beta in 2004 – but I think a lot is relevant now as well. In fact, I don’t think these rules apply just to MMORPGs – I think any online community would be smart in developing the same…I’m more inclined to use a word such as ethics and morals, than guidelines, but ok.

Good Golly, I’m published!

Will you look at that? My name published in a Norwegian financial paper (well…the IT section, at least). It’s all a bit scary. And by golly I’ve promised to come with a series of articles! The pressure is on!

To be honest, I’m quite frightened about the law of it all, I’m still not sure I comprehend all that was talked about at the conference. Will have to dig deeper, I think. And I’m suppossed to be on holiday?! Naw – no use complaining – I’m lovin’ it!

State of Play Conference

It was fun!
The conference started off with a bang. We got to see Glenn Thomas’ “Ideal World. A Virtual Life Documentary” – which is brilliant (Glenn’s also a super dooper, charming and smart man, by the way!). He’s really managed to get the full compass of The Second Life story into it and I applaud him for it!
The panels were exciting and from vast disciplines – which I thought was great! Some of the conference delegates (220 attending) had some amazing questions to the panels, which brought some great insight and discussion. I’m not too comfortable writing in detail here, as I’m in the middle of writing other articles for a serious publication. I’m not used to all this journalism thinking and I’m not sure what’s allowed and not in duplication matters on my own personal blog. So let me tread lightly till stuff gets published.
I’ve met some truly amazing people which I hope to keep in touch with. Lots of bright and colorful minds were present and I felt so privileged to meet them. All shall be mentioned when I dwell deeper into stuff here.
I found being a ‘journalist’ quite hard, however. Finding stuff that was news worthy for ‘regular people’ was challenging, which is why we’re holding off publication till it’s all in a lovely understandable package. It’s also quite hard finding the correct Norwegian words for stuff – any Norwegian readers out there willing to have a go at ‘in-world’? It’s such a great way to pinpoint what you’re trying to describe, “they met in-world”, “in-world business transaction”, I just can’t seem to find the right Norwegian wording for it. I have also found a great appreciation for the word ‘business’ in English. I think we have about alternatives in Norwegian and I find none of the satisfactory! Speaking of which, I need to get back to work.

That Was Dennis

This is just absolutely brilliant! An entirely new form of machinima, at least for me. Very narrative, like someone’s watching an old film and remembering odd things while watching. I’m very impressed!

Brought to us by Rusty Whispers and Lit Fuse Films, which I’m definitely checking out as soon as tonight’s work is done (why does writing suddenly become so hard when you HAVE to?). It’s Second Life, right? Or is this complete animation, therefore not machinima at all? Well, Kotaku calls it machinima, so it must be! ;)