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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  ‘Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues’  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-11 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Following are my rough notes from the SXSW panel "Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues," featuring Michael Smith (Mind Candy), Adrian Crook (FreeToPlay.biz), Joe Hyrkin (Gaia Online), Jeremy Liew (Lightspeed Venture Partners), and Nabeel Hyatt (Conduit Labs)...

Moderator: What constitutes immersiveness for a virtual world? 3D? 2D? HTML?

Crook- A casual MMO is like Puzzle Pirates, in terms of delivery platform, java, etc. Facebook and Travian are other examples. For me, a Casual MMO is a place where people gather online with some kind of game structure, like Club Penguin with a loose game structure. A casual MMO is an online world with reduced barrier to entry in terms of price or platform.

Hyrkin- A range of categories apply. Casual MMO success depends on the community and engagement between users.

Smith- Presentation matters, we've stayed from avatar-based virtual worlds. At the last SXSW, I heard a lot about avatar-based worlds, but that space is getting very crowded now. Room for other types of games, such as PMOG.

Hyrkin- Not being 3D has a lot of benefits; nothing to download, easy access, reduces barrier to entry. MTV has 4 virtual worlds, built around their shows, they came top us and asked for a Gaia-like experience. We had huge success with Virtual Hills in Gaia.


Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  ‘Casual Multi-Player Online Games: Serious Revenues’
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Human and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
SXWi 2008 rough notes: "Human Rights and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds"

Susan Wu- If we don't address legal issues as publishers and developers, we will lose control [presumably through regulation]

Scenario: Your Tier 5 armor which took 6 months to acquire gets nerfed, do you have legal protection against devaluation?

Eric Bethke- No.

Boyd- Game world designers should have control over that decision [to nerf the armor, I think].

Scenario: You lose equipment following a server crash, do you have the right to have that property replaced?

Andrew Schneider- yes

Bethke- yes
Boyd- publishers can treat you however they want within the law. If I were running a game I would bend over backwards to give it back.

Schneider- This is all covered in EULAs, ToS, how rules are communicated to gamers

Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Human and Property Rights in Virtual Worlds
 
     
 
   
 
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  SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Stories, Games and Your Brand  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Liveblogged from SXSWi in Austin, my rough notes from the panel "SXSW 2008 Notes: Stories, Games, and Your Brand."

Dan Hon case study: Cloverfield.
-- More people heard of the marketing than saw the movie (based on informal audience survey)

Rachel Clarke case study: Honda.
-- Puzzles built into posters, web site, game play engages viewers, every time you play the game it takes you closer to the brand

Roo Reynolds case study: Perplex City.
-- PC had a nice collecting element, but a great backstory, bits of everything in it... in my work in virtual worlds, I've been disappointed to not experience this level of depth (although VWs are good at turning people into participants)...

Continue reading: SXSWi 2008 Notes:  Stories, Games and Your Brand
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Second Skin’ Documentary Debuts Friday  
 
 
Posted 2008-03-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Those of you in Austin, Texas this week for South by Southwest may be fortunate enough to take in the debut of Second Skin on Friday. I've been following the documentary about virtual worlds and the real people who inhabit them for some time, and can't wait to see the final film (having weaseled my way into its trailer). The makers of the film will be vlogging their Texan misadventures for your enjoyment, and have been keeping a production blog for millions of internet-years.

Here's when and where you can catch this potentially generation-defining documentary:

Friday March 7 - 9:00pm - Austin Convention Center Theater

Tuesday March 11 - 7:45pm - Austin Convention Center Theater

Thursday March 13 - 1:45pm - Austin Convention Center Theater

See you at the Convention Center!
 
     
 
   
 
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  Linden Lab Launches Department of Public Works  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Looks like Linden Lab is getting back into the content-creation business. According to the company's blog, its new Department of Public Works will attempt to beautify and improve the virtual mainland of Second Life by repairing broken land, expanding certain existing "builds" (such as a city area), establishing "better gathering places" and adding "themed builds."

It's been many months since I've spent any appreciable time in Second Life, but from what I remember, the mainland looked like God had eaten a yard sale, a carnival, a suburb, a stack of porn videos, and the entire cast of the Transformers movie before barfing all over the virtual landscape. Doubtless any concerted effort to improve the landscape will be welcomed by most virtual-world residents as well as contribute to the retention of new users (who are increasingly becoming aware that Second Life ain't the only game in town).

If I understand the Linden blog correctly, the company will be using volunteer labor comprised of known content-creators to execute the Linden vision: "We will provide the team with specific build projects and will oversee progress before taking ownership of the content once work is completed." What happened to that dusty old tagline "Your World, Your Imagination?"
 
     
 
   
 
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  Game Design Quick Links for 2008-02-09  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Games, Work, Play, And Collaboration:  Quick Links for 2008-02-04  
 
 
Posted 2008-02-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Electric Sheep’ Herd Culled  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Second Life's largest third-party developer became substantially smaller earlier this week. The Electric Sheep Company cut 22 staffers on Tuesday (reportedly about 30% of its workforce), as announced by COO Giff Constable, and reported by Sheep client Reuters. Unofficial blog Second Life Podcast broke the news on Monday with word that the Sheep's planned Virtual World Ad Network was also canned. According to Constable, the company will continue to work on its OnRez client software and shopping site as well as "some other cool initiatives."

I'm not surprised at the news. Although I haven't been able to follow Second Life like I used to, my impression is that business interest in SL has been waning, barely a year after a boom for metaverse developers. Since that time, it seems the developers with the most sense are investigating other platforms rather than concentrating solely on Second Life.

Having met a number of enthusiastic Sheep staffers in the past, I found the company reminiscent of a 1990s Dot Com--seemed like folks were being hired left and right. Although the timing is really unfortunate, trimming staff and refocusing the company is the sensible thing to do--lessons learned from the Dot Com Bust.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
American watchdog group Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood isn't happy with how popular kiddie-world Webkinz has begun running external ads atop its already-commercial service. According to GamePolitics.com, "A current Webkinz campaign is promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks (screen shot at left), while similar ads ran for the recent Bee Movie." Virtual Worlds News reports that Ganz, maker of Webkinz has since pulled one of the ads, although it's not clear to me if this is a response to public pressure.

The ethics of advertising to children aside, Ganz's choice to blast ads at kids whose parents are already paying for Webkinz access comes off like a crass cash-grab . It's the same story with in-game ads found in many of today's video games--the consumer isn't sharing in the publisher's increased cash-flow. A more reasonable approach to advertising via Webkinz (again, irrespective of the ethical issues) would be to offer a discounted or free service in exchange for client-side ads.

Continue reading: Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds
 
     
 
   
 
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  Roundup: Linden CTO Departs  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Earlier this week it emerged that Linden Lab and its fourth employee, Cory Ondrejka, have parted ways due to irreconcilable philosophical differences. Here's a roundup of some of the reportage and commentary related to the split:
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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