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  Policing Role-Play In ‘Age of Conan’  
 
 
Posted 2008-05-03 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The operator of the upcoming adult-oriented Age of Conan MMO intends to establish strict rules about role-playing on designated servers, according to an official community bulletin. This might be great news for role-play enthusiasts, but I have to wonder if AoC's operator has a plan to police and enforce its own proposed rules. Any such plan must involve human moderators at some point along the chain (software isn't smart enough for the job), which is an awfully costly investment in role-playing, if you ask me.

Names from outside the 'Conan' universe (as in, from another fantasy universe, such as Pokemon) are not allowed. Names from inside the 'Conan' universe (such as Conan) are also not allowed. Neither are derivatives or sound-alike names. Out of character chat is to be "avoided." Making fun of role-players is not allowed. Using role-play to justify immersion-breaking actions and exploits is not allowed. Interfering with in-progress community-driven role-playing events (such as a wedding) is not allowed.

These rules are setting the game operators up for major headaches. A good rule is one which doesn't need to be discussed--it's simply incontrovertible. These are bad rules. Not only do they require human supervision, they are open to interpretation. Who's going to moderate player names, and when will that moderation occur? How much out of character chat is acceptable, and when is it acceptable to speak OOC. What if the sight of weddings drives my character into a berserker rage--isn't it about my immersion, too? What if my entire clan of players has an in-character grudge against that wedding?

Unless the rules are tightened up, enforced transparently, frequently and consistently, the whole system's going to spiral out of control. Transparent enforcement (i.e. we see who was busted for what, and how the policing or punishment was carried out) and frequent enforcement are expensive. Consistent enforcement is sure to be a joke--I can't even go to a bank and get the same answer about the same question from 5 different tellers.
 
     
 
   
 
  4 comments  
  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
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Quick Links for 2007-12-12  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Evil Video Streams Threaten ‘Second Life’ Cashflow: Report  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Linden Lab has warned users of Second Life that QuickTime-based video streams may be used to "crash or exploit" Second Life's client software. The Mercury News paints a more sinister picture, alerting us that "security researchers have found a flaw in Second Life virtual world [sic] that allows them to strip a user’s character of all of its in-world money."

Since Second Life currency is easily converted to American dollars, there's a real risk here: Users of the virtual world may have dozens to hundreds to thousands of "Linden Dollars" on hand at any time. In the past 24 hours, the equivalent of about $1.5M USD has flowed through the system. So how to avoid getting robbed? Linden Lab's advice is for users to turn off video streaming, despite the company's ability to turn off streaming for all users across the virtual world until Apple fixes QuickTime. This strategy is reactive in my view, as Linden Lab plans only to act if it discovers a malicious stream. Affected users will receive "appropriate assistance," whatever that means.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Child Protection In ‘Second Life’ Isn’t A Software Issue  
 
 
Posted 2007-08-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Sparked by a moral panic earlier this year, two German firms have launched a contest for the creation of software intended to block minors from accessing adult content in Second Life.

Child protection in Second Life isn't a problem software can solve effectively. Second Life, like booze and porn, is meant for adults, not kids. Prior experience tells us kids can't be prevented from getting their hands on booze and porn. All parents can do is raise their children "virtual-street smart," establish and enforce sensible rules, keep their Second Life passwords to themselves, and hope for the best. And, like any purveyor of adult material, Linden Lab has little choice but to make Second Life more difficult for minors to access, even if it makes access by adults more cumbersome.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’  
 
 
Posted 2007-08-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
"Are virtual worlds ready for a CNN to call their own?" The Hollywood Reporter asks, pointing to mainstream media venture LivePlanet which intends to embed reporters in virtual worlds Second Life and World of Warcraft.

Yes, virtual worlds are ready for "a CNN" to call their own--in fact, there has been a thriving "native" media scene inside Second Life for years. Wagner James Au was the first embedded writer in Second Life, followed soon after by myself (less embedded than external) and dishy tabloid The Second Life Herald--we were the first wave of writers alluded to in a recent Columbia Journalism Review article on journalism in Second Life. Since then, a legion of in- and out-world publications and broadcasters have been covering Second Life. It also bears mentioning that nearly every attempt to broadcast regular video reports from Second Life has failed, including the corporate-backed Grid Review. Why LivePlanet thinks it has a chance of success here is beyond me.

Continue reading: ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’
 
     
 
   
 
  5 comments  
  Lower Standards Permit Virtual-World Advertising to Kids  
 
 
Posted 2007-08-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Last month I wondered how virtual-world advertising aimed at kids too young to chat responsibly could be justified. The answer is simple: lower advertising standards so that the behavior becomes "acceptable." NewMediaAge reports that the Advertising Standards Authority (UK) will allow snack food brands to target kids, provided the brands operate "within their own paid-for space." Ads in the virtual equivalent of "public space" would reportedly still fall within ASA regulations. I don't think much of the relaxed standards, as I don't believe that young children can distinguish between branded and non-branded content.

I am not familiar with the Advertising Standards Authority and to whom the organization might answer to, but I find the lowering of standards here analogous to the move to broaden the definition of "organic" food or change the definition of chocolate in order to satisfy industry greed.

Continue reading: Lower Standards Permit Virtual-World Advertising to Kids
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Obey ‘Second Life’ Republic Or Be Shunned  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I would rather have no justice at all in Second Life than to subscribe to the half-baked, self-appointed Metaverse Republic, a group trying to establish an independent virtual-world legal system "with real powers of enforcement originating in user-created tools, and a democratic parliament." Introduced to me by the Metaversed podcast, and made the subject of a round-table by Virtually Blind, the group's system relies on voluntary, widespread adoption to work properly.

There are a limited number of actions one avatar can take against another without permission in Second Life. The most effective of these, available only to virtual-land owners, is to ban an avatar from entering one's land. It's a good, old-fashioned shunning, and it's how Metaverse Republic plans to "enforce" its laws: Obey the Republic's rules, or face banishment. The good news is that the system only works with a high level of participation, but the bad news is that single avatars sometimes own vast acreage of virtual land. The Republic could be a serious annoyance to those it disagrees with, but it's highly unlikely compliance with its system will reach critical mass.

Continue reading: Obey ‘Second Life’ Republic Or Be Shunned
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  ‘Toontown’ to Aim Ads at Kids  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Mediaweek reports that Disney's cutesy, award-winning Toontown is moving from a subscription- to ad-supported model by the fall. Toontown users are considered too young to handle unfiltered text chats, so how could it possibly be appropriate to advertise to this young audience? I hope part of Disney's plan is to continue to offer subscriptions to those parents who can afford to keep Toontown ad-free for their kids.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Child Porn Panic Hits ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
As recently reported in the Second Life Herald, Second Life Insider, and acknowledged by Linden Lab, German TV network ARD has revealed Second Life depictions of child porn to national viewers and authorities.

Linden Lab explained yesterday that it was contacted last week by ARD, which presented footage of an adult and child avatar "engaged in depicted sexual conduct." The virtual-world maker assured readers of its blog that both participants were adults, and were "immediately banned from Second Life." Apparently, an ARD reporter also found pictures inside the virtual world described as "sexual photographs involving a child," and ARD reportedly handed over the images to German authorities. Linden Lab's requests for the location of the photos in-world have not been responded to, according to the company's blog.

Continue reading: Child Porn Panic Hits ‘Second Life’
 
     
 
   
 
  9 comments  
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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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