Thursday, February 28, 2008

Epidemics in MMORPG

Almost every game nowadays posts a message before the game starts stating that game play experience may change when playing this game online. Which rather makes us think that internet can be such a scary place to be in or it maybe the next best thing that happened to you. But more than scary people lurking the internet it’s the people who disrupt gameplay and spoil the whole experience of playing an MMORPG.

The idea of going to a PvE Server is mainly to avoid having to handle with stupid fights when you want to learn the game and try new things. That’s the mistake I did, I got into a PvP server and needless to say my level one paladin stood no chance against the bunch of rogues I ran into. Every time I went back to my body (after they killed me) they used to lurk around, waiting for me. And me being a grade A World of Warcraft noob, did not realize it for the first 8 times they killed me! I don’t know how level 52 rogues can stoop to such low levels by assaulting a level one paladin time and again. I so wanted to say “I did not wish to lower myself by engaging your kind, but you leave me little choice!” and decapitate them all.

That said, I quit that server and hopped onto a PvE server. I get to create my player character once again. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I do not need to take the same character that was mauled up in the previous PvP server. I would say out of all the MMORPGs out there; World of Warcraft employs the most number of character customization. It will let you change the head gear, skin color, hair style, facial hair, etc you name it. It’s probably the case with most gamers out there, but I always tend to use a male character for an FPS game, but a female character for third person game. I guess, it’s because I don’t want to keep looking at a dude running (and dancing) for multiple hours in-game. Anyways the strategy of moving to a PvE server proved the most effective, as there were much “friendly” NPCs in this world. I had already decided that I will show no mercy. In a skirmish I cornered a “ferocious” pig and showed it who is boss!

Lastly if you are going to die, die with honor, or at least style. Fellow players talk about your “bravery” at great lengths for a long time after you die; like one to two minutes! You don’t want “diseases” killing you in game. I over heard about this disease called corrupted blood that killed a lot of people back in the early World of Warcraft days. I was so curious, I had to look it up in Wikipedia and unsurprisingly I did find some interesting tidbits.

Virtual epidemics are worse than virtual thefts. Corrupted Blood was a virtual plague that infected characters in the computer game World of Warcraft, spreading rapidly from character to character. Its resemblance to real-life disease epidemics drew international attention in the news. The epidemic began on September 13, 2005 when Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of World of Warcraft, introduced a new instance called Zul'Gurub into the game as part of patch 1.7. Inside this instance was a boss named Hakkar the Soulflayer, alluded to as the "blood god". Players who fought Hakkar were affected by his debuff (a spell which has a negative effect over a fixed period of time). The debuff, in this case, was Corrupted Blood, a spell that caused 250–300 points of damage (compared to the average health of 2500-5000 for a character of the highest level, and with those at the mid-levels having about 1500) every few seconds to the afflicted character. The affliction was passed on to any characters standing too close to an infected character. While the curse would kill most lower-level characters in a matter of seconds, higher-level characters could keep themselves alive (via healing spells, having high stamina, or other means) long enough to spread the disease around the immense landscape inside the game. After a few days, Corrupted Blood had become World of Warcraft's version of the Black Death, rendering entire cities uninhabitable and causing players to avoid large clusters of other players, and in many cases, causing players to avoid major cities altogether.

Every so often, Hakkar will cast this debuff on a random player, effectively forcing players to be spread apart, or in the case of melee classes, to move away from Hakkar before spreading it to the other melee classes. Blizzard Entertainment tried several times to fix the problem, including imposing quarantine on certain places. This "plague" was eventually "cured" by changing the mechanics of the Hakkar encounter to eliminate the spreading of the effect from character to character. Hakkar still has an ability called Corrupted Blood, but it now takes the form of a red bolt launched at a random player fighting the boss. The player and those nearby take damage, and receive a heavy damage over time, but the effect no longer spreads further.

In March 2007, Ran D Balicer, an epidemiologist physician at the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, published an article in the Journal Epidemiology describing the similarities between this outbreak and the recent SARS and avian influenza outbreaks. Dr Balicer suggested role-playing games could serve as an advanced platform for modeling the dissemination of infectious diseases. In a follow-up article in the Journal Science, the game Second Life was suggested as another possible platform for these studies.

Courtesy: Corrupted Blood from Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Brief Aside for Logistics

Tomorrow from 11:30 to 12:30, as a class we will be attending Dr. Jonathan Frome's lecture in ATEC 1.606, entitled "Levels of Engagement: Why Different Media Generate Different Emotions." Dr. Frome is a candidate for the film studies position; his dissertation is entitled "Why Films make Us Cry but Videogames Don't: Emotions in Traditional and Interactive Media." Come prepared with hard questions.

We'll discuss the current round of papers after his lecture. See you then!

Character is Only the Domain of Man/Woman/Imaginary Being

The topics surrounding character gender in games with user created avatars have existed since before the beginning of the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game genre, floating around in the realm of the Pen and Paper RPGs. Of all the topics in this area the most widely discussed is that of cross-gender character creation. That is to say, male players playing female characters and female players playing male characters.

I personally have played a lot of MMOs and, as a male, have played a large number of female characters. At least seventy percent of the characters that I actually put time into are female. However, my quick acceptance and seeming preference for playing female characters puts me among a small group of people. In my experience most male players might have the occasional female character, but the large majority of their characters are still male. In addition to my large amount of experience with MMOs, I have also played various Pen and Paper RPGs for many years. Having for a long time always been the Game Master in almost all the Pen and Paper gaming groups I have been in, I have acted for an innumerable number of female NPCs. This might partially explain my comfort with playing characters of the opposite gender, but more interestingly is the number of different kinds of players I have encountered in these groups.

I will be concentrating on just the relationship of male players playing female characters for now because I have more experience in that area and the reverse relationship will come later. I have met people with several different personal views on this subject, determined through my observation of their play. First comes people who prefer to play female characters for whatever personal reason and play them almost exclusively. There are people who, like me, are comfortable with playing characters of the opposite gender and will play whatever they feel fits best with the concept they’ve come up with. Then there are the players who have played female characters a few times, but only as experimentation or a change of pace, they largely play male characters. The next kind of player plays male characters almost to exclusivity and the reason can range from that’s just what they feel comfortable with to coincidence to that’s their natural choice and they don’t ever think about why. Then the last type that I have met on occasion feels very uncomfortable with the idea of playing a character of the opposite gender. They don’t necessarily view it in the same way as they might view cross-dressing, but they still treat it with a sort of light awkward laughter.

Although it is to a lesser degree because of the anonymity of playing a character in an MMO versus playing a character at a table of people and then having to speak that character’s actions and words, these types of views can still be seen in the world of MMOs. It is likely that any uncomfortable feelings or stigma attached to this process is due to views in culture as a whole. Men who wear women’s clothing are odd at best and men who act in any sort of feminine way are assumed to be homosexual. So how might someone who wishes to place themselves into the role of a female character be viewed?

This brings us to female players playing male characters. It seems to be a more common and more widely accepted practice. From what I’ve heard of people discussing the topic and from what I’ve observed of people’s reactions, female players who play male characters are not seen as different and female players who don’t want to play male characters are not viewed as “silly”. It’s likely that this also stems from cultural views. A woman doing “men” things is more readily accepted than vice-versa, even the term ‘tomboy’ is used less nowadays. A man wearing women’s clothing is weird, whereas a woman wearing what is seen or used to be seen as “men’s” clothing is an everyday occurence. This isn’t a reprimand on the unfairness of society or anything, just an observation on how the culture is.

This reflection of real life into the virtual world may offer an explanation for at least one reason why the male to female and the female to male player to character relationships are viewed in so many different ways. There is also the fact that there are people who just want to play their gender merely because it is what they are used to and those who want to play the opposite gender because when imagining themselves as someone else they might as well be as far from themselves as possible. There are any number of reasons for both kinds of character choices and this just scratches the surface of the topic.

My MMO character history (Only those characters who were played past the first few levels adjusted according the leveling system of the game. I have made too many characters in CoH and CoV.):

Guild Wars: Name Forgotten – Female Assassin

Final Fantasy XI: Name Forgotten – Female Elvaan Red Mage

Star Wars Galaxies: Skizzix – Male Trandoshan Smuggler

EVE: Lenai – Female Gallente (Smuggler/Drone User)

City of Heroes: Lenai – Female Defender (main)

Remade and forgot new name – Female Scrapper (other main)

RocknRollMartian – Male Ass Kicking Band Leader

Tiddlywinks – Robot Scrapper

City of Villains: Lenai – Female Stalker

World of Warcraft: Searniz – Male Troll Rogue (main)

Roury – Female Night Elf Rogue

Lenai – Female Blood Elf Rogue (other main)

Male:Female:Genderless Robot ratio - 3:8:1

Paper 2

The ultimate goal in EVE is power.
- Official EVE Online Website

EVE Online is almost completely differentiated from the myriad of other massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) available in the market today. The game assumes a “harsh reality” and is unforgiving even in the early stages of “NOOB” play. The galaxies of EVE are reminiscent of the lawless, money-driven, “Wild-West” galaxies of the Ferengi from Star Trek or the Hutt-run galaxies of Star Wars. EVE presents an interesting universe, one in which the story is but a novelty, and the narrative becomes almost entirely player-driven. Despite the lack of a traditional graphic avatar, EVE provides a large amount of flexibility in the amount of role-playing one wishes to do. However, the entire universe of EVE revolves around and is completely dependent upon the extremely complex, realistic, and volatile virtual economy. “The ultimate goal in EVE is power,” and in EVE economic power reigns supreme. EVE supports a multitude of play-styles, however, the matter which style one prefers, economics will play a vital role in their survival. With this in mind, EVE offers a truly unique avenue for digital identity in that your reputation and identity is not measured by your appearance or speech, but instead by your economic standing and business cunning.

EVE Online employs a heretofore unseen level of economic complexity. Every sale, every purchase, and every ISK (Interstellar Kredit: the base monetary unit of EVE) must be analyzed and weighed against other options. For example, the opportunity cost of mining ore for 2 hours could far outweigh the cost of buying it for 3.01 ISK per unit. In fact, EVE’s economic forces are so powerful that CCP (the developer) publishes a quarterly economic newsletter giving growth rates, inflation/ deflation rates, consumer price index, and gross user product, to name a few. In their newsletter, CCP states, “our knowledge of the economic forces in EVE is increasing, guiding us closer towards the ability to make short-term economic forecasts for macroeconomic variables in EVE.” Although intimidating at first glance, the universe of EVE allows for easy access to the economic statistics for your particular region. This enables the player to approach an economic transaction in several ways:

1. Find the average region price and sell at the same price or cut into your profit and undercut the lowest seller.

2. Charge a premium, or “convenience fee,” for being the exclusive seller of an item in a farther system.

3. Keeping an item in hopes that someday you will be able to afford the skill, train it, and finally try to use the item only to find out your ship doesn’t have the capacity.

In addition to the obvious market transactions of buying and selling, EVE also allows the player own corporate stock, create contracts, manufacture items from blueprints, research new items, and earn ISK through bounty hunting NPCs or player initiated bounties. It is during these activities where the players’ reputations truly become paramount. The most notorious players have the highest bounties on their heads, and the best mercenaries receive the high-paying contracts. Due to the economic nature of the game, I believe EVE gives the player more freedom to be themselves throughout the virtual experience.

The corporate structure of EVE creates a rewarding experience for the socially-tuned player. Corporations offer protection, coordinated mining endeavors, price fixing, and a source of pride. On the other hand, unlike some MMORPGs, EVE can be a very rewarding solo experience. Solo adventuring can build confidence and wallets. Many corporations identify with a single task at which they claim to be experts. These include mining corps, fleets for hire, manufacturing corps, etc. The corporation to which a player owes his/ her allegiance is another source for in-game reputation. These corporations can become so large and exert enough influence to control the ebb and flow of the economic tides. There have been stories of weeklong blockades, corporations fizzling out due to economic miscalculations, and the infamous “Heist.” The corporation actually plays a bigger part in the role-playing aspect of the game than the character’s race or sex. Striving to be bigger, better, and richer is what makes players stay in the game.

EVE Online employs an interesting dynamic not shared by many MMORPGs: the universe can make you feel insignificant due to its overwhelming size (EVE comprises of over 5,000 systems totaling countless KM2 of virtual space) but CCP goes out of their way to include the players in decision making processes. I believe that this adds greatly to the enjoyment of EVE and does much to fuse the player with his/ her digital identity. CCP was quoted as saying, “Eve Online is not a computer game. It is an emerging nation, and we have to address it like a nation being accused of corruption,” after being accused of favoritism. This is a powerful statement showing the true feelings the developers and many players share about EVE. CCP also uses technology to uniquely add to the engrossing nature of this game. All 200,000 players are housed on one super-server, thus allowing a large, permanent virtual-community to establish itself in the Eve universe.

CCP has created an opportunist’s paradise, one in which economics and market forces rule all. Eve is a vast, cold expanse filled with dreams of economic superiority; a place where one man’s unfair monopoly is another man’s cash cow. CCP has created a universe in which the players make the decisions, drive the market, and make trades across billions of miles. Business cunning, political savvy, and guts are the tools of the EVE role-player as they try to carve out a piece of this place to call their own.

If you want to see the economic report go to

Topic 2

I played World of Warcraft to look into the aspects of anonymity and behavior online and also the creation of avatars and if they had any significance to the identity of the player. Do people act differently? Did their avatars say things about them, either known or unknown to the player?
The more I played the game, the more I realized that with the time I had to play the game there would be no way to find the knowledge I was looking for. World of Warcraft (WOW) is a game that to fully experience a player must invest large amounts of time. The online community is a very tight knit group and to gain respect from the other players your rank must show you are devoted. With my skill, I could not gain the experience I needed; therefore I could not gain access to the social elements I was interested in. I chose instead to look into the book Computer Mediated Communication which shows research into the internet as a whole. My purpose was to see which elements that were present in dealing with digital identity online translated over to the gaming world.
While the book discusses mostly text-based online interaction, the points made are valid and strongly applicable to WOW, as well as many other online communities. “Scholars talk about our having multiple identities – people take on different identities throughout their lives and find new ways to represent themselves to the world (Thurlow 97).” Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games allow people to create another character that lives in an online world. This character can be a branching of their current identity or they can try to create an entirely different identity with them. This topic relates to how we are in real world; we are constantly reinventing ourselves, our identity is always evolving. In my opinion, nothing is really wrong with this. If someone is more comfortable and can express themselves more openly online, then they should do so.
Online communities allow people who wish to express themselves more in the real world communities a chance to do just that. “Anonymity [of the internet] paved the way for disembodiment – an identity which was no longer dependent on, or constrained by, your physical appearance…It would give an opportunity for those whose voices had not been heard before to speak and be heard (Thurlow 99).” The book referred to the internet as being color blind. Personal characteristics such as race, gender and religion are only known if you let them be. Also the aspect of being anonymous can give some people the courage to voice their opinion. It also may encourage others to express themselves in a negative way. For instance, we discussed in class the WOW funeral scene where a group of people came charging in and ruined a funeral, obviously this would never happen in real life. The aspect of anonymity however allows, and possibly encourages, people to act out more. I know many people who will make crude remarks online without thinking twice when in a real life social setting would never imagine it.
The authors of Computer Mediated Communication also quoted the famous internet scholar Sherry Turkle referring to chat rooms, “You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself if you want…You are the character and you are not the character, both at the same time. You are who you pretend to be (99).” Creating an avatar is creating another identity. I believe there is rarely a direct correlation between a user and an avatar. Many times people just pick one to try something different they cannot do in the real world or enjoy the aesthetics of a certain character. Some of my colleagues have mentioned they will almost always play a character of the opposite gender, just because it is something different from their real life. Like the research given to us in class, occasionally it really could be someone trying to live out a different identity in the best way they know how; however I believe if they spend enough time with the same group of people they may eventually give themselves away. Based on our class discussions the majority of one’s selection seems to be personal preference without a deeper meaning in most cases.
“It’s therefore important to put online identities into context: first, in the context of the fluid, multiple nature of offline identity, and second, in the context of what people are really up to in cyberspace (Thurlow 102).” My final thoughts are that each individual would need to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis; but overall there is no direct correlation. Anonymity online will allow, and encourage, people to act more confidently for positive or negative impact on the online world.

Thurlow, Crispin; Lengel, Laura and Tomic, Alice. Computer Mediated Communication. Sage Publications, 2004.

Character Customization in Guild Wars

Character creation can be a fun, painstaking part of the MMO experience. Players expect options for their character’s appearance if they plan to spend an extended period in a virtual world. Guild Wars’ creation process allows players to select their character’s appearance from premade faces and hairstyles. While selecting from a pool of skins formed by the developers’ imagination may keep characters within the aesthetic confines of the game world, the limits may come into conflict with the visual individuality of a character, the personal preferences of the player, and the depiction of the sexes.

One may run through the vast MMO world with a hundred different players on the screen at one time. One may also find their character’s twin, or even triplet, in that crowd. Guild Wars does not offer a great range of initial character customization. Players can only play as the human race, despite other races existing within the Guild Wars world. A player’s decision to select certain avatar options may be swayed by the options available or not available in avatar customization. Developers gave female characters a larger pool of faces and hairstyles compared to male characters. However, female characters do not have a choice to be old or horribly disfigured, but male characters have old, haggard, and scarred options. Thus, male characters have less choices to be attractive—and less choices in general—while female characters have many choices in meshes but no choice to be unattractive. Because many people would rather play a unique, attractive character, the higher possibilities for attractive features and more options in faces and hairstyles may support the inclination to play a female character.

Character customization, of course, does not end at the initial creation of the character. The character’s profession determines what kind of armor or clothing that character can wear. Professions follow a theme in their equipment. For example, while there are several variations to armor sets, warriors can only wear heavy armor, mesmers can only wear fancy outfits, and dervishes can only wear long robes. Armor sets, however, can be mixed within each profession, allowing players to find creative armor combinations. In an effort to further customization, Guild Wars implemented a system in the third chapter where players could buy armor of any appearance with the highest armor rating and customize the armor’s statistics.

The system, conversely, has little use if the armor sets are not particularly to one’s taste. By setting each profession in a rigid image, some armor sets fall short in creativeness. Nearly all female characters’ armor sets are close-fitting or show skin in unpractical places while their male counterparts are covered from head to toe in bulky gear. Female characters’ armor, on the other hand, has finer, more intricate details, and higher quality than male armor. Again, these are reasons why some people may choose a female character over a male character.

Creativity waned in the coming of the last chapter. Old armor meshes were retextured and marketed as new armor. While armor had been retextured and noted as different armor sets before, the community became enraged at the lower texture quality produced in the final chapter of the series where they expected entirely new armor sets. Players, too, had been asking for variation in armor within their profession. Female elementalists wanted options for more modest dress. Assassins did not want spikes jutting out of their shoulders and limbs and pleaded not to have anymore spikes. Many times, players only received half of their requests, even as early as the beta.

In the beta, female warriors were as thin as spell casters with necks just as long. Players complained about giraffe necks and that they preferred the warrior to at least appear capable of wielding a two-handed hammer without her arms snapping off, and the developers partially responded. Female warriors were given faintly more muscle in their arms. In contrast, the male warriors have always been thick, muscular gladiators. Their necks and thighs appear as solid as the tree trunks in the environment. Many people reported on forum polls that they had chosen female warriors because they found the male warriors too thickset, not the least bit attractive, and even loutish. This posed a problem for players who wanted to play male warriors as intelligent, elegant, righteous leaders, since many other players would only see them as twelve-year-old brutes. The developers did not see the need to change the male warrior’s appearance nor the female characters’ necks.

The developers hold a set vision for the professions, as well as what defines male or female. A player is given appearances to choose from by the developers, and what those aesthetic decisions are affect, to some degree, the character a player will select. If a player finds a duplicate of his or her character, the twins may be amused, take screenshots, and forget about the encounter. They may not wonder why they look alike, or they may subconsciously guess why they look alike—there were no better faces, or it was the best looking armor. In games where character customization is limited to selecting from premade appearances, many players may not find designs to their liking and will have to settle.

A Spade is a Spade: You Can't Force Socialization

There are many different types of MMORPG players and many different theories on how to categorize them. No matter how you choose to categorize them, there are two categories that always come up in some form or another; gamers and socializers. Gamers are players who play MMORPGs because they are a game. Socializers are players who play MMORPGs for community and socialization. While not mutually exclusive, these are two important distinctions to make in terms of design. Nowadays, developers seem to be intent on trying to capture more socializers in their demographic. This seems to be rooted in the idea that a strong social community can make up for weak design choices, lags in updates of new content, and keep an MMO thriving after its pinnacle of activity. The most interesting case of this is in a fairly new MMORPG titled Dream of Mirror Online (DOMO).

DOMO focuses its design almost entirely on the social aspect of its game. Every part of the gameplay is made for players to work together. Every player is allowed to level every class in the game on any of his characters. Upon leveling multiple classes, the player can choose to use skills from other classes to augment his main class's power. Four of these classes (the doctor, the musician, the dancer, and the merchant) seem to be built entirely with teamwork in mind. While possible to level these classes in solo play, it is significantly easier to level with the aid of other party members. Even the classes that can level by themselves easily have at least one skill that seems to benefit another class more than their own class. On top of this, quests are designed to be incredibly difficult at the levels they are given without a group backing the player up. DOMO even uses the Chinese Zodiac to match people up with your character that would be compatible as friends, rivals, or lovers in real life so you can have an excuse to party with someone. Finally, DOMO uses a relationship system that allows players to designate players as friends, teachers, students, or lovers. These relationships actually give major combat bonuses to the player while playing near the person they have this relationship with. All of this is built in to give social players a gameplay advantage while encouraging more gameplay oriented gamers to team up more often and make friends.

However, this system, while fascinating, doesn't seem to be entirely successful. After having played for three weeks, I have noticed some interesting facts about the players in the game. Despite being very heavily balanced towards multiple players, a large number of players still choose to work on missions as a solo effort. This is clearly harder to accomplish, but it doesn't stop solo players from playing solo. Furthermore, despite it being a major mechanical benefit, only one of my real life friends that chose to test the game with me decided to form a friendship. General player reaction on forums and in the game also seem to show a general avoidance of these relationships. Even the lover relationship, which gives what some consider game-breaking level benefits, seems to be avoided. As a matter of fact, the idea of having an “online lover” seems to freak people out so much that it is avoided even more. The only reason I can seem to find for avoiding these relationships is the fact that once you have a relationship with someone, it seems like you almost have an obligation to party with that person. Does giving someone mechanical benefits really give someone a social responsibility to follow? Is this a job? On the other hand, the extremely social gamers with no interest in power seem to have no problem with forming relationships in game. Boards with these kinds of players are filled with topics asking for new friends, lovers, and teachers. It's odd that the people that would desire a mechanical benefit the most would shy away from it the most because of an implied social hierarchy.

In the end, I don't think DOMO's party friendly engine is necessarily a failure, but I think their attempt to turn their more game-driven gamers to a more social attitude is mostly a failure. It seems to be conclusive evidence that you can't change a player's inherent style of play. With everything focused so heavily on the socialization aspect its a wonder whether DOMO will be able to keep their game-driven audience overtime. Either way, DOMO is always going to be a great place for social gamers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Guild Wars Bots

Here are a couple of videos of bots. Bots in GW have mostly been blonde guildless monks with strange names and no fancy armor. I think they zone out into an instance, kill the closest couple of monsters, pick up loot, zone back to the outpost, and repeat. I've found them in quite a few outposts--Granite Citadel, Altrumm Ruins, Bergen Hot Springs, Elona Reach, Zos Shivros Channel... It's not just a couple per outpost. There are flocks of them at each outpost.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

OMG Lawsuits!

From today's discussion: Bragg v. Linden Labs is the current newsworthiest, although this suit about the theft of in-world sex toys is recent as well. Wired's rundown of the Bragg suit is interesting, particularly Fairfield's comments at the end. Anybody agree that land in SL is equal to bandwidth sold by AT&T, or is virtual property more "real" than that?


Goonswarm's wiki - Goonswarm being the alliance based around Goonfleet, the Something Awful based EVE corporation(aka a guild) which is the single largest corporation in the game.

It's mostly interesting to note that a lot of controversy and complaints surround Goonfleet when in fact most of them are from whiny players(no I'm not in Goonfleet) who seem to only complain because Goonfleet is so big and therefore does really well, but plays within the confines of the game.

Goonfleet has also themselves raised issue and made accusations several times of favoritism among EVE players who personally know CCP employees or are in fact CCP employees themselves who have placed themselves into corporations and given themselves director access. Band of Brothers being one of the main corporations which is heavily accused of being in bed with CCP and this is likely at least one source of the heavy rivalry between Goonfleet and BoB.

EVE Heist

Probably the biggest heist in MMO history happened on EVE Online.

Should this be against the rules? Does it make the game more compelling or realistic? Is it fair or unfair?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Parlor

The RvB video we watched in class reminded me of this video. Go ahead and watch it and then come back.


This is one of the first pro-game articles I have read that has come from a major media group. 
They praise the families who play games together. They also make an argument that some games
may make your child more likely to want to learn. Also, they cite the articles from about a year ago in which a few surgeons said that games make them better surgeons. I think this is an important step for Germany. I personally hope that they mirror France's position on the subject in the near future. 

I think the point of this article is mostly to educate parents about games. one of the quotes I like is:

Und welche Eltern möchten seine Kinder heute noch an Computer- und Konsolenspiele heran lassen, wenn sie in der Zeitung lesen, dass Computerspiele dick, dumm, gefühllos und aggressiv machen?

And what parents would actually buy their child a console/ pc game when the newspaper says that games make them fat, dumb, lose feeling (emotionless), and aggressive?

Few more articles from the Fatherland

The Social Downfall of a Man

This article is a little different. It starts off by the writer describing what his life was like before he started playing WoW. This is what makes me think this article is somewhat fake. he essentially takes all the stereotypical effects of online-games and applies them to his story. One thing that tipped me off is when he says, "I played football (aka Soccer, just in case) all the time and could've gone pro. I was told by doctors that I was TOO FIT for my age." Please.

He basically chronicles his "downfall" at day 1, 1 month, 6 months, 9months, 18 months, and 24 months. He does highlight on good aspects of the game, such as socializing, hunting in parties, and other forms of teamwork.

Fake or not, this article touches again on the  German fear of "too much" time spent in-game.

In this article a little known politician calls video games poison.  She is hell bent on rectifying the "video game problem." The article was actually posted by a pro game person who shines light on her inability to ever make a rational argument. She is essentially one of those people who think gamers can't socialize.

Avatar Rights and Freedom of Speech.

One last post from me for today. There's been a lot of talk about avatar rights recently. We even had a seminar in the conference room recently on your right to the intellectual property of your identity online. There's also been a lot of talk about freedom of speech online. From a legal standpoint, the mods can ban whatever they want. It's a privately owned game. However, a few future sighted people are wondering about the issues of avatar rights in public virtual spaces. Also, how should one enforce freedom of speech online if it's desirable. This is a fairly interesting take on the issue of freedom of expression online. While not to a point, I mostly agree on the fact that if we're enforcing freedom of speech in online worlds, something similar to the fact that infringing another's rights and breaking the law is not covered. However, I think the person talking here is also forgetting the fact that the US is not the only group online and therefore, our constitution does not apply.

IP Banning and Online Cheating

This is actually a bit of controversy that happened with the MMO I'm testing for this week. Essentially, the Beta was open to everyone, but then the game's license got sold to a European developer who insisted that the NA version of the game commit an IP ban. This actually caught a lot of flack. Amusingly enough, the NA company started a petition to stop the IP ban. This isn't too shocking since they're essentially losing customers, but it's interesting that they'd start the petition themselves instead of letting enraged fans handle it.

The problem here is that in closed beta a lot of EU players made friends with NA players. Thanks to the ban, a lot of these friendships are essentially destroyed. The Asian version of the game I believe has no IP banning, although you have to be able to speak Chinese to play it. So, any connections internationally there are kept.

There's no doubt that all of this is legal, but it does bring up an interesting question of the social implications and the implied moral implications here. Are the European players outraged because they won't get to play for a while, are they mad because they see this as racist to ban a country based on IP, or are their newly founded American relationships in a couple of month closed beta that dear and precious to them? Sure. This is good business sense, but if the later is true, I wonder if you can't consider the IP ban to be somewhat immoral. The company is in its rights, but is it wrong to break up the community? What can be done to protect these communities from the reality of the outside world, and what happens to an online community that's still strong when it dies? What are the effects? It's not exactly urgent, and probably doesn't warrant a full in class discussion, but I thought it was interesting enough to get some comments on the blog over it.

I'm also enclosing a second article that's so minor it doesn't deserve its own post, but I thought it might be a handy reference for the next couple of weeks. I found it while doing random research. This is the article on wikipedia for online cheating and the forms it takes. It's all pretty obvious, but it's a nice reminder and reference document.

A Side Note: Sexist Gaming?

Apparently this has sparked some interesting controversy and some polarized arguments. Thought it might be interesting to see the view points on this. Seriously, this is a real game, and I'm just going to let the image speak for itself to get a quick reaction.

Identifying with Avatars

What the author describes in the article is a completely different circumstance from slaying giant bats and rats, and the game Sociolotron is more of a sim than a commercial RPG. However, the author makes some interesting observations on identity and how he viewed his avatar that I think can transfer over to games like WoW, GW, and other MMORPGs.

I noticed when he spoke of actions done to his avatar, he switched between "Janet" and "me." I'm guessing a lot of people switch like that when talking about their MMO avatars or characters they play in other games.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Parents & Children, Family Game Night

These are a couple of articles on gaming with family.

The first one focuses on parents playing with their children. It's interesting to see how the respondents underestimated/overestimated each other and how gaming affects/is affected by their relationship.

The second one seems like a review on a particular game, but the author also shares his views on what he finds appropriate for his family.

What would you say your weaknesses are?

This is a short article, but I found it interesting. It is about having a job interview in SL, not RL. Just like in RL, the article claims, your appearance can determine if you get the job or not. Also if you choose to be half-human and half-animal it could also have a negative impact. I have just started playing WOW this week and am interested in the whole avatar creation process.

What would happen if you had your name above your head all the time (like your WOW avatar)? This is a project that does just that. The article is short but it also has a video that I would check out; it is something you don't see every day.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Fliehen in eine Fantasiewelt"

 "Flee to a Fantasy World"

In this article, Frank Pierce has an interview with Stern, a famous and reputable magazine in Germany.
He is asked 5 real questions in the interview:
(This is not verbatim; the answers will be summarized by me.)

1.Was ist so faszinierend an diesem Spiel?
    (What is so fascinating about this game?)
WoW requires minimal processing power and is quite easy to learn. Many players enjoy the social aspects of the game, especially meeting and/ or fighting new people. Once the player learns the control scheme it opens up the possibilities and creates an opportunity to explore a gigantic world.

2.Jeder Spieler entwickelt eine eigene Figur, mit der er sich durch den Fantasiekosmos kämpft. Ist das Rollenspiel das wichtigste Element?
    (Every player creates for themselves an avatar (lit. figure) with which to fight through this fantasy universe. Is roleplaying the most important element?)
I found this answer interesting.
Yes, of course. The player forms an emotional bond (emotionale Verbindung) with their individual avatar and can form friendships with other avatars.

3.Gerade jüngere Spieler verbringen sehr viele Stunden in der "WoW". Wie denken Sie darüber?
    (Many young players spend countless hours in WoW. What do you think about that?)
This was also an interesting response.

"Das ist ganz abhängig von der persönlichen Situation eines jeden." This is very dependent on the personal situation of every individual. Everyone should decide for, and set limits for themselves, as to how much time they are going to spend playing. This applies to all kinds of media.
I don't really know why they spend so much time ingame. We have huge scenarios, PvP, and many other features that make our game attractive.

4. Flüchten sich die Spieler mit der "WoW"-Identität aus ihrer Realität?
    (Do players flee from their realities with their WoW identities?)
This is a point made for every type of media, that one can flee to a science fiction or fantasy world. It is no different than reading a fiction book.

5.Sie haben mit diesem Konzept eine Monopolstellung in der Spieleindustrie aufgebaut. Wie ist die Konkurrenz auf sie zu sprechen?
    (You have built a monopoly in the gaming industry. How is the competition?)
They are very enthusiastic. The market grew rapidly last year and surprised everyone.

Germans, like the Americans, are worried about how much time people are spending in these virtual worlds. Mr. Pierce does an admirable job answering these questions and deflecting any controversy or criticism. The majority of European concerns about gaming (except the French who have embraaced the idea) are
tied to violence and time spent playing. Luckily, we don't have anyone playing the role of Thompson in our society. 
I find the issues surrounding MMO's to be very important. WoW has over 10 million players from countries with vast linguistic and cultural differences. 

However, I think that gamers are made fun of more in 
Germany than in the US.

Just for Fun

"World of Warcraft": Spieler lässt sich Hintern tätowieren, um an Gold zu kommen

Ein junge Spieler des Online-Rollenspiels "World of Warcraft" und Mitglied der Gilde "Garithos" wollte unbedingt den im Spiel erhältlichen Flugmount haben. Um sich den leisten zu können, brauchte er 4.000 Goldstücke. Er war aber zu faul, sich das Geld mühsam im Spiel zu verdienen.

So bat er seine Gilden-Kollegen, für ihn das Gold aufzutreiben. Als Gegenleistung versprach er, dass er seinen Hintern mit der Internetadresse der Gilde und den Worten "Swallow or it's going in your eye" tätowieren lassen würde. Dieser Spruch ist so etwas wie das Motto der Gilde.

Seine Gilden-Freunde ließen nicht lange auf sich warten und schenkten ihm schließlich die 4.000 Goldstücke. Er veröffentlichte dann ein Video auf YouTube, um seinen Freunden zu beweisen, dass er sich tatsächlich die Tätowierung hat machen lassen.

World of Warcraft: Player allows his behind to be tattooed in order to receive gold

A young player from the MMORPG “World of Warcraft” and a member of the guild “Garithos” would like nothing more than to obtain the flying mount. In order to get this, he needs 4000 gold pieces. He was, however, too lazy to earn the money himself ingame.

So he asked his guild to give him the money. As payment (lit. collateral) he promised to tattoo the internet address of the guild along with the words, “Swallow or it’s going in your eye,” on his buttocks. This phrase is the motto of the guild.

His guild-mates didn’t wait long and gifted him the 4000 gold-pieces. He then posted a video on You Tube of the tattoo in order to prove that he had gone along with it.

This most recent comment on this article pretty much mirrors my thoughts:

Also dieser "Spieler" hat anscheinend nicht mehr alle Tassen im Schrank. Jetzt hat er eine lebenslange Erinnerung an seine begangene Dummheit.

This „player“no longer has all the cups in his cupboard. Now he has a lifelong reminder of his commitment to stupidity.

I can’t even begin to imagine how he’ll feel when WoW is no longer being played. I suppose this shows the consequences of mixing intensity and poor judgment. Is he too intense? Too stupid? He probably could have asked for more gold. He probably could have bought the gold for less than the price of the tattoo.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Science proves my idea

The jist is that we have a region of the brain dedicated to identifying outsiders. Everything from skin color to what they're wearing to what we've been told about them. It also brings up the concept of mentalizing, that is, imagining what other people think, how they work, etc. Once we see an outsider as having a quality in common with us, we can then begin to think of them as one of us.

PS - Mentions motor neurons

Atlantic Notion

When we think of games we tend to think of two regions,  North America (the U.S. and America's hat) and East Asia. I would like, over the weekend to post some articles from the German point of view and from our somewhat miniscule gaming culture. If it's fine with Dr. Evans (and everyone else), I'd like to post the articles in German and offer a summary in 
English along with my thoughts on the matter.
If not, then I'll just find something else to do.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A little more violence!

But this time it's a good thing. Child psychologist Dr. Frank Gaskill's thoughtful, if brief, piece on violence and video gaming.

My personal favorite point: "Common sense tells you that you don't let an elementary school kid or an older child with a history of aggressive behavior play Grand Theft Auto. But that same common sense tells you that if 90 percent of households have owned or rented a video game every year - while the juvenile crime rate has been going down for more than a decade - then a little Halo 3 never hurt anybody..."

Two older pieces

From the discussion: Here is the text of Julian Dibbel's A Rape In Cyberspace, published in 1993. The most interesting thing to me, which we didn't get into in class, is Bungle's reasons for his offensive (to the rest of the group) actions. His words: "I engaged in a bit of a psychological device that is called thought-polarization, the fact that this is not RL simply added to heighten the affect of the device. It was purely a sequence of events with no consequence on my RL existence." Very different than our ideas about real life and virtual life today, and very indicative of his character both on and offline.

Second, the fun piece: Red vs. Blue's PSA, Internet vs. Real Life. Also a bit dated (who here voted for Nader?), but much of it is still applicable.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What Raph Koster learned by playying MMOs

Read it. Read the gospel of Koster. It makes me wonder if a complex game like he suggests would be successful. Maybe it would simply be important and meaningful but not a financial success.

SL gender proximity and eye contact,%20Bailenson,%20Urbanek,%20Chang%20&%20Merget%20-%20SL%20NonVerbal.pdf

The summary is that male-male dyads stand closer to each other than female-female dyads. Male-female dyads stand even closer still. Also males are less likely to look at each other than females. Finally, the closer two avatars were, the less likely they were to look at each other.

The main thing to take away from this that we can predict some in-world behavior based on real-world behavior. It would be interesting to see how many behaviors transfer over like this, and which don't. We can then think about 'why,' and what it means for us in the 'real world.'

The Massive MMO Market and the Question of Future Themes.

I found a lot of sites with lists of the "top free MMOs". Even though all the lists are different (although it should be noted that Omerta shows up on several in the top ten) it's still interesting because it shows you just how many free MMOs are out there in addition to the large number of pay-to-play ones.

Not only is it amazing to behold, but it makes me pose a question. How long will it be before there are several popular MMOs that are not RPGs? Will there ever be a large market for non-RPG MMOs? Or even just a large following on non-fantasy MMORPGs? There have been plenty of MMOs that aren't fantasy and aren't RPGs, but none of them seem to last or reach the popularity to reach top 5 or so when it comes to the big pay-to-play markets. There are a lot of MMO strategy games in the free market but you still really just see RPGs in the pay market. Why all the differences in free vs. pay?

I, Avatar: Constructions of Self and Place in Second Life

"The ultimate display would … be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter … With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland in which Alice walked" - Ivan Sutherland, 1985

This is a pretty good paper, all things considered. It's scholarly without being too pedantic/donnish/full-of-itself.

Not Working with a full deck of cards

I find the Bartle test to be fascinating, and it's something that I've done personal research on its effects in online spaces. So, naturally, I can't pass up a blog post that talks about how we're catering to one over the other. The points are interesting, but are they true. I haven't played either Guild Wars or WoW. Is WoW really only for the Achiever in all of us, and is Guild Wars really just playing only to our inner murderer? If that's true, are any online games currently playing towards all of them (Well, except for Kingdom of Loathing)?

I find it to be an interesting discussion topic.

No GLBT Guild In WoW

Apparently this article has been making its rounds, but I find it interesting none the less and makes for an interesting transition from last week.

Apparently, WoW doesn't want there to be a Gay Guild on its servers and considers trying to start one a situation of violating terms of service. Obviously, the other side is say that this is flat out discrimination.

It brings up an interesting question though. Along with the article earlier about no male gamers posing as females in china, are people restricting people's right to be whoever they want to on an MMORPG. Should there be a moral standardization for characters beyond vulgarity and is this an extension of the power of companies to censor content.

Here's a somewhat poorly written, but interesting reply article.

Not my own personal opinions, but it's interesting to see a reply on it.

Male gamers not allowed to have female avatars in China

In China, male gamers with female avatars had their accounts frozen in a game called King of the World. Male players can only have male avatars while female gamers can have either male or female avatars. Female gamers, however, must prove their sex via webcam if they want to have a female avatar.

There is speculation that this isn't true, but we're not getting much more information on it (at least, in the US we aren't). Considering China has a different government and different culture than the US, I think it's plausible, but the whole thing sounds so odd.

I wouldn't want my character creation limited that way. I know in Ragnarok Online, you could choose the sex you wanted to play, but all your characters on that account had to be the same. I'm still not sure of the reason behind that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

MMO Charts

This site has some interesting charts on various statistics of which MMO has more subscribers and which genre boasts the most market share. Unfortunately the charts themselves seem to have not been updated since July 2006 even though the site has.

Missing the Game,8599,1577502-3,00.html

Mr. Coates has described what his life was like when he played MMO's, taking the most time to describe his experience with, and aftermath of, playing WoW. This article was your pretty average essay on the MMO experience until he comes to the point where he says he felt like something from his life was missing. It's a strange, almost sad juxtaposition of his enjoying the little things in life, and the hole that these wholly engrossing games have left in him. Perhaps some people may be predisposed to wanting to stay in some virtual world.  Although he had never met them personally, he stil missed the comeraderie of his guild, the awesomely named Gnomeland Security.
One of the most powerful quotes from this article, "What I came to understand was that WoW was not necessarily an escape, but a surrogate for a community that is harder and harder to find in the real world," provides some insight into what truly attracts some of the hardest core denizens of the WoW universe.

As an afterthought, I am also posting this article about the potential for addiction to gaming.
It's pretty short and to the point.

In Soviet Russia, computer plays you

This is a funny (by that I mean in the dark, divine comedy sort of way) article about in-game rivalries manifesting into real-world violence. This doesn't really surprise me all that much for two reasons:
1. People have been dating, having intercourse, and complete friendships online and then meeting in the real world. If love can do it, so can enmity.

2. Some people just take MMO's way too seriously. Despite any agenda or message,  I was under the impression that games and fun were not mutually exclusive.

The violence happened because someone's avatar "got dissed" by someone else's. The Coo-Clocks and the Platanium agreed to meet in person and have an "old-fashioned rumble." This is an example of how much a digital identity can become integrated into your life and your real-world reputation (in some circles). In Play Between Worlds, Taylor discusses how some high ranking members of Everquest command great respect during conventions and/ or or other meetings.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

This article is about 2 years old, but it gives kind of a rundown on WOW. Since I haven't played it before I did learn a little something, but the author is very anti-WOW so I don't know how true all of it is.
He has two main complaints about WOW; one is that it rewards time spent playing the game over skill. He constantly refers back to Street Fighter; I am pretty sure it is his favorite game ever.
The other is the fact that players get more reward for doing group missions instead of solo ones. The author is an introvert and feels like he must play in a group and this disturbs him. Then he complains a little about the terms of service agreement.

This article is a little out there and talks on the idea of internet anonymity. Basically it sounds like a database without your personal information and every internet user gets a number. That number doesn't connect with you personally, but everytime you post or say something on the internet (game or website) it shows that the same person did all of these actions. For example, if I was mean to you on one game but you saw me under another avatar on a different game later, you would still know it was the guy that was mean to you previously. I definitely think it is a little overboard, but the potential for something like this is not out of the question.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Like Robin Hood, but not really...?

When I hear the term griefer, I think of an annoying, socially inept player whose reason for everything is “just because.” This article shows another side of griefers.

A GM in A Tale in the Deserts, Khepry, happened to find the only source of a particular resource, and greed overcame the responsibility and respect that should have come with his title. He monopolized the resource and turned away players who asked for him to share.

Knightmare, one of the players who had been turned away, formed a group called Mafia to bring Khepry to justice. While he planned to create a blockade of sorts to prevent Khepry’s miners from entering the mines and to sabotage people willing to trade with Khepry, one of the members of Mafia went too far. In an effort to bring attention to Mafia’s significance, that member deliberately harmed a non-profit organization that helped other players raise their Gastronomy rating. The reason for his attack on the organization was to get players to make laws that took care of griefers rather than just banning them as they came. The idea backfired and left a permanent stain on Mafia’s once-righteous cause. Knightmare found out, but while he disapproved of that member’s actions, he did not regret what Mafia had started out as.

I wonder if having these sort of vigilante forces in games promotes more griefing. I recall hearing that there existed a group or a few in WoW that griefed griefers, but I haven’t been following that story. Some griefers feel the need to make up a reason for what they are doing, but if they ruin a player’s experience for that player ruining another player’s experience, are they any better? I read a lot of sites suggesting to ignore the griefers, but that is, like the above example, only a temporary fix. If players fight back, some may be doomed to forget their honorable cause and turn into those they once fought against. And it seems we remember the negative things that happen in games more than the positive. The article states that “the name of Mafia will always go down as a griefer,” despite Knightmare creating the group for the betterment of Egypt.

Those crazy gaming kids

A link to the trailer for Second Skin, a forthcoming documentary about MMO gamers. So far, they seem most interested in the commercial, gamey-game spaces, specifically WOW and EQ, although their front page mentions Second Life as well. I'll be very interested to see how they handle their subjects - from inside the culture, or as interesting and unusual specimens. Personally, I have high hopes, particularly since they start with "your mom might be a gamer!"