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By N2H
Welcome to Raph Koster's personal website: MMOs, gaming, writing, art, music, books.
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The Sunday Song: Polliwog Sans Warts

May 11th, 2008

Maybe someday the Polliwog will grow up to be a frog prince, but for now it’s still mostly a jam. This version is, I think, less of a trainwreck than the last one. :) The piano’s gone, but it’s all still at 200bpm!

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A la carting games

May 9th, 2008

At work, our biz dev guy forwarded around this highly interesting article about the future of paid video content on the Net: The Ala Carting of Video on the Net - Will it lead to disaster?

He commented that this had relevance for games — something about which I agree completely. I strongly suggest reading the full article, but here’s a brief sampling (which I gather is quoting a report from Bernstein Research):

On the web, early evidence suggests that consumers will tune out – click away – if they are forced to watch more than 30 seconds or so of advertising up front, and maybe another 90 seconds of advertising over the next thirty minutes. Hulu.com, for example, which has already been lionized by many as the future of TV, serves two minutes of advertising for every 22 minutes of programming(i.e. the programming duration of a typical half hour show from television). Assuming identical CPMs for web video and TV, and after accounting for lost affiliate fees, a 30 minute program on the web with two minutes of advertising yields approximately 1/8th as much revenue per viewer.

Are content producers prepared to reduce production costs…by 88%?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Club Penguin adds 1000 words a day to their filter

May 9th, 2008

MMO Week: Industry has been irresponsible with kids // News // GamesIndustry.biz

Merrifield also thinks that there is an over-reliance on technology that ignores the human element, which is why they’ve decided to devote two-thirds of the company’s staff to positions such as safety moderators and customer service.

“We know the limits of technology, even though I would put our filtering software up against anybody’s, especially because of that human element - we’re adding 500 to 1000 words every day to the filters, simply because of slang that works its way into the language.

Jeez, I know professional writers who rack up less word count than that in a day.

6 Comments »
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The five biggest subscription worlds?

May 9th, 2008

Edit: In North America!

NPD has a new report out, where they are starting to track subscriptions. As part of it, they list these as the top five subscription worlds:

1.) World of Warcraft
2.) RuneScape
3.) Lord of the Rings Online
4.) Final Fantasy XI
5.) City of Heroes

Read the rest of this entry »

9 Comments »
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Wages of virtual sin

May 8th, 2008

Oops. Chinese Gold Farmer Accidentally Turns Himself and Partner In To Police | Virtually Blind | Virtual Law

Chinese police arrested the pair after one partner reported the other for unfair revenue distribution. In business since last August, the gold farming operation had 20 employees and generated nearly RMB 1.6 million (US $228,915) in only nine months of dealing.

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From the Fire Pit to the Forbidden City

May 6th, 2008

Dispatches from the Imagination Age: From the Fire Pit to the Forbidden City: An Outsider’s Inside Look at the Evolution of IBM’s Virtual Universe Community

is a 12-page paper that gives interesting insight into IBM’s moves in the virtual worlds space. It’s a mix of forward-thinking (they have people who do nothing but machinima?) and catch-up (I particularly liked the moment where a few IBM staffers decided on a definition of “virtual universe” in 2006 — fortunately, it matches the one all the rest of us use!).

It’s not very long, and it’s an interesting read.

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YA SF/F is rockin’

May 6th, 2008

In the wake of Little Brother coming out, John Scalzi has written a post about Why YA fiction. As regular blog readers know, I’ve been banging this drum for quite a while, citing folks like Scott Westerfeld and Tamora Pierce as authors that shouldn’t be neglected just because their books get shelved elsewhere in the store.

I have a friend with access to BookScan, which tracks book sales through stores and retail outlets, who at my request checked the aggregate bestseller list sales of adult fantasy and science fiction against the sale of YA fantasy and SF. Without mentioning specific numbers or titles, my friend says that last week, the top 50 YA SF/F bestsellers outsold the top 100 adult SF/F bestsellers (adult SF and F are separate lists) by two to one. So 50 YA titles are selling twice as much as 100 adult SF/F titles. The bestselling YA fantasy book last week (not a Harry Potter book) outsold the bestselling adult fantasy book by nearly four to one; the bestselling YA science fiction title sold three copies for every two copies of the chart-topping adult SF title.

So, as a reminder: one of the World Fantasy Awards finalists was what I’d call a YA title, Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword. One of the blockbuster movies this year was Jumper, which I haven’t seen, but which was based on a phenomenal series by Steven Gould. One of the grittiest police procedurals of recent times was Pierce’s Terrier (sequel is out now, I believe). Beautifully written literate fantasy is represented well by stuff like The New Policeman, all of Jeanne duPrau’s books (such as City of Ember, also recently optioned for a movie), or the astonishing Fly by Night.

King of ShadowsAnd of course, in a year that has taken people like Lloyd Alexander and Madeleine L’Engle from us, don’t forget the favorite writers who are still with us. Charles de Lint is writing good juvies lately: Dingo most recently, and The Blue Girl before that. Susan Cooper, whose stunning The Dark Is Rising sequence was recently filmed to mixed results, is still writing, and I just read Victory which was quite good, and King of Shadows which was fantastic.

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Snap-together games

May 2nd, 2008

This is certainly turning into a booming segment. The latest is Microsoft’s Popfly for Silverlight, which has been out for a while but didn’t have any game stuff. But now there’s Popfly Game Creator.

Today we’re adding something special to Popfly: an early version of our Popfly Game Creator. That’s right: Popfly is about more than mashups and web pages. It’s about making it fun to build things and share them with your friends. And one of the things we’ve heard loud and clear is that games are the kinds of things that people would like to try to build.

What kinds of games can you create? Just about any kind of two-dimensional game, a category that includes things like the original Super Mario™, Frogger™, Asteroids™, and a host of other old arcade games. To make it easy, Popfly is still focused on getting as much done as possible without having to write any code. The game creator has over 15 pre-built game templates for you to try, hundreds of images, animations, backgrounds, and sounds for you to use in the games you create, and, of course, a way for you to write code if you reach the limits of what the user interface can do for you. Since this is Popfly, you can still save, share, and embed your creations everywhere from your blog to your Facebook page to your Windows Vista Sidebar.

Just in the last few months we’ve seen this, and Gamebrix, and Sims Carnival

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Guitar hero goes web

May 2nd, 2008

The Guitar Hero Embeddable Widget can be stolen from Wired at the link. I refrained from doing so myself for fear everyone would just sit here and play endlessly. :)

I wonder how long it will be until all this stuff just interoperates? :)

6 Comments »
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ICED, serious game about immigration

May 2nd, 2008

Here’s an interesting serious game: you play an immigrant teen whose objective is to become a U.S. citizen. The opponents in the game? The system.

Breakthrough.tv | ICED

ICED puts you in the shoes of an immigrant to illustrate how unfair immigration laws deny due process and violate human rights. These laws affect all immigrants: legal residents, those fleeing persecution, students and undocumented people.

This aspect of the serious games movement — specifically, what I generically term games-as-propaganda, but Ian Bogost prefers to call persuasive games — seems to have started to boom a little bit.

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