Play Urja: First-Person Strategy Game by Famed Anonymous Second Life Creator -- Now On Sale for 99 Cents on Steam

Urja is a strange and beautiful-looking first-person strategy game that came out a couple years ago but is now on sale on Steam for just 99 cents here.

As it happens, Urja was created by a famous Second Life creator whose avatar name I can't mention for reasons of privacy, but if you're a longtime SLer, you almost certainly know about him (or her). I will say Urja looks like it draws from similar fantastic visuals and sense of surprise and wonder this artist was renowned for in SL. Anyway, instead of belaboring that point, here's some more about the game:

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What Pokémon GO Needs to Keep Thriving: Veteran MMO Game Designer Raph Koster Explains

Pokemon Go Raph Koster MMO

"Augmented Reality is an MMO" is a widely-discussed analysis of Pokémon GO by veteran MMO game designer Raph Koster, explaining why the AR-based blockbuster is basically a massively multiplayer online game that's soon to encounter many of the problems MMOs face, with those problems now threatening to impact the real world even more. (As they're starting to already.) Since this is the first augmented reality hit and since so many play it (including me), I asked Raph what Pokémon GO's developer, Niantic, should do to keep its virtual economy stable and help insure the game itself doesn't become a short-term fad.

"They need to create a sense of interdependence between players, so that other players are always seen as a mutual benefit," Raph tells me. "They need to provide support/redress facilities for problems, and anticipate that the problems will arise."

But how to build interdependence? "Roles is the classic way." He means something like classic MMO classes such as tank, healer, etc, but “it doesn't have to be those. After all, goalie, striker, midfielder, defender are also roles.”

Perhaps an even greater concern is how Pokémon GO's virtual economy is managed:

"Seems clear it's an inflationary system right now, very few drains," says Raph. (A drain or "gold sink" is a game mechanic which removes virtual currency or valuable items from the game economy, to reduce inflation.) "If [player-to-player] trading comes, real money trading will happen instantly... Once there is trade, it's classic Mudflation." (I.E., where the value of virtual items in a game become grossly over or under-valued based on player supply and demand.)

"It's pure faucet. The creatures never die. That's where value pools. Mudflation ahoy."

As for maintaining Pokémon GO usage over the long term, Raph has a very interesting suggestion there:

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Warcraft Earns More in China Than All US & EU Combined

Witness the power of a massive country shaped by the massive popularity of massively multiplayer online games. (At least that's one key factor.) As of now, Warcraft has grossed $156M in China versus $148 in the US and the rest of the world (mainly across Europe). All respect to Jackie Chan, I don't think this means Hollywood is going to start making movies in Chinese, but it is going to impel more US movies primarily catering to the Chinese audience's interests -- including and perhaps especially MMOs and other online games. League of Legends: The Movie, anyone?

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Can High Fidelity & Project Sansar Compete With MMOs Like Worlds Adrift?

I told you about the island creator for Worlds Adrift, now look at some of the fantastic islands beta users have already created and seen incorporated into the single-shard MMO:

To me this captures the magic that made Minecraft so massive, translated into truly massive MMO scale:

Worlds Adrift is a persistent sandbox - every tree that falls and every item crafted will exist and remain where it is forever, until you or someone else interacts with it... Join thousands of players in a shared world at the same time and explore a vast sky of procedurally generated islands... Experience truly emergent gameplay with no set missions or quests in a huge multiplayer sandbox. There's no XP or leveling-up, your progress and skill will be driven by accumulating knowledge and artifacts, not by mouse clicks. With no rules or boundaries, you create your own adventure.

It's important to see upcoming virtual worlds we write about a lot, specifically High Fidelity and Project Sansar, in relationship to MMOs like these that are launching around the same time:

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Free Worlds Adrift Island Creator: Design Your Own Floating Isle, Upload It For Others to Play In

The Worlds Adrift Island Creator, as the name suggests, is a free building tool for the upcoming single-sharded, fully simulated MMO. (Brief tutorial above.) The tool not only lets you build your own island, but insert an avatar into the finished mini-world, to explore what you built first-hand (so to speak). Even cooler: You can upload it to Steam Workshop for others to download and play in, and even get a chance to have it added to the official MMO when it launches:

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Ready Player One 3D Avatar Creation Contest: Winners Get $1000 & Chance to Appear in Spielberg's Adaptation

Ready Player One 3D Avatar Contest

Cool avatar design contest run for Steven Spielberg's upcoming adaptation of the Ernest Cline novel: Design a 3D avatar in a typical file format (.ma, .mb, .obj, .fbx, .ztl), follow the rules and submit here, and five entries win $1000 and a chance to have that model depicted in OASIS, the film's version of Ready Player's metaverse. Looks like a full-mesh version of a Second Life avatar could work as an entry (long as you send it in original file form.)

If you do submit, let me know: I'd love to feature submissions in upcoming New World Notes posts!

Watch Ernest Cline's announcement of the contest below. And yes, Cline used to hang out in Second Life before the novel was published.

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Scaling Single-Sharded Virtual Worlds: Eve Online & Second Life Vet Jim "Babbage" Purbrick Explains

I'm highly biased but I think this presentation by my pal Jim "Babbage Linden" Purbrick gave to Facebook developers recently is pretty damn interesting:

Now at Facebook himself, Jim explains how he helped scale Second Life during its high growth period, and just as important, connect it to the web through APIs, then went on to do the same with Eve Online. Some highlights:

  • Discussing Linden Lab's "firebreak" strategy to stop grey goo attacks in SL. (Around 13 minutes in.)
  • What Suzanne Vega's appearance in SL (see video below) taught Jim about scaling. (Around 16 minutes in.)
  • Interestingly, judging by concurrency rates, Eve Online is slightly less active than SL. (23 minutes in.)

Also: epic space battle. After watching it, I got to chatting with Jim on Facebook Messenger (of course), and he made some really interesting points about scaling VR-enabled virtual worlds I'll discuss in a future post.

By the way, here's the video I shot of the Suzanne Vega show in SL which happened (wow) almost exactly ten years ago:

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Black Desert MMO Sells 400K Copies in One Month

Playing Around

Avatar created by Connie Sec in Black Desert's Character Creator

NWN readers aren't the only folks interested in Black Desert, the Korean-made MMO with impressive avatar customization capabilities. VentureBeat reports:

Korean publisher Daum Games has sold more than 400,000 copies of its Black Desert Online MMO role-playing game after only a month on the market in Europe and North America. The developer brought the fantasy game to the West in March at $30, $50, and $100 pricing tiers, and it has instantly clicked with a large audience. Daum thinks the game will likely even keep growing its momentum moving forward, which is proof that the MMO market can support more than World of Warcraft and an endless pile of free-to-play competitors.

I know many NWNers installed the free avatar customizer -- has anyone gone ahead and grabbed the whole thing? Here's some stunning in-world footage in case you're on the fence:

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Linden Lab's Blocksworld Now Lets Users Sell Their In-Game Creations for Real Cash - First for a Mobile Game?

Blocksworld Linden Lab iPhone

Blocksworld from Linden Lab is now available for iPhone (in addition to iPad), and that transition comes with a pretty big announcement that hasn't gotten much coverage:

To date, Blocksworld players have published more than 2.7 million creations, and more than 700,000 player-created models are currently for sale in the marketplace. The Blocksworld coins that creators earn can be used to purchase additional content within the app, including themed building sets and models. Now, eligible Blocksworld creators will also be able to redeem Blocksworld coins for real money.

Linden's Peter Gray just explained to me how that works:

"Today, creators who have earned at least 20,000 Blocksworld coins (by selling models they've created) are eligible for redemptions, and they're presented with an in-app message giving them the option to redeem their coins at a rate of $10 per 20,000 coins." That's a starting rate/eligibility point, he says, which may be adjusted in the future. "If an eligible creator opts to redeem his or her coins, they're asked to provide the e-mail address for their PayPal account (a parent's account for those under 13), which they then need to verify."

That's pretty great, especially since Blocksworld is very much in the Minecraft-esque genre, and there's so much great user-generated content already happening in the game.

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Sims-Like Games Make Second Life Seem More Like Second Life (If You Know What I Mean)

Life2 Second Life

Aemyth has a really interesting review of two Second Life-based games which used a heads-up display (or HUD) to turn your open-ended Second Life experience into a simulation game. G&S is medieval-themed, which means your avatar will engage in mining, crafting, carpentry, fishing, and raising animals. Life 2, as the name suggests, is pretty much The Sims in Second Life, tracking your basic needs like hunger, thirst, bathroom trips, and so on -- see the HUD above.

Here's Aemyth's final comparison between the two games:

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