|Lies, Damn Lies, and Virtual World Accounts||2007-07-20 19:25:00 GMT
by Kami Harbinger
There's lies, damn lies, and numbers of accounts reported for virtual worlds.
Richard Bartle's list of "The five most important people in the virtual world" has this "gem" of statistics:
The 8.2 million "Total Residents" is not even remotely "people who have tried Second Life at least once" (it may reasonably be in the 4-6 million range), but that's not the worst of it.
But Richard's next statistic is even more wrong. First, according to Wikipedia's article on Lineage, "NCsoft has reported that Lineage had at one point more than three million subscribers". For Lineage II, it says "reporting 610,918 unique users during the month of March 2007"... The Second Life economy page says "Residents Logged-In During Last 30 Days: 889,914". SL is 45% larger than L2.
Second, the number of accounts ever created in Lineage are totally meaningless, because Koreans often play on temporary accounts at netcafes. An "account" may only be used for one session. A single player can easily use dozens or hundreds of accounts. That's why there's more accounts than Koreans.
User-hours are the only metric that can be reasonably compared between VWs, and most of them won't report them, because they know how bad it makes them look. I had 4 accounts on FFXI (one main, three mules in different cities so I could use their auction houses). But I never spent more than a few minutes a day as the mules, I spent several hours a day for 9 months as my main. I have accounts on Runescape and several others, but I only played them for an hour or so each. Those accounts should only count as a single user-hour, while my FFXI usage was close to 1000 hours. I have a main account and an alt that I use for permissions testing in SL. I log into my alt maybe once a month for a few minutes, check something, and log out.
Well, in the sense that they wouldn't be talking to Richard Bartle, I suppose that's true, though he might have ended up another Julian Dibbell or the like. If Rob Trubshaw hadn't built his timesharing system, and Bartle hadn't managed to make MUD commercial, VWs would still have come from PLATO and Habitat, and reporters would be talking to someone else. I played Avatar in the latter years of PLATO, and it's indistinguishable in genre from any modern MMORPG. I never got to play the original Habitat, but I've played Club Caribe, and it's very Second Life-like.
Gygax and Arneson introduced the idea of the role-playing game; taking the part of a single hero piece in a game instead of just controlling it from above. They're the originators of the idea. Colossal Cave, Rogue, and PLATO's dnd followed from that, and MMORPGs were inevitably going to follow from those.
For earliest appearance, it's Oubliette, not MUD. Richard Bartle repeatedly claims in his blog and on other blogs that Oubliette and Avatar had no persistence, despite the ability to play it and assurances by the original developers that it does, and despite the fact that MUD1 was regularly reset, and therefore wasn't persistent!
For most innovative, that's clearly either Avatar or Habitat. MUD was just Colossal Cave for multiple players, but Habitat was weird and yet recognizably comfortable.
And for greatest direct influence, DikuMUD is the source of all modern MMORPGs. While it was certainly based on MUD, it threw out much of what MUD or any other derivative had done (which infuriates many of the old-time MUD developers), made the gameplay simple and mechanistic, and it succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. You can't play EverQuest, DaoC, FFXI, WoW, or almost any other MMORPG without playing DikuMUD.
|William Gibson not cool enough for Gibson||2007-07-10 00:45:00 GMT
by Kami Harbinger
William Gibson visited Second Life recently:
Ha ha! There is nothing funnier than the self-proclaimed "coiner of the word cyberspace" getting mocked by real cyberpunk virtual world inhabitants for not being cool enough.
But he should expect that. He's the archetype of one of his own stock characters: the washed-up old has-been who's out of style, out of touch, and clinging onto the spotlight only through inertia and money... Totally last year, maybe just last season.
Admittedly, I'm not Gibson's biggest fan anymore. I was for a few years; reading "Johnny Mnemonic" in OMNI Magazine was one of the most formative influences of my life, and I read Neuromancer over and over and over. But as I read more of his works, and found out why they had their flaws, the shine came off.
Back in the '80s, he was a poseur who didn't use the Internet or BBS's or computers, didn't have a computer, wrote on a typewriter, and based his "Matrix" on arcade games. I liked his gritty urban settings and the cybernetics, but the second he started talking about computers, my eyes rolled out of my head. The Matrix never made any sense, but that's because it was written by someone with no idea what he was writing.
Most of his '80s short stories were awesome. Neuromancer was still really good as long as you ignored Case's work, and Count Zero was okay, but Mona Lisa Overdrive was weak. Then he started his new, unrelated stories. His artsy things like Agrippa and his movie are not good. Virtual Light was a bad ripoff of Snow Crash (similar characters, similar writing style), and the rest of his books have been worse. I stopped reading halfway through Idoru because it had been done better in REAL LIFE a year or two before, and stopped reading Gibson. So that's, what, 20 years since he wrote anything good?
He's sort of tried to catch up to at least the late 20th century in the last few years, but his blog is hideous and unusable and rarely contains anything but him linking to stuff days, months, or years behind the rest of the Internet, and I sure don't expect anything good from his new book.
So, wait, I'm Cyberpunk Boy #1, and I don't like Gibson? What cyberpunk do I read, you ask?
I've always been much more partial to the books of Pat Cadigan; Mindplayers, Fools, and Synners ("Change for the machines! We must all change for the machines!" "If you can't dance with it, fuck it, or eat it, throw it out!") were fantastic, and she continues to write good cyberpunk books; Tea From an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital use the mechanics of MMO VWs in good murder mysteries, stories that actually make sense and aren't just travelogues. Or
Bruce Sterling writes weird stories about uncomfortable people in unpleasant futures (or near-presents, in some cases), and I recommend them all. Schismatrix, Crystal Express, Islands in the Net (if you didn't like it the first time, try re-reading it now, and you'll see why it's brilliant), Globalhead, A Good Old-Fashioned Future, The Difference Engine (half Gibson, still good), even more recently Zeitgeist. Well, okay, Heavy Weather was pretty bad. No excuse for that.
Lance Olsen's Tonguing the Zeitgeist is very amusing.
Greg Egan is mind-damagingly good. Seriously, read Axiomatic, and you will be broken/fixed for life. All of his books are just as good, but few are that concentrated a dose of life-changing weirdness.
John Barnes ranges from heroic Heinlein homage to nightmarish, often in the course of a series. The Century Next Door series and Mother of Storms especially.
Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is pretty nifty, and you can get a free download and avoid cutting down trees; but toss him some whuffie, okay?
Right now I'm halfway through Charles Stross's Glasshouse, enjoying it immensely, but apparently in the future, everyone will be a sociopath (or Charlie just hates people, which is more likely, as he's a recovering bastard sysadmin from hell).
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