It is Official! Knights of the Old Republic MMORPG

KOTOR Exciting news! BioWare‘s secret MMO project has been unveiled and my hopes are being realized! Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Massively Multi-Player Online Game is slated for release in 2009, and if all goes well, this MMO will deliver where Star Wars Galaxies failed.

BioWare has a track record of developing outstanding computer role-playing games including the recent XBox 360 game that took the world by storm, Mass Effect. That game company can weave a story that rivals the ability of Blizzard and I have high hopes that they will be able to deliver on this MMO. Only time will tell!

Leetster

World of Warcraft, as I’ve mentioned before is a very popular game. WoW, however, is more than just the game aspect…it is extremely social. Players can create guilds – which are organizations in game – and participate in a variety of player created events and interactions with other players. Guilds typically create websites (like this one: Crimson Eagles) to allow these players to communicate, strategize, complain, and brag.

The websites are great…but the drawback is that those websites tend to be closed to those outside the guild, preventing others from seeing how players interact. Enter Leetster. The MySpace or Facebook of the WoW world. Leetster is a web based community site allowing players to create accounts and browse other users that play. Through the site, you can post screenshots, images, links, likes, dislikes, characters, etc. You can add friends and enemies and even use Leetster as a guild website!

The developers oaf and Pakhuda are from the Bleeding Hollow server and seem pretty savvy with JSP (their language of choice for the application) and have been using some pretty snazzy Ajax features for editing your data. Another sweet feature is the ability to completely customize your profile. Here’s mine.

A word of warning, this site is very open…so be aware that rough language may abound and flaming on the forums is typical…but overall its a pretty good time. Its nice to see the faces behind the characters! Since its creation, it has been open to the Bleeding Hollow server for testing but a day or so ago they opened it up to the rest of the WoW community. If you haven’t checked it out, do so! Its a good time!

MMORPGs and Perception of Value

I made a post a little while back that on MMORPG Cheating and received a very interesting and convincing argument from Gaming Freedom that I thought warranted another post. Basically, the previous post was to emphasize how MMORPGs should be taken a little bit more serious when it comes to its future and how they will function as a major recreation tool the world over. I feel this is becoming more of a reality. (see my post on World of Warcract and the future of MMORPGs).

In my previous post on MMORPG Cheating, Gaming Freedom disagrees with my analogy of Racing and fines/rules due to in-game actions. Gaming Freedom makes some good points an writes:

[...]
You’ll never see laws like [those appearing in China] in the states because virtual items don’t cost anything to produce. Yeah, YOU had to work really hard to get that uber sword of usefullness, but that doesn’t mean it has a value. It’s a 1 on a server somewhere. Anyone, with sufficient rights, could choose to give that sword to you. Cars are not the same way. When you damage one there is no easy way to fix it, and the destruction has real costs involved.

Another reason your debunking of the car analogy fails is that you’re ignoring WHERE the fines and suspensions come from. They do not come from state or federal or even county law. They come from the organization which complies with the county, state, and federal laws and THEY are held accountable first. They can then pass off blame if they want, but at the end of the day it is the racetrack, or gaming company, who is ultimately responsible for what happens in it’s private club.

Society will draw the line, I predict, at value. So long as MMORPG’s are housed on servers, and so long as “items” are nothing more than database entries, they will not have any value. No value, no crime. You’ll see legislation around harrassment long before you see it around theft.

The argument has some good points but I don’t fully agree and believe a few points are slightly over-generalized. Its all about:

Perception of Value:
While I agree that the argument can (and is often made) that items in a game have no value…that they are simply entries in a database owned by the company that has ‘invented’ said item. This argument is flawed in that value is all about perception. An object or idea has value because someone believes it has value. I could own a facial tissue that was used by Britney Spears at a concert and cherish it (assuming I like Britney Spears) and consider it extremely valuable. Collectors of oddities such as this may agree with me. Now, what if I had bought that tissue on e-bay for $327.41 and I kept it in a glass case…if I woke up one morning and found it missing, would I not be able to file a police report and if the perpetrator was caught, bring them to court?

Perhaps a used tissue is not a great analogy. What about a Pet Rock? How about a diamond? What sets a diamond apart from a pet rock? Why is one more valuable than the other? Even if the diamond is un-shaped and un-cut, doesn’t it still have more value than the Pet Rock? The only reason a diamond has more value is because society thinks it should have more value. The argument can be made that diamonds are more rare than a Pet Rock made from a random stone…but the importance of rarity is once again based on society’s perception. Society deems that rarity holds more value.

Here are a few other arguments that can be made in regards to the value of a real-world item holding more weight than an in-game item:

  • A real-life sword has more value than an in-game sword because real world resources were used to create it!
    • Not entirely true. In-game items have gone through a lengthy design/modification process regards to how it looks (art), how it functions (rules), etc. A number of hours have been put into the production of the in-game sword by the company that has produced it.
  • But but but wait! In the above statement you say that the company has produced it…so its the property of the company and is valuable to them and them alone.
    • This is also a bad argument. When you purchase a piece of software…Windows XP, Age of Empires III, Photoshop, etc; the software that you install on your system, its cd, its manuals, etc are all property of the company that produces it. Read the End User License Agreement. You are leasing the product. Yeah, you spent $150 purchasing it but that copy is not yours. However, if someone stole your copy of Windows XP, you can call the authorities and if the perpetrator is found, there will be penalties.
  • Pfft…but an in-game sword is just 1′s and 0′s.
    • So is a piece of software. Software is just 1′s and 0′s.
  • Right right right…but the difference between the in-game sword and a real-world sword is that real-world money was paid.
    • Hrm. Fact. But think about it. In MMORPGs, real-world money is paid monthly to play the game. In the game your $15/month is spent playing and attempting to acquire items you view as valuable in-game.
  • You pay $15/month in game to play the game, not $15/month to buy an item.
    • Another good point. But in all actuality you are paying $15/month for time in game. It takes a great deal of time to attain the appropriate level required to find an ‘valuable’ item and even more time in the act of actually finding the item…which could take days, weeks, months, etc.
  • But now you are saying that the item has value merely because of time…you can’t put a price tag on time.
    • Thats just silly. Businesses/offices the world over fire people for theft of time constantly. Projects are designed and given value based solely on time. Time is a valuable and saying otherwise is just silly…especially when you are paying for that time.

I’m sure there are more arguments and I urge people to post them. In-game items have value because a society believes they have value. That society is the MMO gaming comunity and it is growing. As it grows, we will find that that society will have a larger voice than it does now. What will that voice say when those voices are coming from people of power? Heck, we have a national do not call list because enough people hated receiving telemarketing calls…But when it was the ‘people of power’ received those telemarketing calls and finally got pissed off that donotcall.gov was created along with a threat of fines. What happens when a Congressman plays WoW and get pissed that his Vestaments of Prophecy are deleted by someone who maliciously signed in to his account? What happens when the President’s level 60 Warrior in Lineage II is attacked by an unbeatable-bot and has all his hard-earned weapons stolen?

I do agree with Gaming Freedom in that we will see legislation about harrassment in the US long before legislation on theft. Will it go past that? Hard to tell…Its society’s call. And that all depends on the MMORPG movement.

Marketing MMORPGs to Women

There is a discussion going on my Crimson Eagles message boards spawned by the article I mention in The Holy Grail regarding marketing MMORPGs to women. A fellow gamer writes:

I think the female population is left in the dust. From a marketing perspective and a financial perspective, itd be superb to get the female demographic into things like WoW, or gaming in general. [..] Advertising would help but I think it may still be a bit premature for girls to become fully integrated into the gaming society. This is more of a mentality issue than anything else.

One research paper I read found exactly what Carmella was talking about. Carmella said guys and girls both give her funny looks when she talks about WoW. This may be partly because girls seem to have the mentality that they perceive themselves to have peer approval for moderate amounts of game while boys think that it is ok to play ‘a lot’ of video games, and that the popular boys played these video games. [..]

Im digressing. On advertising to a specific demographic, I am with Carmella and think shes onto something. Research has shown that girls are more likely than boys to choose fantasy violence games as favorites (Buchman and Funk (1996)). To me that is an awesome finding that would justify advertising WoW to the female population! I think its wonderful to have this coexistence of both sexes in the game. It provides for a better environment in my opinon. The dynamic of play in all senses is defiantly improved and I think it kinda levels the playing field a bit too. [..] Actually, in my opinion i think most girls are better at playing their character than guys (this is contrary to what researchers say when comparing competency at videogames between genders (Blumberg, Sokol (2004)).

In conclusion, I suppose that as time progresses and the male and female socialization stabilizes, a larger advertising initiative would have the most impact.

Carmella, a major female gamer (that is higher level than me in WoW and much more experienced in MMORPGs) responds with the following:

From my own experience, a lot of women dont really know how to react to the game phenomena. Once we organized a [dinner for 30+ folks] in the area. Some men had brought their GF’s around, their first reflex was to come toward me so they could talk about everyday stuff. When they realized I came as a player wanting to discuss strategies, behavior totally changed. I think part of it might come from the old reflex of ‘What is unknown and undiscovered for a person can become scary’.

As we can see, MMORPGs are becoming increasingly more popular to the world at large (World of Warcraft in particular). These games are now appealing to the masses rather than the small sub-groups of geeks that have been pocketed around the country for years. When I play WoW or discuss WoW in a group setting, I find that more and more women 1) have heard of it and 2) have played it.

These games are morphing into more than simply games…but social software and communication tools. As we see them grow, what effect will they have on the female population? The Sims Online is a good example of a game that is marketed more towards the female population than the male. When will we see game companies begin marketing towards women as much as towards men? I feel the time is fast approaching….Men still out number women in the gaming scene, but those numbers are beginning to balance.

The Holy Grail

I’m a geek…I play World of Warcraft and am part of a guild. A lot of time has gone into the game. What does a lot of time mean? Well, lets just say I am nearing 1,000 hours! So that brings me to the point of this post…I was directed to this article at Tom’s Hardware that details what the true ‘Holy Grail’ is all about. Here’s the gist:

The Grail I speak of is not the cup of Christ that bestows eternal life, but rather something sought after by young men the world over. I speak of the Attractive Female Gamer. A woman who not only possesses the desirable attributes necessary to attract members of the opposite sex, but who also shares the deep love that some of us have for videogames.

Yup. So true. To a gamer geek (specifically of the mmorpg variety), a woman that has the same interests is a truly blessed thing to date/marry yet exceedingly rare! Now, as the article states, a woman that enjoys Solitaire, Bejeweled, Minesweeper, etc is NOT what we’re talking about here…its the woman that plays MMORPGs and fully understands it.

“What’s the big deal?” some of you may ask. Well, when you live with a woman, her needs can conflict with the needs of the game. We all know the game needs to be played. How else are we going to procure the “phat lewts”? So imagine a woman who not only understands the needs of the game, but is as much a slave to it as we are. She knows the reward that comes with countless hours at the keyboard. She understands that sometimes you just have to eat dinner at the computer because your party is counting on you to heal. She will burn a vacation day in order to play when the server is less crowded. In short, she gets it.

My wife (at least for a time) was the Holy Grail for a looong time. She played WoW as much as me and we often wandered around the world of Azeroth together earning m4d l00t and picking on n00bs. Sadly, her work schedule has drastically changed causing a damper on our gaming co-existence. Hopefully, given time, she will dive back in and understand my drive to play once more! So if you’re a male gamer and you find yourself dating/married to such a woman, know that she is a rare jewel to have and you should pamper and promote her gaming as much as possible! If you are a female gamer…you are a blessing to society and should be extremely vocal in your circle of friends and promote the ideas of slaying Onyxia and running Molten Core!