Hi, This Is Google, I’m Taking Over Your Market, Thx

Google Lively: The Last Virtual World You’ll Ever Desire. Complete with microtransactions!

More coverage: C-Net, Gamasutra.

I expected someone to launch a Second Life competitor this year. I didn’t expect it to be the largest Internet company on the planet.

Google is uniquely poised to validate this space for the mass market… this is not for geeks – this is for everyone

I wonder if Brazilians will take it over.

Dystopia Online

Missed this the first time it went around, so those of you who religiously read Raph Koster’s site (you should!) already saw this. (I noticed it when a link popped up on Quarter to Three.)

MMOs are pretty popular in China these days. And Chinese players already have a bit of a reputation. As this  blog for expatriates in China put it:

“Chinese gamers are an unwelcome species on European and American servers,” said a game manager who once worked on World of Warcraft. Chinese players always have ways of quickly ascending levels that leave European and American gamers in the dust, and on group missions they do not like to respect the tacit rules of profit division. For those “pedantic” European and American gamers, Chinese players are like fearsome pagans. “European and American games do not encourage unlimited superiority of power; they put more of an emphasis on balance and cooperative support.” The former WOW manager said, “Perhaps this is because of the influence of traditional culture and the current environment; truth be told, Chinese gamers are better suited to jungle-style gaming.”

I couldn’t make any of this up.

An online game manager recalled that he once received at the company a gamer who had money but no patience. This gamer came with an inquiry: could he simply pay to purchase high-level equipment? Everyone at the company had a good chuckle at that. Now, the manager sighs regretfully: they did not realize that the gamer represented an immense business opportunity. ZT Online, on the other hand, saw it and achieved success.

Nope. I couldn’t make this up at all.

The game is the brainchild of Shi Yuzhu (史玉柱), an entrepreneur who struck it rich marketing a vitamin tonic called Naobaijin.

No, really, I am totally not this creative at all. For every Western MMO pundit who’s complained about how MMOs use variable level reinforcement or play on the gambling impulse to keep players literally addicted… no. They don’t do that. Because these guys do. And now you can see the difference.

“Gambling” means “opening the treasure chest.” Gamers can buy keys and chests from the system for cheap: one yuan per set. When the key is applied to the chest, the screen will display a glittering chest opening. All kinds of materials and equipment spin inside the chest like the drums on a slot machine as the wheel of light spins. Where it stops indicates what you’ve won. Chests will frequently contain the high-class equipment that gamers desire, but the spinning light wheel always passes over them.

This system was the most diligent gaming system Lu Yang had encountered: it kept people’s hands full with its frequent updates. “You spend money for a sense of security, or you save money and get bullied,” said Lu Yang. “Take one day offline, and you feel like you’ve been left behind. It’s really tiring.” She felt that she was a donkey being led onward by a carrot; there was always some strong “power” before her beckoning her onward, but there was no end to the long journey. And she gradually came to abhor the animosity that permeated the game. RMB gamers who held a grudge wanted to fight to the finish over every little thing. They constantly fought over control of NPCs, assaulted each other’s faction heads, and ceaselessly attacked their opponents’ caravans. In the PK arena they delighted in slaying their enemies. They even saw the top position in the chest rankings as a goal to be taken.

 

If a gamer can open 5,000 chests, another can definitely open 5,001. They called this crazy style of play, “Spending to buy your anger.”

The system continued to update and new ruling techniques emerged without end. Even on the traditional monster-slaying missions, the system moved to allow clans to seize the power to kill a boss from each other. As the ruler of a kingdom, Lu Yang had to lead her troops; if she faltered, some infuriated subordinate was sure to complain.

 

This is the second most popular MMO in China. World of Warcraft is #3.

Imagine if World of Warcraft did this. Imagine if World of Warcraft had the money from doing this.

Imagine if someone wrote a news story about it.

Imagine if Blizzard decided to shut it down.

Don’t imagine.

One of the aphorisms I like to toss around when doing stand-up pontificating (it’s like stand-up comedy, but usually less funny) is that in MMOs, Asia is about five years ahead of the West.

I’m hoping I’m wrong.

Well, This Isn’t Confusing At All

Let’s see, you have lumthemad.net which used to be some ranty blog or another, and is NOT lumthemad.com, which features a blonde woman reading a newspaper and a link to stories about the female libido, and MOST DEFINITELY not lumthemad.org which is another site entirely, and it points to brokentoys.org, which is not brokentoys.com, or even brokentoys.co.uk, which has a picture of a baby. Mind you it’s quite a nice baby, but has nothing to do with this site. lumthemad.net, that is. lumthemad.com points to a domain collector and lumthemad.org is, as mentioned, another site entirely.

And now, thanks to Massively, I see there’s a new site at lumethemad.com. Which seems to be quite a nice blog and is actually sort of relevantly about MMOs, but come on, people. Right now I seem to own 2% of the web domains relating to my own jolly pirate nickname, and it’s dwindling.

It’s a good thing no one uses URLs any more and just stabs random words into Google. This last week people found my blog via the following search phrases:

toys of killers
whores of warcraft
my life console
whores of warcraft miarose
rape games
jonathan yantis
i see what you did there

In related news, the Internet is now closed. Please go find some air or sun or something. I plan on playing Diablo 2 all weekend, myself. Let’s see if I can get up to 20 summoned skeletons!

Today’s Head Scratcher

I know, it sounds wacky, but EA is considering taking The Sims… Online.

A senior executive at Electronic Arts (EA), the company which owns the Sims franchise, said that in light of the popularity of virtual worlds and other computer games which allow players to compete with each other via the web, the Sims may soon become a multi-player game.

In other news, EA’s DICE subsidiary also considering making the Battlefield franchise playable over the Internet.

History: Rated M (Politically Incorrect, Massive Violence, Strong Sexual Content, Smoking)

For you readers who get your gaming news from Variety:

TYRO SCRIBBLER NIXES SID GAME! INFOBAHN CRIX NIX SCRIBBLER! WAR OF GEEK WORLDS!

For those of us who speak English: Variety’s Ben Fritz posted a web article mouth agog that Firaxis is actually making a game called Colonization. Who would ever make such a game? The chutzpah! Such vile calumny has never been seen before!

A game about colonization that’s entirely about controlling the settlers can either force the player to do horrific things or let him avoid doing it and whitewash some of the worst events of human history. Either option is offensive.

So, my first thought: funny, the author doesn’t look Native American. Maybe he thinks that his ancestors arrived via Transwarp drive. Then again, judging from the background, he lives in Los Angeles, which has no history of imperialist aggression whatsoever. So it’s an easy mistake to make, assuming that your entire way of life isn’t predicated on “some of the worst events of human history” — clearly, slavery and the Holocaust being mere warmups to the exploitation of millions of helpless, peaceful native peoples whose only crime was to never research the Bronze Working and Ceremonial Burial technologies.

 

However, my feeble historically based snarkiness is nothing to the all-consuming fiery NERD RAGE that is the Internet gaming culture insulted.

From the bemused

How can you possibly be the designated computer game blogger for a major media outlet like Variety and not have even heard about the original Colonization until a couple of months ago? That’s like getting hired by the New York Times Review of Books blog and making your first entry “I have just heard about a very shocking book celebrating pedophilia. Apparently it’s called ‘Lola’ or something.”

…to the analytical

The original Colonization had a brilliant historical narrative regarding native/European relations. The way the mechanics worked, immediate hostility on the part of the player would be met with quick defeat. You need the natives to survive the early game because they outnumber you, they can train your colonists and they will help you. But as you grow, you will inevitably encroach on their lands and relations will deteriorate. You can win without destroying the natives, but you are forced to make tough choices along the way. I am in no way implying that the genocide of the native peoples was the inevitable result of historical imperatives. But if any game has captured the dynamic between European colonists and the native population, Colonization was that game.

..to the somewhat angry

Just like FPS games aren’t murder simulators, this isn’t a genocide simulator. If you really can’t see that, the least you can do is stop posting your trollish type posts on the internet where I’m subjected to reading them.

Given Mr. Fritz’s righteous fury over Firaxis’ daring to model the founding of every single nation in North, South, and Central America, one can only think that his wrath over Niko Bellic’s journey of assassination, prostitution, and Irish family drama would be terrible and wondrous to behold.

 

Oh, wait.

“Grand Theft Auto IV” marks a huge leap forward for videogames as an immersive experience while making little more than a few tweaks to the ultra-successful franchise’s formula. The technological prowess and artistic detail are so phenomenal and the sheer amount of content is so staggeringly deep that players will find themselves drawn into Liberty City like no other fictional place. Such deep immersion sometimes highlights the flaws in “Grand Theft Auto’s” well-worn formula, but that will be little more than an asterisk for the millions of gamers sure to be carjacking their way through “GTA IV” for a long, long time to come.

Well, come to think of it, I don’t think Niko actually colonized anything. Well, you could colonize Playboy X’s Manhattan loft. That kind of counts, since you have to kill a member of a minority group to take their land. I think this calls for a re-review.

 

But then again, maybe it’s just a struggling blogger trying to get hits and public notice through judicious applicaion of NERD RAGE. Silly writer, that never works.

Gaming Journalism Is An Oxymoron: The Endless Series

Monday: “Age of Conan sucks! And they have no subscribers! Look, we EVEN HAVE A CHART!”

Look! It\'s a chart! This makes us, like, analysts.

Wednesday: “CORRECTION! Age of Conan ROCKS! I’m buying a copy RIGHT NOW!”

When questioned about the seeming slight discrepancy in opinion, facts, and charts, the author had this to say:

I realized after looking up more information that my original conclusions were unfounded.  After all, I have not actually played the game myself.

Well, OK, then.