Category Archives: MMO

Sony Online’s SOEmote software provides you with your Everquest II character’s expressions and voice

Sony Online’s SOEmote software provides you with your Everquest II character’s expressions and voice

This really is going to be a bigger deal than it seems right now, yep.

As a collaborative concoction between Sony, Image Metrics, and Vivox, SOEmote captures your voice and facial expressions and pastes them onto your in-game character. It also modulates your words into the pitch appropriate for your race such as the deep baritone of an ogre or the gnome’s tinny squeak. We at GamesBeat recommend turning off this feature when spilling large, expletive-inducing cups of coffee.

 

In the below video, David Georgeson, Everquest II director of development, demonstrates SOEmote’s capabilities with his mighty Froglok warrior, proving anthropomorphic amphibians look terrifyingly creepy when grinning.

A game company you never heard of – with 60 million registered users

Well, with 60 million users, you might be one of them – but their demographic is much more international than most gamers in my part of the world, and their demographic is much less needful of cutting edge consoles or computers. So my bet is you’re not yet one of them.

Gameforge AG is a privately held German company. They’ve been in business since 2003, and only have 90 employees. They just opened a San Francisco office.

They publish the most successful and popular browser-based game on the planet, OGame, and 26 other games.

Their active users number 10,000,000.

Their games run in 23 different languages, with users in 30 different countries around the world.

A couple of years ago I posted 2005 to 2010 projections for the game industry. Here’s the online drilldown from those projections:

Online gaming drilldown:

2010 long session market (eg MMOs) $4.82 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 26%

2010 mid session market $4.72 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 29%

2010 short session market (eg casual games) $2.5 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 34%

The short session market shows the largest growth, though all of the online markets are the hottest place in gaming growth. GameForge is completely focused on the online market, has a model that satisfies the short session market brilliantly, but that also engages users all the way up to the long session market. I think it’s fair to say they dominate the browser-based market – if you have other games or companies you’d like to suggest as competitors there, please do post a comment. Because GameForge is privately held, I haven’t found any revenues for them – but I am going to conservatively guess they are on the order of $10,000,000 a month, or $120,000,000 a year. The key question for them is how successful they are in converting free users (all their games can be played for free) into customers who pay for upgrades that allow them to play the games more successfully. My estimate is based on the conversion percentage being 5 to 10%. Whatever their revenues, I am quite sure their growth is better than those very high projections for the industry, since they are so succesful within the industry.

The only weakness I’ve seen so far is they haven’t also enabled good mobile access to their games. When people can also play from their cell phone browsers, GameForge will hook way more users, way more solidly. Surely they are working on that.

More about their gaming and revenue models in a later post. Meantime, if you haven’t yet, check out OGame, or any others they publish that look interesting. I’m in Universe 27 in OGame, btw, as Tor. Send me a note. 🙂

Age of Conan and Fun Things To Do With Your Horse

No, it’s not what you thought I meant.

Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-rl3RPC_Mw

As the l33tsp33k comment says:

pwnage ^^

Opinion: MMOs Need a Wii

Here’s the Wired blog post:
Opinion: MMOs Need a Wii

Here’s my answer, posted also there as a comment:

Of course you’re right.

AoC rocks, but will be limited by how narrowly focused it is on adult guys. And I don’t think they’ve left themselves enough room to change that over time.

Hardcore gamers don’t want a Wii, and don’t want non-hardcore gamers to exist.

The problem of a Wii-style game is half a game design problem, and half a content problem.

The game design problem means the game has to actually contain within it multiple different ways to play the game, which variously appeal to the range of players. This primarily means the gameplay needs to make room for true casual gamers (note that’s different from “casual players” of current MMOs). Current MMOers call that “dumbing down” – but the point is the game needs to attract and interest and hook true casual gamers. If you think of this demographically, the game might abandon the attempt to hold hardcore MMOers, to better focus on casual gamers. There are way more than 10x as many casual games as hardcore, so this does not have to be a bad business decisions. Note this also has implications for the business model – casual players aren’t going to pay $15 a month as easily as hardcore MMOers do now.

And the content has to be content that appeals to the full range as well – this probably means the content needs to move toward or into the “real” world, because that’s the content humans have the most common interest in. Maybe a known brand could do it. Most everyone here (readers and commentors at the Wired blog) will piffle this, but here’s the answer, if they design it right:

Harry Potter

Massively multiplayer algebra

Raph Koster’s blog entry with that title got me onto this cool find:

 

Check out Hippasus, an MMO where magic is done via math (shades of DeCamp & Pratt’s Compleat Enchanter). The goal is explicitly to teach math, apparently; you earn power and respect by mastering mathematical concepts in a world that mirrors classical antiquity.

Gotta love a description like this:

Different areas will be culturally, behaviourally, visually, and mathematically distinct to allow for an enhanced user experience.

Here’s the URL to Hippasus: http://www.frozennorth.net/games.htm, and below are some highlights from their info. This is interesting from several perspectives that I’ve been discussing in my blog. It takes the educational application of gaming farther than most others yet, since it is an MMO designed and created with a specific educational purpose. This is much different, much more direct, and likely a much easier sell than using a mainstream commercial MMO for educational purposes. It’s also an independently-produced special-purpose MMO – something Raph and I have both been talking about, and something we will be seeing much much more of in the near future. And those highlights about the game:

Project Hippasus is an online, community-oriented massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) with the explicit purpose of educating its players in various fields of mathematics. Players assume the role of so-called ‘arithmancers’: mages and sorcerers who base their power in fundamental mathematical concepts.

Project Hippasus is a fantasy online role-playing game in which the player takes on the role of a student of magic in a world paralleling classical history. The player undertakes pilgrpics to gain understanding and mastery over the world’s innate magic; learning, perfecting, and creating their own spells. Magic is based off of a logical system with emergent properties. Through the course of the game users are encouraged and helped to develop logical/mathematical skills which allow them to shape their experience as they see fit.

The game takes place in a world that primarily parallels human antiquity. The world will be physically based on a modified Europe, with plans to later expand into Asia and the Americas. The map will include countries inspired by classical Greece, Egypt, and the Indo-Aryan region (Persia and India, notably), 14th century Italy, a Frankish depiction of Germany (5-10th century), and 13-14th century China, along with some amalgamation of Celtic and Norse cultures.
Different areas will be culturally, behaviourally, visually, and mathematically distinct to allow for an enhanced user experience. Characters will be born into different civilizations based on physical traits defined on character creation. A few regions will be determined based on initial physical characteristics, with clothing options and other accessories of those regions being presented to make the final decision on what area to create the character in.
Areas in the world will have different mathematical concepts introduced to the users at different times encouraging exploration and cross-cultural integration as part of the learning experience.

New Escapist issue dedicated to “casual games”

Here’s a link

Escapist Issue 89: About Last Night…

Check out these words from Julianne Greer’s editor’s note:

“So, if the purpose is to entertain, no matter the subject, why do games continuously get bigger and better and brighter and faster? Why are new features/graphics/hours and hours of gameplay added at questionable entertainment value? To push the limits. To utilize new technology. To challenge seasoned players. To please the hardcore.

“Developers are beginning to realize that this might be faulty logic. With more games being made every year, and each of those games, on average, costing more to make, pleasing first and foremost a rather small segment of the population that most people don’t have time to be a part of (no matter how much they might like to), is less than fiscally responsible.”

Uh huh. Especially when one compares how many smaller games could be developed for the price of one top-shelf graphically-intense game?

In Business Casual, Russ Pitts looks at the kinds of games favored by “the other 90%”

Shannon Drake also talks to PopCap games

Though this is off the topic of Casual Games, Richard Aihoshi has a really interesting feature on the future of MMOs – specifically examples of how they are being produced to target demographic niches, rather than to go after the current and usual and established MMO niche. For instance, Disney going after kids with Toontown Online, and teens with Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Even apart from the obvious marketing crossover from things like this, here are some interesting questions that come to mind for me:

How big is the market for online computer-savvy teenagers? Compared to the market of current MMO gamers? How much overlap is there in these demographics (or, more to the point maybe, how little overlap)?

Raph Koster mentioned big media (like Disney) making games, in industry experts at GDC who made predictions about the future of MMOs. But none of them really made the point about smaller and narrower and demographically targeted MMOs. Seems like a Very Important Point – cause of potential market fragmentation on the one hand, and potential market expansion on the other.

2D Pixel Art competition for Second Life

Kerry commented on my post from last week about Second Life competition with info about FakeTown and CityPixel, and they are interesting enough I certainly wanted to blog about and link to them.

Both are online avatar-based MMO communities based on 2D pixel art, rather than 3D modeling and rendering. I posted about pixel art last year: The funkiest art you’ve never heard of

Both are web-based communities/interfaces which thus require no download, are innately cross-platform, and work on far broader a range of computers than to the 3D-based MMOs. In the upper right corner of each of those home pages you can click to visit/play them directly. How’s that for proof of lightweight and immediate availability?

Faketown seems to have a more open model for users to create their own content and “sell” it to others in the community – and, of course, has to deal with people abusing the open model. CityPixel provides an address to email one’s art for review and inclusion. That’s a tough business model call, really. Very open to user-created content, with problems and lots of activity? Or less open to user-created content, with less problems, and less activity?

Either way, it’s an important point that anyone really can can make interesting 2D pixelated art, avatars and objects – a pixel paintbrush and some patience even allows me to do that, and I’m no artist. So these environments are way easier to add content to than are 3D-model based environments. Faketown specifically includes integrated browser-based tools to: “Draw Anything,” “Create Animation,” “Upload Photo,” “Upload Music,” and “YouTube Video Link.”

CityPixel seems to be more polished and/or better funded, and to have a bit more focus on social networking.

Anyone else have the sense these could be killer apps if they are done well and catch on virally and globally? Will one of them take off as an alternative to Second Life and the other 3D MMOs? I’ve mentioned the compelling reasons why they could – most particularly that 1) any computer on the planet running a reasonably current web browser gives someone access to them, no download/client/3D hardware required. And 2) it’s a lot easier for users to create their own interesting and goodlooking 2D pixelated art than it is for them to make 3D.

Caveat: both seem ‘early’ – CityPixel is specifically still ‘beta.’

Anyone using these have feedback for us?

GDC: MMOs, past, present and future

Here’s Alice’s post with notes from the panel discussion

And some highlights here.  So the moderator asks them all for three predictions – veeerry innnteresting!

Raph [Koster]: I would say we are about to see a truly massive explosion in the quantity of online worlds, like Korea saw. The vast majority will not be retail box products. We’re starting to see… you saw darkstar just open sourced a perfectly viable MMO engine. You can pick it up for free. We’re going to start to see a helluva lot more… stuff. Number 2: no offense to megapublishers: I think the most important and significant pubs are going to come from the film and television industries. The most active virtual worlds publisher in the last six months is VIACOM. I really really think that anybody in this room who is not watching the way big media is moving into this space is missing a major, major story. This is a short term prediction. My third one… these are all things happening now that no-one’s noticing, so I’m cheating. 3 is the non-game: the poster child to this is Second Life. That stuff is not going to decline. It’s drawing in insane amounts of investment and attention, all this writing on SL. You saw PS Home? Would that exist without SL? No. Recently on the web you see people checking out all these SL clones… Kaneva, HidiHi…no-one here is paying the slightest bit of attention, and their bragging about the three fundamental concepts: user generated upload, the ability to cash out and make money (whoa ! World of Warcraft it AIN’T!)… And entertainment isn’t going to slip from the number one spot. But they won’t necessarily look like what we think is an MMO.

Mark J[acobs]: we’re going to see a lot more types of games. We’ll see rps, fps,.. explosion in different types of games. After that… lots of corpses. So many failures its’ going to be unbelievable. There’s so much dumb money chasing around this space it’s shocking. Here come the mass media, and they’re shouting, omg we wanna be just like World of Warcraft. Here’s a lot of money, make a great game, but there’s only a handful of people who know how to make it really well. I’m predicting disaster. Number 3 prediction: you’ll see someone beat wow. It wont’ be us. But World of Warcraft, like every other game, will have its day.

 Rob [Pardo]: … because of wow, and all the dumb money and all the publisher pressure, there’ll be lots of games that shouldn’t have been MMOs but would have been great boxed products. Lots of publishers are pushing for that subscription pie, but they’ll fail. Last prediction: from here on out everyone’s going to be thinking globally about their MMOs. Previous to us everyone thought Europe didn’t have a market for MMOs, but we have more than a million and a half in Europe.

Mark K[ern]: our definition of MMO is going to change. The line will blur. Xbox Live Achievements. Lots of box games will take on persistent attributes. The way we pay for our games is completely going to change. No box product gets sold in Asia. Once those channels open up, it’ll be hard to tell what’s an MMO and what’s not. It’s also going to get really cheap to start an MMO. It used to cost 10m dollars to launch a website, once upon a time. It was an arcane art. But nowadays there are solutions out of the box to allow people to build persistent communities. Content is still expensive, but getting in on the ground floor? Much easier to do. Last prediction: lots of experiments in convergence of social networking and MMO virtual space. MySpace… and MMOs. There’s all sorts of crossover opportunity. If you’re running a socnet without a virtual bit of some sort in 5 years you’ll look like a dinosaur.

Daniel [James]: I don’t think big media companies will be able to execute their way out of a paper bag. A lot of people will lose their shirt in this space. Yes. This medium’s going to destroy television. This is great! The advertising business will migrate to this medium. Big media are throwing money away because they realise this is happening. The wrinkle on the social networking… […] … ok going in to wacky land now because everyone’s said all the sensible stuff, I think there’ll be lots of regulatory things arising between what players want and what the government wants.. I’m wondering whether I should offshore myself now in case they think I’m gambling or porn or whatever because of what my players like doing in my virtual space. It’s a television-eater.

Kaneva = Second Life + MySpace ?

Sound like a good idea?  Oh yeah – but a hard thing to get just right.  And it’s gotta be a hard thing to peel people away from MySpace and Second Life.  Social networks are ‘sticky’ as a function of their size (and MySpace is HUGE); and Second Life has to also be naturally sticky based on a user’s investment of time and effort and (maybe) real money.  Still, better to try it now than when there is more competition trying it.  There will be.

http://www.kaneva.com/ is in closed beta now – but the site encourages you to:

1) Join: Join Kaneva, create your profile

2) Be Active: Explore, make friends, rave and have fun

3) Get invited: Earn invites to get into the Virtual World of Kaneva

Brilliant piece of community- and buzz-generation there, isn’t it?  I just don’t have time to check it out – and I don’t think it’s really my thing anyway.  Any Kaneva users have comments?

Overview links:

Communities (ReggaeTown, The NASCAR, Medieval Town, etc…)

People (123,000 so far, in closed beta)

Entertainment (Videos, photos, music, games)

And features of the world:

Homes and Hangouts: “Create your own 3D home and decorate it with your unique style.  Explore community hangouts 0 theaters, clubs and more.”

Customized 3D avatars: (TheSchwartz: Looks like lots of human customization, but no SL-style ability to make non-human avatars)

In-World Fun: “Watch (and share) your videos in 3D.  Throw a dance party.  Chat with friends and play games.”

Shopping: “Make a fashion statement. Accessorize your home.  Be the first to show of the latest, cool stuff.”

Key takeaway: you can spend real world $$$ to buy Virtual World credits, and buy lots of stuff for yourself and your house.  All kinds of thoughts in my head about the social, emotional, self-image, economic and commercial implications of that – but I’ll hold my tongue for now.  Whatever the implications, they’ll surely make a boatload of money, if they succeed in a large-scale launch with millions of users.

Last overview point from the site:

Elite Developers

Are you an experienced 3D game developer?

Join our Elite Developer Program – over 10,000 game engine downloads, 600 developers, and 30 games in development

Join Now -> 

It’s an interesting model to get professional-quality content generated for the new virtual world.  And to check out potential future employees of Kaneva.  And again, I don’t have time to dig into this myself (any comments, anyone?), but check out these bits from the page:

The Kaneva Game Platform is designed for end-to-end MMO game (MMOG) development for FPS and RPG genres. The Kaneva Game Platform (KGP) features many of the latest graphic rendering capabilities, while providing backend and networking features required for supporting hundreds of thousands of simultaneous players.

Q: What’s the cost?

A: Currently, the KGP is free to download and use for non-commercial purposes.

Q: What kinds of games can I design with KGP? What types of games are not appropriate for KGP?

A: Some games for custom platforms would not be suitable for development on the KGP.  This would include cell-phones, most consoles, etc.  But the KGP is an excellent development platform for all kinds of PC games.

Interesting, eh?  We shall see what we shall see…

MMOG / Second Life Competitor Pipeline

Raph Koster’s blog listed some fun new stuff that I just had to link to here. He’s at GDC this week – and I’m not, boo hoo!

The march of the branded worlds continues, as Lego taps NetDevil, makers of Auto Assault and Jumpgate, to create a virtual world about, well, Legos.

LEGO MMO! Woot! Quote from the press release:

“As children around the world continue to spend more time online we are developing new and engaging ways for them to interact with our brand,” said Lisbeth Valther Pallesen, Executive Vice President, Community, Education and Direct Division LEGO Group. “The LEGO brand represents construction, creativity and problem solving – values that compliment the MMOG market. By merging the online world of social interaction with physical play, the LEGO brand is providing new experiences for children, as well as fans. NetDevil’s technological capability, openness to work with a large community, and their enthusiasm for the LEGO brand made them a natural partner.”

And for those who can’t wait, Raph pointed out:

It should be interesting to contrast this to Roblox, which is, well, also an online block building environment.

And a second post from Raph: The Second Life competitors materialize?  I recommend clicking and reading the full post, which includes other links, commentary, screenshots and trailers. But to entire you, here’s his summary first paragraph:

So supposedly everyone is trying to clone Second Life. Here’s word via Mobil Avenue on three different takes on the model, each trying to fix what they see as a key issue: HiPiHi in China, which looks like SL with easier tools; Planet Cazmo, which keeps the house decorating aspect but changes it into a browser-based Animal Crossing lookalike; and finally, reviews trickling out of the closed Kaneva beta, which is putting more MySpace peanut butter in your SL chocolate. Are they really SL clones?