Blogged Out: Spam, Acclaim, Instancing

Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at ...
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week we look at in game spam, Acclaim and instancing in MMOs. Golden Spam Celebrity gaming academic Edward Castronova has been playing World of Warcraft and has encountered some unsolicited in game advertising in the form of a direct 'tell' from another player. It advertised gold sold on a website outside the game. "This on a role-playing server, no less. While I think it may be a first (I've never experienced direct in-game advertisement unless it is sanctioned by the developer, and I haven't heard stories about it either), I can't imagine it is too hard to do, coding-wise. I imagine by next week I will be getting messages from players named UrFr3ndslik3itt00 and B3tsee34D offering low-interest mortgages and rock-hard erections. For me, it's a moment of duh. Duh - of course game communications would become spam conduits. Of course." Some of the comments following Castronova's post express surprise at his incredulity, mentioning similar experiences from many gaming years past. But I have to admit that I'm with Ed on this one, I've only received sales spam once, and that was in Warcraft just last week. It does seem obvious now that people mention it, but I wonder if it is as widespread as some of the commentators think. Or perhaps it is rather more prolific on American MMO servers than it is on the Euro ones? One thing that perplexes me, though, is that surely spam must be fairly successful, because how else do we account for its ludicrous proliferation? If we're all so annoyed by spam, then who is following it up and making the spammer's efforts worthwhile? Make your own gold, you lazy adventurers... A Bold Claim Greg Costikyan has been chewing the cud over the new Acclaim, a fresh publisher which has taken on the name of a defunct misadventure and is trying it all over again with a different strategy. Costik observes: "But of course we now have the new Acclaim, which has about as much relationship to the old Acclaim as the new Atari to the old Atari. Personally, I'd think Acclaim would have negative brand value about now, but then, what do I know. The new Acclaim will apparently import Korean MMOs to the US. My first reaction is "that trick never works"--it's been tried, and it doesn't work. But apparently what Marks wants to bring isn't PvP hardcore titles but casual titles, presumably like Kart Rider, which make money by selling in-game crap instead of charging a subscription. Okay, maybe--but in the US, casual game players, at the moment at least, like single-player titles, and multiplayer hasn't worked real good in the casual downloadable market." That may be true, but it seems as if there hasn't ever really been a good forum for these games. Sure, you might pick them up off some spam to your Yahoo account, but has anyone made concerted effort to make sure the consuming public is at least aware that these games exist? Perhaps the new Acclaim needs a 'mainstream' version of what Costikyan is doing with his Manifesto Games online portal for indie games... or maybe they need a brand name that isn't tainted with the memory of the Total Recall game. For Instance? Finally we have some mammoth posts from Jason Booth (ex of Turbine), who replies to comments made about instancing by Brad McQuaid, CEO of Sigil Games, over on GameGod. Booth attempts to rebuke a few of McQuaid's points about how instances relate to MMOs, and then goes on to make a tonne of other useful points pertaining to their use. McQuaid meanwhile replies to these posts over on GamerGod's Vanguard site. Booth says: "So Brad, if you want people to stop referring to Vanguard and Guild Wars using the same term, you should choose a term which doesn't apply to Guild Wars to describe Vanguard, because I see nothing which makes Vanguard any more MMOG than Guild Wars, by definition or implementation." And McQuaid responds: "But a lot of people do and did. A lot of people thought they were getting a shared experience that would last and have community. I read the posts. So did you. It was sold as an MMOG. And do people feel, regardless of how good a game it is (and I think it is), that it was an MMOG? That they were playing something akin to EQ or WoW? Again, let's let the people tell us." Reading this exchange I can't help thinking of ArenaNet's Jeff Strain saying: "MMOGs are a technology, not a game design." The intention of Guild Wars was to produce a genuine RPG that was massively multi-player, and it did so. Whether or not it betrayed received expectations of the 'persistent world' ideal attributed to many MMOGs seems like a moot point. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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