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Blogged Out: MMO Money, Ronin, Good/Bad

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 visit Te...
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 visit Terra Nova's Richard Bartle, designer-without-portfolio Randy Smith, bad/good arbiter Jason Della Rocca, and the Ludologist. - With more news from State of Play III, seminal MUD designer Richard Bartle reports on the workshop held by Sony's Andy Zaffron. His session included some information about the Station Exchange service, for buying virtual goods through Sony's official channels. "The service opened on 2 of 22 possible servers mid-to-late July. As of Thursday last week, these two servers (taken together) had: 4200 accounts registered for Station Exchange (from 30,000 accounts in total) $420,000 in total turnover ($180,000 in characters, $210,000 in coin, the rest in items) 7736 successful transactions [exact amount] Average amount transacted per account is $98.16 [exact amount] Average amount transacted per transaction is $54. Other stats: 1 platinum piece is $11 on one server and $19 on the other." This volume of trade was higher than Bartle expected, but the amounts spent were greater. We'd argue that those who use Station Exchange will be the people for whom the idea is not a problem - perhaps the lower spenders are more likely to come in later, as the legitimacy of the idea spreads? - Meanwhile, over on the website of 'Ronin' game developer (and lead designer of Thief 3) Randy Smith, there's a minor hubbub of activity. Smith has updated his site with new game reviews in relation to his participation in the Edge Magazine awards, the latest of which is the excellent Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, for which Smith's one-line review (though he does have a much longer, more sensible one on the next page) is: "This game made me drive with my knees." He's also posted up a great deal more design-related reading material, including a guide to designing power ups and an analysis of design fundamentals for the pioneer stealth series, Thief. - Also in reviewing mode is the IGDA's Jason Della Rocca, who has a few words to say about the most popular book in the blogosphere, Steven Johnson's latest, "Everything Bad Is Good For You - How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter". Della Rocca isn't entirely comfortable with the disconnection of moral of judgements that Johnson makes in the larger part of his book, so, (at the risk of spoiling the end), he was relieved by how Johnson wraps things up: "As someone who deals with the emotional side of the debate over the goodness/badness of games, it is clear that not everyone can appreciate the orthogonality of content vs gameplay complexity. So, I was happy that Johnson came back to the issue in the last few pages of the book, in effect arguing that content is pretty irrelevant and has minimal impact (and pointed to some pretty useful references in the process)." - Finally, 'the Ludologist' Jesper Juul quietly points to the Nobel Prize awards gifted to the founders of game theory, Thomas Schelling and Robert Aumann. From the BBC: "Professor Aumann's work has centred on a different element of game theory, the question of whether co-operation increases if games are continually repeated. He showed that co-operation is less likely when there are many participants, when interactions are infrequent, when the time horizon is short or when others' actions cannot be clearly observed. " Reading this inspires Juul to ask: "Does say a thing or two about online games, no?" Perhaps it says that developers need to do a lot of reading, particularly before they make that plunge into the MMO pool. [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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