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July 12, 2005

Divorce and Virtual WorldsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is nearly a couple of weeks old, but Pacific Epoch reports that a Chinese divorce case involves a serious dispute over virtual goods (Game Accounts Take Center Stage In Divorce).

A divorce in Chongqing has turned ugly when both parties want their joint online game accounts, Chongqing Business Post reports. Mr. Wang from Chongqing and Ms. Ye from Huibei met last September on Shanda's (Nasdaq: SNDA) online game Legend of Mir 2. Wang saved Ye's character from being killed by another player. The couple married at the end of October but decided to get a divorce in June. During their marriage, the couple jointly played over ten Mir 2 accounts, attaining level 40 to 50 status for all of them. The characters and virtual items are estimated to be worth 40,000 to 50,000 Yuan. [$5,000-$6,000] Wang said that he wants to keep the accounts and virtual items and is willing to give their joint apartment to Ye. However, Ye wants to split the apartment and game items equally.
How would you determine the value if it was a violation of the EULA to sell the items? via IFTF's Future Now

July 06, 2005

Man vs. Machine on the Chess Board: Computers VictoriousEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ed Felten declares computers the winner in the man vs. machine chess arena (Chess Computer Crushes Elite Human Player).

This may seem inevitable in hindsight, but for the longest time people insisted that human chess players had something special which computers could never duplicate. That was true, up to a point. ...
Chess computers have succeeded by ignoring what human chessplayers do best, and doing instead what computers do best. And what computers do best is to run programs written by very clever human programmers.
Hmmm ... sounds like another challenge for computing.

Podcasting for the XBox 360?Email This EntryPrint This Article

So, the next generation XBox360 is going to have all sorts of cool multimedia abilities and its connectivity through XBox Live is being heavily touted (XBox360 Fact Sheet).

So, will Microsoft dare permit podcasting to the XBox? If they do, which artists will they allow to try to reach this market? How might podcasting be integrated with games? I think of the faux-radio stations in Grand Theft Auto, as a very basic example.

Dare we imagine the possibities for broadcatching video content, say for example, machinima? Doesn't it make sense to deliver machinima film festivals to gamers who would subscribe?

How forward thinking is Microsoft?


What better way to deliver short video reviews of upcoming XBox titles? Of course, Microsoft could simply use it as some sort of advertising channel, but why not let known, responsible outlets have access to provide podcasts/broadcatch for their independent reviews?

Imagine a Penny Arcade feed - why not?

June 29, 2005

If Violent Videogames Cause Violence, Where's the Crime Wave?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Reason's science correspondent, Ron Bailey, is unimpressed with studies that purport to show a connection between violent videogames and real-world violence (Video Violence = Real Violence?).

June 24, 2005

Window Into a Virtual WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

New World Notes reports something extremely cool coming from Linden Lab: live video from Second Life, the most innovative virtual world out there (Links of the Week!: An SL Simulcast and a Movie Trailer...). Très très cool! Go to the Second Life homepage and click on the television set labeled "live video." Be prepared for loud music that I couldn't figure out how to turn off. It is, literally, a window into a virtual world. How long will it be before we hear the cry: "I Want My Second Life TV!"?

Reuben Steiger, who works on Second Life at Linden Lab, explains the reasoning behind this very amazing innovation (Video From a Virtual World).

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world that is 100% created by its 32,000 residents. The challenge this presents us at Linden Lab is that all the action that takes place in Second Life is very compelling; whenver we sit down and show it to someone, their mind is summarily blown and they very often sign up for an account. The problem is a chicken and the egg one -- showing Second Life in person isn't scalable and screenshots just don't do it justice. You really need to see avatars flying around, building amazing creations, chatting with eachother in order to get it. The energy of that experience is what sells Second Life -- the raw, unedited magic, but until recently we couldn't bottle the magic.
He says this is profound. It is. Read the whole thing.

When are we going to get a "Best of Video," Reuben? How long do you think it will take before members of Second Life demand the right to broadcast out on their own? Will Cory Doctorow's book signing be carried on Second Life TV? I can't wait to see what happens with this.

Very exciting, innovative stuff.

June 22, 2005

UK Parents Ignore Videogame RatingsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC News reports on a study in the UK that found parents ignored videogame ratings when purchasing games for their children (Parents 'Ignore Game Age Ratings').

A study commissioned by the UK games industry found that parents let children play games for adults, even though they knew they were 18-rated.
Although the study was in the UK, I imagine similar results would be found in the US. Of course, this will just encourage our public nannies to cry out for legislation so that parents don't have to, you know, actually parent. Parents in the UK seem more concerned with the amount of game play, rather than the type of game. I'm not sure that is a wrong attitude. via Techdirt

June 20, 2005

Kiss Me, I'm an AvatarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

New World Notes has an amusing story of a virtual/real life love story (with a business specializing in erotic animations) (Making Love).

“We stood toe to toe and I wrapped the animation to our bodies,” says Phil. He had to modify the animation to make all the body parts come together just right. He also worked on making it more passionate, with his fingers tracing up her back, his granite body pressing ever more closer into hers. Recounting it now, he laughs. “Every time I tweaked it I got an ‘Oooh’ out of her. Was a ton of fun.” And though this kiss really only involved a depiction of their two animated characters together onscreen, he says, “[T]he first Second Life kiss was awesome and special. Just as special as the first in real life.”
Read the whole thing.

Sen. Schumer Wants to Block Sales of Violent Videogame '25 to Life'Email This EntryPrint This Article

Rather than expend effort on something productive, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) prefers to posture against violent videogames (NY Daily News | Violent Game Furor).

"[25 to Life is] the worst in a series of violent and gruesome games that lower the common denominator of decency," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is trying to block the game from hitting stores in September.
One wonders why a Senator wouldn't leave the protests to some other organization or, in the alternative, try to pass some legislation. You know, because he's a Senator. More here: GameDailyBiz | NY Senator Seeks Ban of "25 to Life".

June 18, 2005

Podcast GamesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Shifted Librarian points to an "audio literature trivia game": Who Said? (The Perfect Podcast for Librarians).

Every other day or so, I'll make an audio recording from a novel. It will be short passage, always something a character says. Your task will be to guess the character, book and author.
Lots of good marketing opportunities here, I think.

June 14, 2005

Sex Mini-Game in Grand Theft AutoEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A rumor that had been floating around this weekend about a hidden, sexually explicit mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had been debunked by Gamespot Rumor Control, but now they aren't so sure (Rumor Control: GTA PSP Screens and (More) Real-Time PS3 Demos).

Initially, UK Resistance pointed out that many of the graphics look "awful and amateur," so RC [Rumor Control] gave it a "probably bogus" determination. But over the weekend, RC was sent "evidence" from Gtasanandreas.net that the hack was "real." In fact, the evidence was even more mature in nature. So while its origins are unclear, there is a San Andreas sex minigame out there.
NSFW screenshots here: GTA San Andreas Hack -- Confirmed as Real. I can't confirm this hack, but if true, it shows that Rockstar Games really enjoys taunting would be censors.

June 13, 2005

Virtual Reality WeaponsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

reBang Weblog brings a nasty little weapon for Second Life to our attention that will likely crash the client of those it has targeted (Recipe for a Metaverse: One Part Virtual Weapons). There is even a nice little catalog-like advertisement for it.

Simply rez one of these objects and set the target’s name using “/500 target name". If that target comes into the same sim and with in 96m of the DBomber, the DBomber will send them over 15000 blue dialog boxes, along with 15000 notecards. It screws the client, and it doesnt stop when the avatar logs out, it will continue to pump notecards to their account even whilst logged out, if they come with in 96m of the DBomber, they WILL get 15000 notecards, and many Dialogs(the dialogs dont conintue after the avatar logs out, the notecards do though :) :) ).
I've certainly had my testing login severely impaired by DBomber whilst testing, and seen quite a few complete lock ups.
One admires the cleverness, but hopes that this sort of thing doesn't ultimately destroy the space. UPDATE 2155PT: In the comments, James Grimmelmann points out that this weapon likely violates the terms of service.

What are the Democrats Thinking?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Over on C|Net News, Declan McCullogh blasts Democrats for supporting bills that would regulate videogame violence (What's Behind the Video Game Witch Hunt?). He's got a point:

"In most cases these bills have been introduced by Democrats," Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, told me on Friday. "They've come from people who have aspirations for national office. They come from people who are interpreting the 2004 election as a values election and the Democrats lost on values. One way to recapture values is to attack violent entertainment, especially video games. It's a cold, calculating political effort."
Indeed. Seriously. What is wrong with the Democrats? They heavily favor Hollywood over Silicon Valley in the copyfight, and they go after videogames in a way that they don't go after Hollywood (though they talk about it a bit). Why are they doing their best to turn off the next networked generation? There have got to be better ways to demonstrate their social conservatism.

June 08, 2005

Pharmaceutical Patent Law Boardgame, No, SeriouslyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Patential is the boardgame for pharmaceutical patent geeks everywhere! Patential Details:

Be the first to reach $1 billion. Get rich. Become famous. Help millions of people solve their health problems - show us your Patential Game!!
Patential - a whirlwind tour through the exciting and in-depth business and legal world of the drug development process - is the first game of its kind.
The game dives deep into the realms of the drug approval process. You see your pharmaceutical's development from inception to sales as you learn everything you need to know about securing a patent, the Government drug approval process, and bringing your newly-developed product to market.
Read a fairly in-depth and positive review from RPGNet: Review of Patential.

via I/P Updates

Virtual Evolution in Second LifeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

New World Notes, the blog of an embedded reporter in the virtual world Second Life, reports on an intriguing experiment in artificial intelligence and virtual evolution of a school of fish (Evolving Nemo). Some of the stuff that is going on in Second Life is simply amazing. Be sure to read the comments. via reBang

June 07, 2005

Violence in Videogames: A DebateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Many others have pointed to this point-counterpoint interview on 1up.com, but it is worth reading simply to see all the arguments brought in favor of censorship (Head to Head: We Grill the Guys on Both Sides of the Violence-in-Videogames Debate). I always wonder if these people really believe in the arguments they are making why they don't simply argue that we have to get rid of the First Amendment all together.

June 06, 2005

California's Anti-Violent Videogame Bill StallsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Not too long ago, I wrote about the anti-violent video game bill being considered in California. I think it was one of the worst drafted bills I've ever seen (The Annotated AB450 - California's Latest Anti-Violent Videogame Bill is the Most Poorly Written Legislation I've Seen in a Long Time). Good news. The bill doesn't seem to be going anywhere, according to a Reuters report on C|Net News (Push for California Violent Game Bill Stalls). Of course, it'll be back, either at the end of the session or next year. via Michael Geist's Internet Law News

June 04, 2005

South Korea Hack All About the GamesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I didn't get too excited about reports earlier this week that Microsoft's MSN network in South Korea had been hacked, thanks to a failure to install security vulnerability patches. See this AP report in WIRED (MSN Snared in Korean Booby-Trap). However, today C|Net News reports that the criminals were attempting to get the logins for Lineage, the wildly popular MMORPG (MSN Korea Hack Targeted Online Gamers). Lineage is a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. It would be interesting to learn what the criminals would have been done had they been successful. I imagine that the hackers would attempt to sell character equipment on the thriving market for virtual goods, but who knows. Fascinating.

May 30, 2005

Illinois Lawmakers Pass Anti-Violent Videogame Law - Awaits Governor's SignatureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

They most likely won't have to wait long, the governor has been pushing the bill. WIRED carries an AP wirestory reporting on the law passed this Saturday by Illinois' legislature (Violent Video Games: Not Our Kids). I'll be looking for more information on this story as it develops.

Cellphone Videogame GlutEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Russell Beattie has a very colorful illustration of what he calls the mobile games bubble (Mobile Games: Supply Vs. Demand). The supply of mobile games is outstripping demand and many of the companies producing them will likely go out of business. Good riddance I say. Beattie's illustration essentially shows that the vast majority of games are nothing more than ports of games from the last 30 years of videogaming. Of course there is glut of supply. The only people who are really making money are the cellphone companies. Turn cellphones into open platforms and then supply and demand will really be able to operate.

May 27, 2005

Librarians Gone Wild (with Videogames)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Jenny Levine reports on the good times had by librarians at the "Gaming@YourLibrary" presentation. I've always thought that videogames have a place in libraries, and The Shifted Librarian is making it happen (Gaming @ Your Library Sessions Blogged!). See also, Gaming Photos Up on Flickr.

Several people told me that they hadn't expected to enjoy themselves so much, and that you truly don't understand gaming until you experience it yourself. You haven't lived until you've seen a roomful of librarians competing against each other in Mario Kart and DDR! In fact, several people stayed after the second session ended just to keep playing (and I think Dan B. probably stopped to purchase a PlayStation and DDR package on his way home!). We even had a few extra minutes to let some of our staff play, including our executive director, Alice Calabrese!

May 25, 2005

The Annotated AB450 - California's Latest Anti-Violent Videogame Bill is the Most Poorly Written Legislation I've Seen in a Long TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Once more into the censorship breach my friends. Once again it is the California Assembly that is seeking to require the labeling of violent videogames and restrict their sale to minors, see, AB450. The bill is scheduled to be considered next week. The Int'l Game Developers Assoc. is asking for citizens to write their state representatives in opposition to the bill (AB450 Letter).

You know, one of the things that I don't like about this bill is not only is it anti-free speech, but it is incredibly poorly drafted. It is like adding insult to injury. Geez.

As I've done before, another obsessively annotated look at this farcical (and free speech attacking) bill...

Continue reading "The Annotated AB450 - California's Latest Anti-Violent Videogame Bill is the Most Poorly Written Legislation I've Seen in a Long Time"

Virtual Worlds Fear Copyright LiabilityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ed Felten relates the story of an MMORPG that didn't provide virtual music instruments to the participants for fear they would use the virtual instruments to make copyrighted music and get the company that ran the virtual world in deep trouble (A Land Without Music). Ridiculous? Companies have been sued for providing the ability to create superheroes in a virtual world when players create versions of copyrighted comic book characters. See, EFF, Marvel v. NCSoft. Yes, there is something wrong here.

May 24, 2005

Baudrillard and the Virtual CowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Eric Goldman points to an interesting and amusing paper on the real world impact of virtual worlds (Compartmentalization v. Immersion in Virtual Worlds). The paper discusses whether a virtual cow farm game (Vacheland.com "cow country" [French]), developed for a French agricultural region "to explain the complexities of agriculture while creating a new image of farming," succeeded in changing citizens' attitudes towards farming (conclusion: only limited success, if that).

Read the 10-page paper: Can Simulation Games Influence Citizen's Attitude and Behaviour Vis-a-Vis Online Public Debate? [PDF]

Although more than 320,000 people visit the website daily to care for their virtual cow, it has not changed their attitudes toward actual cows much (though cow merchandise has done well). For some the game was a nostalgia trip to the simple farm life. Others viewed the game as just another fiction, like Babe. The concern however, was a creeping Disneylandization of consumption:

"When I go to a market, I am in 'real life' so I buy milk and yoghurt without thinking about my cow. Breeding games stay at home in my PC". "For me, my virtual breeding never mix with my real life. Thus, when choosing butter, milk or whatever, I absolutely do not think about my virtual cow. I may think of it when going to the countryside, if I see a cow or a Massey-Fergusson tractor, I'd smile and say 'I've the same at home!' but usually there's no crossover."

..."However, I am a big plush fan, and it's different! When I am in a store in the toy department, I have to restrain myself from running to the plush and check for cows or pigs. Plush cows are quite easy to find, for pigs it's more difficult."

Of course, technical problems in the game caused some serious negative feedback:
My opinion on this institution [the Regional Council] has really changed. I started with a very happy and positive image. Now it makes me sick! This institution has manipulated us all, as politicians manipulate everybody. If I were French and coming from this region, I'd be ashamed of my local officials!"
Well worth reading.

May 21, 2005

A Copyrighted Chicken, an Egg and Replacementdocs.comEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Replacementdocs.com hosts full-color scans (or PDF originals) for thousands of videogames. For anyone who has rented or purchased used games, which frequently lack manuals, or simply have lost the box and documentation, this is an incredible resource ... and clearly a case of massive copyright infringement of the manuals.

It is also a resource for copyright infringement of the games themselves, in that infringing copies seldom come with full documentation. Indeed, game companies have gone after sites that host manuals for this very reason. Likely, this is the reason that Blizzard asked Replacementdocs.com to remove their manuals from the site (Manuals requested removed by game companies (i.e. - don't bother asking for these)).

Replacementdocs.com responds to this argument in their FAQ:

As for the piracy issue... What good is a manual without the software? None at all. What good is software without the manual? Plenty to most people. With this in mind we believe that the true problem of piracy is the copying and distributing of the software itself not the documentation. If you stop the software piracy then having documentation online will no longer be an issue. However, If you stop the distribution of electronic documentation, software piracy will still thrive. Besides, game companies are in the business of selling games, not selling replacement manuals for the games. And therefore, we believe this is not affecting their business. A testament to this is the increasing number of companies who freely distribute their documentation online already because they have realized that providing good customer service is more important than protecting ultimately supplemental materials. Some of these companies include Square Enix, Konami, and even Sony's and Microsoft's respective in-house game studios. But it is still woefully few compared to the available catalog of games.

In addition, many of the games listed herein are out of print and the game companies are not making money on them anymore if they even still exist. Yes, technically, they still own the copyrights to the games and manuals, but they aren't making money off of them and we're not making any money off of them. There is no profit to be lost and none to be gained. And if you're some lawyer or company drudge tracking down pirates, come on... it's really all about the money anyway, isn't it? Spend your time tracking down the software pirates that release stuff on the internet before the software hits the stores, they are the real problem.

Replacementdocs.com is right (which doesn't mean it still isn't copyright infringement). And it seems that many game companies are beginning to agree, not only the ones mentioned above, but several have given permission for Replacementdocs.com to host their manuals. Even Blizzard has since given permission (Blizzard manuals to return!).

One of the interesting things about these sorts of copyright infringements, however, is how they accomplish something that the market would be unlikely to accomplish. Sure, one could argue that those who created the site should have first gone to every copyright holder and asked for permission to do this. But the reality is that they would have been entirely ignored. Without a track record, without traffic, without money to throw around, with nothing more than an idea and an empty website, no videogame company legal department would have given Replacementdocs.com five minutes. A bit of a chicken and egg problem, and a serious one for copyright.

via BoingBoing

May 18, 2005

Actors and Videogame Industry Headed for a Showdown?Email This EntryPrint This Article

The Silicon Valley Media Law Blog reports that two major Hollywood unions, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), have announced that contract negotiations with the videogame industry have broken off over profit participation for talent (SAG Interactive Talks Break Off Over Residuals). I wonder if the game industry is resisting this because some of their programmers might start getting big ideas?


From Backstage.com (Actors Tilt Toward Video Game Strike):

"Voice-over work represents a small fraction of a video game's development and consumer enjoyment," Fabrick [attorney and the videogame companies' lead negotiator] said. "The union's demand for an equity stake, or residual structure, is unreasonable and not fair to the hundreds of people who often spend years in developing a game."