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Will Harvey On Virtual Worlds, Technology Curves 94

Posted by simoniker
from the microserfs-incarnate dept.
CowboyRobot writes "Slashdot's former editor Chris DiBona has an interview with videogame creator Will Harvey over at ACMQueue. Harvey has had a hand in lots of stuff you've used, from Zany Golf to Adobe AfterEffects, and now runs There, a kind of online 3D 'virtual world' game. Their conversation covers games in general, as well as specifics of the challenges that There is facing. From the article: 'You have to project the curves: the rendering curve; the CPU speed curve; the money spent on the Internet on online games curve; the number of people who play online games curve. I think we guessed right on almost everything, but we underestimated Moore's Law and we overestimated the low-end graphics capability'."
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Will Harvey On Virtual Worlds, Technology Curves

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  • by mattjb0010 (724744) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @07:50AM (#8354915) Homepage
    I for one, continue to welcome our curvaceous, female overlords...

    Sounds good :)
  • One small step... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:11AM (#8355060)
    The article says that they saw the failures of other games that tried to create a metaverse ala Snow Crash due to not enough computer power in the majority of households. They realize it's probably 10 years away from being a graphically rich (life-like, stunningly realistic and fully customizable metaverse) experience and their main goal is to have a zone where people can hang out and do neat little things with their buddies, while still allowing average pc's and possibly phones/PDAs and other things to connect at the same time.
  • by Simon Garlick (104721) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:50AM (#8355139)
    "Will Harvey...?"

    Goddammit, I KNEW I recognised that name. Music Construction Set is one of the best apps I've ever seen, on any platform. That thing was amazing.
  • by Tei (520358) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:55AM (#8355148) Journal
    Ok, CPU will get more cycles. So you will able to put more particles, for smoother rocket trails, and more polys, for far frustrums, and more complex characters. But you will still able a limit around 64 players for FPS internet games. Will suck. Also games will not be x2 fun if become x2 faster. Gamers will use bigger resolutions, that itself eat x4 more horsepower. I think gamming is more complex than CPU power, has also about social problems, gameplay habits and videogames evolution. The view "woow, more particles better game" is too simplistic. I think.
  • Re: your logic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mindcry (596198) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @02:28PM (#8356476)
    right, exactly, i'm so glad you brought me to the light oh glorious AC...

    I was saying if someone is gonna ask for your help and you're money, well... that just doesn't seem quite right...

    hey bob, fix this computer for me, and while you're at it, give me $20...

    come on :P can't be that dim. a $1 CD to every beta tester probably isnt even close to there bandwidth charges, and considering the air force (i believe, could be another branch) is contracting them now for their platform for millions upon millions, i doubt it'll matter too much in the long run. but thanks anyways...
  • Re:Second Life (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mutewinter (688449) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @03:48PM (#8356867)
    The highly the learning curve, the more amazing the creation (relative to other skills such as creativity of course.) I'd rather have something complex and amazing than simple and kind of cool. I've been in Second Life, and I was impressed. I haven't been in There yet, but from what I've seen I haven't really been motivated to check it out yet. I think Second Life is going in the right direction. I think that if they don't screw anything up financially they have more of a future than There.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @05:05PM (#8357223)
    It already has worked: the average female player in There spends a little over $200 per month on virtual clothing. Last I heard, There's demographic is over 75% female and rising; that adds up to some significant revenue. It's a shame the article focused so much on the technical aspects of the world, when there's some really interesting anthropological things going on.

    I wouldn't even put RPG into There's label. In my opinion, it's more of project to divert consumerism from the real world into their own virtual construct. Style has no prerequisite of material goods; you're simply buying status when you purchase designer labels. All There did was remove the material goods and keep the status. It already has in-demand designer labels--some of the hottest labels are even starting up real-world production efforts. Typical MMORPGs and social games like There are different beasts altogether...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @05:29PM (#8357355)
    Please, sir, for the love of God, use English capitalization rules when writing english and save the German ones for writing German. "Developer Content" is not generally considered a proper noun.

    I understand it's somewhat 'hackish' to ocassionally capitalize words for Added Effect, but you've gotten carried away.
  • by sholden (12227) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @06:11PM (#8357567) Homepage
    MUDs used plater created content just fine. Of course creating content wasn't usually done as part of the "game" but by hacking whatever language the MUD used for writing objects. Players who showed themselves to be contributing to the game would usually be given object authoring priviledges soon enough. Balance is achieved by other players with sch priviledges removing stuff that was unbalanced.

    Player driven economies seem wonderful in theory. I love the idea, and that's what used in the perfect MMORPG that exists in my head as I guess it does for all those who have played MMORPGs and been disapointed. In practice it doesn't work because there simply aren't enough players online at any time to run a working economy, plus players don't like the money sinks that are needed (such as paying rent) if you break the economy by having unlimited money sources (such as monsters which drop gold when killed and when killed spawn again a short time later with more gold).

    Such a player driven world would work well if you managed to get the right kind of players. However, intelligently enough most people/companies when creating as exepensive a game as a MMORPG want to attract the large bulk of players who just want to hack-n-slash.

    MUDs were nice because they were reasonably low on resources (at first with few players) and easy to develop for with free (as in beer usually) engines easily downloadable. That let university students run them on university machines (and hence good connectivity) and other university students play them. I'm sure the university's didn't like it much, but that's how all the good MUDs I played started - created by people who wanted to play such a game and not by those who wanted to be paid by others who want to play such a game.

    Machine's with good connectivity are cheapish now, and open source code is fashionable so maybe players will start writing MMORPGs. Of course creating the pretty graphics is harder than writing the networking code or the object scripting which I suspect is the current sticking point. Of course MUDs are still just as fun.

    Companies like player created content because it is cheaper, they don't have to pay as many people to come up with new content if players are paying them for the priviledge.
  • by SimHacker (180785) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:35AM (#8361830) Homepage Journal
    I've heard cries of "it will never work" before. But player created content is the driving force behind the top selling game of all time, The Sims.

    I believe that one of the major reasons that The Sims Online has failed (in stark contrast to EA's expectations, and the success of the offline version), is that The Sims Online doesn't support player created content. It's been promised, but EA never executed on Will Wright's vision.

    The Sims was originally designed to support player created content. Thanks to the enormous quantity of player created content [google.com] (on the order of millions of unique skins and objects, many of them excellent quality [simfreaks.com]), The Sims is anything but bland and empty.

    I know people who actually make a full-time living and support their real families, by creating original, high quality Sims objects. There's a thriving cottage industry [ultimatesims.com] of publishing Sims objects and skins on many web sites [ultimatesims.com], and selling subscriptions to Sims players who love to pay for downloading all kinds of original content [8thdeadlysim.com]!

    But "bland and empty" does accurately describe The Sims Online: once you've played for a while, you get tired of the sparse selection of character skins and objects to buy. But that wouldn't be the case, if The Sims Online supported player created content like The Sims offline, as EA has promised but not delivered.

    Player created content makes the economy richer, interesting, dynamic and personal, because it enables creative players to bring actual VALUE into the economy, and truly invest in building the virtual world.

    Contrast that with The Sims Online economy, which has been flooded by Simoleans generated with MazeBots by people selling them on eBay. 100 million more Simoleans dumped into the Sims Online economy isn't going to improve the game play or the richness of the environment one bit -- in fact it just makes it worse.

    But enabling players to add new skins and objects to The Sims Online would substantially increase its quality, while earning the creative players respect and Simoleans, and entertaining everyone.

    If the enormous amounts of energy that players were putting into implementing MazeBots and generating Simoleans to sell on eBay, were put into implementing content creation tools and generating skins and objects, then The Sims Online might someday be even more successful than The Sims Offline.

    It doesn't require "extensive tools and abilities" for players to create content. And it's not necessary for the tools to be built into the game itself. The content creation tools should be factored out into an SDK [donhopkins.com] and released, so third party developers can extend them and integrate them into other tool chains and web services.

    The Sims Transmogrifier [thesimstra...rifier.com] is an external tool for The Sims, which enables players to create their own objects, by cloning existing objects and repainting the 2D graphics with programs like Photoshop. It doesn't require 3D Studio Max or any advanced 3D skills. Lots of kids and adults use it every day to make their own objects.

    But it's certainly possible to make useful content creation tools that are easier to use than Transmogrifier. After all, not everyone knows their way around Photoshop, but many people want to make objects with pictures [donhopkins.com] they download from the net or take with digital cameras.

    I've developed an easy to use tool called RugOMatic [thesimstra...rifier.com], which enables players to create rugs for The Sims by simply dragging

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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