Playable Worlds’ Raph Koster on gaming’s social design problems masquerading as technical challenges

    
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In case you hadn’t noticed, Playable Worlds’ Raph Koster is basically handing out a free 101 course in how video games work in his string of essays and blogs on virtual worlds, though we’re sure it works just as well as a promotional preamble to the MMORPG sandbox and metaverse his new studio is building. Last week, Koster tackled how objects in games work, which isn’t necessarily how gamers might think they work, all of which has an effect on what is possible in a multi-sharded universe of games with any kind of shared functionality and code. This week, he’s continuing his object discussion by focusing on how modern game structures allow designers to separate objects from scripted behaviors, dependencies, stats, and even things like procs, not all of which transmits easily between gameworlds if their frameworks aren’t planned around it.

“There are no standards right now for ‘what things can do’ in a virtual world, and we shouldn’t want them,” Koster says. “The act of setting the standard is also setting the limit, which would curb creativity enormously. There’s far too much possibility to be explored still.” And while loading common scripts from a shared database on the web could work, that comes with its own problems: “Ironically for fans of decentralization, though, the literal decentralizing of the script locations results instead in centralizing the point of failure. If that script has a bug, everyone’s eating stops working.”

“What used to be a technical problem then becomes a people problem,” he concludes. “This is why carrying object functionality around between worlds is above all a thorny social problem, and item portability in the way that most people dream of it is far more likely to be limited to appearances for a long while. The exception would be cases where there is central control over, or at least strong agreement on, the game design across multiple worlds.”

Again, it’s pretty granular, but if you aren’t already a developer or engineer or even a modder, it might be useful to learn these basics.

Further reading:

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Aord
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Aord

MMORPG fan 20 years ago: playing some new game.
MMORPG fan 5 years ago: playing some early alpha/beta.
MMORPG fan nowadays: reading press releases about some non-existent game.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Nah, you could read press releases for a game that won’t really exist for another decade five years ago. Star Citizen has been vacuuming up money for *way* longer than that.

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Raph Koster

This recent series are general articles about how virtual worlds work. You might enjoy them, they aren’t about any game in particular.

Leo
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Leo

in the future fans will be sitting in beatnik cafés, listening to jazz remixes of old MMO soundtracks, while they discuss hypothetical press releases

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Jon Wax

Been thinking about it:

Would like to suggest ditching the metaverse label for gen public. It’s vague and trying to explain it is like trying to explain excel to a cat.

Alternative Environment. That’s probably the easiest way to put it in the zeitgeist. Virtual always implies a certain fakeness. We know how visceral behavior on the web can be so virtual reality just sounds like corporate nonspeak in this era.

Alternative Environments leaves it wide open for multiple genres but the general public will much more easily understand what it is if labeled that way

Just a half of a half of my 2cents

EmberStar
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EmberStar

How is “alternative environment” more clear than a single term like “metaverse?” Especially when stuff like “Ready, Player One” has already sort of loosely defined “metaverse” to the public? (IE, a Metaverse is some thing where the Iron Giant and Tracer from Overwatch can both team up and go fight an imaginary bad guy.) I don’t have any idea what “alternative environment” would mean. “So… like Mars? I head someone say that Tesla wants to move to Mars and build cars there.”

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Jon Wax

It’s easier to explain it as an alternative Environment in the sense that what is planned for it is beyond just games. In theory there would be application for not just work from home but other business aspects as well. Movies, music, advertising, etc. all injected into this alternative Environment.

And because of the dynamic nature of the world itself this label applies to that as well.

This is the easiest way I’ve found to explain it to folks so far.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I already have a vague idea what a “metaverse” is supposed to be. And the more you try to explain “alternative environment,” the less idea I have what you’re talking about. Why would I want games, or movies, or especially *advertising* in my work environment software? Why would I want movies in my games when Netflix is right there on my iPad (and therefore won’t even slow down the game)?

And why would I tolerate advertising in *either* of those? Hell, the reason I still pay for Netflix is to watch movies *without* ads, and I sure as hell don’t want ad placement in games the way it’s been going in movies. They tried that in the Bionic Commando reboot, and it was hilariously awful. Pepsi machines everywhere, and you couldn’t use the bionic grappling hook arm on them at all. Probably because someone at Pepsi Corporation had a fit about the thought of meme screenshots of someone crushing an enemy to death with a Pepsi machine.

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Jon Wax

God you must be fun at parties.

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Jon Wax