June 2007

Pity The Bot That Has Ambition, Knows Where It’s Going To

NotAddicted has an interesting interview with the proprietor of a stateside gold farming operation which was hit hard by bannings Monday.

[22:35] <Frybread> Do you do those in-game advertisements? Tell spam or group invite spam?
[22:35] <The Botter> no, worst thing ever. If someone wants gold, they can go to the net and find it. I find that in-game spam so irritating, and I’m a gold seller!
[22:36] <Frybread> Then you are the best gold seller ever, thank you for your time.

Hey, It’s Almost Legal! Let’s Invest Some Monies!

Rumors had abounded that venture capital had dabbled in the RMT industry before (specifically Goldman Sachs and IGE) but today comes the announcement of a new player: Sparter, funded by Bessemer Venture Partners.

TechCrunch, a dot-com zine, has some analysis:

 eBay is one place where gamers currently try to trade virtual currency for real money, but the company started restricting the sale of virtual goods on the site earlier this year, and proactively removing listings that include virtual money and other items. Sparter is simply filling the void that eBay has voluntarily created, the company says.

Others note that eBay left the market due to trademark and other concerns. In particular, it is a violation of the terms of service of many of these services to exchange currency in this way. Whether these virtual worlds will turn a blind eye to Sparter’s activities, or attempt to fight it, remains to be seen.

The comments on the article are a bit, well, vehement.

This whole site is unethical and irresponsible, IMHO. And this article is too. ANY amount of research would have brought up any of these points, which either means you didn’t do any, or don’t care.

Join Our Merry Band Of Ne’er-Do-Wells!

Wanting to know what exactly my team’s been working on for the past year or so? Well, one sure way to find out is to join up so that you can sign all the required Ninja Domination Authorizations (NDA for short). Anyway, these are all going up on the PlayNC site shortly, but I’m jumping the line a bit, because a lot of you have expressed random degrees of interest already. Anyway, we’re currently looking for the following:

Continue reading…

SOE Learns Jiu-Jitsu

When a giant is stomping in the playground, what do you do? Move playgrounds, duh.

The problem is that the company’s first huge hit — EverQuest, released in 1999 — remains its only genuine blockbuster, with around 250,000 users. (The company used to report subscriber figures, but stopped a few years ago.) A competing online game, World of Warcraft, made by Blizzard Entertainment, of Irvine, Calif., has, meanwhile, practically reshaped the game industry by attracting an enormous eight million paying users around the world.

So today, Sony Online intends to unveil its plan to retake leadership in online gaming by unveiling three new games in development. More broadly, the new games represent an attempt to broaden the company in four major ways: diversifying its business model, expanding the demographic profile of its customer base, moving into the console market in addition to making games for PCs and increasing its presence in Asia.

SOE is planning to do this via remembering that humanity actually has two genders.

To reach out to girls, Mr. Smedley realized he had to hire more women. The creative director and art director on the game are now women.

“I just can’t explain to a 30-year-old single male why 10-year-old girls like horses,” he said. “We were trying to figure out what pets to put into Free Realms and before, the lead designer was a guy and he definitely wanted things that could fight. And when we got more women on the team, it was like ‘No, no, no. We need puppies and horses in there.’ ”

Everybody likes puppies.

Reaction in the usual quarters is expected: “Why are you not making WoW again? Make WoW again! We like WoW!” Personally I think it’s a smart move. If you want to diversify the market, you should, you know, make a game that appeals to, you know, a different market. Kinda simple stuff!

I Like Orc Butt And I Cannot Lie


As seen on Sara’s blog, a story that apparently stunned her into a punctuation mark: World of Warcraft has – brace yourself – it’s coming – are you braced – hyperidealized views of the female form. (I warned you to brace yourself.)

Good game design presents many challenges, not the least of which is to create interesting avatars that will resonate with your player base. While it is understandable that Blizzard would wish to do whatever it can to maintain its success, it is also important to look at the costs of that success.

From a feminist’s point of view, Blizzard’s decision to force all of their avatars into a narrow ideal of human beauty reinforces negative stereotypes that continue to perpetuate inequality through the normalization of a kind of strict binary sexual dimorphism that does not exist in real life.

From a player’s point of view, Blizzard has denied many people the ability to play a character like them, or a character they would like to be. The extreme sexual dimorphism in the races, and the way that Blizzard is quick to “fix” avatars that do not properly fit the ideal, has sent the message to those outside of that body type – not just women, but men as well – that they are not worthy of being represented, that their body types are not good enough for even one avatar in the entire game to represent them.


Leaving aside for the moment that in a fantasy game, most people want to look like society’s assumed norms of physical beauty, there are in fact female avatars that aren’t as hypersexualized, such as the gnome, dwarf and orc females. The dwarf female especially is less overtly sexual – more short, squat and muscular.

In a strange coincidence, very few characters are dwarven females.

Of course, Blizzard, just like almost every other game developer, has female avatars that look like MTV models and wear about as much clothing. But the main thrust of the article seems to be that females are dimorphic – in other words, different.

Well, duh.

Avatar expressiveness is a key function of any MMO. In other words, people want to look different. One cheap and easy way to do that is to make men and women look dramatically different. The tauren in WoW are the best expression of this – I don’t think anyone sees tauren female avatars as sexualized (unless you’re, well, not going to go there). They look, basically, like anime cartoon cows, minus the udders. But, as the article correctly notes, but for the wrong reasons, they do look dramatically different. And in a game where there’s not a whole lot of character customization in general, that’s a very cheap and easy way for a character to look different from another. Tauren females are also somewhat rare, although tauren females get picked more than dwarves for gameplay reasons – the druid class requiring the character to be tauren, combined with people who, like myself, feel vaguely uneasy when playing an avatar of the ‘wrong’ gender. Whereas there are few gameplay reasons to pick dwarves, and most (such as racial spells for priests) aren’t commonly known to new players.


Actually, though, women aren’t always the target of unfortunate fashion choices. For any male who’d like to feel some of the women’s pain, I give you Final Fantasy 11’s subligar, as seen in the image to your right. Subligars are common armor for new players, and a better motivation for levelling to a point past where they are used has yet to be found. Possibly interesting if you want to know what it feels like to wear avatar clothing you really, really, don’t want to. Unless, you know, you like wearing hot pants. Which is fine, really.

But is there a crying demand for players to have body types that look like themselves? Of course not. These are fantasy games. Whether or not you agree with society’s standard of physical beauty, expecting a computer game to challenge that is asking a bit too much of what, in the end, is entertainment. And while choices are always good, and more choices are always better, oddly enough, people tend to choose the prettiest choice available. It drove Blizzard to introduce a “pretty” race for the Horde as a form of crude racial balancing.

People want to look pretty. Who knew?