Tag Archives: BBC News

Decentraland and the Fusion of Trends

I had to get in the car for a short drive last night, so I flipped on the radio to listen to along the way.  It was set to our local PBS station, KQED, and since it was between 9 and 10pm, the BBC News Service feed was playing.

I wasn’t really listening to what was being said until I was out of the driveway and headed down the street.  Then some very familiar words started flowing through my brain in charming English accents with precise BBC pronunciation.  It was something about a virtual world and selling virtual plots of land and maybe businesses setting up shop and people visiting friends and having a virtual cup of tea and all the nonsense that was being passed around about virtual worlds more than a decade back.

My first thought was that they were playing an old track, some sort of “Remember when this was a thing?” segment featuring Second Life and how people were buying into that.  I mean Reuters and CNN had “offices” there and people who got rich on speculation were making it to the covers of magazines.

But the whole thing sounded more recent.  They were talking about the funding by selling plots in the Genesis content section of this world.  We’ve certainly seen virtual real estate sold before.  Then there was mention of the in game currency, called MANA, which you had to buy in order to get any of the plots.  But we’ve been down that path before.

And then the surprising-yet-unsurprising twist hit, MANA was a cryptocurrency and used blockchain technology and I said aloud, “Nailed it!”

But it isn’t just the currency that uses blockchain, it is the whole world and all your virtual land deeds and whatever.  I was back in the driveway before I was the story was through… honestly, I was only driving out to get a PokeStop because it was day seven of my streak and I wanted the big payout… so I sat in the driveway until they finally said the name of the place.  Just to hit on the block chain theme in a big way it is called Decentraland.

Buzz words sell things

So I went back in the house and started looking the whole thing up.

It doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry yet, which I am sad to say is my current method of assessing notability.  If you aren’t there yet how can you make any claim to fame?  But it does have its own web site and blog with an introduction to things and a FAQ.

Naturally, because it is 2018 and this is how things are, even though the developers are selling plots of land via their cryptocurrency, you cannot log in and visit your purchase yet, so add crowdfunding to the list of trends it is riding on.

Not that there isn’t a lot going on with Decentraland.  Browsing through their site and reading articles about non-fungible tokens and what not indicates that much thought is going into the technology being used.  However, technology isn’t a product and I didn’t see a thing that made me think that they had anything beyond the most basic ideas as to what people would eventually do with the place.

That is likely my native skepticism kicking in I am sure.  As I said, I’ve heard a lot of their pitch before, and the fact that blockchain technology is part of the equation doesn’t sell me.  But we shall see.  I mostly wanted to write this to mark the point in time so I would come back and visit it again in a year and in five years and so on to see what develops.

Are you interested in some blockchain secured virtual real estate?

To Contend With WoW

I have to hand it to Darren at The Common Sense Gamer. He is a man of much greater faith than I, despite a recent comment I made on his blog.

When I saw the headline up on VirginWorlds that read “Beating Warcraft at its own game,” I did not even bother to read the summary.  I figured it to be nonsense and not worth my time.  However, Darren did go read it and found what comedic gold it really was.

Of course, the main punchline was the three games set to vie with World of Warcraft for dominance in the MMO market.  Those titles were:

  • Age of Conan
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Star Wars Galaxies

Ay Carumba!

All three can be dismissed readily.  All three have (or will have, in the case of AoC) system requirements that are steeper than WoW.  That blows the competition right there.  WoW wins by default.

The system requirements (heaviest in the case of AoC), a lack of interest in the IP, and the absence of real PvP in the case of the last two, will probably also make all three games non-starters in Asia, where WoW has its biggest fan base.

Not that any of these games are bad, they just aren’t going to achieve WoW-level subscription numbers.

AoC could be big, if only because it will be on XBox 360 as well.

LOTRO has the potential to at least pass Runscape by getting a more than a million paying subscribers.

But SWG? The best part of the article is the section on SWG.

Some older games are taking on WoW too. Star Wars Galaxies is revamping to be more fun for both existing and new players.

“WoW’s success,” said Jake Neri, producer for Galaxies at LucasArts, “has meant everyone is seeing more players sign up.”

“The player base for MMO games has exploded. We see new people trying the game all the time. And we have some die-hard folks that will never play anything but Galaxies.”

All true enough, no doubt.  Anybody familiar with the game will attest to the somewhat rabid core fan base. (Among other things, the New Game Enhancements, or NGE, also gave people rabies.) And the incoming tide of MMO success has raised all boats to a certain extent.

Still, given that this is Star Wars we’re talking about here, nobody is yet calling SWG a stunning success.  Even John Smedley has admitted that the game should be huge with the Star Wars IP behind it, but it is not.

What we really have here is SWG being pushed into the Terry Malloy role in “On The Waterfront,” whose classic line was:

You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.

Then the comedy moves on with:

Galaxies launched in 2003 and has been tweaked a few times since as its creators realized what people wanted to do.

“Galaxies was one of the first MMOs,” said Mr Neri. “There was no handbook on how to do these things.”

Because, of course, in 2003 nobody knew anything about MMOs.  Certainly not Sony.  And nobody working on SWG had anything to do with, say, Ultima Online or EverQuest.

Some miracle must have happened within a year though, since the folks at Blizzard seemed to have known a thing or two about MMOs by the time WoW shipped in 2004.

The series of changes has aligned the game more closely with what players actually do.

Because the NGE represented what the players actually do?

The extensive tweaking has given Lucas Arts a “baseline” to keep everything balanced, said Mr Neri.

I suppose a baseline of discontent means that they can only go up from there.

The balance of the article has Mr Neri talking about the upcoming beast master expertise system, though he neglects to mention that a creature handling class had been in the game previously and was removed.  Part of realizing what people want to do no doubt.

I do not mean any of this as a knock against SWG or its fan base.  But in this list, SWG is the tragic character.  It could have been a contender. But it wasn’t.

And I do not think there is any sort of Rocky Balboa comeback, to continue the boxing metaphor, in its future, despite what Mr. Neri or the BBC has to say.