Teaser(s) for Tomorrow

  • As a NYTimes subscriber, I get the Sunday Magazine section in the Saturday paper — there’s a great story in the section tomorrow on “Red v. Blue,” the X-Box based machinima — “The Xbox Auteurs.” As the article points out:

    Perhaps the most interesting thing about machinima is that none of its creators are in jail. After all, they’re gleefully plundering intellectual propoerty at a time when the copyright wars have become particularly vicious.

    Instead, these guys are so hot that Microsoft not only lets them use images from the game without asking for a licensing fee, but also:

    Microsoft has been so strangely solicitous that when it was developing the sequel to Halo last year, the designers actually inserted a special command—a joystick button that makes a soldier lower his weapon—designed solely to make it easier for Rooster Tech to do dialogue.

    “If you’re playing the game, there’s no reason to lower your weapon at all,” Burns explained. “They put that in literally just so we can shoot machinima.”

  • Also a look at music e-tailing: “Britney to Rent, Lease or Buy

Online Social Structures

A well-written tale, and probably grist for some serious sociology research — from the NYTimes sports pages: Social Significance in Playing Online? You Betcha! [pdf]

[T]he real power in a massively multiplayer experience is profoundly social. Millions of gamers around the planet are flocking to M.M.O.’s not merely because they can kill ever more powerful digital monsters, but because they can face those foes and defeat them as part of a team of real live comrades-in-arms. Halfway serious M.M.O. players usually join guilds of perhaps 10 to 100 players. While players are free to team up with others outside their guild, the guild is usually the prime unit of social organization. Being a member of an accomplished guild is like being a member of the Augusta National Golf Club or the New York Yankees. It both conveys power and commands respect (or envy). And of course there are competing guilds, and beating them to the good stuff is half the fun.

That is a big reason that defeating Ragnaros on Tuesday was such a meaningful experience. Not only was it the first time that my guild defeated him; it was the first time that anyone on our server had defeated him. (Massively multiplayer games are generally divided into parallel copies of the game world called servers. Players generally cannot move their characters from one server to another, so each server becomes its own neighborhood with its own economy and social structure. In North America, for instance, World of Warcraft players are split among about 100 servers.)

So far more than being an individual triumph, defeating Ragnaros was a validation of our guild’s entire organization. It was the culmination of months of work by dozens of people who each play the game at least 20 hours a week and in some cases far more. Our guild started with a handful of players in December with the goal of being the first on our server to experience and defeat the toughest, most rewarding challenges World of Warcraft had to offer.