Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Live blog - panel on protest virtual worlds

(Ren Reynolds)

(Jessica Mulligan)

(Hilmar Peterssun)

(Jim Purbrick- Linden Lab CTO who I spoke to briefly yesterday. Apparently they're recruiting)

(Stephen Reid - NCSoft Europe)

(RR) 139 million Neopets users. 50+ m Maple Story. We've talked very much about how happy and nice these worlds are, is that you get a lot of protest in these things, from governance, game mechanics, political process and griefing. People try to run virtual worlds as a service, but people playing the game view this as a community.

Should Sony be controlling what people say in homes?

(Hilmar) I'm going to use this opportunity to go a little bit deeper into the concept of emergence and how we have been thinking about this for a long time. [Brings up accusation of cheating by players]

We have been planning democratically elected community representatives for a long time, and you need a venue to discuss societal issues in the world as they grow bigger and bigger.

We use emergence in various places in Eve, for economy, for constructing the world and so on. Social emergence has been studied extensively [Dunber and the Dunber number]. Interpersonal relationships are maintained by picking lice out of each other's hair. It boils down to this. This is the neocortex processing power. The predicted groups size for humans is 147.8.

There is a very step group size fall off for corporation size at about 250 people. What Dunbar says is to grow beyond 500 people you have to install some authoratarian figures into the community or build some defined structure into it.

Alliances in Eve are essentially a family of corporations. [He likes the lice picking analogy] We have example of alliances growing up to 16,000 but most are 5000 to 6000 members. When we are faced with massive alliances, the people who lead these alliances control Eve more than we do.

There is really not so much that CCP can do in controlling their world. Us as operators of virtual worlds are more like governments, than gods. If you cannot be ordered to have fun, you can't play our game is the wrong attitude. We are in the process of reviving the council of stellar management. People are going to be democratically elected through a proxy democratic voting system. These people will discuss future movements for the game in general, as well as controversial issues that arise within the game.

(JP) There are hundreds of people in Second Life who are earning their living in Second Life, which makes governance even more importance. We've been looking at resident governance in Second Life for a long time. Discussion on self-governance in 2004. We now have a public issue tracker. Despite the fact we've done a lot of reaching out to second life, we still have these petitions and protests.

First issue causing protests in 2nd Life is future residents. Tax protest was a change in governance. Gaming over market - Linden Lab as the company coming into competition with its residents. Telehubs - we tried to create these artifical communities by using telehubs which didn't work and we had to compensate for people who had bought land around these. Voice - the addition of voice caused problems for people who didn't want this to happen.

Another cause of protest is technology limits. Copybots - DRM by robot ruler. Umlauts. We accidentally broke internationalism in one update.

A third cause of protest is growth. We had to drop live help. Stipends. We bootstrapped a second life economy to give liquidity to the economy. We couldn't continue to give everyone free money which caused protest.

The fourth cause is real life. Gambling ban and sex. We are seeing now there are problems in second life where something is illegal in a jurisdiction, or legal (e.g. Copyright in China).

Linden Lab is a bottle-neck: we're trying to get out of the way. We're moving to let the users create the software as well as the content. We are moving towards a much more federated structure.

(JM) Citizens against the gods.
Citizens are about 1% of your total user base (MMOs, as opposed to virtual worlds). They look out for everyone.
Tribesman. 85 - 90%. Looking out for their microeconomy.
Barbarians - couldn't care less. The other 1%. These guys create 80% of the problems. They don't care about your rules or player justice systems.

We don't manage expectations well in the online world. World of Warcraft are horrible at customer service, there is just no managed expectations. Mushroom community management. 9 out of 10 virtual worlds there is no meaningful communication. Community says one thing, marketing says another. These really comes down to unfulfilled promises.

[Honest information, respect, instant gratification, vocal minority]
[Patrovsky's Law of the Karma Bank]

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