Roleplay and gameplay

February 19th, 2009

I’m writing something for some EVE Online planning and needed to clarify my stance on roleplay versus gameplay. Really, I’ve always viewed every game I play as sort of a roleplaying game, or at least storytelling in some form. To paraphrase Donald Davis, storytelling is not what I do for gaming - it is how I do all that I do while I am gaming.

But at the same time, I don’t enjoy the sort of bar-hopping or angst RP that many others seem to. I play games for adventure, immersion, and escapism, not to seek new forms of interpersonal drama. Real life provides plenty of that all on its own.

So in trying to whittle down what I’d written to a simple, clear, unambiguous statement (and one that would fit on Twitter), I finally settled on this:

Roleplay is to gameplay as a marinade is to a steak: it adds flavor but isn’t the whole meal.

Of course, I’d like your perspectives on this. Do you think roleplay should more than that? Or less? Or something else entirely?

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Kyle Maxwell Gameplaying, Roleplaying eve online, storytelling, twitter

Facebook, SOE, Metaplace, and online privacy

February 17th, 2009

NB: I am a licensed private investigator in the State of Texas due to my work as a computer forensic analyst, and my professional background lies in information security. So I approach these matters both from the perspective of an informed user as well as a professional. I am not a lawyer, however, and this is not legal advice.

Literally millions of people have discussed and thought about the recent hoopla regarding the changes to the Facebook Terms of Service. I don’t intend to revisit the specifics of that issue here except to say that a lot of people with little to no experience in these sorts of issues got their dander up about legal wording they didn’t fully understand and technical architecture they may have understood even less. No one really questions the legality of what they did, of course. They question whether Facebook should do it this way. I tend to think that Facebook did the right thing legally and technically, but handled the relationship poorly. More on that below, but first another example.

SOE is providing years of Everquest II server logs to a research organization. Again, the existing TOS let them do this: essentially, they own everything you do in their world. Some folks like Raph Koster (formerly of SOE, now of Metaplace) have proposed a sort of “avatar bill of rights” that encapsulate what people want, though reality rarely reflects this. SOE later explained that this effort does not include player chat logs; they should have explained this sort of thing from the beginning.

Unfortunately, Facebook and SOE both did mediocre jobs of handling the customer relationship here, as they should have gotten out ahead of the issue by clearly explaining the issues to their customers. Failing that, they shouldn’t have responded by basically saying, “trust us”. People have real concerns about anonymity, privacy, and security. (With MMORPGs, I suspect that cybersex also lies at the heart of the concerns of many of their players.)

Facebook basically just did a bad job of PR; we don’t yet know all the facts about SOE because they haven’t said a whole lot, but either way, given their history with SWG and the now-infamous NGE, they should have learned to explain early and often, then actually listen and act.

A lot of emotions (including fear and embarrassment) get dredged up when we discuss privacy and anonymity. Frankly, despite the fact that Raph Koster has long positioned himself at the forefront of this issue, the fact that Metaplace community manager Tami Baribeau dismisses all of this really concerns me. I don’t want to misrepresent her, but her approach to privacy concerns literally consists of “get over it or get off the Internet“. The fact that some folks with the same viewpoint look at DRM with such a different view fascinates me even more.

Metaplace has very blunt (and liberal) policies on user-generated content, but it seems like they have some internal cultural conflicts they need to resolve. Otherwise, at some point they will inevitably make the same customer relationship mistakes that Facebook and SOE have made.

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Kyle Maxwell Thinking

Busy but elsewhere

February 5th, 2009

I haven’t forgotten about those reading this site, but another project has occupied a great deal of my time lately and so I apologize.

Those of my readers with an interest in EVE Online, amateur science fiction, and related themes might be interested in my EVE fiction blog Ecliptic Rift. If you have thoughts about it, please let me know!

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Kyle Maxwell Meta

Becoming the monster

January 22nd, 2009

At some point, do we really start to self-identify with our characters, even in aspects we don’t really share with them?

Role players focus on inhabiting the minds of our characters, sometimes to an unhealthy degree. We dance between acting and writing, improvising these fictional people. And while most of us would dispute the hypothesis that the media we choose to consume can force us into doing evil, we’d probably not dispute the fact that what we watch and play and read and hear says something about ourselves.

Sometimes maybe that’s something we don’t want to know or for others to know.

I believe this can apply in more than one direction, of course. In EVE Online, I currently play a character (Casiella Truza) who works as a freelance researcher, a hacker in the old-school sense, and perhaps a future revolutionary. That says a lot about me, even if you don’t know me particularly well. Readers who draw parallels too closely between the character and the player would make a serious mistake, but ignoring any connection whatsoever between Casiella’s interests and mine, or even her personality and mine, would end up just as mistaken.

The advice “write what you know” means more than just your interests and surroundings, of course. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn through research and writing. But it does mean that the human bits, the characters and reactions and emotions, have to come from someplace we understand, things we know. Who and what we choose to play, how our characters evolve and grow— all those things reveal something about ourselves. Perhaps as we fight monsters and gaze long into the abyss, the character’s direction says more about us than the starting point does.

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Kyle Maxwell Roleplaying, Thinking, Writing casiella truza, characters, eve online, hacker, nietzche

EVE Online Wallpapers

January 20th, 2009

What’s your favorite EVE Online-related wallpaper? Do you go with the official ones or do you have another source you prefer? Currently I’m checking them out at mmophoto but obviously I’d like more. Share share!

UPDATE:

Time to start a directory.

EVE Warrior has a screenshot gallery.

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Kyle Maxwell Gameplaying eve online, wallpaper

Journalistic standards on Twitter

January 12th, 2009

Do normal journalistic standards apply to professional news organizations using Twitter?

Normally, journalists have legal and ethical obligations to maintain some level of objectivity and neutrality. Thus, when they report on a crime, they refer to the “suspects” rather than the “criminals,” the “alleged” actions, etc.

Does this apply to their Twitter comments as well? The Dallas Morning News uses Twitter fairly extensively, but their main Twitter account this morning had this to say:

Remember the child abuse Santa Letters? They were fake. Kids’ mom was looking for a visa out of it.

But when you read the story, really the attorney for the accused stepfather was presenting their response (namely, that the letter was fake). I don’t know the true story, but I do know that either way, just presenting the response as completely true violates normal journalistic standards.

So what do you think? Do journalists and news organizations have a responsibility to maintain objectivity in their 140-character tweets, or does the medium change the message?

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Kyle Maxwell Reading dallas, journalism, news, twitter

An EVE-alicious weekend

January 11th, 2009

Starbase

Getting a cold spoiled my larger plans for the weekend, though I still spent a great deal of the time with my kids and rediscovering what I love about EVE Online. And while I’m at it, congratulations to CCP Games for building a world that attracts and can handle over 47,000 players on the same cluster, all logged in at the same time. I did my little part to participate in it and even publicize it a little to get a few more people online. Can any other games claim the same thing?

In the meantime, I cleared out all my belongings from Kudon Astraisx as I prepare to sell the character (not the account, which would violate CCP Games’ rules). I’d like to say that I’m doing this because I don’t want to RP the character anymore, but that’s not really true. No, now that I’ve found a much better balance between my hobby (science fiction MMOGs) and the rest of my life, I don’t want to have multiple accounts. And as long as I have that character available to me, I’ll have that temptation. He’ll probably fetch a decent price, certainly enough to buy the Orca I’ve got my eye on. More on that later, once the auction begins.

Casiella will stay active, though. This weekend, I built my first starbase, pictured above. It includes a research lab, a hangar array, and hopefully sufficient defenses to scare away passersby. I’ve done what I can to choose a relatively safe location, short of locating in high-sec, and mostly now I’m just happy to have a place to call my own.

I started playing the market as well, mostly selling off old loot, reprocessing modules (does anybody need more than Scrapmetal Processing 2?), and getting a feel for what sells. Based on what I learned in all this, I’m going to dip my toes further into production as that seems like an interesting way to go for now in addition to blueprint research.

As much as I enjoy combat in EVE Online, right now I find it impossible for purely RL reasons. My kids love to come in and distract me, so I have to avoid most PVE and nearly all PVP, as I can’t get the sustained focus time required. I did start to train on battlecruisers with an eye to clearing out my own low-sec exploration complexes but have decided to wait until I get a bit more science & industry skill training completed.

One final note, though about SWG: MMOG inter-server politics are even dumber than wars between RPG classes. Yes, I’m looking at you, Starsider and Sunrunner and E-Chimaera. You know who you are. More on that in a few days.

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Kyle Maxwell Gameplaying eve online, mmorpg, swg

Don’t get your hammers and screwdrivers mixed up

January 9th, 2009

Tool areaScrewdrivers are great, until you have a nail. Then you need a hammer. But when you have a screw, then go back to the screwdriver.

When I was a kid, my stepfather (a stone mason) always taught me to use a tool for the purpose for which it was designed.  You don’t slather on mortar with a ruler and you don’t hammer a screw into wood.

This applies to online tools as well. Too often, we get comfortable with one sort of tool and end up wanting to use it for everything. Maybe that means we use a forum for all sorts of online communities and collaboration, or using email for document collaboration, or Twitter as a RSS publisher or reader.

A craftsman must know all of his tools, whether he’s an artisan or a knowledge worker. Understand your options and the proper uses of each. Fixate on your underlying mission or message, because that will determine the medium — not the other way around.

When our audience or collaborators perceive we’ve exceeded some sort of boundary, problems arise. This explains why most folks don’t get nearly as incensed at receiving direct mail advertisements as we do when we receive spam, because the details are different and thus so are the perceptions.

Social tools really should focus on the people first and the technology second. Know your audience, your core purposes and principles, and choose based on those things. Don’t ignore a tool because it didn’t meet past needs, but don’t use a tool now just because it worked in another situation.

I have a good friend who’s very smart who once told me he didn’t like social networking sites, but he is very interested in forum moderation, MMOG guild management, and virtual worlds. As we discussed it in greater depth, his real concerns were deeper than that, but at first he focused on the tool when really he doesn’t like certain uses.

The medium is the message, so choose a tool that fits. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So don’t look at the hammer; otherwise, you’ll miss the fact that there’s a screw in there.

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Kyle Maxwell Thinking forums, social networking

Personal tech dogma

January 8th, 2009

Some tweets last month [1][2] got me to thinking about “personal dogma” for tech projects. David Allen, in his Natural Project Planning process, describes “principles” as the completion to the statement, “I’d let someone else do this as long as they…” Really, that reflects the idea here.

I find that, if it doesn’t run on Linux and it’s not Free Software, it often doesn’t interest me. I want to be able to hack on it, and I want to keep my Windows tether as loose as possible. Sometimes a proprietary, locked-up package might do the job even better, but I’ll entirely stay away from it because of this. I don’t want to be stuck with something I can’t handle if the vendor goes away, and I want to be able to hack things together. This also means that, from time to time, I have to stay away from non-GPL packages even when they qualify as Free Software (this really irks me to be honest). In fact, I only have Windows at home in order to play games, and if CCP ever officially releases a Premium client on Linux for EVE Online, I might well drop it entirely.

Also, whenever possible and applicable, it has to live in the cloud. I access my data from so many devices that tying myself just to one system really cramps me. I think of this like phone numbers: I call a person not a place, so I usually will only call the wireless number. Similarly, I want my data and applications, not a particular computer. So if (say) a RSS reader only works locally, it does me no good, because I’ll end up needing to check things from work, home, my phone, and maybe my iPod Touch. Same for Twitter: I love apps like Twhirl and Tweetdeck, but they use Twitter’s API and so whether I use them from any of those places, my data really still lives in the cloud. Then again, I have to have the ability to pull my data out anytime I want to back it up locally.

To grab me, a social networking site must integrate with the sites I already use (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and preferably include OpenID authentication. My friends don’t want to recreate the graph and I don’t, either. The open social graph has moved from a good idea to a necessity. More passwords? No, thank you. Can’t work with my lifestream? Forget it.

What about you? What personal dogma / principles do you have? How can you apply this to non-tech projects?

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Kyle Maxwell Thinking eve online, free software, lifestream, linux, OpenID, rss, social networking, twitter, web 2.0

Recent interesting links

January 8th, 2009
  • Why you should support Mac OS X and Linux (via Ars Technica with lots of good additional thought)
  • Developing Forum Communities
  • >Telling stories: The next hurdle for story telling (via Massively)

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Kyle Maxwell Linking communities, game development, linux, storytelling


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