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Posts with tag avatars

The Lawbringer: Avatar rights as expectations

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Running parallel to the games we love and enjoy is a world full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Last week, I introduced the concept that the denizens of a virtual world may have gained, over time, the right to rights within that virtual world. Raph Koster, the lead developer of Ultima Online, explored the idea over 10 years ago when the MMO genre was in its developmental infancy. These rights synced up with a world where there was a distinction between free-to-play MUDs and for-pay subscription worlds in the U.S. and European markets. Today, the MMO has transformed into a new beast from the close-knit communities of MUDs and the relatively forgiving user base of EverQuest and Ultima Online.

The people who made WoW are the contemporaries of Raph Koster and children of the MMO genre that EverQuest cemented as important. How then, in over 10 years, has Koster's declaration of the rights of avatars held up to the incredible growth of the industry and Blizzard's own impressive growth? The short answer: The code of conduct you follow in World of Warcraft is pretty lenient, all things considered. The long answer: Well, there's always a long answer.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Potential character model revisions in Cataclysm

WoW's fifth anniversary and the interviews surrounding it have ended up providing us with some previously-unknown tidbits of information -- which is a good thing, especially when it comes to stuff we've been wanting to hear about for a long time.

This particular tidbit comes from the Warcry network interview with J. Allen Brack and Samwise Didier about the game's anniversary, and it's about a subject near and dear to our constantly-complaining hearts: new character models. They might even be coming in Cataclysm.

Says Brack:
"Even though things would be better with new (character) models, we'd probably spark a lot of player outrage. So we've talked about giving players a choice between the classic models or the new ones, but it might not be something we want to take on at the same time as we remake Azeroth."
That's pretty big news.

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Filed under: News items, Expansions, Interviews, Cataclysm

The Guild in Second Life on The Copper Robot


Our friends at The Guild made an ingame appearance the other day, but not in our game -- they showed up as avatars in Second Life as part of a talk show called the Copper Robot. Felicia Day, Sandeep Parikh (Zaboo), and Jeff Lewis (Vork) all stopped by to talk to journalist Mitch Wagner (whom I met on the TUAW Talkcast last night), and you can watch video of the proceedings over on their blog, or just listen in to the audio if you'd like. And there's news about season 3 in the interview -- it should be happening, though Felicia says they haven't gotten "an official pickup" yet, and she hasn't started writing yet. The season 2 DVD is also coming soon.

What's perhaps most interesting about this interview is that the Guildies all used custom-made avatars to appear in the game. Second Life, if you've never played it, is more of a sandbox MMO than the strict rules and design of World of Warcraft, and players have mostly complete freedom to make themselves look like whatever they want. And so a few fans from a site called World2Worlds actually made some avatars for the Guild folks, and they based them off of the (also fan-made) art of the characters. We've never seen footage of "the game," as the characters in The Guild call it, so this is the first time we've seen these avatars represented in any game. Very interesting. The show has a Flickr group, so if you want to check out more shots of what they looked like in-game (including some nutty Vork antics), check that out as well.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends

Daedalus Project updated


Nick Yee's excellent MMORPG survey and data site, the Daedalus Project, has been updated with new survey results on the following topics:
  • Guild demographics: What influences players to choose certain guilds, how attached they become, the likelihood of their knowing guildies in real life, and how long they stay. What I find fascinating here is the graph displayed above -- 26% of surveyed players have been with their guild 2 years or more. Alex Ziebart mentioned the other day that his guild has been together so long across multiple games that guild chat's gone from talk of teenage dates to coaching expectant parents through morning sickness. I get the feeling that this is only going to become more common in long-haul games like Second Life and WoW.
  • Character creation: How players choose characters, the elements of character selection they consider most important, and whether classes and races tend to be researched extensively before they're picked, or chosen based on impulse. Character class seems to matter to the most people; starting area the least.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, News items, Classes

Blizzard reveals new Battle.net features

DIII.net has a great writeup of everything Blizzard has said so far about the new Battle.net features, and while most of the information applies more to Diablo III and Starcraft II, there's some good tidbits in there for WoW fans as well. Battle.net is Blizzard's oldest online service -- it predates WoW by a few years and was notably used to play Warcraft 3, Diablo 2 and Starcraft online. It's making a return with a revamp for the release of Starcraft II, and in addition to the previously mentioned ability Battle.net will give playes to track achievements across all Blizzard games, the system will have a much more social feel than the previous incarnation of the service.

Player accounts, avatars, icons, and friend lists are all planned, and odds are that services like the Armory and even the WoW sign in may be tied to your Battle.net account in some way. Tournaments and rankings will be included (though it remains to be seen how this might be implemented in World of Warcraft), and Battle.net will even offer players the ability to save and share replays of Starcraft II games, and other e-sport-like features.

That last feature would be a perfect fit for WoW's Arenas, of course, but as much as players would like to be able to spectate Arena matches, odds are that there would have to be a lot of behind-the-scenes coding done on Blizzard's side. Starcraft is being built from the ground up to record matches, of course, but WoW's Arena system doesn't have that ability built in, and putting it in might be more work than Blizzard wants to do on that one area of the game. No word yet on when we might get the new Battle.net (odds are it'll come out right around the Starcraft II release, whenever that is), but from the look of it, Blizzard has big plans to expand the social networks they've built into World of Warcraft towards all of their properties.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Wrath of the Lich King, Account Security

Get Grumpy, Faster and cheaper than Figure Prints!

If you're like me, Greatfather Winter didn't put a golden ticket or an uber laptop in your holiday stocking. And with my luck, I'll probably never win the Figure Prints lottery, either. Sad, but that's the reality of the situation.

Enter Grumpycoder with their WoW PaperIdol. While they may not offer a rl figurine, they are the first to provide (that I know of) portrait and full body pictures that auto-update the look of your character as your Armory equipment changes.

What this means is you'll be able to not only keep up with every alt you've accumulated over the years, you can now show them off in their current state of progression. No more WoW blogs with outdated character picts and no more forum avatars that look like you just hit level 5. Feel free to proclaim out into the interwebs what lewts you got last night, safe in the knowledge that without lifting a finger, everyone can see exactly how bad they clash with your Beguiler Robes.

We'll be giving WoW PaperIdol a test drive after the jump!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Alts, Fan art

Breakfast Topic: How many characters do you play?


Player character, character, avatar, toon... Regardless of the term you use to refer to your in-game persona, I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same thing. And today, I'm curious: how many characters do you play? If advancement is your aim, it makes a lot of sense to focus your time and energy on a single character. If efficiency is your goal, perhaps you have a pair of characters to switch between depending on rested XP or what roles your party might need filled. But if your interest is variety, perhaps you have a character of each class -- or more. For my part, I actively maintain three characters. My main (a healer) raids and in my spare time I'm leveling up two alts: one to farm with (better than my healer can) and one to tank (as tanking seems to be the hardest to find component for instance groups). Three seems to be about as many as I can juggle actively -- though I have a mid-level Paladin waiting in the wings, working on it would mean I'd neglect another character. Now that I've told my tale, I'm asking you: how many characters do you play, and why?

Filed under: Virtual selves, Breakfast Topics

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

(Sorry, I couldn't resist the terrible visual pun.)

One of the most common criticisms of fantasy games, besides "LOL games are for the nerds go outside", is that they perpetuate unrealistic stereotypes of female bodies. The typical fantasy girl, or so they say, is wearing about two pounds of chainmail, has a 20-inch waist and a DD-cup, and somehow manages to swing a sword that is taller than she is without messing up her hair.

But while messing around with the WoW character creation screen, I realized that WoW really doesn't hold up to that stereotype. The human and gnome females are average size (well, as close as a gnome can be) and curvy. Night elves, trolls and draenei are thin but toned, easily able to sling around a Thunderfury. Warcraft dwarves, orcs and trolls would probably be considered overweight by most societal standards, but their bodies are proportional and they're extremely muscular. In fact, the only two really skinny models are the undead and blood elf females, both of which are repeatedly referenced as being unhealthy in the game. The blood elves are thin because of their magic addiction, and the undead are thin because of ... uh, being dead.

In comparison, I took a look at the body types of the men. Human, dwarf, night elf, draenei, orc and tauren men are all ridiculously muscular, to the point where it looks like they've stuffed cantaloupes under the skin of their arms. Blood elf males are thin but toned, gnome males look about average (again, for a gnome), and undead and trolls are thin and hunchbacked. It seems that the men of WoW are the ones that suffer from an unrealistic standard of beauty.

So I ask you -- would you like the ability for your avatars to have different body types? Do you think that the men and womeny things of WoW are unrealistic, or do you feel that you have enough options?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves

Real reactions to virtual environments

The always-interesting Terra Nova has a piece up about Nick Yee's the Proteus Effect, which is based around how we relate to (and interact with) stimuli in virtual worlds, specifically our and others' avatars.

Basically, almost all of the research so far shows that we react to virtual stimuli exactly the same way as if it were real stimuli-- we don't want our characters standing too close to other characters, because it's a social convention in the real world that we all have our own individual space. But we still react positively to attractive avatars, whether we know it or not. No matter how much we're supposed to be roleplaying, or how much we realize consciously that the virtual world is different from the real world, we still react in a real way to virtual stimuli. It's heady stuff, but here's Terra Nova's soundbite, by Dmitri Williams: "You can take the person out of the real, but not the real out of the person."

And Williams closes with an extremely interesting proposition, considering how the interaction works: what if, by making many parts of Outland dark and gloomy, Blizzard has caused us to react realistically and feel depressed? TN's informal survey says that players' favorite zone is Nagrand-- is that because it's sunny and green there? And if so, what does that say about our reaction to the expected upcoming expansion-- should Blizzard reconsider the dark, cold stretches of Northrend for a more tropical locale?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard

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