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15 Minutes of Fame: MIT Media Lab director Joichi Ito on WoW

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Let's get Joichi Ito's professional credentials out of the way first. The 44-year-old Japanese venture capitalist is the incoming director of the avant-garde MIT Media Laboratory. A self-professed "informal learner" (he dropped out of college twice and never finished a degree) now shines as one of the stars of the digital age, serving on the board of directors for Creative Commons, Technorati, ICANN, and Mozilla, and catching the wave as an early-bird investor in Last.fm, Flickr, and Twitter.

Currently a resident of Dubai (he moved there so he could get a better feel for the people and the region), he circumnavigates the globe a full two times every month in the course of his international pursuits. According to his Twitter stream, he's been scuba diving in Japan this week taking underwater radioactivity samples; after catching the bug to learn how to dive, he promptly became a master diver and now is a PADI open water instructor. He's the godson of psychedelic explorer Timothy Leary ...

... and a guild leader in World of Warcraft. "My feeling is that what we are doing in WoW represents in many ways the future of real time collaborative teams and leadership in an increasingly ad hoc, always-on, diversity intense and real-time environment," he wrote in his blog back in 2006. In fact, one of his presentations on WoW made it into an early incarnation of our Moviewatch feature in 2007.

So yeah, we're going to talk about WoW ... Need anything else to cement his gaming cred? Two more tidbits: Ito's GMed a WoW raiding guild since the original days of Molten Core, and he owns an actual handwritten map drawn by Richard Bartle, creator of the first MUD -- it's like the Magna Carta of gaming.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

All the World's a Stage: So you want to be a dwarf

This installment of All the World's a Stage is the fourth in a series of roleplaying guides in which we find out all the background information you need to roleplay a particular race or class well, without embarrassing yourself.

Imagine if you were raised in a culture who took playing in the mud very very seriously. As a young lad or lassie, your parents advised you that it would be wise of you to learn digging as your profession, and they hoped that one day you would marry a forger. Your people loved the earth so much that they built their homes and cities underground, and reached as deep as they could into the ground to see what they could find there.

Then... imagine if, just a few years ago, someone discovered evidence that your people had once been made by giant Titans out of the very stone and earth you now craft with such care. Wouldn't you be pretty psyched?

There's so much more to dwarves than just a Scottish accent and short stature, you see. Dwarves are the Indiana-Joneses of World of Warcraft. After eons of digging into and sculpting the earth of Azeroth, they suddenly have a clue as to where they came from and how everything came to be the way it is for them. They are now spread across distant places of the world, digging and plumbing ancient ruins in order to unravel the mystery of their existence, and discover the ultimate reason for being.

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Filed under: Alliance, Dwarves, Lore, Guides, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

Richard Bartle's famous last words


Just yesterday we were discussing an interview in the Guardian Unlimited with Richard Bartle, the well-known co-creator of the MUD. I found the interview to give us a fascinating perspective on the genre from someone who was there when it was just beginning, but at the end he made a comment about World of Warcraft which are what's making all the headlines. The Guardian Unlimited introduced the article under this title:

"I'd close World of Warcraft!" MUD creator Richard Bartle on the state of virtual worlds.

While anyone who reads the rest of the article will walk away understanding the point Bartle's attempting to make -- that the millions of people playing World of Warcraft should give other games a chance, because by having all MMO players congregate in a single game, we miss out on potential new and innovative game development -- but how many people stopped reading at the headline? Today Bartle comments on his personal blog about his thinking when answering the question:

The question used the word "major." So, what major virtual worlds are there? Well, there's WoW, and ... er ... some in Korea? Whereas 5 years ago we had several major virtual worlds (UO, EQ, AC, DAOC, AO, ...), now they're all minor compared to WoW. WoW has done a fantastic job of engaging with players, giving them a great experience, and educating them in the ways of virtual worlds. If it weren't for WoW, ... Hmm. Actually, now WoW has done all that, if it were to disappear overnight then it would be a huge boost to the rest of the industry.

It's not a totally unreasonable line of thought, but with a headline like that... Bartle wonders how many people will think that he "actually want[s] to close down WoW, and start sticking pins in their Bartle voodoo dolls as a result."

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Interviews

The Guardian Unlimited interviews Richard Bartle


If you aren't familiar with the name Richard Bartle, you should be. He was one of the creators of the first Multi-User Dungeons back in 1978 -- the text-based precursors to modern MMOs. (Before you ask, yes, MUDs still exist, for players with the patience to read.) And Bartle shares his unique perspective to the genre with us in this interview with the Guardian Unlimited:

...[today's] virtual worlds are not as sophisticated. Yes, they have the 3D graphics, but what you can do in them as a player isn't as sophisticated as what you can do in a textual world. This means players don't have as many tools and abilities available to them within the world to enhance the experience of others.

And of World of Warcraft, Bartle says:

...I'd close it. I just want better virtual worlds. Sacrificing one of the best so its players have to seek out alternatives would be a sure-fire way to ensure that unknown gems got the chance they deserved, and that new games were developed to push back the boundaries.

Filed under: Interviews

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