"Massively Multiplayer Online Entertainment."
May 19, 2002 12:46 PM   Subscribe

"Massively Multiplayer Online Entertainment." Our own AdrianHon has posted an interesting article to his weblog, dealing with this budding genre. Last year's AI movie web game tie-in was the first of a new breed of online interactive fiction, attracting thousands of players world-wide. Mr. Hon takes a look at the genre and puts forth some interesting ideas about where it could go. (more inside)
posted by SpaceBass (7 comments total)
Besides being curious about how many of us followed the AI game, or subsequent less-successful games such as Majestic and the Alias game, I'd also like to know how attractive this sort of entertainment genre is to you. Specifically, I'm wondering if this isn't the 'next big thing' that the entertainment industry is scrabbling for, but hasn't yet realized.

Could this genre bring the industry into an age where the content isn't as important as being a part of it in real-time? This type of game certainly does not lend itself to being copied and distributed illicitly, since the elements are constantly changing in reaction to the players' actions; trying to play a copy would be as unsatisfying as drinking a warm, flat soda. Is this a step toward a world where live, interactive, and tailored performances are more highly regarded and sought after than the old-media one-way dictatorial style of entertainment?
posted by SpaceBass at 12:47 PM on May 19, 2002

This does seem to be an evolution in entertainment, one that compliments the current crop of reality television. But the effort required to sustain disbelief over any length of time seems enormous and would demand a high level of connectivity between its audience. But since its viral, I guess that is the way it is supposed to work. Still, I was not aware of the AI game.
posted by piskycritter at 3:57 PM on May 19, 2002

From the first telephone message in the AI game...
Welcome my child. Once upon a time there was a forest, that teemed with life, love, sex and violence. Things that humans did naturally. And their robots copied -- flawlessly. This forest is vast and surprising. It is full of grass, and trees, and databanks, and drowned apartment buildings, filled with fish. It can be a frightening forest, and some of its paths are dark, and difficult. I was lost there once -- a long time ago. Now I try to help others who have gone astray. If you ever feel lost, my child, write me at thevisionary.net. And I will leave you a trail of crumbs...

piskycritter: check out cloudmakers.org for the details on the AI game; it was extraordinarily immersive, with dozens of websites, emails, and even phone calls. The "trail" and "guide" pages will give you some idea of the complexity.

From what was talked about when the game ended, the creators/implementors worked 24/7 to keep it going; I don't think normal "employees" at a game company would be willing/able to put in that kind of dedication again to make something this seamless.
posted by bcwinters at 7:31 AM on May 20, 2002

Well, part of the problem with this need to do 24/7 is that they completely underestimated the apetite of the gamers for new content and their puzzle solving ability. Apparently the Cloudmakers got through at least a month's worth of material in maybe 24 hours.

Another problem is that a lot of material that they did prepare in advance never got used - I got to look at some of this stuff when I was at Microsoft and believe me, there was a lot of it, and it was all good. And all wasted.

I don't think it's necessary to work 24/7 to make a game of AI's caliber, but given that this was the first of its kind I think it's understandable that they weren't as prepared as they should have been. The real test will come when their next game comes out in a few months time.
posted by adrianhon at 8:29 AM on May 20, 2002

It'll hit critical mass when they open-source it and the players become content creators, with the game company/publisher mediating and selecting content. Kinda like geoshitties. But in leather pants.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:56 AM on May 20, 2002

It's interesting you say that, because both Microsoft and EA tried to encourage user created content in their games. It never really worked.

Most people can't be bothered, and most of those who can be bothered can't write at a high enough quality. Also, there are only certain circumstances in which user created content can work, and all of them are outside of anything critical to the plot, assuming that the plot is controlled by the designers (there are many strong reasons for this, the foremost being that if you cede control of the plot, the story goes haywire).

In fact, the AI Cloudmakers user community realised this after the first fan site was released and many players became confused about whether it was a 'game' site or not. From then on, there was something of a self-imposed rule against creating any content that might be confused with being in the game, and this was never fully resolved until close to the end of the game.

I'll be writing about this issue soon - it's pretty interesting.
posted by adrianhon at 9:34 AM on May 20, 2002

I think it's interesting the way that Internet communities are starting to become key to TV shows and Movies. No one can deny the importance that the "underground" LOTR and Star Wars communities have to how the movies are perceived. Or take a look at the community surrounding the Survivor TV show. It's alive with speculation, games, discussion, humor and the like. I don't think the show would have the same level of popularity it does without the Internet discussions.
posted by Orkboi at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2002

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