There and (mostly) Back Again; A Solstice Greeting

Greetings loyal reader. Thank you for keeping my in your feeder! I failed in my promise to blog more often, but better late than never.

Some Three Rings news:

Whirled is going very well, but of course has been taking longer than we hoped to reach beta. We have been very much in ‘last 80%’ territory — polishing our multi-player games, fussing with our user interface, and making all the myriad of changes that a few loyal players illustrate the need for. We are optimistic about the prospects for a more public debut early(ish!) in the New Year. Before we do that, though, we will send invites to everyone who’s signed up already.

Puzzle Pirates continues to thrive, with the addition of Atlantean Sea Monsters this autumn and some very exciting things coming up that I’m not allowed to talk about.

The Nautilus continues to amaze; last week I was interviewed for a piece on NPR about Steampunk! I’ll post when I know the air date. I had fun talking through the office and shaking tentacles for the microphone. Those who’ve been for a visit to the office will know that my desk has been in front part of the office: ‘Terra Mundana’ (or ‘Business up front’ as opposed to the ‘Party in the back’ in our mullet school of design). In 2008 I’ll be moving back to Nautilus, to be close to my secret room and the bar, which many of you will know is quite exciting for me.

We’ve had a great year, and I’m very thankful — particularly for the new folks who’ve joined the team and the hard work everyone’s put in. We also have some fabulous new partners that I’ll post about separately in due course.

Some things that I’ve been up to:

As mentioned last time, I went to Ye Olde Burning Man and had a jolly good time pushing my gold box around. Eunice came out to for the weekend and I pushed the box around with her riding on top, like some deranged Pirate Queen riding her treasure chest. Unfortunately getting home turned into a bit of a fiasco, when our rental van was killed by a botched jump-start (tip from the pros: don’t agree to give jump-starts to crazed dusty people with crappy giant RVs when you don’t understand anything about how your vehicle works and a false move might convince the on-board computer to shut it down completely). Queue a two-day wait in white-out conditions for a tow truck to rescue us. It was surreal watching the city dissolve around us, when we could see anything. Fortunately we got home just in time for me to take a bath and roll back out to Austin for the Austin Game Conference. Once again I made to our session on start-up lessons with not a lot of time to spare. I don’t remember much else about Austin but I think it was fun! I believe next year they’re having the show a little later in September, which will be nice.

I went to Hawaii for David Hornik’s conference: The Lobby (I know, linking to Valleywag, but there’s no official public conference website afiak). It was really good fun, very interesting and nice people — some I knew, others were new. Lots of folks had family and SO’s out there, which gave the event a different feel. A big shout-out to Raj Kapoor for pulling of ‘I wanna be sedated’ with a crowd of pogo-ing entrepreneurs and VCs.

I was photographed for a fashion blog at the Alameda Flea Market, wearing the suit I found for The Lobby, where I’d met Evan Williams and his wife, and we’d talked about Mai who took the photo, of me wearing the suit…

Some industray action:

Since blogging last time that Thinglefin got funded, like a juicy minnow they were snapped up Big Fish Games. I can see a lot of sense in that — Peter Thelen (now Chairman) has been looking to get into the casual MMO business for a while, and certainly Thingelfin’s efforts will benefit from Big Fish’s awesome distribution. We’ve struggled a lot with that side of things at Three Rings, as I’ve ranted about here in the past, so I see this as an encouraging sign. Congratulations to all.

IAC acquired a majority stake in Garage Games with a plan to build out InstantAction a destination for rich, 3D in-browser games. I believe they’re going to do this via the Torque plugin. It’s my belief that getting the target audience, presumably folks who play on Miniclip, AddictingGames, etc. to install anything is very challenging, but I wish them luck.

FlowPlay had a brief Beta, which was neat — taking standard Flash casual games into a Flash (lots of Flex, I feel for their engineers!) virtual world. Welcome to the 80%-land I mentioned above, Derrick! Meez also has some of this game action going on.

LiveGamer announced with an enormous pile of VC and some impressive initial contracts to provide publisher-authorized secondary markets. As usual, I agree with Raph that this is so much of an inevitability that it should be uncontroversial. However, what LiveGamer is most definitely NOT is “eBay for virtual world goods”. As I understand it, LiveGamer is a technology provider to publishers allowing them to easily put up co-branded, walled garden marketplaces. It is not trying to facilitate any kind of cross-game marketplace. If it was, I think people like SOE and GoPets would have a lot more problem signing a contract with them — why send your most profitable players to a cross-publisher market? This would seem to only encourage the worst possible behaviour from a publisher’s point of view — liquidating your assets in one game to surf on over to another. I’ve been pitched such ‘opportunities’ and my response was a resounding ‘Bzzt’. The pitcher’s response was to say that I was taking an AOL-esque ‘walled garden’ view, to which my reply was ‘Flawed analogy, but sure, until there is an eBay with critical mass where I might reasonably thing I would attract users rather than lose them, I’ll stick with my nice walled garden’. Anyway, you’re not going to see a Puzzle Pirates LiveGamer marketplace soon… frankly I’m not quite sure what’s complicated about the technology — compared to building an actual MMO it seems pretty straightforward. Didn’t Sony do this themselves with the Station Exchange? Maybe they know something I don’t.

MetaPlace announced. Raph and I had a fun conversation around a year and a half ago where we revealed a few cards to each other about our ‘next thing’. We shared the same ‘flop’ but had different cards in the ‘hole’. I agree with a lot of Damion’s thoughts and the comments thereof, in particular I think creating a world is really hard, non-professionals creating one that works on the web and a phone, or in 2D and 3D, seems improbable. Our bet is more on the ‘social network with games’ than the ‘your own world’. I look forward to seeing us both out there in 2008 and kicking ass.

No sooner do I predict a wobble in the Second Life economy for the Virtual Worlds News 2008 Forecast PDF (well worth a read, post forthcoming on 2008 predictions in general) then Second Life releases metrics showing flat user growth. This could be just fine, but it’s my suspicion that momentum in key parts of SL’s economy, particularly real estate, rely on continued new entrants into the economy and existing property-holders retaining rather than liquidating their assets. I still lub Second Life though.

Some blog action:

Damion on repeatability — as some posters point out, this was exactly the problem I was trying to solve with Puzzle Pirates.

Jeremy Liew on well, pretty much everything. If you’re interested in making games and the funding thereof, this is a must-read.

Andrew Chen is awesomely smart and cracking some codes.

Janus Anderson has a new minty-fresh blog that starts with a guide to, well, making a blog. My version of first few steps: use Dreamhost, click butan to install WordPress. Also one might use which seems to work well enough for Jeremy and relieves one of responsibility for the potential security worries of running server software.

Brad feld on the 19% of users who matter is worth a read, back to the Pareto 80/20 rule.

Only in China would wealthy WoW players be able to ‘make it real’. The bad movie club at work just watched a Steven Seagal movie based on this plot premise (minus the MMORPG bit).

And now to the silly section:

This Zero Punctuation review of Tabula Rasa cracked me up… ‘all a bunch of pointless timesinks for socially maladjusted freaks with self-diagnosed Aspergers syndrome’ indeed.

Timely with all this secondary market stuff, but ancient and already blogged to bits Excel the MMO.

Likewise, if by chance you don’t read TechMash or whatnot, this Richter Scales ‘Here Comes Another Bubble’ is hilarious. Note: I am firmly on the side of ‘if your photo is on the web you should be happy someone used it’, but I guess considering what we’re making with Whirled, that is no surprise.

I heard this catchy tune on the radio and looked it up on YouTube. Turns out the talented and pretty (and, nsfw warning, rather underclothed) singer Natasja died in a car crash. This is sad. Wait, I thought this was the silly section? Anyway, hopefully being listened to (and possibly ogled) on YouTube is a legacy of sorts. Woop woop!

Awesome Puzzle Pirates Fake Movie Posters, if you scroll down/page through enough you really get to the embarrassing bit.

That’s all folks for today! I don’t blog often, but when I do a giant bubble of saved up blogliness bursts all at once, so thanks for making it this far. Once more I’ll try to post more frequently ‘going forward’ into 2008.

Merry Solstice! Take a moment to ask the sun nicely to return today.

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