State of Play post 1

by Alphaville Herald on 15/11/03 at 10:50 pm

I was only able to attend one day of The State of Play conference but let me just say that it was one of the most interesting conferences that I’ve been to in a long long time. What I would like to do is cover events session by session, beginning in this post with the morning breakfast session that included presentations by Philip Rosendale, Founder and CEO of Linden Labs (2nd Life), and Will Harvey, Founder and Executive VP of There Inc. (There).

Both participants gave presentations. Harvey gave the usual There trailer which was similar to if not identical to the one we see on the homepage of There. Rosendale took us on a brief “live” tour of 2nd life. Obviously the latter was more informative. In general, Rosendale seemed extremely with it and smart, so the bulk of the interesting stuff came out of his presentation and comments.

Obviously one of the more interesting elements of Rosendale’s presentation was the announcement that they will allow players to keep rights to the intellectual content that they make. This coupled with the tools that 2nd life has for creating content and you have a very very powerful dynamic in the works. Whereas There allows stylistic forms of custom content (clothes and dune buggy accessories and skins are about it – still it is more than TSO offers (i.e. nothing)), 2nd Life has introduced some powerful scripts which, in one case have led to members building a dungeons and dragons style role playing game within the game! There are of course also possibilities for using scripts for a number of creations ranging from modes of transportation to housing.

I actually belong to both of these worlds, but I came away thinking that 2nd Life looks very promising whereas There looks like it is rapidly devolving into nothing more than a chat room with the possibility of playing dress-up with custom content.

Issues that came up in the discussion period involved whether both systems weren’t selling out to consumerism. That is, given this chance to start over, why build consumerism into the system. In discussion with a couple folks during the break there was a kind of consensus that no developer was going to invest in a game that only supports a gift economy (not even sure that could be enforced) since a great number of users (and in particular the content creators) tend to be drawn by the virtual market economies of these games. Not sure if there is hard data on that, but such was the sentiment.

Finally, one really interesting feature of 2nd Life that came out in discussion with Rosendale afterwards is the idea the 2L is designed to be entirely distributed. That is, ultimately there will be no central server, but the game will be distributed among PCs worldwide. This isn’t possible yet because of bandwidth problems and PCs aren’t up to snuff yet, but wait until everyone has wideband and a 64 bit processor! The architecture of the game is just waiting for this to happen. This part just blew my mind.

Conclusion: 2nd Life kicks ass. I’ll probably still go to There now and then, but only so I can go on virtual dune buggy rides with my friend Stella, and I would short There if I could.

8 Responses to “State of Play post 1”

  1. Candace

    Nov 17th, 2003

    I could not follow the link to read the rest of the story; don’t know if that’s me or something wrong with the post.

    Anyhow, you seem extremely excited about this, and I’m anxious to hear more. Call me cynical (I’ve been called worse), but I tend to see this as a gimmick (perhaps a very bright one) to promote the game. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with promotion (long-live capitalism) but my interest here is in the economic/legal implications. At first glance “to allow players to keep rights to the intellectual content” they create in the game sounds really cool. What that will amount to in terms of actual rights and economics (virtual or otherwise) is what I want to determine. Is it simply a promise that “we won’t sue you for selling items on e-bay” (note how that does not have the proper commercial ring to it)? If so, these people will sell there creations to others who will use it in game and it still benefits the company. I’m skeptical that were the content to be used in a way objectionable to the company, they would intervene and perhaps proceed to litigation (‘well, it’s “our” format and we bestow the “right” to the individual to retain it but only for purposes of game-play,’ something like that). Intellectual property rights are rather difficult cases to establish, especially in this medium, I would think. I’m fascinated, confused, weary and wary. I look forward to more on this exciting topic. Thanks for making it to the conference for all your readers.

  2. urizenus

    Nov 17th, 2003

    Ooops, I just learned that for the “continute reading” link to work I have to assign a category to the article. Try now Candace.

    About the 2nd Life announcement on property rights, *of course* 2nd Life will benefit from this. How could they not? But a gimmick? I don’t see this. Isn’t enough to know you won’t be sued by 2nd Life for selling your stuff on ebay (like EQ is currently forcing ebay to stop auctions for EQ objects — although as of this typing said auctions continue). It’s also true that 2nd Life won’t be in court with you if somone infringes on your ingame intellectual property. (actually, I’m not sure that’s right — they may well assist in such litigation as it is in their interest to do so). But I can’t see that this is any different from other cases of copyright infringement. People infringe, and if you want to fight them you go to court and try to show damages. In spite of what you see in presidential appointments, judges are not idiots and they will understand that people have viable property interests here.

  3. Candace

    Nov 18th, 2003

    I have no objection to the company turning a profit. They would be idiots not to do so. We’re cool there. I guess I see it being billed as revolutionary and really benefitting the individual too, and I remain skeptical about that. If the most that happens is you’re benevolently allowed to sell “your” creations on-line without the company suing you, that may be a move forward (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad). However, it really seems like they are hyping up their marketing (again, bright on their part and more power to them), and I don’t see how individuals will benefit all that much. Although, I’m certainly not the type of little punk who calls *all* judges idiots, a number of them are unsympathetic to an individual going against a corporation and I believe that if this is a new realm, they may *well* be resistent to think individuals should have property interests protected for creations that were generated off of someone else’s patented software. That takes a leap, I think. Also, I have not seen the user agreement (I don’t know if it’s available for public perusal, yet?) but depending on a company’s kindness for the protection of your property rights seems unwise. I agree with Kale-uhhhuuuuummmmm (just clearing my throat).

  4. Cory Ondrejka

    Nov 23rd, 2003

    Sorry that I didn’t see this earlier but let me point out a couple of things:
    1) the new Second Life TOS allows you to retain the real world property rights that other MMOGs take away. Period. Want to upload something that you own the copyright to, you can and you retain it. Want to design a chair in Second Life then use the design in the real world and sell it to Design Within Reach? You can. Want to put on a play and then sell the novelization? You can. This is Second Life working with the players to give them rights that they wanted.
    2) if you haven’t used Second Life, you might not realize that the creative power within Second Life is unlike anything that you have ever used before. You are not repurposing content that we built, not “crafting” in the “push button to make shirt” sense. If you choose to, you can make completely new creations, from clothing to vehicles to entire cities. The users are creating Second Life and it became clear that any company that claims it wants users to build the world but has a TOS that strips the players of their ownership of their creations is being shortsighted at best.

    So, if you have questions, please take a look at the TOS (it’s available on out website at and check out Second Life so that you can understant just how profound a change this is.

  5. Peter Ludlow

    Nov 23rd, 2003

    Thanks Cory, this is helpful.

  6. Kale

    Nov 24th, 2003

    Thanks a lot for the post. Could we have here a company that actually responds (wake up EA…..still no word from them, and excuse the digression)? I’m loving that already.
    I indeed have not played 2nd Life, but it’s really being hyped which is fabulous and must be an indication of something going down. My only concern is that the hype might be a little off track, but maybe checking out the TOS will give me a better idea on whether what we’re looking at here is *that* revolutionary. Thanks again, Cory. After I read the TOS (soon), a couple questions may pop up here for discussion…..

  7. Dan Hunter

    Nov 25th, 2003

    “I would short There if I could.”

    So when are you establishing a securities market in worlds? And can I buy a seat on the exchange when you do?


  8. Peter Ludlow

    Nov 25th, 2003

    Too late, Dan. The Gaming Open Market beat me too it. It sounds like they are considering the possibility of going long and short on game currencies too, though I can’t imagine who would want to go long on any of these.

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