There are now over a million of PC users worldwide that play Second Life. These are by and large somewhat older, empowered, more intelligent people [than the average gamer] and consequently can be expected to have higher spending power.
So. What if a proven quality company closes a deal with Linden Lab. Then manufactures a quality game [which would almost certainly be an MMO]. And then your avatar can enter that game. It’s that simple. My idea proposes nothing more than that a game company creates a game where Second Life characters can enter a special environment.
The SL avatar entering the game world world enter a game environment naked, or with minimal clothes, but with normal textures, maybe some basic clothing and hair. And then the avatar would be able to play that game, like any other game. The mechanics of the game would be different than regular SL. The interface would almost certainly be different. There would be another inventory or none. In effect the avatar leaves Second Life through a portal, is no longer ‘in’ Second Life (until he or she actively returns) and is free to explore a new world.
Maybe upon return the player can take back some objects from the MMO, maybe swords or armors (in case of a fantasy realm) or guns, or magic artefacts, or anything else. These would have the features of items in the MMO, and might do things like shoot or create magical effects, and they would be situated in the SL inventory in a special new GAME inventory. Or maybe the avatar itself might be ‘upgraded’ by the MMO, by having new unique character models, skins, eyes or actual innate abilities. I am sure gaming companies might work together with Linden Lab to accomodate minor changes in the client to allow players of these phased games the significant gloat factor. Imagine you walking offgrid from SL, become a level ultra rogue or warlock or commando or vampire and then return to SL, abundantly bragging about avatar features you can only unlock by entering the MMO. My personal conclusion would be – people would buy these phased games merely to get access to uncommonly well designed avatar features.
Or mechs. Or flying carpets. Or battle tanks. Or animated pet animals. Or animated (and AI) servant demons. Which all work and do their thing in the SL grid.
So, what’s the use?
For a game company – get immediate access to a million consumers. What that isn’t a good argument?
For SL – create new demand for SL, new people using features and client data of users, maybe even get paid some.
I would strongly like seeing this happen. It would benefit all involved and would allow SL to become a conduit or intermediary between several gaming environments. The only thing which is needed for a game company is some minor design work in SL, making use of the character models of SL, some back and forth server communication, a selection procedure which features would be allowable in the game world and which not (most game companies would probably ban penises) – which in effect would create a cooperative effort between stores in SL to get their avatar products (such as hair) certified for the new game environment.
I assume very few people will read this, least of which the Linden Labbers, who read nothing these days that risks getting them even more burned out, shell-shocked and overloaded but think about it. To me this makes sense.
Some Questions I got:
Q Why in their right mind would a game designing company, let alone a quality GDC get in bed with the ghastly casino/flying penis image of SL?
A To make money, to save assets. Game Designers face an uphill struggle – get customers. Merchandising and marketing costs zillions and it is boring, hard work. What if a company just plugs in the existing hordes of SL users with an account, and gets them
Q Linden Lab has been obnoxiously aloof, defensive and hostile to companies coming into SL. Why would they want to change that attitude and how?
A SL is nearing its growth plateau. That is – it will get an additional few percent growth a year, minus some drop-off. No doubt LL will have long since started doctoring the growth numbers lying to shareholders and investors to keep those from leaving in disgust. All in all SL is in a holding pattern. Another phrase I’d use is they are shellshocked, overloaded, confused and have revved their vehicle stuck in the mud. So what gives? Well games give. Games are the biggest growth industry. With allegedly very modest infrastructure LL could accomodate the creation of gaming portals, the practice of conduiting game assets from the LL server into these extranet gaming environments, (cautiously) share client data, (evil grin – facilitate in-game microtransactions through L$ channels). Linden Lab would then get growth, such as gamers who join the MMO not having an SL account, finding that they can wander off the MMO and into SL, and quickly score some virtual blowjobs with their level 14 drow barbarian. But that’s my most banale interpretation. Linden Lab and SL win at every turn, so to create this infrastructure ‘discretely and under the radar’ would make sense. A simple PDF with the rationale of the idea sent to all major gaming companies and I bet one or two would get a twinkle in their eyes as soon as they read argument 2.4 – save on merchendizing : immediate potential access to N million registered account holders.
Q I don’t see this, I buy a game DVD or what?
A I say to anyone contemplating this – do it all. The gaming company creates a sim in SL, with the game entry portal. It would be that simple. (Potential) clients would merely teleport to that sim, and see a cliche stargate style portal. Click it, and it asks you if you want to buy the DVD (pay in Linden$, pay pal or credit card). Of course the same DVD would be available in quality game stores (an euphemism for ‘you’d have to order it online’). It’s a game. The only difference is that the game recycles a number of assets standard in SL – a dozen or so quality skins, clothes, some sets of hair, the odd fashion attachable. Other than that when you walk through that gaming portal you walk into a game, the SL clients shuts down and the game exe starts up. One moment you were in SL and a few minutes later you stand with ‘roughly the same avatar, but with a far better game rendering agent’ in the startup area of a game world.
Q As game company why not just buy up a set of islands, build the game there and only allow entry to those people who had bought into the game? Why do I need this separate world portal? In other words, why hasn’t someone done a successful game of this type in SL already?
A Do you game?
The SL interface is ‘adequate’ for walking around, not that everyone would agree. Your expectation would imply that the SL client is even remotely compatable to a decent Game or MMO client. This is NOT the case. If you haven’t gotten around to comparing SL with many of the existing games, do have a look into that. I am currently playing around with AoC (#crom server) and the idea that any of that could be implemented in SL is laughable even in the span of the next few years. I would object to even trying – SL is years away from even being able to try. In AoC I can up my screen settings and watch monsters half a mile distant. I walk or jog, with no lag, for hundreds of meters. There are interactive NPC monsters that walk around believably. Have a look at the Hyrkanian village in AoC, walk around and try implementing that in SL. The idea is ludicrous.
Having spent some time close to actual professional game designers I can seriously guarantee you no self-respecting game designer would consent to the chaos of SL proper. SL is loathed by game designers.
The added benefit of this idea is twofold – Linden Lab would benefit from being linked to an appetizing new venue (and players would join SL to get access to the game, OR get an account for free). Those that would buy the game without initially having bothered with SL would find they could leave the grafted MMO, walk into SL, get different hair or jeans or skin, solcialize or hang around, and then move back into the MMO. Or in another MMO grafted in SL for that matter!
Take for instance an SL grafted GTA5 MMO. Rock star games wouldn’t dream of doing this, but let’s speculate. The net realization would be players in SL moving into an ‘entry sim’, walk into the MMO. The SL client shuts down. The game client starts up. Your avatar emerges in recognizable state, provided you are wearing clothes, skin, hair and other attachments that carry some kind of compatibility tag. This is possible – the game simply uses (certified!) texture, sculpted or attachment assets provided in SL and uses them in the game. Anyone who ever played Crysis, FarCry, GTA4, Assassins Creed know these games provide a completely different gaming experience and interface than the SL interface. These experience are as separated as a fridge is conceptually different from a microwave. Actual MMO’s are simpler in graphics, but clearly far above the experience of SL. WoW may be substantially lower graphics than SL, but that’s not the case with Aion, AoC, LOTR. SL is the better part of a decade behind any of those, in graphics, but especially in smoothness of interface – and the character animations.
You’d have to ditch the entire SL client and introduce a firestorm of reverse compatibility issues to try to shoehorn the SL existing client into what would be a game that would be able to compete.
The attractiveness of this would be reverse movement. Let’s say I play the above mentioned SL-grafted GTA5 the ideal situation were if I could bring avatar features, new clothes, firearms, maybe a car back into SL. Regular players of SL would be fighting their way in to obtain cool gimmicks from such games. Say, if this were to catch on, you get something like a Fallout4 MMO, or a WoD like MMO, or a hard core fantasy MMO. Maybe a distant Guildwars 3. I would (should) then be able to take a majority of items I gathered in the various game and walk them around for bragging rights. Especially with some high tiered items in such games, the implications of this would be significant. I can play one or several game, and after months of play and guild-based cooperation I would find myself in the possession of a mindblowingly cool magical sword. Or an armor. Or a minigun. Or a servile demon. Let Linden Lab then get of its ass, and adjust/upgrade the SL client to such a degree it would accomodate me to wear, show (use!) these items in SL, even if only they had very little of the game effects of the MMO they emerged from.
It’s a matter of synergy and symbiosis. I think it makes at least some sense, maybe even sense enough to transcend the current prejudices and resentments that exist in the games industry towards SL and social games.
Even abstractified games like Eve Online would benefit from this.Lets assume Eve would implement ‘ambulation’ under a future upgrade of Incarna, and would open the doors of stations to a select number of SL avatars. In other words – you wall of SL and into an eve online ambulatory environment. There you can demo a little. Chat. Do a number of smaller third person missions, but nothing more than would be fair to any standard demo game. You can watch the fabulous eve vessels in station dock through the windows.
Eve online now has a few hundred thousand users, of which at every moment more than 30.000 are online, and over 150.000 are paying subscribers. EVEN THOUGH the typical Eve user would initially scream bloody murder if the unwashed filth of SL would be let loose in Eve, very soon they’d realize these characters would be largely be station fodder, and constitute a serious new generation of starting tier players of the game. Sure, CCP wouldn’t dream of doing this. But what if a competitor would? We will see character migration between games quite soon, EVEN if transitions transfer little or no game benefits. If LL has any sense it works like a rabid animal to be the glue between several games.
Why? Because SL characters will always remain in existence. They don’t go away. There is always that lingering sentimental association between a character and its experiences. Say, what if I experienced grande adventures with my SL circle of friends facing Cthulhoid monsters in a Lovecraft MMO. That Lovecraft MMO would face severe competitive challenges in a few years. The lovecraft Franchise would be amazing for an MMO, but only a very small number of people would select this MMO over a range of potential competitors. Blizzard now netts close 2 billion a year on WoW. In ten years the total MMO market will be easily ten times as big and correspondingly cutthroat. A minor brand would sacrifice virgins to the old ones, to have players last beyond the novelty shelf life of any MMO – people join up, play 1-2 months, and then go play something else. A minor franchise can’t ever hope to compete under those odds. However if the chance is embiggened that players would have avatars that persist beyond the MMO, the odds players recurrence (or microcredit systems based on Linden$ where players can casually ‘buy a week subscription‘ ) odds increase sharply. It would be the intravenous vitamin shot keeping small MMO brands alive.