Friday, April 26, 2013

Video Games, World of Warcraft, & Stephenson's Reamde

Here's Wednesday's Forbes article, "Chasing Dragons: How A Misunderstanding Of Video Games Led To The 38 Studios Disaster:"
It seems like a simple tale. Almost an admirable one. A retired sports star loved video games so much, he wanted to make one of his own...
Unfortunately, Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios now stands as a cautionary tale on overreaching expectations in the video game industry...
Schilling...was shooting for the moon... The game was Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, meant to be a World of Warcraft style sword and sorcery MMO... After all, how hard could it be to make another World of Warcraft?
That’s a question that would make anyone with even a passing interesting in gaming burst out laughing... For as much as Schilling claimed to love gaming, he was entirely delusional about the ease of crafting smash hits in the genre. Companies far more established than his have been trying to make a dent in World of Warcraft’s armor for a decade now
For a novel about the creation of a World of Warcraft-like game, try Reamde by Neal Stephenson:
Four decades ago, Richard Forthrast, the black sheep of an Iowa family, fled to a wild and lonely mountainous corner of British Columbia to avoid the draft. Smuggling backpack loads of high-grade marijuana across the border into Northern Idaho, he quickly amassed an enormous and illegal fortune.
With plenty of time and money to burn, he became addicted to an online fantasy game in which opposing factions battle for power and treasure in a vast cyber realm. Like many serious gamers, he began routinely purchasing virtual gold pieces and other desirables from Chinese gold farmers—young professional players in Asia who accumulated virtual weapons and armor to sell to busy American and European buyers.
For Richard, the game was the perfect opportunity to launder his aging hundred dollar bills and begin his own high-tech start up—a venture that has morphed into a Fortune 500 computer gaming group, Corporation 9592, with its own super successful online role-playing game, T’Rain.
But the line between fantasy and reality becomes dangerously blurred when a young gold farmer accidently triggers a virtual war for dominance—and Richard is caught at the center.

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