Weblog 4/17

Play Wizard 101? Want a rare treasure card? Calamity Boompants will be on the Pixie realm, in Area 1, between 2 and 2:30 PM CST with cards the likes of which you won’t often see. Just, you know, don’t be standing behind her when her Boompants have a Calamity…

It’s hard to go anywhere on the web these days without running into some breathless enthusiasm for Twitter. CNN and Ashton Kutcher squared off to see who could get a million followers first. Today, talk show host Oprah Winfrey will have Ashton Kutcher on her show and Twitter live, on the air. Thousands of Twits are spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to use Twitter to extract money from you, the casual Twitter user. Why is Twitter suddenly more in the news than Facebook or MySpace (anyone remember MySpace?)

The founders of copyright infringement enablers Pirate Bay were found guilty in Sweden of copyright infringement and will each spend a year in jail and repay 30 million krone (about 3.6 million USD). Co-defendant Peter Sunde said they found out the verdict late last night, and tweeted, “It used to be only movies, now even verdicts are out before the official release.”

MMORPG.com is giving away 100 one month Spellborn subscriptions as well as some random other bits of computer hardware. So if trying to figure out Acclaim’s bizarre payment plans has kept you away from the game, why not try for a chance to play it on MMORPG’s nickel?

Ever play SimCity and wonder why there wasn’t a way to play your city with and against the cities of other players? City XL will let you do just that. It’s Sim City set on a planet covered with hundreds of player-run, photo-realistic cities. Massively is running a promotion which might help get you into the closed beta, while even normally reticent, but snarky, problog Rock, Paper, Shotgun is getting hit with the hype.

That’s all I got.

Acclaim Spellborn client available for download

From Acclaim’s Community Manager, Historian, comes this news via Twitter:

The Official Spellborn Download for Acclaim is up on our forums.

… and when asked if those accepted into the beta test would know by checking their account status at the Acclaim site, or if there would be an email, replied:

most likely checking your status will be faster than the email.. but If I get word people have been activated I will post it.

So there you have it. Spellborn is finally going live in the US. See you in the Deadspell Storm… if I get into the beta, and the NDA (if any) lets me post about it.

Thoughts on a Twitter RPG

I was inspired by a tweet from Red Headed Tim this morning to think about what a Twitter roleplaying game might look like.

Twitter, for those new to it, is, famously, “short messages continually answering the question, ‘What are you doing?'”. If that sounds only marginally interesting, I agree. What Twitter REALLY is, is a party with little clumps of conversation going on everywhere. You can listen in on friends talking, join in, or just walk around getting little nuggets from people here and there, occasionally adding some thoughts of your own.

Or maybe you just want to tell people what you are doing.

When you follow someone, you get everything they tweet to anyone in your twitter list. When someone follows you, they get all YOUR tweets. If the half of your friend’s conversation that you can read interests you, you can easily follow the link back to their friend and perhaps follow them. They get an alert that you are no following them; they might read your tweets and decide to follow you.

If someone you follow tweets too much or about things that don’t interest you, you might decide to stop following them.

So these are the challenges for a Twitter based RPG.

  1. Every message from the game host must be 140 characters or less — that’s a Twitter limitation.
  2. Player responses will look like half of a phone conversation to the player’s followers. The half they hear should be interesting enough to the player’s followers that the followers don’t drop the player (and perhaps they would like to join in).
  3. And they shouldn’t spam the player or their followers.

My first idea was to do a simple game from personal computing’s stone age, “Hunt the Wumpus“. It would be really simple to program, but it completely violates points 2 and 3 — the player moves are strings of numbers, and there’s lots of spam for followers. You can check out someone else’s implementation of the game by following @huntthewumpus.

Games like Zork and Colossal Cave Adventures used a text interface and Zork, in particular, pioneered very forgiving player input that could deal with syntactically complex commands. However, the most usual player action in both these games was movement. If you just saw the player side of things, it would look like N N N N E NE W U TAKE LAMP LIGHT LAMP E E E U E PRESS BUTTON.

That’s gonna get you unfollowed pretty quick.

Twitter RPGs have to have the player tell a story to their followers even as the RPG is telling a story to the player.

I’ve come up with a simple design that might address this kind of thing.

  • Abolish repetitive RPG/MUD commands, like movement.
  • Limit player input to whatever they can fit in 140 characters, no more often than some long interval, half an hour or more.
  • Player input should help describe the game and imply the parts the followers cannot read.

So here’s kinda the thing I have in mind. Player input on the left, game output on the right.

Hello! Hello, @player! You’ve come just in time! I have to get to my lab, but my mutant kitten Spices won’t let me through the door!
All I have, @player, is some chewing gum, a pencil, a cardboard box, a mirror and a balloon. Can you help?
Put mirror in box, put box by door, open the door. You place the mirror in the box. The box now has a mirror in the bottom of it.
You place the box by the door.
You open the door.
The mutant cat runs snarling through the door, into the box.
The cat sees its reflection in the box and goes running far, far away, mewling in fear.
Phew! Thanks, @player! It’s like you knew exactly what to do… somehow…. Please meet me in my lab, I have a proposition for you.

Well, it’s okay to spam the player. They asked for it.

The player’s followers would only see the player tweet “Hello” and “Put mirror in box, put box by door, open the door.”. They will probably wonder what the heck is going on, but they won’t be spammed, and perhaps they would look in on the game and suggest possible things you could try (or play themselves).

Just some first thoughts on a rather traditional text RPG done Twitter-style. Any thoughts?

Twitter

I signed up for Twitter a long time ago but forgot entirely about it until now. Anyway, my username there is tipadaknife (a play on Tipa the Knife from my rogue days, and Tip of the Knife. I can’t remember who came up with that. It wasn’t me, but I grabbed on to it :)

As I think of other social spaces I belong to and actually occasionally check, I’ll add them to the Contact Me! widget on the sidebar so we can all meet up on our various places to be.