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Second Life

Eerie comparisons between MMOs and real life surface

World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Culture, MMO Industry, Second Life, Miscellaneous

We all joke about how unrealistic MMOs are to our mundane, tax-filled lives, but Redcentric did a little digging to compare how virtual worlds and the real one stack up in various ways. Some of the results proved astounding.

With World of Warcraft, Redcentric noted that the population in both the game and the US military have about the same percentage of males (84% to 83%), while EVE Online's male population (96%) is more similar to that of the astronaut crowd (90%). The agency also noted how Second Life has 10 real-world embassies in it and that a previous ban of real-money trading in the game caused a very real financial crisis for a bank that wiped out $750,000.

So how do these three titles compare to real-world cities in regards to population? World of Warcraft at its peak was close to Moscow's population (11.5 million), while Second Life almost hit the levels of San Fransisco (825K) and EVE Online barely surpassed Edinburgh's 495,000.

Free for All: Five reasons to continue loving MMORPGs

Business Models, Culture, Game Mechanics, PvP, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG

RuneScape screenshot
It's been all gloomy around here lately, hasn't it? Well there's a good reason for that, as you might know. Luckily I have survived the cuts that affected much of the AOL Tech network, although that means that Rise and Shiny and MMObility, my two other regular columns, will be consolidated into this one. While it might seem like less work for me, in actuality it means that I have less room to tell you, fair reader, about all of the fantastic MMOs that continue to come out.

Yes, I said continue to come out. It's easy to become a Seymour ("I hate my interests!") in these days of non-stop hype, but the truth is that the MMO genre has continuously pumped out content for many, many years and will keep doing so for some time. So to celebrate the fact that three of my columns are now coming to you in one megacolumn, I thought it'd be fun to remind ourselves just why we enjoy this hobby.

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Second Life CEO Rod Humble leaves Linden Lab

MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

It will forever be a mystery how anyone could leave this behind.
Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab for the past three years, officially announced via Facebook that he has left the company. Humble has worked on both The Sims and EverQuest, pretty much exactly the two games that you would think could be mashed together into Second Life. Linden Lab has not issued a statement about Humble's replacement at this time.

In a statement on the move, Humble wished his former coworkers and customers the best of fortunes, stating that he was moving on to form a startup company to make "art, entertainment, and unusual things." Whether or not this will be another startup in the online gaming space or something entirely different remains to be seen.

Massively's Third Annual Frindie Awards

Fantasy, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, MMORTS, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Frindie Awards
It's time once again for me to throw out my awards for the best of free-to-play, indie, and oddball MMOs, a real niche-within-a-niche. It might seem that I am assigned many of these titles as though I were some modern day Mikey, but the truth is that I get a huge thrill out of finding a new game but get even more of a thrill when I realize that no one is covering it. I had to really think hard about the criteria for the awards this year, mainly because "indie" is quickly becoming one of those often hard-to-define words, alongside "MMORPG" and "free-to-play." Fortunately, I think I know it when I see it.

I kept my choices to games that I have actually played this year. I wanted to avoid games that appear to be really cool. If you want a more broad batch of prizes, check out Massively's best of awards. (Side note: I voted for Defiance as my game of the year.)

These awards are for games that are being created on a shoestring or independent of massive budgets. Some of them are connected to some money, of course, but instead of trying to define "indie," I will only repeat: You'll know it when you see it.

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Colbert cracks ancient Second Life joke, picks on NSA

Culture, MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Sandbox

Stephen Colbert
I guess we'll forgive Stephen Colbert for not realizing that the Second-Life-users-don't-have-a-first-life joke is older than he is. Mainly because the rest of his segment on Linden Labs' virtual world and its NSA-powered avatars is pretty funny.

Colbert follows up Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart's riff on the NSA in World of Warcraft with a segment heavy on Second Life secret agents. Kotaku has the full story as well as a video embed.

Second Life's Linden Lab expands with digital distribution service

MMO Industry, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Miscellaneous

Second Life's Linden Lab expands with digital distribution service
Second Life's Linden Lab has announced this week that it has acquired the digital distribution service Desura.

What's Desura? Think of it as a lesser-known version of Steam, yet without the DRM headaches and more focused on player mods. So, not really like Steam.

Linden Lab's CEO, Rod Humble, is optimistic about Desura's offering to the 14-year-old virtual world company: "This acquisition gives us a global platform for serving creative developers of all kinds, and we're looking forward to growing both Desura's global community of gamers and its fantastic portfolio of thousands of games, mods, and other content. Our aim is to invest and support the Desura team in making it the most open and developer-friendly platform in the world."

Second Life readies for 10th anniversary, celebrates a million active users per month

Fantasy, Real-Life, Business Models, MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Sandbox, Anniversaries

Second Life castle
Second Life hasn't gotten much respect in MMO circles since the genre went mainstream (yes, yes, get a first life, aren't you clever!). Still, Linden Lab's virtual world is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary on June 23rd, and it boasts user numbers that most MMOs can only dream about.

An anniversary infographic says that Second Life has amassed 36 million registered users as well as more than 400,000 new accounts per month. Oh, and don't forget "a million monthly active users," according to Linden CEO Rod Humble. Those users typically rack up 1.2 million virtual goods transactions per day and have accounted for $3.2 billion worth of transactions over the life of the game.

You can find more nifty stats like those on the the graphic after the break.

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Free for All: My five favorite MMOs for exploration

Screenshots, Culture, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Second Life, Vanguard, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Vanguard screenshot
There's nothing more important to me than the ability to freely explore MMOs. Heck, exploration is the reason I got into MMOs. I remember grabbing that box of Ultima Online (man, I wish I still had that box!) from a shelf at the local game store and looking in wonder at just how vast this virtual world seemed to be. I'm still the same way, although after years of doing this, I am a bit more cynical about games. I've heard so many promises that never came true, but I know that even the worst of titles offers the chance to explore a brand-new world.

There are a lot of exploration mechanics out there. Free Realms has an adventurer "job," The Secret World needs players to explore to solve mysteries, Guild Wars 2 offers experience based on discovering new areas, EverQuest II entices people to explore by offering collectible items embedded in the ground, and there are so many MMOs that allow players to gain experience just by approaching areas they haven't before.

But I have my favorites. These are games that just make me feel like an explorer.

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Free for All: The second annual Frindie Awards

Real-Life, Sci-Fi, Asheron's Call, Contests, Culture, PvP, Ryzom, The Matrix Online, Wurm Online, PvE, Opinion, Second Life, Vanguard, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Mabinogi, Kids, Alganon, Free for All, Family, Miscellaneous, Enter at Your Own Rift, Sandbox

Frindie Awards logo
It's time once again for the Frindie Awards, my attempt to shine some light on the best indie, browser-based, free-to-play, and unusual MMOs that are all-too-often ignored by press -- and players. This one is for the little guys! Well, mostly. It's also for those games that seem to have passed under the collective radar of Massively readers or that seem to be very misunderstood.

Picking the winners this year is just as hard as it was last year, maybe even harder. 2012 was an incredible year for MMOs, so I would rather have just put together an article that highlights every single favorite. In the end, it's more helpful to make myself pick out a winner. It's a rare thing for some of these games to even receive a nod on a major website, something I still can't figure out. Either way, it's best to think of all of the MMOs on this list as my favorites from 2012.

Anyway, let's get to the awards!

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Female avatars are likely to be more exposed than their male counterparts

MMO Industry, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Humor, Miscellaneous

I'll take three gallons of eyebleach, please. Do you also have a brain scrub I could borrow?
You really needed to be told this, right? You may not have been sure whether a lady-type avatar was more likely to be closer to naked than a manly-type avatar. If you were dying to know and really had no idea, there's an actual study now to get you all informed.

Anna M. Lomanowska and Matthieu J. Guitton went into Second Life and examined 404 (192 male and 212 female) avatars of the humanoid-but-not-furry type. They found that 57% of lady-type avatars had less than half of their skin covered, compared to only 10% of masculine-type avatars being similarly exposed. Lomanowska and Guitton were not privy to the actual sex of the folks controlling the avatars.

Do you feel enlightened?

Linden Lab preps four releases for November

New Titles, Second Life, Browser, Mobile, Miscellaneous

Linden Lab preps four games for November
The boys and girls of Linden Lab are expanding their operation. Rapidly expanding, as it turns out. The Second Life studio announced that it has not one, not two, not three, but four titles scheduled for release in November.

We've already heard about the first, which is the Minecraft-wannabe Patterns, but the others are just now being revealed. The second is the iPad-only (for now) Creatorverse, which allows users to draw shapes, have them interact via physics, and then share them on the cloud. The final two are Dio, a room creator, and Versu, a storytelling toolset.

Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble affirmed that Second Life will remain important to the studio, but it will need to make room for all of the new children coming into the family.

Some Assembly Required: Creating content for cash

Aion, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Second Life, All Points Bulletin, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required  Creating content for cash
Housing. Mission generators. Player-run festivals. Music. Overall general sandboxy goodness. Since its debut over a year ago, Some Assembly Required has covered a number of topics related to player-generated content as well as the games that offer such features. However, recent events have turned my attention toward a different aspect of PGC.

Between the Dota 2 incident and last week's announcement from Sony Online Entertainment, I am actually looking at player-generated content in a whole new way: as a revenue generator. That's right -- collecting cold hard cash for your creativity. Although plenty of titles allow players to create content and share it within the games, very few let players sell that content for real-world money. This column explores the cash-for-content phenomenon in MMOs: what games have it, how to use it, and whether it is likely to become the next big thing.

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Free for All: Xulu Universe is more than Second Life-lite

Betas, Sci-Fi, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Interviews, New Titles, Previews, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Races, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crafting

Xulu Universe screenshot
Xulu Universe is a new world built with far-reaching horizons. In reality, those horizons are within reach for anyone who wants to take the time to travel. If you see it, you can go to it. Xulu Universe is also a world of endless building opportunities as in Second Life, although comparing it to Second Life wouldn't quite be accurate. Where Second Life is a sandbox with no set boundaries, Xulu Universe is more of a standardized experience. Sure, there are plans to allow players to add unique touches to creations, but initially, creators will have access to a limited toolset. Don't let that fool you; the tools are quite robust and easy to use.

Last week I joined Xulu Entertainment's co-founders, CEO Nanci Solomon and CTO Joe Santos, for a tour around the new building MMO. We drove, flew, ran, shot, stacked, and jumped through the physics-based world thanks to a new peer-to-peer-styled server plan. What does all of this mean? Click past the cut and I'll do my best to explain what Xulu Universe is all about.

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Iran blocks Guild Wars, World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, Dofus, Entropia Universe, Guild Wars, MMO Industry, Second Life, RuneScape, Guild Wars 2, Legal, Miscellaneous

Iran blocks Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft
Reports are coming in that Iran is moving to block access to several MMOs, including World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. This comes following a conference by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance earlier this month. At the conference, the Islamic Revolution Game Designers Community was formed and decided to ban games that promote superstition, mythology, violence, and revealing clothing.

Following the decision, the government started cracking down on various services and MMOs, such as Battle.net's library and ArenaNet's Guild Wars series. Other games targeted include RuneScape, Second Life, Dofus, Evony, and Entropia Universe.

It's unclear to what extent the government is attempting to enforce these bans, and Iranian players are looking into workaround solutions to access their MMOs. It's interesting to note that Blizzard does not authorize downloads of its products or services in Iran.

The Soapbox: The death of AAA

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, City of Heroes, EverQuest, Business Models, Culture, Economy, Opinion, Second Life, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Free Realms, Wizard101, Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, Vindictus, The Soapbox

38 Studios picture
Disclaimer: The Soapbox column is entirely the opinion of this week's writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Massively as a whole. If you're afraid of opinions other than your own, you might want to skip this column.

I think we're all pretty familiar with the tragic story of 38 Studios by now. If not, take some time to familiarize yourself with it. Essentially it is a tale of massive dreams, botched plans, and hundreds of job losses. I'm not yet sure exactly what went wrong, but I have a feeling that the lackluster response to the studio's stand-alone title might be to blame on top of the poor performance in the high-end of the company. Either way, I have seen many comments exclaiming the end of the big-budget title or at least more trepidation from governments that feel the need to get into a game (no pun intended) they were unfamiliar with.

If we could take a poll of the several million "AAA" MMO players in North America, it's my bet that most of them simply go from one title to the other. The RIFT players who are now enjoying Star Wars: The Old Republic came from World of Warcraft, and before that (if they played MMOs before WoW) they might have been City of Heroes fans and EverQuest players before that. For a long time, large studios held all of the players. Then, AAA started rolling down the steep hill to where it is now.

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