Saturday, February 28, 2009

Virtual summer is here


CampFU opened its doors to campers this weekend. As in any new online system like this there were a few creeks and groans under the sudden load of real, uncontrolled users.

In particular, the automatch system that finds others for you to play with is straining and needs some tweaks. I want to assure all our new campers however that the rebel monkeys are hard at work this weekend on this and other improvements and you should see rapid evolution of CampFU into a smooth and seamless experience over the next few weeks.

We have a whole lot of additional features planned for the site once the basics are running smoothly, including various ways to form on going teams and social connections. This is all being supported by The Monkey Wrench, our real-time collaborative social-gaming web platform. Down the road you can expect other, different sorts of virtual environments to join the Monkey Wrench family of online experiences.

So come on down and check it out. And if you happen to play with someone names C_T_Orangutan, be kind 'cause thats me!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Well, a once promising MMO is going down in flames. All though the arm-chair pundits are all repeating the common-wisdom. We all know that common wisdom is neither.

Its the usual death-watch chatter. "Nothing can beat [fill in current market favorite here]!" We all know from history that's false. If it weren't, we'd be playing Ultima Online right now. "It shipped too early!", well, that certainly doomed Everquest, or a whole host of other MMOs that went out buggy and incomplete and went on to be major market successes.

That one annoys me particularly because I think it shifts blame from the true culprits for AoC's demise. Yes, there were serious technical issues but thats never stopped an MMO from being successful before. Hardcore MMO players will put up with a lot IF they feel they are being included in the process of fixing the issues. Complaints about incomplete content also fail to acknowledge that the content that WAS included at launch was unique and compelling in a way no other MMO (including the much vaunted WOW) has managed to hit. Since then AoC has filled out the gaps in content that did exist.

The game and quest designers did a brilliant job and deserve recognition for that. The artists did an amazing job and also deserve proper recognition. And the programmers... well, they did no worse then on most games these days, especailly early stage MMOs.

The blame for the crash and burn of AoC *must* fall squarely on the shoulders of Funcom management and their total mishandling of their game's community. To begin with, the game shipped with infuriatingly inadequate customer support. You placed a ticket in the queue, and then about 6 hours after you had gone offline, they'd send you a note saying that they couldn't help you because you weren't online any more and wipe out your ticket. This is a true "customer disservice" system, one seemingly designed to take upset customers and make them more so.

To compound the problem, they outright dissed the PvE RP community, refusing to even answer questions as to why they wouldn't give them basic courtesies, like marking one PvE server an RP server, and instead fawned over and catered to the tiny hardcore PvP minority. After being ignored for the better part of the year and by two successive producers, many of the RP PVE people like myself came to the conclusion we weren't wanted and left.

It wasn't long before AoC gained the reputation of a "PVP gank-fest" discouraging further players from even trying it.

No, the blame for this business failure, as is almost always the case, falls squarely on the shoulders of management. In the end AoC was the Commodore Amiga of MMOs. Those of us old enough to remember can think back to when Commodore bought Amiga. They gained what was a brilliant, decade ahead of its time art machine. And they tried to sell it as a business computer for 4 years and ultimately failed. AoC is a brilliant exploration/questing game. But their management decided to sell it as just another ganker-PvP game. And thus, it failed.

If there are lessons to be learned here they are not "don't try to beat WoW" but "take care of your customers and they will take care of you." Its also not to get distracted by the clamoring of a minority, however vocal. Especially one who, by their very nature, chase others *away* from your product. Instead focus on your core strengths and serve the largest group you can find that they address.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deduction or Induction? A classic nerd debate

I've been working on my own game system, MUTT.  MUTT has a detective skill that I call "induction."  This is because I firmly believe that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used the wrong word when describing Sherlock Holmes.

A good nerd-friend challenged me on this somewhat classic debate: whether Holmes induces or deduces his answers.  Below is the argument my discussion with him produced.

The word "deduction" has a variety of meanings, as anyone can find if they go to the dictionary.   Debating such meanings relative correctness would be pedantic and pointless.  However Sherlock Holmes is often held up as an example of deductive reasoning in a formal sense. IF we limit our discussion to that issue: does Holmes formally deduce his results, I think the answer has to be no.

I would suggest in fiormal terms a typical Holmes argument takes the following form:

(1) If P then Q
(2) If P then S
(3) If P then T

Q S and T are all true, there for the only reasonable conclusion is P.

He is certainly not alone in this reasoning. This is classic court-room stuff and even has a legal term-- "the preponderance of evidence." But is it, formally, deduction? By deductive reasoning it is clearly fallacious. Just because P is *an* explanation for Q S and T does not make it automatically the *right* explanation for Q S and T. In fact, there is no logical requirement that Q,S and T have the same cause at all, just so long as there are no other predicate statements that say the disparate causes cannot logically co-exist.

Holmes himself in fact shows us this when he describes his own methodology-- "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." [4] In order for this claim to be logically true, it presupposes the omniscience to know all possibilities and impossibilities. What Holmes really means is "When I have eliminated every other possibility I can think of, the one left must be true." Which fits with his ego, but is hardly a logical conclusion.

SO either Holmes does a very bad job of formal deductive reasoning, or in fact engages in educated guesswork from specific bits of evidence leading to a theory of the whole cause, which would be reasoning by induction. I chose to believe the latter.

So what do YOU think?  Comments are open.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

CampFu is coming!

I need to congratulate and acknowledge my *super* team here Rebel Monkey.

They have worked long and hard and given up many a bannana break to get us here but CampFu is almost ready to beta!   This will be a soft launch so, if you signed up for the beta, watch your email for your invite to go camping.  If you HAVENT signed up for the beta, you can do so right now at 

Don't miss out on the fun!