METANOMICS WELCOMES RICHARD BARTLE
MARCH 10, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome, everyone, to Metanomics and to this four sims
amphitheatre on CMP Islands one, two, three and four.
Before we jump in, I’d like to point out that United Business Media has reorganized CMP. So
what has been called CMP Metaverse, the folks who brought us the Life 2.0 Conference, is
now Think Services, a subsidiary of United Business Media. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more
about this next week for the Second Life 2.0 Conference, which takes place right here on
CMP’s four islands, from March 15th to the 21st.
Next week Metanomics will be part of Life 2.0. My guest will be Nick Yee, the research
scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center, a recent Ph.D. from Stanford’s communication
department and one of the cutting-edge researchers examining the sociological dimensions
of Virtual Worlds.
As always, a tremendous thanks to our sponsors SAP, Cisco Systems, Generali Group,
Saxo Bank, Kelley Services, Sun Microsystems. And a very special thanks to my own
institution, Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, for supporting me in this
effort, and to Second Life Cable Network for filming and distributing these discussions with
such fascinating people like our guest today, Richard Bartle.
Before we move on to our guest, I also want to give it up to another key contributor that has
made these Metanomics events so successful, and that’ you, our audience. Metanomics
has about 650 members in Second Life, and our shows have generated a lot of discussion
in-world and in the blogosphere. We all know success breeds success, but now we’re also
learning that opportunity breeds a lot of work. So before we move on too far, what I’d like to
do is give you, our audience, a quick update on the state of this series and also ask for a
little bit of help. So first, over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with Jan and Alja Writer
and their company, Artesia, to find ways to connect more effectively with Metanomics’ four
core audiences. Who are these audiences? Real World enterprises who are seeking to
understand how they can use Virtual Worlds to achieve their Real World strategic goals;
virtual entrepreneurs who are identifying ways to serve both Real World and Virtual World
clienteles; World Developers and Regulators who are envisioning the forces and the policies
that are going to affect the future of the Virtual World industry; and finally, academics who
are trying to understand and educate these communities or who plan to use Virtual Worlds
as a laboratory for their research.
So how are we going to connect with these audiences more effectively? For starters, we
now have a Facebook page and a Twitter account [AUDIO GLITCH] Metanomics, and we’re
also beefing up our website metanomics.net. I encourage you all to join the Facebook
group, follow Metanomics on Twitter and check out our website at metanomics.net. More
importantly, if you’d like to take an active part in helping this community grow, we’d love to
hear from you. We’re looking for people to help us manage these channels of
communication, post content on our website, persuade websites that reach our key
audiences to link to us and generally help get the word out. We’re also looking for people to
help us get more input from the communities on what guests we should be considering for
future shows and how we might be able to improve the shows that we’re doing or add other
types of events that our community would find valuable.
We have a lot of exciting things in the works for Metanomics and, if you’re interested in
being a part of it, please contact me, Beyers Sellers, in-world, or my Real Life persona,
Robert Bloomfield at RJB9@cornell.edu.
Now before we jump into the show, I have one more thing to do, which is, I would like to
encourage everyone to join the Metanomics group within Second Life so that you can
participate in the backchat during the event itself. It’s a great way to get your questions in to
me and our guest. You can also instant-message me directly.
Now, on to our guest. Today Metanomics is delighted to host Richard Bartle co-developer of
the first Virtual World, the Multi User Dungeon. Richard’s written many articles and a
comprehensive book on the design of Virtual Worlds and is a contributing author on the
academic website Terra Nova and has written with great insight and often a sharp tongue
on the state of Virtual Worlds today. Richard, welcome to Metanomics and Second Life.
RICHARD BARTLE: Hello.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We’re delighted to have you on. Before we go too far, can I ask
when is the last time you were in Second Life?
RICHARD BARTLE: The very last time before I logged in yesterday to download these
huge patches would have been, oh, I don’t know, three, four weeks ago, something like that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, okay. So you are a reasonably common frequent Second
Lifer, which is nice to--
RICHARD BARTLE: No, no, no. I’m not really reasonably frequent, but I do pop in every
once in a while. And mainly I have to go in if I have a reason to go in. I don’t go in just for
the fun of it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, I’m glad to serve as one of those reasons today. Can
I ask what other things have brought you in to Second Life?
RICHARD BARTLE: Well, sometimes I want to find things out that I’m writing about so I go
in and look around and find the [map?] assuming I can ever figure out how to use the
interface. Sometimes I go in to attend talks and so on, but [AUDIO GLITCH] other times I
just go in just to make sure my account hasn’t died. I mean it is kind of like London to me. I
go to London every once in a while, but then I might not go for three months and then twice
in a week. So yes, it is kind of like that. It’s a place.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now I guess your big original claim to fame is the MUD, the Multi
User Dungeon, that you co-created many years ago. Would it be right to characterize that
as sort of an online text-based version of Dungeons and Dragons and related role-playing
RICHARD BARTLE: No. First of all, as you say, I co-authored it. The other author,
Roy Trubshaw, he’d never even played Dungeons and Dragons, so that wasn’t a big
influence on him. I mean I took some things out Dungeons and Dragons and put them into
MUD. [AUDIO GLITCH] deliberation. I mean some things I put in because--well everything I
put in because I wanted in for a reason, but some things I put in because I looked at the
alternatives and went with the one that was from Dungeons and Dragons. Other times I
didn’t go with the one from Dungeons and Dragons. But, in that sense, it was a source of a
possible way to doing things. Lord of the Rings was probably more of an influence than
Dungeons and Dragons.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Now I think many of our audience members will know
Gary Gygax passes away last week, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. It does seem
like the Virtual World industry owes a fair debt to this man since you can see elements
throughout Virtual Worlds of that role-playing game.
RICHARD BARTLE: Well, yes, you can. Not so much in Second Life as in World of
Warcraft perhaps. But, yeah, the thing is that Gary Gygax wasn’t the only inventor of
Dungeons and Dragons. There was Dave Arneson as well. He didn’t do it just on his own.
And same as with MUDs, we would of got those things anyway. I mean I happen to be one
of the two people who was in on the first MUD, but, if I’d never been born, we’d have still got
them. The same thing with Dungeons and Dragons. I mean I was playing role-playing
games before I’d ever heard of Dungeons and Dragons. One I’d made up myself. That said,
Dungeons and Dragons was a seed, which, when it planted, grew in a particular way. And if
it had been planted in, say, another country or at another time, it would have grown
differently. So a lot of what we’ve got in Virtual Worlds carries the imprints of the original
ideas of Gygax and Arneson, which is the _____ of--and embodies their personalities in a
certain way that’s carried on, which would not necessarily have happened if somebody else
had invented it and had been carried on some other way. So, yes. Although Dungeons and
Dragons didn’t have an immense influence on the very first MUD, it certainly it had an
influence on _____ MUDs, which were a development of an element of MUD1 and the
_____ are the ones that are the game places mainly used by the big game worlds these
days. So he certainly came in that way by _____ MUDs more than by the early ones that
came out straight after MUD1.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now another one of your activities--as I mentioned earlier you’ve
written a lot of things. It’s been rather time-consuming for me to prepare for this interview--
RICHARD BARTLE: Oh, I’m sorry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --just keeping up with all the work you’ve done. Quite all right. We
appreciate it. One of the things that seems to have had particular traction that you’ve
worked on is the model of the four player types. You created a test now known as the Bartle
Test, in which you ask people 30 yes or no questions, and you use those to categorize
people into four types of players: achievers, killers, explorers and socializers. So I guess my
first question to you is: What type are you?
RICHARD BARTLE: Okay. Well, the first thing is, I didn’t write the test. I wrote the paper
upon which the test was based, though I did all the development for all the player types, but
I didn’t actually write the test. That was done by Erwin Adreasen. So he’s the one who gets
all the credit for that. And I certainly would never have called it the Bartle Test if I’d have
written it. Anyway, the answer to “what type am I” is what type am I role-playing at the time.
And if you’re the designer, you don’t play for the same reasons as regular players. Normal
players will [AUDIO GLITCH] for a reason because they’re going to have fun. But I’m not
playing to have fun. I’m playing to have designer fun, which isn’t the same thing as player
fun. So I can’t answer any of those questions that come up because that’s not why I’m
playing. Those questions are only for people who are playing Virtual Worlds for fun, which is
the vast majority, [but you can’t go farmers?] on World of Warcraft. Although the majority of
people will be playing for fun, there are some who aren’t playing for fun. Some of them
playing because they’re journalists or because they’re customer service reps or because
they’re politicians wanting to grandstand or whatever. But the ones who are playing for fun,
those are what my four types apply to. But, sadly, I can’t play for that kind of fun. Some
designers apparently can, but I can’t.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I know they tell musicians if you ever want to ever stop
enjoying music, go professional. So maybe it’s something very similar for you.
RICHARD BARTLE: So it is. Of course, what happened is I just see the design, I don’t see
what’s going on in there. I mean right now I’ve got my Second Life screen consists of a very,
very large text window obliterating everything behind it. So I can see what’s being typed on
the different channels, but I don’t get to see all the pictures because I’m not particularly
interested in the pictures. Whereas, if I were playing Second Life for a--like an immersive
reason, then I would want to see the pictures because that’s part of what’s projecting me
there. But because I understand all this kind of stuff, that’s not a factor to me because it’s
like I see underneath what’s going on. The magic’s not there. So although I really envy the
people for whom the magic is there, my fun comes in making the magic, not in experiencing
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So let me actually follow up on that, Richard, if I could. My
understanding is these categories were designed to help the World developers create a
balanced environment. And so you do have in the article--at least I believed it’s the first
article you wrote on this, you talked a fair bit about achieving the balance and how the
difference types of players feed off one another, how they encourage one another in some
cases. I mean is this something that your impression is that game designers are actively
using as they try to balance their games?
RICHARD BARTLE: I don’t think they use the dynamics so much. They use a bit so it saves
them if you want to have fewer killers and add more explorers, and the way to add more
explorers is to add content of this particular kind. I don’t think they do that, but they do look
to see what kinds of players they’ve got so that they can provide content for them. I know
that because there are things like questionnaires that are sent out to the beta testers on
some games, which will ask them questions that are aimed at finding out what type they are.
In fact, then they actually ask them, “Now explicitly, which one of these are you? Which one
of these things would you want to do?” So I know that now it gets used. That doesn’t mean
that it’s necessarily correct. It’s just that it’s better than not doing it at all.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: There was a Terra Nova post not too long ago that suggested
adding categories. And one in particular that was mentioned quite a bit was adding a
category for builders, particularly for Worlds like Second Life, in which user-created content
is very important. So what’s your take on that type of modification?
RICHARD BARTLE: Well, okay. First of all, that type of modification just does not fit into a
four-type model. The whole point of that model is that it covers all the bases. So you can’t
just add another one in because it’s [varieties from their being two axis?]. And then trying to
start to picking a fifth one is where does it go. So if you want to add more then you’re
basically adding another dimension which has four not six. Sorry, not one. Okay, that’s the
Then I raise the second point is why do [AUDIO GLITCH], and the mistake that people
make [AUDIO GLITCH] is they’re looking at building as an activity. But my model isn’t about
activity. What it’s about is where people get their fun from, and building is an action in a
Virtual World just like in Virtual Worlds hitting somebody with a sword is an action. So hitting
somebody with a sword didn’t make you a killer. It didn’t make you an achiever. Why are
you hitting somebody with a sword? So the same question here is: Why are you building?
Are you building because you want people to come along and look at you stuff and say how
great it is? It’s like it’s a conversation piece that would be maybe like building for a socializer
reason. Are you building because you love the idea of creating prims and attaching little
bits--code snippets to and see what marvels you can produce and how hoochy you can
make your hair? Then you might be an explorer. Are you doing it so that when people walk
past there, their own [sims?] are forced to turn around and rotate and look at you. Well, if
you are then, you may be doing for it for griefer reasons even though you probably wouldn’t
say that. And finally, are you doing it because you want to create a big business and sell
things and get your name known everywhere so everybody knows who you are? Well, in
that case, you’d be doing it from achiever reasons. So building is the activity, but it isn’t itself
a fun. The reason you do it is for fun, not for the thing itself. Does that answer the question?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. I mean I think it’s interesting that you’re looking
beyond the action to the intention, sort of the root cause, which I think is consistent
with--actually I was at a presentation by a marketing group, Market Truths, a few days ago
in Second Life. So they’re a Real World marketing company that is trying to figure out how
to reach the various market segments in Second Life. They’ve developed a very similar
model. Their terms are rather different. They don’t have killers. Let’s see, they have team
players, entrepreneurs, chameleons, competitors, connectors and apprehensives. So of
course, my first thought was, they have six categories. You have four. Their model must be
50 percent better than yours.
RICHARD BARTLE: So, they've got these six categories and where do these categories
come from. What’s the relationship between the categories? And anyone can just plump
together things. I mean you read the things that have been plumped together in magazines:
What kind of homeowner are you? Are you the tortious homeowner? And they’ve got all
these trendy little _____ they’ve got. But it’s okay plumping things together, but you got to
have some feelings underlying to why it’s happened, something that explains the reason
that people are doing these things.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. They actually did, I thought, quite a nice job of that. I was
pleasantly surprised because my reaction initially was much like yours, and it turned out that
what they had done to form those segments is, they first identified a number of categories of
individual characteristics, like how extroverted people are, how competitive, how creative,
and then they used that to form the clusters. So I think it’s interesting to me--they tested this
on a sample size of, I think, a little under a thousand people.
RICHARD BARTLE: Oh, I’m not saying that it’s not correct. There are plenty of things that
you can use. I mean mine is so if you want to want to play a Virtual World for fun, then this
is my category. My system works. Whether that fun is in a Virtual World that is a game or a
Virtual World that isn’t a game. It generally works. In fact, it works beyond Virtual Worlds
within their website, but I doubt I’ll make any claim for that. I just keep getting told that by
people who want me to pat them on the back or something. I am actually quite happy about
it because I can’t justify it works on their system. What I can justify is why it works in Virtual
Worlds, and that’s why I’m not going to extend it to that. If it turns out later on that it can be
extended to these other things, I think that’s fine, but I’m not making those claims.
Now I don’t know what the other types are. Well, I do know what they are because I can
read them here on the screen. I mean I don’t know what the relationship between them is
and how you might move from one [count?] to another or whatever or what the paths are
and what the relationship between them are and whether there are other types that they
haven’t identified, which might be revealed if you were to create a model that supported
those types, rather than just creating six boxes and throwing people in them. Now it may be
that they’ve got all that, but I mean I wasn’t at the destination, so I don’t know. And even if
they don’t, you see, it’s quite possible that what they’ve got is far more useful to them when
they’re discussing [commerce?] Virtual Worlds than any notion of [AUDIO GLITCH] because
obviously as a designer I want things that are fun. But if you’re a business person, you’re
not particularly interested in fun unless fun is one of those things that gets you a lot of
The other thing is that if you’ve got a theory with some kind of structure beneath it, that
means that you can be fairly sure that the clusters they’re at the same kind of conceptual
level. For example, quite often when you ask people, “Why do you play Virtual Worlds for
fun?” they will say things like, “I want to be immersed.” Well, immersed isn’t one of my
player types so how does it fit in? Well, the thing is that what immersion maps onto is the
progression between types. So as you play the game and you move between the player
types, you become more and more your real self in the Virtual World, then that’s how
immersed is measured. You’re at your most immersed when you feel that the character, the
avatar you’re controlling, is you. It’s not so much when you feel, it’s when it is you. So that’s
what immersion is. Immersion is like another dimension. But if you could do a cluster
analysis, then immersion would show up as one of the reasons why people want to play. But
it’s not the same thing, not the same kind of object as the player types and other things that
people will say about community, for example. That’s another reason that people want to
play. And, again, there’s a relationship between community and the player types, but it’s--I’ll
have to give you my third-year lecture to explain this.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Sounds perfect.
RICHARD BARTLE: But, again, it’s all _____ to those four. It’s a different thing. So for all I
know there are many player types here: team player, entrepreneur, apprehensive,
competitor, connector, chameleon. It might be that some of those are like apples and
oranges and peaches and pears. And then some of them are like fruit, and then other ones
might be Cox’s Orange Pippins, which is the clear type of apple. I mean I don’t know how
detailed they are or what things have gone into that, but if you’ve got a structure which
explains why things work, then that would add credence to the model and make it more
supportive. So then the next thing I would do is having been given those types would be to
say, “Okay, let’s see if we can find out the reason why there are those six types--build a
model that would explain the reason behind those six types. Maybe we might find some
other types that we haven’t identified before, which might have showed up if we were to
_____ other people. It might that people who aren’t playing Second Life, who would play if
we were to talk to them in the right way.” So that's the sort of thing _____ take from that
initial result there. Sorry about that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: No, no. This is great. This is great. And for people who want to
spend a little extra time to sort this out, a written transcript will be available on
metanomics.net in about a day. And I will see if we can get a little bit of text up explaining in
a little more detail what Market Truths is doing with their psychographic segments.
Let’s move on a little bit to another article that you wrote, which was titled something very
close to Virtual Worlds Are Designed by newbies.
RICHARD BARTLE: That was right. Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So for anyone who doesn’t know, a newbie or a newb is usually a
derogatory term for people who are new to Virtual Worlds, not wise in the Virtual Worldly
ways. So you’re basically saying Virtual Worlds are designed by people who don’t know
anything and haven’t experienced anything. You want to walk us through that argument?
RICHARD BARTLE: Yeah. And so the first thing I would point out is that article is not
accusing designers of being newbies. And I made a distinction. I didn’t actually call them
newbs because the original term newbies, which were kind of small children kind of thing,
you know. You pat them on the head, and it’s quite affectionate, really. When you get to
N00bs with two zeroes instead of the o’s, then you’re really into the insulting end. So what I
kind of meant was people were actually new to playing Virtual Worlds. Those are the people
who are, in effect, designing it because you create a new Virtual World now, you got to get
your players from somewhere, and you got to get your players from either an existing Virtual
World or from some untapped theme of new players. So given all the hardcore gamer types
are already playing is--you got to spread the net wider. And to spread the net wider, you’ve
got to make the game more appealing to the people who are going to come along. So even
though, for example, Text Worlds are rich and sophisticated and many people would like
them, you’re not going to get any newbies playing that because it’s hasn’t got pictures, and
they want pictures. And they haven’t got pictures so they’re not going to play it. So it didn’t
matter how good it is, they’re just not going to play it. And the same way that you might have
the world’s most wonderful Virtual World in French, you’re not going to get any English
speakers playing because we don’t speak anything other than English. And some of us
don’t even speak that. So it’s just not going to happen. So people are designing Virtual
Worlds in order to attract newbies.
One sort of [AUDIO GLITCH] players in Virtual Worlds, what happens is that the very first
Virtual World you play is one that you judge all the others by because when you go in you’ve
got this sense of wonder. And so you play it, and it’s, “Oh, wow! Fantastic!” And then you
get to the end, except most of them don’t actually have an end, and then you start getting
frustrated because it’s like you’ve won, “What do I need to do?” But I can’t win because it’s
not that I’ve won. It doesn’t have an end, but what is there to do? And people get frustrated.
Eventually they’ll leave and play some other Virtual World. The thing is, in the other Virtual
World, they instantly compare with the original one which whatever it was they think was a
lot better than the new one, and, therefore, the new one has got to adapt to what they want
if they’re going to play it. So unless the new Virtual World they go to has got all the features
that the old one had, including perhaps the ones that caused it to fail in the first place, then
they’re not going to like it. So the new one has to adapt for them, and then we’ve now got
this cycle where people are taken into a Virtual World because it’s being--I wouldn't say
dumbed down so much as it’s being made attractive for them in ways which, in the past,
weren’t regarded as attractive. And now don’t say grown up, they're moving to another
Virtual World. They expect that same thing in there. So the designers, if they want the
players, have got to address their concerns.
A few years ago, voice in Virtual Worlds was regarded by players as something which they
should never have because it stops you from role-playing. However, all the people now
who’ve grown up in playing World of Warcraft and so on, with the voice there, will expect
any Virtual World they play from now on was to have voice in it. Which means that anybody
who remembers the old days when you could role-play is now stuck because no one’s going
to write a Virtual World that’s got no voice in it because they wouldn’t get any of the people
who were expecting voice.
So this is what I mean by “designed by newbies.” It’s not designed by newbies who are
sitting down and writing it on the back of an envelope or what they want in a Virtual World.
It’s just that because the Virtual World has been designed to accommodate their needs--it
usually means effect. They are doing the designing just by their--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: The market demand.
RICHARD BARTLE: No. It’s just their expectation. So that’s how this works, and so we
miss so much. In my pessimistic days, I just think that 20 years from now people will be
saying these things and will be wondering why on earth anybody would ever have spent
two, three, four hours a night every night in these for years at a time. They’ll just think, “Well,
why is anybody doing this?” These are anodyne. And they may well actually be anodyne
because we’ll have watered them down so much and taken things out and lowered people’s
expectations or addressed the lower expectations to the point when there isn’t anything
that’s worth doing in them. And so that’s my pessimistic World view. I do have less
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Well, let me ask you what you think of this comparison,
which is that the movie industry very early on, because of the great expense of making
movies, it was essential that all movies would hit a very broad audience, and so we had lots
of silly comedies or tear-jerkers and things like that, sort of shooting for the lowest common
denominator. Now that technology has made it a little cheaper to make movies, we have lots
of small independent film producers. And so I’m wondering do you see a day where you can
go to the Indie game, and people will develop high quality new games that are in French
and require text or some such because it’s cheap enough that they don’t need the
enormous audience to make it sustainable?
RICHARD BARTLE: Yeah. That’s what I want to see. I spoke at the Indie MMO Convention
last year, and that’s pretty well what I said. But once the tools become cheap enough--sorry,
inexpensive enough--that anybody can use them, once you can go online and buy a model
of a dragon for half a cent, and you can populate these things with as much artwork as you
want, and it’s all consistent to your own work, and it’s all animated, people can get down to
the business of creating Virtual Worlds again. When it was text, it wasn’t actually all that
hard for people with enough time to write new descriptions, just to write one description.
And, yeah, there might be enough text in a Text World for a model, but people can write a
model’s worth of text description, and people did, and we got this flowering of Virtual
Worlds. But then once the tools became too established, it turned out that people were just
taking the tool sets and creating clone worlds of each other. We got this stock MUD
syndrome where there’d been 1,500 _____, of which 1,200 were identical. That is like patch
in between where you get--from it being hugely expensive to where it's being just about
enough for people to afford for them to be able to create their own stuff. And then it’ll come
down even further until we’ll probably go through this level where everybody’s going to be, if
you want to, in a Virtual World, yeah, you can run your own. But you just download an
existing one, and there it is for free. But, hopefully, you'll go through that, and I'm sure we’ll
go through that, and then people will be able to create their own Virtual Worlds for whatever
purpose as easily as they create their own web pages. Now that is the sort of thing I want to
see because I want to see Virtual Worlds that are going to surprise me. I don’t want to see
the same old things and looking in things and thinking, “I know this person doesn’t know
anything about design,” or looking at things, saying, “How do I [AUDIO GLITCH] now?
_____? Should have done it this way. Ah, I see what they did. Oh, that’s clever. Wow!” And
that’s the sort of thing that I want. I want--so much potential. And in the moment, what’s
holding them back is development costs because, if it costs around $130 million to make
Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa, and he earns $15 million in a year, then it’s not going to
lead to large numbers of Virtual Worlds made. But if you could make Richard Garriott’s
Tabula Rasa for a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars, then all of a sudden, well, that’s
a lot more interesting because people could make a game, and it doesn’t matter if it fails. At
the moment, it matters if it fails.
If somebody got a good idea to creating a Virtual World, and they go to a publisher, and
they say to the publisher, “Okay, I want $50 million. This Virtual World’s got a 25 percent
chance of making billions,” the publisher’s going to say, “You mean there’s a 75 percent
chance I’ll lose my $50 million?” And that’s the kind of attitude you’ve got to get through at
the moment. And so I do see the ability for people to create their own personal Virtual
World, the end point will, not the end point, so that's as far as I see. And that’s as far as I
saw when I co-wrote the first MUD. Eventually, everyone’s going to be able to create their
own World, and then I want to see them.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You wrote an article in which the interviewer asked you what
would you do if you had ultimate power, and you said you’d get rid of World of Warcraft. And
then we followed that up with a little bit of an email exchange where I mentioned that you
have been critical of World of Warcraft, and you said, “Yes, but don’t forget I’m critical of
Second Life too.” So I thought we might talk a little bit about your take on these two Worlds.
And let me just start by asking, I mean, is the issue with World of Warcraft simply that you
believe that they’ve emphasized visuals over content and that they’re playing to the lowest
RICHARD BARTLE: No. No, no. The reason I was [talking?] World of Warcraft down is
because it’s got ten million players, and if those ten million players want to play other Virtual
Worlds, then we’ve get far more Virtual Worlds. World of Warcraft is actually pretty well
designed. I mean it’s creating at the top level, but it’s actually pretty well designed. And, no,
I haven’t got anything against the design of World of Warcraft or the operation or deliveries
or anything like. And I quite like the pictures because I don’t like that whole [Uncanny
Valley?] stuff that we’re getting at the moment. But, the reason I would close it down isn’t
because I hate World of Warcraft and want to dance on its grave and burn it and throw
those ashes around or whatever. The reason I said I would close it down is because then
we’d have ten million people giving other games a chance. And some of those Virtual
Worlds may be better than World of Warcraft for those individuals. They may be worse than
World of Warcraft for those individuals, but at least they’d get a chance. In the moment, it’s
gobbling everybody up.
Now eventually World of Warcraft will finish. It will gradually decline. I mean they may only
have five million players in five years’ time. Who knows? But what I want to do is to see the
new Virtual Worlds that come out as a result. I don’t want to have to drop dead before it all
happens. So that’s why I said that. And I didn’t actually get any death threats, which is kind
of good, but I did get some quite criticism because people assumed that I wanted to close
World of Warcraft for other reasons. If you’d have asked me the same question five years
earlier, I would have probably said I wanted to close Everquest because that was a big one.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You don’t believe that World of Warcraft is-- well, let’s call it a
gateway world that brings ten million people into their first Virtual World experience, but then
leads them to others that perhaps will be more like the types of games that you were
RICHARD BARTLE: Well, the thing is, if it is a gateway World-- as I was discussing when I
answered the newbies question, if people when they leave Second Life will want, in general,
to play--not Second Life. People, when they leave World of Warcraft, in general, want to
play World of Warcraft. Except--not World of Warcraft, they want to play some other game
that is World of Warcraft. And we’ve seen this time and time again in the past where people
have--their Virtual World has been closed down mainly--it could be because of
mismanagement. It could be because of play behavior. It could have been because it was
badly designed. And then they go into another Virtual World, and they want it to be exactly
the same as the one that just closed down or exactly the same as the one they just left
because it was [galling?].
Now it isn’t the case for everybody. The reason that this happens is because people at the
end they get kind of frustrated because the game hasn’t, in effect, let them win so they go
off and try and win another game. But some people see that, and they see it as, you know,
“I don’t actually have to be _____ and play.” They can conceptualize from having played the
game. They don’t need to be given formal, “Congratulations. You’ve won.” They realize that
they’ve won, and those kinds of people will go on and play other more sophisticated or
different or Virtuals saying different things. And from that, yes, we will [AUDIO GLITCH]
everybody’s educated, then they will play other Virtual Worlds. Some of them may even
come to Second Life. Some of them probably have.
And so let me get you to talk a little bit about Second Life. Maybe we can start with the
criticisms. What is it that you don’t like in what you see in Second Life?
RICHARD BARTLE: What I don’t like, I don’t like the interface. Geez, what a crock. Blimey!
I mean, for heaven’s sake. Next to unusable. If you try to find something out, there’s a
bunch of things at the bottom you got to click, a bunch of things at the top and then a bunch
of windows you got to click for having accidentally clicked on things on the bottom--open
them up. And then when you try to move, it’s like some Scooby Doo thing where the ground
moves faster than your legs do or vice versa. Geez. The interface is not great. That’s why
generally when I’m in Second Life, I expand the text window just to cover it all up so I don’t
have to look at it. That’s just a point of view.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me point out that the crowd appears to agree with you both in
the Metanomics chat channel and in the local chat channel.
RICHARD BARTLE: So let me just zoom down the window and have a look. Oh, yes,
there’s some dead bodies in the audience. They’re really paying attention.
Yeah, okay. So there’s the interfacing. And the reason why that's a problem is because all
those 12 million residents, however many it is now--who come to Second Life, they spend
five minutes with that interface, and then it doesn’t matter if this was the best thing that
they’d ever know. They’re not going to get that far, and it’s a big barrier to entry. So that’s
why it’s an issue. It’s a problem because it puts off casual players, potential players. And
once you’re in there and you understand things and you know where to look and you know
how to do all those various things, okay, that’s fine. But it puts potential players off, and
that’s a barrier. Okay. So that’s one problem I’ve got with it.
Another problem I’ve got is the design problem, is the whole grid system, which is basically
double-loaded about four players per PC, and that is not how you do a grid system. If you
want something this size which works, then you do what even [linists?] are doing and you
use supercomputer technology so that you can indeed have 5,000 people all in the same
location because they aren't all running on the same PC. Now that’s a problem that Second
Life’s got there. You see in the paper--see some _____ concerts in Second Life, and, yeah,
you go there, except you never get in because, if you did get it, you’d crash the server
because you only handle 40 people. That’s a problem that I’ve got as well. It’s just an
architectural problem. It could be done differently using a different computer architecture.
However, when they designed Second Life, they didn’t know it was going to be as
phenomenally successful as it is. I mean you can hardly blame them. They were perhaps
hoping the hardware would [AUDIO GLITCH] quicker than they have done. And they didn’t
know the extent to which the players who got over the initial barrier to entry got in there
would be creating things and eating up CPU time the whole time. So I mean they were flying
in the dark, and they have done quite a good job of it, but, really, it’s the wrong underlying
Other things that are kind of annoying, the business model’s a bit of a pain. Basically it’s a
land rent [AUDIO GLITCH] except anybody who wants to buy land doesn't actually buy it
from Second Life because it’s all been bought up within an instant by land bots or people’s--
or whatever, who just run it straightaway and then charged whatever they liked for it. So if I
wanted a little island from Second Life, I couldn’t go to Linden and say I’d like to buy an
island. I’d have to go to the people who already bought the island speculatively, and they
were now holding it to ransom against people who want to buy it. It’s a bit like if you wanted
to buy the name name, whatever the name that you want, chances somebody else has
already bought it, and it’s--just sitting there waiting to charge you through the nose for their
having bought it. The reason that that’s a problem isn’t so much from the commercial side,
but the fact that it just means that it’s hard for the little guy to do anything in Second Life
because, if you want anything, you got to go to the people who happen to have bought it
first. And then they just sit on it, and they can charge whatever you like. So in a way, it’s
off-putting to people who might want to invest in something and then find it’s more
expensive than it’s supposed to be.
Other things about it--I know I’ve got some issues for the effect it has on other Virtual
Worlds because of some of the business decisions that have been made, like the
intellectual property and so on, but those aren’t really my problems with Second Life itself.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, actually, let me say those are topics I would love to discuss
so maybe we could move a little toward those.
RICHARD BARTLE: However, you didn’t give me a chance to say there’s also lots of really
good things about Second Life. From what just happened, it sounds as if I’m sliding Second
Life off. I mean I believe Second Life is a good thing and would defend it to the death. Well,
not my death, but somebody’s death. But before we switch to other things, just so that
people don’t think I’m taking potshots at Second Life. You did ask me to criticize it, in like
what’s wrong with it. Okay. This is that caveat. Your next question’s about IP and stuff.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So it’s really about property more generally. My understanding is,
you’ve been a pretty consistent critic of real money trade in games. I would say I don’t use
Second Life as a game as much as a platform or environment. But certainly, in the games,
you seem to have been pretty consistently opposed to real money trade. Well, I guess
maybe my first question: Can you talk a little bit about your take on real money trade in
Game Worlds, and then maybe we can turn toward what that might mean for Second Life
and similar Worlds.
RICHARD BARTLE: Okay. Well, first thing is if a Virtual World is designed for real money
trading, then I’ve got problems with it. So Second Life, yeah, that’s created with real money
trading in mind so, yeah, go for it. That’s the designer’s privilege. And really there are some
Game Worlds which have a business model based on buying virtual _____ micro
transactions. Personally I wouldn’t play those games because I don’t want to have to buy
tiny little things lots and lots of times just by _____. I also don’t like people being able to be
better than me in a game sense because they’re richer than me or more profligate than me.
But there are plenty of people who do that, and it seems to work well in the Far East. What I
object to is when the Virtual World is not created for RMT, real money trading. But
nevertheless, it goes on, against the wishes of the designers, and against the wishes of the
majority of these people who play. That’s what I object to because people who don’t want to
play a game with RMT shouldn’t have to. And a designer who creates a World in which RMT
can occur should not have to compromise their design just to stop people from cheating
because that’s what it is, it’s cheating. If it’s against the rules to do it and people do it, then
it’s cheating. And if they don’t believe it’s cheating, well, then they’ll be surprised when they
get kicked out.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So now the legal scholar Joshua Fairfield, who actually was on
Metanomics way back in, I think it was in October or September actually, he’s talked about
the positive aspects of real money trade, basically that trade creates welfare games. You
have two people who are willing to go into a trade. It’s making them both better off. And I
understand he said at the Singapore State of Play Conference, he summarized this by
saying, “Every time you stop someone from trading, God kills a kitten.” I don’t know if you
remember that line.
RICHARD BARTLE: Yes, I did remember that line. I talked to him for a good hour outside
the conference about that. “No kittens were hurt in the making of this movie.”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: But so you just don’t think that applies if the rules of the game are
RICHARD BARTLE: No, because there’s more than one way of measuring value. He’s
looking at exchange value and how much he talks to [solve things?]. But there’s a threat to
losing, which is used value. Those of you who are really obscure will recognize that I’m
actually quoting Marx in economics here so I better not go too far about it. But the point is
that some things have value that is--the value is not in the exchange. It's in the having it.
When people play Virtual World, they value not having people buying success.
Let’s suppose that the richest person in the world, who now appears to be Warren Buffett,
wanted to play a Virtual World with no RMT in it. In other words, he only wanted people who
would play in a Virtual World, he wanted their character’s success to reflect the player’s
success. He didn’t want the character’s success to affect the player’s Real World success.
Now here’s the richest man in the world so he’s going to create this Virtual World, and he’s
willing to pay anything to stop people from doing RMT. Now, can he do that? Well, no,
because some stupid little [guy?] comes along and starts trying to sell gold to some other
little [guy?] who’s play when they shouldn’t do.
Now if it was all economics based, why can’t the richest man in the world who could buy the
entire house and everything those people owned and not even notice it, why do you think
_____ could be spoiled by it? I mean doesn’t he get to kill any puppies or kittens or
whatever it is, the little small fluffy animals? No. His values is a world where this doesn’t
happen, and yet it only takes somebody to put it in, and it spoils it. Can you see you see this
whole thing [AUDIO GLITCH] literally they’re like pollution. The power company wants to
create power. The coal company wants to sell its coal there _____, what’s not to love. If you
stop them selling it to each other, then some kittens will die. Well, hard luck kittens. The rest
of you are going to die from too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s the effects on
the people who aren’t engaging in the transaction which is the problem, not the ones who
are the people who are engaging in it.
You want to win a sports race. Well, just come in and you just take the drugs. Well, because
if you [AUDIO GLITCH] drugs, then everybody else would have to take the drugs, and that
would spoil the game or the race. Well, that’s their decision to make. No, it isn’t. You can’t
have people taking drugs to win a hundred meters race because then it becomes instead of
being a hundred meters race, it comes to who has got the constitution that will keep them
alive long enough to run the hundred meters race, with all the drugs being pumped into it.
You got to stop that sort of thing, otherwise it kills off the people who are doing. It’s like a
parasitic on it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me ask a slightly different question, which is that--
RICHARD BARTLE: Sorry. You got me mid-rant.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, I’m sorry.
RICHARD BARTLE: No, it’s just I--go on.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I mean it’s very closely related. But a number of the big
game manufacturers are now incorporating real money trade directly into their platforms. I
think probably Sony’s Station Exchange and Entropia were the first, and now there’s a
company called Live Gamer that is working with developers to bring this to a number of
additional games. So here’s a case where the game developers, I guess, are basically
saying, “We can’t stop real money trade, and so we’re not just going to allow it, but we’re
going to make it something that we control to make sure it’s legitimate and, of course,
RICHARD BARTLE: Well, yeah. This is the, “We can’t stop people taking cocaine so let’s
legitimize it and let everybody take cocaine if they want to and blow the effects on society.”
Sorry. “Blow” is probably the wrong word--damn the effects on society. So yeah, now there
is an argument for that. You can say yes, we should allow all these things. Prostitution, we
can’t stop it. Let’s allow it. People going into schools and shooting children for fun. We can’t
stop it. Let’s allow it. Well, no. At some point you got to stop something.
Now the Sony Station Exchange is not actually a success. Part of the reason it--okay,
you’ve saved quite a bit of money on those service for customer service complaints, but a
great deal of fraud goes on. Essentially what happens is that the nefarious people sell things
to Sony. Sony sells them to the other customers. The nefarious people cancel the payment
that they made to Sony via PayPal. Sony takes a big hit because they canceled the
payment. So what's happened is that one person’s got what they bought. The people who
bought it canceled the payment, so the people who sold it, they get the money from Sony,
but Sony doesn’t get their money from the people bought it. So Sony takes a hit on that, and
it’s quite a big one because the more that it happens, then the more people are going to try
on with different characters. So first of all, it’s facilitating trade between users, which is what
happens on Station Exchange. That’s a good way to lose money as a developer. Selling
things to users yourself is a different matter, and that’s a lot safer because, if I sell
something to you, and then you cancel the payment, I can take it back off you. But if you sell
something to somebody else and then they cancel the payment, I can’t get the money back.
Anyway, you’ll sort it out.
Just because they’ve got those, it doesn’t stop real money trade on any of the other servers.
The other servers that they’ve got for EverQuest II all still got real money trades going on.
Payers don’t go and play on the Sony Exchange-enabled servers. They keep playing on the
old servers, and the reason they keep playing on the old servers is because whatever they
say about, “Yes, we want to be keeping up with our friends at home,” basically they want to
cheat. They do it on a server where it’s not allowed because then people don’t know they’re
cheating. But, of course, they are. If they really thought that it was perfectly okay and above
board and so on, they should go and play on where everybody else who thinks it’s perfectly
okay and above board. But they know it’s not, and what they want is the advantage of
having paid for something without the stigma of its being known.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thank you so much for those insights. We’re nearing the
end of our show, I’m afraid. But there have been a few questions coming from the crowd
that I was hoping we could discuss a little bit.
RICHARD BARTLE: Yeah, okay.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So the first one is from Prokofy Neva, and she writes, “You’ve
written about the definition of griefing on Terra Nova and commented that people are
diluting its meaning in Second Life. But the working definition of disruption of immersion
seems appropriate. What would you say about not only the definition of griefing, but
remedies for griefing in Virtual Worlds? More immersion?”
RICHARD BARTLE: Well, the first thing to point out is go into Second Life where the
definition of griefing is flipping. It’s been flipping in all sorts of things. I read [AUDIO GLITCH]
Ph.D. last year by a guy at Curtin University--that’s Australia for that. Basically there are a
number of ways that people view griefing. For some people, griefing is when somebody else
does something that you didn’t like. So they walked out the door as you were walking in
through it, and they griefed you because you didn’t like that. Now that’s hardly griefing, but
some people think it is. Originally, griefing meant I do something to you that I know you’re
not going to like, and the reason I do it to you is because I know you’re not going to like it.
So I’m deliberately causing you grief. So it’s in my mind. Now it might be what I think I’m
causing a problem is that I’m not causing any problems at all. So for example, at the
moment, somebody could be griefing me by making obscene gestures. But I’m not going to
see any of those because I’ve got this big text window covering my whole screen. So they
would be griefing me, but I wouldn’t be aware of it.
Now the definition sort of switched over the years, in that what was before was kind of
potent accusation is now being used many, many times by people who wanted to make
things sounds like they were things more potent than it was, in order to get sympathy or
whatever. So now it’s come to the other side where it’s now if you could see that you’ve
been griefed, then you’ve been griefed. So people who are annoyed by the behavior of
somebody else, even though the person’s not aware that they’re annoying you, or if they are
aware that they are annoying you, but then they’re perfectly within their rights to do it. I
mean I’m sure--but the person I was about to say actually is griefed so maybe I shouldn’t go
on with that one. But there are ways that people who have got perfectly legitimate activity
interfere with other people who [AUDIO GLITCH] that’s just the way things are.
So if I buy an island and I erect something on it that I think’s really pretty and you don’t like
it, you might think that I’ve griefed you by building this awful monstrosity. But other people
might think it’s rather nice. If I’d made it, it probably would be an awful monstrosity, but that’s
not the point. So you’re griefing me by having this awful thing nearby me and devalue my
property. Well, no, I’m not griefing you. You knew when you bought the property that the
one next to it could have anything on there. And if I did it deliberately, if I knew that you were
a Hindu, and I deliberately built a huge cow next to your property and then had it killed every
day at 12:00 just to annoy you, well, now that would be griefing. But if I happened to be
somebody from the Dairy Association of America, and I sold them a big place with a cow
and put the cow on top of it, then it turns out that my next-door neighbor’s a Hindu that is
offended by it, well, that’s hardly my fault if I didn’t know any of that. What am I supposed to
do? Check every single person to make sure they’re not going to be offended by me
building a cow?
So with all this sort of differences in griefing deliberately comes across as though I’d been
griefed, which is a perception of having had awful things happen to you, which may or may
not reflect reality. So that’s a sliding scale.
And as to what do to about it all depends upon the nature of the grief. Sometimes the
people who call grief are the ones who were doing the griefing. Then there’s vexatious.
They complain, “Everyone’s picking on me. Everything awful is happening to me. All these
people keep doing things to me.” First of all, they may be doing it because you’re griefing
them and you don’t realize it, by your definition of griefing. Or they may be doing it to you by
accident, and you’re just spotting all the bad things, not the good things. It may be just
coincidence. But it could well be they’re griefing. It just depends on what [AUDIO GLITCH] is
as to how you deal with it. And if it’s somebody who’s--under the original definition, which
was somebody who’s deliberately causing others pain and then hiding behind some, “This
isn’t real. It’s just a game,” or, “This is just virtual reality. I’m role-playing.” Well, you say,
“Okay. Well, I’m role-playing as well by playing the evil god who’s going to kick you out of
here. Goodbye.” [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s see. We have time for one more question, and it comes
from Joia Sands, and the question is: Do you measure success in a game versus a Virtual
World differently? And you personally, not as a developer or from a corporate perspective.
RICHARD BARTLE: Do I personally regard success--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, differently in games versus Virtual Worlds?
RICHARD BARTLE: From whose point of view? My point of view or--I mean--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I guess this is from you more as a user, as an individual citizen.
You started off saying often when you go into Worlds, you’re actually doing it as a
developer. Actually, let me ask: Do you go in and just play much in any games?
RICHARD BARTLE: No. No, no. Never.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Never?
RICHARD BARTLE: No, that I can’t because everything that’s going on there I see why it's-
-I can’t play as a regular player because I’m not a regular player. I’m a designer. And if I go
into a game, yeah, I may be playing a character, it’s not pleasurable to play in the same
sense that a regular player would play it. For me to have fun, I look at different things. Now
there were some interesting design things within Second Life that I would be interested to
go and having a look around and so on and finding out what they’re there for, what’s the
reason they were created. But they’re not. They’re usually there for some kind of functional
reasons. If there’s isn’t a set reason, then it’s usually in a setting that’s not to do with Virtual
World design, but to do with some other arts design. And which, although I’m kind of attuned
to, I’m not going to be as attuned as somebody for whom sculpture is their medium. To me,
Virtual World design is my medium. When I look at Second Life, I’m not so much looking at
the art within Second Life as the art of the creation of Second Life.
Likewise if I’m playing World of Warcraft, what I would find exciting there is the art of the
creation of World of Warcraft, not the pretty pictures that are in there. I mean there’s a path
to the art. Not the quest. Not the grinding. Not the in-jokes. None of those things there fun to
me. So when I play it, what do I regard as success? I mean I’m not playing for success.
Success for me is if I go into a Virtual World, and I’m pleasantly surprised because
something is in there that I’m not expecting. And when I figure out why it’s in there, it just
hangs together so brilliantly that that’s what then what I’d want to see, but it didn’t take me
that long at all normally to find that sort of thing in the Virtual World. I don’t have to play--
endure a few levels in a role-playing game and, in Second Life here, I’d probably have to
spend money to do it full justice. But after a few hours in Second Life, it’s not hard to get the
measure of the Virtual World design. Obviously, I can’t get the measure of the society
anymore than I can a Real World city. But I know what the design was designed like. It’s got
some very good features.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. Well, I’m afraid we’re all out of time. But, Richard,
thank you very much for coming on to our show, Metanomics. And we hope you’ll be back
sometime soon. It’s been fascinating to get your take on Virtual Worlds from the days of the
MUD to today. And I want to say also thank you to all our audience members across
Second Life here at CMP and also at our event partners. And we do encourage you to join
our Facebook group, Metanomics, that follow our Metanomics Twitter and check out the
website metanomics.net. Again, if you’re interested in helping out, helping us find guests
and topics and improving what we’re doing week by week, please contact me,
Beyers Sellers, or you can get me through the Real World at Cornell University,
email@example.com. This is Rob Bloomfield and Richard Bartle signing off. Thank you all for
[END OF AUDIO]
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer