Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some thoughts on Second Life as a platform for games and scripted experiences

I came across a really well written article by Mona Eberhardt on the potential and limits of Second Life as a game platform. She centers her article on MadPea Games and the Drax Files - which I have already covered before and which I will therefore not concentrate on in this post:
"We often go to great lengths to point out that Second Life is not a game, as so many people tend to say in order to dismiss it, and rightly so. First of all, because, from a technical standpoint, Second Life indeed has none of the ingredients we expect to find in a computer game: there is no scenario, no goal or sub-goals, no levels, no score-keeping mechanism, no specific objectives etc. But that doesn’t mean that SL is not a viable platform for gaming: from role-playing games to thinly-veiled gambling and from combat to adventure, in-world games are one of the reasons that keep many users faithful to this virtual world. Indeed, Second Life, despite its many technical shortcomings, is no slouch as a game development platform, and the variety of in-world gaming experiences is testament to this."
Picture of Mona Eberhardt

"Now, we all know that the big businesses jumped ship en masse from Second Life when they saw that the unrealistic expectations that were cultivated both by the Lab and the media were not met. That left, as Rod Humble himself pointed out in an interview with the San Francisco chronicle, a gap that was quickly filled for amateurs and specialists who went on to establish a successful cottage industry in Second Life – and, in some cases, beyond this platform."
"Comparing Second Life to other gaming systems, [Kiana Writer from Madpea Games] says “Immersive storytelling is when you get so lost in the story that you become the hero of the story; you’re feeling the whole environment. This is why our games are working… Because with a lot of console games you become a totally different person, but in Second Life, so many people identify themselves as their avatars, so they get to play as themselves, and that’s really huge.” And it’s true – have a look at the Monkey Island franchise, where the player becomes Guybrush Threepwood; or Blizzard’s Diablo franchise; or, if you’re older, have a look at Sierra’s Leisure Suit Larry franchise, where you become a wannabe casanova: in all other gaming environments, you become a pre-determined character. But in games that are played in Second Life, you play as your own avatar – and your avatar is nothing but a manifestation of your own self."
It doesn't happen often, that Second Life users distinguish between Second Life as a virtual world aka the huge social place and Second Life as a technical platform. I think that this lack of conceptual differentiation is one major reason why there are not many more games and gamers in Second Life. There are not many people who see the potential to use the Second Life platform to create complex and interactive experiences (especially but not exclusively for games) where the users become actors in a story told by a creator.

You can find the full post of Mona Eberhardt here.


  1. Thank you very much for the article. There are also a few more things I would like to point out regarding SL and gaming. SL (and other similar virtual worlds) could very well become an excellent platform for immersive adventure gaming, taking the concepts used in graphic adventure games of old a few steps further.

    It would be great if a development kit similar to the Adventure Game Studio could be made for SL. And true AI NPCs (intelligent autonomous agents, as scientists call them) would really enhance things a lot. Imagine what could be done if we had NPCs that would be programmed to engage in dialogue games (argumentation, negotiation etc.) with players using the industry standard FIPA-ACL agent communication language (which is not inherently supported by LSL, although it is possible to connect to an external server providing the messages offered by the agent and processing the ones delivered by the player), thus going a few steps further than what Havok's Pathfinding system can do.

    As a matter of fact, perhaps even the whole game's narration could be programmed like this and use true AI.

    SL in and by itself is not a game, but it gives tools that can make it a very good gaming platform. And what makes it even more interesting is the social element: you can very well interact with other players while playing a game in a specific region; you can collaborate with them, even casually socialise while you solve the puzzles (collaboratively or individually).

  2. Hi Mona, thank you very much for your comment! You won't believe it, but when writing my post about the Grim Combat System game kit, I was thinking to write an article exactly about this matter. I still plan to do it, but I am not sure if I could have written the introduction as good as you are writing it here. I hope you won't mind if I'll quote you again! :D

  3. Read Inara Pey's article The Drax Files 8: Gaming Second Life if you want to read the original (as opposed to Mona's poorly paraphrased copy).

  4. @ anonymous: I do not appreciate your hostile tone (“poorly”) and that you cannot make your point without hiding your identity.
    1) I have already recommended Inara’s text in a previous post from July 9 which is mentioned above. 2) It is perfectly normal that bloggers paraphrase or cite other bloggers if they find messages that fit their blogger theme. 3) Mona did point me to Inara’s text in the comments of her blog post. 4) Mona managed to put those messages that I wanted to highlight in a nutshell while Inara has a much wider scope in her analysis and it would have been much more work for me to do another paraphrasing.
    Of course you couldn’t know all this unless you don’t do extensive research (especially by following links and reading comments of other posts). But that’s no excuse for being impolite.

    1. Oh, and I forgot number 5) Mona has qutite a few important messages that I cited here that are not in Inara's article (which of course has other interesting thoughts).