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Prokofy Neva


Some of the breathless press coverage of the project at the time by the in-group tech journo Daniel Terdiman, with Castronova's friends as the "sources" for the story.

Ciaran Laval

Ok my cynical side is crying out that associating Shakespeare with this was just an excuse to get funding. He even says in his comments that Shakespeare was a mistake. Indeed it would appear that the only link to Shakespeare is in the play Richard III, the idea was to provide a Richard III world.

However as the goal was also to provide an MMORPG, this is something that Second Life technology might support in the future but it's nowhere near being able to support right now.

Sure his grant could have supported a Richard III island resplendent with olde worlde taverns and people wandering around in armour, but it wouldn't have hit the spot from a gaming point of view at all.

Yes yes yes I know, virtual economy, that would have been fine but a game needs gameplay, quests and goals and waving a sword around whilst quoting Shakespeare isn't much of a game.

John Hurliman

Sorry, but I'm going to be an apologist for the failed project as well. In the virtual worlds industry today a quarter million might get you a decent set of islands built in Second Life or some bleeding edge bot software, but building an entirely new metaverse? Add another zero and you might at least be in the right ballpark for seed capital. Who gave this the rubber stamp in the first place?


lol.. no apologies because they didnt blow a larger amount of money in the same time...


and 250k is more than enough to launch a web3d vr world today, as it was a decade ago.

it wont buy you a dozen trips a year for speaking about vr around the world at the latest shows, or buy you a new "journalist" at wired or cnet as a pr agent....but it can provide a working product that millions can access, try, and offer either their approval in comments or monetary reward.
Ask the any independent games or content makers on the web whove done much more on much less in the last 10 years, and they will find your comments and those of the "new" metanonsence around what has occured just as precious.

but then again, we can look at it as a 250k plus blog project, and in that light its been successful.

And as to the other blog fodder from this last weeks festival.
I gladly await open 3d standards from IBM and LL. As i did from INTEL and Adobe in 2004, and from SGI - Microsoft in 1997, and Apple in 1994.


Economic Mip

I am saddened to see this fail, but had a hunch that it would. The reason is simply that while Metaverse (the platform name which Arden and other worlds are built on no "d" on the end) is not a very usable platform, for example it loads every texture and mesh in a developed world into the user's computer. The result is very huge file sizes. Also, Shakespeare and modern economics is an interesting concept, but the two have so little in common. So much more I wish I could say about this whole topic, but well I can't, sorry.

Prokofy Neva

Um, nobody asked him to build a world -- and certainly not "an entirely new metaverse" -- that is totally retarded.

His grant proposal was apparently about studying virtual economies. You could make one of those or use one of the existing ones and make your project around it.

I simply refuse to listen to this pure utter tripe that this grant was for paying code monkeys at some world-burning level. I don't see that Castronova himself even says that in his apology/apologia on Terra Nova.

"and 250k is more than enough to launch a web3d vr world today, as it was a decade ago.

it wont buy you a dozen trips a year for speaking about vr around the world at the latest shows, or buy you a new "journalist" at wired or cnet as a pr agent....but it can provide a working product that millions can access, try, and offer either their approval in comments or monetary reward."

Bingo. I don't know about making some shoe-string worldlet on $250,000, it would have to be MUD like or 2-D or something I guess.

But the other points apply...

Economic Mip I thought the platform was called "Multiverse" or???

Economic Mip

I get my verses confused I guess, yes the platform is Multiverse, Which I would probably know if merely clicking its shortcut didn't crash my computer in ways far more difficult to recover from than what Second Life has ever done. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused people.


the initial PR was for it to be done using Multiverse.... Which was at such a stage of development at that time (publically at least) that clearly showed those of any experience that any project to use it would be a very "ground up" experience, with little time for conference jetsetting:)

and yes prok.. 3d worlds for "way"
under 250k. Multiuser avatars, ecommerce object sales, flash interface, and with the right "connections" a possible "26 million;)" viewers....

all history all from 1997.:)
all repeatable do to "real open standards" in 2007.....but none of those ancient folks involved were "invited speakers" to VW2007 :)

keep them on their toes....lol

ah btw- mip...stands for MEDIA INDUCED PYSCHOSIS.. a humorous but accurate term i made up in the early 1990s to diagnose the same ailments i see today in the newly "meta" infected.

everyone should take two blue pills and call me in the morning...;)

dr. c3

Economic Mip

Actually Larryr in my case I was thinking more of Patkin's Money, Interest and Prices [MIP]. Now if you will excuse me I have to get back to yelling at Millions of Us for marketing its "Gossip Girl" campaign to teenage girls.



see?......Perfect symptoms and causes of MIPS....

maybe we need a wear a "plaid" ribbon campaign?..


Desmond Shang

What a shame.

Arden would have been *completely* possible within Second Life.

250,000 USD... Use 200k USD intially for sims, 50k USD for salary for the first year...

...that's a 40 sim continent that will *make* 80,000 USD annually, with about 1000 people deeply involved as countrymen, content developers and so forth.

And amazingly, the people involved tend to flesh out the culture of the times; I'm still stunned at how Caledon folk have recreated some *very* subtle social phenomenae of the Victorian era, from formal dance cards to fan signals.

Not that I would know anything about historic regions like Arden, of course.


Prokofy Neva


Your project succeeded because it's a themed sim, but not so much an attempt to make a full-blown world. And that's probably a better way of *getting* a full-blown world anyway.

You let people rent blank spaces and fill them according to a theme with rules -- but not so rigid as to prevent them from creating their own vision.

Here's what the anal-retentive Castronova writes, however:

"@Timothy: Volunteers! That was my starting philosophy. But my experience has been that each additional volunteer (n) detracts n*n from the project's quality. Because you're not paying them, you have to give the volunteers leeway. Their leeway in terms of content eats into your vision. Their leeway in terms of time slows you down. Basically, you need full-time employees (or slaves). Students have talent and enthusiasm but you can't get five of them in a room at the same time. And once you start paying tuition for them, they cost $60K FTE (10K stipend + insurance + $20K tuition for 20 hours of work). In future work I will subscribe to the Lee Sheldon Fascistic Theory of Managing Creative Projects, which, if I my improvise, is to tell your volunteers and employees to be slaves or be gone."

What an ass! I've worked on many projects over the years with students, including books and reports and conferences. There's absolutely no reason why you have to make them slaves to get the job done.

To be sure, the biggest problem in the universe is how to deploy interns successfully and not have busywork and not have lost time. But...you just have to define the task and filter through the applicants.

I find it hilarious that on the one hand Castronova can say, "Oh, I'm a terrible manager, my bad, but hey, I'm famous and I'm a genius so screw you, I don't have to explain myself really" -- and then in the next sentence explain how...he needs to manage like a tin-pot dictator to get the job done, so please do give him a new grant to do it that way.

I hope no foundation will be stupid enough to fall for that one again, although of course, foundations typically give a second grant after a failed one so that *they* don't look bad.

Perhaps if there is lots and lots of exposure about this failed project now and discussion, the foundations won't be as likely to do this sort of ill-conceived stunt again.

They'd be much better off sponsoring one scholar in the making a survey of closed and open economies and their issues and then maybe sponsor some conferences with papers issued or a website of publications about proposals to resolve these issues.

There are enough games and worlds out there that it is folly to be building any. Once there is some notion of the issues at stake that are identified, then it may make sense to go and build up a world from scratch with some of these new principles that hopefully would get identified, i.e. have a third-party currency exchange without the printing of currency.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

With MacArthur being so keen to fund things in Second Life as well, I really tend to totally agree with Desmond on this... Ted Castronova simply didn't go with Second Life because, well, he hates it ("It's too close to real life to be worth studying").

A 40-sim continent being deployed by a single paid developer (Ted himself) and a thousand 'volunteers' (no matter how hard they would be willing to be 'guided') might definitely be a better way to develop such an environment.

The best bit of it, of course, is that even if the whole project failed, Ted could simply push the "themed content" to a land baron and get some cash back (at least, say, some US$60K or so — probably more). He'd also get way more publicity. I just heard about Arden when Multiverse was launched and wondered about the time it took to develop it...

Prokofy Neva

There may be very good reasons to use Multiverse, especially if you are a programmer and can navigate it (it still isn't for dummies, quite, although it has some demo worlds). It appears to be more stable than SL and easier to put in builds and such (you can grab them out of Google's Sketch-up warehouse), but of course it needs to withstand the load test (and maybe there will never be a load test like that on it because it is distributed over people's computers where they host their own worlds, from what I gather, but the Multiverse people handle the accounts).

Their switch to NWN towards the end may have been just some hurry-up to have things already pre-fabbed like costumes and classes of people.

I think the bottom line is that Ted likes to play games, and games he can control like a despot, and that's ok, but that can't be the future of the Metaverse for everyone else, sorry. We need to have something far more flexible and free then game gods dictatorially running games.

Yes, MacArthur is funding projects in SL, they have another big $250,000 project at USC Center for Public Diplomacy. Time will tell whether that project crashes of its own weight, but at least it is one of those ponderous projects with conferences and papers that have a life beyond themselves.

Game-gods responding to this, junior and senior, need to understand what foundation philanthropy is. It is not venture capital. It's not a start-up support for your entrepreneurial idea rewarding only you. It has to be something for the public good, it's a non-profit venture. I'm not familiar with the grant proposals involved here and they are probably private documents, but if you need $250,000 to start a game world, a foundation of this type isn't the place to go. But if you had an idea for how to study virtual economies and understand their impact on people and what government policies should be developed, etc. then a foundation *would* be the place to go.

Ted has a built-in rabid bias against Second Life. I've been puzzling over this for years, asking again and again what is up with this. And I am beginning to conclude that just as SL is "too real to study" Ted Castronova "isn't real enough an economist to study it." He simply appears to enjoy studying game theory and playing in rigidly controlled game environments, than really studying economies with all their wildness and variabilities, although he has written some very important book on the subject.

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