From The Desk of the Mayor Friday October 12, 2018

Election Week!

The crowd goes wild, and re-elects Mayor Lightrunner.

Civic Policy IV achieved and 2000 points toward that last 10xp box.

We continue to be out harvesting various resources.  We’re diversifying, as they say, and added a vendor for gases.  I named it the Starlight Gas Company after consulting with my spousal citizen unit.   I had a bad moment when I wanted to call it Unseemly Gases.    I’m not sure how appealing that would have been.   I went with an adorable green Rodian vendor this time.

Early on, the player economy of Galaxies seemed to get a lot of attention, even in the more general  press:

From the Archives, a Business Week article on Star Wars Galaxies and Community.

Grant McCracken, the cultural anthropologist and industry consultant, suggests that in the future, media producers must accommodate consumer demands to participate or they will run the risk of losing the most active and passionate consumers to some other media interest which is more tolerant: “Corporations must decide whether they are, literally, in or out. Will they make themselves an island or will they enter the mix? Making themselves an island may have certain short-term financial benefits, but the long-term costs can be substantial.”

The media industry is increasingly dependent on active and committed consumers to spread the word about valued properties in an overcrowded media marketplace and in some cases, they are seeking ways to channel the creative output of media fans to lower their production costs.  At the same time, they are terrified of what happens if this consumer power gets out of control, as they claim occurred following the introduction of Napster and other file-sharing services….

One can trace two characteristic responses of media industries to this grassroots expression: Starting with the legal battles over Napster, the media industries have increasingly adopted a scorched earth policy towards their consumers, seeking to regulate and criminalize many forms of fan participation which once fell below their radar. Let’s call them the prohibitionists.

Prohibitionist Stance

To date, the prohibitionist stance has been dominant within old media companies (film, television, the recording industry), though these groups are to varying degrees starting to re-examine some of these assumptions. So far, the prohibitionists get most of the press – with law suits directed against teens who download music or against fan webmasters getting more and more coverage in the popular media.

At the same time, on the fringes, new media companies (internet, games, and to a lesser degree, the mobile phone companies), are experimenting with new approaches which see fans as important collaborators in the production of content and as grassroots intermediaries helping to promote the franchise. We will call them the collaborationists.….

Adopting a collaborationist logic, the creators of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have already built a more open-ended and collaborative

relationship with their consumer base.

Game designers acknowledge that their craft has less to do with prestructured stories than with creating the preconditions for spontaneous community activities.

Raph Koster, the man LucasArts placed in charge of developing Star Wars Galaxies, built his professional reputation as one of the prime architect of Ultima Online. An early mudder, he was the author of an important statement of player’s rights before he entered the games industry and he has developed a strong design philosophy focused on empowering players to shape their own experiences and build their own communities….

Koster also refers to managing an online community, whether a non-commercial mud or a commercial MMORPG, as an act of governance: “Just like it is not a good idea for a government to make radical legal changes without a period of public comment, it is often not wise for an operator of an online world to do the same.”

Players, he argues, must feel a sense of ‘ownership’ over the imaginary world if they are going to put in the time and effort needed to make it come alive for themselves and for other players.  Koster argues, “You can’t possibly mandate a fictionally involving universe with thousands of other people. The best you can hope for is a world that is vibrant enough that people act in manners consistent with the fictional tenets.”

Hardcore Fans

As Koster turned his attention to developing Star Wars Galaxies, he realized that he was working with a franchise known in all of its details by hardcore fans who had grown up playing these characters with action figures or in their backyard and who wanted to see those same fantasies rendered in the digital realm.

In an open letter to the Star Wars fan community, Koster described what he hoped to bring to the project: “Star Wars is a universe beloved by many. And I think many of you are like me. You want to be there. You want to feel what it is like.…You don’t want to know about the stagecraft in those first few moments. You want to feel like you are offered a passport to a universe of limitless possibility.”

Satisfying fan interests in the franchise proved challenging. Koster told me, “There’s no denying it – the fans know Star Wars better than the developers do. They live and breathe it. They know it in an intimate way. On the other hand, with something as large and broad as the Star Wars universe, there’s ample scope for divergent opinions about things. These are the things that lead to religious wars among fans and all of a sudden you have to take a side because you are going to be establishing how it works in this game.”

To insure that fans bought into his version of the Star Wars universe, Koster essentially treated the fan community as his client team, posting regular reports about many different elements of the game’s design on the web, creating an online forum where potential players could respond and make suggestions, insuring that his staff regularly monitored the online discussion and posted back their own reactions to the community’s

recommendations.

By comparison, the production of a Star Wars film is shrouded by secrecy. Koster compares what he did with the test screening or focus group process many Hollywood films endure, but the difference is that much of that testing goes on behind closed doors, among select groups of consumers, and is not open to the participation by anyone who wants to join the conversation.

It is hard to imagine Lucas setting up a forum site to preview plot twists and character designs with his audience. If he had done so, he would never have included Jar Jar Binks or devoted so much screen time to the childhood and adolescence of Anakin Skywalker, decisions which alienated his core audience. Koster wanted Star Wars fans to feel that they had, in effect, designed their own Galaxy.

Games scholars Kurt Squire and Constance Steinkuehler have studied the interactions between Koster and his fan community: “These players would establish community norms for civility and role playing, giving the designers an opportunity to effectively create the seeds of the Star Wars Galaxies world months before the game ever hit the shelves….The game that the designers promised and the community expected was largely player-driven. The in-game economy would consist of items (e.g. clothing, armor, houses, weapons) created by players with its prices also set by players through auctions and player-run shops. Cities and towns would be designed by players, and cities’ mayors and council leaders would devise missions and quests for other players. The Galactic Civil War (the struggle between rebels and imperials) would frame the game play, but players would create their own missions as they enacted the Star Wars saga. In short, the system was to be driven by player interaction, with the world being created less by designers and more by players themselves.”

Negotiations and Collaborations

What made it possible for such negotiations and collaborations to occur was the fact that they shared a common background in the already well-established Star Wars mythology.…

Coming full circle, a growing number of gamers are using the sets, props, and characters generated for the Star Wars Gallaxies game as resources to produce their own fan films. In some cases, they are using them to do their own dramatic re-enactments of scenes from the movie or to create, gasp, their own ‘fan fiction’.

Perhaps the most intriguing new form of fan cinema to emerge from the game world are the so-called Cantina Crawls. In the spirit of the cantina sequence in the original Star Wars feature film, the game created a class of characters whose function in the game world is to entertain the other players. They were given special moves which allow them to dance and writhe erotically if the players hit complex combinations of keys.

Teams of more than three dozen dancers and musicians plan, rehearse and execute elaborate synchronized musical numbers: for example, The Gypsies’s Christmas Crawl 1 featured such numbers as ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry

Little Christmas’; blue skinned and tentacle haired dance girls shake their bootie, lizard-like aliens in Santa caps play the sax,  and guys with gills do boy band moves while twinkly snowflakes fall all around them.  Imagine what Star Wars would have looked like if it had been directed by Lawrence Welch! Whatever aesthetic abuse is taking place here, one has to admire the technical accomplishment and social coordination which goes into producing these films. Once you put creative tools in the hands of everyday people, there’s no telling what they are going to make with them – and that’s a large part of the fun.

By Henry Jenkins

 

Provided by Next Generation
Interactive Entertainment Today 

Copyright © 2006 Next Generation. All rights reserved.

 

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