I have a copy of Chain World.
I was having lunch with a friend of mine in NYC a few weeks ago, and he was telling me about all this. He said that he was talking with his friend who got the USB drive from Rohrer (I assume this is Ji) and that before Ji sold it, he bootlegged a copy of it. A copy that my friend emailed to me.
I have yet to play (I haven't played Minecraft before, I want a bit of practice before I boot into the game world and die), but it's sitting on my desktop right now.
I think the fact that there is now at least two bootlegged copies going around adds to parallelism to religion. There is "the true path" (the original USB drive), and then there have been two "sects" that have broken off, gone to different parts of the world, and have begun to grow.
I plan on passing my copy from friend to friend on the West Coast. Maybe one day someone will come across copies of two different strains and they'll be able to see the differences that occur after 50 generations of evolution.
What's the bet he either didn't actually play the game, or played several times?
One kind of signposts the gameworld should have. Gravestones. Enter your name to play; when you die the game's graveyard gets a new headstone. Would show up... Ah! (slaps forehead) no - of course cheaters would use a different name each time.
But still... a graveyard would at least show how many times the game had been played. Maybe the epitaphs could record the manner and time of death?
I ask because some of my code (optimized save file format) was first included in Minecraft 1.3, but from the article it's not apparent which version Chain World is based on.
The cool part isn't the world - it's the legacy of everyone who's played before you.
I wrote Lonecraft as a way of replicating the Chain World idea, but using an Amazon EC2 instance as a multiplayer server with a few custom Minecraft server plugins and a Heroku instance as a web app to govern the rules of the game (to make sure only one player plays at once and no one plays more than once).
The code is here: http://www.github.com/ckolderup/lonecraft
It needs some more work to flesh out the idea of resetting the world after a set number of players and exposing the blog entries of each player after the world resets, but the general game mechanic is there and functional.
My instance of it is technically up and running, too, but one thing my friends and I quickly discovered while testing it is that people who have been playing Minecraft for a while have a nasty habit of not... really... dying. Once you've learned the ropes it's pretty easy to make armor, carry food, and fight monsters. Death usually comes only occasionally and as the result of a careless mistake.
I've toyed with the idea of imposing a time limit or a number of logins that you're allowed before you're also kicked off, but that seemed to defeat the whole purpose of giving meaning to the in-game death.
Why not put in a time limit, but wrap it up in some kind of imminent death? "You have 30 days left to live." (Game days, of course).
It might be really interesting to see what comes from it, as people start with grand aspirations, but eventually flip to frantically trying to complete something.
And future versions will likely have more dangers and more things to tempt you into danger.
Food, above all else, must be tasty. Likewise, games, above all else, must be fun to play -- or more precisely, must provide unusually fulfilling analogs of the plights and labours of real life.
If you manage to make food that is both tasty and cerebrally stimulating, that's pretty awesome. But food that is strictly cerebral is always going to have marginal appeal at best. And you can't accuse chefs of being lazy and unimaginative just because their food isn't cerebral.
(For the nitpickers: yes, food is an extreme analogy. There is more room for expressiveness in games than in food, and it's probably underexploited. But you see the point I am making?)
For broad appeal this is true, but says nothing of real value or artistic merit. Expression in every medium is mostly banal schlock, with a few shining examples of quality.
Art needs to command attention, to force people to think carefully about the ideas that are its payload. It can do this with beauty, or it can do it with ugliness.
To continue the food metaphor: Sea Urchin. Hákarl. Bitter melon. All of which are awful-tasting to most, but delicious to those who have fostered an appreciation for their peculiarities. Anyone who can stomach such foods are offered absolutely unique flavours that defy description or comparison.
It's a powerful tool in the chest of artists, to force their audiences to confront something they may find uncomfortable or unsettling. In every case where the work is truly great, the confrontation is simply an effective mechanism through which something deeply meaningful about the human condition may be revealed. Exemplar are the works of Damien Hurst, Odd Nerdrum, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Alvin Lucier, David Lynch, and so many others — all exhaustively-praised once the dust of their highly-confrontational works has settled.
Rohrer's games all exist in this domain, defying casual pursuit, but offering something immensely powerful for anyone willing to overcome their own reservations.
Think about a dessert that requires pig fat in its recipe.
Some people built an everlasting clock inside a mountain. http://longnow.org/clock/
It would be interesting to try building a 'game seat' like that - can only be reached by a hazardous journey, will be there and playable for a thousand years, you only get one go at it.
Sadly, I don't see how you could hope to enforce this constraint... The idea of a game seat is nice, though -- a collaborative time capsule of sorts.
Actually, if there was some decently functional strong AI in the game, this could get very mythological. Quest to visit the Oracle - you have to get to the site then play the game in order to reach the Oracle in the gameworld. If you die in-game before then - well tough.
This is my favourite article about him, and one of the most memorable articles I've ever read: http://www.esquire.com/print-this/future-of-video-game-desig...
It's a great starting point for people who are unfamiliar with his story.
As it is, I'm just barely skeptical of the whole story -- could just be one of those weird stories. If Rohrer takes the fine art approach to monetizing his games, then his next one will be high concept, and even harder to get, somehow.
Without that absolute rule, the game wouldn't have nearly the same symbolic/religious significance, notwithstanding all the meta-game that unfolded hence. Rohrer's son was upset by his father's death specifically because of the significance imparted by this rule.
It makes your time playing the game paramount. You will never play the game again. You will never have another shot at life, so you'd better enjoy it while it lasts.
EDIT: He's an atheist, I'm an atheist. There's an argument to be made for reincarnation, I suppose, but that's hewing close to respawning and it makes me uncomfortable.
Chain World sounds very cool, but it's lacking one crucial element, replication. An online version sounds intriguing, but would most likely need substantial tweaks to create the right incentive structure.
Hobbits really are amazing creatures