And Now For Something Completely Machinima

Completely Machinima 6.1 Machinima News July 2021

July 01, 2021 Ricky Grove, Tracy Harwood, Damien Valentine, and Phil Rice Season 6 Episode 1
And Now For Something Completely Machinima
Completely Machinima 6.1 Machinima News July 2021
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Tracy,  Ricky,  Damien and Phil discuss metaverse and open world games, an episode inspired by Captain Grim's short machinima called Did Classic WOW Live Up to Expectations?  released on 15 May 2021.

Full notes for this episode are available at:
https://completelymachinima.com/2021/07/01/completely-machinima-6-1-machinima-news-july-2021/

Podcast 6.1 Machinima News

Tracy,  Ricky,  Damien and Phil discuss metaverse and open world games, an episode inspired by Captain Grim's short machinima called Did Classic WOW Live Up to Expectations?  released on 15 May 2021.

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

metaverse, world, machinima, game, people, open world games, create, life, players, big, virtual, worlds, environment, damien, talking, film, thinking, ricky, playing, story

SPEAKERS

Damien Valentine, Ricky Grove, ANFSCM, Tracy Harwood, Phil Rice

 

ANFSCM  00:06

And now for something completely machinima.

 

Tracy Harwood  00:14

I'm Tracy Harwood. And I've drawn the short straw to be the lead co producer for this episode of the show, working with Ricky Grove, which in all seriousness is an absolute treat for me and hopefully, our listeners to here I'm joined with Ricky. 

 

Ricky Grove  00:30

Hello.

 

Tracy Harwood  00:31

with Phil rice. 

 

Phil Rice  00:33

Hello.

 

Tracy Harwood  00:36

And with Damien Valentine. 

 

Damien Valentine  00:37

Hello. 

 

Tracy Harwood  00:38

So this is Episode Six. You know that's six months we've been working together on this now. Can you believe that?  I certainly couldn't, and hardly any arguments at all. And frankly, very little trolling. It's been an absolute pleasure.  And well, maybe that's because folks don't really know how to get in touch. So Phil, would perhaps you like to remind folks how to get in touch with us?

 

Phil Rice  01:06

Absolutely, if you go to our website completelymachinima.com. there's a button in the menu at the top that says talk.  And if you click that button, it shows you all the different ways that you can get in touch with us, we do have an email address, talk at me completelymachinima.com.  We have, you can text us on your mobile phone.  There is a voicemail option using reverb.chat.  The voicemail we will probably play back and respond to your comment on the air. So if you're looking for a little shout out, that's a great way to do that. And we've also got a Discord server, which is little used, let's say. So we've kind of put out as many, you know, different methods of reaching out to us, of course, we're on Facebook, we're on Twitter, we may prune those down in the future. But right now it's it's Hey, wherever you're at, if you want to drop us a line, give us some feedback, we would love to hear it. Some people have done so already. And it has shaped the direction of the show.  Maybe not in ways that that are immediately visible. But we read every bit of feedback that comes in, and we apply it and try to improve the show for you. So that's the ways to get in touch with us. And we'd love to hear from you.

 

Tracy Harwood  02:19

Absolutely thanks for that, Phil. So as I said, it's great to talk to you as ever, and we've got a really packed show today. But we're going to think think through things in a slightly different way. In this episode we'll still be discussing news and films and and key things we think are relevant to machinimators but with an overarching theme related to that all encompassing concept lots of folks in-game and non-game contexts are referring to as the metaverse. 

 

Tracy Harwood  02:52

So here's a bit of the backstory. Having drawn the straw I was desperately searching the net for some kind of hook for the show thinking that Damian's Star Wars and space themed episode in June was going to be a really hard act to follow, a big problem... that was in May, wasn't it not June? it's gonna be a really hard act to follow...! when up popped this video by Captain Grim released on 15th of May called Did Classic WOW Live Up to Expectations? Well, I've I sat and watched this, and frankly, you've got to be committed to do so because it's over an hour long, I realized this is actually quite an interesting film. It's not a story per se, but kind of a docu-mockumentary in which the narrator Captain Grim discusses why he's returned to World of Warcraft Classic. So he starts by going through the good old days of WOW flashing some fab little machinima classics up almost so quickly that their effect is to subliminally activate your machinima memory. What I immediately noticed was Lagspike Films World of Workcraft, which was such good fun. I remember showing it at a machinima festival, well several festivals, several years ago. I even recalled interviewing those guys about that little film, which of course, was a parody of office life. Absolutely hilarious really, and I would still recommend it today.

 

Tracy Harwood  04:16

Anyway, Captain Grim raises a lot of really interesting points about how and why the machinima community evolved. Seemingly because creativity is really hard and meme making and let's plays are a lot easier to do. And whilst he's tying his points to well gameplay specifically, in the end, I felt his contribution was to highlight some of the key challenges faced in metaverse game environments.  Some of those issues I think, are relevant to machinima and filmmaking, but also in turn some of the challenges that he highlights are for the game environment which is really pressured into continually evolving as a consequence of the community's response to the way people are playing the game but also the machinima that's being created.  And that I think is a really interesting phenomenon, so to speak. So a few of the things that emerge from his film, which we will therefore be touching on during this episode include things like, why did people leave machinima and move on to means and let's plays? And what are the implications for machinima making in metaverse games?  The use of mods cheats and assets in metaverse games versus single player; the role of community and the role of machinima in shaping communities the responsibility of the game or environment developer to to acknowledge the role of community in machinima. And what's the best approach to making machinima in metaverse environments? So there you have it the inspiration for Episode Six. 

 

Tracy Harwood  05:48

But before we move on, let's take a moment to reflect on what a metaverse is, or at least, how it's been defined, and also how they differ to open world games.  I'll start - I've done a bit of background on it naturally. A metaverse has become known as a collective virtual shared space with an enhanced physical reality and a physical like persistence. So it's this mix of virtual and real where non fungible and infinite items intermingle where things are not bound by physical limitations. Some ascribe the metaverse with the ability to have social presence in an extensive virtual economy, where you can create your own world and adapt your own experiences in it. Others refer to it as the future of the Internet where all mental and physical realities are merged, where creativity is decentralized rather than controlled by a game publisher say some suggest environments such as Fortnight and Verbella are basically 2.5 dimension and only those space enabled spaces enabled through VR render them 3d. Others suggest we're already living in a metaverse. Well, of course, the term was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci fi novel Snow Crash. But since then, we've had 30 years of technological advancement dominated really by a few key organizations, although much of what people talk about, virtual reality, for example, I think predates it anyway. So much of what we're talking about, is nearly science fact catching up with science fiction, or is it? There's a nice little summary of the different thought leaders perspectives on what a metaverse is, and and what it isn't, which has recently been published in Forbes, which we'll share a link to in the show notes. And then of course, there's this really interesting anti-trust trial that's going on at the moment where Apple and Epic are embroiled in this court battle debate, arguing the difference between an app and a game ostensibly because of the fallout between them over Apple's top slice store platform fee, which Epic tried to overcome by designing its own platform for processing in-app purchases in order to avoid paying said fees. What's emerged, however, is this really interesting discussion about whether these metaverse type environments are actually games. Apple has argued, for example, that Roblox isn't a game but an app or platform with games in it. And of course, Epic's view is that Fortnite isn't a virtual world, but it's a metaverse, the social space where yes, there are battle royales, but also party royales and creative modes where those party goers and creators can do their own thing within constraints, of course.  

 

Tracy Harwood  08:40

Fundamentally, however, the whole thing strikes me as a sort of the kind of behavior that you would see in an oligopoly market where just a few key players are dominating the control of what's going on. We'll include a link in a recent article in The Verge which sums up the trial as it stands at the moment for you. But let's not forget the term metaverse was widely bandied about when Second Life launched back in 2003. As residents began living virtual lives in emergent spaces and places on a grid that they either built or bought from other residents and were trading in virtual assets has continued to evolve ever since. It's actually really quite timely to mention this too, because of course, Ebbe Altberg, the much respected CEO of Linden Labs passed away only a couple of days ago as we're recording this on the 4th of June. He had taken over from the original creator Philip Rosedale and I recall doing an interview with with Ebbe, for a project that I was working on back in 2014, where he'd only been in post for a few months. He said at the time that Second Life is a creative environment, which was all about empowering creative people to create incredible experiences within Second Life. That Second Life is not just again, but a storytelling platform where stories can be told in real time, effectively as they are being created and also experienced, or thought through and produced. So it's a space where he saw that it's very much about expression. He described Second Life as its own country, and explained that Linden was not in the business of content as tall but their goal was to facilitate all these different subgroups of users to do their thing in the highest quality, virtual environment that they could make possible. Furthermore, he didn't see the competition as being other virtual worlds or I don't if you recall, at the time, they were banding terms such as mirror worlds back then. But I think there's now called digital twins, which seems to come through as as more of a concept that we're seeing in the media. But he thought of competition as being Facebook. Not not these other environments, which I think is quite interesting, and probably born out now when we look at Facebook maps and things. So for Ebbe machinima was central to Second Life. And fundamentally, it was a way of documenting virtual experiences as well as recording and telling new stories in those virtual spaces. Much like one would make a film in the physical world. 

 

Tracy Harwood  08:48

And let's contrast that briefly with a definition of an open world game. This is where the player can explore the game's objectives more freely. As we know, games are a set of rules within a fictional world in which action is structured and narrative is performed. The rules basically prevent access to the narrative. The better you get at navigating the rules, the more the narrative reveals itself to you, and so on. But in open world games narrative takes on much more of a prominent role, not not least, because that fictional environment itself tends to be huge. So for example, the size of the world in Second Life was estimated made to be around 1600 square kilometers in 2015, would take you approximately 23 days to walk over as an avatar. And that compares to Red Dead Redemption 2 now which, which is estimated to have approximately 75 square kilometers of landmass. But these pale into insignificance when you compare them to things like Minecraft, which is legally defined as a game, which has an estimated surface area, can you believe this 4 billion square kilometers, that's seven times bigger than the Earth. It's absolutely astonishing.  Anyway, let's hear from Damien who's got another really interesting way of looking at these environments, using slightly different terminology to that which I've just been using. Damien over to you. 

 

Damien Valentine  12:41

Okay. So even though I'm going to use different terminology is it's kind of touching on a very similar subject. So that there's two kinds of online world MMOs: one is the sandbox game, and then you've got the theme park game.  So something like World of Warcraft, or Star Wars: The Old Republic is very much a theme park game, because you create your character and you start, it puts you in your starting location, it says, okay, you need to go here and take this first quest, and then you do that, and then you go on to the next one. And it'll, it basically guides you through it, much like you would if you were at a theme park, it was, you know, you've kind of guided have this curated experience through the game world they've created. And typically, players don't really have any control over the environment itself, they can explore it, and you can interact with characters and interact with each other, and so on. But they don't have a lasting impact on the world other than just going through it and experiencing it, you know, that you can buy things and your character evolves, and you level up and you get more equipment, and so on. But the next person who joins five minutes after you will see no difference, you won't see any change that you've made as you've gone through and done your thing. Whereas in the sandbox game, again, you create a character and it puts you in the starting location, wherever it may be. And they say, well have fun, and you're not really guided in any direction. It's just you can do what you like. And a lot of these games, players do actually have the ability to influence the world. 

 

Damien Valentine  14:24

Eve Online is a very famous one. Because every so often you hear these stories about how some player run corporations and they control different parts of the game world. And they have wars with each other. And some of these wars can get so intense that it's the whole server can't handle it. And so everyone, even if they're not involved with this battle, they're far away from it in the game world. They're still feeling experience of it because the server can't cope with all this happening. And you get these stories about how someone will spend months of real time infiltrating their rival corporation and bringing it down. And then when that when that comes down, all the other corporations kind of dive in to try and grab what they can, which leads to more wars and things happening. And corporations can build space stations, which can be then used to trade and upgrading ships and players can visit them. Or if they're hostile, they can make sure that anyone coming but I just gets blown up.  And that space station is there in the world for everyone to go and see until someone comes along with a big enough force to blow it up. And then then it's gone. Until someone else comes in build another one. That's also very lasting effects. So on the game world, and another one is Elite Dangerous. 

 

Damien Valentine  15:46

And I'm going to tell a little bit the story that happened when I was playing it. So when the game was released, they did some tie-in novels, turtle, build out the world to give players an idea of what it's like, what kind of adventures they could have. So you'd have a there's one as a political thriller, and then someone's a smuggler, and so on.  So one of the books had a throwaway line. So the story was the main character, Salome, had lost her memory at the end of the book. And she was on this quest to try and figure out who she was, as she runs into this old lady, who has also had an incident with a memory. And she says, all she remembers is she went to the Formidine Rift, and found something but when she came back, they with no idea who they is some sort of conspiracy, what's her memory, so that she couldn't tell anyone of what she found, and for us just a little bit of world building as nice little detail, then the author of the book said, actually, there is something to go and find in the Formidine Rift, which then meant players went, then go and try and find it out. Elite Dangerous simulates the entire galaxy, full size. So this Formidine Rift is very far away from a place start. So it's a very long journey to get to it. And it's a huge region of space, it's not really defined on the end well, in game maps, do you just have a vague description from the book of where to go and look. And players, we're kind of working together, and then they will throw in clues and different coded messages. And so we will try to figure out what these coded messages meant as an trying to find this thing. And about three years after the game was launched, we actually found this thing. So there are some bases on planets that you have to find, you can't scan the planets, you have to physically fly over them and look down over the entire surface of the planet, which takes hours and days, because they're full size planets. And you have to find something, it's just pixels wide and therefore, these bases, and once you've got all four of them, you can scan them, once you're there, you land and you get out and you just scan the buildings and you get these messages. And you have to have all the messages to figure out the coordinates for this final puzzle, which is a derelict spaceship with this warning, saying that there are secret organization was trying to find out find inhabited planets that are far away from anywhere else, because they knew sleep bad was coming, which turned out to be an alien invasion. And all of this was happening. So what the author then did was he wrote a second book, and he incorporated all the player actions into the story of the book. So when you read the book, and you're getting all these player names of that played a big part in it, someone who the first person who encountered on the alien ships, he was in the book, and it's his name, in the book as well. So he's now part of the lore of the game world firsthand just because he was randomly, the first one to find an alien ship.  And then the story, the Salome character from the first book is in the second book as well. And he had held an in-world event where she was going to reveal the secrets of the secret message from the ship we'd found, but she had to get to the space station to transmit it to all the inhabited planets. So then some players decided they're going to help her. And then other players decided that whatever secret she's going to tell is probably dangerous. So we want to kill her, so she doesn't disrupt civilization. So you have this kind of conflict between two groups of players. And I decided I wanted to help her. And so this whole military style organization was put together and so we're getting very specific designations and get to be here. And this is what you have to do. And it's all very strict. And so I did my part, she went past where I was defending, and then we all kind of followed her. Unfortunately, one of the players on the other side, managed to disable her ship and kill her, which we then how to be included in the story, the book, how to make things interesting. His endgame name is Harry Potter, which meant that he could not have that name included in the book for all the legal reasons.  

 

Damien Valentine  20:34

That's the kind of thing you get in a sandbox world, which you won't get in a theme park kind of MMO because this this little happening, it could only happen once. Because once it's happened, it's happened in a sandbox, you won't get that. And it's nothing wrong with that. It's just two different experiences. I don't know that some people prefer the theme park, but agents, some people prefer the sandbox environment. And I just wanted to share that story of something that happened. [Great story] Yeah. And as far as machinima goes, with the theme park world, you can go in and you can explore it. And you know that the environments you find, are going to stay fairly static until a big update is released by the developers. And you know, that's going to happen, because they'll announce that this is the new expansion that's coming out. And this is what's going to do. So if you're in the middle of machinima production, you think I like that castles, I want to use that in my video, you know, that's always going to be there. So if you're spreading out your production time over days, or weeks or months, or whatever it is, you know that that's always going to be there for you to use. Whenever you log in, you don't have to worry about anyone messing it up.  In a sandbox game, you might find the castle you want. But when you're when you're not filming, so I may come along and destroy it. Or you may not find the cast that you want on your hands, he may have the option to build your castle exactly the way you want it. And you can have that sort of control over it. So you kind of got to weigh which side you want you to know that what you've got is perfectly safe, or do you want that flexibility of I could build what I want but there's a risk that someone might destroy it offline? 

 

Tracy Harwood  22:14

Yes. That's a major challenge, I think.  Yeah. So we've kind of got this idea of what the metaverse is from these different definitions of it. And, you know, like he said, there's some really interesting ways that they're being explored and expanded. I mean, some of it comes to mind. You know, the Assassin's Creed, for example, was a kind of open world type experience, I think. But what's interesting about that is it's only recreated key parts of Florence, not, fairly accurately for those key parts, but not other parts. For other parts, it kind of uses different techniques to get you across that kind of virtual space. And it's that kind of topology in the game topology, I beg your pardon, which, which kind of helps define the boundaries, and it also helps the game publisher think about how it's going to extend play, which is what you were just talking about there. So it kind of uses the natural boundaries in order to, to do that. But I think it's the vastness that sort of allows for these narrative possibilities to emerge, and you've kind of what you just said, that just reminds me of that um, do you remember that game that was slated... I don't know whether it was ever actually released No Man's Sky? 

 

Ricky Grove  23:44

Oh, yeah, its having a major update, it's having a major update very soon... 

 

Tracy Harwood  23:50

18 trillion planets that you can potentially visit? Well, I couldn't think of anything more boring. And I think I think that's probably one of the challenges here, isn't it? The fact that, you know, boredom is going to be one of the key things that they've got to overcome. And then, you know, I guess it's for that reason that the physics of these environments have been tampered with to help you get there quicker, so you can fly or teleport or spell or transport around these vast environments.  And I guess another consideration is the fact that you've got all these NPCs hanging around once you've once you've played with that part of the game, what happens to these NPCs? Do they just hang around? And what are they doing? Do they do anything in particular, are they are they just there and I think that's been one of the complaints that I've seen is that these NPCs just don't do anything tell you that you they don't age or, you know, time doesn't pass in any other way for them. They're not really alive, therefore, but they are persistent. They're just there as well.

 

Damien Valentine  24:59

That's one of the things when I was playing World of Warcraft, I started playing it. And shortly after it was released, this was just kind of fun. And I got to this village and talked to an NPC. And he said, You're the only one who can save this village from these monsters are attacking, and please kill 10 of them. So I went and killed 10 of them. And I came back, and I saw another player come up, I thought he's just been told, he's the only person that could say, the village from those 10 monsters.  I stopped playing it at that point, because that is just completely drawn me out of the environment. And I don't want to play it anymore. 

 

Ricky Grove  25:33

Yeah,

 

Ricky Grove  25:34

These NPCs, they're running a big con on everyone. That's what it is.

 

Tracy Harwood  25:39

Yeah. Well, I think what's interesting is the way that I'm seeing games now thinking about how they add these expansion packs on. So you know that, you know, one of the things you mentioned was download the next bit, add another castle, add another bit of the environment and what have you. But I've seen that games like Dwarf Fortress, for example, are actually thinking about how they can extend the narrative of the NPCs. As as so they give them more agency, basically. And that agency helps to invigorate and refresh the environment, which I think, you know, I think that's an interesting direction of development. script that, really, but it's, I think that's the way to go with that sort of thing. You don't want to get bigger than 18 trillion planets do, you know, three years to get from one side of the game to the next? that's just silly, isn't it? Isn't it I mean, call me old fashioned but... 

 

Damien Valentine  26:35

I can appreciate it from a technical perspective, they've simulated this whole galaxy, and you can go anywhere. So it's full size, all parts of full size. But I think in the six years now, since the game was released, less than 1% of the galaxy has been explored.

 

Tracy Harwood  26:53

I bet folks are still stuck on Earth!  Anyway, Phil, what's your take on this?

 

Phil Rice  27:02

What I find myself thinking about it, and maybe I'm just being too analytical. But with these metaverse type, virtual spaces, basically, whether they're the the game world that's defined, or one that is, is kind of built by the participants, such as Second Life or things like that.  So like how much of this is an actual technical resource, so to speak, and how much of it is, and this is perhaps what the big companies are really fighting over. Because if you, if you break down Second Life, for example, just in technical terms, it's a bunch of servers. And each of those servers designates a certain amount of the virtual geography. And then players can, you know, interact with that and build things or buy land or that kind of thing, the sandbox game probably works in a very similar fashion, except using the NFT stuff. That that's the technical underpinnings of these big worlds, it's just a bunch of servers with either procedurally generated space or, you know, developer designed space, or you take Red Dead Redemption 2, for example. The servers are all connecting to that same 75 kilometer world, it's just depending on which region you're connected to, that's what other players you might run into. And on the far end of the other other end of that spectrum is something like Minecraft, where it's, it could be anything from a single player game to you take that same world and put it on a big server or network of servers and 100,000 players can connect at one time, insane. And by the way, the space, the size of a Minecraft world is actually technically infinite, not 4 billion or whatever, because it's procedurally generated. Every single instance of Minecraft is a procedurally generated world. It's an algorithm basically, when they're updating Minecraft, which they've been doing for more than a decade now, two decades, they're updating that algorithm. So the latest update that they're working on will change how mountains and caves will be generated, how much detail they are and how deep into the ground they go, and things like that. Previous updates changed the way villages these these random filled with NPC villages would spawn. But you know, the world size technically is is infinite. You can sit down at any point, even on one computer, and just start up a new world and it is another instance of infinite space that only really generates as you explore. Intil you've actually visited that space. It's just a mathematical formula that randomly generates this terrain and features and all of this. But I think the the thing that's really significant about these metaverse worlds is what people do with it when they get in there. You know that that? What is that? You know, yeah. Because what we bring to that world, almost all of us whether we read Neal's novel or not, we've all been influenced by that idea. It's, it's, it's all throughout movies through the past several decades. It's in other novels, it's part of the way that we speak the whole term cyberspace that was used when the internet was first rising. You know, that's, that's a fantastical term, that that excites our imagination. And you don't think about well, it's just a bunch of servers connected together, you know, basically, you know, think about that you're thinking about this world, you know, this other other universe, this alternate universe. And it's not really what it is, it's our imaginations, allow us to make it so. So I don't know me I'm maybe it's just because I'm just dry, or my imagination is good in some areas, and limited and others. But I ended up always getting maybe it's because I do IT for a living. All I'm thinking about is the technical underpinnings. And I envy people who can throw themselves into this world in a similar way that really serious Dungeons and Dragons pen and paper players did when I was a kid, you know, that they would just throw themselves into it. This was a another world with another character that they were participating in and stuff. And I always struggled with that. Because I kept coming back to reality. I'll tell a funny story about that. It's not related to metaverse, but it's worth telling. 

 

Phil Rice  32:09

I was raised fairly religiously, as you guys know. And the first time that I was able to sneak to a friend's house, to accept an invitation to play Dungeons and Dragons, the pen and paper one, he walks through the process of faultless create your character, and it gets you know what, so what do you what do you want? What race Do you want it to be, you know, you can be an elf or a dwarf or whatever the choices were. And it gets out of this place. All right, well, so what, what God do you want to be devoted to, and of course, I just will, God, you know, capital G God. And he's just like, he was so frustrated, you know, you, you can't do that you've got to pick one of these. It's got to be for this or why I'm not doing that. And again, it was that I was so hooked into reality that I couldn't even allow myself to, okay, let's just, this is fantasy. Let's just take this on. And I think that people who have that level of imagination, who are willing to throw themselves in and be immersed, they're really they drive this, you know, the imaginations of those people really drive this and really great. Make these worlds happen. Yeah. Because when it's a sandbox type world, like Damien was talking about when it's not a theme, but theme park world that's been defined for you, by whoever the software Disney is. It's the players that create things and, and create stories, really. And yeah, and so that's a thing that I think that people would do, regardless of what the technical underpinnings are. They would want to do that they would want to create together. And and what is that? You know, that I think is what these companies are ultimately, it seems to me that that's what they're fighting over ownership of, because they can't think of anything, except that it's some kind of a commodity to turn into money. That's where they're fighting over this thing. That's not a thing. Really, you know, I mean, it's real, but not in the cash since, you know, so.  I don't know. I'm kind of meandering. I didn't I didn't. I don't have some great point here. But I'm just kind of just that's, that's where my mind goes as well. [You made a lot of great points. Yeah.] Well, thank you.

 

Tracy Harwood  34:49

Yeah, I mean, what you said there is that share of time is the key here. Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Phil Rice  34:55

This really is it seems like it's it's that this thing presented an opportunity. But ultimately, it's it's people, you know, melding minds and making these things happen is the interesting part.

 

Tracy Harwood  35:10

And,

 

Tracy Harwood  35:10

Ricky, what's your take on this? 

 

Ricky Grove  35:12

Well, I've been thinking a lot about the subject since you wanted to make the podcast sort of centered around it. And a couple things that Phil brought up that I wanted to emphasize as well as that the impact of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash was really, really big in the science fiction community. So much so that it became a kind of cultural, it changed the cultural Zeitgeist in a way that was picked up again by Neuromancer by William Gibson. All of them talked about this imaginary world this this metaverse, essentially. And I think the way that Stephenson organized it, is the way that the pattern that we've been following, and that happens a lot. And that that brought me to thinking about well, isn't the the impetus for World making, hasn't that been with us since we started telling stories? I mean, if you go back, Dante's Inferno is a world making episode. I mean, you go from Inferno to the err, what's the next one after that? Inferno? Paradise is the top one. And then the middle one, I can't remember the name.

 

Phil Rice  36:33

We're not good Catholics here are we? I can't remember. Oh, sorry. Purgatory? 

 

Ricky Grove  36:38

Purgatory. Thank you. Thank you. Purgatory. But anyway, that is, that's, that's an act of world making. That that just impact it still impacts people today. In fact, it was so impactful, it changed Christianity in a way that now people commonly refer to things that are in Dante's Inferno, as if they were part of the Bible. [Absalutely.] Do you know what I mean? [It's true.] It's so impactful. And, and I think that world making that the desire to create worlds, that other people can come in and be a part of, has been with us for a long time. It's only in the 20th century, that it got to a point where I think it really began to be something that that could be seen as a as a way to make money for one thing. For example, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, he wrote an essay that a lot of people don't know about, unless you're a Tolkien fanatic, or you're really fond of it. He wrote an essay while he was in the middle of writing, Lord of the Rings called On Fairy Stories. And in it, he used the essay as a way of trying to figure out what he was doing, because he wasn't the natural writer. Do you know what I mean? He didn't have the writing chops down, he sort of taught himself as he, I mean, he could write because he was an Oxford Don. And you have to be able to write well, when you're in that capacity as a teacher, but as a writer of fiction, he was learning as he was going along. And so when he got to part, parts of the world that he had trouble with, he would write an essay, or he would write about it, and On Fairy Stories, is his way of defining something he calls sub creation. And he looked at it as a Christian would look at it, he saw God as big as sub creating the universe as creating this universe that is so detailed, and so inner locked, that it was a glorious act, that was a miracle. And what he wanted to do is use that same impulse to create another world to sub create another world. And he made points that are now commonly taught in classes, fantasy classes, which is you have to have a world that's consistent. You have to have a world that's like ours, but different, but imaginatively different. I think the impact of his world creation was so big that it caused it moved science fiction and fantasy and even modern literature, in directions that was unanticipated. And then finally, when we get to the Lord of the Rings, films, those were so impactful, that they affected games, that the idea that you could have this worlds that were consistent, that they were different, but they were consistent. They had rules specific rules. Tolkien created his world out of language. Unlike most fantasy writers that write today, fantasy writers, right today, they come up with a bunch of names that come up with ideas. I'm not saying that they're not as intelligent or as, as diverse as talking, but talking, wanting to write these stories to make it the his invented languages more real. So he began to create myth. So the idea of myth and history being part of creative worlds was a big thing in our culture, especially in Anglo Saxon culture. 

 

Ricky Grove  40:22

And that's why when Neal Stephenson's, Snow Crash came came up, he was standing on the shoulders of all of these other people, before Tolkien and many others. And then when the internet hit, it was it was a matter of timing, I think that suddenly you could, you could actually make these things happen. And people could be literally inside the world, they don't have to read it anymore. Or they don't have to listen to it on the radio, or they don't have to watch it on a screen that is separate from them, they can actually be inside of it. And I think that was so exciting that people began to think, well, if I can be entertained inside of one of these worlds, why can't I do other things in it? Why can't I have sex in this other world? Why can I pretend to be a woman if I wanted to be in this other world? Why couldn't I do all of these things that I've wanted to do in the real world, but I can't but I can do it in a virtual world. So in a way, the metaverse is also a place where people wish fulfill themselves. Phil was absolutely right about it's what the people do to a metaverse that makes it interesting. That's why I found Second Life to be such an unusual and interesting place, you know, but, you know, I believe in... I follow a lot of the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes.  Thomas Hobbes was a philosopher of the 18th century that said, people do things out of their own self interest. And I think that's right. And so you have a if you're going to have a metaverse, it's going to be messy.  So you're going to have things that are going to develop like, You shot this machinima on my land, I want a piece of that you are I want you kicked out because you didn't ask me permission to film this on my land. You know? [Right.] Or you're you're playing a game, you're playing Warcraft, like in that, that wonderful video by Grim, Captain Grim. One of the things he talks about in it is that how upset he was about the bots, mining. And I just simply didn't realize that it was that big a deal. So what you have is you have these people who are trying to want to make money. So they set up these bots, they put them in there in order to get items that they can sell to other game players. So they've taken this thing that's a game and they've turned it into their own hustle. Another example of Thomas Hobbes self interest, you know what I mean? 

 

Tracy Harwood  42:12

Yeah. And that would be the gold farming that was going on, and it all in that period of time. 

 

Ricky Grove  43:01

That's, that's right. That's right. And so anyway, I just wanted to express my my thoughts about those things. And you asked me also to talk about some open world games. Is this a good time to do that? Or do you want to wait?

 

Tracy Harwood  43:15

Absolutely. No, you carry on? I think that's a good idea. 

 

Ricky Grove  43:18

Okay. One of the cool, I think we're in a real peak of open world gaming in 2d, and 3d and even today.  And it's partially a reaction, I think, to mobile gaming. mobile gaming is a very small scale. And open world games provides a breadth of experience that is longer, more in depth. For example, oftentimes, people will ditch a linear action game that you can finish in 10 to 20 hours. And you'll go into this big, sprawling, epic, that's 100 or 200 hours more to get through. Plus, it's much easier to do downloadable content on an open world, right.  And then developers can craft places that are that are unique, that are special places, that yield pleasure when you find them, you know, specific areas of detail. Like for example, look at look at last month, we talked about those wonderful stories of life documentaries that Richard Attenborough did. And the guy discovered them in, say, in Grand Theft Auto 5.  Well, there's a little, there's a little thing in an open world, this guy was just wandering around and discovered all of these things in the ocean. And it caused him to create an imaginative story, a satirical story based on that. Well, the developers just put that in there because they wanted to add detail and focus. And that's an advantage in a in an open world game is that it can give a depth of experience. I still remember really, in talking about that.  Today even now, as I'm talking, I still have memories from Myst.  Even though it wasn't really an open world game, it had a semblance of that. And there were moments in Myst that I just, there's just blew my mind. I mean, I couldn't believe I was in this artificial world, it was so real to me, you know.

 

Ricky Grove  45:24

So open worlds are are profitable. They're, we're in a renaissance of them. Now, Everywhere you look, there's an open world game, or if it's not an open new open world game, it's an open world game that's being remade as a classic. You know, they're upgrading the rendering to include ray tracing. For example, Metro 2055, just came out early in this month, with a sort of remastered ray traced version of the game. I'm anxious to jump in and try that out. But there are many excellent open world games of course, the granddaddy of everything for machinima filmmakers is Grand Theft Auto 5, and the Rockstar editor and that is probably for my money. It's probably the the best machinima tool that we've seen for for machinima filmmakers, and every other open world game has to compete against the Rockstar editor. And it just kills me that they haven't brought it to Red Dead Redemption 2 [Yeah], that's just Oh, God. But anyway, some of the other great open world games are Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4. There are tons and tons of mods for these games.  People just love to come up with new ways of changing the way it looks, adding characters, camera, camera fixes and all that. Skyrim is a big one, Witcher 3 are all well supported Eve Online, Elite Dangerous for open world space mods. No Man's Sky has some big updates that are going to make things even bigger. Some of the  some of them there's new games, like I said, Metro 2055, but I'm also real fond of Stalker Shadow of Chernobyl, which was for me was like literally living inside of a great sci fi novel. You know, it was just so strange. And then there's also Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Some of more recent open world games with that are have heavy modding. If you go to mod database, you'll find tons of mods.  Valheim, Everspace 2, Mount & Blade 2 Bannerlord, which has also been included in Omniverse Machinima by the way. Microsoft Flight Simulator is just an extraordinary game. Watch Dogs Legion and Death Stranding the newest one. For me, my personal favorite for modded open world games is Half Life 2. There's a recent mod for that called No More Room in Hell, which turns Half Life 2 into a zombie sort of experience. And then Sims 4 believe it or not, a modern named Brook Heights turns the game into an open world game. [Wow.] Which I think is which is pretty cool. That is I would really like to experience that. Play with that. 

 

Ricky Grove  48:27

So the last, the last thing I want to say is that I was wondering that if the part of the rise of open world games you know, it does, it does come out of our desire to live in other worlds, to to escape into other places. But I also wonder increasingly, whether it and I hope I don't sound like an old fogie here. But I wonder if it's a virtual substitute for our time spent in the natural world. You know, it's safer, it's easier. You can do it in your home, there's no mess. You don't have to take vacation time. You can go to it when you want to. And if that's the case, then I worry that perhaps... 

 

Tracy Harwood  49:10

you don't get killed by a bear. Wait...?! 

 

Ricky Grove  49:12

You don't get killed by a bear. Right. So I again, I don't want to sound like an old fogie. But I wonder whether that push towards the virtual metaverse is sometimes a an excuse for not doing the harder thing. [Real life.]  Anyway, that's those are my things that I wanted to make.

 

Damien Valentine  49:35

Well, in this past year have been that way to escape to other worlds is probably been very helpful to a lot of people because [oh yeah], we can't go anywhere or do anything. So of course, in times like this is really good. But I do get your point of is easier to escape into a virtual world rather than make changes to your real life that might make things better. 

 

Ricky Grove  49:58

It also makes it easier to deal with people in a in a metaverse, you just you can stop them in a metaverse. But in the real world, you could get stopped or they could follow you. But anyway, I just wanted to make that point as a way of generating discussion. 

 

Phil Rice  50:15

Yeah, I think that's a great point. Yeah, there, there is a sense, I feel it to Ricky, that there's a sense of, if we do, like Damien said, this, this year has been a reason to do that there's been an expediency to it. Because the outside world was or or, you know, was more hostile than, than we're used to. But so many people have, have tasted that and and like it, and which I guess is fine. But yeah, what, what, what's lost versus real experience? Thinking we was it us that was talking maybe on the Milanote about conventions? And how those have all gone. [Oh, yeah.] Yeah. And wondering how many of them are really going to go back not only for the financial benefit, because it's just so much cheaper for everybody concerned for the for the attendees, and for the organizers of the events... I mean, that's the whole reason that we did the Machinima Expo virtual. Well, it wasn't the original reason, but it's the reason we stayed doing it that way. The original reason was we had a physical event planned and then and then somebody just really let us down. Yeah. 

 

Ricky Grove  51:35

Which, which Phil wrote a beautiful song about. 

 

Phil Rice  51:37

I did yeah, I'm not I'm not prepared to pull that one out. Now that I've got kids [but that happens in the real world, yes.] is it a little bit, we'd have to mark this podcast as explicit.  My wife and I were watching some, some show on Hulu the other night, and this ad comes up. And it's this looks like a millennial couple that they've done this thing where they can order food online. And it comes and it's just a meal, a stack of meals, they could just put in the fridge and then they pull it out and I assume heat it up in the microwave, which you know, between you and me... But yeah, right. It's these chef prepared, you know, meals, and they pull them out, and then they eat them. And then they both look at each other with like this moment of rapture and say, we don't have to cook anymore.  As like this final thing of we never have to cook for ourselves again. And I mean, we want to just look at each other's is like, and a lot. How bad are they at cooking that that some microwaved meal feels like a step up, you know? So, but it kind of rings with that same sense of once you taste, this is this is human nature. I'm this way. We're all guilty of it. I think that it tastes conveniences, that's of that level.  It's hard to go back, but something gets lost along the way. And that's not to poopoo metaverse worlds at all it's an it's an it's a wonderful development and the types of collaboration that are possible for fun purposes and for business ones and for creative ones. Wonderful, unprecedented expediency with which we can collaborate together and get things done. I mean, look at what we're doing right now. He's, yeah, we're in completely different parts of the planet and it's it's amazing stuff. So there's certainly no reason to be a grumpy old troll about it like I'm being but I find myself going to the same place you do Ricky have just this sense of there's there's another side to this, which it is what is.

 

Damien Valentine  51:52

On the other hand, I think once it is more safer for people to get together, I think a lot of people will be very happy to just go and see each other because we've been isolated. Like a week ago, I met up with one of my friends who lives about 17 miles away so it's not that far away. We have not seen each other in person since we went to see Rise of Skywalker together in late 2019. So we obviously we video chatted like we are now and we message each other over online and play some games together and all that kind of stuff. But just to actually be in each other's real company was such a real really good thing. Yeah. Actually, it's really hard afterwards, coming home and then not having that again. And it's something I think a lot of people are gonna deal with is your nice day for so long. You go and see someone then you go home and you've got that. I want more company, but we can't quite say... 

 

Phil Rice  54:53

I hope that other people end up at that same place Damien because yeah.  I don't know if you guys have heard about this. I have not heard about this: Facebook has a metaverse in invite only beta. And you guys heard anything about that. Yeah. Cool. 

 

Tracy Harwood  55:11

It's called Facebook Maps. [Really?] I think.

 

Phil Rice  55:15

Yeah, we'll have to look into that in the future, I think is an interesting.

 

Tracy Harwood  55:21

No, I hadn't until I started doing the background for this, but it it's why I put put in this comment from Ebbe because, you know, Ebbe very clearly saw where Facebook was going, and I think, I think, you know, he got a very clear sense of of how that was framing and I think was probably even in development at the time that he was talking to me, which would have been July 2014, way back then.  The thing I wanted to sort of mention and, Ricky, you talked about Tolkein, but super ironically, I happen to be talking to the Bronte Society here in the UK, you know that you've heard the Bronte's?  Well, I'm not sure if you're aware, but the Bronte's created two virtual worlds, through which they created all their literary works. They created this, this world called Angrier and this other world called Gondal. And nothing actually remains of those worlds, but all their stories, all their poetry and the paintings that the four of them created together came out of the way that they they formed little Coalition's between between the four of them brother and sister and two sisters.  And created these virtual worlds. It's the first example I could find of fantasy worlds being used as the context for storytelling. And you get things like Wuthering Heights from it, and, you know, all of those kinds of novellas and whatnot, but they they wrote and what have you, but yeah, it's, it's a fascinating kind of thing. And years later, you see, Tolkein taking that on in, in a while it really was based in the Midlands, not far from where I from where I work, and he took that kind of context around him into that into that storytelling, but I just wanted to throw that in there because I think it's fascinating that, you know, 18th century writers were or 19th century writers were doing that.

 

Ricky Grove  57:32

Yes, the impulse to create worlds is much, much older than we think it's just the, the technology of today allows people to do it with such detail, that it's even more effective. I mean, the the magazine in the 30s in America, called Weird Tales, was immensely influential on a whole series of writers including Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, CL More all kinds of people that are that are major writers. And, and they're part of the magazine included a big literary section. And they would write to each other and and include it in the magazine. And they would, they would borrow parts of their world. Like for example, Lovecraft would create a notion of some sort of God in this world. And then Robert E. Howard would take that and put that in as part of his world. So they were all creating a sort of Uber world together through influence, which is exactly what happens in Second Life.  And go ahead. Sorry.  No, go ahead. 

 

Tracy Harwood  58:45

No, what I was gonna say was, it's quite interesting. Is it not that that Hugh Hancock used Lovecraft as the virtual environment in which he created quite a lot of his work as well. 

 

Ricky Grove  58:57

Yeah, I've thought about that a lot. A lot. And fantasy is one of the major one of the major genres of open world gaming. I believe. That it seems, are the two genres that have really exploded and it's no, it's not a coincidence that Lord of the Rings and, and Snow Crash are our defining works for the metaverse.

 

Tracy Harwood  59:26

So what do we think is the future of machinima from these metaverse games then, have we got a sense of that from the research you've been doing for this?

 

Phil Rice  59:40

Well, just more to say I'm not sure it's all that different. I think I think that there's definitely gonna be more of an emphasis when you're working with a single player game when somebody is crafting machinima for the Sims or most of the time for Grand Theft Auto too that your your dealing with an environment on one computer and you may have other collaborators help. But essentially you're controlling that environment and doing it.  And then with metaverse, you've got to have a team. You really have to. Actually, I found I found an unbelievably good, Red Dead Redemption 2 machinima video this week that I haven't got to show to you guys yet. it's astounding. And when I saw it, I thought there must be some kind of machinima creation tool that has just eluded us because it's so good. And it turns out, it was 100% made in Red Dead Online with no mods. You can't use mods and Red Dead online. No mods all filmed live from online, and a huge team of multiplayer people. And even in the comments on the YouTube video. Someone asks, How the heck did you do this? Because nobody knows. Nobody knows how to do that. He just says a lot of people and we just had to work really hard to coordinate things. All choreographed. Yeah, and I'm telling you what you see this, it's gonna blow your socks off. It's unbelievable. Oh, wow, that really that's the kind of that's the kind of machinima creators I think, that are going to thrive in this environment is people who have figured out how to rustle together and hold together and coordinate a team. And that's exciting. Because there's, I was actually reviewing today I was thinking about doing it as a preview for the stream. I went through the old list Ricky of all the films that we have, from Machinaplex, back in the day, right? Which there's nothing in there that's not at least 15 years old, I think. And dating all the way back to, you know, Paul and Frank doing Apartment Huntin'. And I was looking through the whole list of about two dozen films in there thinking art, let's pick out ones that really highlight that multiplayer was involved, you know, so maybe they weren't in metaverse games necessarily. But there was definitely a multiplayer. It was I could hardly find any. Most of those were crafted by a single director, maybe with a person or two helping out. But these large scale production some of which we've reviewed in previous episodes of the show, Tracy you had one that was done in one of those medieval I can't remember the name of the game. One that basically specialized medieval battles. [Yes.] And that was that was a that was a team effort all the camera work with somebody actually, you know, manning a camera live. I think that's that's the kind of work that will be really be impressive there to just go into a metaverse and try to do something solo. I'm just not sure what's the point. Because it's such an uncontrolled environment. Let the some of the scenarios Damien was talking about you come back and your castle's destroyed. Why bother with that, but when you got a team, or there's some things you can do that are really hard, even with good tools in a single player or a small, you know, a couple multiplayer experience. So I think that's exciting. Because there's certain types of stories that do well with that, you know, that need that scale. And those are harder to tell with with old school machinima.

 

Damien Valentine  1:03:51

I have tried using a game that was multiplayer, the, you know, the old Star Wars, we looked way back as using Jedi Academy and using the multiplayer mode. I tried having a team, I found it really difficult to because no way to say please stand over there and then move over there because that does not exist in there. And these are people living in distant parts of the world, just watch the stream and say you stand there. So what I ended up doing for some of the more elaborate shots is I have my desktop here, which I use to capture the footage as if the most powerful machine and I had my laptop running the game, and I went and grabbed my mom's laptop and put that in. And then I was trying to have to control three computers all at once. And I've only got two arms. So in the end, I was using my nose on the mouse pad on the laptops.

 

Tracy Harwood  1:04:44

Damien, we learned so much from you.  Ricky, what was your thought?

 

Ricky Grove  1:04:51

I was gonna say two things. One is that I think a lot of times that a multiplayer machinima usually reflects the theme of the game or the the world that's created. So for example, if you have Grand Theft Auto, what do you have 90 You know, every day when I go to YouTube, and I type in machinima and say today or 24 hours, I'll get 99% of the machinima is cops and robbers, or noir machinima. Yeah, that's it. So I think that in the great majority of open world, or metaverse machinima is going to be based on the theme of the world that it's in, which is okay. But I think the standouts are going to be the one that I'm using more imaginatively. I think they're going to be more interesting ideas about it. The second thing is that I think that the the documentary idea inside of a metaverse is is a fascinating thing that I had actually forgotten about, until we watched the Tutsy Navathna film that you recommended that you're going to talk about later. And I realized it's people in the metaverse watching people in the metaverse. You know what I mean? It's a it's a very strange thing that doesn't occur in game based open worlds. You just don't have other machinima, film, other film, other players, making films about other players doing their stuff. You know, that doesn't happen. So I think that's a fascinating thing. And I think that's a that's a good future for it's something that perhaps will open world should do more of, you know. But anyway, I just thought that was an interesting idea. Hmm.

 

Tracy Harwood  1:06:47

Great. Well, okay, so that's, that's a really fascinating discussion. I think. I think, you know, given more up to an hour and almost 10 minutes, I think I better be it for this section of July episode. So with our thanks to Captain Grim for stimulating our debate,

 

Ricky Grove  1:07:07

video, great video.

 

Tracy Harwood  1:07:09

Great video, absolutely. We'll put we'll put a link to the to that video in our show notes as well. And also really, just to say, if you want to find out what his conclusions are, you've got to watch it on whether Wow Classic lives up to his expectations. So definitely recommend that. So, guys, thanks for great discussion. In the next section of the podcast, we're going to be talking about some of those key issues that we've touched on here. But do it in the context of some of the films that we've picked out to help us reflect on those points. Bye for now. 

 

ANFSCM  1:07:48

And now for something completely machinima

Metaverse theme backstory and Did Classic WOW Live Up To Expectations
What is a metaverse?
Remembering Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Second Life
Open world games definition
Sandbox and theme park MMOs
Damien's Eve Online experience
Damien's Elite Dangerous experience
Persistence and agency of NPCs
Phil on technicalities of metaverse infinity, Minecraft and creativity
Ricky on Dante's Purgatory and Tolkein's world-making, and the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes
Ricky on open world games
Facebook Maps metaverse
Tracy on first example of fantasy virtual worlds by the Brontes
Other literary worlds
Future of metaverse machinima