Category Archives: Utopia

Posts related to Utopia, probably also regarding my Master Thesis

Recycling a forum post

(for my own reference) :p


In my studies I’ve been reading a lot of literature concerning Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) and they’re generally about EverQuest, World of Warcraft, Ultima Online and so forth. Other texts are about textbased MUDs; things like LambdaMOO. These games typically have the player control a character. You always start out alone, and then find your way in the world, and eventually you may CHOOSE to join a guild/clan/whatever. Utopia is unique in the way that it injects you into a “guild” from the outset; it’s not a player’s choice. You’re forced to cooperate, and yet I think the concept of ‘free cooperation‘ is still applicable, since one can always choose to defect (or indeed, not to play at all).


A major peculiarity is Swirve’s rule that you don’t get to choose whom you play with. In other online games, players choose their guilds (family guilds, elite guilds) and/or choose to play with real life friends, family or workmates. One of the points I will try to make in my thesis is that this social function (of playing games with people close to you in order to maintain ties) is so strong that people who’d ordinarily not break rules in a game will resort to trading in Utopia.


There’s also this weird relationship between player-province-kingdom-alliance. I’ve read nothing in other MMOGs about true self-sacrifice, players ‘taking one for the team’. In Utopia, the province you’ve created over the space of several months can get decimated in less than two days in certain fierce wars, regardless of your skill. However (especially in the more skilled Kingdoms) players rarely mind seeing their creation destroyed like that as long as the Kingdom comes out on top. In public, people boast about their Kingdoms more than they boast about their province (or so it seems to me, maybe I don’t spend enough time with different types of players). I have this idea floating in my head about the Kingdom becoming the ‘character’ of some 20-25 players, the entity that they identify with. Then this Kingdom often sets out to join actual ‘guilds’, i.e. alliances.


Why study Utopia?

(Again, please do not mind the footnote mess. Also, take note that this segment is far from finished, I plan to incorporate interview data, forum data and other data from literature in the field)


Why does it matter, anyway?


Why study MMOGs? It is a good question. Games have become quite the economic force over the past few decades; with World of Warcraft reaching the eight million player mark in January 20071. Considering that a WoW copy costs €30,- and playing online requires a monthly subscription of €13,-, it follows that the company has made at least 240 million euros from WoW sales only, with at least 104 million euros incoming monthly – and that’s just one game. But I would agree with David Nieborg2 that the amount of gamers and the total amount of (free) time spent on gaming is the more meaningful way of validating game research and MMOG research specifically. Continue reading

Utopia and Space

Here’s a bit of thesis I wrote (don’t mind the footnote shit, ill sort it out later):

MUDs and Utopia

So in the great scheme of all things, where does Utopia stand? Is it a MMORPG, or a MUD? I would say it’s neither and both. First of all, Utopia does not feature characters as we know them in role playing games – the player manages a province, and although s/he is deemed the ruler of this province, there is no equipment or exploration or leveling or monsterslaying involved in the game play. Nor can Utopia be called a MUD – there is no space to navigate or manipulate, nor does it have the demographics of a MUD – whereas 2001 MUD participants are considered to be a solid playerbase, Utopia currently numbers at least 27,000 provinces, and likely a comparable number of actual players.
Continue reading

Utopia Player/age Data

Hi blog, long time no see

I’ve been almost busy (not really) despite the very real pressure to deliver a proper thesis. At any rate, I’ve done some minor quantitative data gathering (something not common in my research field) and what I came up with so far is a breakdown of age length and player count per Utopian age (three months of gameplay) since the start of the game:

Age 1 – ? provinces – Nov ~3rd 1998 – Jan 10th 1999
Age 2 – ? provinces – Jan 12th 1999 – Mar 20th 1999
Age 3 – 39,993 provinces (WoU) – Mar 22nd 1999 – May 31st 1999
Age 4 – 35,238 provinces (WoU) – Jun 2nd 1999 – Aug 15th 1999
Age 5 – 45,604 provinces (WoU) – Aug 17th 1999 – Oct 30th 1999
Age 6 – 47,294 provinces (WoU) – Nov 1st 1999 – Jan 31st 2000
Age 7 – ? provinces – Feb 2nd 2000 – May 7th 2000
Age 8 – 51,664 provinces (WoU) – May 9th 2000 – Jul 28th 2000
Age 9 – 62,090 provinces (WoU+BF) – Jul 30th 2000 – Oct 24th 2000
Age 10 – 74,376 provinces (WoU+BF) – Oct 26th 2000 – Jan 29th 2001
Age 11 – 83,941 provinces (WoU+BF) – Feb 1st 2001 – Apr 15th 2001
Age 12 – 78,502 provinces (WoU+BF) – Apr 17th 2001 – Jul 23rd 2001
Age 13 – 86,229 provinces (WoU+BF) – Jul 25th 2001 – Oct 27th 2001
Age 14 – 83,343 provinces(WoU+BF) – Oct 29th 2001 – Jan 21st 2002
Age 15 – 91,113 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jan 23rd 2002 – Apr 28th 2002
Age 16 – 84,701 provinces (WoL+BF) – Apr 30th 2002 – Jul 14th 2002
Age 17 – 81,625 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jul 16th 2002 – Oct 19th 2002
Age 18 – 86,750 provinces (WoL+BF) – Oct 21st 2002 – Jan 12th 2003
Age 19 – 88,045 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jan 14th 2003 – Mar 23rd 2003
Age 20 – 87,535 provinces (WoL+BF) – Mar 25th 2003 – Jun 28th 2003
Age 21 – 79,872 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jun 30th 2003 – Sep 6th 2003
Age 22 – 73,503 provinces (WoL+BF) – Sep 8th 2003 – Dec 15th 2003
Age 23 – 70,359 provinces (WoL+BF) – Dec 17th 2003 – Mar 21st 2004
Age 24 – 62,730 provinces (WoL+BF) – Mar 23rd 2004 – Jun 19th 2004
Age 25 – 54,787 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jun 21st 2004 – Sep 26th 2004
Age 26 – 52,131 provinces (WoL+BF) – Sep 28th 2004 – Dec 30th 2004
Age 27 – 48,275 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jan 1st 2005 – Apr 4th 2005
Age 28 – 43,590 provinces (WoL+BF) – Apr 6th 2005 – Jul 2nd 2005
Age 29 – 39,812 provinces (WoL+BF) – Jul 4th 2005 – Oct 7th 2005
Age 30 – 35,436 provinces (WoL) – Oct 9th 2005 – Jan 16th 2006
Age 31 – 33,081 provinces (WoL) – Jan 18th 2006 – Apr 24th 2006
Age 32 – 31,872 provinces (WoL) – Apr 26th 2006 – Aug 3rd 2006
Age 33 – 27,980 provinces (WoL) – Aug 5th 2006 – Nov 19th 2006
Age 34 – 26,393 provinces (WoL) – Nov 21st 2006 – Mar 4th 2007
Age 35 – 27,313 provinces (WoL) (retrieved 28-3-2007) – Mar 6th 2007 – ?

I’ve personally been wondering about the impact of graphical MMOGs on the Utopian playerbase. Using I haven’t been able to see a direct correlation between releases of popular MMORPGs (WoW makes no identifyable impact) and playerloss.

Anyway, just showing some results..

Thesis update

Alright, shit has been getting serious. I’m writing this down for myself as a reminder not to fuck up.

So i started this thread about my thesis subject in temple and the response has been creepily positive. Brother Green, the site administrator, seems excited to help out and the players are enthusiastically supporting (rather than mocking) the endeavour. Furthermore I received an 8/10 for my thesis proposal, which is not something I had expected. The teacher from the thesis proposal class seemed very interested and he’s confident I can pull it off. Then another guy who’s guiding my thesis seems very interested as well, was quick to agree to support it and said that my six years worth of experience in Utopia is something very rare and valuable and that it basically needs to be exploited or mined.

Then there’s Geert Lovink who seems positive about me trying to fuse the “free cooperation” concept from his pal Christoph Spehr with online gaming cooperative ventures.

I receive emails with support regarding my thesis, and a lot of players volunteering for interviews.

Quite possibly, the company that created and hosts Utopia, will be willing to assist me as well…


Rather than this project being solely for my own benefit (i.e. getting a Master’s degree) I seem to have gathered a sphere of people borderline hungering for this thesis. That means there’s a lot of pressure not to fuck up, and to produce something actually worthwhile, knowing that a lot of people will read it. Also, it seems the game has finally merged with my university work in a strange way – completing a decent thesis will probably boost my reputation somewhat in the community, and it’s not unlikely there will be in-game effects.

I better get to work, ffs :/