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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 6:45 am 
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We all have our thoughts on why Uru never made it. Some of us want to experiment with ways to make it more popular. Those wanting to keep it small and private chafe us raw. Still, wanting to avoid messing the game up by blind experiments and changes has merit. Since we have lots of time, apparently, we can study what things people have learned about online games and how people interact with them and what they like.

I came across a study by two academics at the University of Michigan, Chun-Yuen Teng and Lada A. Adamic. Longevity in Second Life

They choose to do the study in Second Life. They needed a high turnover of people coming into a game and leaving and good stats. SL has that, with something like 10,000 new signups per day and nearly 98+/-% of them never lasting more than a couple of weeks. With our current 27,000+ signups since February we’ll never get the kind of objective data the researchers looked at.

Surprisingly while they looked at a large number of various metrics of ‘life’ in SL, it’s not what I consider the fun stuff that keeps people in a game. I mean… they have the audacity to claim its not great hair, shoes, and clothes that keep people in game… can you believe that?

The purpose of the study was to find what it is that keeps people in an online game or service. Did you know that 60% of Twitter signups never use Twitter after the first month? Even Facebook with 500 million users has retention concerns. (Reference) So, what is it that makes an online anything popular and keeps people coming back?

The study looked at several things. One is cost to play. Apparently whether or not someone pays a fee to play, buys game ‘enhancements’ (nice hair or a big gun), or otherwise invests real money in a game is neither a deciding factor nor good predictor. The people that spend some money do stay a bit longer but not by much.

The study looks at interaction and social networking as factors in game retention. To figure that one out they had to do some math but the result is something many of us could have guessed. The number of one’s friends that are active and the diversity of people available to meet play a role in retention. What I would not have guessed is how weak the correlation is. I've always thought this was a big factor.

What is more predictive of a player staying is the number of people one chats with and the number times per day one engages others in chat and not necessarily friends. So, the total number of players in game is not as important as the number you can chat with. Of course if no one is there...

In many games there is an economy and constructive activities. After a little math it is clear there is an impact on player retention from having things for players to buy and places where the constructive and creative can sell or donate. Oddly, at least to me, is the ability to make stuff and sell or donate it is far less important than the ability to be able buy stuff. Even that has far less correlation to player retention than chat. In lay terms I guess one could say it pays to cater to shopaholics, but gossip may pay better.

However, the number of free transactions between players is highly predictive of who will stay. It seems the data (number of transactions) indicating this is less indicative of what is actually happening but the conjecture is the free transactions are like chat, something that likely indicates social interaction.

They built the results of their study into a heat graph that reveals two areas of strong influence on a player’s longevity. The free transactions and chat frequency with no apparent significant distinction between it being friends or strangers. Their conclusion is that social interaction is the underlying single factor in player retention. Consider that if free transactions and person to person chat is part of that, like trading/sharing things between friends, the two hot spots could be a manifestation of the same social interaction.

While the factors in the study are not the only ones they do provide references to other studies to put things in perspective. But one could conclude the most constructive changes that could be made to MOULa/Open Uru would be to; 1 – make meeting, finding people, and forming groups easier by improving chat and 2 – make more friendly players.

Which means I may never get a new do…

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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 1:44 pm 
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What they are seeing is not too surprising to me. Let's look at Facebook:

Both my wife and I are on FB. It started like this:

Andy's Dad: "Hey, I've got messages from some of your old High School friends looking for you on Facebook. I've got an account there so I can keep up with your sister, and your older kids are on there too."

Andy: "Cool! I'll have to check it out."

I sign up, and yep find a bunch of my high school friends that I went to and graduated high school with over in Naples, Italy. I get them, and other friends and family members added to my "Friends List".

Other than checking in once a day for messages, I don't do anything with it really. My wife Tracey also signs up and finds friends to communicate with.

But what is this? I'm hearing strange music from her computer. Farm Town? What is Farm Town? Oh, a game....on FB.....have to give it a try.

Next thing I know, I'm playing Farm Town, Farmville, Mafia Wars, Petville, Cafe World, Zoo World, etc, etc.....all on FB. Having friends is important, because each of these games are designed so that the more friends you have that are also playing these games, the more ahead you get in these games.

Also, the more friends you have that are your "Neighbors" in these games, the more time you spend playing these games, and the longer it takes to get done playing that game for that day.

My father at almost 71 is very addicted to FB, because of the games mainly. My wife, well FB is almost all she plays for entertainment.

Me? I'm back to checking for messages only now. The games were talking up WAY too much of my time, and having gotten back into serious Age Creation with Cyan's plugin and Max, I don't have time for FB anymore.

But if it were not for Age Creation, I would most likely still be planting things in Farmville and making my Mafia bigger.......

:lol:

So I would say it's not so much as social interaction......as in Chatting and getting messages......but also the games themselves tend to get people a bit addicted......but then again, you need lots of friends to get things done in the games faster.

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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 1:57 pm 
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I don't play the games in Facebook, don't do much chat in "our" game. I DO love to solve puzzles and explore. That's what keeps me here...the promise of more stuff to find and places to see. I guess I have to be patient, huh?

Meantime, there are some (read that "few") off line adventure games I've not yet played which will get my attention as time permits. Meantime, I still have not done the door runs in the two eders. See you soon.

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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 2:21 pm 
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Wait a minute: is this study suggesting that the reason SL has so many people in it is... because there are so many other people in it? I know that nothing succeeds like excess... er, I mean success - but where did the first people come from?

So - in my opinion - we're right back to the fact that most people know about SL and FB, while MOULa continues to be the Internet's best-kept secret. SL and FB have great publicity, while MOULa is still relatively unknown.

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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 2:30 pm 
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Nalates wrote:
While the factors in the study are not the only ones they do provide references to other studies to put things in perspective. But one could conclude the most constructive changes that could be made to MOULa/Open Uru would be to; 1 – make meeting, finding people, and forming groups easier by improving chat and 2 – make more friendly players.

Which means I may never get a new do…

Very interesting analysis, I'm new to multi-player, but not to Myst/Uru so here's a couple of observations based on my newbie experiences in Moula.

I can see that social interaction is a powerful attractor, but it's not that easy to get into. Text chat is basically hard for me to follow - I discovered recently (thanks Greeters!) there is a slight difference in colour to give a clue, but I never know where the speaker is unless I spin round and point at people. Then it's usually too late to reply so I lurk in a corner and eavesdrop.

I know I can just jump into the City or someone's 'hood and /shout Shorah, but then what - we don't have any new story, all the puzzles are solved - what is there to talk about? Even the fake bahro was good for a few conversations.
I think people already are friendly, but with nothing much to say I'm sure I come across as unfriendly. So yes, make meeting people easier and improve chat.

Sure there are things to do, people apparently play sardines/jalak/heek but how do you find out if anything is happening when you link in ... and there's nobody there.

Which brings me to my second point - I'm really looking forward to all the new ages that will be available soon, well sometime, well ... eventually. That's what keeps me here, I want to explore, alone or together but will there be enough extra people logging in? I'm afraid lots of places to go will make finding people to interact with even more unlikely.
Maybe it's because I'm in the UK but even with 15k logins per week I rarely see more than 10 people in City Locations, and something like four or five 'hoods with one or maybe two people. Let's have lots more ages, but possibly one at a time so we don't scatter across the multiverse.

A good part of social interaction comes from body language so yes, more hair too :)
and facial expressions :D

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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 3:00 pm 
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If I could bring just one thing from SL, it would be the chat system. I would love to be able to join multiple groups without having to create a new avatar for each hood, and be able to hold conversations with any group at any time without having to log in with different avatars. Or, best of all, to be able to start a conference call chat with a handful of people without having to create a new group! A chat system like this would definitely get me to log in more often.

But, even with a system like that, as has already been pointed out, we still need something to chat about. And, although Uruites have always often been very talented at creating new activities from basic cavern resources, it will be much better when there's new content to discuss - whether it's Cyan or Player created - good, bad, or ugly.

@ beebee - Don't worry; you'll eventually get the hang of it.

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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 9:59 pm 
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andylegate wrote:
What they are seeing is not too surprising to me. Let's look at Facebook:

Both my wife and I are on FB. It started like this:

Andy's Dad: "Hey, I've got messages from some of your old High School friends looking for you on Facebook. I've got an account there so I can keep up with your sister, and your older kids are on there too."

Andy: "Cool! I'll have to check it out."

I sign up, and yep find a bunch of my high school friends that I went to and graduated high school with over in Naples, Italy. I get them, and other friends and family members added to my "Friends List".

Other than checking in once a day for messages, I don't do anything with it really. My wife Tracey also signs up and finds friends to communicate with.

But what is this? I'm hearing strange music from her computer. Farm Town? What is Farm Town? Oh, a game....on FB.....have to give it a try.

Next thing I know, I'm playing Farm Town, Farmville, Mafia Wars, Petville, Cafe World, Zoo World, etc, etc.....all on FB. Having friends is important, because each of these games are designed so that the more friends you have that are also playing these games, the more ahead you get in these games.

Also, the more friends you have that are your "Neighbors" in these games, the more time you spend playing these games, and the longer it takes to get done playing that game for that day.

My father at almost 71 is very addicted to FB, because of the games mainly. My wife, well FB is almost all she plays for entertainment.

Me? I'm back to checking for messages only now. The games were talking up WAY too much of my time, and having gotten back into serious Age Creation with Cyan's plugin and Max, I don't have time for FB anymore.

But if it were not for Age Creation, I would most likely still be planting things in Farmville and making my Mafia bigger.......

:lol:

So I would say it's not so much as social interaction......as in Chatting and getting messages......but also the games themselves tend to get people a bit addicted......but then again, you need lots of friends to get things done in the games faster.


hey andy do you need another mafia member or Farmtown neighbor? :lol: two games I'm hooked on in FB as well! :lol: :lol:


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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 1:13 pm 
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I'm not part of Facebook whatsoever and I'm hesitant to take many lessons from it because of what I see as dishonest business practices. Not just the privacy flaps, but the larger issue of maintaining what Andy called an addiction. When you go to cancel your Facebook account, for example, you are shown pictures of your friends with what seem like exploitative messages beneath them of how all these people will no longer be able to contact you, as if removing yourself from this site will stop all your contact with your kids.

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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 8:17 pm 
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TOOO wrote:
Wait a minute: is this study suggesting that the reason SL has so many people in it is... because there are so many other people in it? I know that nothing succeeds like excess... er, I mean success - but where did the first people come from?

So - in my opinion - we're right back to the fact that most people know about SL and FB, while MOULa continues to be the Internet's best-kept secret. SL and FB have great publicity, while MOULa is still relatively unknown.

I’m not at all sure you read the white paper… It is not about why SL or Facebook is succeeding. It is about what there is about online anything that keeps people coming back. Also, this is a very narrow piece of the overall studies being done. When one looks at the references one can see the studies looking at new content, entertainment value, and more. There are obviously lots factors that contribute to player retention. The other studies and this study objectively puts the ability to aquire new things in game, chat, and free transactions aspects of player retention in perspective as some of the most important factors.

I do not think knowledge (publicity) of MOUL is the deciding criteria. Without near real time data it is hard to say. I think whatever the CAVCON data suggests is unclear. Without good user logon stats it’s hard to know what is happening.

Linden Lab provided the researchers hard data showing that user ‘A’ signed up on some date, stayed on for so many minutes/hours and came back never, days later, every day, disappeared after 30 or 60 days… plus massive stats on in game activity… things that could actually be used to tell what is happening and suggest what may be the reasons. We have almost none of that kind of data for MOULa.

Unless you have some good objective data, I think the claim that it is a matter of publicity is unfounded speculation and opinion.

andylegate wrote:
What they are seeing is not too surprising to me. Let's look at Facebook:

I use Facebook in a very similar way as Andy does. I think his and my use of Facebook illustrate and validate the point made in the study. The amount and verity of entertainment in Facebook is not the best predictor of which players/users will return. Chat and the ability to connect and interact is much more important.

I think Teknobubba states a view held by many in the Uru community. However, if there are no new puzzles there is no reason for them to return. In many ways this is the basic reason Uru has had such a hard time surviving, the high demand for new content and the cost to produce it.

On a content issue studies compare SL and FB. SL way out paces FB on adding new content. However, FB is far more popular; 500 million for FB verses a few million for SL.

beebee wrote:
A good part of social interaction comes from body language so yes, more hair too :) and facial expressions :D

Oh, I like you… :D

beebee wrote:
Sure there are things to do, people apparently play sardines/jalak/heek but how do you find out if anything is happening when you link in ... and there's nobody there.

This is a problem. Finding and making friends in MOULa is difficult. Now that you know about the text color meanings and, I hope /reply, I suggest you just answer the chat. Where one is, is less important than saying ‘Hi’.

Tai'lahr wrote:
But, even with a system like that, as has already been pointed out, we still need something to chat about. And, although Uruites have always often been very talented at creating new activities from basic cavern resources, it will be much better when there's new content to discuss - whether it's Cyan or Player created - good, bad, or ugly.

I agree. Bringing some of the chat features from SL would be nice. I love the conference ability of being able to click some friends’ names and call them as a group and everyone be able to see everyone else’s chat.

Something to talk about… having something to talk about does seem to be related to having something to do. While the study doesn’t address that, I do think the ‘transactions’ being a good predictor of player retention suggests that is a significant factor.

On FB I think RL is the much of the subject. The baby owls are a HUGE draw on FB (curious what happens when they fledge fly away). So, we do need some entertaining things in MOULa. But, the community does a decent job of creating things to do, parties, dances, karaoke, meditations, language classes, etc. Better chat will make that easier for more people to participate.

Whilyam’s points about FB are valid. Privacy is a big deal and it appears there will be a class action law suit. But, these problems are not a reason to discount what can be learned about people using the service. If people find it valuable enough to keep using it in spite of these problems, that says something about the validity of the subject study.

As for marketing practices… as long as they are not coercive it is a matter of personal choice. We can all say ‘no’ or yes as we chose. My problems start when choice is removed. That FB tries to retain users with glurgy pics on one’s exit is just FB’s idea of serving FB’s purposes. I can deal with that and see no reason to consider that it detracts from what can be learned.

The purpose in this thread is consideration of what are the important changes to MOULa that will allow the game to retain more players and be more fun. The handy chat tools in Twitter and FB along with their high usage rates shows SL and MOULa lack something. While I personally like the idea of better hair :) I continue to downgrade how important I think that is to the future success of Open Uru. The more read, study, and experience the more I see chat and social interaction as more important than even new content.

During the Ubi and GameTap eras when new content was available, Uru still had problems. I am much more inclined to consider poor chat features as a major reason for Uru’s lack of success. I don’t have the data say that TOOO’s take on publicity is a major or minor factor. I personally see it as less important than good chat tools.

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PostPosted: Sun May 30, 2010 9:45 pm 
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Nalates wrote:
If people find it valuable enough to keep using it in spite of these problems, that says something about the validity of the subject study.

Or proof that they don't know or care enough about their own privacy to maintain it. Never attribute to popularity what can be explained by stupidity.

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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 8:15 am 
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I think I heard my cue... :)

I am definitely not one of those who
Nalates wrote:
want to keep it small and private
. I am however one of those who think that as long as it is what it is, as long as it has the qualities which drew me to it, it will of its nature remain small and private, with the majority of those who come to see it falling away. So what are those qualities? Well...

Lack of excitement. Let's face it, when the fastest moving vehicle in your game is a combine harvester you're not going to get the old adrenaline pumping. Everything in Uru is old (in the IC sense) and moves with glacial slowness, and the only risk you generally face is that you might wander off an edge of something and suffer a momentary interruption to your exploring activities. This is fine with me. I don't game for excitement. But since the majority of very successful non-casual games deal with combat, racing, and other exciting activities, it may be assumed that most gamers do. Uru could be changed to provide that. But then it wouldn't be Uru.

Lots of backstory. As has been said, if you come to Uru cold and arrive on Relto for the first time, you're going to be stuck. There's no indication of who that person is who was talking over the intro, no explanation of what those books are for, and no clue as to what you're supposed to do. There's no official tutorial, no help file, not even an NPC sidekick to explain things; just a bunch of books to plough through, most of them about dead kings with funny names. You're expected to work it out for yourself, and you're expected to have some familiarity with both this game and five other games you can't even buy in shops any more. Again, no problem for me. I have that familiarity, and I like working things out for myself, and I like reading. But it seems obvious that most gamers don't, and to try to bring them up to speed in the first few minutes of gaming would be unbelievably cumbersome. The only way to obviate this problem realistically would be to trim out the backstory, forget the history, start fresh somewhere like Releeshahn with a bunch of blank books. Again, though, that wouldn't be Uru as I was drawn to it.

No frontstory. Uru doesn't lend itself to plot. We all saw what happened in the Gametap era. Cyan's ideal, in so far as I understand it, is that we make our own plots, our own stories, and the community we have here is rich in people who like to do just that. But they're rare outside. The itch to tell stories, rather than having them told to one, is not a common thing, and even the most prolific writer occasionally wants to be in the audience. The call we hear more often than any other in these threads, the call that unless something changes drastically cannot be answered, is for Cyan to come back and tell us a story of theirs, and that, I think, is what most gamers expect from their game experience. Few indeed are content to sit and wait in an empty city for a possibility, as we do. But the setting doesn't lend itself to that kind of storytelling; the entire "bahro war" story took place off stage and was revealed to us in reportage. Live events don't work because people miss them. Interaction between characters is hampered by the fact that the physics engine doesn't allow touching. You have to be fairly clever to come up with a story under these conditions, and you have to want to. Most gamers, I think, won't stay around that long when they find out nothing official is happening.

I could go on, I think. I don't have any evidence for these wild and woolly statements, but I nonetheless believe them to be manifestly true, both as to what Uru is and to why it will not, in its nature, appeal to more than a small group of people. But that nature, at some future point, will to an extent be in the hands of the community to control and change. If the community wants to make Uru more attractive to new players, it will have to change some of these qualities--provide more excitement, ditch the backstory, find a way to tell an ongoing story that players can simply experience, not just be told about, and not have to make up for themselves.

Hopefully, there will still be a place where Uru will continue, in its own unexciting, history-rich, unplotted way. Because that's where I'll be. With a small group of people, most of whom I know by name and get along with.

Okay, maybe I do prefer it small and private. Sorry. But even so, I would never "want to keep it" that way. I'd love to see it successful as it is. I just don't think it will happen.


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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 9:52 am 
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Zander_the_Heretic wrote:
Uru doesn't lend itself to plot. We all saw what happened in the Gametap era.

It's true that plot development under GT could have been better, but the plot we had during Prologue was amazing and exciting. I don't remember anyone complaining about the fact that "Plot" and "Uru" did not go well together, in 2004. If anything, there were concerns about the story being so intense that it was creating emotional divisions among the explorers, so immersing that it was sometimes hard to tell IC from OOC.
The problem is that it takes many things to have a successful plot in Uru... here is a very incomplete list:

- resources: things must happen of course, and you need time and people willing to work on the story;

- rewards: there must be some kind of reward if people follow the events. It may be entirely emotional ("Wow, I was there when Phil Henderson was kidnapped!") or 'real' ("I joined Sharper's 'hood and now I have access to the Egg Room!");

- charisma: if you want people to care about the plot (which is a necessary step in having emotional rewards), you need to build some kind of affection for the characters (who may be explorers themselves); moreover, you need trust between the storyteller and the explorers. This is where most of fan-created plots fail at the moment: it's not so much that there's nothing to "gain" from them, but rather that no one really knows if it's worth investing time, energy and attention in them;

- interactivity: the possibility to affect and expand the game world. Again, such interactivity could mean forming groups and participating in activities which may affect how people behave and how the story unfolds, or could come in various forms of fan-created content (and eventually new Cyan content?).

Moreover, I would not make comparisons to FB, as they are bound to be very misleading: Uru and FB are two completely different things in every aspect, apart from the fact that they both require participation of people over the Internet. As an example, consider Ahyoheek and the Age of Jalak. Both are attempts to introduce in Uru small, repeatable, social games - yet, they failed big time (and I'm sorry for that - I think both are amazing ideas). And it's not like they've been popular for a while and then people lost interest; most explorers are simply not interested in them. Now, I don't know if the newcomers are more keen on playing Jalak than old-timers, but I bet there's not much difference.

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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 12:30 pm 
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Simone wrote:
It's true that plot development under GT could have been better, but the plot we had during Prologue was amazing and exciting.


Well, I wasn't able to be there for that, but if I understand correctly the situation in Prologue was not exactly the same. Prologue was a beta, conducted on one server, with a ready population of gamers already there. (If I'm wrong on this, please do correct me.)

A more apt parallel is perhaps original Myst. You play through the game, find the pages, rescue Atrus, and then there you are, story done and all you can do is go back to the Ages you've already solved and look at them again. That's where we are, pretty much, in Uru right now. There's not a lot, plot-wise, you can do with what you've got, because everything that can be done you've done. Prologue happened, and I'm happy for everyone who got to be there and enjoy it, but a lot of that was, I think, prepared beforehand, like Yeesha's Journey and the Shell. (I know there was some player input, but I don't know how that was managed between the players and Cyan--I just know it had to be, or it wouldn't have worked.) Once that prearranged story has played out, the environment, as I said, doesn't lend itself to further story development. I know. I've tried.

We can mention "possible new Cyan content" in every post if we like, but as of right now, at CAVCON whatever we are, it's not on the cards. Any Cyan interaction we get, at all, is going to be an unexpected bonus. So we have to make our own stories, and hopefully at some point our own Ages, without their help. And that's not ever likely to be a thing lots and lots of people want to spend their time doing.


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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 12:54 pm 
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Quote:
Prologue was a beta, conducted on one server, with a ready population of gamers already there. (If I'm wrong on this, please do correct me.)
The very early private beta (choru / ubiru) was on one server. Prologue (public beta) was on three shards (server farms). Most people joined daily from 4th January until closedown on 9th February.

The plot had happened by 4th January. The changes were to the environment as more and more areas opened up.
The red (2 * 15 of) markers were being delivered daily and weren't always accessible immediately for example. (I'm thinking specifically of the rope bridge. There was a marker before you could reach it. :))

I was also there when the egg room was opened up. The barricades in front of the libary only came down on Achenar on the last day (and no-where else).

No plot though.

ETA I don't know when Atrus (the first shard) opened to the public.


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PostPosted: Mon May 31, 2010 2:42 pm 
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Thanks, Rusty.


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