108: The Open Source Canon

The Open Source Canon

"The Matrix Online picked up after the third film in the trilogy, and if a fourth movie were ever to be made (and that's a big 'if'), it would reflect everything that happened in the online game. And the die-hards who collaborated with Morpheus and ran missions for Seraph would be remembered. As he said in 2005, 'Our intention is that players who play a really big role, or make a key decision, become part of the Matrix canon, and they become part of the story.' It was a long shot, but it was a breakthrough. And when you think it through, it was all but inevitable."

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In the early days of the public net, there was a site that was similar to this general idea. It contained a pirate story, where many of the characters were real people. Players would read the previous story entry, and then email to the author what their character would do, given the circumstances laid out. The author would then compile all of the responses, and come up with the next chapter, adding in his own dramatic flair. At times, he (she?) would post a request for new players, and then work them into the storyline. Other times, characters were killed off. Though it sounds like an RPG, it came across as a continuing online novel, and there were no skills, items, dice rolling, and the such. Perhaps it was ahead of it's time.

The main problem that I can think of to plague an open source canon is that there's no established model to decide what parts get accepted. Open source software has project leads who accept or reject contributed patches, but that is based on the already-collaborative nature of programming. What's the most effective way to determine the appropriate responsibilities for the editors of a massively collaborative canon?

Only experimentation can answer that question; the problem is that an experiment like that would be extremely expensive. Even the most original Massive technology of any type is highly derivative; the data gathered from it might not come quickly enough to justify the effort needed to gather it.

Not that there wouldn't be other ways to start. There are some tabletop roleplaying systems that have rules to determine how the players invent the game reality as they go, for example. But I have difficulty reconciling a system that works with a handful of people who know exactly what they're getting into to a setting where you have several hundred thousand people expecting to grind mobs and insult each other's sexuality.

As a side note, when I saw the title of this, I imagined an open-source pool of intellectual property from which commercial games could be freely made without going through the hassle of inventing a new franchise for each new game mechanic. That would be cool.

I was completely wrapped up in the concept of what they were trying to do with The Matrix Online, but it really was incredibly ambitious for the time they had to implement it all (being forced to work in with the movies).

We recently started a competition on The Vision Quest that asks the audience to create a character (through a fictional blog). Their character's XP (and hence rank) are boosted as they play mini-games, discover secret content, complete quizzes, and most importantly, have their character's Aura "boosted" by others (in response to cool blog posts, kind of like Digg but for fictional content).

The top ranked Questor at the end of October will become a new character in the second of three novels being released under the franchise.


It's a pretty "indie" project right at the moment, but something we hope might find some serious commercial legs as the concept gains traction.

i played this game, the idea of the progresive story is good and i think the methods thatwhere used worked, but the ameplay and stuff of the game was bad designed, and hardcoded is dificult to make changes and simply it didnt worked very well


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