Who Am I?

Toney, Alabama, United States
Software Engineer, Systems Analyst, XML/X3D/VRML97 Designer, Consultant, Musician, Composer, Writer

Friday, October 5, 2007

A Cult of Personality: The BuffyVerse

Now that there is a one billion dollar bubble for virtual worlds, it is time to talk audience share. I don't mean the demographics of who is logged in, but how many people can be persuaded to come early come often.

The nightclub owners have long known that stars are key. From my first professional house gig as a solo performer fronting David Allan Coe to the years in a hotel where bands like the Eagles came after a concert, it is obvious that even the hint of RFPs (Reallllly Famous People) pack a bar better than Britney packs a diaper kit. Nothing brings 'em in like RFPs.

Now that is not new news. The question is one is sustainability.

We love the familiar that has been taken away from us. The lust for the lost love or the lost bicycle is a hackneyed plot device but real nonetheless. So what have we lost that we'd pay to have back? I'd like to see Elizabeth Montgomery but this side of a one-way trip to the funeral home, it ain't happening.

What about.... Sarah Michelle Gellar???

Raise your hands if you want to spend time in the Buffyverse with the original cast. The cast is key. Animating Buffy is a journeyman work given the rights, but getting the original case to reprise their roles as avatars from the comforts of their gated community homes, that would be a draw.

And expensive.

On the other hand, pay them consultant fees for helping with their character construction (it's a bribe; they don't really need to send you more than the photos but they might want to check the AI), then pay them a retainer that guarantees x dollars or rupees for time spent in-zone-in-character, then advertise that the next time you are in there as Angel/Spike/Giles boffing the Buff you might actually be boffing the Hannigan, well, that would bring the geeks in and not just a few of the L gals.

Or you might not? Can you pass the Turing Test? Many can't. But don't worry about it.

It's all entertainment. Entertainment can be an illusion. It just has to have a chance of being real and fantastic. Think of the lottery and you get the idea.

UPDATE: And Multiverse decides to take us up on that. The Buffyverse will live again in the virtual world.



Reed Hedges said...

Inneresting, thanks.

Here's a question. Can you expect an actor to also be an effective avatar-operator, or do you need to hire one? Could be a new profession. The future talent pool is online now, practicing.

Len Bullard said...

Maybe maybe not, Reed. Some would definitely just to have fun and because blocking movies and plays using 3D worlds then setting camera angles or testing action sequences is a natural. Still, yes there is a good living to be made creating gestures and animating the bots. More even in taking the input from actors to shape AI bots. There is a lot to be learned when arts collide.

Of course, ANYONE can be Xander.


But even if there is only a slim chance of being in-world with SMG or AH or Julie Benz or Charisma Carpenter, I suspect quite a few lurkers would let someone put the bite on them.

A billion dollars is a pretty big weasel waiting to be popped. I remember when a billion was 'real money'. Some investors are going to get raked unless these new metaverse mavens start thinking past the tech to the refined arts of putting paying butts in seats.

Anonymous said...

Well, I see a few things going on here.

1) Using "the real" actors gives your world credibility.

2) The actors don't improv much on the show so they might not sound much like the characters at all.

3) The original writers might be able to wing it better, but ...

4) ... who wants a chance to meet the orignal writers? Unless Josh started hireing a lot of hot chicks .....

(aside to point 4, actually, I have met a lot of professional writers and I've always enjoyed it. But that's just me.)

5) Is MTV having any luck with this? They have famous people in their Virtual World all the time.

- Rik

Len Bullard said...


That's a good analysis and question.

1. In the sense that they are most associated with the role, they are the most coveted. Emotional strengh based on repeated binding to a real world object. SMG exists. You could take the sound library of the original series and slice and dice it into smaller bits that are more reusable in a looser space of interactions. That would work nicely for bot worlds with natural language interpreters. It loses the real so some emotional punch, but the sign set of any sample still retains affectivity.

But SMG herself? Gold. Even if she doesn't play the part. I wouldn't underrate her. Yes, the writers are big and nothing says you can't have them, but if the stage is live and she can't improv, she should practice anyway. All actors should.

As to character production, who says there are no writers? Cost over quality decision. Writers would jump at any chance to get their words into a media. I suspect as with graphics, money buys fast and slick.

If this is a new media for acts, for crying out loud, get to it. :-)

5. I dunno. Someone should ask but if someone is not already counting the register at the end of the night, the floor man isn't doing his job. Probably.

Celebrity isn't enough. Do you want to go the Oscars every night and schwooze, or do you want to be with their characters in an interactive story mode.

It's just games with song, dance and adventure without the guns.
Virtual worlds are an emergent technology we say. What hasn't emerged is the meat between the customer and the story.

... well, I guess in the BuffyVerse, wooden stakes are given out at the door.