A Mosaic: Mighty as a Sword?

Markus Weichselbaum and TheBroth.com may bring collaborative art and much more to MMOGs

Your guild just completed the raid that no one survives and slew the dragon that nobody slays. Beyond loot, a great story, and some souvenir screenshots, what if you were granted a section of city walls to paint a mural collaboratively and memorialize your server-first for all to see? Beyond that, what if you could carve your initials in an in-game tree with your sweetheart, dodge city guards to slap some graffiti on the city walls, or design a guild banner or shield emblem with the guild officers? All that may be coming, and sooner than you think.

At OGDC, we talked to a number of third party vendors that are developing toolkits for game designers that offer a host of innovative, value-added functionality (for a fraction of the cost to design these toolkits independently). Vivox is doing this with its integrated voice platform, and now Markus Weichselbaum of The Broth pty. ltd. is considering making his collaborative art project (theBroth.com) into something developers of MMOGs, virtual worlds, and online communities can integrate into their projects.

Markus Weichselbaum

TheBroth.com is definitely worth a visit, even if your experience as an amateur artist consists of nothing more than doodling on a notebook page. The collaborative artistic form is tiles that come together as a mosaic, a form that Markus chose for a variety of reasons.  "Mosaic is the core of art creation," Markus related. He went on to explain that The Broth's take on mosaic takes many of the technical considerations of other forms of art - brush size, shape, and pressure in painting, for example - and reduces it to purely positioning, rotating, and texturing a visual block, and adjusting its transparency. Coupled with the website's user interface - which puts some MMOs I've played to shame - it makes for rapid, collaborative art development, and the quality is impressive. But while developing art for display is very cool, developing art for view in a larger context (like an MMO, hint hint) would take Markus's vision to another level.

Whether you're dealing with community management for an MMO, forum moderation, or collaborative art, accountability is a major part of making a collaborative effort self-policing. Tiles allow for sharp distinctions between each artist's work. For example, rolling the mouse cursor over the contributors' names in a collaborative piece sets the tiles they contributed blinking. If an artist is unhappy with the way others are developing a piece, he can fork the work at any point into a paralell, private room (setting permissions for the room as accessible to all artists or something more restrictive like only those who appear on the room owner's friend list). Tiles also allow for one of the coolest aspects of theBroth.com - the replay mode - where you can see, tile by tile, how the artists paused, struggled, erased, and slowly helped put a piece together. Seeing the replay proves just how valuable The Broth technology and methodology could be in education about art in all its various forms - not just visual, but perhaps in musical and even literary / writing education as well.

Examples of artwork on TheBroth.com. Note that these were taken prior to the introduction of rotation, textures, and transparency. For more up-to-date examples, please visit TheBroth.com.

Since every artist has ownership of their own work, it's easy to isolate the griefers and, as Markus explained, deal with them. If an artist becomes disruptive, other artists can click a minus symbol or "bullet" next to the vandal's name. Accumulate enough negative "karma" (the system was referred to as a "karma consensus system" - Markus joked that he should have a patent on it) and the offending artist would be put into exile, locked into a room where he or she can "experience what they've been causing... we've found it to be a very educational experience," Markus explained. He noted that the system reduced recidivism significantly- if only real-life crime and punishment were so easy.

Our logo, created by yours truly on TheBroth.com. It should be worth millions in a few years.

Games like Pirates of the Burning Sea (official site - expected launch summer 2007) will allow players to design their own sail designs, for example. However, art design for a game typically requires expensive professional software tools, not to mention a level of expertise bordering on a degree in digital artistry. TheBroth is a beginner-friendly technology, complete with a working prototype in the form of a website. With developers looking for ways to keep players contentedly plugging away (instead of trolling the forums, as bored players are known to do), collaborative art may help to engender a true professional artisan class within MMOs. Thinking big, new tools such as The Broth possibly create the holy grail of MMO design - an unending stream of customizable, world-impacting content that has broad appeal among gamers.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.