Friday, September 18, 2020

D.A.I.S.Y. Age?

This morning I received a typically busy and garish email from DAISY, the A.I. from art MMO Occupy White Walls. For an artificial intelligence devoted to aesthetics her personal style certainly does remind me of a particularly intense Geocities homepage circa 1997.

OWW (suggested pronounciation, according to the website, "Owouawwouaw") is still in Early Access on Steam. Or maybe it's alpha. I'm not sure there's a difference. On the website, developer StikiPixels defines Early Access as "the game is mostly stable but under heavy development", the exact phrase they were using for the alpha, when I first wrote about it back in 2018.

They're not kidding about the heavy development, either. In two years the "game", if game it is or ever was, has changed almost out of recognition.

When I first tried it I was quite excited, particularly for the building possibilties. I saw it as a potential replacement for Landmark or, conceivably, "the hipster Minecraft".

I was also eager to test the proposition that DAISY could educate me in art history and help me expand my tastes by leading me to new artists whose work I'd enjoy. She seemed to be quite capable of it. As I wrote at the time "Within a few minutes the artworks she was suggesting were beginning to pique my interest and stimulate my pleasure centers... After a dozen or so iterations... the problem was stopping myself from buying everything she put in front of me. I loved it all".

Sadly, that promise went largely unfulfilled. Each time I dropped in to see how the project was progressing I found it moving further from what I'd imagined it would become. Over time focus began to shift, away from what I'd seen as primarily an educative tool for dabblers in art history and towards an alternative means of self-expression and self-promotion for living artists.

I began to find DAISY less and less useful as she suggested contemporary artists in preference to old masters. It didn't seem as though she was learning my tastes, more like ignoring them.

As for building and decorating, even as the range of options and the quality of the tools improved, the possibilities shrank. Each account was limited to a single gallery. I made mine and was happy with it. I'd have liked to start again on another but to do that I'd have had to tear the old one down. 

I wasn't prepared to do that so that was the end of my adventure in architecture. What's the point of a building game that doesn't let you build?

Unsurprisingly, I haven't logged in much as the game's developed from there. In fact, Steam claims I've only ever played for 7.3 hours, which seems exceedingly low. I definitely haven't logged in for a long time. There didn't seem much point.

Not until today, that is, when DAISY's email arrived, bringing news of a couple of very significant changes. One of them opens fresh possibilities for exciting gameplay, the other makes me curious to see where the game is going next. 

Multiple galleries! That was the specific change I suggested in a recent feedback survey would be needed to get me back and playing once again. It's only two more slots but, as the email says, that's a 200% increase. More than enough to keep me amused for a few more hours. 

I'm not going to jump straight in and not only because you need to be level 20 to get the second gallery, 30 for the third. (I'm currently level 10). It's more that I find OWW suits the darker days. 

Putting a gallery together is a very enjoyable way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon. Right now, with the sun shining and the sky full blue it doesn't feel like quite the thing but when the rain comes maybe I'll start another project.

The other major development doesn't impact me directly but it's highly significant for the future of OWW: you can now upload your own art for a one time fee of $9.00. Per picture.

It seems a bit steep to me. The fee places the submission in DAISY's database and also on the Kultura website, where it remains for as long as the game and website persist, or so I assume from the assurance "Once your artwork is in, it’s in".

There doesn't seem to be any way of capitalizing on the investment directly, as yet. The FAQ mentions "sales" when making the point that no commission is charged but it seems to be a reference only to such sales as the artist and buyer may arrange outside of the game itself: "OWW is designed to drive traffic to social media and/or other sites. Many artists are contacted by fans (who discover them in OWW) over social media and in several cases, people bought artworks in the ‘real world’ "

The drive and direction seem clearer, at least. Occupy White Walls never seemed all that much like a game although it undoubtedly contains gamelike elements. For someone like me it's a toy and the addition of two more building slots makes it a much better toy than it was. The real thrust, though, is an ambitious assault on the established art market.

That's quite a manifesto. The various comparisons with Napster and Spotify that pop up elsewhere in the narrative make StikiPixels' ambition plain.

Whether there's a demand for such an open-access, global clearing house for artwork and, if there is, whether OWW is up to the job remains to be seen. Not being an artist I can afford to sit back and watch (although if I were an artist I think I'd still want to sit back and watch for a while before I started stumping up $9.00 a punt to test the market).

I'm just happy for the opportunity to build a couple more galleries. I'll see if I can't be a bit more forward-thinking this time, too. Last time I had no idea what I was building until I'd finished.

Before I can do that, though, I suppose I'll have to get leveling. I guess it is an MMO after all...


  1. How do you level? I went back and scanned your other post, and it didn't pop out at me. Does it have to do with how many virtual visitors you get?

    1. No, although you'd think it might. It does connect to that indirectly though. It's based around how many artworks you buy from DAISY. Since you buy those with the money the virtual visitors tip you for your gallery exhibits it ends up much the same thing. At least, that's how it worked last time I played. I'd probably better double check in case it's changed.


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