Will Wright’s Sterling Stuff

Staring eyes - of genius, madness, or just lens flare?

Increasingly nebulous mega-brain Will Wright has finally revealed what the hell he’s up to next. He’s spent his post-Spore years working at an outfit he calls Stupid Fun Club, which has had all sorts of wild ideas about TV shows and toys, but now he seems to be turning those historically ingenious eyes back to games.

He’s working on adapting a short story about a karmic computer, by sci-fi writer and technology ponderer Bruce Sterling, and he reckons he can get it turned around within a year.

“He [Sterling] describes a karmic computer that’s keeping a balance of payments between different people, and causing them to interact with each other in interesting ways to improve their lives even though they’re strangers,” Wright, who once told me an incomprehensible joke about a duck, revealed to Eurogamer. “”They earn karmic points that are redeemed by having somebody else help them.”

He reckons PC, Facebook, mobile and tablet are the key platforms, which means this is going to come our way. It sounds like it has the ethos of a social game, but whether it has the contentious business model of one remains to be seen.

However, unlike prior Wright opuses, this one should be developed pretty quickly. “I don’t think it makes sense to go through even a three or four year development cycle any more. Unless you can get something to market within a year, at least an initial version within a year, you’re hosed.

“So that’s the new model for development, which has totally changed my thinking. Almost any project I want to work on is going to be something I can at least get some version out there in about a year and then iterate from there.”

Bruce Sterling’s story, Maneki Neko, concerns a possible future of a network-based gift economy – where we pay in favours rather than in cash. Just like me and your mum, eh? Oh no, I actually just wrote that, didn’t I? My God have mercy on my terrible soul.

Anyway: you can read the whole story here, and then muse upon the social gaming connotations.


  1. Meat Circus says:


  2. Doesntmeananything says:


  3. Gnoupi says:

    Just like me and your mum, eh? Oh no, I actually just wrote that, didn’t I? My God have mercy on my terrible soul.

    That’s it, I unsubscribe.

    • McDan says:

      For shame Alec! I would never expect such vulgarity on RPS! Well, maybe from quinns, but still.

    • MD says:

      [Alec, you’re fired – Ed.]

    • Wodge says:

      Thankyou MD, I thought I’d never get to read that again, everyone got sacked in every issue of PCGamer, but they were so good, they all got hired back.


  4. Meat Circus says:

    A duck is walking along one day when he thinks “I could just go for some bread!”

    So he walks into a pub, goes to the bar and says “Got any bread mate?”

    The barman replies “Sorry, no. Beer, wine, crisps and peanuts. No bread.”

    “oh, ok then” says the duck, and walks out.

    Next day, he comes in again, and asks the same thing. The barman replies “No, same as before, no bread.” Again the duck leaves.

    But! The next day he’s back again. This time the barman replies more heatedly “NO! BEER! CRISPS! PEANUTS! THAT’S IT!”. The duck leaves empty bellied.

    But, undeterred, the duck returns. This time, the barman is really annoyed. “Listen, duck. If you come in ‘ere one more time asking for bread, I’m going to nail your bill to this bar, got it?”

    “Got it.” says the duck, and leaves.

    Next day, sure enough, he’s back. He walks up to the bar and says “Excuse me mate, got any nails?”

    “Er, no.” says the barman.

    “Right, have you got any bread?”

    • MartinNr5 says:


      This is funny. :)

    • JackShandy says:

      What’s the difference between a duck?

      One of its legs is both the same.

    • Norskov says:

    • JB says:

      I’m glad it’s not just me.

      That one infuriates my kids.

    • Heria says:

      Great joke, made laugh pretty hard :-)

    • bildo says:

      Mother of God. Now I know where the Bubble Yum commercial came from years ago when I was a kid.
      It was a duck that kept coming into a grocery store, dressed very much like a punk rocker. He kept asking the grocer, “you have any gwapes [grapes – idk why they gave him a funny accent]” The grocer would always respond, “NO”
      Eventually, the grocer says, “If you ask me for grapes one more time, I’m gonna shoot ya!” The duck, unphased, says, “got any guns?” of course the grocer said no, so the duck asked for gwapes one last time. Then the commercial ended.

      Hm. Small world.

  5. skinlo says:

    And now I have no interest in any games he makes.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Well, he did make a good game in 1989 and another one in 2000. It’s getting to be about time now.

  6. Tei says:

    All software lives under a curve of value. Wen a software is on the Idea state, his value is negative. -1000 pounds. When the idea is near a implementation, the value grown following a curve. About the version 1.4 a software value is big than zero. The curve continue. Wen a software have a version 6.0, it tops his value. From there the value continue the curve down.
    What this mean is that if you have a idea, but you don’t have a implementation, you technically have LESS than nothing.
    I don’t see a screenshot here.

    • Unaco says:

      What in the name of all that is decent are you talking about? If I have an idea, I lose money? If I keep making tiny little, arbitrary changes, and updating versions til I get to v1.4 I start making money? And what sort of curve are we talking about here? Exponential? Logarithmic? Parabolic? Cissoid? The Witch of Agnesi?

      I think, technically, if you have an idea but no implementation you have more than nothing. You have an idea.

  7. necromental says:

    so, help some old lady cross the street: +50 Karma points. Those points can be used to purchase real world items or used to bid for a favour you require.

    This is my guesstimate anyway. No idea how it’d be monetarily possible but if Mr. Wright has thought it through then I likes it.

  8. Vexing Vision says:

    I really like the idea of this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in the anonymous wides of the internet. A gift-based society only works if everyone participates, but the internet gamosphere (which is so much better than the blogosphere) contains a lot of these two kinds of people:
    1) People who want everything for free. Now. Thanks for paying for me, sucker.
    2) People who stop playing the game after an hour, and all the gifts sent their way disappear into the black hole of their absence.
    3) Me.

  9. Unaco says:

    How old is Will Wright? Is this early onset dementia? The first signs of Syphilis? Is it time for an intervention?

  10. JYzer says:

    “He’s working on adapting a short story about a karmic computer … and he reckons he can get it turned around within a year.”

    After which he’ll promptly get to work on SimCity 5, right? Right?

    No that’s okay, Will. I’ll just stay here with my game from 2003. And my nostalgia. And my tears.

  11. ttcfcl says:

    > ”They earn karmic points that are redeemed by having somebody else help them.”

    And they’ll be called “Whuffies”

  12. Tarqon says:

    From his description I get the feeling he totally missed the point of the story. Give it a read if you haven’t it’s quite good.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      The whole book is great. A Good, Old-Fashioned Future. Responsible for my obsession with cyberpunk.