Nov 212014
 

500px-WOW_logoTen years of World of Warcraft. Well. So many thoughts.

WoW has always been a contradiction of sorts: not the pioneer, but the one that solidified the pattern. Not the experimenter, but the one that reaped the rewards. Not the innovator, but the one that was well-designed, built solidly, and made appealing. It was the MMO that took what has always been there, and delivered it in a package that was truly broadly appealing, enough so to capture the larger gamer audience for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong; that’s not a knock on it. If anything, it’s possibly the biggest game design achievement in all of virtual world history. After all, we’re talking about taking a game skeleton that was at that point already almost a decade and a half old, one which had literally had hundreds of iterations, hundreds of games launched. None of them ever reached that sort of audience, that sort of milestone, that sort of polish level.

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Game talkRequiem For There.com

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Mar 302010
 

Celia Pearce has written a thoughtful and touching article about the closing of There.com that will resonate with anyone who has ever watched the closure of a virtual world they loved.

As an ethnographer who has devoted six years of her life to serving as a kind of emissary and folklorist for the people of There.com, I feel both a sense of loss and a special sense of responsibility. The book I published on the Uru culture in There.com was meant to describe a living, breathing culture. But, as real-world anthropologists know, when a culture is eradicated, anthropology can tragically become history.

via Worlds In Motion – In-Depth: Requiem For A World.

I agree with a lot of her assessment of what There did well, too — a bit unsure on the UGC aspect, but the social design she describes was really excellent, and inspirational for aspects of SWG.

Game talkThere.com is closing

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Mar 022010
 

Sad news. There.com has some of the best social interaction design of any virtual world. Be sure to check it out while you can so that its many design innovations are not forgotten.

But, at the end of the day, we can’t cure the recession, and at some point we have to stop writing checks to keep the world open. There’s nothing more we would like to avoid this, but There is a business, and a business that can’t support itself doesn’t work. Before the recession hit, we were incredibly confident and all indicators were “directionally correct” and we had every reason to believe growth would continue. But, as many of you know personally, the downturn has been prolonged and severe, and ultimately pervasive.

We’re very sorry to announce that There.com will be closing to the public at 11:59 PM on March 9th, 2010.

via There – There.

Jun 082009
 

Regular blog reader mrseb has a blog post up on emotional avatars in virtual worlds inspired by this NYTimes.com article (it’s behind a reg wall).

In short, the research is about how important blushing is as a social lubricant, as evincing embarrassment or shame serves to reinforce the social rules held in common by groups of people. It’s a sign that the person knows they are transgressing to some degree and is sorry for it, and people judging them tend to treat them less harshly.

Which leads Sebastian to ask (emphasis mine!),

Why are we still running around in virtual worlds with emotionless, gormless avatars?

It’s not that the question hasn’t been asked before. For example, back in 2005 Bob Moore, Nic Ducheneaut, and Eric Nickell of PARC gave a talk at what was then AGC (you can grab the PDF here)., which I summarized here with

The presentation by the guys from PARC on key things that would improve social contact in MMOs was very useful and interesting. Eye contact, torso torque, looking where people are pointing, not staring, anims for interface actions so you can tell when someone is checking inventory, display of typed characters in real-time rather than when ENTER is hit, emphatic gestures automatically, pointing gestures and other emotes that you can hold, exaggerated faces anime super-deformed style or zoomed in inset displays of faces, so that the facial anims can be seen at a distance… the list was long, and all of it would make the worlds seem more real.

I was at that talk, and in the Q&A section, which was really more of a roundtable discussion, the key thing that came up was cost.

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Game talkLots of info on Blue Mars

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Apr 152009
 

Not Possible IRL has a great interview about Blue Mars up, with tons of details on how they plan to work.

In a lot of ways Blue Mars looks like this generation’s try at the original There.com model, with some evolution. Themed zones based on corporate partners, lots of pro-only pathways for content but not UGC, pretty graphics and lots of friendly interface. It’s got great partnerships and visuals, so it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Oct 032008
 

Second Life technology continues its slow move towards being an enterprise solution with the announcement that the SL-derived OpenSim project is getting commercialized by 3Di.

Enterprise was a big buzzword this year at the Virtual Worlds conf in Hollywood. (Of course, in the midst of it, someone had to ask “what is enterprise anyway?” It means “selling VWs to businesses”). The penny has also dropped for some users that SL itself seems to be trending in this direction — as Tateru Nino writes on Massively,

When you look at the hiring of Tom Hale, the ongoing hiring of enterprise sales and marketing staff, and the licensing of the Immersive Workspaces product from Rivers Run Red, this all seems to signal a clear direction for where Linden Lab is taking Second Life. Clearer than anything else we’ve seen in a year, certainly.

Of course, we have also seen Forterra and their OLIVE platform (derived originally from the There.com codebase) continue to focus on this area over several years, with particular success in work for the military.

Is all this a surrender of the dream? What about user-creation virtual worlds for consumers?

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