Edward Castronova’s MMO, Arden, is being released today. It’s available to play, download, and modify as you wish.
His new book, Exodus to the Virtual World, is also now available. I’ve been flipping through a copy, and it looks pretty interesting. Whether or not you agree with the thesis — that game mechanics are going to increasingly influence real-world governance and society — there’s a lot of fascinating research packed into its pages.
Arden is made possible through the generosity of the MacArthur Foundation. Read more on both at Terra Nova.
Is Google building a Second Life-like virtual world? Google-watching blog Google Operating System thinks they might be, given that Arizona State University students will have the opportunity to test a new product that sounds very virtual worldy and that also sounds like it will require a Gmail account. Apparently to be “publicly launched later this year,” the product is developed by “a major Internet company” and, says Google Op, “there are hints that the application is related to social networking, 3D modeling and video games.” Want to know for sure? Enroll at ASU. That’s the only way to get in. You know Michael Arrington (from whom I first read this) has his spies crawling the campus already.
With the success of Nicktropolis and even more so WebKinz, Club Penguin, and things like GoPets and more (Animal Crossing, anyone?), virtual worlds for kids have become the hot ticket this summer. Two new ones are on their way: one an educational 3D theme park, the other a cool 2D “world” designed in part by Aardman Animations, the outfit behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit cartoons.
The Aardman offering is known as WebbliWorld, and is populated by all kinds of avatars and features beginning for the most part with W- or Webbli-. That’s WebbliWallace above, the avatar I created by sticking together the bits and pieces on offer. Not really an immersive multiuser world, as far as I can tell, WebbliWorld instead offers a range of Flash games and activities designed to educate young ‘uns and inspire them to take on real-world activities like sports or mucking about in the garden. You can view other Webblis profiles, but communication seems limited. Continue reading
There’s yet another virtual worlds conference that’s just popped up in my email. This one’s Serious Virtual Worlds, September 13-14, in Coventry, England, of all places (it’s being put on by something called the Serious Games Institute and sponsored in part by Coventry University). It’s bloody expensive, as our British friends would say, but only a few of the speakers have been announced as yet. That combined with its location in what’s vaguely equivalent to the Research Triangle of the UK is another sure sign of the (pre?) maturation the virtual worlds sector. Any industry that can fill a conference center with guys in suits has certainly arrived. All that said, there’s the potential for this to be a vaguely interesting couple of days. If it can spread the word to wider quarters then it’s done its job. The press release for this one too leads off with the word “first,” however. Read it after the jump. Continue reading
What do you do when a group of troublemakers is disrupting the operation of your virtual world? If you’re Linden Lab, which runs Second Life, you ignore the griefers themselves and simply go after the owners of the land they happen to be operating from. Big props to our managing editor over at the Second Life Herald, Pixeleen Mistral, for catching the story of southern California’s Woodbury University, which had its private region in SL deleted a couple of days ago. Why would the Lab wipe Woodbury’s investment? Because a group of SL residents who were not part of the university and who have long been accused of causing trouble have apparently been using the Woodbury land to build and test their disruptive devices. There’s definitely culpability on the part of both the griefers and the university, but LL has shown some really poor judgment in the way they’ve handled the situation thus far. Continue reading
The number of universities entering the virtual world of Second Life never ceases to amaze me. One that I have been keeping an eye on for some time is Princeton. It has been closed to casual strollers while construction proceeds, but following a bit of string-pulling, I was able to get an advance preview earlier this week. I have only one small problem: the amount of information I now have is so huge it is going to take all of my ingenuity — and thereâ€™s precious little of that — to prune it down to the bare essentials. The sim will not formally open to the public until the next academic year, but much of the work is now complete.
Incidentally, aware that I over-use the term “iconic” I have opted in this post to go with “signature” instead. Time will tell whether this is a sensible move.
My tour guide was the charming and ridiculously well-informed (not to mention often downright hilarious) Persis Trilling, who, apart from heading up the Princeton in-house IT education support services, is something of an expert on the History of Architecture and is overseeing the build in Second Life. Continue reading
Consultants McKinsey & Co. have launched a Virtual Venture Competition in the virtual world of Second Life. [Via Sebastian Kupers, who also provided the image above.] The competition is open to students and young professionals no more than 32 years old, and first prize is US$20,000 in training and career counselling. Teams get 45 days to build a business, but there’s no fixed start or end date, you can apparently jump in at any time. Only a limited number of teams will receive initial funding, however. Speaking of funding, McKinsey is so adamant that no outside funding be used that it will be monitoring account balances during the competition (see the FAQ), so if you want to play, you’ll have to roll a new alt for the purpose. I actually think this sounds like a great project; it should attract young people who aren’t necessarily SL residents already, and it’s a nice vote of confidence that SL is a place with real lessons to be learned. The build looks pretty nice too. Check out McKinsey’s »orientation island« and its »Infocenter«.
3pointD’s D-Briefs feature started just about a week ago, and in its second appearance I mused about possibilities for a briefs icon to mark the features. Well, that’s just what I got, from a reader calling himself (or herself) “anonymous.” 3pointD thanks you for your contribution, wherever you are. Herewith the news in brief: 24 hours of live music, plus Intel and Philips in SL. Continue reading
Mitch Kapor, an early investor in and board member of Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world of Second Life, will give a talk this evening in SL, all about the Level Playing Field Institute, where he also sits on the board and which “promotes innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and workplaces by removing barriers to full participation,” and about philanthropy in general. Mitch’s talk at last year’s Second Life Community Convention was a really informative and insightful look at how disruptive technologies happen (something Kapor knows a lot about, having helped make computers useful for large numbers of people). If he can have the same effect on reducing the kind of subtle bias in education and the workplace that holds people back without many people even being aware of it, it’ll be a great thing. Mitch’s talk goes off at 8pm SL Time (11pm Eastern), and you’ll be able to listen to it at »Sheep Island Auditorium«, »Crayon Theater«, and »Reuters Auditorium«. The late time unfortunately puts it out of reach of most European SL members, but hopefully the talk will be archived somewhere on the Web.
On my travels in Second Life I am constantly on the lookout for new, preferably innovative, commercial or educational islands. Often I find places so new they are not yet worth discussing, as the build has barely started, but sometimes I find places that have been around for a while, yet exist in some kind of virtual backwater. One such, and one I find interesting from a business model point of view, is Â»EduNationÂ«. a private island sim owned by the real life company The Consultants-E. The aim of the island is to provide educators with an opportunity to explore the application of Second Life in education, and education in Second Life. Continue reading
NASA, the U.S. space agency, is getting ready to launch its own exploration into virtual space. NASA’s Learning Technologies arm has issued an intramural call for proposal ideas [UPDATE: now postponed, oddly] for the development of a massively multiplayer online game that is intended to be “the front-end of a larger synthetic environment.” The program is funded to the tune of $1 million a year for fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009. [UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline from “earmarks” to “budgets” per Daniel Laughlin’s comment below.] While the call for proposals is internal only, “Each proposing team must include a partner with commercial-quality game development experience. It is expected that this requirement will necessitate partnering with external organizations and that the majority of funding will be used for game development.” [Emphasis added. And thanks to Troy McLuhan of the International Spaceflight Museum in Second Life for sending over the news.]
While the Web page doesn’t say so specifically, NASA is apparently compiling its own list of potential outside developers for the project, and Daniel Laughlin, the contact for the project, is also looking at Second Life as a possible platform. For more information, you can download a PDF of the 16-page CFP. It describes the MMO as an educational project “with the primary goal of engaging young people in NASA’s mission. It also mentions that several projects will be taken on in the first year, and then a single project will be chosen from among those to receive the balance of the funding. So whether you’re an SL developer, a Multiverse world-maker or some other kind of MMOist, strap on your oxygen tanks, and email your space credentials to Daniel.D.Laughlin [at] nasa [dot] gov. Zero-gravity virtual world here we come! What a fantastic project. I love when I get to use the “space” tag on 3pointD. Go, NASA!
Will Wright gave the keynote talk at the Hilton Grand Ballroom on Tuesday, the last day of 2007’s South by Southwest Interactive.
Justin Hall introduces: Will Wright is a famous successful computer game designer. He created SimCity, which mapped birdseye urban planning into millions of minds. Working on a dollhouse for boys he created the Sims, which allowed all of us to manipulate suburban households. Billions of dollars of revenue, putting him in the highest echelons of entertainment. What does a guy like him do for a hobby? He runs the Stupid Fun Club in the East Bay. I visited the club, and the night I was there, there was a video shown of a robot laying on its side in theh street asking for help, and someone had taped the responses of passers-by to what was basically a homeless helpless robot. Then someone handed me a plastic visor and body suit, I put it on in the spirit of the evening, and suddenly this robot was rapid firing ping pong balls at me. I could see in the back of the room Will Wright behind the controls steering and watching and I think wondering how long I would stand there. This idea of experimentation and testing with things, he’s made it possible for all of us to experiment with the systems around us. Now Will Wright is building a simulation of the universe. Wow.
Will Wright (one arm in a sling): All those pictures you just saw [projected on screens before the talk] are from the Hubble. I broke my arm skiing, before you ask. I had way too much coffee today, so I’ll go fast. They asked me to speak here, I decided I’d come and talk about story. Then a week ago I read that I would be demoing Spore, so I’m mashing the two together. Continue reading
Rik Riel has a nice video on his blog showing off the »Roma sim« in the virtual world of Second Life. The Grid is down at the moment or I’d go check it out, but it looks like a nice build. A no-fly zone, the sim comes complete with a market, religious buildings, and what look like working chariot races and a gladiator’s arena, as well as several interactive educational displays. It’s nice work, and Rik’s video tour is nice work as well. Worth checking out.
This is not exactly 3pointD, but it’s definitely worthy of note: Amil Husain at the United Nations’ Millennium Campaign against poverty is looking for help in developing educational games to run on the $100 laptop in development by One Laptop Per Child, a group founded by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte that wants to put a laptop in the hands of children in poorer nations around the world. Husain wants to produce “entertaining game modules” that cover the eight Millennium Development Goals, and is looking for assistance finding “game developers who have experience translating difficult development issues into entertaining games.” If you think you can help, or you know someone who can, get in touch with Amil at amilhusain [AT] gmail.com.
Google announced yesterday that it would hold a 3D building competition for university students, in which students in the U.S. and Canada are asked to model their university campus in 3D using SketchUp. Entries are due by June 1, and the top 50 team members receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Googleplex to participate in a three-day workshop with Google’s modeling experts. This is pretty cool, as far as it goes — it just doesn’t go very far. It seems to me this is just about the most boring way possible to promote the use of SketchUp and Google Earth for cool 3D modeling stuff. What do you think? Continue reading
Another one that dropped while I was away, but which Giff has just reminded me of: The New Media Consortium, which set up shop in the virtual world of Second Life sometime back, has announced that it has established a new services unit, NMC Virtual Worlds, to cater to “educational institutions wishing to explore, build, or establish a presence in a range of virtual worlds.” NMC itself is a non-profit consortium of more than 225 research and educational institutions, so it will be interesting to see what kind of virtual world educational initiatives the organization can catalyze both within its own ranks and in the broader educational realm. While there’s only one project on their portfolio page at the moment, NMC is apparently working with Second Life creator Linden Lab to create a specialized new-user experience for educators, and is already working with a number of groups within SL. (See the announcement for more details.) Services will also be offered for 3D online spaces like Croquet. We look forward to learning what they come up with.
A last-minute trip sees 3pointD out of the country this week. Given the limited Internet access I have here in Amman, Jordan, posting looks like it will drop down to anywhere from slow to non-existent until at least the weekend, when I fly back. Since slow posting always earns me inquiries from kindly readers concerned that I may have broken my posting finger, I thought I’d drop a line here to let you know I’m on an unexpected hiatus. What am I doing here in Jordan? Well, it’s nothing very 3pointD, in fact, but I’ll give you the short version of what’s a much longer story after the jump in case you’re curious. Continue reading
Wells Fargo, which launched a 3D online financial education site for young people on the ActiveWorlds platform about a year ago (after a failed attempt to do so in the virtual world of Second Life), is now expanding their offerings there, according to a press release. This could be a sign that Wells Fargo is trying to fix something that’s broke, but my sense of it is that it means the project has been a success for the bank; I imagine they would simply have pulled the plug on such an experiment if it wasn’t working. The Web site for the project, known as Stagecoach Island, indicates there are 85 Stagecoach Island “millionaires,” and that $168 million in “interest” has been earned in the last 24 hours, so there’s something going on there. The news is a nice shot in the arm for ActiveWorlds, which has a number of devoted communities, but which doesn’t seem to have the reach of Second Life. That said, ActiveWorlds seems easier to customize than SL (see, for instance, the dedicated Wells Fargo client, which you can download for free. This may soon change, however, with the recent open-sourcing of the SL client. Continue reading
A press release from new-media marketers the Virtual Interactive Agency flags a new project they’re putting up in the virtual world of Second Life, in cooperation with something called the Ohio University Virtual Campus, which seems to have a few sims in SL. The new project is a “virtual security pavilion” that will house displays and demos by information security companies during a “virtual business fair” to be held February 5-14. The site mentions a conference fee of a whopping US$3,700, but that seems to include the Virtual Interactive Agency building out your booth for you. A limited number of billboards will also be available at US$425 each. In any case, it’s an interesting project. One wonders whether the firms represented there will address information security on the Web, in Second Life, or in some combination of the two. It will also be interesting to see whether a compelling event can be organized in this way, by presenting a conference center and then asking people to show up, rather than the other way round.
I saw some relatives for a holiday dinner last night out in Queens here in New York. We had a lovely time — as well as an interesting 3pointD moment. A new addition to the family — a Windows laptop — was at several points the focus of attention. Not only were my cousin and her husband proud of the fact that they’d been able to set up a wireless router (without technical leet skillz other than the ability to hook up game consoles for their son and daughter), but she told me the family’s favorite app these days was Google Earth. Apparently, they spend hours sitting in front of the computer, touring not only the sites involved in the kids’ homework assignments, but my cousin also sometimes stays up after everyone has gone to bed, just poking around the planet. I was really struck by the way this resembled television consumption (which until now, and perhaps still, remains the family’s media of choice — they are huge sports fans). And when I showed them how to turn on the layer of 3D models, things got even more exciting. Soon we were downloading Shea Stadium and dropping it right where it belonged — much to the wonder and delight of my cousin’s 12-year-old son. Everyone also seemed to grok the fact that the 3D models had been made not by a company, for the most part, but by other users. The death of television as we know it is closer than you think. Make way for the New “New Media” tm — entertainment in the 3pointD mode.
IBM, which just launched a business group to pursue opportunities in virtual worlds, will make some of its private islands in the virtual world of Second Life open to the public starting next week (from around 18 December), to showcase some of the company’s early work and experimentation. There aren’t a lot of details on this yet (since the islands aren’t yet public), but some of the things IBM will be showcasing on the islands, according to the company, include the following:
Virtual business, or v-business â€“ exploring how to extend business opportunities into virtual worlds, but also how to apply virtual worlds to business problems and opportunities.
Collaboration and education â€“ focusing on how to extend virtual worlds to help business collaborate both internally and externally in ways that more closely resemble real life, and where we are using these immersive, 3D environments to simplify complex concepts by “showing” them in a visual fashion.
Innovation and experimentation â€“ working with a broad community to push the limits of what is possible with virtual worlds and to build a community to help build out the next generation Web, one that is immersive, interactive and 3D.
It sounds like IBM is shooting high with their virtual worlds ambition. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with so far, and hearing more about what they’re planning.
As previously noted, I spent much of Friday and Saturday at the joint State of Play / Terra Nova symposium at the New York Law School. I’m always happy to spend a couple of days talking virtual worlds with a lot of smart people, and the symposium was no disappointment in that regard. Great panels were held on governance, methodologies of study, diversity, taxation and learning, but what was hardly touched on were the putative topics of the meeting: “How did we get here?” and “Where now?” As revealed below, however, there was much to be learned about both those topics at the symposium. Continue reading
Check out SLoodle, a new 3D online education system for the virtual world of Second Life, based on the popular open-source course management system known as Moodle. The project is integrating Moodle’s virtual learning environment into the 3D environment of Second Life, adding the 3D interactive capabilities of the virtual world atop Moodle’s course-managment tools. This sounds a brilliant idea to me. Instead of limiting yourself and your students to whiteboards, images and text, you can now offer fully interactive 3D objects, and let students build their own. Visit »SLoodle’s HQ« in Second Life, or get in touch with Jeremy Kabumpo (email jeremykemp AT yahoo.com) for more information.
The Capozzi Winery is a new venture that’s been getting some press in places like the Wall Street Journal lately. The winery’s Pinotblogger site is chronicling “the long and painful processes involved in starting and building a family winery in the Russian River Valley.” But attentive readers of the blog will have noticed that a recent entry flags Capozzi’s plans to enter the virtual world of Second Life as well, with a virtual winery that will feature not only a scale model of the real thing, but also an avatar tasting room “where you can buy and drink wine (with entertaining results — though not the kind you might be thinking),” and “a series of kiosks/simulations that will guide visitors through an interactive wine-making process.” Continue reading
The Shakespearean virtual world being built by Ted Castronova at Indiana University will run on the Multiverse platform, or so hears gamedev Raph Koster. Koster also links to a CNet story by Daniel Terdiman that sheds more light on MMO, which is to be known as Arden and is being built with the help of a grant from the Macarthur Foundation. Daniel’s interview with Ted goes into some detail about the characteristics of the massively multiplayer online game Ted envisions. Mystical bards, almost no healers, rare Shakespearean soliloquy drops, emergent governance entities — but no magical fireballs or storms. (Where’s our Prospero?) In any case, excellent stuff. It will be interesting to see what kind of research information Ted can wrest from his players (for that’s the plan).
Second Life resident Rik Riel has a good wrap of a press conference today at which the Macarthur Foundation announced “plans to build the emerging field of digital media and learning, committing $50 million over five years to the effort.” Perhaps to show their seriousness, the foundation simulcast the press conference via Second Life. One of the first grants they’ve made is to virtual economist Ted Castronova of the Terra Nova blog (nice going, Ted!), to help fund his creation of Arden, a Shakespearean virtual world in which Ted will be able to conduct economic experiments on the unwitting population. More to follow, so get your grant-writing hat out of the closet and get to work.
It’s true: the aliens have invaded. They’re only in North Carolina, so no need to worry. Plus, they’ve come for a good cause: to teach us all about microeconomics, and to give us a little college credit in the process. The iCampus at the University of North Carolina at Greenberg has developed a video game (launching this fall, according to a press release) called Econ 201 that’s designed to teach students about microeconomics by “following an alien species that must learn how to survive after crash-landing on a futuristic, post- apocalyptic earth.” Now that’s my kind of learning. Continue reading
Ted Castronova, author of Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games and perhaps the person who’s done most to advance the study of MMOs as an academic discipline, has launched a new Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University.
The Synthetic Worlds Initiative is a research center at Indiana University whose aim is to promote innovative thinking on synthetic worlds. . . . Our goal is to learn about this technology and deploy it for research and education. The Initiative holds a bi-annual series of conferences, the Ludium, and is building Arden: The World of William Shakespeare, a massive synthetic world.
USC’s Annenberg School for Communication — home of the Annenberg Studies on Computer Games team and the Center for Public Diplomacy (which we’ve blogged about before), as well as many other innovative programs — is “seeking to hire one or two scholars whose research illuminates the formation, functioning and impact of online communities.” More information after the jump. Continue reading
The Rochester Institute of Technology, which has had a game design concentration for undergraduates for some time now, has just had a Masters Degree in Game Design and Development approved by the New York State Education Department, making it one of the first such programs in the U.S., and perhaps the first Masters program to focus on the computer game industry itself and on broadly integrated aspects of game design such as gameplay, balancing and the other ingredients that go into gamemaking, rather than only including more granular elements such as 3D asset design or more academic pursuits like the sociology of online games. (The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University also offers a Masters, but its program is not as focused on game development specifically.)
Certification by the NYSED is a big step for RIT, which has been working on the approval for years, according to gamer and blogger Andy Phelps, who is the director of the program. Phelps described the process to me as “intense.” I can’t think of too many better people to run a program like this, given that Phelps is also the person who wrote one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of emergent gameplay in massively multiplayer online games. I love Andy’s solid perspective as a player, which I imagine will do a lot for education in the field. Continue reading
A Thursday-afternoon panel at Supernova looked at the significance of games in business. Led by Dan Hunter of the Wharton School (and, of course, the Terra Nova blog, the panel also included Charles Moore of Reuters, Amy Jo Kim of Shufflebrain, Michael Zyda of the USC Gamepipe Lab, and Doug Failor of the Department of Defense’s Joint Futures Lab. Among the hot topics were blue-haired ladies and something called “the G word,” as panelists sought to explain how some of the lessons we could learn from games could be used in commercial and enterprise applications. Continue reading
The EmSense Corporation gave a rather unexpected demo at Supernova today. EmSense makes a glasses-like headset that “senses your emotions,” according to the company. The headset reads biofeedback signals, apparently with some degree of accuracy. A video shown at Supernova demonstrated a player who could go into stealth mode when he held his breath in order to cross a minefield. Graphs of adrenalin and focus showed what the headset could read while a player was navigating the first particularly startling scene of Doom 3. Another mini-game allowed a player to cross a bridge as long as he was focusing on the task, but caused him to fall into a chasm when he lost focus. Avatars could also be made to blink their eyes when the player did. Training and education applications were demo’d as well. The slim headset is still rather obtrusive compared to how light it will eventually need to be, but it seems like things are on the way. There’s gotta be a ton of potential applications. I’m definitely buying any game where I can go into stealth mode just by thinking sneaky, anyway.