I’m off Monday for the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in San Jose next week (online registration ends tomorrow! see below), where I’ll be moderating what should be a very cool roundtable on the future of virtual world platforms. We go on Thursday at 11am, on the strategy track, with a very flattering title: Visionary Panel: Where the Platforms Are Going Next. The panel features Christopher Klaus, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kaneva; Raph Koster, President, Areae, Inc.; Michael Wilson, CEO, Makena Technologies; Hui Xu, Founder & CEO, HiPiHi Co., Ltd; Stephen Lawler, General Manager of Virtual Earth, Microsoft; and Corey Bridges, Co-founder, Executive Producer, & Marketing Director, The Multiverse Network. Should be some pretty fascinating talk flying around about what’s going to happen in the near and far terms, and where all of the things these people and others are working on are headed.
As noted, online registration for the conference (of which 3pointD is a media sponsor) ends tomorrow, Friday, October 5. The online reg price is only $795. After Friday, you’ll be able to register onsite at the show beginning 7:30am, Wednesday, October 10, for $995. Reg now and save your cash for drinks with Corey!
Multiverse, the open virtual-world building platform complete with universal browser being developed by some early Netscape employees, has just won $4.175 million in funding, according to a press release I’ve just been emailed. Congrats to Corey and the rest of the gang, who have been looking for this money for some time. The cash comes from Sterling Stamos Capital Management, and Multiverse says it will use the money to staff up and head for a launch of their product later this year or early next. (It’s already in beta.) Joanna Strober, director of Private Equity at Sterling Stamos, will join the Multiverse board.
Multiverse have to feel relieved by this development, as it was beginning to look like it was taking longer than it should for them to find this round. It’s good news for those of us interested to see what the Multiverse network of virtual worlds will look like. Perhaps more important than the launch of the platform itself is the launch of some games and virtual worlds for it, since it’s those that will draw people in. Tons of people are developing for it; we look forward to a release.
Full text of press release after the jump. Continue reading
There’s so much metaversal news these days that it’s impossible to make a blog post out of everything that crosses my browser. (It was impossible before, but it’s getting more impossible now.) In an attempt to cram yet more news onto the blog, then, 3pointD is happy to introduce “D-Briefs,” an occasional roundup of short news items, some big and important, some trivial but interesting. Look for D-Briefs to appear on a consistently every-so-often basis. Today we have news of a Sony/ClubPenguin deal, a new immersive world from Shanda, IBM getting Torqued, and a million bucks tossed at a startup world. Continue reading
The acronyms are flying this month, and I am too. First to the South by Southwest Interactive festival, where I’ll be running a panel in the Screenburn track on microcontent and user creation in online games and how that’s beginning to change the face of gaming. This should be fun, especially as it features Raph Koster, who’ll be able to talk a bit about Areae, the lovely Betsy Book of There.com, Corey Bridges of Multiverse, and Reuben Steiger of metaverse services company Millions of Us, who has been creating cool opportunities for user-generated content as part of corporate marketing schemes in the virtual world of Second Life.
Later in the month I’ll also be on a panel on the future of virtual worlds at the new Virtual Worlds 2007 conference here in New York. This is looking like a great conference, with panels that go beyond the usual fare and actually look closely at what’s happening in virtual worlds and where they might be going. There are four interesting keynote speakers lined up as well, including Matt Bostwick and Jeff Yapp from MTV (both of whom were featured in my Wired article on Virtual Laguna Beach, Steve Youngwood from Nickelodeon, and Colin Parris, VP of Digital Convergence at IBM. What I love about this roster is that it doesn’t include any world-builders. Instead, it features voices from the sectors that are going to drive virtual world development in future: media, entertainment and business. We need more conferences like this. See you there.
Word from the Terra Novans is that Ted Castronova’s second Ludium conference (following a first outing that was rocked by a very tongue-in-cheek scandal) will be held June 22-23 at Indiana University — and that it may even feature a demo of the Multiverse-based experimental Shakespearean MMO known as Arden that Ted is building there (and for which he’s won a Macarthur grant). The Ludium is a brilliant concept of Ted’s: a conference on games that’s run like a game. This year’s Ludium covers games and public policy, and so will take the form of a political convention that will elect a spokesperson for a set of agreed “Principles for Sensible Video Game Policy.” Should be fun.
Pirate Daniel James’s Three Rings, responsible for the hugely popular multiplayer Puzzle Pirates gamespace, is developing a game-making platform to support Flash and Java games within a larger virtual world, according to a session description from O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference at the end of March. That’s news to me, though I’m not entirely sure it hasn’t been mentioned elsewhere. It sounds like the session features Three Rings co-founder Michael Bayne rolling out the toolkit for attendees to use in making a game during the session: “Three Rings is developing a platform for building multiplayer online games in Flash and Java that operate as part of a larger virtual world where people do things like talk about their cats, decorate their virtual living room, and most importantly, play games. With an aim toward fostering user creativity, we’re opening up all of the tools for creating the world and the games in it. In this workshop we’ll have people collaborating in small groups to think up a game and build it. . . . We’ll provide the toolkit and useful advice.” Continue reading
Filmmaker James Cameron of Titanic fame (and, probably more importantly to readers of this blog, The Terminator), has just gotten the go-ahead on his next film. What interests 3pointD about this is the fact that it will be filmed in a moviemaking version of a virtual world, and new details of the process have emerged in a story in today’s New York Times. Cameron is using the latest “performance-capture” technology to record the movements of actors’ bodies, as well as their facial expressions. But such recordings are usually made against a blank background that’s later filled with a digitally produced environment. In the case of Avatar, Cameron’s next film, “The most important innovation thus far has been a camera, designed by Mr. Cameron and his computer experts, that allows the director to observe the performances of the actors-as-aliens, in the filmâ€™s virtual environment, as it happens,” the Times writes. The key phrase here is “as it happens.” Cameron and his team have essentially created a virtual world that they view live as the performances are recorded. What they see on their screen is the motion-capture already composited into the digital environment, rather than having to wait until later to see the combination of the two streams of content. In addition, Cameron can pan and zoom around on the fly: “If I want to fly through space, or change my perspective, I can. I can turn the whole scene into a living miniature and go through it on a 50 to 1 scale. Itâ€™s pretty exciting,” he says. That’s exciting technology indeed. Though it bears little direct impact on current multiuser virtual worlds, it’s the kind of technology that will gradually filter down to broader levels, and the kind of filmmaking that could help promote Internet-based 3D spaces. Will the movie be any good? Who knows. The filmmaking techniques, however (which almost resemble the ultimate in machinima), are fascinating. And don’t forget that Cameron sits on the Multiverse advisory board.
Raph Koster flags an Escapist article in which Allen Varney covers “boutique MMOGs” and the fact that they can not only be profitable but can garner significant niche audiences in a similar manner to very narrowly focused Web sites. This kind of thing is along the lines of some of my thinking about virtual worlds. I’m pretty sure we’ll start to see a proliferation of 3D virtual spaces as time moves on and the tools for building such places get cheaper and easier to use. These will be not just individual islands (or collections of islands) floating in 3D cyberspace, built on a platform that resembles an open-source Second Life, but a metaverse of things like MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach (built on the technology behind There.com), and games and social worlds built on a free platform like Multiverse. Eventually, a large handful of these will come to capture audiences in the hundreds of thousands. The business model is totally viable. It’s working for the games mentioned in Varney’s article, as well as for a game like EVE Online. The Web has shown us that huge “category-killers” like World of Warcraft need not actually kill a category at all; you can successfully launch and run a Web site or a virtual world that aims at a narrower audience. Will the category-killers one day fall away altogether? I doubt it, but perhaps the rallying cry will be something like, “The category is dead! Long live the category!”
Matt Mihaly, CEO of Iron Realms Entertainment, which makes text-based MMOs like the highly entertaining Achaea, has an interview with Multiverse co-founder Corey Bridges up on his blog. While there’s not much there we didn’t already know, there is an interesting passage in which Corey talks about how the platform — which is designed to provide a universal portal to games created with Multiverse — will bring “the right game to the right player.”
Thatâ€™s absolutely, hands-down critical. Otherwise, only the top couple dozen games will ever be seen. There are many ways to do this. When a consumer launches the client, they go to the network login screen. . . . As you log in, for example, you could see a message saying â€œOh, you play games X, Y, and Z. People who play those games also play game A.â€ There will also be taxonomies (categorized lists, a la Yahoo) of the worlds on our network, as well as search engines. Weâ€™ll also have at least one virtual world that functions as a hubâ€“-The Nexus weâ€™ll call itâ€“-for finding other worlds. You can meet your friends there, and talk to an NPC who asks you what sort of experience youâ€™d like. It will eventually point you through a portal. Jump your avatar through the portal, and youâ€™ll go to that particular game. Part of the â€œlong tailâ€ notion is not just the democratization of creation, but also the democratization of distribution.
Nice stuff. For more interesting tidbits about Corey’s recent experience at the Firefly fan convention and how Multiverse fits with the long tail, read the rest of the interview.
We knew that IBM had two researchers officially poking around in the virtual world of Second Life, but now comes news from CNet that the company is setting up a business group specifically to address opportunities in Second Life and other virtual worlds. It seems the effort is being led by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM’s vice president of technical strategy and innovation. This could be a seriously interesting development, as it will bring IBM’s weight to bear on the challenge of making Second Life and other virtual worlds and similar platforms into more useful and functional places. (IBM has also mentioned it will be working with the Multiverse world-building platform in some form.) If you ask me, that’s one of the most important things that virtual worlds still need to bring to the table; they need to demonstrate ways they can be easily useful to broad numbers of people. So far, we haven’t really seen it happen, except as entertainment. Here’s hoping IBM’s move helps make these places a useful part of more people’s lives.
Fans of the short-lived series Firefly will be interested to learn that the show’s ‘verse will be turned into a massively multiplayer online game on the Multiverse platform, at least a beta version of which should be available by sometime in 2008. I’ve just done a story on it for Wired.com, where you can read more details, but note that they haven’t chosen a development team yet, so it’s anyone’s guess what the final game will look and feel like. Here’s hoping it’s as cool as the series. Which rocked.
For those who haven’t checked it out yet, now’s the time to get into Multiverse, the free virtual-world development platform, which has just gone from closed to open beta. “Register with the Multiverse Developer Program, and you will be able to access the downloads here,” according to a forum post. [Via reBang.] We blogged about Multiverse recently: could it be that an open 3D world development tool (albeit one intended mostly for game-making) will promote widespread adoption of 3D Web usage in whatever form, in a way that Second Life might have trouble doing on its own?
Corey Bridges of Multiverse, the free virtual world development platform now in beta, sends along an article from TCS Daily that argues that 3D online worlds are the “Next Big Thing” and compares their history so far with the early history of Netscape. The Multiverse team, of course, is largely made up of Netscape alums, including Cory and Bill Turpin, who led the start-up company on which Netscape built its browser. (“This article’s a bit dense,” says Cory, “but it’s an interesting read. And not just because it’s favorable to Multiverse.”) From the article: “We are . . . on the cusp of the Next Big Thing and those who are ready for the transition to 3D virtual worlds will be far ahead of the game.” Good food for thought there. Recommended 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).
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Well, it took me a while, not being particularly handy with various audio applications, but I’ve finally got the audio file (listen above) from our panel on the future of virtual worlds at the Austin Game Conference last week posted for your listening pleasure. Give it an ear and let us know what you think of the Big Ideas we’re bandying about. Is there in fact a 3pointD moment in the offing? Is it sustainable? Are there any ideas here we should be talking about at the 3pointD meetup we’ve been talking about lately? Let us know.
I’m blogging this from the Austin Convention Center in Texas, where the Austin Game Conference is in full swing. The highlight for me so far has been (not surprisingly) the panel I spoke on yesterday with Corey Bridges of Multiverse; Raph Koster, formerly of Sony Online Entertainment and now of his own stealth virtual-world startup, which has just gotten a first round of funding, according to Raph; Cory Ondrejka, chief technology officer at Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world of Second Life; and moderated by Jerry Paffendorf, resident futurist for the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog). There’s an audio file of the panel that I’m going to post here as soon as I get hold of it, but for now I thought I’d share a few of the thoughts and opiniosn that I managed to remember throughout the thing.
If you can pardon my obviously biased opinion, it seemed to me that we rolled out a bunch of interesting thoughts and questions having to do with the future of virtual worlds (which was the topic of the panel), and, judging from the faces in the audience, managed to blow a few minds in the process. Continue reading
It was in Austin last spring, after the South by Southwest Interactive conference, that the ideas behind this blog finally gelled in my head (even though I’d staked my claim to the 3pointD territory months earlier, for no good reason). Now, not even six months after SXSW, 3pointD is headed back to Texas to chat about some of the stuff we write about here, on a panel filled with much heavier weights than mine, at the Austin Game Conference on September 6. Jerry Paffendorf of the Electric Sheep Company sponsors of this blog) has convened a panel on The Future of Virtual Worlds (at 1:30pm on the Online Multiplayer Tech/Art track) that will see me sitting beside legendary MMO developer Raph Koster, Linden Lab chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka and Multiverse‘s Corey Bridges. Can anything I have to say possibly be of value? Continue reading
The X3D community blog has link to the PlanetQuest app built by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, flagging it as a “brilliant” example of the power of the X3D open-standards 3D Web format. I’m still not convinced — though I’m still open to persuasion. The app shows off the Milky Way galaxy from various angles and is nice looking on the first go-round, but it was also totally browser-breaking, for me, and I didn’t feel like I was looking at anything terribly new. Why not build something with the same functionality in a virtual world browser along the lines of Multiverse? At least make it so the music stops playing when I close the app and the Web page. I suspect I’m running into some technical difficulties here, but I’d still like to see more. For now, I’m sticking with Celestia.
There’s 3D all over the place these days. Its latest manifestation is Qubic Sphere, which bills itself as “the first dynamic, easy-to-use three-dimensional Web browser,” according to a press release. First? I’m not clear where the company has been for the last five to ten years or so, but it wasn’t There.com, Second Life or ActiveWorlds, apparently. Qubic Sphere president David Montour says, “While there are a few other products that enable users to open a small 3D window while on the Net, there is no other browser that allows you to be fully 3D and interactive with the Net at the same time.” Hmmmm. Qubic Sphere isn’t that browser either, but it is worth examining slightly more closely. Continue reading
Corey Bridges of Multiverse was an amusing presence at the Metaverse Roadmap summit: a tall, wisecracking guy in cowboy boots who’s confident he’s changing the world of gaming, and maybe the wider wired world itself. An ex-Netscape product manager from the company’s pre-IPO days, Bridges has brought a few other Netscapers together in a small group of developers who are creating a platform that will let anyone create their own virtual world — for free. John Swords and I got him on the phone the other day for our latest Metaverse Session, in which we chat about the constellation of worlds that can be created with Multiverse, how they might fit into the broader metaverse, and whether filmmaker James Cameron, who sits on the Multiverse advisory board, might consider using the software in an upcoming film.
This was going to be a brief post about some new features of the ActiveWorlds software that was just released, but it turned into a longer contemplation of how the 3D Internet will work once many, many more of us have a presence in such online spaces.
Chris from SWCity, a community in ActiveWorlds that I’ve been meaning to visit ever since I blogged it back in April (sorry, guys!), sends news that AW recently released a preliminary build of the new Version 4.1 of its software. I don’t spend a lot of time in ActiveWorlds so I can’t say how much better this is than the last version, but a couple of things jump out at me from the release notes that are notable or at least cool-sounding — including a kind of identity portability. And some of it seems to point, in a platform-agnostic way, to what would seem to be the future of 3D spaces on the Internet. But first the new AW stuff: Continue reading
TotalVideoGames.com has an interesting feature up today on Multiverse, the third-party development platform for massively multiplayer online games. While it doesn’t have all that much new to say, there is an interesting passage toward the end of the piece in which it’s pointed out that Multiverse’s flagship project, Kothuria (currently in closed beta), is planned as “the first moddable MMOG,” and will be available to developers for free. Users will be able to host their own versions of the game and tweak the mechanics — or anything else, for that matter — as they see fit. If this works, it should make the universe of MMOs a much more interesting place. MMO game design could arguably benefit from a more open-source approach, and releasing a moddable MMO is one way to spur thatkind of development. And from a gamer’s perspective (this gamer’s perspective, at any rate), Kothuria sounds like a pretty interesting game: Continue reading