Apr 132016
 

At the Game Developer’s Conference 2016 Professor Bob De Schutter of Applied Game Design at Miami University, gave an excellent presentation : Beyond Ageism: Designing Meaningful Games for an Older Audience.

Now you may be thinking that virtual worlds are not games, they aren’t, but they contain games and the mechanics of accessing virtual worlds are game like. The presentation Professor Bob De Schutter makes has themes that apply to virtual worlds too and platform providers as well as content creators would do well to pay heed to what he says.

That’s before we get to the sort of games older people play. Professor Bob De Schutter presented research from Quantic Foundry regarding the games people over 50 play. The top three, by gender :

Women over 50

  1. FarmVille
  2. Glitch
  3. Second Life

Men over 50

  1. Railroad Tycoon
  2. Second Life
  3. Microsoft Solitaire

This tells us that a certain virtual world that many of us are familiar with is popular amongst over 50’s. Many of us already knew that Second Life was popular amongst a more mature audience. Plenty of over 50’s also inhabit the likes of OpenSim, High Fidelity and more.

Now, as virtual worlds have an older crowd, the rest of the presentation makes for interesting viewing, it covers issues such as accessibility, ageism and the fact that older gamers want to be challenged, not patronised.

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Apr 062016
 

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes published an article regarding SH//FT : VR Industry Leaders Launch Pro-Diversity Non-Profit SHIIFT.

This prompted me to take a closer look at SH//FT, where I discovered that SH//FT is :

a non-profit organization that partners with industry leaders in emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality to sponsor and create opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Helen Situ, who is behind this also has a Medium Post about this in which she explains more :

But I’ve noticed something unsettling. There are very few women in virtual reality.

To whoever is reading this, I’m sure that wherever you work, it’s true that the majority of your coworkers are male. In the tech industry, women only represent less than 20% of the workforce. We need to change this.

I’m really a fan of “Whomever” for some bizarre reason, but that’s not important right now! More women in tech and VR is important. I have taken a look at this subject before : Women Probably Don’t Want To Feel All Alone On A Crowded VR Island.

There is, without any shadow of a doubt, a shocking lack of women in tech and we really need to address the reasons why as we move boldly on to the brave new world of VR. I’ve worked in tech for many moons, I’ve worked in tech for many moons in an education environment too and there you see the shocking lack of women in the classroom too.

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Apr 012016
 

The US government have been inviting comments regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how it works. The comment period has been extended until 11:59pm Eastern Time today, you can see more here.

The main document describing the reasons for comments is Requests for Public Comments: Digital Millennium Copyright Act Safe Harbor Provisions. Comments are closed there, but as I said the commenting period has been extended, so follow the first link if you want to comment. The main document however is summarised as :

The United States Copyright Office is undertaking a public study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the DMCA safe harbor provisions contained in 17 U.S.C. 512. Among other issues, the Office will consider the costs and burdens of the notice-and-takedown process on large- and small-scale copyright owners, online service providers, and the general public. The Office will also review how successfully section 512 addresses online infringement and protects against improper takedown notices. To aid in this effort, and to provide thorough assistance to Congress, the Office is seeking public input on a number of key questions.

This should be of interest to Second Life and other virtual world content creators, although I suspect it’s intended for an American audience, being an American law being discussed on an Amercian Government website. The results of this discussion however, are going to be of interest to content creators worldwide.

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Jul 152015
 

Vortex Alleyway

Eric Johnson over at Re/Code has reported : At Investor Event, VR Startups Brace for Slow Growth. The article centres around venture capitalists who seem a tad reluctant to buy into the Virtual Reality hype cycle at this moment in time.

UploadVR co-founder Nick Ochoa told the venture capitalists that they looked nervous and a report being prepared by his site backs this claim up. 164 venture capitalists have invested in VR companies until now, but 142 of them have done so only once.

Caution does seem to be the order of the day, Eric quotes High Fidelity’s Philip Rosedale as saying :

We will probably see lower adoption than everyone expects in the next year or so, but it will pick up,……My advice is, don’t overspend right now. Stock up for three or four years.

This seems to be a very sensible stance to take. VR has a lot of potential and a lot of exciting scope, but it has not yet delivered.

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Apr 022015
 

Back in 2012 some researchers decided that they wanted to conduct a survey on virtual worlds. Now, over two years on, the results of that survey have been revealed and the results are rather fascinating : Virtual Worlds Survey Report – A Trans-World Study Of Non-Game Virtual Worlds –Demographics, Attitudes, And Preferences.

The survey has been published by :

  • Celia Pearce – Game designer, author, researcher and teacher.
  • Bobby R. Blackburn – Independent game designer and research consultant.
  • Carl Symborski – Chief Engineer at Leidos Inc.

The survey doesn’t just focus on Second Life as a virtual world, its scope goes beyond that. However I’m going to focus on some Second Life aspects. The first one that strikes me as very interesting is that the survey results suggest that Second Life residents roleplay more than people who play MMORPG’s. The reason for this, the report suggests, is that people who play games focus on content, whereas Second Life residents focus more on creative and social aspects, such as roleplaying and dancing. Dancing as it turns out is very popular in Second Life.

Another point from the survey results of those who responded from Second Life is that the average age was 37. This isn’t that much higher than the average age I’ve seen reported from surveys about gamers.

Another point about Second Life is more about how the publishers sought responses. They didn’t just go to the official Second Life forum. They advertised on SLUniverse and New World Notes. This suggests that they had a bit of a clue about how virtual communities can utilise websites and forums away from the official sites.

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Mar 162015
 

Iris Ophelia has received a reply from Twitch regarding whether streaming of Second Life via their service is allowed : Update: Twitch Responds With Their Stance on Streaming Second Life. The long and short of it is, that Second Life streaming is indeed prohibited :

Second Life is not permitted for streaming and those accounts reported for doing so will be suspended. Content in this game is unrated and often sexually explicity, which is content we do not allow on our services. We also do not permit Adults-Only rated games and games where nudity is the core focus, feature, or goal.

Please read our Rules of Conduct regarding sexually explicit acts or content for more information:

http://www.twitch.tv/user/legal?page=rules-of-conduct

I could write a long rambling post about this, or point out that Grand Theft Auto, an 18 rated game, is happily streamed. However I’d rather just point people in the direction of The Drax Files : World Makers on YouTube, which is certainly not a series that exemplifies nudity being the core focus, feature or goal.

Another virtual world event that doesn’t have nudity as the core focus, feature or goal is Virtual Worlds Best Practices In Education, which starts on Wednesday of this week and it’s a far more important topic. This is the 8th annual event and here’s a brief explanation of what it’s all about :

Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education is a global grass-roots community event focusing on education in immersive virtual environments. This open conference is organized by educators, for educators, to provide an opportunity to showcase the learning that takes place in this community of practice. All educators are encouraged to present, attend and take part in this discussion of collaborative deeper learning and co-presence in virtual worlds and games.

The Opening Keynote speech will be from Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg in Second Life, however this conference does go beyond Second Life, other featured speakers include :

Pam Broviak – Manages the Public Works Group, an online resource offering information related to public works, government, and social media.

Gord Holden – Recipient of the Virtual Education Journal’s Reader’s Choice Award as the Edovator of 2014.

Jeroen Frans – One of the three Founders of the Vesuvius Group, LLC, and functions as Executive Director and Virtual World Technology Specialist.

Sensuous Maximus – Co-founder of the renowned Builders Brewery within Second Life.

Susan Toth-Cohen – Professor and director of the post-professional clinical doctorate in occupational therapy at Thomas Jefferson University.

John Fillwalk – Serves as the senior director of the Hybrid Design Technologies initiative [HDT] and as the director of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts [IDIA Lab} at Ball State University.

Jay Jay Jegathesan – Holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from the University of Western Australia (UWA), majoring in management and marketing.

For more detailed biographies about these speakers go here : http://vwbpe.org/conference/vwbpe-2015-keynotes-and-featured-speakers

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Feb 262015
 

In a blog post entitled This One Goes To Eleven, High Fidelity reveal that they have raised a further $11m in funding from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital :

We are happy to announce today that we have raised an additional $11M in funding, in a new round led by Vulcan Capital and with participation from other new and existing investors. This is certainly great news for us, but also great news for the overall VR ecosystem as we continue to see more and more validation from the investing community that VR presents enormous opportunities.

The point about validation is very important. At the moment I see a lot of hype and technologies emerging with regards to virtual reality but the proof of the pudding really lies in investment. Whilst investment is still rolling in, it suggests that many people really do believe that something concrete will emerge.

High Fidelity itself is still progressing at a nice pace. I’ve been impressed by the fact that they haven’t tried to rush into producing a product that isn’t ready for prime time. An article over at TechCrunch regarding the new funding exemplifies the point about High Fidelity’s progress :

The main idea driving High Fidelity forward is the ability to quickly generate a virtual space to meet in and interact with. While the interface is far from final, it’s already at the point where you can pick a template, choose a name, and instantly have a space accessible by others. Each space is essentially a small video game world, filled in with the same 3D models you’d build for a game built with Unity.

Creating your own world in High Fidelity is a lot easier than it once was, you can be up and running fairly quickly these days with some starter content already included. However High Fidelity is still very much Alpha and that should be taken into account if you see or visit a High Fidelity world. The TechCrunch article is well worth a read if you’re interested in High Fidelity. However back to the High Fidelity blog post :

Our next big milestone will be an open alpha version of our system which will allow everyone to start deploying interconnected shared VR spaces.

Although the blog post doesn’t inform us just how far away open Alpha is, it is encouraging to see the High Fidelity team mention this.

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Nov 192014
 

Philip Rosedale was interviewed by Signe Brewster at Gigaom Roadmap 2014 yesterday and Gigaom have posted the interview in an article entitled : The gap between virtual reality and sci-fi is shortening. Philip talks about virtual worlds, including Second Life and not surprisingly, High Fidelity.

The video is interesting because Philip talks about the past and future of virtual worlds as well as discussing how science fiction is a good influence for him. The interview runs for about half an hour and that includes a Q&A session.

There’s a really interesting part of this interview where Philip talks about body language. New devices allow virtual worlds to capture the body language of the person behind an avatar and reproduce that body language inside a virtual world. High Fidelity staff conducted an experiment where they were each interviewed in High Fidelity using the same avatar and then those videos were later played back to all of the staff without sound. The staff members quickly realised that they could recognise who was who based on the face gestures and body movements of each avatar.

When asked about what he has learnt from Second Life Philip talks about economies, virtual communities and how people will self organise. This may explain why High Fidelity is more of an open source venture than Second Life was. Philip has witnessed that people will self organise and presumably he also feels they are capable of self governance. Philip does point out that technology has changed since Second Life was created, for example there was no cloud computing back then and he does state that they tried to make Second Life as open as they could. This is a comment that has a lot of merit. Whereas Second Life isn’t open in the way High Fidelity will be, it remains very open in the concept of user generated content.

Philip talks of how reading science fiction is almost an instruction manual for building virtual worlds and his big influence in this area is, not surprisingly, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

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Nov 062014
 

An interesting post on The Verge : The Big Future: Can we build a virtual world? The question may initially seem odd to those who have experienced virtual worlds such as Second Life, Kitely, OpenSim and are keeping their eyes on future virtual worlds such as High Fidelity and Linden Lab’s next generation platform. However the question is one that goes beyond the current generation of virtual worlds :

The web is fine, but how do we get the internet we always wanted — a “real” space you can walk around in, like the Metaverse from Snow Crash? It’s not a new question, but it’s one that’s being taken a little more seriously now that a huge company like Facebook is putting its weight (and its money) behind virtual reality. In this week’s Big Future, we look at what it takes to build a convincing virtual world, why we’re not there yet, and what we might do if we got one.

The Metaverse that exists in Snow Crash has long been the inspiration and dream of many a virtual world enthusiast, but will we ever get there? Indeed do we really want to get there? That level of immersion may well read well in a novel but can it ever really be a place that will happily co-exist with the physical world?

There will be no real answers to this until we have an answer to the question “Are we there yet?” As The Verge article states, it’s easy to trick the eyes, it’s a lot more difficult to trick our other senses and natural motion. For example The Verge talks about walking in a virtual world and how that’s far more of a challenge than tricking our eyes. I remain sceptical because of the sheer number of peripherals required at the moment to achieve greater immersion. However over time those peripherals will become less intrusive and more intuitive.

Obviously the full on immersion that some crave may not be the route to go. Whereas I fully expect greater immersion to open many a great door, I do feel that some doors may be better if they remain locked. The Verge article does mention the current virtual world scene :

We already have examples of “virtual worlds” like Second Life, and they’ll only get cooler with immersion. But some of the most exciting possibilities involve blending the physical world with VR. Sharing experiences will become more intense, and online research takes on a whole new meaning.

However one area that The Verge article doesn’t touch upon is who will be running the bold new worlds.

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Nov 042014
 

If EndgagetExpand doesn’t tickle your fancy then there’s another conference taking place this weekend that is well worth keeping an eye on, it’s the OpenSimulator Community Conference, which takes place on November 8th-9th. Unfortunately inworld tickets are already sold out for the conference but you can register for a free streaming ticket.

The basics of the conference can be found on the about page of the conference website, but I’ll give you a brief snippet :

The OpenSimulator Community Conference is an annual conference that focuses on the developer and user community creating the OpenSimulator software. Organized as a joint production by the Overte Foundation and AvaCon, Inc., the conference features two days of presentations, workshops, keynote sessions, and social events across diverse sectors of the OpenSimulator user base.

The OpenSimulator Community Conference 2014 features four themed tracks and a Learning Lab for hands on hackerspaces, speedbuilds, and more:

  • Business & Enterprise
  • Content & Community
  • Developers & Open Source
  • Research & Education
  • Learning Lab

This conference features a lot of speakers whom followers of Second Life and virtual worlds will be familiar with. They include :

  • Philip Rosedale – High Fidelity
  • Nara Malone – Greyville Writer’s Colony
  • Steve LaValle – Oculus VR
  • John “Pathfinder” Lester – Reaction Grid
  • Maria Korolov – Hypergrid Business
  • Ilan Tochner – Kitely
  • Caledonia Skytower – Seanchai Library
  • Tranquillity Dexler – Inworldz
  • Latif Khalifa – Radegast, Singularity
  • Jessica Lyon – Phoenix Firestorm
  • Kim Anubis – The Magicians

There are many more speakers whom some of you will be familiar with, it’s a jam packed schedule full of interesting looking discussions.

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