Aug 052008
 

Gary Hazlitt, Gazlitt and me take a ‘break’ in over fifty worlds comprising the current metaverse, here is the holiday video…

I am doing a commercial report and curriculum development on the evolving range of social virtual worlds and have recently ventured into fifty of them to review and sample the culture, creative, business and educational potential. On my travels I got out my virtual camera and decided to capture a bunch of small vignettes which quickly turned into a body of audio visual delights – so decided to create a nice seven minute video for posterity.

I thought I would share the video publically as it demonstrates how ubiquitous, popular and streamlined many of these spaces are becoming across the intraweb / ‘cloud’. With over 300 million frequenting or registering for the non-game based worlds and millions of new investment in 2nd and 3rd generation services there seems to be no stopping them…Enjoy the video  (UPDATE: now standing at over 55 000 views!)

75MB MP4 Download available at http://www.justvirtual.com/SVWS_2008.mp4

A few immediate things that struck me on my travels:

  • That there are quite a few worlds now getting their balance on the shoulders of Second Life and really getting to grips with the social networking aspects vs the 3D’ness
  • There IS a balance between a social space and an ‘agreed’ advertorial world – “you give me valid experience, I accept a level of advertising”
  • A few new entrants realise that using a fully fledged, 3D game engine as the client for what is in the end a glamorous 3D facebook and requiring a high spec’d PC is not the best way. Second generation services like vSide have followed a good middle ground
  • As I reported a few days ago the ‘layered-over-the-2d-web’ version of these worlds such as RocketOn Exit Reality and Weblin show great usability and promise
  • Some worlds are demonstrating the precursor to photo realism and smooth motion while others have as much ‘immersion’ by providing intimacy with your friends in more cutesy environments
  • Many of these worlds operate without the hype we have seen with Second Life and have slowly been building up large communities. Beware any world that tries to launch on hype, as most of these worlds are still in adolescence and not ready for mainstream
  • The Metaverse is a world of connected worlds, how/when/if they are connected will be a real challenge from a technical and standardisation perspective. Especially as a few are starting to concentrate on themes, music, sport and probably in the end very defined niches – fly fishing social world anyone?
  • It is important for those who are supposedly representing or blogging about ‘the metaverse’ to get in there and try these services – beyond registering and wandering around for only 10 minutes (I could name several who haven’t a clue!) but…
  • There are not enough hours in the day to attempt to truly engage with each world but it is amazing how adept you become at spotting flaws and innovation when you put the effort in
  • lots more to follow from the official report in a future post…

KZero are turning out to be the best resource on the planet, tracking Social Virtual Worlds and their latent potential. They gave me permission to publish/post this great chart with a great stab at putting many of the worlds in the video across content sectors.

Social VIrtual Worlds Logos - End 2008

Here is a list of the worlds featured in my video in order of appearance:

Video details:

The ‘Social Virtual’ World’s A Stage
A Film by Gary Hayes © Personalizemedia 2008
http://www.personalizemedia.com

“This is not a Game” – Music composed and performed by
Gary Hayes http://www.korkyt.net

Jul 052007
 

Games Universe 2

“Games are just games aren’t they, all the same thing?”. Wearing my Director of LAMP hat develop and training industry producers (working through the Australian Film TV and Radio School) I come across many traditional producers of media who just don’t ‘get’ games. They look at them through the corner of their eye in that slight crack that has appeared in the ‘mass-market, controlling-author’ blinkers they wear. I am being deliberately confrontational as this is a real and present danger and challenge for the linear TV and Film industry and those purporting to educate for that industry. On one hand they say we make films and TV because it is a mass audience and that means money up front and new media has no proven business models yet when you mention that games are actually as big if not bigger revenue generators they give you a look of “oh yea sure” or “so what, I don’t want to make shoot’em ups for kids”. Ummm. I am not going to make the case here for any side so will leave that to Terra Nova and as regards the games business then have a listen to a podcast I posted on the LAMP site from Luke Carruthers, here.

No this is more about the games universe – that vast range of ‘play’ that constitutes the highly prejudiced word, games. The games universe is big. I am always surprised at growth of the list of latest genre and sub-genre of games particularly across the many online game distribution portals that I am a member of. So I am not going to do a long list of (a) games genre (action adventure etc:), (b) mechanics (first person shooters etc:) or (c) the many game theory taxonomies (sequential, simul, non-zero sum etc:) but something more simple.

AFTRS is about to launch a range of ‘cinematic’ games courses – a particular focus on story, character and narrative. Related to this LAMP ran a seminar last week (which is now podcast – follow the next links) at Museum of Sydney that I called “Living the Story”. Jackie Turnure, a colleague, did a great games film overview and we were lucky last week to also have Deborah Todd over speaking at this event and helping us plan and think about what is going to be good for the games industry but also unique. Deborah wrote a great accessible book on Game Design – From Blue Sky to Green Light. During a brief planning meeting I/we drew up the simple diagram above as an accessible way for non-gamer types to get a sense of the scope of the industry. The diagram attempts to show several things which are all open for comment!

1 The two axes are immersion.
2 The y axis immersion is based on how much is spent on the ‘experience environment’ or the production value. So the better the sound, vision, narrative, characters and mechanic then potentially it will be more immersive – think Shadow of the Collosus on PS2 vs Tetris on a mobile phone.
3 The x axis immersion is based on length of time spent playing. So a quick casual game quiz vs infinite play in virtual worlds and MMOGs – generally! Therefore the more time ‘inworld’ the more immersive
4 The size of the bubble is meant to suggest audience/market size (and is probably the most contentious) so think of this as illustrative, please.
5 Then there are the distribution platforms – locative, PC or dedicated console. This explains why AR Games (alternate reality) have a big foot in locative.

Well it is a first stab. One thing that is obvious is the semantics and naming here. Console games for example refer both to the platform they are on but in the industry also suggest that they are a triple A title – the feature film equivalent of games, delivered on consoles and PCs. Hence that paradox of console games on PC. We also have terms that feel like genre, serious, casual, but again refer to a broad range of sub-categories (in other words you can have a First Person Shooter, Action, Serious Game).

Disclaimer: The above represents my personal views and not that of any employer.

Posted by Gary Hayes © 2007

Jun 052007
 

“Mixed Reality is the merging of real world and virtual worlds to produce new environments where physical and digital objects can co-exist and interact in real-time. - Wikipedia

Mixed Reality Storm 01 - orig photo by Andrew P Brooks

“I think we are really approaching a perfect storm, a mixed reality perfect storm, because we are seeing several things happening. The first one is a long history of games based on TV and films, the foundations are already there. Another force creating this storm is virtual worlds, particularly the exponential growth of customisable ones and more importantly external integration into them including live performance. The third force is audience behaviour. They are involved in far more simultaneous activity particularly between broadband web and TV. The fourth element to this perfect storm is actually what is happening to TV and film, especially live reality TV becoming more game like and film becoming fantasy based. All of these forces together are creating a really potent mix” – Gary Hayes 17 May 2007

While I am in ‘share talk’ mode here is a brief sixteen minute capture of a presentation I gave to a hundred or so Aussie media folk on 17 May recorded live at the at the AGL Theatre, Museum of Sydney (MoS). It took a while to put up as I ran a LAMP residential in Tasmania in between and a bunch of SL work. There were also great talks by colleagues Tony Walsh and Guy Gadney. (orig sea scene photo by Andrew P Brooks)

MP3 recording time 15:46 (7.7MB) Click to listen

Enhanced Podcast – M4v with 30 slides. (8.5MB) Click to download

THE MIXED REALITY PERFECT STORM

A short 16m introduction from Gary Hayes who looks at the four forces that are coming together to create perfect conditions for this hybrid form of entertainment. He looks back 10 years at early inhabited TV 3D world experiments when he was an innovation producer at the BBC and then forward to the latest cross-over services where TV properties become virtual and where the virtual world appears inside traditional forms. He looks at virtual worlds such as there.com, second life, PS3 Home, Habbo Hotel, Neopets etc: and how properties such as Big Brother, Laguna Beach, The Hills, Pimp My Ride and a range of consumer brands that are creating engaging and immersive hybrid entertainment.

PODCAST SUBSCRIPTION

All LAMP podcasts are also published through the iTunes store.

Audio processed by G Hayes

Oct 042006
 

A Cross-Post from my Second Life POV blog JustVirtual

In this world it is amazing what you find on your doorstep, literally. I have been building my sky platform at 400m over the past week and noticed just across the way a large, black monolith build. I was naturally curious. Little did I know inside was a complete city simulation, an under belly of bio society, for us avies to act out and role play both innocence and deviance. You can see how close this is to my land which has vertical elements of course – that is my sky pool, dance room and cinema. I visited the city at first by actually jumping inside from my sky platform and after a few visits quickly learned the secrets within.

Sky Platform and Midian

I spoke briefly to Baal Zobel the creator (and author of the story text below) who said the whole build only took four weeks because the rich textures were all pre-prepared.

“I did the bulk in a week and just spent two messing with the details. I did have all the textures which is two thirds of the work. Its for other people to use”. Baal the name Meaning Master or Owner. In ancient times, Sun, Lord or God, A fertility deity, Son of EL, High god of Canaan. The cult of Baal celebrated annualy his death and resurection on mount Saphon where the children of Baal danced around the altars chanting frantically, cutting themselves to inspire his attention and compassion. The form, a mask, to face the world

He has an altruistic vision for his creation and this post will hopefully give you a feel for his dark, engaging and altogether immersive world. I visited several times and as instructed acted my part when confronted by a range of characters. Here is the welcome area and some of the instructions:

Midian City Welcome Area

Welcome to Midian City. We hope you enjoy your stay. Enter, follow these, or never leave. STEP 1. Read the rules. Ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the MPD. Then grab a role. That’s STEP 2. You need one to RP 😉 STEP 3. Force Sun to Midnight. Midian City was made to be played in the dark.

Midian City Roles

Read the carefully to learn about the group titles available to inhabitants of Midian City, which will help you define your role and allow others to know your intentions. You should wear one of these group titles AT ALL TIMES while in Midian City. Reading the description of Midian City below will help you understand the roles and better choose one.

As you walk into the black mist door the city is slowly revealed as it fades out of darkness, you are on the main street.

Midian City Main Street

Strange characters hide in the darkness, there are secret back alleys at all turns, the sound is deep wind, creaking doors, eerie.

Midian City Gathering

Graffitti, decay and litter are everywhere – here is a description of the story world of this dark and dangerous place.

They say that Midian City never sleeps, and the souls that linger there never rest. The country ignores it, and the world has forgotten it; a foul example of what can happen when crime, corruption and decay finally take their toll. The accumulated sins of men and beasts have smogged the entire city into an unyielding night of shifting shadows and flickering lights. And at the dark heart of this forsaken place stands Sector 6.

In this deranged corner of the world, there is no hope, there is no laughter, there is no peace. There are only the hunter.. and the hunted.

The craven who have managed to tear themselves away from the Midian City’s sordid grasp with their sanity still intact have long spread their stories of the factions that rule it. More than gangs, less than brotherhoods, these factions form a delicate balance of hostile peace that keeps the city moving. Although, the direction to which it moves is anyone’s guess.

The story continues to permeate ones brain as you crawl in the sewers or get lost in the subway, metro station. When I descended onto the main platform once a man had cornered a lady, trapped on the tube train with him, he had a knife.

Midian Metro Station

Midian Metro Platform

Midian Cornered on a Train

The story of Midian City continues:

They tell of THE HOUNDS; a spectrum of beings who live for the chase. In fact, without the thrill of the pursuit, they’d have no interest in their quarry at all. If you become the object of a Hound’s affection, it will step up to you and utter a single word: “Run.” Every fibre of your being will be inclined to escape, but this is a mistake, because anyone who’s encountered the Hounds will tell you this: they will chase, they will catch, they will play, and they will feast.

And they also tell of the SHADOW STALKERS; another spectrum of beings who take a different approach to the hunt. The Shadow Stalkers do not play games with their prey like the Hounds do. They wait in the shadows, and are behind every corner, under every fire escape. They are patient, they are determined, and when they spot a favoured prey, they pounce, grab, and drag it into the darkness with them. What happens after that is often unspeakable, even within the city itself.

Then there are tales of a gang of felines seldom seen on the streets, from which they are banned by law. These “CATWALKERS” can be found perched high above the city on the many catwalks, upon which they are forever roaming, watching, and waiting for a chance to pounce. They love to toy with their prey. Frequently jokesters and easily amused, they just as readily squash those things that come to bore them. They are jokers and night creatures and just love to play, just like the cats they resemble.

I visited some of the seedier areas of Midian, the snake pit dance hall and the various peep shows scattered around. All of them had an air of sex, danger and a lurking terror that made my wings crawl. I gave Erika the dancer a tip and made my excuses.

Midian City Snake Pit

Midian Peep Show

Women of the night are both prey and predators and they move in and out of the shadows. Occassionally the MPD, Midian Police, prowl the streets, keeping order but following their own laws. No one can be trusted. A scream is heard in the distance. After several wrong turns I find the twilight zone club. Larissa and Clarita jig the night away, off duty maids keeping an eye out for the vampires that frequent this dance hall.

Midian Jigging

Midian Twilight Zone

After the club I took a wrong turn and got lost in the sewers.

Sewers

The story continues:

And beneath the city streets in the maze of ancient decaying sewers stories tell of the NIGHTBREED. A gang of vampires and other dwellers in darkness that feed on the flesh and blood of their victims, those foolish enough to dare the dark slime covered tunnels where even the Midian police have lost control and seldom venture. Here in the cool darkness the Breed Queen suckles her brood, waiting for the night when she will leads them up and out into the streets to feed.

And at the top of the pyramid lies the MIDIAN POLICE, most currupt of all.. because at least the Hounds and the Shadow Stalkers are honest, the Breed and Cats are at least true to their natures. Although the smallest group of the faction, they are the self-proclaimed “elites”. Enforcing their laws on a whim and arbitrarily serving justice as they see fit, the Midian Police are suspected of connections to a rumoured underground cult to maintain their sphere of power. But nobody knows, they could be neither.. or something worse.

Midian City is a place of even further rumoured darkness, secret society activities, prostituition, cruel experiments, sinister motivations, and ancient evils that go beyond the base desires and instincts of the gangs, or the hedonism of the Midian Police.

Somewhere in Midian City, somebody knows the truth. But those who do aren’t telling, and those who don’t should do well to leave it alone.

One of the most terrifying areas I visited was the toilets and the Medical Centre with blood scattered on the walls and barbaric instruments on the floors. What deviance goes on here?

Midian Medical Centre 02

Back on the streets there are many dark alleys that only a black angel would dare. On the catwalks above the sounds of stilettos clunking on cold steel, a muffled shout and silence.

Midian Back Alley

Midian Dark Times

After all this excitement with heart pounding I try to find the main street again, the smell of death and onions and hot dogs fill the air.

Midian Tubbys Hot Dogs

For sanctuary the most social place in Midian City is the famous Sushi bar. It is here that lost lives are discussed, where the innocent newly undead and unaware visitors drift and face their demons. I sit and chat here with many residents of the city, the passers-by, all charmed and intoxicated by the potential of our own fears. I have met individuals who are totally engrossed in their role, who cannot remember their true avie character, who have been possessed by others, lost in the darkness. Others talk of unworldly happenings, some are looking for victims. Midian City, a place to visit more than once, but be careful you may never get out. Here is the obligatory SLURL to go there if you dare!

POST SCRIPT: For some reason only known to Baal he decided to ‘ERASE’ his creation, the whole city. This is a real shame as many residents were enjoying the experiences here. I hope he will reinstate it one day.

UPDATE Dec 06: Baal has rebuilt Midian City bigger and stronger on its own island, simply type in Midian City on the map tool and explore 4 times what I describe above!

Midian Sushi Eating

Posted by Gary Hazlitt from inside Second Life – aaaarrrgghhhhh!

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