Archives for February 2010

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. CNET (USA) – Where virtual worlds once ruled, FarmVille dominates. “Almost every week for the last few years, it seems, I’ve gotten a press release or a pitch touting some company’s great new Facebook games network or kids’ virtual world.
And why not? Companies like Zynga and Playfish are making money hand over fist with their collections of massively popular social games, and 2D Flash games aimed at children like Club Penguin, Webkinz, Habbo Hotel, and others have garnered vast amounts of virtual world investment dollars in recent years.
But to someone who cut his virtual world teeth on more immersive, 3D environments like There and Second Life, these never-ending announcements of new companies trying to jump on the social gaming bandwagon have left me with one nagging question: Where is the innovation?”

2. Computerworld (USA) – Second Life seeks mainstream adoption. “Linden Lab, which develops and operates Second Life introduced a new beta version of its desktop viewer software on Tuesday, the first big upgrade in many years. Will the new software help bring about a renaissance of the once-trendy service? You remember Second Life. It’s a virtual world, a three-dimensional environment like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto. But it’s not a game, it’s a simulation of a world. You can build virtual buildings and vehicles, create virtual clothes, play live music, role-play as a vampire or cowboy, and buy and sell virtual goods for real-world money. It’s the closest thing we have now to Star Trek’s holodeck.”

3. CLickZ (USA) – WildTangent Targets Social Media Games and Virtual Worlds. “Game-based advertising company WildTangent announced the launch of BrandBoost, a platform that enables brand marketers to tap into the audience for virtual worlds, social media games, and massively multiplayer online games. The Redmond, WA-based company said BrandBoost is already being deployed on several properties, including, and Sony Online Entertainment’s FreeRealms, which already has attracted 8 million registered users since its formal launch last year.”

4. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – Virtual worlds pose compliance risks. “The very aspects of virtual world that make them appealing to some enterprise users, such as the collaboration tools, also make them risky from a compliance perspective. These risks include the communication risks of the wrong information getting to the wrong people, inappropriate workplace behavior, and lack of archiving tools.”

5. Los Angeles Times (USA) – Disney hopes kids will take online World of Cars out for a spin. “Walt Disney Co. believes that World of Cars, its new subscription-based online community aimed at boys and based on the Pixar movie “Cars,” won’t get lost in the traffic of virtual worlds. Things are already a bit congested. Some 200 virtual worlds target children under 12. Each competes for a slice of the 10 hours and 45 minutes a day the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that kids spend viewing media, simultaneously vying for screen time against a growing number of portable media players and smart phones that offer their own diversions.”

6. Escapist Magazine (USA) – Are Advertisers Running Away From Home? “The failure of PlayStation Home to capture gamers’ attention may be having repercussions as advertisers jump ship to the more media-friendly Xbox Live. When PlayStation Home made its open beta debut at the tail end of 2008, gamers responded with a collective shrug of disinterest. The world had barely any of the content originally promised, felt empty and lifeless, and offered little incentive to log in more than once. Home’s failure to connect with users may be the reason for Sony’s absence from this year’s Engage Expo, believe brand analysts at Brand Week, when the hardware giant had been promoting the service as the next big thing at the Expo just a year before.”

7. Stanford Report (USA) – Can avatars change the way we think and act? “If you saw a digital image of yourself running on a virtual treadmill, would you feel like going to the gym? Probably so, according to a Stanford study showing that personalized avatars can motivate people to exercise and eat right. Moreover, you are more likely to imitate the behavior of an avatar in real life if it looks like you, said Jesse Fox, a doctoral candidate in the Communication Department and a researcher at the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab. In her study, she used digital photographs of participants to create personalized avatar bodies, a service some game companies offer today.”

8. FierceContentManagement (USA) – What if content management were 3D? “I recently saw the Michael Douglas/Demi Moore 1994 movie called “Disclosure.” In the movie (which explores sexual harassment in the workplace), Michael Douglas was working for a computer company that created a 3D virtual reality database. The user would put on special glasses and he was literally inside the database with the data. He could walk inside a library of content, interact with it and touch it.”

9. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – No R-rating for games does not compute. “It’s confession time. I have picked up a prostitute in a stolen vehicle and sped the wrong way down a busy highway to escape police. I have accompanied a terrorist group in an airport shooting spree. I have garrotted guards, slaughtered soldiers, decapitated dudes and shotgunned sheilas. But never have I felt the remotest desire to do any of this for real. They were computer games. Yes, I’m a ”gamer”. At 37, I’m a little older than average for a gamer, but not by much. Gen X was the first gaming generation. I can’t remember there not being computer games. I first discovered there wasn’t a Father Christmas when I found a (very primitive) computer game under my parents’ bed, and got it as a present a few days later.”

10. USA Today (USA) – Author: Librarian, cybrarian appreciation is ‘Overdue’. “Bryan Hissong is 31, happily married, and the father of a 2-year-old named Olivia. He seems quite content with his life.
But Marilyn Johnson, who is not his wife, loves him and has said so very publicly. It doesn’t matter that she has never met him. Hissong is a librarian. He doesn’t look like the clichéd librarian of old. He favors plaid shirts and is sporting a beard on his babyface — but that doesn’t matter to Johnson, either. She’s well aware that librarians wear many disguises these days. Often they’re pierced, tattooed, punk with bright blue hair. She loves them all.”

Weekend Whimsy


2. Second Life Ms Too Sexy & Ms Valentines Top 10 Featuring Ms Hot Beach 2010

3. Second Life Funny Moments #2 (2009)

Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love screening on SBS

Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love is a documentary originally screened in early 2008 on the BBC. It’s worth remembering that context, as regular Second Life residents may find watching a little frustrating otherwise.

The documentary follows people who’ve met in Second Life, and the ramifications that has had on their real world relationships. I’ve seen about half of the total content of the documentary and overall I’d say it’s worth a watch, but it’s not as engaging as say the local Alter Ego.

The more discerning Second Life resident will be dismayed at how there’s yet another tawdry and narrowly focused portrayal of life in-world. For me, it was a two-sided experience: annoyance at some of the portrayals but also an acceptance that as a documentary it certainly captured the emotions of the people involved.

Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love screens tonight on SBS at 10pm AEDT.

The first blonde guy joke?

The very first ever Blonde GUY joke…… And well worth the wait!

An Irishman , a Mexican and a Blonde Guy were doing construction work on scaffolding on the 20th floor of a building.

They were eating lunch and the Irishman said, ‘Corned beef and cabbage! If I get corned beef and cabbage one more time for lunch, I’m going to jump off this building.’

The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed, ‘Burritos again! If I get burritos one more time I’m going to jump off, too.’

The blonde opened his lunch and said, ‘ Bologna again! If I get a bologna sandwich one more time, I’m jumping too..’

The next day, the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw corned beef and cabbage, and jumped to his death.

The Mexican opened his lunch, saw a burrito, and jumped, too.

The blonde guy opened his lunch, saw the bologna and jumped to his death as well.

At the funeral, the Irishman’s wife was weeping. She said, ‘If I’d known how really tired he was of corned beef and cabbage, I never would have given it to him again!’

The Mexican’s wife also wept and said, ‘I could have given him tacos or enchiladas! I didn’t realize he hated burritos so much.’

(Oh this is GOOD!!)

Everyone turned and stared at the blonde’s wife. The blonde’s wife said, ‘Don’t look at me. The idiot makes his own lunch.’

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

Sexy Avatar from Koinup1. Linden Lab have started providing more illustrations of the potential uses of the new Shared Media functionality that was rolled out this week with Viewer 2. More of our thoughts on Viewer 2 in coming days, but one small pocket of resistance appears to be coming from SL musicians, as the new search functionality as it currently stands is impacting the ease with which people can find live music events. Grace McDunnough has a good sum-up on the issue here.

2. Want to help fund entrepreneurs in developing companies while scoring something for yourself? Why not buy an Avatar Dog t-shirt or download our discussion paper on policy agenda-setting and virtual worlds!

3. The response to the Second Lie column has been forceful: people love his sense of humour. If you have a question about pretty much anything Second Life, why not ask Second Lie to shine a light into the darkness for you? Every column generates money for the SL Relay for Life too.

4. Picture and machinima hub, Koinup, have announced they are offering mobile phone wallpapers via Nokia’s Ovi Store.

5. Back in 2008 we mentioned a University of Sydney student was completing research on journalism and Second Life. That research is now available here. It appears to be a very readable and balanced piece of scholarship. The abstract:

This thesis analyses the interaction of journalism and governance in the virtual world Second Life. It examines the structure, practices and influence of journalism in Second Life and explores the nature and communicative aspects of governance in this virtual world. As virtual worlds attract growing numbers of subscribers and social interaction increasingly moves towards the online environment, it is crucial to understand the practices and conventions which structure human interaction in these spaces.

To explore these concerns, a close critical analysis of Second Life was conducted, based upon academic literature, interviews and a content analysis. Eight interviews with significant journalists in Second Life were conducted and a content analysis of thirteen publications was undertaken. Yochai Benkler’s theory of social production provides a theoretical base which frames the nature of Second Life as participatory, collaborative and networked, and defines the relationship between media and governance using the concept of a networked public sphere.

Practices of journalism in Second Life display a combination of traditional, professional, gatewatching and participatory, networked, gatekeeping characteristics, and it perform numerous roles in mediating communication. Second Life publications facilitate active and abundant conversation between residents, facilitating a networked public sphere. Linden Lab uses a variety of strategies to communicate governance discourses to users. Despite the similarity between normative and Second Life journalism, it has a negligible influence over the structure and direction of governance.
The disconnect between journalism and governance in Second Life raises questions about individual freedom and collaborative production in virtual worlds, challenging existing understandings of online interactions.


I was in the bathroom, putting on my makeup, under the watchful eyes of my young granddaughter, as I’d done many times before. After I’d applied my lipstick and started to leave, the little one said, “But Gramma, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper good-bye!” I will probably never put lipstick on again without thinking about kissing the toilet paper good-bye….


After putting her grandchildren to bed, a grandmother changed into old slacks and a droopy blouse and proceeded to wash her hair.. As she heard the children getting more and more rambunctious, her patience grew thin. Finally, she threw a towel around her head and stormed into their room, putting them back to bed with stern warnings. As she left the room, she heard the three-year-old say with a trembling voice,

“Who was THAT?”


When my grandson asked me how old I was, I teasingly replied, “I’m not sure.” “Look in your underwear, Grandpa,” he advised, “mine says I’m 4 to 6.”


A 6-year-old was asked where his grandma lived. “Oh,” he said, “she lives at the airport, and when we want her, we just go get her. Then, when we’re done having her visit, we take her back to the airport.”


Grandpa is the smartest man on earth! He teaches me good good things, but I don’t get to see him enough to get as smart as him!


My Grandparents are funny, when they bend over; you hear gas leaks, and they blame their dog.

Second Life 2.0: sneak peek of the new viewer

Back in June last year, we gave a sneak peek of the Second Life 2.0 viewer. At the time, Linden Lab stated it was only a very early iteration of what would be the final product. The imminent announcement by the Lab of the public beta for Viewer 2 certainly adds weight to that claim, given the much larger feature set of the near-final product.

Here’s the June 2009 version:

And thanks to some Viewer 2 documents accidentally placed on a public fileshare by the Lab, here’s a glimpse of the new (German) viewer:

(You can view the full size version here)

Cosmetically, things have obviously come a long way over the past 9 months. Under the hood, there’s also some big changes. Shared Media now allows for greater use of web content in-world. The viewer itself has the full web browser feel happening, which will no doubt engender some debate amongst longer term Second Life residents. The right hand favourites bar is certainly a big win compared to the current mess.

There are also other minor changes. Content ratings have had some name changes: ‘PG’ regions are now ‘General’, ‘Mature’ is now ‘Moderate’ and ‘Adult’ remains unchanged. Search functionality has been further tweaked with the Lab claiming a more intuitive search experience. Another plus: the system requirements for Viewer 2 are no different to version 1.23, so no-one is locked out from upgrading. Version 1.23 will remain viable until 30 days after version 2.1 is released – version 1.22 is now on a (deserved) 30-day countdown to extinction.

Overall, Linden Lab deserve kudos for delivering a significantly revamped viewer that should make using Second Life markedly easier for new residents in particular. Linden Lab have consistently stated their commitment to improving the user experience and this is one of the more concrete examples of how that is now being delivered. The proof of Viewer 2’s success will only come with widespread use, but initial impressions are positive. Of course, Linden Lab need to pull off a usability coup to ensure ongoing growth. Combined with potential improvements in grid performance, the horizon seems a little brighter than it has been in a while.

Over to you: what do you think of Viewer 2 from the brief glimpse provided? Is it a revolution or just steady evolution?

Update – here’s some other reactions:

1. Tateru Nino has a great roundup of features.

2. Linden Lab’s announcement, including a quick tour:

Review: Onverse

My avatar, on the Learning Course

Onverse is comprised of a 2D web site, connected to a 3D virtual environment. Together, they form an intriguing new social networking platform with games included – games intuitive enough for non-gamers to learn, but complex enough for gamers to be interested in. You log in using the same account credentials regardless of whether you log in on the web site or the virtual environment. Cross-functionality between the two is increasing even as Onverse gets closer to its official launch date, which is slated for April 15th 2010.

From the moment you start signing up for an Onverse account, you are given some personal artistic choices regarding your avatar’s look, and as you progress into the environment, more and more choices open up to you, including decoration of your own free apartment. Some of the clothing, furniture, and tools are free. Some things you can buy using points, one of the Onverse currencies collected in-world. Some items are available only by purchasing Cash Coins (the other Onverse currency). Apart from clothing, you can also choose animations and emotes to use that further individualise your self-expression and your experience of Onverse.

The Avatar Cannon There are currently three modes of travel in Onverse: you can teleport between worlds, of which there are three at this time (The Hub, Volcano Island, Ancient Moon); you can travel long distances with the Avatar Cannon (though it’s best if you don’t try to aim for any specific landing point the first few times); and of course, you can always walk.

The Hub, Volcano Island, and Ancient Moon each feature outdoor areas and shops. The Hub also boasts apartment buildings, a casino, a nightclub, and an amphitheatre. Volcano Island and Ancient Moon each have themed housing communities – instead of having your apartment in an instance run just for you, apartments are grouped together in lots of 40+ to an instance. You can meet new friends or encourage your existing friends to become your neighbours.

I was initially unimpressed by Onverse. That was until I started doing a little digging, and discovered how little time it had been in development for, how few people were working on it, and the tiny budget that Onverse has currently. This is the team listing: Steve Pierce – “The Designer”; Wes Macdonald – “The Engineer”; Eric Hoefer – “The Artist”; Ben Steele – “The Animator”; Scott Mitting – “The Web Engineer”. The social networking component alone was built in under a month; the virtual environment in a comparative period of time for its size. Many parts of the coding for the game world, including the back-end server, have been written from scratch. The team also needed to learn to create avatar and clothing meshes. Other things that impressed me:

1. There’s a client available for the Mac that does not lag behind the Windows client

2. The client for the virtual environment can be run on computers with relatively low specs, and they have been streamlining their software and reducing the RAM footprint so that machines with even lower specifications can still run it.

I was also intrigued by the Onverse method of filling the world with music: signing on bands and artists who allow their music to be played in-world. Indeed, “Onverse is always looking for new bands who would like to showcase their talent inside our world. If you would like to be considered, contact us at”

If the use of casual games and social interaction on Facebook is any indication, then Onverse, with its more engaging environment, combined with socially interactive opportunities, should do extremely well. I believe that there will need to be a range of add-on game types if the product is to appeal to gamers and casual gamers alike, but I feel that the trend in Onverse is towards such a range. I look forward to monitoring their progress.

Ancient Moon

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. PC World (USA) – Lego Creating Multiplayer Online Game. “Toy construction set company Lego Group plans to launch an MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) in the second half of this year, to be called Lego Universe, said Mark Hansen, director of business development and LEGO lead for the project. Lego users have long been known for their creative use of the company’s products, so the company is hoping its users will take their creativity online, using virtual Lego bricks to create entire virtual worlds. “There are such endless possibilities for what you can do in this game,” Hansen said. Hansen revealed some of the details of the game, which was four years in the making, at the 2010 Engage youth entertainment technology conference, being held this week in New York.”

2. Venture Beat (USA) – Online firms and toy companies clash over kids virtual worlds. “For many years toy and video game companies have been battling each other for the mindshare of kids. Toy companies have strong products targeted at children from pre-school up to about second grade, when they turn 7 or 8. Then, at about age 8, video games start to replace traditional toys. The typical business model enables video game companies to license their products to toy companies to generate additional revenue. At the same time toy companies have been offering more interactive toys to reach the slightly older child. Media companies like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney have effectively found a way to provide programming for both the younger and older kids and license their properties to toy and video game companies who in turn use their networks to market back to kids. After Disney bought Club Penguin for $350 million plus earn-outs in 2007, a wave of kids virtual worlds copycats materialized.”

3. CTV (Canada) – The world’s most expensive island – online. ” What is the most you’re willing to pay for a virtual item in a videogame or virtual world? Five, ten dollars? How about $26,500? That’s the amount David Storey, a 27-year-old graduate student living in Sydney, Australia, paid for a virtual island, the “Most valuable object that is virtual,” according to Guinness World Records. It’s easy to write off Storey, who goes by the name “Deathifier,” as a geek gone wild, but he now owns a million-dollar empire. Storey runs Amethera Treasure Island, which he purchased in the virtual world Entropia, as a rare game preserve and taxes hunters on his land. Storey says the taxes bring in more than $100,000 in real money per year.”

4. San Jose Business Journal (USA) – Xulu Entertainment provides real opportunity in virtual worlds. “Xulu Entertainment Inc. is developing a high-definition software platform for virtual worlds and gaming. It includes tools and libraries that professional developers as well as users can apply to create extreme realism and physical interactivity. Xulu’s simulation-driven software is built on an open framework and is designed to exploit the processing power of recent PCs. It is extendible to mobile devices and multiple operating systems. Xulu plans to launch an online entertainment destination to show early adventurers and developers what types of activities it will support. This will include sports, gaming and social activities. The first commercial release is planned for the end of this year.”

5. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Richard Garriott’s Portalarium Aiming At A More Mainstream Second Life? “Today Richard Garriott, former part-time astronaut and founder of Origin, announced his latest company: Portalarium. Portalarium, according to the site, was founded in September 2009 to develop and publish ” online social games, virtual worlds and related services and products.” There’s not much to the company publicly yet, but its initial release is a Torque2D-based plugin for Windows PCs (Mac support is coming in Q2 2010) allowing developers to work within social networks, but outside of traditional Flash-based environments. The Portal Player is currently in beta testing with Portalarium’s first title, Sweet @$! Poker, on Facebook. Virtual worlds are on the way.”

6. VizWorld (USA) – Scientific Research in Virtual Worlds. “When I began this series of investigative reports on Second Life, one thing I was really looking forward to was to see just how much “science” was going on in Second Life. I wanted to know is the majority of what happens inworld Social or Academic? The reality wound up being more complex than I originally thought, being heavily influenced by the perspective of who I was speaking to. Some people said science was everywhere, while some people said it was a nonexistant community. After several weeks of digging around I’ve come to some conclusions, and I share them here.”

7. The Independent (UK) – Control freak: Will David Cage’s ‘Heavy Rain’ videogame push our buttons? “Nothing so complicates a child’s relationship with his parent as the death of a sibling, and when we first see Shaun Mars and his father Ethan alone together, it’s plain that they are struggling to navigate the hostile unfamiliar territory in which they find themselves. Deprived of his co-conspirator and protector, the previously effervescent Shaun is monosyllabic and sullen; Ethan, meanwhile, is barely able to function. As the camera follows the pair into the cheerless house that Ethan has moved to since his marriage ended, there seems little reason for hope. But once they are home, it is soon clear that the bond between them has survived this terrible assault – that, in fact, it is the only thing keeping Ethan from falling apart entirely. He makes his son a snack. He asks him how his day was. He helps him with his homework. He feeds him a healthy dinner. And, eventually, the faintest echo of their former happiness becomes audible. When Ethan tucks Shaun in at the end of the evening, the future doesn’t seem so grim.”

8. Federal Computer Week (USA) – Feds look for their avatars in 3-D. “Many agencies have staked out so-called islands on the virtual world Second Life, but now the government wants software to build and host a virtual world of its own for collaboration, training, simulation and analysis. The Agriculture Department plans to award multiple contracts under a program to develop a fully immersive, persistent 3-D experience in a virtual world populated by avatars that can be customized to resemble real-life users, according to documents published on the Federal Business Opportunities Web Site.”

9. Mediaweek (USA) – Study: Women Social ‘Gamers’ on the Rise. “The increasing number of women who play games on social networks do so with a regularity normally associated with hardcore gaming. But according to a recent study conducted by the lead generation firm Q Interactive, most women don’t associate themselves with a gaming lifestyle like the PlayStation and Xbox lovers do—and don’t care for the label “gamer.” According to executives at Q Interactive (which owns, the study was conducted in January among 770 women who were likely to be familiar with online gaming and virtual worlds. It found that while 36 percent of respondents said that they play games on sites like Facebook and MySpace, 54 percent of those who do so admit to playing social games every day. Not surprising to any Facebook user: The most popular social games were identified as Mafia Wars and Farmville.”

10. TechCrunch (USA) – Moonshoot Raises $6.6 Million To Teach English Through Online Gaming. “Moonshoot, a startup with that aims to teach English to children globally through an online gaming experience, has raised a total of $6.6 million in funding led by Alsop Louie Partners and TL Ventures.The startup is also announcing that Tom Kalinske; former CEO & Chairman of Leapfrog, President of Knowledge Universe, CEO of Sega of America, and CEO of Mattel; is joining Moonshoot as Executive Chairman.”

Interzone’s Football MMO: local conflicts

In 2008, we mentioned the upcoming release of Interzone Futebol, a sporting MMO with some promise.

Over the past week, issues between local developers employed at the Western Australian office of Interzone and the US-based head office came to a head when Interzone’s VP of Business Development, Mike Turner, was confronted by employees.

Game Developer blog Tsumea have a good wrap of events, and for lots more detail, this blog has it in spades (and the Interzone Games URL now redirects to the blog). Finally, Interzone CEO Marty Brickey has responded to the allegations made over at Kotaku, as Seamus Byrne broke the story there in a big way.

The WA developers created the piece below to illustrate the context of what has been going on:

Like any disputes around intellectual property, employee entitlements and job security, it can be near impossible to get a clear overall picture. The video in question shows a bunch of obviously frustrated / angry employees and a defensive CEO not wanting to answer questions on the spot to a camera. The only certainty is that once it has reached to this stage, things have broken down to a level where no-one is likely to see a beneficial outcome.

One of the least certain aspects is why the transfer of game assets from Australia to Collision Games in Ireland – although the touted financial issues would likely be the driving force. Nor is there any reaction from publisher Gamigo on the situation.

The wash-up locally for this, is that Interzone Futebol may still see the light of day, but whether those who’ve worked on it to date get to share in those results is far from certain and arguably very unlikely.

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