The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Puffle Launch. “You are an intrepid Puffle. That is, you are a sort of cute snooker ball. Your snacks have been stolen by a crab in a spaceship. With helmet donned, and in a Mario-esque start, you set off through a series of mind-bending cannons to collect points, snacks and take sweet revenge from your crabby tormentor. Thus begins Puffle Launch. Puffles are the pets of the penguins in Club Penguin, one of Disney’s most popular virtual worlds, and Puffle Launch is the first game associated with it. Obviously designed to appeal to the younger user, the controls are deftly simple but also allow for the finesse required in later levels. The game may stump some much younger players as it quickly ramps up the difficulty but this will only add to its longevity”.

2. Hollywood Reporter (USA) – ‘Men In Black 3’ and ‘Asterix’ Entering Online Gaming Space. “While many game publishers are exiting the Hollywood licensing game, SEE Virtual Worlds and SEE Games recently announced a full slate of Hollywood IPs, both new and old, that they’re developing as free-to-play online game experiences. Titles like Men In Black 3, Total Recall(2012) and Asterix along with older film properties like War of the Worlds (2005) and Waterworld will be translated into online games.”

3. IOL SciTech (South Africa) – Why people disappear into virtual worlds. “I was an avid reader of videogames magazines as a teenager, and one of the criteria many used to grade a game was “addictiveness”. Claiming that you could barely wrest yourself away from a game was high praise indeed. Here was an index of the marvellous, immersive intensity the best interactive media could generate – a standard of excellence for a young industry to aspire to. Today, that aspiration has been more than realised. The US author and academic Ryan van Cleave has described his pathological relationship with the massive multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft, in terms that will be familiar to many gamers.”

4. Natural History Magazine (USA) – A Museum of Virtual Media. “The term “Virtual Reality” typically conjures up futuristic images of digital computer grids and intricate hardware. But virtual reality begins in the mind and requires no equipment whatsoever. Have you ever spoken face-to-face with someone whose mind wandered off in mid-conversation? Have you ever been startled out of your own reverie by someone waving her hand in front of your face and asking, “Are you in there?” Anyone who’s sat through a boring meeting has experienced being somewhere else. And everyone’s mind travels when they dream. Humans have toyed with and discovered numerous ways to facilitate such mind travel for tens of thousands of years. Far from being an odd hobby of geeks, virtual reality has been a large part of the human experience from our species’ earliest days.”

5. Los Angeles Times (USA) – Fashion Diary: Designers look to the virtual world. “For all the Beyoncè, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake sightings, and all the peppy clothes in acid-bright colors and arty prints, what really blew my mind at New York Fashion Week was watching Rico the Zombie in a virtual fashion show. The digitized version of the tout-tattooed model-muse strutting the catwalk was just one of the visual delights at Nicola’s, a temporary concept store curated by Nicola Formichetti, the magazine stylist-editor, Mugler designer and frequent Lady Gaga collaborator. Although Gaga is the one with 12 million Twitter followers, her visual architect, Formichetti, also sits at the nexus of fashion and entertainment, the real world and the virtual one. Stepping inside his 1,300-square-foot pop-up shop is like entering a mirrored fun house. You aren’t sure what’s up and what’s down, what’s real and what’s a reflection.”

6. PC World (USA) – haker Wins TechCrunch Disrupt Start-Up Contest. “Shaker is a social game played via the Facebook platform. But it’s not your average FarmVille. Instead of cultivating virtual crops or shooting virtual Mafiosi, Shaker turns Facebook into a “virtual bar” where you can meet and interact with new people. The game can be thought of as a mix of Facebook (because, after all, it has all of your profile info from Facebook) and those virtual, avatar-based chat rooms such as The Palace or Second Life. The experience is cool, not just because you get to meet other people, but because most of the Facebook games I’ve played are dismally empty thanks to my severe lack of friends who want to make farms. Shaker also shows you what you have in common with other people, based on your public profile information (such as birthdays, interests, and hometowns).”

7. MCV (UK) – Auckland developer Outsmart scores $1.8 million. “Outsmart, developer of browser-based Small Worlds, has received NZD$1.8 million in government funding. Small Worlds, originally launched in 2008, is a 3D environment played inside your browser which presents content from web and media sources, online games and more. Outsmart is promising that the funding will be used to double its internal staff from 20 to 40, and increase the scalability of the service.”

8. Massively (USA) – The Soapbox: Why MMO combat sucks, and how BioWare could’ve made it suck less. “I hate MMORPG combat. It’s not because I’m a carebear. It’s not because I’m bad at it. It’s not because I dislike parsing, being a min/maxer, or solving equations and comparing spreadsheets when I’m supposed to be having fun. OK, maybe it is because of those last four things. Mainly, though, it’s because MMORPG combat completely and unequivocally sucks. MMORPG combat is not combat. It’s high school math. And it’s the same in every damn MMORPG. Twenty years into the genre here, guys, aren’t we ready to grow up even a little bit?”

9. GameSpot (Australia) – Arcades, holograms, cloud computing the future of gaming – Square Enix CEO. “The Tokyo Game Show kicked off today with a keynote address on the future of the gaming industry from three of Japan’s leading video game industry figures. Square Enix CEO and Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association chairman Yoichi Wada, Sony Computer Entertainment worldwide studio president Shuhei Yoshida, and Sony Computer Entertainment senior vice president Yoshio Matsumoto took to the stage in the Makuhari Messe convention centre this morning to speak about evolving business models in the industry and the need to create new gaming experiences as the gaming audience continues to grow and diversify.”

10. Campus Technology (USA) – Is There a Second Life for Virtual Worlds? “Looking back at predictions about virtual worlds, the first question that comes to mind is, “What were they thinking?” Just a few years ago, virtual worlds were credited with the power to transform the universe. In 2005, Forbes quoted a Wharton (PA) professor as prophesying that virtual economies and virtual currency trading could “redefine the concept of work, help test economic theories, and contribute to the gross domestic product in the US.” In 2007, research firm Gartner predicted that, by 2011, 80 percent of all active internet users would have some type of “avatar,” or virtual self. Another outlandish prediction, this one from market research firm DFC Intelligence, forecast that, by 2012, virtual worlds would produce $13 billion in revenues, 40 percent of which would come from trading virtual assets.”

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