Realising a virtual worlds industry in Australia

Christian Salles, Olivier Lamirault, Serge Soudoplatoff, Jean Michel Billaut and Franck Bellido are five impressive individuals. All from France, they have played various roles in France’s technology sector (their full bios follow at the end of this post) and they intrinisically understand virtual worlds. One (Franck Bellido) developed his company’s Second Life island presence.


Educational Consultant Lindy McKeown provides a tour for the visiting French group in Second Life

Over the past week these five have been on a mission to see how Australia utilises virtual worlds and it’s been quite a tour. They’ve spoken with key people at VastPark, NICTA, AFTRS, SLCN, ExitReality, Skoolaborate,CLI and Smart Services CRC to name a few.

In the few hours I spent with the team from France, I was struck by their passion for the subject and their obvious respect for the work being done in Australia with virtual worlds. It was also a stark reminder of Australia’s lack of broadband infrastructure when seeing their reaction to our broadband speeds, which makes achievements to date locally even more impressive in a lot of ways.

Sometimes it takes a collaborative occasion like this to really bring home the fact that Australia well and truly has a virtual worlds industry – one that attracts interest worldwide.

A big thanks to Mandy Salomon at Smart Services CRC for the invite to take part.

The bios:

Christian Salles career in applied research spans 35 years working in France, Norway, Taiwan and Frankfurt with the banking conglomerate BNP Paribas. Mr Salles pioneered intranet technologies in 1996, overseeing 200 installations including that of Reuters. More recently, Christian created his own consulting firm, Back End Office and is a professor at Paris’ Dauphine University.

Jean Michel Billaut consults on technology and innovation at the highest level of government and industry. His career with the Euro bank BNP Paribus has included Senior Economist and ‘VP in charge of Communication’. He is currently their advisor on the Internet. Jean Michel has chaired the ‘Centre d’information et d’etudes sur le credit’, a research organisation on credit, savings and financial problems and since its foundation in 1993, chairs ‘Club de l’Arche’, a multi-disciplinary thinktank to exchange information and thoughts on the introduction of new information technologies and the communication in society. In 1983, Mr Billaut launched Atelier, the first financial telematics service in France, and is chief editor of ‘Journal de l’Atelier, a review on technologies and marketing for professional organisations. Jean Michel was amongst the first to implement BBS systems and launched one of the first websites in France, ‘Web de l’Atelier’ (1994). In 1998, he created Canal Atelier, France’s first video streaming channel. As advisor to the provincial city of Pau, Jean Michel oversaw the introduction of innovative internet services underpinned by an optical/wifi network of 100 megabits for 30USD /month. Between 1998 and 2002, Jean Michel chaired the ‘Digital Towns Association’ and is currently lobbying for a ‘new deal’ in Europe: to build a fibre optic infrastructure end-to-end all over Europe. Jean Michel has written widely on the net economy and holds degrees in economic science (PHD) and informatics. He was awarded the distinction ‘Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur’, by President Chirac for the promotion of the Internet in France.

Serge Soudoplatoff is the president and co-founder of Almatropie, an association devoted to the promotion of innovative Internet usage. As such, he continues a distinguished career on the leading edge of high technology. He has recently founded Commonbox, a company devoted to simplify money pooling, and make it more cooperative. He is a co-founder of the multi-national provider of pricing, rating & charging solutions, Highdeal. Prior to that, he was Director of Innovation for France Telecom, driving the telco giant’s work group defining Internet policy and action plans. As such, he launched projects on mobility and the Internet, corporate IP telephony, and the services and new economic models needed in the Internet age. Before joining France Telecom, Serge managed the innovation research centre in Paris for Cap Gemini. He also did research on speech and pattern recognition at IBM research labs in Yorktown Heights, NY, and spent several years as a university professor. He began his career as a geographical engineer for the French national geographical institute, doing image recognition and satellite positioning. Mr. Soudoplatoff is a former secretary-general of the French professional group, CP2i, comprising research organizations with the joint aim of promoting high tech innovation. Serge teaches Internet and strategy at Hetic, the school of the Internet, and at ESCP-EAP. He has an engineering degree (PHD) from France’s equivalent to MIT, Ecole Polytechnique, and is the author of “Avec Internet, où allons-nous ?” Le Pommier, 2004. (‘Where are we going with the Internet’) The book is downloadable. In addition to speaking fluent English and French, Serge is conversant in Russian.

Olivier Lamirault
Oliver has been working on eLearning solutions since 1992. As director of Ingenium, he is devoted to the development of Ingenium and building the Ingenium team. The objective is to maintain Ingenium as a leader in the field of e‐learning. Olivier designs and realizes the pedagogical engineering of Ingenium partners. He manages projects and monitors the production to ensure the quality and the relevance of teaching resources produced. Technology and pedagogy play an important role in its activity. The remaining time is devoted to developing relations with external partners.

Franck Bellido
Franck is the Flash and 3D developer of Ingenium. He is responsible for achieving the development of complex flash animations which required coding in the language action‐script. Franck also develops elements into 3D environments for Ingenium’s video production and illustrations. Franck develops VirtuaLearn, the Company’s learning and collaborative island in Second Life.

AFTRS: directing the future

Gary Hayes has amazing talent. As with so many people who are masterful in their field, he can make the difficult look effortless. However, this time it’s not an attractive and engaging machinima or build that has me excited, but Gary’s words about the new diploma courses being run at AFTRS.

Forget the glitz and glam, ignore the special effects of the promo videos if you are able. Look, feel and presentation are required elements of film, animation, games and virtual worlds. Nonetheless, the promo video for these courses overshadows something that I feel is of far greater importance: these one year graduate diplomas in Games Design (Directing) and Virtual Worlds (Directing) have great technical depth.  Each has been rigorously designed, will be delivered with the intensity and creativity of amazing mentors, and behind each stands a wealth of knowledge concerning both presentation and mechanics.

The new courses will build upon the work performed within the Animation (Directing) course and the LAMP (Laboratory for Advanced Media Production) initiative.

What does ‘directing’ refer to?

The directing portion of the course titles refers to the fact that participants will be taught, in addition to the technical and business aspects, creative leadership skills, and the skills of innovation and entrepreneurship. Students will be expected to pioneer new ideas and thoughts, to create games and worlds never seen before, and they will be mentored in these endeavors. Originality, and the ability to push the envelope, are key. Students must be seen to be creating the future, not just contributing their small part to a company or the community. The focus of the courses is innovation: brand-new genres and interactive, film-like spaces – things which rarely even pass go in the risk-adverse computer games industry.

Games Design (Directing)

In the context of this course, a ‘game’ is defined as “authored or artificially constructed play”. Game formats and genres of a multitude of types will be considered in the course, from casual to serious/simulations, from console to online multi-player, from children to adult, and so on through hundreds of sub-categories. New gaming tools, such as emotional AIs, natural generative dialogue and realistic motion will be covered also. Significantly, game theory will be covered in-depth, and will be given as much importance as the creation of dramatic depth and visual intensity. Students will be expected to study and understand such things as gameplay and usability before they are let loose with visual and audio tools.

“We love games that have play and story at their core and not just great graphics or deep sound.” – Gary Hayes.

Here is an indicative list of the types of topics that will be covered:

Games Story, Character Design, Games in Motion, Storytelling Essentials, Game Level Design, Mechanics of Play, Cross-Media Incubator, Designing Story Worlds, Acting for Animators, Directing Voice Performers, Genre Workshop, Innovation and Form, The Business of Games.

Virtual Worlds (Directing)

Students will be learning to construct virtual worlds. Social worlds and MMORPGS will be covered, as will film pre-visualisation tools and CG-animated story worlds. Film/virtual world cross-overs will be covered in depth.

“We will also have lecturers from across the Australian and international metaverse industry involved in Virtual Worlds who understand financing, finding your market and target users and of course insights into the technical deployment of large scale community driven worlds. So from the outset students will understand how decisions made at napkin, sketching or proof of concept stages can have enormous impact further down the production chain. Each course will have several small incubator projects but the final major project spread over 13+ weeks, will include extra help in project managing rapid and complex productions.” – Gary Hayes.

Here is an indicative list of the types of topics that will be covered:

Designing Story Worlds, Virtual Camera, Social Virtual Worlds, Storytelling Essentials, Virtual Life, Cross-Media Incubator, The Avatar and Interface, World Design, Acting for Animators, Genre Workshop, Directing Voice Performers, Innovation and Form, Episodic Storytelling

“Eventually games are going to be designed in the same virtual space as the film will be.” – Peter Giles.

An especially exciting part of the two courses is the space in which they overlap. Components of each of the Games Design and Virtual Worlds courses will also focus on film production, the involvement of games and virtual worlds in film production, and the cross-pollination between games, virtual worlds and films.

“What makes these courses unique will be the cross-over with the film craft and directing parts of the school.” – Gary Hayes.

A range of professional associates will be employed during the period of the courses, including Matt Costello (Doom, Pirates of the Caribbean), John Buchanan (ex EA Games Research and Development) and Deborah Todd (author of Games: from BlueSky to GreenLight).

The one caveat I would like to issue about these courses concerns their length – just 32 weeks each. Courses run by the AFTRS are well known for their intense nature, and these will not differ in that manner. If you do join the student body, don’t plan on having any sick days – legitimate or otherwise.

See here for the video promo for the Games Design (Directing) and Virtual Worlds (Directing) diploma courses.

See here for a GameFilmWorld crossover video which Hayes produced to highlight the cross-over between the three.

Weekend Whimsy


(This is related to the new virtual worlds course offerings at the Australian Film Television and Radio School)

2. Kaneva World Welsh Society Even Bigger

3. surfable waves for second life

Education & Non-Profit Organisations in Second Life

One of the problems we encounter in this information age is the enormous quantity of information encountered each day and the danger of overlooking the bleeding obvious.

Checking out the home page of Second Life every now and then to see what is happening can throw up some interesting gems. If you’re like me that may be every blue moon, but this week I happened to notice over in the right side margin an item labelled; “Education & Non-Profit Organizations“.


A perusal of this link will show there is an enormous wealth of information, web and SL based resources for those interested in either setting up an educational or non profit presence in SL. Or for those looking into the opportunities that SL offers in various educational areas.

At the educational level a click on the More… link towards the bottom of the page opens the wiki listing a pretty full list of universities and other education providers in SL.

A quick scan down the list shows that the “Australian Film TV and Radio School: Sydney, Australia” but no others from our neck of the woods. Perhaps its time for someone from the Australian Universities we have featured here on SLOz to pay a visit and add their details…

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