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Landscape Of Virtual World Systems

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A presentation from the 2008 Games For Health conference

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Landscape Of Virtual World Systems

  1. 1. Landscape of Virtual World Systems What's available and how do you work with it? <ul><ul><li>Games for Health, 2008 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tim Holt </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul>
  2. 2. Goals <ul><li>Go over what Virtual Worlds are about </li></ul><ul><li>Look at a few “rule breaker” Virtual Worlds </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss development planning based on design, content and technology </li></ul><ul><li>Look at how developer limitations and development should intermesh </li></ul><ul><li>Examine noteworthy and accessible 2D and 3D Virtual World technologies </li></ul>
  3. 3. Part 1: Examining Virtual Worlds <ul><ul><li>Social, big, and persistent </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Why you should not make a Virtual World <ul><li>Because they are “hot” </li></ul><ul><li>Because “everyone” is doing it </li></ul><ul><li>To be like <Insert Name of Virtual World> </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why you should make a Virtual World <ul><li>To create a space for social interaction </li></ul><ul><li>To let players act and react to each other and their environment in a big world </li></ul><ul><li>To create a persistent environment where people can visit and return </li></ul>
  6. 6. Social interaction means... <ul><li>Lots of people </li></ul><ul><li>Who can talk, interact and do things together </li></ul><ul><li>And can find each other again </li></ul>
  7. 7. Big world means... <ul><li>Players have many options </li></ul><ul><li>Often a far horizon or shore not yet explored </li></ul><ul><li>A place you can come back to </li></ul>
  8. 8. Persistence means... <ul><li>You can go away </li></ul><ul><li>And come back </li></ul><ul><li>The world is as you left it – but changed because others have come and gone </li></ul>
  9. 9. Summary of key Virtual World features <ul><li>Social interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Big world </li></ul><ul><li>Persistent environment </li></ul>
  10. 10. Part 2: Virtual Worlds from Outside the Box <ul><ul><li>Lightweight, rule breaking, and successful </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. 2D: Habbo Hotel <ul><li>Free, Shockwave/web based virtual community </li></ul><ul><li>“ Fun, social non-violent concepts that inspire creativity” </li></ul><ul><li>Built by Sulake in Helsinki, Finland </li></ul><ul><li>www.habbo.com </li></ul>
  12. 13. 2D: Club Penguin <ul><li>Free Flash/web based virtual community </li></ul><ul><li>Social networking, custom homes, mini-games </li></ul><ul><li>Built by New Horizon Interactive in BC, Canada </li></ul><ul><li>www.clubpenguin.com </li></ul>
  13. 15. 2D: Whyville <ul><li>Free Java/web based virtual community with strong educational content </li></ul><ul><li>Extremely simplistic graphics, but highly successful </li></ul><ul><li>Built by Numedeon </li></ul><ul><li>www.whyville.net </li></ul>
  14. 17. 3D: RuneScape <ul><li>Free Java + web based fantasy RPG MMO </li></ul><ul><li>Hugely popular despite low quality graphics </li></ul><ul><li>Built by Jagex </li></ul><ul><li>www.runescape.com </li></ul>
  15. 19. 3D: A Tale in the Desert <ul><li>A combat-free MMO set in ancient Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>Small but dedicated player base </li></ul><ul><li>Built by eGenesis </li></ul><ul><li>www.atitd.com </li></ul>
  16. 21. What do these Virtual Worlds have in common? <ul><li>They are small and light </li></ul><ul><li>They break the “rules” </li></ul><ul><li>They are successful </li></ul>
  17. 22. Part 3: Design, Content and Technology <ul><ul><li>Intertwined elements of successful development and planning </li></ul></ul>
  18. 23. Three factors guide development and planning <ul><li>The design that describes the game </li></ul><ul><li>The content that makes up the game </li></ul><ul><li>The technology that implements the game </li></ul>
  19. 24. Design is... <ul><li>The description of your game </li></ul><ul><li>How it plays and looks to the user </li></ul><ul><li>How it functions and behaves including on the server </li></ul>
  20. 25. Content is... <ul><li>The story or setting behind your game that frames the events </li></ul><ul><li>The game art and other assets </li></ul><ul><li>The things people can do in your world </li></ul>
  21. 26. Technology is... <ul><li>The stuff that puts your game on a player's screen </li></ul><ul><li>The stuff that keeps track of the game state </li></ul><ul><li>The implementation of the “game logic” that makes your world go </li></ul>
  22. 27. Balancing Design, Content and Technology <ul><li>Design rules and dictates both content and technology </li></ul><ul><li>Technology and content are closely tied to each other </li></ul><ul><li>Technology and content can push back and influence design </li></ul>
  23. 28. Part 4: Working Within Your Capabilities <ul><ul><li>Skill, time and budget considerations </li></ul></ul>
  24. 29. All the great ideas in the world doesn't mean squat if... <ul><li>You don't have the skill set to make it happen </li></ul><ul><li>You don't have the time to make it happen </li></ul><ul><li>You don't have the money to make it happen </li></ul>
  25. 30. Therefore... <ul><li>You need to be sure your content is doable </li></ul><ul><li>You need to be sure your technology is both in your budget and in your grasp </li></ul><ul><li>You need to craft your design based on these considerations </li></ul>
  26. 31. Scrimping on design... <ul><li>Don't scrimp on design! </li></ul><ul><li>Design is where you have full control </li></ul><ul><li>Build on what you know of content and technology limitations </li></ul>
  27. 32. Scrimping on content... <ul><li>Good content does not make a good game, good design does </li></ul><ul><li>Design simple or abstracted content </li></ul><ul><li>Allow users to create or combine content to create new things </li></ul>
  28. 33. Scrimping on technology... <ul><li>Roll your own </li></ul><ul><li>Seek and ye shall find! </li></ul><ul><li>Follow the trail of indie game developers </li></ul>
  29. 34. Part 5: Virtual World Technology Specifics <ul><ul><li>2D or 3D, it's about completeness and accessibility </li></ul></ul>
  30. 35. What Virtual World technology must do <ul><li>Give the player an interface where they can interact with the world and other players </li></ul><ul><li>Track and manage player and world states </li></ul><ul><li>Implement “game logic” to make the game come alive </li></ul>
  31. 36. Questions when choosing Virtual World technology <ul><li>Is it complete? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it affordable? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it accessible? </li></ul>
  32. 37. Completeness <ul><li>Can it handle multiple players? </li></ul><ul><li>Can it track the state and persistence of the world and its contents? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it provide support for common MMO game features? </li></ul>
  33. 38. Affordability <ul><li>The best technology costs a lot of money </li></ul><ul><li>There are solutions that hover in the “a couple of thousand dollars” price range </li></ul><ul><li>There are some noteworthy free technologies (w00t!) </li></ul>
  34. 39. Accessibility <ul><li>Access is changing or adding content to your game </li></ul><ul><li>The more mature the technology, the more tools it will have to make this easier </li></ul><ul><li>Without good tools, expect to be writing code and crafting database design </li></ul>
  35. 40. Technology for 2D Virtual Worlds <ul><li>Typical implementations are web based using Java, Flash or Shockwave </li></ul><ul><li>Needs server technology to coordinate and track game activities </li></ul><ul><li>Needs scripting to define “game logic” </li></ul>
  36. 41. 2D: SmartFoxServer <ul><li>Flash based development of persistent multiplayer games on Windows, Mac and Linux </li></ul><ul><li>It is extremely affordable </li></ul><ul><li>It is a complete solution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>.com </li></ul></ul>
  37. 42. 2D: SmartFoxServer (continued) <ul><li>Design is at times constrained by technology </li></ul><ul><li>Content can be created using basic “paint” and other art editing tools </li></ul><ul><li>Technology is accessible by tools plus Java, Javascript, Python and other languages </li></ul>
  38. 43. 2D: Whirled <ul><li>A new system developed by Three Rings Design, the makers of Puzzle Pirates and Bang! Howdy </li></ul><ul><li>Designed for easy access to creating virtual worlds </li></ul><ul><li>www.whirled.com </li></ul>
  39. 44. 2D: Metaplace <ul><li>A new system developed by Areae, a company run by Raph Koster </li></ul><ul><li>Aims to be an “anything, anywhere” virtual world platform </li></ul><ul><li>Not yet released </li></ul><ul><li>www.metaplace.com </li></ul>
  40. 45. 3D: Active Worlds <ul><li>3d virtual world development (both shared and private) </li></ul><ul><li>Varying costs depending on hosting </li></ul><ul><li>Used by the River City Project and others </li></ul><ul><li>www.activeworlds.com </li></ul>
  41. 46. 3D: Second Life <ul><li>3d virtual world development in a large shared world </li></ul><ul><li>Varying costs depending on how much real estate you use </li></ul><ul><li>Used by many universities, organizations, corporations (and strange people) </li></ul><ul><li>www.secondlife.com </li></ul>
  42. 47. 3D: Multiverse <ul><li>A relatively new game development system, recently out of beta </li></ul><ul><li>System is free, and you pay them a percentage of what you charge </li></ul><ul><li>Multiverse aims to be a complete solution, but still a bit rough (and getting better) </li></ul>
  43. 48. 3D: Multiverse (continued) <ul><li>The platform does not enforce any particular design restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>Content is created by typical 2d and 3d art/asset creation tools such as Photoshop and Maya </li></ul><ul><li>Company is very open to serious games and other “non traditional” development </li></ul><ul><li>www.multiverse.net </li></ul>
  44. 49. 3D: Unity3D <ul><li>A refined and robust solution ready for commercial use </li></ul><ul><li>Very low price </li></ul><ul><li>Unique in that the client (games) run in a web browser via plugin </li></ul>
  45. 50. 3D: Unity3D (continued) <ul><li>The platform does not enforce any particular design restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>Content is created by typical 2d and 3d art/asset creation tools such as Photoshop and Maya </li></ul><ul><li>Macintosh-only development tool </li></ul><ul><li>www.unity3d.com </li></ul>
  46. 51. 3D: Garage Games Torque Game Engine Advanced <ul><li>The Torque Game Engine Advanced is a favourite with indie developers, offering a full game engine with source </li></ul><ul><li>Pricing varies but is based on per-developer seat, and can vary from $300 to $1500 </li></ul><ul><li>Requires additional libraries to add MMO functionality, such as “My Dream RPG” (www.mydreamrpg.com) </li></ul>
  47. 52. 3D: Garage Games Torque (continued) <ul><li>Design should not be influenced by any aspects of this engine </li></ul><ul><li>Content is created by typical 2d and 3d art/asset creation tools such as Photoshop and Maya </li></ul><ul><li>Technology is accessible by tools, scripting and C++ </li></ul>
  48. 53. 3D: Monumental Games <ul><li>A refined and robust solution ready for commercial use </li></ul><ul><li>It is not free to use, however the vendor does recognize the fiscal realities of Serious Games projects </li></ul><ul><li>This seems to be a complete solution with a full set of tools for development and deployment </li></ul>
  49. 54. 3D: Monumental Games (continued) <ul><li>The platform does not enforce any particular design restrictions </li></ul><ul><li>Content is created by typical 2d and 3d art/asset creation tools such as Photoshop and Maya </li></ul><ul><li>Technology is accessible by sophisticated tools and scripting </li></ul>
  50. 55. Other 3D technologies <ul><li>Delta3D - www.delta3d.org </li></ul><ul><li>Panda3d - www.panda3d.org </li></ul><ul><li>Baja Engine - www.bajaengine.com </li></ul>
  51. 56. Part 6: Putting it All Together <ul><ul><li>Dare to innovate (or be crappy even) </li></ul></ul>
  52. 57. How to proceed <ul><li>Think outside the (WoW/SL) box </li></ul><ul><li>Know your limits as they apply to budget and expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Innovate with what you've got </li></ul>
  53. 58. Explore technology and games <ul><li>Go play the free games mentioned plus MMOs with free trials </li></ul><ul><li>Many of the technologies mentioned have free versions – download them and try them out </li></ul><ul><li>Look at what games people are making now, but with caution </li></ul>
  54. 59. Above all, create something! <ul><li>Get an idea, make a design </li></ul><ul><li>Pick a technology that's affordable and appropriate </li></ul><ul><li>Create a game, no matter how simple </li></ul>
  55. 60. More information <ul><li>You can find this talk online at perludus.com/timh , or email me at tim.m.holt@gmail.com </li></ul><ul><li>At perludus.com/timh there are also links to further information on game design, engines and other good reading </li></ul>

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