Category Archives: virtual worlds

Virtual Holidays vs. The Real Deal – Part 1 – An introduction for the rest of us…

We’ve talked before about virtual worlds, and the value we see in them. Since we are into costumes, and all things pertaining to them, it’s no surprise that virtual worlds prove an interesting concept to us. Costumes and virtual worlds are means of escape. They’re means of taking on a new set of skin for awhile. Some of us do it for fun, others more seriously, still others for competition. Ultimately, the point is to get away from the drudgery of life and be something else for awhile.

I caught an anonymous tip of an article on Massively.com about the lamenting for a Halloween gone by. As I read it, I noticed that the writer was specifically referring to the Halloween she spent online. Come again?

A further read revealed that she misses the Halloween she celebrated in City of Heroes, a popular superhero online role playing game. I’ve never really experienced at full the concept of celebrating a holiday online, but thought I’d dig a bit deeper to find out what it’s all about. In my research, I found out more than I expected.

Popular games like World of Warcraft, Everquest, City of Heroes, and even the brand new Hellgate: London all represented the costume obsessed holiday with great detail. Each world takes on a different feel, and therefore has it’s independent story about how the holiday is incorporated into their celebrations. For example, in World of Warcraft, the holiday is actually called Hallow’s End. According to the website’s description of the Holiday.

Observed by both the Horde and the Alliance, Hallow’s End is the celebration of the break between the Forsaken and the Scourge. Adventurers can speak to innkeepers to get silly masks to wear during their adventures, and much more. This is just one way to celebrate Hallow’s End. Read below for more things to do during spooky season on Azeroth!

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The dwarf city of Ironforge in World of Warcraft, all prepped up for the festivities.

Well, yeah it’s kind of a bunch of Warcraft mumbo jumbo if you’re not a player and don’t know the story. But what’s great is that there are stories that serve as launch points for these holidays that mimic the real life versions.  Each holiday is accompanied by specific lore that incorporates the holidays for the players. As stated on the website players receive rewards, participate in unique games, and experience accented changes in scenery to give the proper ambiance for the games they’re playing.

An important quality of these online worlds is that they cost to play. Gamers pay an initial price to acquire the game and then pay monthly, quarterly, or even yearly fees to keep having access to the game. The reasoning is because the games typically don’t have any defined end and tend to be regularly updated with new content. Players pay the fee for access to the game’s servers and developers can continue to deliver a living breathing world that changes with time and progress.

There’s one thing that virtual holidays do better than us. A typical online game like those mentioned earlier celebrates these holidays for often weeks on end. This gives players who may not have a chance to attend the celebration as much or on the actual day the chance to experience the events in their full glory.  In a perfect world, we would join this tradition, but a virtual platform is a great way to squeeze a bit more out of the holidays and see just how to keep the spirit of our favorite holidays alive.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going into the ideas behind celebrating holidays in virtual worlds. More importantly, we’ll take a look at the relation to costumes and these virtual celebrations. With any luck, we’ll get some chances to pop in as well and see how it goes for us. In the meantime, stay tuned to the site.

-collinevan

Everquest 2 Halloween

In Everquest 2, players get to earn masks and candies that give them special powers for fun.

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You can’t really ask for much more in terms of costumes with City of Heroes, but they manage to put on a great Halloween celebration.

Posted in halloween, ideas, virtual worlds | Leave a comment

Second Life Competitor, VastPark, Releases Beta Creation Tools to the World

Today, October 19th, marks the first beta release of VastPark‘s new virtual world. Not a full release though, people who signed up for it will get access to their 3D modeling systems used to create the in-world objects.

VastPark so far looks to be the only real competitor to Second Life in terms of similar features that have been upgraded. They’re also communicating to businesses and organizations from the get-go, so you can be sure that they hope to develop a robust user generated economy. We have yet to see much as to what the client will look like, as the browser has yet to be released. There’s also speculation as to whether VastPark will run even a bit smoother than Second Life. If it does, Linden Labs sure has a handful of work to do.

So far, the beta of the creation tool is available to those who signed up early. As such I downloaded my client today and will be tinkering with it. However if you truly need to scratch the virtual creation itch you won’t have to wait long, as they will issue invites once the signed up individuals have been served.

Hop in and let us know what you think of these tools? Goodbye prims and third party 3D software? Hello, VastPark

Sky in Vastpark

Rendering like nothing that’s been seen before.Virtual World can typically have a hard time offering lifelike imagery with real performance and open creation tools. Even Playstation’s Home has limits with creation.

 House in Vastpark

A look inside of a house in VastPark.

(images via VastPark website)

Posted in gaming, news, video, virtual worlds | 1 Comment

Second Life’s Second Life – Vastpark (beta)

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For awhile now, competitors to the virtual world have been cropping up and stealing a bit of the market from Second Life. However, there has been more of a specialization in the space, bringing up titles like Habbo Hotel, Playstation’s upcoming “Home“, or the popular Club Penguin. Being so, Second Life has seen little in terms of direct competition.

Well, enter Vastpark. After anxiously submitting a beta invite request, I looked around to find out more of what Vastpark claims to be. More importantly, I wanted to know just what the rest of the world was thinking about it.

I hesitate to grasp the concept of Vastpark for a few reasons. My primary complaint is that it doesn’t really sound like it has anything special or with purpose. Is that my problem? Well, maybe. As fun as a virtual sandbox world is to me, it has a short lifespan before I lose interest. Second Life provides a lot of interest in terms of what the people have done with it and how it relates to MyDisguises, don’t get me wrong. But for my buck, I need a goal and a reason.

Vastpark enters the stage likely with a few things on their minds. If they want to succeed, they’re going to have to improve upon what SL doesn’t do so well. Primary to these issues is performance. If they can somehow manage to make the Vastpark experience a seamless and entertaining one without choking users into massive upgrades on their machines, then maybe they’ll capture the good of SL while improving upon the bad.

They do seem to boast a robust development toolset, and frankly this will be the first virtual world to be in direct competition with SL on this front. In the pre-sculpties days, prims ruled the roost and Second Life was still the best thing out there. It’s hard to see exactly what else Vastpark could have planned that would revolutionize the tools of creation set by SL. Maybe they’ve truly hit a spark.

The business model sounds much like one you see when registering a website. Here’s the info via Kotaku:

In case you’ve tired of your virtual self in Second Life, VastPark is coming (for some people, at least – the first new users will be given access soon): it promises “a virtual content platform featuring free tools, revolutionary distributed content syndication and enables you to deploy your own virtual world or online game within seconds royalty free.” Metaversed explains:

It’s free to use and purchasing a “Pro Creator account” allowing 1Gb of storage and bandwidth will be US$19 for 2 years. One can still publish using a free “Basic Creator account” allowing you to try it out, and they were giving away three year Pro accounts if you were among the first 250 people to publish content.Once you’ve created your world, you can open portals to worlds other users have created. Content creation tools include basic 3D building functions and texture mappers, as well as scripting tools. There’s also a built-in syndication system where content developpers can allow some things to be used in other people’s worlds and easily update that content system-wide from one place.

Sounds interesting in theory, we’ll see if it pans out. Perhaps the media can find a new darling and the New York Times can start writing out-of-touch articles about VastPark instead?

Keep your eyes here and on Kotaku for more information. We’ll be following. Oh, and I seem to have just gotten my beta invite!:) I’ll let you know how it goes!

collinevan

Posted in gaming, virtual worlds | Leave a comment

Real Life Making Second Life all Stuffy?

Second Life is altogether converging more and more towards a virtual version of your first life. In a mass effort to defeat the purpose to make a virtual getaway, is the trickling of reality permeating and polluting the Second Life experience?

According to this news article posted yesterday in Strategy Page, the US Army is taking advantage of Second Life for training purposes. In the wake of the severe push towards a greater online community they have even created their own tools on a separate and private Internet to effectually accomplish their civilian training exercises.

In an article we posted earlier, we highlighted the terrorist usage of worlds like Second Life as well. What does all this mean? First and foremost, it means effective tools for training at minimal cost. And that’s just what government and terrorists alike are looking for.

But this is just another step in the direction of making the real world and the virtual world blend on a deeper scale. Second Life has been a haven for educators, organizations, political movements, and prominently, businesses, to gather and accomplish their real world goals. Universities have also been known to construct virtual campuses for their students to partake in. What keeps people interested then, if everything is becoming a mimic of it’s natural self? Is it the curiosity factor? Is it the wow factor?

Major critics to Second Life tend to believe that the world will be short lived. Most of them claim that everyone is there to make money from each other, but few are there to spend it… and its getting worse. Second Life also has a large learning curve, clunky interface, and sluggish performance. It’s vast, creative, open world is what’s killing it’s experience for many.

With most visitors to SL going there for an escape the question is whether these real world mirror imaged organizations and movements are just clogging the virtual space, or whether they’re contributing to its growth and intrigue. Our position is that businesses help promote growth so long as their efforts and intentions stay in Second Life. But when companies use the virtual space to accomplish real world tasks primarily, it’s just suffocating the environment.

What about you? How much would you like to see Second Life cater to the imagination and unfolding of its own environment? Does Second Life suffer at the expense of the real world?

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Posted in gaming, ideas, virtual worlds | 2 Comments

Do Virtual Communities Do More Harm Than Good?

“there are three jihadi terrorists registered and two elite jihadist terrorist groups in Second Life and they use the site for recruiting and training. This is on top of the Second Life Liberation Army. “

 

In light of the Second Life comment I made earlier, I thought I’d address this current news story that’s abuzz in the virtual world space. According to articles located in Slashdot, P2Pnet, and other techie news sources these virtual worlds like Second Life are becoming a hotbed for terrorist groups to train and enable sympathetics to become recruited.

As opinions shoot back and forth, I have to wonder what the other groups think about this. By other groups I mean people who use Second Life for profit and positive interaction. The real world implications are vast, but is there any way for people to stop this kind of open, virtual world extremism? There has already been a case of “virtual terrorism” in Second Life recently in efforts to make a point. But what happens when these issues cross over into the real world?

Real World Control over A Fake Environment

I mean no harm in saying fake, but in comparison to what life really is, Second Life is an alternate reality. As such is the case, how do you police a virtual world? As it stands, the debate over Internet governance weighs so heavily in favor of total decentralization that it would mean the same thing. Having any kind of policing in a world like Second Life would indicate that some form of government would have to exist. Who would this government be? Is Linden Labs responsible for not only governing the technological implementation and advancement, but also the social behavior of its residents?

And that’s not the end of the problem either. At this point the biggest draw to Second Life has been its free and open format. It allows people to access and do whatever they want, within the technical limitations of the environment. This culture has developed so far that any truncation of “virtual rights” would alienate the users as a whole. How would Linden Labs or anyone else ever enforce restrictions? How true are these allegations anyway?

Behind a Virtual Mask

This isn’t the first time that things like this have popped up about terrorism on the Internet. Terrorist groups have been known to assemble on the Internet as a form of cheap and effective communication. We have such a hard time cracking down on kids taking the new Avril Lavigne song, so it makes sense that extremists see this crack in the armor as a chance to exploit and promote their ideals.

So what does this say about people using the Internet to mask who they are and be something else? The virtual community provides so much positive and forward thinking but also engenders some of these large problems? Does this anonymity lend more to negativity than it does to progress and positive global thinking?

It’s a shame that there are a few that ruin it for the whole, but issues like these don’t go unnoticed. As the electronic frontier gets pushed further into unrecognizable territory, opponents speak out more in defense to the electronic community. Yet, the modern rush doesn’t slow down. Government leaders all over are petitioning for a stranglehold on these technologies in order to regulate just how much of this extreme information gets tossed around. On the other hand, the people speak out against government in defense of their rights. Techies are typically afraid that ulterior motives propel governments to seize large scale communication rights for their own gain.

As for you and I, how do we maintain the right to participate and live anonymously with strangers? Is there ever going to be a way to facilitate positive global communication with strangers without the demons inside coming out of the small minority who want to use it for negative gain?

Posted in discussion, questions, virtual worlds | 1 Comment