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  ‘The Lounge’ Is Dead:  Long Live ‘The Lounge’  
 
 
Posted 2007-08-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
First, developers Evil Twin created the Pussy Cat Doll Lounge, a small adverworld geared towards promoting recording artists The Pussy Cat Dolls. Then, Evil Twin changed its name to Doppleganger. Then, Doppleganger changed the name of The Pussy Cat Doll Lounge to The Music Lounge. This weekend, Doppleganger switched its focus to vSide, a much more expansive and ambitious virtual world project which includes districts, social systems, and user-operated private spaces--vSide is large enough that it actually contains The Lounge in its NewVenezia district.

Here's hoping for fewer name-changes down the virtual road.

[Update: Virtual Worlds News reports that with the launch of vSide, Doppleganger has announced $11M in new funding and the addition of three new real-world brands to its roster of brand-placements.]
 
     
 
   
 
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  The ‘Roxanne Wars’ Of Gaming?  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
American developer Kuma releases Assault on Iran. The Union of Students Islamic Association releases Rescue the Nuke Scientist in response Assault on Iran. According to Zach Whalen of Gameology, Kuma intends to respond to Rescue the Nuke Scientist. Ping, pong, ping. Pong?

I am immediately struck by parallels to music: one artist's song discusses (or just disses) another; an answer song results. Could an epic back and forth like the Roxanne Wars of the 1980s be echoed through the medium of video games today? Depends on how far this Kuma/Students Union thing goes, and if anyone else gets involved. It's certainly easy enough to bang off a game these days--almost as easy as spending a day in the recording studio. A hot-button topic like U.S.A. versus Iran might just be enough to start a game developer duel, although, like the Roxanne Wars, I'm not sure much meaningful conversation will be the result.

I'm not aware of any other call and response scenarios involving games, but I'd be happy to hear from readers on the subject. Could this be the first, or have there been precedents?
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Music Lounge’ Users In ‘Vogue’ [Updated]  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
‘Music Lounge’ Users In ‘Vogue’ [Updated]
Users of brand-friendly microworld The Music Lounge have started their own lifestyle magazines featuring in-world gossip, personalities and fashions. One of the first, dubbed The Lounge Issue, by user 'Softcoppertone,' seems to have made it to issue #2, but wasn't available online at the time of writing. The Lounge Issue's second issue contained an article on cybersex which caused a bit of controversy due to the teenage demographic of the Lounge. Meanwhile, all 24 pages of Lounge Vogue's first edition published by 'limy' are available online, featuring music, fashion, bootlegged real-world brands, and snapshots of Lounge culture.

I think the emergence of an in-world press (even lifestyle rather than hard journalism) marks the maturity of a virtual world. While the production values of these Lounge magazines are amateurish, it's obvious substantial effort went into Lounge Vogue, apparently the only such magazine covering the Lounge currently available online. Chatter on the Lounge message boards indicates other users hope to kickstart their own magazines. Personally I'm hoping for deeper cultural substance--it's a pity The Lounge Issue and its cybersex article are no longer available. [update: it's up now, and issue 2 contains some great inside scoops!]
 
     
 
   
 
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  links for 2007-07-10  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘High School Musical’: The Games  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
High School Musical was originally a Disney Channel TV movie, but has since spun out in the form of a soundtrack album, an ice tour, a live concert tour, an upcoming sequel, a movie planned for theatrical release, and now... video games. Disney Interactive Studios will extend the High School Musical experience across Wii, PS2, and DS game consoles this summer. Sorry, parents: Your pre-teens are going to sing you into insanity.

The Wii and PS2 versions of the family-friendly game will involve karaoke antics involving characters from the property and about 30 songs. The DS version doesn't require singing (a pity, since the DS has a built-in mic), instead approaching High School Musical from a rhythm-game angle. DS gamers will be able to compete and trade videos with others via Nintendo WiFi. It would have been an added bonus to tie in DS and Wii game play, but I suppose that'd be asking for too much.

I suspect that even if interest in the sing-along, dance-along genres is waning, a High School Musical game will still have plenty of appeal to the tweenage set, particularly given the pending movie sequel and spinoff. Not sure 30 songs is going to provide much repeat play value, but I suppose the point is to sustain interest in the brand long enough to sell movie tickets.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Buy Creds in Doppleganger’s ‘Music Lounge’  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Brand-friendly microworld The Music Lounge now offers in-world currency called "Creds" for sale at a rate of 10 Creds to one U.S. dollar. According to an official press release, the currency can be purchased via major credit cards or earned "by taking an in-world job such as promoting clubs or events or signing up friends to join." Creds will be used to buy branded virtual fashions from Kitson boutique and Rocawear designs.

The introduction of an in-world economy (and previously-announced user housing) brings The Lounge closer to direct competition with larger virtual worlds such as Second Life, There, and Kaneva. I wonder if Lounge-maker Doppleganger has anticipated the creative ways in which users may try to get their paws on virtual currency without spending real cash. Yes, I'm talking about escorts and furniture whores.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘The Lounge’ Gets $5M Injection  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Doppelganger, maker of the virtual teen hangout The Lounge, has reportedly raised another $5M after receiving $11M in earlier funding rounds. The Lounge began life as a Pussycat Dolls microworld, and has grown slowly since last year--there are roughly 3,450 signups to its web-based Community page at this time, but Doppleganger hasn't published any other usage statistics that I am aware of.

I'm surprised a virtual world with $16M behind it isn't more successful, even if it has no appeal to me personally. I don't see $11M-worth of product or service in The Lounge, so I'm curious as to why anyone would invest another $5M in Doppelganger. Perhaps the company has something new in the works that will compete against Teen Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Nicktropolis, There, Virtual Hills/Virtual Laguna Beach, Whyville, IMVU, and Areae.

Previously at Clickable Culture:
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Vanishing Point’ ARG: Toronto Live Event Recap  
 
 
Posted 2007-01-20 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I just got back from a live event connected with Vanishing Point, an alternate-reality-game-like promotion for Microsoft's doomed OS Vista. Since the event took place only a short walk from my lair in Toronto, I decided to check it out, despite the -16C weather (that's "goddamned cold" to you Americans).

A rental cop, two hydraulic lifts cloaked in black tarp, and a small group of bystanders joined me in waiting for the event, slated for 7pm local time. I'm guessing about 8 ARG-players showed up, and maybe about 3 photographers from local papers. The rest seemed to be in on the whole thing.

When the time was right, video projectors on the lifts splashed the Hockey Hall of Fame with the following image...

Continue reading: ‘Vanishing Point’ ARG: Toronto Live Event Recap
 
     
 
   
 
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  Digital Decay  
 
 
Posted 2006-11-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Is there a practical use for decay in a digital world? Data doesn't normally degrade over time, through usage, or by replication--except by design. Nicolas Nova points out a 9 year-old Lucent project that introduced decay into electronic documents. The function of this artificial decay was to communicate the amount of "handling" a given document receives over time, "aging" a page by simulating rips, stains, and wrinkles.

Wired contributor Momus notes how we once scorned the analog audio crackles associated with vinyl records, but have since artificially re-introduced "snap, crackle, and pop" into recordings.

Decay already exists in some games, such as World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies. These MMOs stimulate their economies and provide tasks for players by forcing virtual items to degrade over time and with usage. This sort of system doesn't seem to be used in (non-game) virtual worlds. For example, Second Life doesn't intentionally degrade items, but has been known to introduce unintentional flaws in objects over time.

Continue reading: Digital Decay
 
     
 
   
 
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  Toronto Gets Residential Fibre Optic Networking  
 
 
Posted 2006-11-22 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Yesterday I received a sales brochure from Bell Sympatico (my ISP) informing me that residential fibre optic internet connectivity is available in my area (after having been launched last summer). I first subscribed to high-speed internet access (DSL) in 1998, and currently subscribe to Sympatico's highest-speed DSL service, which runs me about $50 CAD monthly before taxes. For this price, I get ample transfer speeds, bandwidth and extremely rare service interruptions. Now, for $70 monthly, I could get 10Mbps download speeds and 50GB of bandwidth. But I won't. There's nothing wrong with my current service, which I believe gets me something like 3Mbps (it might be more, but the point is the speed isn't an issue). I am a hardcore gamer, but I'm not limited by my current connection--getting fibre optic isn't going to improve my situation much, considering most games aren't built to output unlimited bandwidth.

So why would anyone subscribe to "Sympatico Optimax?" Bell thinks you'll need that kind of speed to (and I quote):
  • Download a full-length movie at high speed and upload photos – at the same time.
  • Download CD- and DVD-quality music and videos.
  • Play high bandwidth video games online with improved response time.
The first two points are a bit silly. If you're downloading up to 50GB of movies and music each month, you are likely pirating rather than spending thousands of dollars per month at the iTunes store. The third point, as I mentioned, just isn't all that applicable. Today's games aren't putting out the kind of bandwidth that would require a fibre optic connection. The biggest two selling features aren't even mentioned in Bell's literature: Tell me if I have a dedicated IP address (DSL customers have dynamic IPs), and tell me what my upload speed is. Then maybe we can talk.
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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