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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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  Games for Lunch, Breakfast  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Kyle Orland has set great expectations for regular game criticism with his new blog, Games for Lunch. One game, one lunch-hour, one review per day. Orland's "playlog" (plog?) attempts to determine if a game's worth playing after an hour, a fair enough pursuit. If a game can't grab a player in 60 minutes, is it worth playing? In my experience, not usually.

If you're the type to skip lunch, I recommend games for breakfast. Or rather, I would recommend games for breakfast if they didn't come printed on Pop Tarts. Kellog's and Hasbro teamed up last year to provide over 200 edible Trivial Pursuit questions for distribution through the Pop Tart platform. Brings new meaning to tabletop games when one can eat the playing pieces, doesn't it? Given the shelf-life of "food" such as Pop Tarts, I reckon you'll be able to enjoy edible Trivial Pursuit for decades to come.
 
     
 
   
 
  0 comments  
  Catch Me in San Francisco  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
On Friday I'll be trekking out to San Francisco for a week to lend my mentoring skills to the BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies. In addition to guiding documentary filmmakers towards digital, non-linear and/or cross-media platforms and formats, I'll be part of a panel on June 2, and will be also be presenting on June 4.

New Media/New Meaning: Multi-Platform Technology, New Media Innovation and Documentary Storytelling
10am - 11:30am, Saturday, June 2 at KQED, 2601 Mariposa Street at Bryant, San Francisco
Panelists include: Ted Cohen, TAG Strategic (moderator); Chris O'Dea, MobiTV; Tim Olson, KQED Interactive; Rahdi Taylor, Sundance Documentary Institute; Josh Felser, Sony/Grouper; Anthony Marshall, Current TV; Scott Kirsner, Cinema Tech; Tony Walsh, Clickable Culture; Meghan Cunningham, Magnet Media, zoom-in online; Ben Batstone Cunningham, alt-zoom studios.

Game Development and Marketing Tools for Producers
10:30am - 12pm, Monday, June 4, location unknown.
I'll be presenting on selected video games and game forms, virtual worlds, and alternate reality games, showing how each has been used as an outlet for non-linear storytelling and (in certain cases) for marketing a specific property. Most likely I'll be covering serious games, newsgames, Second Life, and Ocular Effect, at least.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Whyville’ Avatars:  WhyEat?  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Why eat? The real-life answer is obvious, but synthetic biological needs are rarely a factor in avatar-based environments. Since 2005, kid-oriented virtual world Whyville has featured hungry avatars as part of a project entitled "WhyEat," funded by the University of Texas. WhyEat entices kids to plan and purchase meals (with in-world currency) in order to avoid such disfiguring avatar maladies as scurvy or weak bones. A "virtual dietitian" provides advice on a case-by-case basis, helping kids make food choices which will result in a better health (and therefore a better appearance). To date, the project has resulted in over 3.5M visits to Whyville's virtual cafeteria, where 8.5M food items have been consumed. Researchers at University of Texas' Health Science Center are now investigating the effects of this virtual-world program on real-world health, according to a recent press release.

Promoting healthy eating is a noble objective, but I suspect there are better ways to entice kids to lead leaner lifestyles. Such as opting for physical activity over virtual activity (or at least on par with virtual activity). I don't think WhyEat has much to do with eating, ultimately. It's more about finding ways to motivate kids to make consumer choices, and tracking those choices. Even better if those consumer choices bleed into the real world. Whyville has already been a marketing vehicle for brands such as Toyota, Stacie Orrico, and Celestron through "edutisement" content. How long before Whyville's eateries include McDonald's restaurants?
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Eat in a World Without Hunger, Drink in a World Without Thirst  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
In the virtual world of Second Life, avatars aren't required to consume digital food or liquids. It's possible to force an avatar to "eat" or "drink," but the digital denizens lack a simulated nervous and digestive system--consumption is akin to playing "tea party."

As it happens, a few outside businesses have joined Second Life's "tea party" recently, bringing along artificial food, drink, and scent. Earlier this year, Calvin Klein made a stink with its ck IN2U perfume, reportedly showering avatars with "fizzing fragrance bubbles." Last month, Coke kicked off a "virtual thirst" campaign (but failed to complete the simulation with a virtual tooth-decay campaign).

Today, Kraft Foods and American TV personality Phil Lempert bring "Phil's Supermarket" to the virtual world, reports the Business Communicators of Second Life blog. According to Lempert's web site, users will be able to browse for over 100,000 products by the end of the summer, and "pre-shop" (but not "actually shop") for real-world items. This seems like a great way to collect data on the activity and preferences of potential customers, if anyone will bother to "pre-shop."

The greatest failure of "Phil's Supermarket" is that it requires users to go shopping twice. Who has time for that? I'd rather order groceries online using a web site--a superior tool for finding and buying real food I can actually eat. Throw in automatically-delivered Second Life equivalents to the web-ordered food, and you've now got a service that saves time and bridges both worlds.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Second Life’ User Bottleneck:  Hello, Avatar?  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-24 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Wired.com reports on Second Life's first tech expo, finding that with 60 vendors, only 40 visitors at a time could attend--over the weekend, though, 6,270 avatars passed through This is roughly equivalent to a BBC Radio 1 music festival held in-world last spring, where roughly 6,000 avatars visited during the weekend.

Concurrency across the virtual world currently peaks between 30,000 to 40,000 avatars most days, but you'll never find thousands of avatars in once place at one time in Second Life. It's not technically feasible to cram in more than several dozen avatars into a single "simulator" (large, virtual plot of land). A well-constructed event might take place at the intersection of 4 of the square sims, thus expanding to entertain about 200 distributed avatars. Some developers have adopted a "mirrored" approach, where a single event is played out simultaneously in duplicate sims.

Continue reading: ‘Second Life’ User Bottleneck:  Hello, Avatar?
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  Why ‘Heroes’ is a ‘360 Experience’  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Fabric of Folly's Dan Taylor summarizes NBC's cross-platform offerings for its TV series Heroes, which extends well beyond standard "show site" material into genre-appropriate graphic novels and user-generated content. According to Taylor, "huge swathes of unofficial audience created content" outstrips official show content by over double (not sure how he's measuring"volume of content" though).

At least a few user-generated ideas seem to feed back into the series as series creator Tim Kring says in an official video clip. The fact that fan input is captured and responded to (even if not in an obvious way) is probably one reason why the levels of user-generated content are so high (this seemed to work for LOST, too). Another reason has to be that NBC is actually permitting fan fiction and other derivative works to flourish rather than fire a barrage of lawyers across the community's bow.

Continue reading: Why ‘Heroes’ is a ‘360 Experience’
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  Luxury Brands vs. Luxury Goods in ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
BusinessWeek.com asks if real-world luxury brands will capitalize on the willingness of Second Life residents to pay for "nonexistent" goods. There's no question that real-world brands are already testing the waters in Second Life, I just don't see many "capitalizing" on it yet. But I'm hardly surprised--Second Life is a place where expressing luxury is problematic.

Because Second Life is a synthetic world, there are hard limits to "luxury." Mercedez-Benz might make luxury cars in real life, but there's only so much a designer can do with Second Life's modeling and texturing system; a programmer can't make a Mercedez-Benz car any faster than Second Life's built-in speed limits, or handle better than its hard-coded physics system allows. Basically, there's nothing stopping Joe Sixpack from building the same vehicle as Mercedez-Benz.

Continue reading: Luxury Brands vs. Luxury Goods in ‘Second Life’
 
     
 
   
 
  1 comments  
  Linden Lab Cleans Up ‘Second Life’ Adspace  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Linden Lab, maker of Second Life, announced via its official blog that it "will not accept any classified ads, place listings, or event listings that appear to relate to simulated casino activity." Previously, residents of the company's virtual world were permitted to advertise in-world casinos. Linden Lab's use of the term "simulated casino activity" is merely a formality in my view, given that the company operates a real/virtual currency exchange (not unlike the way casinos trade cash for tokens), facilitating actual-dollar winnings from the "simulated" activity.

The change in policy comes on the heels of a recent review of in-world casinos by the F.B.I. at the invitation of Linden Lab, and follows a similar clampdown issued against so-called "ageplay" advertisements, promotions, or descriptions. Normally Linden Lab doesn't meddle much with in-world affairs (or at least meddles inconsistently and ineffectively), but I'm not surprised Linden Lab has felt compelled to tread safely where gambling and simulated pedophilia are concerned--will porn be next? It's been two years since the company banned nipples from PG-rated areas of its world.
 
     
 
   
 
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  VW2007 Notes:  “ Virtual World Consumer Behaviors and The Evolution of Social Networking”  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I arrived slightly late for this afternoon panel, and couldn't find a place to set down my laptop, therefore I present a transcription of my chicken-scratched notes. Abridged. Caveat emptor. My occasional notes in [square brackets].

Teemu Huuhtanen, President, North America & EVP Business Development, Sulake Corp. Ltd.:

Habbo's audience is split 50/50 between male/female, average age is 15. Ease of use if the most important aspect of virtual worlds. Habbo is moderated 24/7 across 28 regional sites. There are 74M registered users, with 22M in North America. Habbo receives 7M unique visitors [monthly, I think], with 1.7M in North America.

Continue reading: VW2007 Notes:  “ Virtual World Consumer Behaviors and The Evolution of Social Networking”
 
     
 
   
 
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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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