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  The ‘Static’ Experience:  Location-Based Audio Drama  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Theater-savvy Torontonians will be treated to the launch of Static this week, basking in a "multi-media, interdisciplinary experience" that brings a combination of audio drama, theatrical vignettes, dance performance and interactive installations to York Quay Centre. Via MP3 players, Static's audience tunes into the thoughts of a central character for a tour around the venue, absorbing the event's sights and sounds.

I hope to be able to attend a performance, as I suspect Static may synergize well with alternate reality gaming, pervasive electronic gaming, and live-action gaming. Even knowing as little as I do about what Static has in store of me, I can imagine how an experience like this could easily be made more game-like. Not that I think theater is necessarily improved by game-play, just that I can't help but look at a cross-media experience like Static and think of gaming.

Continue reading: The ‘Static’ Experience:  Location-Based Audio Drama
 
     
 
   
 
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  Voice in ‘Second Life’… Testing… Testing…  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-07 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Can you hear me now? Selected testers got an early glimpse yesterday of real-time voice communication in the virtual world Second Life. The new voice services, provided by third-party developer Vivox, are expected to be rolled out in Second Life's "First Look" client this spring and provide users with both proximity- and group-based communication at a quality level comparable to (if not slightly better than) Skype.

First-hand reports from the early tests have come in from Johnny Ming of Secondcast (and The Electric Sheep Company) in podcast format, as well as from Satchmo Protoype (also of the Sheep) in blog format. Ming says that a bridge to real-world telephones (as demonstrated last year) is planned for launch within 6 months.

Continue reading: Voice in ‘Second Life’… Testing… Testing…
 
     
 
   
 
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  Vivox Adds Voice to ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Word on the street is that virtual world Second Life will soon join competitor There in giving avatars a voice, thanks to Vivox, a Boston-based company which has already voice-enabled sci-fi MMO EVE Online.

Vivox first demonstrated its technology in Second Life during last year's Game Developers Conference. I was given a demonstration afterwards by key Vivoxians Robert Seaver and Monty Sharma, resulting in the article "Connecting Real Voices Through Virtual Worlds," which covered Vivox's approach to EVE and plans to augment other MMOs.

Continue reading: Vivox Adds Voice to ‘Second Life’
 
     
 
   
 
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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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  Whither Gaming Radio?  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Writer Jim Rossignol recently wondered if the concept of broadcasting game-specific radio programs has a place outside of Japan, where advertorial programs have been broadcast to support the game Lineage II: "Could this concept be extended to Warcraft's millions? Is there a captive audience there just waiting to be tapped into by games companies and related advertisers? Should MMOs come with built-in radio functions? Can a third party pick up this idea and run a gaming-radio application?" Short answer: Yes.

I thought I'd point out to my readers that while there may not be many official radio programs dedicated to specific games, there are a number of unofficial podcasts floating around. I'm partial to the always-entertaining Taverncast for World of Warcraft, 'Star Wars Galaxies' with Yivvits and Mr. Bubble for SWG, and SecondCast for Second Life (technically not a game, but whatever). Is there a captive audience awaiting commercial messaging through these podcasts? Yes, provided the advertisements aren't obnoxious. Should MMOs come with built-in radio functions? Sure, provided such a function makes sense. Any game genre that supports radio-style broadcasts would be suitable. Can a third party pick up this idea and run a gaming-radio application? While players can and do already tune in to fan-created audio streams, I don't doubt an official server-specific radio station would be a welcome addition to games such as comic-book-themed City of Heroes. It's also worth mentioning that a tournaments in a number of first-person shooter games are broadcast with sports-style flavour commentary. It can be gripping stuff if you're into the game.
 
     
 
   
 
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  SL Future Salon on ARGs/VWs Podcasted  
 
 
Posted 2006-12-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The recent SL Future Salon event on the intersection between Alternate Reality Gaming and virtual worlds has been packaged as an audio podcast via SecondCast.com. Listen to my squeaky, awkward outbursts as I join fellow speakers Dan Hon, Adrian Hon, Elan Lee, with host Jerry Paffendorf. Previous commentary on the discussion found here (post-event) and here (pre-event).
 
     
 
   
 
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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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  More Rockers Jump on Virtual-World Bandwagon  
 
 
Posted 2006-11-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Old musicians never die, they just retire in virtual worlds. Such is the case with Duran Duran, Ben Folds, and now Oasis. The aging Britpop band has taken up residence in the aptly-named virtual world Faketown, where users can watch computer representations of the band "performing" their new single--sort of like how visitors to a Disney theme park can watch creepy animatronic robots sing "It's a Small World." Faketown is a 2D web-based environment that looks something like the lovechild of Habbo Hotel and Dollz. I took a few minutes out to watch Oasis "peform" in Faketown and found the experience totally underwhelming. The two avatar audience members in attendance were both sleeping. One of them was me.
 
     
 
   
 
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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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