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  ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’  
 
 
Posted 2007-08-13 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
"Are virtual worlds ready for a CNN to call their own?" The Hollywood Reporter asks, pointing to mainstream media venture LivePlanet which intends to embed reporters in virtual worlds Second Life and World of Warcraft.

Yes, virtual worlds are ready for "a CNN" to call their own--in fact, there has been a thriving "native" media scene inside Second Life for years. Wagner James Au was the first embedded writer in Second Life, followed soon after by myself (less embedded than external) and dishy tabloid The Second Life Herald--we were the first wave of writers alluded to in a recent Columbia Journalism Review article on journalism in Second Life. Since then, a legion of in- and out-world publications and broadcasters have been covering Second Life. It also bears mentioning that nearly every attempt to broadcast regular video reports from Second Life has failed, including the corporate-backed Grid Review. Why LivePlanet thinks it has a chance of success here is beyond me.

Continue reading: ‘LivePlanet’ Bumbles Into ‘Second Life,’ ‘Warcraft’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Gnomes Rain From Azeroth’s Skies  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The skies of Azeroth rained gnomes today, but none survived the impact, according to a reader of Raph Koster's blog. The gnomes left behind corpses arranged to spell out the name of a web site dealing in virtual gold sales--an effective means of advertising third-party services Blizzard (creator of the Azeroth setting) is firmly against, allegedly carried out using client-side hacks (another Blizzard no-no). Gamers on the official Warcraft message boards reported the gnome-rain fell on at least several servers.

This is the most spectacular case of corpse graffiti I've ever heard of. Although World of Warcraft added weather effects over a year ago, "raining gnomes" wasn't on the list. I'd probably re-subscribe if gnome-rain was a regular occurrence. Anyone got the weekend forecast handy?

Continue reading: Gnomes Rain From Azeroth’s Skies
 
     
 
   
 
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  Raiding for Fun and Profit  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Somewhere between herding angry cats and precision military operations lies the MMO raid, a player-organized group assault on a specific game target. Witness a classic Onyxia raid executed in World of Warcraft, or the recently-perpetrated raid on a player-controlled Titan-class warship staged in EVE Online. Both incidents illustrate how there's more going on here than "just a game," and explain why most of us will never have the time, skill, and coordination to pull something like this off.
 
     
 
   
 
  2 comments  
  Third Party MMO Sites Cash Out  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-23 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Wowhead.com, a third-party site for players of World of Warcraft, has been sold for a reported sum of over $1 million USD. Wowhead is one of several resources for Warcraft players, offering a thorough database cataloging all known items and non-player characters within the game. Tech Soapbox author Ahmed Farooq says Wowhead was an instant hit, being faster and sleeker than competing resources.

Elsewhere in the metaverse, third-party Second Life news site SL Reports has reportedly been sold for the equivalent of $10k USD in virtual currency. According to SLNN.com, "What started with a few friends reading it turned into a site with 7000 hits a week and over 15000 group members." Can't say I see the value here. As far as I can tell SL Reports is simply re-posting entire passages penned by outside journalists. And 7,000 weekly hits ain't all that--Clickable Culture gets about 200 times that. Not to mention "hits" is a terrible way to measure traffic. It's like the dot com bomb all over again...
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘World of Warcraft’ Visa Rewards:  Free Game Time  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-04 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Phil Torrone of Make zine saw it coming last year: Major credit cards and MMOs linking real-world spending to virtual-world benefits.

Blizzard and Visa have introduced the World of Warcraft Rewards Visa, which racks up free Warcraft play time at a rate of 1% on purchases. The card is available in 13 different visual varieties, featuring the most popular races from the massively-popular online game, such as orcs and Night Elves. Sadly, it doesn't seem as though one's character name or visage is emblazoned on the card--that'd be the logical next step (and another Torrone prediction).
 
     
 
   
 
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  Integrated Media Festival Panel to Discuss ‘Digital Intimacy’  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-01 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'll be a panelist on the topic of "digital intimacy" in Toronto next week as part of the 2007 Integrated Media Festival, a 1-day event produced by The Centre for Creative Communications. The panel, which discusses inhibition, relationships, and sexuality in the digital realm, also involves Amber MacArthur of CityNews/CP24 and Cynthia Loyst of Sextv. I'll be presenting for about 10 minutes on some of the ways intimacy is expressed in virtual worlds, and how pliable boundaries between public and private space in worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft touch the human beings behind the avatars.

The 90-minute panel begins at 1:30pm on May 7, 2007, at Revival Bar, 783 College Street West, Toronto. The event is free, and open to the public. A schedule of the entire day can be found here.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Birding in Azeroth  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-21 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Human-Computer Interaction expert Sylvie Noël is considering taking pictures of birds in Azeroth (the "World" of World of Warcraft) as a birdwatching project. Sounds like a great idea to me, it's a pity there aren't more opportunities to do this sort of thing in the game. As Noël writes:
    "Alas the bird population in Azeroth isn’t all that interesting: parrots, chickens, owls, vultures, buzzards and other carrion birds - there’s just not that much variation. And once you’ve seen one owl, you’ve pretty much seen them all. The only difference between the species is in the feather colouration."
Even with limited choices, it's worth considering that birding in Warcraft is actually possible--one of the things I enjoyed most about playing the game is that "playing the game" as it was intended isn't really necessary. For some, it's just as fun to poke fun at design choices, find hidden areas, base-jump, or run gnome foot-races.
 
     
 
   
 
  3 comments  
  Make Fake ‘Warcraft’ Items  
 
 
Posted 2007-04-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Wow Item Creator is an infringeworthy online tool that allows users to create their own World of Warcraft items. While the items are for display-purposes only, and can't be used in-game, there's still plenty of amusement and mashup potential. I created an item based on Twitter.com:

 
     
 
   
 
  5 comments  
  Notes: ‘Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall’  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Following are my abbreviated notes from the SXSW panel Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall.

Joi begins...

World of Warcraft vs Second Life: The comparison is stupid. It's apples and oranges. The same split as between MOOs (SL) and MUDs (WoW).

Wow -and- SL: I use SL to plan guild activities. It's geared more towards socialization and simulation, but I don't socialize in Second Life.

[pulls up slide Justin made of the WoW interface, shows how it's actually not so complex]

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Why ‘Rupture’ Should be Worried About Blizzard’s ‘Armory’ [Updated]  
 
 
Posted 2007-03-02 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
World of Warcraft maker Blizzard launched "The Armory" this week, an impressive visual database of every player character in the fictional world of Azeroth. Open to the public, The Armory can be searched by character, guild, or team, resulting in a highly-detailed description of the aforementioned entities.

Ex-Napsterite Shawn Fanning's latest project, dubbed Rupture, is a third-party social network based around World of Warcraft. Currently in closed beta, the free service requires the use of a software add-on that siphons data from players used by the Rupture system, allowing characters and game statistics to be aggregated into a central database. According to the service's FAQs, "Additionally, Rupture provides a gamer-based Instant Messaging and Chat client with several gamer-related features built into it."

Given what Blizzard has shown it can do with data it already collects, I think it would be relatively trivial for the developer to take The Armory into social-networking territory, allowing players to add information to personal profiles, publish buddy-lists, chat, even perform some in-game functions through a web-browser interface. If Blizzard goes this route (and I think it should), Rupture is screwed. Players already spend a lot of time within the official Warcraft community, I don't see why anyone would sign up for a third-party service and use a software add-on if Blizzard provides social networking services even remotely comparable to Rupture's offerings.

Update: Csven of reBang has posted a good counter-point to the above article.
 
     
 
   
 
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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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