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  links for 2007-10-03  
Posted 2007-10-03 by Tony Walsh
  Virtual World Bells and Whistles  
Posted 2007-05-31 by Tony Walsh
The Lounge, a small adverworld driven by music and television brands, has hit the Beta 11 milestone (what, no Gold yet?), adding a preview of user housing. According to Lounge-maker Doppleganger, users will be able to get their own loft apartments in 2007. I'm impressed with how far Doppleganger has pushed the Torque engine, which was originally designed for multiplayer games, not virtual worlds per se. added atmospheric controls for "There Zones" earlier this month. Users who own Zones may now select from various sun/moon and weather settings. Sadly, settings do not include "raining cats and dogs," "raining men," or "pennies from heaven."

Second Life's "sculpties" system has been rolled out for general usage, allowing 3D artists to get more shape out of primitive building-blocks. On a semi-unrelated note, Linden Lab bought its world an atmosphere, adding "WindLight" weather and particle effects to a preview version of Second Life. The new atmosphere is either totally awesome or utter crap, depending on who you talk to.
  How ‘There’ Sees Itself  
Posted 2007-04-30 by Tony Walsh
Last week I received an email from There's PR engine, itemizing how There differs from other virtual worlds. The differentiators offer an insight into how There sees itself (or at least would like to be seen):
  1. "A safe PG-13 environment for users of all ages that is easy to use"
  2. "Brand security protection that gives marketers complete control over the sale and distribution of their content, including copyright infringement and piracy protection"
  3. "Attractive, sentient and expressive avatars that achieve a lifelike feel unparalleled in any other virtual environment"
  4. "A variety of tools for developers at all levels to design, build and create in-world"
  5. "’s CEO, Michael Wilson, was eBay’s original SVP of Product Development and Site Operations, and has an interesting vision on the future and promise of virtual worlds"
A follow-up email revealed that There defines "sentient" avatars as having the following characteristics:
  • Environmentally correct voice that fades, gets louder and changes directions based on how your avatar moves
  • Avatar's lips synchronize with what is being said over voice
  • Avatars naturally breathe, change posture and blink
  • Avatars can express themselves using nearly 100 different emotes

Continue reading: How ‘There’ Sees Itself
  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”
  VW2007 Notes:  Keynote - Viacom’s MTV Networks and Nickelodeon  
Posted 2007-03-28 by Tony Walsh
At the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference today, I hastily typed out notes from the Keynote presentation. Following is a rather incomplete assembly of said notes. Caveat emptor.

KEYNOTE: Jeffrey B. Yapp, Executive VP, MTV Networks

MTV Goes Virtual

"Mind bending virtual worlds"

Talks about how no network has ever done this "watch TV, live TV"

Describes, fluffs VLB/VH

These new media models provide insights into our audience... how the audience behaves in the virtual world indicates how they will behave in the real one.

Compares the growth of TV, cable, advent of MTV as "first outlet for youth culture" 25 years later MTV is one of the world's most-recognized brands... new media co-exists with old media...

getting into virtual worlds is risky but the reward is profound...
- 99% of the audience is exposed to the brand when they come in world 85% interact with the brands.

Continue reading: VW2007 Notes:  Keynote - Viacom’s MTV Networks and Nickelodeon
  Notes: ‘Gamer’s Games: Microcontent and User Creation’  
Posted 2007-03-12 by Tony Walsh
Following are my abbreviated notes from the SXSW panel "Gamer's Games: Microcontent and User Creation."

Mark Wallace
Betsy Book Dir of Prod Mgmt, Makena Technologies
Raph Koster Pres, Areae Inc
Reuben Steiger CEO, Millions of Us
Corey Bridges,

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Gamer’s Games: Microcontent and User Creation’
  Coming Soon: ‘Avatar-Based Marketing’ Panel at SXSW Screenburn  
Posted 2007-01-31 by Tony Walsh
On March 11, 2007 at the South By Southwest Screeenburn conference in Austin, Texas, I'll be moderating a panel entitled "Avatar-Based Marketing in Synthetic Worlds."

The panel description reads: "Synthetic, alternate worlds such as Second Life, There, and Habbo Hotel are populated by customizable, user-controlled avatars. These exciting spaces are increasingly being eyed as the next level in experiential marketing. Does a successful marketing effort target the user or the avatar? What are the best ways to capture and retain attention in a virtual world? Our panelists discuss the business, cultural, and ethical considerations of marketing to avatars." Details subject to change.

Panelists include Eric Gruber (MTV Freelance), Paul Hemp (Harvard Business Review), Lauren Wheeler (Three Rings Design), and Linda Zimmer (MarCom:Interactive). I'm pleased that we are able to present a diverse range of experience with the topic at hand. Among other pursuits, Eric Gruber has been heavily involved with Virtual Laguna Beach and Virtual Hills; Paul Hemp wrote the important article "Avatar-Based Marketing" last year, Lauren Wheeler is involved with Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates and an upcoming top-secret project using a microcurrency model; Linda Zimmer is the author of the Business Communicators of Second Life blog. As you may know, I have been a constant critic of Second Life-based business efforts over the last few years--as moderator, I intend to keep the discussion well-rounded and free of fluffing.
  Virtual Travel Agency Launches  
Posted 2006-10-19 by Tony Walsh
Synthravels, a travel agency for touring virtual worlds, launched yesterday. The agency (based in real-world Milan) claims to be the first to offer "a complete escort service to those who wish to tour virtual worlds even without the necessary experience," and purports to offer both protection and guidance to tourists in locales such as online RPGs Guild Wars, Age of Conan, and Neocron. Virtual worlds up for exploration include Second Life and There. Synthtravels was conceived by Mario Gerosa and by Matteo Esposito. Gerosa is a travel journalist, video game researcher, and "has been organizing in-world meetings with famous Second Life residents for a project of the Indiana University."
  ‘There’ To Get Thin Avatar Chat Client, New Terrain, Broadcast TV  
Posted 2006-09-29 by Tony Walsh
Michael Wilson, CEO of Makena, maker of the virtual world There, gave an address on the state of There at the beginning of the week. The address included news about pending improvements to There's technology, and thoughts on MTV's recently-launched adverworld Virtual Laguna Beach, which was built on There's platform. Wilson made several thinly-veiled jabs at competing environments Second Life and IMVU. Based on the audio download of the address, I've noted and quoted highlights of interest:

  • "We are still larger than 'that other place' and will continue to be." [Wilson presumably refers to direct competitor Second Life] "Free There lowered the barrier and got us more people into the funnel and into the world."
  • ThereIM, an avatar-based chat system interoperable with There, AIM and YIM, will be available in 2007.
  • A new terrain engine aimed to "make the competition lie awake at night" is coming in 2007
  • Video in-world is coming, as a result of MTV Viacom's Virtual Laguna Beach (it was paid for and tested in VLB). LOGO's "New Now Next" will be aired in There.
  • Makena is outsourcing customer service duties to the Philippines.

Continue reading: ‘There’ To Get Thin Avatar Chat Client, New Terrain, Broadcast TV
  Virtual-World Salad  
Posted 2006-09-27 by Tony Walsh
A few noteworthy bits and pieces of late:

CNet opened a virtual office last night in Second Life, thanks to senior writer Daniel Terdiman and virtual-world services firm Millions of Us. Both Frans Charming of SLOG and Mark Wallace of 3pointD reported on the event. Regrettably, I was washing my luxurious blonde locks and couldn't attend the gala. Terdiman intends to use the virtual office to stage "regular events in which reporters and reviewers could come and give talks about stories we were working on or products they were reviewing and do interviews with cultural leaders."

Made-to-order Second Life surnames, historically unavailable, seem to be up for grabs... if you're the right person. Recently, politician Mark Warner was granted an exclusive surname (something average residents of Second Life are not afforded), and based on the chat transcripts from last night's CNET office opening (see above), Millions of Us bought or was given its very own, exclusive surname "Millionsofus." I'd like to have the surname "Walsh" in Second Life but it wasn't offered to me as a gift or for sale: If Second Life is the next-generation World Wide Web, why do only the rich or powerful have access to their own domain names? Linden Lab, creator of Second Life, hasn't yet revealed how custom surnames may be acquired by "regular folks" like me.

I checked out the virtual world There yesterday for the first time in years. Overall, the experience was better than competing world Second Life (but if you're looking to easily and quickly drop custom content into There, you're out of luck). While There might not have the degree of technical sophistication of Second Life, it's got a great look and feel. There's avatars seem so much more a part of the world than Second Life, and the world's simpler graphics seem to be a strength rather than weakness. There appears far more responsive than Second Life, exemplified in particular by the former's enjoyable vehicle physics. I spent quite a while surfing around on a hoverboard, jumping and grinding off every piece of the terrain and architecture, something I've never been able to do in Second Life. My avatar name in There is TonyWalsh (in Second Life I had to settle for Zero Grace).

Last night marked the debut of the "Winter Formal" episode of MTV's Laguna Beach. The episode premiered in Virtual Laguna Beach (VLB), an adverworld built on There's engine. I created an account for VLB, and took some time to tour the landscape. The Electric Sheep Company was involved in making the space, which was prototyped in Second Life first--and I could tell immediately. The look of VLB is more akin to Second Life (realistic) than There (cartoony). The problem is that There's cartoony look helps mask its simpler 3D shapes: Realistic textures on these surfaces only highlight the "chunky" aspects. Overall, I found the environment sterile and bland, but I don't doubt it'll catch on with the kids, at least in the short term. Longer term, I suspect some will migrate to the more open worlds of There or Second Life.
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