Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Experience with Technorati

Was having fun signing up for Technorati today. Apparently to have an account is easy. 'Claiming' the blog is also easy since there are 3 easy options to choose from, involving various methods of showing that the said blog is mine. Since one of them is a blog post option, I've decided to post a blog with the 'blog post' option. Now I'm supposed to release the 'spiders'.

Technorati Profile

2 Seconds later Technorati congratulated me for having successfully claimed this blog. Yupz it's as easy as that.

Virtual World evolving with a new angle

Read the news that China is developing one of the biggest government backed virtual world, known as China Recreation District. Despite the name, the project is attractive not because of the recreational aspects. The development is attractive due to the economical angle.

The Chinese government has partnered many private developers including China's own big names like HiPiHi, as well as others like Mindark. With China Mobile, and also 中国光大银行, the project basically gained a huge subscriber base easily with financial payment systems all planned out. The attraction extends to overseas markets, and other companies like IBM has also participated in the project.

The extension to overseas market takes the form of enhancing supply chain management. This means customers overseas could have a "virtual world" preview of the products, hooked up to the order systems of the company in the virtual world, and simply order online. While this concept already exists in other Virtual Worlds like Second Life's Dell project, the Beijing CRD offers an enhanced scale of many hundreds (if not thousands) of manufacturers from the "world's biggest workshop" directly. That's real cool in the economical sense.

Add the point that with IBM's presence, inter-operability would definitely be an initiative for this CRD project as well (I'm guessing). Thus other 'worlds' around the world could have the potential for avatar transfer to this CRD.

Most importantly for businesses, CRD's management has come out clearly to say that the Chinese government will take a hands-off approach when it comes to taxes:
Lai said the government would take a 'hands-off' approach to taxing companies or individuals that do business through the CRD, however.
How more attractive can it get? This stand is very different from the S. Korean stand of taxing virtual transactions. Wonder how the virtual currency in the CRD will be governed; can I take out the currency / cash out in another country? Who manages such exchange rates then? China's central bank?

The only possible hurdle is China's reputation (or lack of) for intellectual property protection. Well the CRD will go live by June 2008 / before Beijing Olympics 2008, so we will see soon about the success or failure of this project.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Simple Review of the browser game - Travian

First started playing the browser game Travian in early May 2007. It is an addictive game. Chose to play this game thinking that it will not consume more than 10 minutes of my time daily but guess I'm so totally wrong.

Travian is a war game centering around villages that you (and your enemies) built. You have three choices of the type of villages, romans, teutons, and gauls. Each choice gives different characteristics for your army. Gauls is generally more defensive focus, teutons being more aggressive, and romans somewhat in-between. There are other nuances of course.

It is a very simple game to play, which explains why there are so many players. Here's Travian's 60seconds tutorial. An excellent tutorial; model reference for other games. China servers have 130k players, while america servers have 135k players. Other servers in Europe, Africa, and Middle East have varying number of players. I've two other simple Travian guides for would-be Travian players on 1 ) Protecting resources and building up defense and traps / end game here.

All players try to build villages like this:

on a map that looks like this:

There are 4 types of resources to focus on, lumber, clay, iron, and crops. You would also try to raid other players' resources, and / or capture an oasis which contribute to your resource pool. Players have to build 'cranny' that hide resources from other players' raids. The game proceeds in real time and so every 12ms there will be resources added to your pool. You could also trade resources with your other fellow players via a simple marketplace mechanism.

While building the your village buildings, players would also recruit army units, and also train up a 'hero' that adds bonus to defense and attack values of your armies. There are also options in the village buildings to enhance armour or attack weapons for similar purposes. Villages have city wall options to add defence values to the armies.

After an attack, a report would be generated, and here's a sample:

There is an end goal to the game, i.e. it is unlike a persistent online world concept like World of Warcraft or Second Life. When end game approaches, players will be informed via a notice like this:

Basically players have to rush to build 'World Wonders' and 1st player who build a World Wonder to level 100 wins. Players have to first conquer the Natar villages to get the building construction plans. There are quite a number of natars around but they have powerful armies:

Players form alliances partly for this purpose. There will be meta-alliances (groups of alliance) formed since no particular one player could achieve this feat on his own. There is a good in-game messaging mechnism, and players have used other free online forums to communicate. Various third party tools have been developed to help players, including this site that track inactive (and thus easy targets) villages.

Would I play Travian again, I guess not. Having to track my village development and watch out for attacks while managing resources on such a tight timeframe will definitely affect my work. Guess I'll stick to playing World of Warcraft, Century Voyager and such games for the time being.

Related Posts: Travian Guide - In the Beginning - Protect Resources and Build Up Defences, Travian Guide Part 2

Afternote: Lolz I'm still playing Travian as of July 2008.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Virtual Worlds / 2nd Life as an educational tool

Done a simple search of lectures in 2nd life and you would get plenty of links / search results. What's so great about attending a lecture in 2nd Life? Seems like everyone is giving it a try. There is some feedback that virtual citizens may need some time to get used to the user interface if they are not expert with the systems.

While I agree that Virtual Worlds can become a tool for educational purposes, I actually think that the value is greater in the arena of providing a harmless platform where students participate in group projects. No point listening to a lecture in virtual world when I can do the same via any other Internet portal?

More value of using the gaming worlds to provide team learning opportunities in a fun way. Imagine doing a raid in World of Warcraft where students can learn the value of teamwork, e.g simple respect for the raid leader's commands. Here's another person's blog with her account of teamwork in World of Warcraft.

Can VWs evolve to become better educational tools? I think so. The only obstacles is to get educationists to start participating in these virtual worlds before they identify the value of such tools for education. That would be a difficult obstacle to cross...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

IPv6 and what it means for me...

Let's chat about something different from online gaming but with an equally interesting development - IPv6. IPv6 means Internet Protocol version 6. For those techies, I bet you know a lot more about IPv6 than I do. For those non-techies, IPv6 is somewhat the next version of the internet addressing standards. We're using (most of us anyways) IPv4 standards currently, but this way of addressing may not be sufficient in the future. It's like phone numbers, and when more people need phone numbers, we may need to introduce longer phone numbers, e.g. 4 digit number could serve at best 10,000 (0000 - 9999) people. To serve the 10,001th person, everyone got to convert to a 5 digit phone number.

There is also a lot of prediction about when IPv6 will come, and a lot of counter arguments about why it wouldn't be so soon, e.g. introduction of NATs. ICANN seems to have more and more statements to promote take-up of IPv6, while there are also more talks about IPv6 take-up. But let's leave that to the crystal-ball gazers... and the worrying to the different governments / corporations.

For layman like you and me, IPv6 may mean the following:

a) more devices with IP addresses, i.e. Internet addresses, and so more devices connected to the Internet anytime, anywhere in more mobile fashion?

b) potential trouble with my existing hardware - do I need to change or buy anything new?

c) potential trouble with my software - do I need to 'switch' on anything?

d) fragmented Internet such that I can't surf particular sites, or the sites may look different somehow?

Can't think of any others for now, which also mean that for normal consumers like you and me, the IPv6 issues may not be truly exciting. For the corporations and governments maybe, but for us we may just need less trouble. Guess I should switch back to chat about online gaming haa.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Value of Land in an Infinite Space

Was reading some articles about the development of virtual worlds in China and did some thinking about the various land resulted wealth in the virtual worlds. Wonder if there would be a massive devaluation of land prices in the VWs once people realised that there are increasingly more and more such VWs, i.e. infinite land? Would there be a sub-prime equivalent happening for the VWs?

What would happen to folks like Anshe, who became millionaires due to the value of property development in 2nd Life when users start migrating to other VWs like HiPiHi? Was strolling around using my avatar in 2nd Life and I don't really see many people around...

That's me taking a rest on a hammock, and below is a picture of me smoking some stuff.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

State of Play V T-Shirt & Mug

Was doing some spring cleaning in my room and realised that I still have my State of Play V Shirt & Mug, unused and lying in a corner. Guess we have too many corporate mugs lying around. The conference was a good one, and it is a pity I can't attend the VW conference (not State of Play) in New York this year.