Showing posts with label Virtual World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virtual World. Show all posts

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Bondee - Latest Mobile App for the Metaverse

With all the hype around the concept of Metaverse, it is no wonder that more companies are developing apps to connect users to a metaverse of their own creation. The latest is Bondee, which has ranked top among the free apps chart on Google Pay with more than a million downloads since the launch on 15th Jan 2023. It is developed by Metadream Tech, a Singapore based company.

Bondee Screenshot - New User

Bondee allows you to connect with friends, chat, and visit each other's rooms in a neighborhood setting. Signing up is pretty easy and the usual process of ID creation is smooth. They do need birthday details, and officially only those who are 13 and above of age could create an account. Providing a phone number would also make it easier for your friends to locate you and "add friend" to their accounts. There is a two step verification via SMS to ensure that the phone number is indeed linked to your mobile phone.

After registration, it is time to create your customised avatar! There are plenty of options (hairstyle, accessories, clothes etc) and if a step-by-step process of tweaking every detail is too tedious for you, you could always choose one of those pre-setup options as a base to simplify the avatar customisation process. After that, it is time to add some friends! You could share your own Bondee QR codes or IDs via chats, and I've shared mine on Instagram, to make it easier for friends to find me.

There are two nice features of Bondee (at least to me), and one of them is the ability to decorate your own room. Similar to the avatar creation, there are also two more options to pre-fill a room in a certain style to speed up the process. Many of the items are marked as "Limited Free Trial" and I wonder how much would they cost (eventually) to own them. Or, having selected them now, would they be taken away past this time period? There is also an option to add / customise the items using your own photos, which is a nice touch beyond just cartoony furniture.
Once the room is set up, you could view your room in the neighbourhood setup in an isometric style. You could visit your friends' room and leave post-it notes on their walls too.

The other fun feature is a sailing option although I'm not sure what is the background story to such a 'sea sailing' feature. Upon sailing in the small boat, the user could meet other users or even pick up bottles with notes inside. Thus far I've only met 1 other Bondee user while I was sailing.

Besides these two features, the normal functions of the Bondee app as far as I can see, is to chat with friends via both a personal chat, as well as group chat. You could also indicate your current status via a number of options e.g. charging up, sleeping, chilling, playing with sparklers etc.
I guess these apps would be attractive when more and more friends use it - currently I have less than 10 friends on Bondee, and maybe I could add more in the coming days (current max of 50)! Bondee have yet to add Paid features but I guess that would be inevitable at some point.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Singapore's Tangs joined others in Second Life

Seems like our famous shopping retailer in Orchard has joined others in setting up a Second Life store. Folks who want to buy the clothes and items from the Tangs store could use Linden dollars or the First Meta credit cards to pay.

pay for their purchases in Linden dollars, the game's currency, or via a virtual credit card. Credit card bills are paid monthly in Linden dollars, which can be traded for real money

The Second Life craze has caught up with our local retailers, but I just wonder if it is a bit too late in joining the craze. Earlier retailers who joined Second Life has reaped all the good publicity. Maybe Tangs should look at Facebook with its 140 million users instead of Second Life with its 13 million users. Oh well, NUS's second Life is also hyping up, and so there are still a good number of users who would be interested.

After Second Life, what's next? Facebook, Twitter, and?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Real Life Financial Crisis - Virtual World Woes

It is interesting how the current global financial crisis has resulted in adverse impact for the virtual world. I was reading the newspapers and an article remarked about the changes at Google, including the impending shutdown of Google Lively.

Lively was launched just a few months ago, and earlier articles even commented that there are monetization potential for Lively, and now it's Lively No More, cos' Google has to "prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business."

Now I wonder if other worlds will be 'hit' similarly by the financial tsunami. Would subscription based VWs suffered loss of gamer base, and the 'free to play' VWs (e.g. Second Life) crashed like what happened to Lively? Interesting to see articles that draw parallels between the VWs and real world economy, especially how they described the financial woes, e.g. Second Life's Ginko Bank.

Oh well, at the end of the day, both VWs and real world are inextricably linked by people like you and me; if we are hit by any woes, both type of worlds will 'feel it'.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Update about Smallworlds

Smallworlds has added more features to their service, which will be released in early September. With the new release, Smallworlds players can (thru the new Arcade Game Widget) design, build and submit their own games. Features of games ratings, high scores ladder and search capabilities will also be added. Those in-world games developers can gain fame and the in-world tokens for these player generated games, and potentially earn real money for these production. This design capability is extended to allow players to design their own missions, i.e. in-world quests / tasks.

Smallworlds players can also add 'spells, potions, stinkbombs...etc as part of their interaction with other players. It should be fun to throw stinkbombs at other players. Take a look at this YouTube for the demos on stinkbombs and rockets.

More interactivities will also be added to enable players to 'fly around', with special wings and gears. Players can also set up portals and doors to lead to different parts / extension of the players' rooms. These doors and portals could be activated via different puzzles like equipments. Players could also embed flash-like widgets to their own websites, including blogs or MySpace. I'm not sure how large (in kilobytes) or how 'smooth' would the interaction be, in the event when the website visitors want to interact with the SmallWorlds widget.

Last but not least is the function to buy and sell in-world spaces (i.e. properties), and items. This brings Smallworlds to the same level as other virtual worlds like Second Life. It is not clear whether such sales proceeds could be 'legally' converted back to real world cash subsequently. Smallworlds has a lot of potential due to its browser based concept with enhanced integration with other browser apps / sites (e.g. embedded YouTube), and hopefully they can achieve some level of mainstream recognition.

Related Posts:
- Simple Review of SmallWorlds - New Virtual World
- Smallworlds application in Facebook

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Gold Farming Academic Analysis

Found a 87 pages academic analysis of gold farming in virtual worlds from Richard Heeks from University of Manchester, and I've done a 'points' form summary of the conclusion. This summary is very long, and I do think the paper is worth a detailed read.

General Statistics:
  • rough guess is that 400,000 gold farmers in 2008 earn an average US$145 per month produced a global market worth US$500m;
  • there are probably 5-10m consumers of gold farming services. The main uncertainty of estimation relates to the gold-farming market in East Asia, which appears much larger than that in the US/EU;
  • guesstimated 80-85% of gold farming takes place in China;
Historical Development:
  • "pre-history" of gold farming dates from the 1980s, and we can structure it in terms of capitalist development, starting with "subsistence" production and moving through barter, commoditisation and monetisation until it reach the petty commodity production of the 21st century;
  • gold farming proper started in earnest in 2001-2002, really took off in 2003-2004, and entered something of a black hole phase in data terms during 2007-2008. This can be structured as a move from petty to capitalist commodity production involving wage labour, automation, and globalisation/offshoring, particularly to Asia;
  • From mid-2005 to mid-2008, however, in-game currencies devalued an average of 75% against the US dollar. The continuing survival of the sub-sector probably relies on a disappearance of those super-profits, increased productivity, and disintermediation so that many firms now sell direct to consumers. As a result of these plus new entrants and the anti-gold-farming actions of game companies, power within the gold-farming value chain has in recent years become more dispersed, and has shifted somewhat away from brokers and somewhat towards game companies.
  • Thirdly, continuing survival of gold farming relies on dealing with the many threats it faces and an important threat that is much more serious such as game company substitution or legal action by governments or game companies. Continuing survival of the sub-sector also relies on overcoming some severe information failures – absence, uncertainty, asymmetry, and communication problems.
  • gold farming helps reduce unemployment and poverty, and improve national balance of trade and income equity. It may help reduce crime and provide a model for telecentre and cybercafé financial sustainability;
  • gold farming seems to represent an efficient use of capital in job-creation terms
Market Structure of Gold Farming:
  • entrepreneurs (almost all men) who start up gold farms are pulled into the sub-sector by some mix of existing game- and/or gold-farming-knowledge plus the lure of profits. They have created tens of thousands of enterprises, principally micro-enterprises employing less than 10 staff, and they are informally-financed.
  • gold farmers typically work alongside managers, researchers, technical support and customer relations staff. The apparent lack of domination by medium- and large-scale firms means, though, there must also be scale diseconomies, such as the costs of "being noticed" by government and game companies. These two stakeholders, alongside ICT suppliers, fansites and regular players, sit outside the main gold farming value chain.
  • The sub-sector has taken off because a demand with more money than time met a supply with more time than money.
Social Perceptions:
  • Perception outranks reality in the discourse on gold farming, and – at least in the West – those perceptions have been largely negative, serving to homogenise, alienise, criminalise and moralise about gold farmers. That this has happened supports the idea that racial stereotypes and views about immigrant labour are remapped into cyberspace. It also supports the structuralist argument that institutional forces in the real world are reproduced in new, virtual fields like gold farming.
  • There is some contra-flow, suggesting the sub-sector's virtuality has produced new outcomes; for example in relation to intermediaries. While this falls short of an argument that technology has transformed social structures and behaviours, it means the mix of technology, structure and agency is unpredictable.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

MIRALab - Prof Magnenat-Thalmann & Virtual Worlds

I chanced upon an article in the NTU '@NTU' magazine that described the works of MIRALab. After I visited their website, I'm impressed. The main reason is the amount of research they have done for CGI and Virtual Worlds. From their website, here's a brief description:
MIRALab was founded in 1989 by Professor Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann. She chairs around 30 researchers coming from as many different fields as Computer Science, Mathematics, Medicine, Telecommunications, Architecture, Fashion Design, Cognitive Science, Haptics, Augmented Reality, etc. This truly interdisciplinary group works in the field of Computer Graphics, Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds. Since 1992, MIRALab has participated in more than 45 European Projects. International conferences such as CASA and CGI are often organized in Switzerland by MIRALab. Actually, Prof. Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann leads 3 ongoing European Research Projects: INTERMEDIA NoE, HAPTEX and 3D ANATOMICAL HUMAN, a Marie Curie Research Training Network. Moreover, MIRALab produces displays for museums, galleries, such as fashion shows or cyberdances with virtual models and clothes.
The list of projects could be found on their website. While they are not in the business of creating virtual worlds per se (not like Linden Labs), their works will feed into the greater community of how virtual worlds are created. I'm impressed mainly because the demo movies and images are of high quality for the technology of that time. For example, here's a YouTube upload of animation done in 2002, 'Virtual Life in Pompeii.

The work is not just in animation; they are now researching on textile and how cloth behaves in virtual world. Well, here's the YouTube about the research in this area. For more info, pop by their website for more videos and descriptions. I like the 'hair dance 2006' too but I guess we have enough videos for now. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

ExitReality - simple review

I was reading the Virtually Blind blog about the ExitReality '3D Internet' pluggin and decided to give it a try. The pluggin from ExitReality of about 3.7 MBs provides users the ability to view and navigate any 2D website in 3D. The signup is relatively easy:

After you downloaded the pluggin, the installation is also fast and without fuss. However, there is about where the nice experience ended. Using the pluggin I was first brough to this page:

There is no immediate tutorial, and the interface is not that intuitive. It took a while to learn how to navigate around. If you clicked on the tutorial, there will be instructions to help one start out. I'm also not sure why would people want to view a 2D website in 3D. ExitReality's own site is nice and pleasing but other people's sites may be less so in 3D. The pluggin also crashed my system once. Compared to other new 'Virtual Worlds' like SmallWorlds or the Amazing Worlds 's mirror world, there is much room for improvement. Oh well I guess it's all in beta stage and it is unfair to write it off so soon.

Here's how this blog looks like in ExitReality. The pluggin managed to detect that the general theme is in black, and painted the background correctly. Hopefully it will look better the next time, when the product is fully ready.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

World of World of Warcraft?!

Saw this in the news and I wonder if it's real? Anyone knows? Afternote: Ok, just found out that these folks are satirists. Well, guess I didn't know that earlier. Sorry.

World of World of Warcraft allows Warcraft gamers to do what they like to do more than anything else in life, which is, play Warcraft.

'Warcraft' Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing 'Warcraft'

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Simple Review of Smallworlds - New Virtual World

With all the rage about interactive social virtual worlds, there are a number of such developments around the (actual) world. One relatively recent development is the SmallWorlds by Outsmart based in New Zealand.

Small Worlds is flash based and that is a big advantage for players since it eliminates the need to download a few hundred megabytes of client files. Moreover, with a flash based platform, a player can enter the world using any other computer and not be restricted to the computer with the client software.

So yes I joined Small Worlds (currently still in beta stage) and it is fun! Firstly, the tutorial or beginning 'missions' are relatively easy, and that smooth out the learning curve drastically compared to say, 2nd Life. A player can have his own pets, and house right from the start with options to re-decor the wall and floor tiles. Game mechanics is easy, including the basic navigation and inventory management. One could also customise the avatar features and dressing with multiple options.

The interesting part of the Small Worlds is that it allows for interaction with other Web 2.0 applications, e.g. a player could get a 'photoframe' to hang on his wall that displays his 'flickr' photos. Players could also link to music applications in the Small Worlds that allow for playing of their song tracks in common area like the Small World Cue Room. I understand that there is also the TV gadget that could be used to link to Youtube, which allows for multiple people to watch 'TV' Youtube together, as well as message board linked to Twitter. So I went in, and played some pool games with a UK player. The games applications like Pool, Checkers, Chess...etc are already available in the common rooms.

The game makes it easy to learn how to interact with these applications by creating quest 'missions that requires players to interact with each other via the games. After playing the pool game with another another player, I 'completed' the mission, which grants tokens that I can use, for example to buy furniture. Other than tokens there are 'gold coins' options which I guess will be bought using real life currency.

There are a number of other 'missions' available, including 'shopping' quests that introduce the basic concepts of items purchase and manipulation.

Below is a pic of the Mary's Antique shop where a player could do some shopping. I bought some chairs, table, candles and a vase of flowers. Guess my house still looks quite empty for now. I want the TV and message board, so ok it's time to complete more quests / missions in Small Worlds.

Related post
- Smallworlds application in Facebook
- Update about Smallworlds

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Computer Games & Allied Technology 08

I went to the Computer Games and Allied Technology 08 on day two of the event. The particularly interesting sessions to me would be the ones on the rights ownership in virtual worlds, and the use of virtual worlds for scientific collaboration. Paul Bourke from the University of Western Australia presented an interesting example where scientists collaborated on the creation of a replicate site in Australia for a telescope. He also gave examples of how 2nd Life could be used to visualise 3D molecules. What is interesting to me is how we could model virtual objects using real world data. Incorporate this concept with existing mapping tools like Google Earth, it is highly possible that we could experience 'mirror worlds' creation much sooner than we thought.

Pic of a booth at the event

Virtual worlds are also no longer just platforms for recreational games, as evident from the numerous news articles and developments in this area. That was also quite well covered by the different CGAT sessions about the use of such tools for learning. What is remarkable is that people have been talking about it since 2002 or earlier (see this BBC article), but this concept is still not widely adopted.

Oh well, having more of such seminars / conferences would definitely profile the benefits of virtual worlds to more mainstream audience. Of course, after these uses become mainstream, the difficult questions of who owns what rights, and how much of the revenue should go to which 'creators' would be a big headache for consideration. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Singapore Mirror World (not yet but coming)

Imagine a virtual world that parallels the real world. This virtual world will have buildings, streets, objects that exist and are located at exactly the same reference as the real world. This virtual world will have an Orchard Road, a Suntec City, a Junction 8, with shops, walls and objects just exactly as the real Orchard Road, Suntec, and Junction 8.

Fantasy? No, it's actually an old concept.

The concept was first explored in the book "Mirror Worlds" by David Gelernter in 1991, i.e. 17 years ago! Back then technology can't put such a concept to reality.

Today it can. Yes, it can! Look at Google Earth. The software already allows a full rendition of good satellite maps that allow for zooming. Add 3D buildings to it, and viola there you have it! There is at least one such city around, i.e. Berlin.

In Singapore, we also have a group of people trying to put virtual buildings that match the real ones. The group discuss their findings (and offer many other mash-ups) at the SinGeo website. Of course, having a rendered object doesn't give the same feel as the real ones, i.e. some features (like botched paint job, or faded tiles..etc) wouldn't be reflected. But technology is improving, and there are other initiatives around that could help. There is Google Street View, but that's only street level view of real world. Google Street View is not the only initiative around, there are others, e.g Microsoft's similar project.

Personally what I feel is lacking is the interactivity between these Mirror World objects and their real life counter-parts. I don't think there is any actual example yet of a Mirror World avatar shopping through, say, Borders, browsing a virtual book at a book launch, and be given the choice of either a) purchase a digital copy (e.g. pdf format) of the book, or b) order a real hard copy that will be delivered to a physical address. In such an example, the book launch could take place simultaneously in both real and Mirror World, with the latter reflecting the buzz and happenings in real-time. I reckon the 'feel' will be very different than watching a real broadcast of the event. You can't interact in the broadcast at least, and neither can you 'move' and view the event from multiple angles. Such a Mirror World service will allow for many more people to be present and interact at the event, a value proposition that is both commercially as well as socially appealing.

I guess the developments in these areas still need time, and I wouldn't be surprised that Mirror Worlds become as common place as existing virtual worlds (e.g. 2nd Life) in 4-5 years time. In the mean while, here's a YouTube video of a virtual F1 race through a somewhat Mirror World area of Singapore, done by Earth@Sg folks. Enjoy!

Here's another version done using Google Earth. Heh... eh both done by same group of people?

Afternote (23 Apr): SingTel released a plyable F1 simulator, which could be downloaded here. So you need not just watch the YouTube, but you could play the simulator and experienced the night race yourself!

Friday, April 4, 2008

What type of a MMORPG gamer are you?

Sometime back a friend passed me this website done by the Daedalus Project, where after going through 39 questions, a profile of the gamer could be generated. An analysis of the profile is done against 3200 MMORPG players. Profile includes Achievement, Socializing, and Immersion with 3-4 subcomponents and there is this chart that marks out the component:

gamer personality radar

The Daedalus Project is interesting because it also showcases the preference of many MMORPG players, which I feel maybe a subtle reflection of how they may want themselves to be seen in real life. Example, many players reflect an average height or slightly taller height for their avatars, and they choose average or attractive looks for their characters. The site has more opinions by the organiser.

Worth a read, some of the comments (for example role reversal) are especially interesting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Population of Online Gamers in Singapore

I am very curious just to find out how many online gamers are there in Singapore, primarily because I'm one of them. After attending the Cabal event at Suntec, and also other previous online games events, I do think there is a sizeable online gamers population here.

So I do a simple search, and got some statistics from the Infocomm Development Authority website, which gave only percentage figures. These are what I got from their survey done in 2006. Still not used to making tables in blog, so the centre figures I'll fill in brackets instead.

Age (Internet Users) % of Users who use Internet for games
10 to 14 yrs (84%) 58%
15 to 29 yrs (81%) 40%
30 to 44 yrs (66%) 24%
45 to 59 yrs (46%) 26%
60 yrs and above (21%) 0%

But these are just percentage terms. So I went to the Department of Stats and drew out the population figures for 2006. The figures for the 5 groups are 134.3k, 362.7k, 462k, 407.7k, and 166.2k respectively. So I multiplied them together and got this:

Age Online Gamers (sort of) (in thousands)
10 to 14 yrs 65.4
15 to 29 yrs 117.5
30 to 44 yrs 73.2
45 to 59 yrs 48.8
60 yrs and above 0

Total of 304.8k online gamers in small population of 4.5 millions! Wow!! Heh heh heh, so I can tell people that online gaming is indeed a culture now, especially with more generous government fundings to create virtual worlds for us the online 'residents'.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blizzard versu Botters - Who is right?

Just read the news on Virtually Blind about the court case between Blizzard and the botters, i.e. WoWGliders. What is most interesting is the enclosed Castronova's expert report on botters.

Firstly I must say that I dislike botters, and secondly, I like and I play World of Warcraft (without use of any bot programs!).

However, there are many parts of Castronova's arguments that I disagree with. He argues that there is unfairness felt by players when other players use the bots. Unfairness stemmed from two perspectives, i.e. that the botters level much faster which makes others feel inferior, and the botters can farm for gold and items that cause inflation to the in-world economy. This unfairness then cause damages for Blizzard. The actual arguments are longer and worth a read.

Sure, the botters can level faster and farm much more effectively compared to real players. However, this does not in itself necessarily cause unhappiness among players. WoW is not a game with an end goal such that the first player who reaches level 70 wins and everyone else loses. People play WoW cos' of the immersive environment (mentioned in his arguments) which includes graphics, design of quests, music...etc etc. So what if there are many botters who reached level 70? The people simply missed out the fun of the journey, i.e. the quests and quest rewards along the way. There are many other games who provide the legitimate options of letting players having 2x experience or 2x gold, e.g. MapleStory, in recognition of such a demand from players with limited game time.

maple cash shop

Level 70 onwards for WoW is a different game-play where the focus is on raids, and bots can't participate in raids. Let me know if you are aware of bots in raids, the details would be interesting.

Thus the only issue is about the grinding in-between level 1 and level 70. Quests helps, and Blizzard can definitely do more to cut down the grinding time. Have more interactive quests that give good experience points, rather than those 'get 10 stone slabs' types of quests that do nothing but require players to grind! Reduce the disincentive of grinding, and players will not have the need to pay separately for bot programs. It is the grinding portion, that makes players feel unhappy when they see the botters in the game. It's a case of "I'm suffering from the grind, why aren't you?". But why the need to suffer in the first instance? Personally I find the grinding from level 40 to 50ish especially tedious.

I think Blizzard knows that, thus the reward experience and items for Burning Crusade reflect it (I think). Quests in Burning Crusade gives much better items compared to general mob drops. Generally bots don't do quests, and so would miss out on the items. So I guess they are already fixing that in the game.

The second portion of in-game inflation is also something I disagree with. So bots cause inflation? Lolz, step into the Auction House (AH) and take a look. When bots are around, the prices deflate! This is a case of supply and demand. When there is a huge supply of goods from bots, the prices of these goods fall in the AH, especially for those craft related items like gems. Picture of a AH below. For non-WoW readers, AH is an auction mechanism that allows trade among players.

Sure, gold buyers can have access to a lot of gold from the botters using real cash. Then gold buyers use their large supply of gold to buy items / enchantments...etc. Isn't this good for the actual players, i.e. those normal players who then have a ready supply of clients for enchantments, jewel-making ... etc etc? Worried about gold buyers' demand that cause a price increase for armours, weapons...etc? Just make the better items 'bind on pick-up', i.e. can't sell these items in AH. Gold buyers would be stupid to pay lot of gold for a more inferior item. For non-WoW readers, here's a pic of what you see when you click on the auctioneer in AH.

So, it's a matter of incentive again much like the 'grinding' case above. Reduce the incentive for gold buyers, i.e. give better items for quests which gold cannot buy, and the demand for these quick gold would drop.

I think Blizzard is smart enough to understand these since the dynamics for Burning Crusade, i.e. items drops versus quests or 'bind on pick-up' are different from pre Burning Crusade game-play. Blizzard can sue the bot software developers whatever ways it wants, but let's have even better game dynamics for the next game expansion ok?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cabal Online Launch @ Suntec Atrium

Cabal Online was launched by AsiaSoft on 3rd March 2008. Today at the Suntec Atrium, there is a Cabal Online Carnival (o.k. it's not a launch but still within the same month)! Only realised at the Carnival that 'Cabal' is pronounced as 'Kar Bal' and not 'Cable'. Lolz.

There was a huge crowd, especially in the morning around 11am. Queue for the freebies was especially long, snaking out of the Atrium area. Most of the crowd came in black and/ or green, since wearing the 'Cabal' colours entitle you to a lucky draw coupon.

There were quite a number of games at the Carnival. One of them was the 'combo' competition. For the 20 hits combo, only a few made it to the scoreboard. Another game was the 'showhand' where each person tried to match his card to the one display on the big screen.

I stayed around for a while, watching the demos of the game. The demos are mostly (if not all) level 101 avatars, so the skills demostrated are of course impressive lah. Those without an AsiaSoft account could also sign up for one at the 'aClub' shop on level 3. Organisers are quite thoughtful and had marked out the direction on the ground with these signs:

I went to take a look, and there was also a long line of people waiting to 'verify' their accounts. Actually, if not for these signs, I would never be able to find this shop hidden in that obscure corner of Suntec.

Overall it was a nice experience going to the carnival. There is quite a large group of online gamers around, especially the students group. Seen a few more matured adults as well. Compared to the two other 'carnivals' / 'launches' (MapleStory & WoW Burning Crusade) that I've been to, the Cabal Online carnival was not as crowded. I guess it's the nature of the games, those games with less grinding needed would attract more gamers, especially casual garmers who may be more willing to participate in such offline activities. Just my 2 cents worth of thought.

Oh yah, I got the goodies when the queue shortened sufficiently. Since I was not among the first, I didn't get the bags with a t-shirt inside. Got the free CDs, lanyard, poster & a few other kit knacks. Here's the pic of what I got. Guess it pays to go earlier to queue, at least you will get the T-shirt!

Monday, March 17, 2008

NUS has a Second Life Campus!

I've just read on the site that NUS (National University of Singapore) students had set up a virtual campus in Second Life! It is not that big a deal since there are many other universities (e.g. Ohio, Princeton...etc) who already experiment with such a concept sometime back. The idea of using virtual worlds as educational tool has also been covered by many others.

Heh, but it's still worthwhile to go in and take a look right? I went in, and well the campus looked quite empty except for a NUS team member (I took a pic of his avatar, see below). The objects are quite well done up, and hopefully there will be more activities inside the NUS island soon.

According to the Campus Observer, the NUS campus was launched only fairly recently. So perhaps in a couple of weeks time there will be more folks in the virtual campus. It will be interesting to participate in the virtual world market place and the dance floor once the students start coming in. I wonder if there will be a parallel Union Bash in Second Life as the real one proceeds?

Here's the place where I first teleported to:

Here's a view of the University Hall, and I got into the Tan Chin Tuan wing for a closer look of the area:

There are nice posters on the wall detailing the NUS life.

Maybe I should log on during school hours, and hopefully I can sneak into one of the lectures? Will visit the place again, especially when it's fully completed in June 2008. I saw this dancer in one of the areas inside the island, and he passed me a website, with more details about the NUS Second Life project. It seems he is the Chief Administrator of the NUS Second Life. The website has news highlights, blog highlights, and calendar of events.

There are also other interactive objects at the NUS Island, including this bot who gives away tokens. For a moment I thought they will give away Linden Dollars, lolz.

Went to this colourful area which I suspect is the dance floor? Oh well, I will explore more of the area the next time.

They did more publicity and here's one of the posters found around the NUS campus.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

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.

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...

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gambling, banking & what next?

A couple of weeks back Second Life decided to place restrictions on banking activities in the Second Life. Let me quote some parts of the announcement:

As of January 22, 2008, it will be prohibited to offer interest or any direct return on an investment (whether in L$ or other currency) from any object, such as an ATM, located in Second Life, without proof of an applicable government registration statement or financial institution charter. We’re implementing this policy after reviewing Resident complaints, banking activities, and the law, and we’re doing it to protect our Residents and the integrity of our economy.

Since the collapse of Ginko Financial in August 2007, Linden Lab has received complaints about several in-world “banks” defaulting on their promises. These banks often promise unusually high rates of L$ return, reaching 20, 40, or even 60 percent annualized.

It is interesting that Second Life does allow 'real banks' to function in Second Life. Since this effectively legitimises banking in Second Life (provided you have a real world bank presence) then does it allows for real world bank transactions via Second Life? For example if I want to transfer money from a bank account, say in London, to another bank account, say in New York, am I subject to any tax by the relevant authorities? I think this opens up another can of worms for Second Life since it now really has to regulate virtual banks in its servers.

This comes right after Second Life bans gambling in the virtual world. Banning gambling is an easier way of complying with regulations since it allows Second Life to outright deny any association with such activities.

By doing the above, Second Life is essentially imposing certain form of regulations due to pressure from real life regulatory frameworks. Not sure how this would pan out for Second Life, but it is likely that Second Life would face more pressure for other 'content regulation' from now on. Guess they have to balance having more 'in-server activities' with vast freedom versus pressure from various regulatory bodies. Wonder if my Second Life avatar consumes a 'drug' which results in some visual / audio manipulation of my screen / speakers to simulate 'drug high', would my avatar be commiting any real world offences?