Posts Tagged ‘World of Warcraft’


MMOSpace or virtual worlds 2.0: my thoughts on Metaplace

September 20, 2007

I wasn’t going to write about this week’s breaking news, Raph Koster’s Metaplace, but having seen this Youtube video I feel in a slightly better position to comment.

It’s only a short video, but if the tools are as easy to use as Raph implies then MMOs really could become the next phase of the socialnetworking trend, following in the footsteps of Myspace, Facebook etc. One of the examples Raph shows is an ‘apartment’ where “you can have friends over to chat” which immediately reminded me of the ‘miniroom’ in Cyworld, which, let’s remember, has 20 million users over in South Korea. This link is to the US version so you can see the similarity more clearly.

The language Raph uses to describe some of the features is intentionally lifted from web 2.0 lingo; when he demonstrates how to set up a virtual world he uses the term ‘style sheet’ “it’s a lot like a theme for a blog” he explains then he goes on to describe how you can import photos, music, video etc. Although the term UGC has been used to describe Metaplace, this is not the free form and slightly intimidating UGC of Second Life where items and environments are generated from scratch, but has more in common with the ‘bricolage’ of a Myspace page.

Admittedly if you look at the video carefully you can see that the page with the ‘stylesheets’ on is tabbed and the tab Raph focuses on is entitled ‘noob’, the next tab up is called ‘bring it!’ and the last tab ‘hardcore’. So we can surmise that Raph is showing us the ‘easy’ option, and the ‘hardcore’ option may be closer to the Second Life UGC model, if you check the Alpha sign up application form it does ask if you have any programming skills and if so what they are.

Clearly the real clincher in terms of web 2.0 similarities is the web-like capacity to build feeds through in-game items and link in-game items/spaces to the web through widgets and the like (not to mention the free movement of items between the virtual worlds in Metaplace itself). While Raph suggests that users can build their own ‘World of Warcraft’ if they wish, the obvious benefit is the simplicity of the platform which sounds no more difficult then setting up your own Facebook or Myspace page. As you may have noticed many brands/companies have their own Myspace/Facebook profiles not just because they’re seen to be an essential online presence but because they are cheap and easy to set-up and maintain, something that can’t be said for a Second Life presence, for example. Together with the web compatibility of Metaspace’s virtual worlds with the rest of the web, meaning that companies could have their users embed widgets into other personal web spaces, it seems like a done deal.

Of course, Metaspace isn’t unique in this capacity, as Alice Taylor points out there are other companies planning similar services, and there are companies like Koinup who are building social networking tools based on existing virtual worlds/MMOs, but Raph Koster’s ‘celebrity’ will certianly carry a lot of weight in bringing virtual worlds to the masses. We’ll just have to wait and see if these metaverse ideas bear the fruit they promise.


The Growing Role of ‘Real Life’ in Virtual Worlds

August 9, 2007

Everyone who plays an MMO will know that ‘real life’ is often a big part of the virtual world experience. Just one example; Nick Yee’s study found that 70% of people played with someone they knew in real life and many people get into an MMO because their friend’s play it. On top of this there are of course hundreds of thousands of blogs, websites and forums dedicated to discussing virtual worlds, the problem is that very few real life brands seem to be aware of these facts.

A good example is Blizzard’s World of Warcraft trading cards game where certain cards come with codes that give players access to unique in-game items, like pets or mounts, very important in an environment where characters can end up looking very similar. According to Virtual Worlds News Mattel are taking a similar approach with their MMO by selling ‘accessory packs’ that contain fashion accessories and virtual currency. I think this idea is actually superior to buying real goods in virtual worlds simply because there are more people in real life who might be tempted to try out an MMO if they saw a product on a shelf in a shop or on a website. The other problem emerging from research I’ve done in Second Life (although I’m still collecting data) is that while almost everyone I’ve interviewed plays with browsers open in the background very few are clicking through to websites, blogs etc. Although publications like the Avastar with something in the region of 100,000+ readers prove that people will click through to downloadable PDFs it suggests that there are issues here that need to be dealt with.

Now why couldn’t those brands going into Second Life do something similar? It seems that currently the kids toy brands are moving faster than the adult targeted brands (see Now 67 in Habbo Hotel) possibly because there is less stigma amongst children about paying for things that aren’t ‘real’, but this ignores the mainstream popularity of virtual goods on sites like Facebook or virtual currency on fast growing sites like iminlikewithyou. As yet these sites don’t charge for virtual goods but it’s only a matter of time til they or similar sites do, then maybe we’ll be able to buy packs of virtual goods in Tescos.

Update: according to this article SOE plan on releasing a TCG for Everquest II, called ‘Legends of Norrath: Oathbound’, that as well as offering unique in-game goods lets players play it in the game world itself!


Music in Virtual Worlds

July 27, 2007

Having not posted for a week I missed the two big pieces of news; World of Warcraft crossed the 9 million player threshold, putting to silence all the ‘is WoW going down?’ posts from last month. The other, less positive (for Linden Labs), news is that gambling has been banned in Second Life, surely one of the more popular and lucrative activities that took place there.

In other news, and perhaps more interesting in the evolution of real life/virtual world crossover, is the deal EMI have struck with Habbo Hotel which will see Now 67 (a[n awful] compilation of chart music) played at the specially opened Summer Beach Cafe.
Some will say it’s a sign of the music industry’s desperation, the only information I could find on compilation sales was from 2005 where there was a significant drop (15.7%) in sales, the BPI putting the blame on DIY compilations and, erm, piracy. Personally I think it could work, even though from my understanding little came of the launch of boyband 365(?) in Habbo last year (I think the problems with that one are fairly obvious).

I was planning on writing a post on the subject of music in virtual worlds anyway, so this is a good opportunity to elaborate. When I’m working I like to listen to music, but sometimes music with lyrics breaks my concentration, so I like to listen to soundtracks, the odd bit of classical music or electro/techno type stuff. Naturally the soundtracks to World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade are albums I regularly turn to on these occasions.

As WoW players will know, most zones have music that is unique to them so unless you choose to turn it off, you’re hearing for however many hours you spend in that zone. So when you listen to the music on the soundtrack albums you find yourself having vivid flashbacks of the experiences of your time in that particular zone. As soon as I hear the opening notes of ‘Stranglethorn Vale’ my heartbeat speeds up as I recall the heightened excitement of being in a zone where I’m rubbing shoukders with enemy players. Of course this is no different from real life where you associate certain songs with people, places or a time of you life. My point is that these songs become more important because of this association.

The other factor is that people can spend a great deal of time in virtual worlds, so when it comes to music they’re potentially captive audiences and the more they hear a song the more they’ll associate it with the great time they’re presumably having in which ever virtual world they happen to be in.

What I think EMI have done right this time is to take music that many people will already be familiar with and that they are likely to hear in real life as well as in Habbo Hotel. The problem with music in virtual worlds, like the World of Warcraft soundtracks, is that it’s easy not to notice it’s impact, it becomes little more than background ambience. Hearing it in a different, real life context reminds listeners how significant that track is which hopefully translates into a purchase. The one problem is that with a compilcation album people might just download their favourite tracks…