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DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds. Week 11 Technical, Social and Design Issues in Virtual Worlds 6pm – 9pm Tuesday, October 9 th , 2007 Kathryn Merrick and Owen Macindoe. DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007.

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Desc9180 designing virtual worlds l.jpg
DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds

Week 11

Technical, Social and Design Issues

in Virtual Worlds

6pm – 9pm

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Kathryn Merrick and Owen Macindoe

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Lecture Overview

  • Issues associated with virtual worlds:

    • Technical limitations

    • Design constraints

    • Social issues

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Technical Issues

  • Infrastructure issues:

    • Related to hardware and software

  • Usage issues:

    • Related to functionality

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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System Requirements – Client Side

  • Virtual worlds generally have high end system requirements:

    • Bandwidth, graphics cards, sound cards, head sets, RAM, OS…

  • System requirements change as content is added

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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System Requirements – Server Side

  • Virtual worlds also have high end system requirements on the server side:

    • Server farms

    • Sophisticated load balancing

    • Databases to track large numbers of objects

    • Redundancy measures

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Availability

  • Geographic location affects availability

  • Barriers to global release:

    • Language

      • Software, support, moderation

    • Economic differences

    • Cultural differences

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Reliability

  • Related to availability – how reliably is the virtual world available?

  • Affected by:

    • Scheduled downtimes

    • Unforseen technical issues

    • Malicious activities

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Scalability

  • Issues that arise when there are LOTS of users:

    • Loss of synchronisation between client and server – ‘The Lag Monster’

    • Slow down

    • Failure of some services

    • Catastrophic world failure

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Security

  • Subscriber details need to be secured

    • Personal details

    • Credit card details

  • Anonymity needs to be maintained BUT users must still be accountable for their actions

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Emergent Game Play

  • Complex physics and flexible object interaction in virtual worlds may make it possible for players to solve in-game problems in unforseen ways:

    • Creative solutions

    • Sequence breaking

  • More recent virtual worlds encourage emergent game play:

    • Machinima

    • Real economy interaction

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Bugs

  • ‘Open-endedness’ of virtual worlds makes them hard to test:

    • Difficult to predict every way in which a user might interact with the world

  • Load testing difficult:

    • Beta servers generally not that popular

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Functionality Limitations

  • Restrictions on what players can do

  • Reasons:

    • Technical difficulty of implementation

    • Block security holes

    • Future work

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Design Issues

  • In-world dynamics:

    • What aspects of the physical world are reflected in the virtual?

  • Governance:

    • Rule creation and enforcement

  • Checks and balances:

    • How to ensure that life goes on…

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Virtual Government

  • Local government:

    • Individuals govern small areas by creating local laws

    • Eg: Estates in Second Life

      • Building height, appearance, function

  • Global government:

    • World designers impose global laws

    • Terms of Use agreements

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Virtual Law Enforcement

  • Local enforcement:

    • Individuals monitor small areas according to local (or global) rules

  • Global enforcement:

    • In game administrators moderate content according to Terms of Use agreements

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Real World Law Enforcement

  • Global enforcement is required to prevent virtual worlds being used for:

    • Money laundering

    • Gambling (US)

    • Terrorist activities

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Law Enforcement – The Grey Area

  • When does an action in the virtual world constitute a crime in the real world?

    • This question came to notice following a virtual rape in LambdaMOO

    • But the line is still blurry…

Reading: “A Rape in Cyberspace, or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society“ Julian Dibbell, 1993

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Intellectual Property Rights

  • Who owns what?

    • Blizzard retains the IP right to all game content

    • Linden grants residents the IP rights for digital content they create

      • Avatar, clothing, scripts, textures, objects

      • This right is enforceable in the real world

    • BUT: Linden is not liable if your IP is destroyed or lost

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Virtual Economy

  • Economy must be balanced to avoid inflation (“Mudflation”)

  • Fund sources and sinks must be carefully considered

  • One approach is to ban transactions between real and virtual currencies (‘RMTs’)

Change in exchange rate over time between $L and $US

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Races and Balances

  • Some virtual worlds allow avatars of different ‘races’ with different strengths and weaknesses

  • Race statistics must be balanced

  • Small changes (nerfs) can upset the balance, having drastic effects

World of Warcraft races include gnomes, dwarves, humans and night elves

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Social Issues

  • Interaction with others while using virtual worlds

  • Impact of virtual worlds on real world social interactions

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Bots

  • A bot is a player character that is controlled by a machine

  • Generally not allowed in virtual game worlds:

    • Players get annoyed when others level faster without doing all the hard work

    • Bots encourage an external market for power-levelling, gold, items, etc.

    • Bots can cause server load issues

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Bots vs Agents

  • Some virtual worlds encourage scripted autonomous agents:

    • These are generally independent of the designated human controlled character

  • Advantages:

    • Dynamic behaviour makes the world more interesting – eg: if not enough human characters online

    • Perform tasks on behalf of their owners

      • Eg: vendors to sell goods while player is offline

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Griefers

  • Players in virtual worlds whose aim is to cause grief to other players:

    • Verbal harassment

    • Virtual assault or murder (!?)

    • Property damage

    • Theft

    • Denial of service attacks

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Video Game Addiction

  • Compulsive use of computer and video games to the detriment of real world achievement

    • Most commonly attributed to MMORPGs

  • American Psychiatric Association has debated official recognition of this disorder

  • It has not been accepted yet…

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Summary

  • There are many issues to consider when designing virtual worlds:

    • Technical, design, social

  • As usage increases, more issues are emerging

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Reading

  • Nick Yee has some great papers on the social aspects of virtual worlds:

    • Eg: Yee, N (2006) The demographics, motivations and derived experiencs of users of massively-multiuser online graphical environments. PRESENCE: Teleoperators and virtual environments 15, 309-329

    • http://www.nickyee.com/pubs/Yee%20-%20MMORPG%20Demographics%202006.pdf

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Feedback on Paper Reviews

  • Marks given under four headings:

    • Presentation style

    • Structure

    • Content

    • Understanding of material

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Presentation Style

  • Be familiar with your material

    • Practice in advance!

    • Avoid reading the presentation

  • Be excited about your topic

  • It is inappropriate to swear during a formal presentation:

    • A successful critique identifies strengths and weaknesses and makes suggestions for improving on weaknesses

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Structure

  • Start with an overview slide:

    • So audience knows where you are going

  • End with evaluation and conclusion slides:

    • So audience knows what they should be taking away

  • Work hard on slide layout

    • Exciting slides make the presentation memorable

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Content

  • Content generally very good

    • Nice mix of text, charts other media

    • Technical content was good

  • Speak for the specified length of time but no longer

    • Practice!

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Understanding

  • Understanding was also very good

  • Evidenced by

    • High quality slide content

    • Responses to questions

  • Make sure both speakers play a role in answering questions

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Today’s Tutorial

  • Work on Task 2

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007


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Next Week

  • Lecture:

    • Will begin with a 15 minute demo in the Sentient

  • Tutorial:

    • Preliminary project critiques

    • Your implementation should be 80-90% complete

DESC9180 Designing Virtual Worlds University of Sydney, October 2007