Kickstart This: Dual Universe, Single-Shard MMO With Voxel-Based User-Generated Content

Dual Universe is an intriguing MMO on Kickstarter which has everything to fit my gold standard of a next gen MMO: It's single-sharded, it enables voxel-based user-generated content, and it puts the focus on emergent gameplay in which player behavior impacts the world in unpredictable ways.

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Jane Austen MMO from Linden Lab Vet Featured on Kotaku!

Ever Jane Jane Austen MMO

If you're still not convinced enough to try out Ever, Jane, the Jane Austen-themed MMO from Linden Lab veteran Judy Tyrer, Kotaku's Cecilia D'Anastasio has an in-depth (dare I say "embedded virtual journalist") profile up now. Don't forget that Ever, Jane players can get a special-to-NWN 100 Pounds Sterling Regency bonus if they post their username in this post.

Meantime, read how Ms. D'Anastasio captures the flavor of the gameplay:

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Pokémon Has Been Playable in Second Life for Over 8 Years -- in Full 3D!

Pokemon Go SL Arccanine

About to catch an Arccanine

The Pokémon franchise has been around in various forms for twenty years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that a team of Second Life users have created a playable version of the game. What is surprising is how long the game has existed, and how ambitious it is -- and how few players even knew it existed, until the Pokémon Go phenomenon. For the last 8 or years, in fact, the three creators have been building and maintaining a full Pokemon roleplaying experience on the island of Ravenlock. Only recently, thanks to the new augmented reality mobile game hit, foot traffic from random visitors in search of virtual Pokémon has spiked.

“On average,” lead creator Mindy Runo tells me, “we get roughly ten new players a day prior to Go. And now it’s about twenty to thirty [a day].”

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Here's the Inevitable Pokémon Go in Second Life Machinima

Because every Internet-powered trend inevitably winds up in some form in Second Life:

Created by Mistell Production Film, the answer to your first question is no, this is not actually a version of Pokémon Go that's playable in Second Life, but a fan-made tribute machinima to the augmented reality game/TV show/etc. However, according to one viewer, there is at least one playable Pokémon Go game for SLers currently in production:

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Play Urja: First-Person Strategy Game by Famed Anonymous Second Life Creator -- Now On Sale for 99 Cents on Steam

Urja is a strange and beautiful-looking first-person strategy game that came out a couple years ago but is now on sale on Steam for just 99 cents here.

As it happens, Urja was created by a famous Second Life creator whose avatar name I can't mention for reasons of privacy, but if you're a longtime SLer, you almost certainly know about him (or her). I will say Urja looks like it draws from similar fantastic visuals and sense of surprise and wonder this artist was renowned for in SL. Anyway, instead of belaboring that point, here's some more about the game:

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What Pokémon GO Needs to Keep Thriving: Veteran MMO Game Designer Raph Koster Explains

Pokemon Go Raph Koster MMO

"Augmented Reality is an MMO" is a widely-discussed analysis of Pokémon GO by veteran MMO game designer Raph Koster, explaining why the AR-based blockbuster is basically a massively multiplayer online game that's soon to encounter many of the problems MMOs face, with those problems now threatening to impact the real world even more. (As they're starting to already.) Since this is the first augmented reality hit and since so many play it (including me), I asked Raph what Pokémon GO's developer, Niantic, should do to keep its virtual economy stable and help insure the game itself doesn't become a short-term fad.

"They need to create a sense of interdependence between players, so that other players are always seen as a mutual benefit," Raph tells me. "They need to provide support/redress facilities for problems, and anticipate that the problems will arise."

But how to build interdependence? "Roles is the classic way." He means something like classic MMO classes such as tank, healer, etc, but “it doesn't have to be those. After all, goalie, striker, midfielder, defender are also roles.”

Perhaps an even greater concern is how Pokémon GO's virtual economy is managed:

"Seems clear it's an inflationary system right now, very few drains," says Raph. (A drain or "gold sink" is a game mechanic which removes virtual currency or valuable items from the game economy, to reduce inflation.) "If [player-to-player] trading comes, real money trading will happen instantly... Once there is trade, it's classic Mudflation." (I.E., where the value of virtual items in a game become grossly over or under-valued based on player supply and demand.)

"It's pure faucet. The creatures never die. That's where value pools. Mudflation ahoy."

As for maintaining Pokémon GO usage over the long term, Raph has a very interesting suggestion there:

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Warcraft Earns More in China Than All US & EU Combined

Witness the power of a massive country shaped by the massive popularity of massively multiplayer online games. (At least that's one key factor.) As of now, Warcraft has grossed $156M in China versus $148 in the US and the rest of the world (mainly across Europe). All respect to Jackie Chan, I don't think this means Hollywood is going to start making movies in Chinese, but it is going to impel more US movies primarily catering to the Chinese audience's interests -- including and perhaps especially MMOs and other online games. League of Legends: The Movie, anyone?

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Can High Fidelity & Project Sansar Compete With MMOs Like Worlds Adrift?

I told you about the island creator for Worlds Adrift, now look at some of the fantastic islands beta users have already created and seen incorporated into the single-shard MMO:

To me this captures the magic that made Minecraft so massive, translated into truly massive MMO scale:

Worlds Adrift is a persistent sandbox - every tree that falls and every item crafted will exist and remain where it is forever, until you or someone else interacts with it... Join thousands of players in a shared world at the same time and explore a vast sky of procedurally generated islands... Experience truly emergent gameplay with no set missions or quests in a huge multiplayer sandbox. There's no XP or leveling-up, your progress and skill will be driven by accumulating knowledge and artifacts, not by mouse clicks. With no rules or boundaries, you create your own adventure.

It's important to see upcoming virtual worlds we write about a lot, specifically High Fidelity and Project Sansar, in relationship to MMOs like these that are launching around the same time:

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Free Worlds Adrift Island Creator: Design Your Own Floating Isle, Upload It For Others to Play In

The Worlds Adrift Island Creator, as the name suggests, is a free building tool for the upcoming single-sharded, fully simulated MMO. (Brief tutorial above.) The tool not only lets you build your own island, but insert an avatar into the finished mini-world, to explore what you built first-hand (so to speak). Even cooler: You can upload it to Steam Workshop for others to download and play in, and even get a chance to have it added to the official MMO when it launches:

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Ready Player One 3D Avatar Creation Contest: Winners Get $1000 & Chance to Appear in Spielberg's Adaptation

Ready Player One 3D Avatar Contest

Cool avatar design contest run for Steven Spielberg's upcoming adaptation of the Ernest Cline novel: Design a 3D avatar in a typical file format (.ma, .mb, .obj, .fbx, .ztl), follow the rules and submit here, and five entries win $1000 and a chance to have that model depicted in OASIS, the film's version of Ready Player's metaverse. Looks like a full-mesh version of a Second Life avatar could work as an entry (long as you send it in original file form.)

If you do submit, let me know: I'd love to feature submissions in upcoming New World Notes posts!

Watch Ernest Cline's announcement of the contest below. And yes, Cline used to hang out in Second Life before the novel was published.

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