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Posts Tagged ‘MMORPG’

Jumping into MMORPG’s (A Guide)

A previous post focused on getting one’s feet wet in a basic virtual world. Open ended virtual worlds like There, Active Worlds and Second Life provide free initial memberships and are not overly demanding in terms of computing power. They function well as simulations of real world environments for social, entertainment, educational, and business purposes.

In this entry we’ll look at the process of exploring the theme based “gaming” worlds called MMORPGs (Massive Mulitplayer Online Role Playing Games) or MMOs. These worlds have the largest number of members world wide (15+ million), and while not used as widely for educational purposes, they have a number of potential applications. Among their participants are a significant number of educators who play for fun, challenge and connections with others. It’s not uncommon for real life friends, family members and colleagues to spend time adventuring together in these worlds. They have also been the subject of a number of research studies which investigate their social aspects, virtual economies, cultural dimensions and skills developed in the process of playing.

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Types of Virtual Worlds

Lord of the Rings Online

There are a large number of virtual worlds in existence with memberships that vary from a few thousand to several million inhabitants. For the most part they can be seen as falling into one of two categories, the open-ended, non-structured (sandbox) virtual worlds, and the theme based, game-like Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (know as MMORPGs or MMOs).

“Real Life” Virtual Worlds

The first category has been more widely used for educational purposes. These worlds allow you to create your own environment as well as utilize environments created by others. They often simulate real life surroundings and activities. Academically, classes can be taught in these spaces, meetings or conference sessions held, and experiments and simulations created.

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If you’re new to virtual worlds and are curious about this social phenomena and its educational potential, this post will attempt to introduce you to some basics to get you started. The concept of a virtual world is very difficult to explain in a meaningful way if you’ve not experienced one directly. Most adults over the age of 40 have never visited a virtual world, nor did they grow up with computer and video games. Those of us in this age bracket who have had this experience came to it through our children or as an interest later in life. This post will deal with the more modern worlds that make use of graphics and sounds rather than the early worlds which were text based (MOOs, MUDs, MUSHs).

It’s Not Just a Cartoon!

When first exposed to a virtual world many adults describe what they are viewing as looking something like a cartoon or one of the video games children play. Certainly the graphics employ some of the same technology used in the creation of video and computer games, and the imagery is more like an animated film than a photorealistic environment. The difference is that many of the animated characters you are viewing are controlled by real people.

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For my second visit to the virtual world of Everquest, I created a new character (an elf) and began exploring the surrounding area. I noticed activity on a nearby hill and upon coming closer spotted a group of avatars defending the hill from an onslaught of foul looking creatures (orcs as I recall). The group leader sent me a message to ask if I would like to join them. I was delighted to be invited and for the next hour or so I became a member of the team, using my abilities to help defend the high ground against the “evil” enemy. When we appeared to have succeeded and the number of orcs attacking us became fewer, we decided to disband the group and go on our separate ways. We congratulated each other on our success as a team and vowed to work together in the future. I recall feeling quite energized by the experience and it reminded me of times I had gone on “adventures” with my friends as a child. I was struck by how effectively this virtual world had recreated that experience.

What a Difference a Day Makes

The very next day I logged on and went straight to the same hill to see if any members of the team had returned. (more…)

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My First Virtual World Experience

In 2001, ten years after my my first computer game experience with Sid Meier’s Civilization, I was teaching an online course entitled Psychology of the Internet. Our text was a title by the same name authored by Patricia Wallace. Although somewhat dated (1999), it’s still a good read, filled with research comparing online and real life behavior. Wallace made several references in her book to Metaworlds which she described as “Internet based graphical multiuser worlds.” While I had heard of text based virtual worlds such as MUDs and MOOs, I was unfamiliar with the online worlds that included sound and graphics. Given the nature of the course, it seemed to me that I should have some first hand knowledge of these online environments.

My stereotyped image of a virtual world was that of a glorified chat room for teens with graphics. Definitely not a place I would want to hang out for an extended period of time. My plan was to visit one of these worlds for a couple of hours, snoop around, and then be able to say that I had been there. Not enough time to be an expert, but enough to avoid looking like a total novice on the topic. Looking back, I had no clue as to what would await me.

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