Today’s virtual worlds are 3D simulations created by developers like Linden Lab, makers of Second Life, and hosts a community of players who not only use the platform, but also contribute all content found in these worlds. Think of it as the internet in 3D – virtual worlds provide players virtual domains to create content in.
Whether it’s Stanford University hosting virtual classes for students on their virtual campus, or musicians live streaming into a virtual club for an audience of avatars, the purpose of these open worlds are simple – they exist to enable human interaction between players across the world and in unlimited possibilities.
In March 2014, Facebook invested $2 billion in purchasing the emerging virtual reality headset maker, Oculus Rift, with a vision that 3D immersive gaming and virtual worlds may be the future of online interaction. Since 2007, big brands like Coca Cola, Reuters, NASA, Wells Fargo, Nissan, and many more experimented with establishing their brands in virtual worlds.
Though most were unsuccessful in making it a viable marketing and sales channel, a few brands like IBM and real world educational institutes continue to thrive in virtual worlds – they built and grew their own community by using the platform as a form of communication and collaboration.
ALTERSCAPE, our immersive experiences lab, has been prototyping next generation gaming and online communities. Since 2006, we’ve been developing ideas and technology that adapts to the unlimited scenarios and player variations in these digital worlds.
While there are many virtual world platforms available today, we chose to focus on the most popular and open platform to date – Second Life.
The total freedom and anonymity of players in virtual worlds makes it impossible to develop conventional demographics and user personas.
In a digital world meant to be open and constantly changing, traditional game design that set finite scenarios and offer an end goal are often unsuccessful.
The steep learning curve associated to comprehending and navigating virtual worlds is probably the most prevalent challenge today.
We’ve been recognized for creating some of the most popular role-play gaming communities in Second Life. We’ve not only designed some of the most ultra-realistic 3D gaming environments in virtual worlds, but we’ve also developed next generation gaming technology designed to immerse users both in-game and on the web.
Pictures say a thousand words. Here’s a glimpse of the many themes we’ve designed in 3D:
Our live action role-play game titles have been recognized and promoted in the Second Life virtual world as “Featured Destinations”. With 54,000+ players registered to date, we see hundreds of active players from around the world immerse themselves in our games on a daily basis.
Simulator, region, mesh, teleport, latency … huh? The most glaring issue for new users is the complicated and overwhelming freedoms associated to virtual worlds. To help overcome this, we’ve designed a series of support and marketing automation tools to help achieve a much more simple and guided experience for players.
Similar to enterprise tools like Adobe Test & Target and Eloqua Marketing Automation, our own Alterscape Evolution Engine tracks players engagement with various parts of the game environment, websites, online forums, story wikis, player blogs and profiles; it then creates unique missions for players to further engage with the community and gaming environment. Active and contributing players are also recognized and rewarded via an achievements system both on the web and in-game.
Through staged hints, tailored missions, and a reward system that builds reputation and encourages community contribution, we’ve designed a system that embraces the open nature of virtual worlds.
Ultimately, success in virtual worlds are defined by the ability to create engaging conversations, fostering creativity, and cultivating a strong community.
The community platforms we’ve built on the web offers players the ability to extend and showcase their role-play stories – from an online newspapers for each virtual city, ability to share screenshots and personal updates on the web, integration of social networks like Twitter directly into the game environment , to discussion forums, players are immersed in the game even while off the virtual grid.