Monday, 5 October 2009

iPres 2009: Lowood on why Virtual Worlds are History

Starts with a couple of stories about the end of virtual worlds, and one about a player whose death was accompanied by outpourings of grief; it later turned out that even the player (and her death) were virtual.

Can replay files help? Can relive the actions of a long-dead game by a long-dead player. But even if we save every such replay, we still don’t save the virtual world.

Events in the world that start then end can leave no record; they get deleted and are no longer there to preserve. No newspapers will blow in the wind, no records in dusty digital filing cabinets. Context will have gone, even if you manage a perfect replay reconstruction of the game.

Time to get positive. The “How to get game” project at Stanford started with an artefact donation, has now developed (with others, & NDIPP funding) into the “Preserving Virtual Worlds” project.

Should we try to preserve the game as digital artefact, or the documentation of context? Better not to take this either-or attitude, but it may be forced on us.

Replays can depend on the exact version of game software, which is constantly changing.

Project is taking a multi-stranded approach: saving player movies, crawling sites for documentation, etc. Perhaps can use the facilities of the virtual worlds themselves, eg virtual world coordinates to navigate; can you participate as a player and use this to capture stuff? [I’m not sure I’m getting this right, on the fly!]

What about access? Suggests it’s not a core concern for preservation [wrong??!!]. But they have some techniques that might help here.

Evaluating open world game platform, Sirikata, as a mechanism for preserving some virtual worlds, by moving maps and objects from one game space to another. Exported files from Quake to OpenVRML, then can import into other worlds like Sirikata.


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