Posts Tagged ‘inform’

From the New Media Studies Class

Monday, September 28th, 2009

In consideration to the projects most of the members of the New Media Studies class are finishing up, I wanted to touch on what I thought about the different mediums available, process of world building, and my own interests in the art of world building. Although the primary purpose of the world building leans towards a game like environment, I question that lean as the sole objective to world building. Virtual worlds can have so much more than the game quality, and I believe that if we look at what virtual worlds should be, we will find that virtual worlds truly are more than a supped up version of pacman.

Our projects come right off the heels of reading a number of short stories/articles about virtual realities, watching tron, and going through Snow Crash. Each item we studies presented, sometimes in vastly different ways, the virtual realm. We saw in an article about LambdaMOO the powerful affects of being attached to an online space. Strange enough, the New Media Studies class conducted a few talks about this subject within our very own maryMOO. This added a certain bizarre factor that can only be experienced and never fully, nor accurately, described. For Dr. Whalen the process of discussing and exploring a virtual world does not encapsulate the understanding of a virtual world. You won’t understand the thinking that takes place behind a world until you actually begin building it yourself. As a subscriber to the idea of Edupunk, I am down with the approach and loved our virtual world assignment. It was straight forward, build a world and then talk about it, yet we had a number of tools introduced to us.

During the course we have seen or at least talked about five different ways of world building: MOO, Metaplace, Inform, Second Life, and There. From what I saw of the classes’ worlds, everyone stuck to the first three options, where as Second Life and There (which mind you is not even accessible to Macs) were not used.

My weapon of choice for working on the virtual world was the good old MOO. I love the absolute freedom that you can find by using text rather than images. The MOO comes with its own set of limitations, namely the necessary knowledge of certain code phrases to create objects. However, once you have a feel for how that system works, it becomes a breeze to “dig” new areas of exploration. The MOO, while it can have obstacles for a player to overcome, lacks the options of winning or losing the game. Most of the oldercrowd will recognize MOOs by their earlier variant the MUD (you see a door to the north, go north? Y/N) Any one can access a MOO by downloading tkmoo or for mac users a program called MUDwalker. Remember that “@exits” is probably about your greatest ally, otherwise you may have a hard time finding your way around the world.

Inform acts a lot like the MOO, so you might wonder why you would want to make use of it. The difference between MOO and inform are two key differences in how you approach world building. A MOO encourages development of an interactive world, a place to socialize, hang out; however, inform has its hands in the realm of interactive fiction. You craft a story that has a definitive beginning and end, which a user will play through until he either wins or loses. The win/lose scenario makes inform stand out from all the other mediums possible to world building. That being said, one you win the game starts over, as if whatever you did never truly happened at all. This mentality also makes inform, as Dr. Whalen said in an earlier post, a single player experience. It’s just you, maybe some NPCs, and the world moving along with the waves of a gripping plot. One of the reviews I did over this weekend focused on an inform world that I thought was beautifully crafted. The second advantage to the inform option, you don’t have to know code! Each action, item, and place can be built with plain English sentences. I’m not personally aware of how that process works, but it seems very straight forward. I would download inform 7 and give it a testdrive.

I noticed that many of my classmates used a special, cozy spot called Metaplace. Immediately, and very frankly, the one major up it has on MOO is its use of visuals. Not only does this significantly help out the user (that would be you!) but it also streamlines the building process for us wanna-be wizards. I noticed that people using Metaplace definitely built their respective worlds much faster than the students crafting in MOO or even in inform. Nothing can compare to the ease of drag and drop building. It’s a far less intimidating experience than building in a MOO which leaves you literally digging out empty space. You can easily access Metaplace online, which means that going from world to world or stumbling across something interesting is a lot easier here. If you don’t know that a particular MOO or inform exists, you probably won’t happen upon it. That is hardly the case at Metaplace, all the separate worlds funnel into the Metaplace central, and the game…excuse me world, encourages you to explore other places. Although I love the idea of Metaplace as a superior medium, it does not come without its limitations. A world within Metaplace can easily lack any direction or purpose, where as a MOO or inform, by being limited creations with limited actions available, already have a very “defined” feel to it.

The world building process…well okay that’s just different for everyone. I took my inspiration form a radio show I did about last week, which mind you can be heard at http://wmwc.umw.edu if you click the first link on the page! I started exploring some electronic music and came across the genre known as “Darkstep” which just had this great cyber punk feel to it. Before I knew it, the idea of building a club jumped into my mind. I started work like a mad man. The world itself needs some fleshing out, but it’s a great source of inspiration and an interesting departure from the sword and sorcery model of most MOOs.

So, I am a hater of Metaplace to a certain extent, the MOO way of life is just who I am, however I got struck by one particular world I came across in Metaplace. The user crafted a world that had all sorts of arcade machines. These machines were not just for a look, the user could actually interact by clicking on the game. A second window pops up displaying a flash version of the game. It’s impressive how metaplace can pull in outside websites into the world. It got me thinking about my own personal interests in Chinese studies and building a personal library of language tools and videos. Even closer to what I am looking to do, I just found a user who has created a world for some of his different communication classes. http://www.metaplace.com/play2learn2play/play I would love to see a coopoerative project using this virtual space. Although I don’t subscribe to the Second Life as a classroom theory, I think that a space which can centralized online information would be very handy.

Interested in world building? Give it a test try and check out the range of options. If you are particularly brave, why not try Second Life? However if all you want is a cool place to walk around, come check out maryMOO (moo.elsweb.org:7777)