VIRTUAL WORLDS• With Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVE s), such as Second Life (SL),individuals are provided with more comprehensive means of experiencing theonline space.• These virtual worlds provide online 3D spaces for visitors to explore, play andcreate in collaboratively generated virtual environments.
VIRTUAL WORLDS• Most visitors’ interest in experiencing the physically unachieveable activities,artifacts, skills and relations provide designers with a vast market of unsatisfiedneeds, and possible innovative solutions for the virtual environment.• Several large global companies, such as IBM, Nike, Cisco, and Wal-Mart havealready launched their virtual branches (Hof, 2006; Kremen, 2007) and working onideas on how to develop new methods for their operations in management,marketing, and design.
VIRTUAL WORLDS• Designers in Second Life capture the demands of their (virtual) customers, introduce newfields of commerce, and offer personalized (or mass produced) artifacts to avatars who arewilling to spend money on their SL looks and their virtual identities.• As they offer new platforms for social interaction, participation and user-driveninnovation, virtual worlds require an emerging field for both design and communicationstudies
CRITICAL QUESTIONS• What can virtual worlds offer in terms of design methodology, market research,usability, authenticity and user-innovation?• How does individual entrepreneurship and user-driven innovation possibilitiesdrive the market by answering to existing needs and offering new solutions withnew technologies?• How do user-product interaction and users’ emotional experiences with theartifacts function in Second Life’s social structure?• Should we categorize Second Life’s designed artifacts as contemporary objects ofproduct design and architecture, or interaction and graphic design? Or both?• What can be the new tools & criterias for effective design processes in VirtualWorlds?
WHAT IS METROTOPIA?• Metrotopia is a virtual city, designed and built in Second Life for a series ofexperiments and observations on digital communication, social interaction,design and entertainment in virtual worlds.
WHAT IS METROTOPIA?• Concept of a virtual city in which avatars can identify themselves with virtualsuperheroes and villains is intended to imply a sense of community betweenvisitors.• Visitors’ sense of belonging was supported by providing them with a pre-defined setof costumes and accessories that represent the style of comic books and sci-fienvironments.
THE DESIGN PROCESS• The (ongoing) design and construction of Metrotopia has been conducted by a multidisciplinaryteam involving freelance and in-house designers as well as researchersand consultants.• During the design process, several meetings, both inworld and in RL, were done inRoskilde University and/or in Metrotopia. In these meetings,– the general visual style of the city landscape, accessibility of specific locations and theircontents were discussed.– the design team had opportunities to try different design possibilities and evaluate them inreal time inside Metrotopia.
THE DESIGN PROCESS• Functions of specific objects and their places were discussed and decided by thedesign team.• Designers specified the location in the city, the dimensions and the visualcharacteristics of the designed objects/buildings (geographic position, its relation toneighboring objects, usability and attractiveness, i.e.).
THE DESIGN PROCESS• After collaboratively transforming these decisions to ‘design briefs’, several virtualmock-ups and alternative design solutions were generated, evaluated andmodified.• 3D modeling and texturing of these buildings were also done collaboratively, and bythe help of various internet material libraries and CG websites.
THE DESIGN PROCESS• Minor modifications were also done during the placement of the object, since itsoverall consistency with its surroundings is important.• The major concern at this stage was designing a skyline view of the city that ismodern, clear, appealing to the visitors and consistent with the context of aSuperhero/heroine city.
MAJOR SIGHTSFOR INTERACTION• Although Metrotopia itself is considered as an interactive virtual environment, someregions of the city are designed purposefully to enhance the social interaction,as well as interaction with the system, in various ways and aspects. These locationsare:– Costume Bazaar (and welcoming area)– Museum– Metrotopia Park/Sandbox– Gym– Fight Club– Metrotopia Library (In progress)• All of these places relate to a set of specific activities that the participants of theexperiment are intended to experience in Second Life, such as character building,learning, design and social interaction.
ORIENTATION / TELEPORTATIONIN METROTOPIA• These posters were placed to the entrance of the city, right after welcoming arch andthe costume bazaar, easing the first-time visitor experience and strengtheningthe links to the visual language of the genre.
ORIENTATION / TELEPORTATIONIN METROTOPIA• The general complexity of the design was considered not only as a problem of how thecontent was selected and presented, but also by the ways to travel and explore thevirtual place provided for the visitors.• It is intended to enable participants to get familiar with the locations and theircontents, so that Metrotopia is visited more frequently and with more users thanmerely the participants during the experiment.
THE METROTOPIA LOGO“The logo was designed because we want to have a specific visual representation for the island for brandingpurposes. We want to actually create a presence in Second Life so we have a branding. And we’ll find thisbranding occurring all over the city ...” CarrieLynn Reinhard (Researcher, Virtual Worlds Research Group)• Reflecting the visual language of comic books and the superhero genre was theprimary aim, along with coming up with a striking, distinguishable and easilyremembered logo that can be used with the other posters and graphics inside thecity.
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNEDFROM THE DESIGN PROCESS• Further research and analysis will focus on these three characterizing issues of designprocesses in virtual worlds:– Collaborative Design: Investigates how affordances of Second Lıfe’s design andcommunication tools facilitate collaboration in design process.– Design for Interaction: Users can have direct, immidiate and interactive access to thedesigned product/space. It is not only the interaction between avatars and other avatars, andavatars and the SL system, but interaction between avatars and the virtual objects/spacesthey use for social interaction.– Design by walking around: Unlike conventional 3D modeling applications, the creator ofvirtual object positions herself inside the virtual environment, so the scale of the creationalways keeps its relative proportion to the ‘designer-avatar’. Through the design process, theavatar of the designer walks and flies around the object to position his/her view. This newparadigm of ‘designing by walking/flying around’ is significant not only because it offers a newspatial perception for designers towards the objects of their design practice.
USER –DRIVEN INNOVATION• This study considers movement and change as central elements of innovation;thus conceptualizes ‘innovation’ through ‘innovative practices’.• The practice of ‘user–driven innovation’ is strongly related with how userexperience is created and/or constituted through interaction with, by or throughvirtual objects.• The study categorizes the three levels of object–oriented–interaction (eitherbetween avatars through objects, or between avatars and objects) as:– ‘sense–making through designed object’– ‘sense–making through design (practice)’• There are elements, tools and places in virtual worlds that involve the study ofboth kinds of interaction.
FURTHER RESEARCH & EDUCATION• Virtual Worlds Research Group’s studies on communication, media reception,social interaction, design and user-driven innovation are continuously conductedin Metrotopia.• Course on “Communication and Design in Virtual Worlds” is organized between 31Aug. – 18 Sep. 2009 by 15 international communication students.
FURTHER RESEARCH & EDUCATION• Design of Metrotopia Library ( in progress )
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