I was excited to see the following news about Google’s possible partnership with Multiverse, the massively multi-user online gaming platform that was the original choice for Edward Castronova’s Arden (though now it looks like the project will be using Neverwinter Nights and has possibly run out of money). In any case, this sounds like very good news indeed:

Doors to open on Google virtual world(s)?
October 24th, 2007
Adam Pasick
Google’s long-anticipated foray into virtual worlds seems to be gaining speed, according to the discussion at the Virtual Worlds Forum in London on Wednesday. The company has already announced a partnership with Multiverse which will allow users to create their own virtual worlds by combining Multiverse’s technology with 3D data from Google Earth and Google SketchUp. And word has leaked about a mysterious project that Google is field testing at Arizona State University.
Complete article

As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in Second Life (not as much as Dwight on The Office), I would be even more excited if Google corrected some of the main problems with Second Life:

  • Make the technology more accessible to average users who don’t have high-end graphics cards
  • At the same time, make the virtual world more attractive and immersive with better quality graphics that are closer to gaming industry standards. This sounds like a contradiction with my first request, but I believe Google can do it..
  • Don’t require users to download updates every week, one of Second Life’s real liabilities.
  • Be more supportive of educational uses of the platform, perhaps by giving educators free, permanent space
  • Make it easier for groups of mixed ages (e.g., high school students and college students) to meet in a safe environment instead of separating into the "teen" (up to 17) and the "adult" (18 and over) grid
  • Integrate the Web into the virtual space more completely than Second Life. There is really no reason for me to go into Second Life to check out resources which are more readily accessible on the Web at large. Google might change this by brining in Web content in fluid and uniquely three-dimensional ways.
  • Make it possible for hundreds of avatars to meet in the same space without crashing the system. Again, this is one of the real limitations of Second Life.

I’m keeping my eye on this development.  In the meantime, enjoy Dwight in Second Life.