This is the topic I thought I had buried when I didn’t get a small NEH grant to develop a MUVE (multi-user virtual environment) based on 1984 within Second Life, the popular but declining virtual world. Okay, I thought, I’ll stick with the MOO version of Thoughtcrime (the 1984 game I developed), perhaps working on it occasionally, but basically putting it on the back burner indefinitely. Recent interest in the game by a few teachers, however, has got me thinking again.
More than thinking–checking out alternative platforms for the game. For a while, I thought that Second Life was the key, but it is just too pricey and its hardware requirements prohibit most secondary schools from using it. Then came Google Lively, a stripped-down but easy-to-use and browser-based virtual reality. Lively is not nearly as versatile as Second Life, but it had potential. Potential, that is, until Google decided to kill the project at the end of the year. I was briefly entertaining the alternative MUVE platform Multiverse, but it too has prohibitive hardware requirements and seems beyond the scope of my expertise. After all, if someone with big funds (Edward Castronova at Indiana University’s Synthetic World Project) couldn’t quite get his project Arden (a Shakespeare MUVE) to fly using Multiverse or eventually, NeverWinter Nights (though there are some prototypes), how could I expect to with no funding and no creative team?
I’m still poking around, of course, and in doing so, I have discovered OpenSim, the open-source MUVE platform that is currently in beta form. Looks like it has a pretty steep learning curve, too, and some of the same hardware demands as Second Life.
So, I’m still waiting around for the ideal platform: easy to use, program, build, and access. Maybe it will never happen. Or maybe, as James Gee (What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy) told a friend of mine, you need at least 20 million to develop a good game. Then again, no one thought that we would all be listening to .mp3s instead of CDs . . .