INNOV8 – a Serious Game hits 2.0 at IMPACT

This week I’ve been at IBM’s IMPACT 2009 conference in Las Vegas, along with a lot of my colleagues from IBM Hursley. As I wrote over on my personal blog, this is an event aimed at Smart SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and the Smarter Planet… but the synergies between them are bringing in all kinds of interesting themes and topics from the emerging technology space, including virtual worlds and gaming, social computing, and green / sustainable computing.

We’ve briefly mentioned INNOV8 on eightbar before. It’s a serious game for business and education aimed at teaching the principles of Business Process Management. The latest version was announced at IMPACT this week. INNOV8 2.0 is playable on the web, and has a set of new scenarios covering Smarter Supply Chain, Smarter Traffic, and Smarter Customer Service. The trailer is great – very movie-like 🙂

If you want a sneak peek at the gameplay, check this video too.

Using ARGs to spread good deeds in reality

A long long time ago… well OK a couple of years ago… a few of us from the eightbar crowd / tribe / collective / [insert group adjective of your choice here] were quite into Perplex City, an Alternate Reality Game from Mind Candy where you had to solve puzzles on game cards related to a parallel world. At the time I was particularly fascinated by the intersection of gaming, virtual and real worlds, and physical / tangible objects and the web.

I was listening to a podcast the other day and heard about a new ARG – in this case they brand themselves a Social Reality Game – called Akoha. It is also card-based, and has a technology / web tie-in.

Akoha is the world’s first social reality game where you can earn points by playing real-world missions with your friends. Missions might include giving someone your favorite book, inviting a friend for drinks, or buying a friend some chocolate.

The idea here is that players will perform good deeds or “missions” on the cards in the real world, and then pass the cards on to others who can then join the game by entering the card code on the website. It’s a fascinating idea. There’s a social network element. There’s a physical element (the cards, and the personal / direct social interaction). There’s an online element. Plus, the whole idea is around improving the way we all interact with each other and our environment (I’m thinking Smarter Planet).

I love the idea and I’m definitely going to be following Akoha’s development. It’s in closed beta at the moment but anyone can join by getting some cards… I wonder how widespread it is beyond the US at the moment.

Just thinking out loud – Metaverse snapshot

I moved offices today and having a bright new whiteboard I could not leave it clean for long.
Its not really a mindmap, just some association of thoughts and bits of linkages. I am sure it will alter, but right now this is what was in my head in a mad flurry. The underlying red part is really the substrate of the whole thing. Just my personal thoughts linked to some of the things I have seen and been involved with one way and another.

Thoughts on the metaverse
Note: edited to show smaller version of the board as it was cropping the right hand important side for those that did not click through to flickr. 3d printing FTW and high value professional social networks one there too !

PS3 Home vs Xbox 360 new look dashboard vs Nintendo Mii

The explosion of avatar based interaction outside of the context of an actual game is well and truly on a roll at the moment. It is akin to when evrything and everyone started to allow profile pictures. These pictures are of course a low grade avatar expression of a persons intent towards you and a system. Inside IBM we have a corporate bluepages, everyone has a space for a picture. It is intended to be a recognizable passport style. However use of it it broken into 1/3 regular pictures, 1/3 expressive, different and innovative pictures and 1/3 no picture at all. I have many conversations around this. (The numbers are not actual numbers btw, just classifications of people). It seems there is a percentage of any population that just does not want to let you know anything about them, they either dont have time, inclination or ability to share. The other 2/3 though are more interesting and whilst may seem to be opposing camps they are willing to share something of who they are online in a particular domain. It would be great to be able to have more than one picture, a straight laced on and an expressive one to further explore who people are and get a sense of them before meeting or talking.
Of course this is where the avatars burst into life. The gaming community is used to some of this expression from within the games. This is now very much bleeding out into the lobby, and going cross game experience.
The Mii’s started to let people created a persistent character when playing in a game. They allow a degree of portability, carrying the Mii around in a WiiMote to a friends house, or travelling around via the slightly over regulated(IMHO) friend system. The problem is the connection to others is not really there online, though is certainly there when all crowded around a TV.
The PS3 Home system promises to enable every PS3 owner to have an immersive virtual world experience, share content, provide game lobby brokering, win new avatar and room related things in games etc. At the moment the PS3 experience online is not great in terms of conncetion to others. The friends list is a bit light, just an icon and a sense you might connect with people in a game somewhere. Recent patches start to change this, but it is a long way behind in terms of feeling of being connected.
The 360 has Live, and this really does seem to have been an integrated community success. You feel always signed on and connected, in game, out of game, watching a DVD. The comms and invites to places, tracking friends achievements and a whole host of other things feel really good. The player pictures from games or from cameras work as an expressive low grade avatar. Of course now after E3 we know that the flat almost web2.0 experience of Xbox live is going to have the brightness turned up on it with avatars. It is a combination of the Mii and Home but will just be there in the autumn no fuss no bother. There is a (not very good) press release page here the videos dont seem to work. So lets hope for a smoother release on XBL.
As per usual all the companies are influenced by one another, trends sweep through, but I think the underlying need we seem to have (atleast 2/3 of us) for digital representations to be more rich is the interesting point.