Virtual World Plans Expansion Based On Real-Life Cities - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

04:23 PM
Connect Directly

Virtual World Plans Expansion Based On Real-Life Cities

Doppelganger Studios plans to expand its virtual world The Music Lounge based on real-life parts of Tokyo, Paris, New York, Milan, and Florida.

Doppelganger Studios is developing a set of virtual worlds based on real city locations to increase the size of its online, teen-oriented virtual world, called The Music Lounge.

Tentatively planned for release beginning in August, the new areas borrow architecture and urban planning from Harajuku and Shinjuku in Tokyo, the 7th Arrondissement in Paris, New York, and Milan, as well as planned communities like Seaside, Fla.

"We wanted to base it on a real world city because that's the environment the average user is familiar with," said Andrew Littlefield, the company's chief creative officer and founder. "And it gave us an opportunity to insert advertisements."

Advertisements clash with fantasy environments like the World of Warcraft, explained Littlefield. But teens readily accept them in a world with more verisimilitude.

"In a focus group, 90% of teens preferred commercial-rich environments because they felt it was more real," Littlefield said.

But Littlefield believes a light touch is necessary. "Teenagers today have really been the target of the most sophisticated media campaigns since they were born," he said. "They're very, very used to ads so one of the things we wanted to do was introduce these things with a very light touch, so it didn't feel like ads being jammed down their throats."

Littlefield said he became enthralled with the idea of socializing in virtual space years ago when he and his fellow programmers on a contract programming job logged into Doom servers to chat about work.

But today's technology allows Littlefield to strive for a refined aesthetic rather than "something that feels like a science fair project."

The company's first three employees were two architects and a clothing designer.

Chris Lee, Doppelganger's art director, has a graduate degree in architecture from MIT. He worked previously for game maker Bungie Software on Halo, Halo 2, and Oni, and later for Microsoft, after it acquired Bungie.

"The principles of urban planning are really useful," said Lee, who pointed to the management of foot traffic as an example. "We want every path and street to meander but lead to key locations to create density for socialization."

Not to mention advertising. There's a reason that billboards go up in city centers rather than corn fields.

One of the most popular virtual worlds, Second Life, has been criticized for lack of planning, though some argue that's a benefit rather than a problem. "SL's terrain is mostly a haphazard patchwork of individual plots, with little relationship to each other," said Steve Rose, writing recently for The Guardian. He observed that SL sprawl has left the world mostly unoccupied, apart from a few populated pockets.

With only 150,000 subscribers since it launched in May 2006, Doppelganger has a long way to go before it can match the 8 million people who have signed up for Second Life, But Littlefield expects the company will be profitable next year. That's the plan, at least.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
11 Things IT Professionals Wish They Knew Earlier in Their Careers
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/6/2021
Time to Shift Your Job Search Out of Neutral
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/31/2021
Does Identity Hinder Hybrid-Cloud and Multi-Cloud Adoption?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  4/1/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Successful Strategies for Digital Transformation
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll