Examensarbete VT-06 Malmö Högskola Fredrik Johnsson IDk 03 Handledare: Mikael Jakobsson - PDF

Examensarbete VT-06 Malmö Högskola Fredrik Johnsson IDk 03 Handledare: Mikael Jakobsson Abstract Mobility Gaming entails research done on how the social interaction within MMOG / MMORPG can be brought

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Examensarbete VT-06 Malmö Högskola Fredrik Johnsson IDk 03 Handledare: Mikael Jakobsson Abstract Mobility Gaming entails research done on how the social interaction within MMOG / MMORPG can be brought into a mobile context. The central issues in the research how MMOG players communicate and interact with each other today and how it can incorporate user mobility. Based upon this the research is focused on how the connection between non physical space, game world, and the physical space can be interconnected to enable the interaction to still occur. A prototype environment is created in with the user interaction can be tested and experienced. Cellphone and PDA clients have been developed alongside a server service to facilitate user based testing within this environment. The research done during this thesis have shown me that the user desires to reach each other is a very viable but not developed area for interaction within game environments. Index Introduction...1 Purpose...2 Method...3 Establishing the perceived need...5 From general to specific... 7 Learning to play the game World of Warcraft chat...11 Using voice communications...13 Teamspeak Ventrilo Using other resources of communication Concept Software design...20 Client design Analysis Conclusions...27 Glossary References...29 Appendix A...31 Appendix B...34 Appendix C...37 Introduction Humans are inherently social: they live together, work together, learn together, play together, interact and talk with each other, and socialize. (Preece, Rogers and Sharp, 2002). We, the human race, are social beings that enjoy the company of others. Normally this socializing occurs in the physical space but in today s society this has branched into the non physical space of internet. Firstly we had the phone that made communication of longer distances almost instantaneous and is now a very common interactive appliance. The phone has some drawbacks mainly that it's confined to the connection to the phone line. This was solved with the adoption of cellphones in are everyday life. The cellphones provided us with mobility and instantaneous social interaction without the hindrance of physical space. Games have been around as long as humans. To play or participate in games is a social activity as most games require at least two participants to be playable. This social behaviour of gaming has followed into the computer era. Many times friends gathered around the entertainment system or the computer to play games. With the availability of internet connectivity and the games with the ability to play over the internet, the social interaction once again, just as with the cellphones, broke the physical space barrier for gaming. With the possibilities provided by internet and the advancement of computing power available to the common user the gaming industry provided the players with larger and larger multiplayer games until what we see today with Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMO) where thousands of simultaneous players act and play in the same ever present virtual world. MMO games in their nature are a social activity, even if you play for your self and only for your self you will in most of these game interact or interfere with other players form many parts of the real world as well as very different ambitions and ethics. Because the forms of social interaction that occur within a game have strong connections to forms of social interaction outside the game, it will be impossible to consider social play without straying just a bit into the realm of culture. (Salen and Zimmerman, 2004) This creates a community and there can't be a community without communication between members of said community. Hence ways of communicating and interacting with other members within the community is important and this is what many find most important. Commonly large numbers of players form up in their own sub communities, often called guilds and 1 alliances. Within these the need to communicate and keep in touch grows bigger as the members usually share common goals and strive to accomplish these. Successful MMOGameplay is cognitively demanding, requiring exploration of complex, multidimensional problem spaces, empirical model building, the negotiation of meaning and values within the relevant gaming community, and the coordination of people, (virtual) tools and artefacts, and multiple forms of text all within persistent virtual worlds with emergent sociological cultural characteristics of their own (Steinkuehler, 2004a, 2004b). This is where a mobile device can increase the presence of a player as he/she can participate within the world even though not at a computer capable of playing the full game. In enabling communication from mobile device into the game world it opens up to enable other functions, features and tasks within the world. These are all dependent on the set world where the game takes plays and its own unique rules and styles of play. Therefore it can only serve as a base of information as the game and its world would have to be designed to accommodate mobile devices with their diverse and limited set of features. For instance Eve is very different from Lineage II as is World of Warcraft both in the set world as in the rules enforced upon the player within the world. All these different virtual worlds still share the basis of a community and their needs to communicate, if only to brag about their latest feat. Looking back at MUD's, Multi User Dungeons, and how most of the regular players gathered around IRC, Internet Relay Chat, channels to communicate and forming communities not to unlike the MMORPG communities. In looking at the games on the market and seeing what the users of these systems considers lacking or actually would like to have available to them in a mobile context will show where the common ground is for a general approach and based upon that approach a world can be designed to accomplish this and add it's own set of features available to the users. The most common and well known mobile the device today is the cellphone, which leads most users to the conclusion that it has to be a cellphone to be a mobile client even though a PDA or PSP could do just as well. The cellphones does have an advantage with the cellular networks coverage compared to WLAN which other devices tends to support. The availability of cellphones, even though it's somewhat limited capabilities compared to computers, makes for a well suited platform. 2 Purpose The purpose of this research is to see how to combine mobile devices with Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) / (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game (MMORPG) and their communities normally based around full featured computers. Mobile devices being designed more for casual short term gaming makes for an interesting addition to the normal computer based communication ways in MMOG and can also provide the player/user with access to a downsized feature set from the MMOG that provides the player with the social interaction within the game world as well as providing means to act whit in said world, with limits depending on the device used, to accomplish tasks (trading, crafting, skills and more depending on the device used). 3 Method The methods used during this research a covered below but the include user discussions, questionnaires and prototype testing with users and personas. In order to do this research I have approached the MMOG arena with a game and play style independent focus. The need to limit the scope of the research and material a game had to be selected. Even though a lot of the features and ways of playing are similar between the different games some things, besides the world, make them different. This is mostly smaller issues, for instance how the chat system works or how the player can interact with the game world. In the end most of these small differences can be consider minor and therefore not disturbing the concept of enabling the user to be mobile, physically socializing and still maintaining his or her game world based social interaction. In establishing the wishes and needs and desires for mobile in game communication I started of with informal questions to some players of EvE, see Establishing the perceived need. These results would form a general direction for further user involvement in the process such as questionnaires, scenarios and producing personas (appendix A, B) used to further evaluate and test decisions made throughout the design process. With MMOGs being internet based games the players, at least in Sweden, tend to participate in these games from their own homes which presents a problem for user based testing and evaluating of design decisions. This only left World of Warcraft as a viable game to do user studies on, with the time available for this, as this is the most commonly available MMOG in internet café thus enabling the desired testing and information gathering. These players where asked to fill out my questionnaire, during which I observed the gameplay. This meant that I as the designer had to experience World of Warcraft as a new user and participate in the socializing with a new virtual crowd. Much of the work pre-prototype have been based around discussions and watching, and to some extent playing myself, the game of World of Warcraft. All of this feedback and input was used to form a concept for which prototyping and user testing would be conducted. Prototyping on parts of the concept where developed for an iterative design and evaluation process while still developing the broader designs. There are several platforms that can provide the users with internet connectivity while being mobile. The most common and familiar to the users of these 4 are cellphones. Another common device is the PDA, these often offer internet connectivity in the form of WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network). Other devices such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP exist and are very capable devices, but these were discarded due to the closed development environments. Both the PDA and cellphone development tools are readily available and provide means to package the application for distribution. The targeted cellphones support the J2Me (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition) and the PDA support Microsoft s.net Compact Framework architecture vastly decreasing the complexity of prototype development. The user desires and needs where made into stakeholder requirements. Every design decision had to be tried against these requirements to find a suitable prototype. With the focus on mobile devices such as cellphones the prototypes should not put a high demand on performance and be usable in a mobile environment where outside interruptions can and will occur that lies beyond the users control. Another part in the process of prototype development and testing where designing and constructing a solution upon which the concept would work. With no good way to connect the prototypes to the actual servers an alternative had to be designed. Thus client server architecture was implemented to incorporate the mobility of the users. Personas and scenarios where develop to help in the design and development of the prototypes. These where constructed with to resemble the data gathered from the research and the users desires. The prototype cycle ended with user testing and evaluation, from which the input was analysed and brought into the process to redesign and further the development of the concept. 5 Establishing the perceived need To establish a starting point I had to find out what players of MMOG thought was lacking in the ingame and out of game communication mechanics and how these could be brought together within the games themselves. Thus establishing their needs and desires (cmp Preece et al, Interaction design, beyond human-computer interaction, p 216, 2002). Normally most if not all out of game communications rely on the use of web forums and different voice chat services like Ventrilo and TeamSpeak, though the voice communication is mainly used in direct conjunction with in game events. There are obvious benefits and drawbacks to these workarounds, one the bigger drawbacks is the lack of in-game real time connection with for instance a web forums run by a guild on the other hand it gives the user flexibility to choose the type of software the feel suits them the best and it's also usable within other game communities the same base of players might be part of i.e. World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. In establishing a base for further investigation within this area I posted a question on a small EvE guild (called Corporations in this game) that is part of one of the major alliances in this game universe. The players of this guild have been playing the game anywhere from 1 month and up to 3 years and in the beta of the game and the majority of them are very active within the game both in guild, alliance events and affairs. As is common on these forums is that any name used is their actual in-game character name and therefore any references to names are not the players real name, which mostly is unknown to me. This behaviour is normally used to enable the users to know who posted what as they are usually only known by their character name and sometimes the avatar of the character. In trying to maintaining a general not game specific approach (hard due to the vast majority and diversity of the games available) the following is the questions put up on this forum. 6 Please select the top 3 things and if you can, please write a short explanation to the feature if it's not Eve and also please say something about why you want that feature. Survey: In, insert your favourite MMOG (and please if you play more than Eve post that as well) what features of that game would you most like to have available to you in a mobile device (Cellphone, PDA, PSP etc.). This questions where put together to help me to determine what the more than casual gamer thought would be a nice way to make the games mobile. At this time I had not made any decisions about where this was heading. I had thought that the desire to have the game available on a mobile device would be one of the driving arguments, but it appeared that most of them weren't particularly interested in that. The first response was actually the one that influenced the concept and designs the most. However, one idea that would certainly interest me would be the ability for cellphones and the like to be able to connect to voice communication servers such as the ones used for TeamSpeak. The ability to connect and just have a casual chat with others in the game about whatever, would be kind of cool. (The character Ben Derindar. VTIL forums) Parts of the discussion between myself and the other users revolved around what other parts, besides this baseline desire to connect to the voice chat, of the game that would be interesting to have available on a cellphone. To some extent this was very game dependant but actions like management of members, organizing events and trading and producing / crafting where those that got most attention. Not knowing the users social or educational background they appeared to have a good general knowledge regarding cellphone gaming and usage patterns. I don t think any mobile game designed to be a 40 hour romp would be successful. Such a platform is not practical or fun to spend long periods of time on. Look to the success of tetris or snake on phones you can play them in 5-10 min waiting for a train. (The character Inspir. VTIL forums) The results and specifically those shown above lead to the decision to incorporate a mobile 7 application to enable the social interactions of a MMOG while the user is not in front of a computer playing the game. The defining trait of all MMO games is the unique aspect of human interaction. Whether it s the Sims online or EVE the ability to converse to other HUMANS about meaningful game oriented politics/issues is vital. Further A handheld device by definition is a communication device. Thus it seems only natural that a MMOG on a handheld device must incorporate a form of chat. (The character Inspir. VTIL forums). Inspirs comment, quoted above, brought together the two of the most significant aspects within this research, mainly human interaction and mobile devices are designed for communication. From general to specific In the beginning of this process I aimed to keep it game unspecific. Due to the nature of online gaming and the actual user base off the different games it would be quite difficult within the given time frame to find enough players of different games for surveys and questionnaires. At the time of doing this thesis work the MMOG with the most number of subscribers world wide is World of Warcraft. This is the game most commonly found at internet café and similar establishments thus the choice of game specific research had to be within the World of Warcraft environment. In choosing World of Warcraft as the specific game the need to accustoming me to this game, as I'm not a subscribing player of this game. Thus after establishing the perceived needs of some EvE players I set out to establish if the players of World of Warcraft had the same perceived needs. I was fairly certain that it would prove to be the same but there might be some differences due to game mechanics. The fact that World of Warcraft is spread out on several different servers which each are it's own world where as EvE is a single universe where every player takes part and affects the same game world could also be a factor Not being a player of World of Warcraft I decided to spend time watching seasoned players to observe the game. During this observation I informally asked questions regarding game play and relating them to similar features in EvE, as this is my MMOG of choice. Some comparison where done with the newly released Dungeon & Dragons Online. These comparisons where done to get a better understanding of what areas of the games that could be incorporated while keeping game 8 unspecific in the conceptual design of the overall solution. For different reasons, such as intellectual property and copyrights, it can't be connected to any game in production. Another factor in these comparisons is to try to think outside the box that is social interaction within MMOG. With a basis for the game play established a questionnaire was designed, appendix A, to look at player specifics within the game environment as well as desire to use the features discussed in a mobile environment. As stated earlier World of Warcraft is one the games with the most available player base as the game is present in virtually any gaming establishment or internet café. One part of the questionnaire was aimed at World of Warcraft features to establish the desire to use that exact feature and if it might enhance their experienced game play. I wanted to establish if the players had any experience of playing games on cellphones. The actual testing as well as observation of their game play was conducted at a gaming establishment called Gamers Paradise which is open 24 / 7. While there I got to watch some of the players participating in a raid, which I unfortunately could not question them about as they where quite occupied with it, but it showed the inherent need for voice communication and where the benefits of a mobile solution enabling interaction with the group running the raid. This questionnaire would serve to show the actual usage of voice communication as well as to establish the usage of cellphones as a gaming platform. We already know that cellphones are an ever present communications tool. While the players where filling out the questionnaire I spent time watching their game play as well, all to gather a better understanding of how they tend to play. In this case most of them played in small scale questing or raiding with only two to five characters. I spent time talking to the players about
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