[LINK] 'World of Warcraft'

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Tue May 12 16:00:56 AEST 2009

Hi all,

Virtual reality versus reality .. the difference is shrinking ..

Now, a self-contained World of Warcraft "pod" .. that is "an immersive 
architectural solution for the advanced WoW (World of Warcraft) player 
which provides and anticipates all life needs".


For example, "WoW has full voice chat functionality. It isn’t uncommon
for people to log on just to interact with their social network while
their avatar just chills out in one of the game’s major cities.  As a
result of this organization, you and your guildmates (spend) 2-4 nights
a week for 2-4 hours, then exchange game gold for money via ebay.

Here's the MIT WOW Pod (or hut) http://web.media.mit.edu/~cati/wowpod.html

Quoting the above site ..

The WOW Pod is an immersive architectural solution for the advanced WOW 
(World of Warcraft) player that provides and anticipates all life needs.

Inside, the gamer finds him/herself comfortably seated in front of the 
computer screen with easy-to-reach water, pre-packaged food, and a toilet 
conveniently placed underneath his/her custom-built throne. 

When hungry, the gamer selects a food item (‘Crunchy Spider Surprise’, 
‘Beer Basted Ribs’, etc.) and a seasoning pack. By scanning in the food 
items, the video game physically adjusts a hot plate to cook the item for 
the correct amount of time. The virtual character then announces the 
status of the meal to both the gamer and the other individuals playing 
online: “Vorcon’s meal is about to be done!” “Better eat the ribs while 
they’re hot!” etc. 

When the food is ready, the system automatically puts the character in 
AFK (‘Away From Keyboard’) mode to provide the gamer a moment to eat. 

When the player resumes playing, he/she might just discover his/her 
character’s behavior is affected by the food consumed in real life — 
sluggish from overeating or alternately exuberant and energetic.

The exterior of the WoW Pod mimics the look of authentic WOW 
architectural structures, whose swaths of flat, pixellated surfaces 
digitally recreate the built environment of an imagined past. 

But upon crossing the threshold and entering into the WOW Pod’s interior, 
the player finds the digitized look actually becomes the real life 
experience that World of Warcraft simulates. 

More info about WoW by Cati Vaucelle 

World of Warcraft is the world’s most popular massive multi player online 
role-playing game (MMORPG) with over 11.5 million monthly subscribers. 

The player navigates their character (or avatar) through an incredibly 
expansive world of fighting monsters fulfilling quests, joining groups 
and guilds with other players. The game allows players to customize their 
avatar: race, gender, and class are selected in addition to skin color, 
hair color, piercing, tusks, etc. You start out looking pretty homely. 

However, as a player gains experience and wealth in the game she 
aggressively hunts specific pieces of gear to increase her characters 
abilities and look more “epic” than less accomplished players. The 
ability to highly customize your character, to choose what quests the 
avatar will accept, and the highly social aspect of the game made World 
of Warcraft not only the most popular video game ever but also one of the 
most addictive. 

The WOW experience is dependent on what kind of player you want to be. 

Casual – go on quests, play every now and then and probably pass on 
anything too committal. Social – Wow becomes your virtual community of 
choice. You have friends. You interact with them everyday. This takes 
precedence over killing bosses or getting loot. You probably belong to an 
organized guild of your friends with minimal hierarchy. WoW has full 
voice chat functionality. It isn’t uncommon for people to log on just to 
interact with their social network while their avatar just chills out in 
one of the game’s major cities. Raider – You’ve maxed out your level. You 
painstakingly research the best way to optimize your play style. You’ve 
easily played more than 30 days of game hours. You belong to a guild. It 
is fairly militaristic with initiates and leaders and raid leaders and 
class leaders, all with clearly defined responsibilities. As a result of 
this organization, you and your guildmates , between 2-4 nights a week, 
venture into the most difficult dungeons and defeat bosses that most 
players never see, with the best gear as a reward. That’s 2-4 nights a 
week for 2-4+ hours at a go. Gold Farmer – You exclusively play the 
game’s internal auction houses and the most lucrative most repetitive 
quests to then exchange game gold for real money via ebay. 

There is so much more to this game, it really is incredible, but these 
are some of the distinctions and terms that are key to the WowPod.

The primary vehicles to get your character to advance in the game are 
quests, instances and raids. Quests are most often done alone and require 
simple tasks to net experience, gold and loot. Instances require 5 
players of complementary abilities, healers, damage dealers, damage 
takers, to work together to kill bosses and get better rewards than are 
available with quests. Finally, raids require complete coordination 
between 10 or 25 players who face a level of difficulty where one 
player’s missed heal, or mis-positioning relative to a boss can kill an 
entire group. Raids are high pressure and high commitment but also offer 
the highest gear reward. Many guilds won’t even consider taking you into 
their raid groups unless they know you can raid a minimum of days with 
that guild during the week, often two or more.

Inspiration for designing the WoW Pod

I am a hardcore gamer (maxed out level + guild co-GM), my avatar is a 
warrior engineer (with both tank and DPS armor sets) and I always thought 
I should engineer a project based on this experience and environment. The 
AFK Cookset came from playing non-stop & burning my lap with my laptop. I 
don’t know why my macbook gets so hot when I play that game, but I 
thought, this is definitely enough heat to cook my snacks!

Overall, this work ties into my research at the MIT Media Laboratory, 
Tangible Media Group, specializing in the design of hybrid 
physical/digital objects for play, performance and psycho-physiotherapy. 
I create tactile interfaces to shift the body boundaries, exploring 
technology mediated “holding” (from grabbing, to hugging, to being 
secured) as a lever to personal growth. The WoWPod is a cocoon that 
structures a relationship between your physical body and your avatar. The 
avatar reminds you that you have a body and walks you through the process 
of cooking in the very environment that tends to make physical and 
virtual self ambiguous.

The need for such a Pod?

When you raid, you’ve got 24 other people from all over the place, all 
sitting there ready to go, ready to try to kill such-and-such a boss. 
Many nights, you try for hours and come away empty handed. It’s just that 
hard. The result is a pretty high pressure environment where breaks are 
frowned upon. If you’ve got to wait every 10 minutes for someone to heat 
up their microwave dinner, the whole group falls apart. The WoW pod plays 
on this context to anticipate all life-needs of the “advanced” wow 
player. Hardcore raiders could definitely use a pod. I could even imagine 
a raid leader instructing a group to get in their pods because they would 
have also calculated exactly how many extra minutes of boss-killing 
attempts they would have gotten by the use of such a thing. That’s just 
the way raids are. 

Emptying a dish washer, for instance as in the video, interrupts your 
gaming experience, and the gaming experience of your raid group. At the 
higher levels of the game, you are dependent on one another to venture 
into the newest and most challenging content. If your gaming experience 
is interrupted, it will be perceived by your peers as a waste of time as 
they wait for you to get back! By cooking and eating in the wow pod, not 
only does your avatar take care of the food for you and announce to you 
when the food is ready (so you don’t have to wait in front of the stove), 
but it also triggers discussions among peers. Imagine if every player had 
an AFK cookset. An entire culture could emerge in these games around the 
mediation between the virtual and real culinary world. You already see 
this in the game. “Raid food” is synonymous with Hot Pockets because the 
current raiding environment doesn’t afford the opportunity to cook 
anything significant. We used to make fun of each other during raids when 
you’d hear a player over the voice chat wolfing down chips, “sounds like 
raid dinner for Cati”.

What materials is the Pod made from?

The walls are made of MDF wood painted with lacquer. We printed stencils 
in acrylic sheets to create the texture and pixels on the outer shell of 
the Pod. The inside is made of skin and fur, skin that Steve hunted with 
his father back in the day when most kids were at home playing duck hunt.

For WOW we wanted to design a Pod that is both from the fantasized 
universe of WOW while also representing the actual experience of the 
game. The resulting flat, outside surfaces of the Pod are pixilated like 
the skins of the buildings you see in the game. The inside of the Pod 
supports a “real” fantasized experience with a wood-stained 
throne/toilet/computer enclosure, and organic materials (no pun intended).

Do the avatar’s always announce the same thing when the meal’s about to 
be ready? What does she announce?

Each recipe triggers a different avatar response, from comments to 
behaviors. Jungle stew puts the avatar in a jungle mood and they start 
dancing around before going AFK. After the avatar eats the food they will 
fall asleep or sit down and wait for the player to catch up with their 
dinner. When the player comes back from snacking, the avatar will resume 
from its “AFK” mode and behavior.

How were you able to sync the avatar with the cooking device?

There are three pieces: a servo controlled hot-plate, a semacode reader, 
and a piece of software that I wrote to connect between them and the 
avatar. Each food packet, when scanned, is identified. It cues an avatar 
behavior, turns on the hot-plate and starts a timer based on the required 
cooking time. When the food is almost ready, the avatar gives the player 
more cooking instructions for the final preparation of the meal. Finally, 
when it is done, the avatar again reminds the player and the hot-plate 
automatically turns off.

What are the reactions of players towards the Pod?

WoW players I met LOVE the WoW Pod and want one! It's like a custom 
furniture feature directly relishing in the game. The fascinating part is 
the fact that this artifact appears to have been extracted from the game 
and is now part of your bedroom! However, it is an art piece with no 
intention to commercialize it. This often gets lost in the blogosphere. I 
presented the project to many WOW players who would all love to have a 
pod in their room, to the exception that they would rather have it closed 
with an LED sign at the door of the pod that says “ Busy, raiding, come 
back in 5 hours, mom!” We wanted the door to be opened because, as an art 
piece, we wanted to avoid the superficiality of the pod as a tool 
exclusively for isolation. Yes, these games can be time-consuming and all-
enveloping, but working within that culture, we have an affection for the 
game and its players. We wanted the pod to express the dialog between the 
player and their avatar in the context of their game needs.

Any plans to make WoW Pods and/or AFK Cooksets to sell?

No, it is exclusively an Art piece. However as part of my PhD I am 
researching on ways to link the physical world to the digital 
environment, and virtual massive multiplayer’s game. I am hoping to look 
into the cookset as means to provoke exchange, discussions about the food 
lives of players in relation to their habits. They took care of their 
avatar, feed them, give them water, make them do crazy adventures; Now 
their avatar will take care of them, feed them and give them water!

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