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Virtual Alchemy: 3 virtual environments that combined art, anthropology and storytelling.

Presentation for MCN 2011 in Atlanta

Ann Cudworth

on 28 January 2013

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Transcript of Virtual Alchemy: 3 virtual environments that combined art, anthropology and storytelling.

Crowd test and prototype your exhibit...
It can become an excellent space for prototyping and testing an exhibit layout, as well as providing for community contributions such as oral histories and privately held artifact images. Four Points SL6B / SL7B / SL8B Particles /Alchemy This presentation is a comparative case study about three Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) that combine art, anthropology, and storytelling to create an entertaining immersive experience for the visitor. All of these environments are the result of a collaborative effort by my group in Second Life - the Alchemy Sims build team.
And at the end, I will talk about how these environments can help your museum grow its audience. Imagine a way to talk about scientific theory in a storytelling mode that connects you socially and lets you work in a team.
In 2010 we built a game in Second Life that was sponsored by IBM.

On a fundamental level, it taught virtual building skills to new residents, and exhibited the diversity of fractals to others. And for most, it was a chance to think like an Anthropolgist and seek out hidden artifacts, follow the game course, and experience a metamorphosis of their avatar shape as they came to understand another civilization.
Dr K. - Louise Krasniewicz, a cultural anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania consulted with us on the creation of the main character- Dr. Aubrey Wynn.

Wynn is also a cultural anthropologist, and she is in search of
some missing colleagues who have been spirited away by the Sy- an undiscovered silicon based life form that lives within the computers that virtual worlds are being built on. Beach Ride / SeaDrift Art Park We discovered that Virtual Worlds can, just by being experienced, provide a basis for the increase of learning and memory in their visitors, and if desired, they can change themselves to respond to the reaction they generate in the visitors. Memories of spaces in a virtual world are stored and referenced just like the memories of a real space. These remarkable environments are a portal through which information of all kinds can be experienced in many ways. Through sight and sound, we can experience a piece of sculpture that is also telling us about tidal rhythms, or we can learn about anthropology as we play a game, looking for clues to the social structures of a fictitious culture. Trees/ Sundial But, first, how we got there... It started with a virtual landscape called
"Trees (region)/Sundial (estate)" in Second Life
(built in 2008) This virtual landscape was interactive
and would change seasons on command. We started to think of other ways
we could be interactive with people
in a virtual environment. Case #1: Particles/Alchemy We noticed something interesting, people were inventing games
within the interactive environment... "Season Winter"- to freeze the loch. then run out on the ice.. say "Season Fall, or Summer, or
Spring to melt the ice, and laugh as
they fell in...running out onto the banks
do it again and again... the idea of "pop-up" books occured to us, so
we made Second Life a birthday present.. "Second Life 6th Birthday" In an "Alien Garden" we created 3 giant books
containing stories written and developed into
interactive experiences by members of the team. The stories involved us and our interests in the
virtual world we were participating in. As the story is told in local chat (text message) the book would produce sound effects and music while it popped up objects that related to the story- and then it would close itself once again, until someone else came along and clicked it. for the next year, we made a "poetry slam machine"... It spoke in 4 languages- English, French
Spanish and German with 4 different styles
Pirate, Vampire, Robot and Verbal Master. was the launch of the prototype of a new type of virtual environment for us. "The gods That Walk Among Us" This environment was designed to be "access for all" so that disabled gamers
could participate. 4 elements:
Air, Earth, Fire, and Water
4 riddles- and 4 masks as rewards. The crowd loved it- and even took to sending in
pictures of themselves with the masks on.. We branched out... We built an outdoor "art park" that had interactive and data base driven sculptures...and made a movie about it. We created a virtual environment that fostered the "3 C s":
Collaboration In this land, we told a story several ways:
1 - a NOTE CARD that described the History of the Alchemists
2 - a TOUR VEHICLE that provided a tour of the environment and played back text messages which were transcriptions of historical recordings made by the tour vehicle's radio.
3- the ARCHITECTURAL STYLE progressed (roughly) in parallel with our western civilization The Notecard said this...
Almost beyond the reach of our memories, some intrepid souls found a new shore in our world. They called themselves Alchemists, a name both strange and wonderful on our ears...
They came in wondrous ships, made of bronze and gold, with red sails as bright as the sun. And when they landed, they spoke a strange tongue that sounded like the whisper of drums on our ears. They thrived on our eastern shore.
They traded with their gold and a strange element
called Phologiston which they revered.
They taught us to honor the 4 elementals,
the Air, the Fire, the Water and the Earth,
and we saw a truth fundamental.

They lived among us, worked with us, married us,
and yet we never really knew them. They had a
distance in their gleaming eyes, often behind the
merry laugh, a certain sad secret.

We moved through the centuries with them,
from the ancient times of stone and stick to the times of
machines built to measure the wonders around us. It was a beautiful and fragile place. Everything started to fall apart, and the natives
became desperate to survive. The tale grew in the telling as we began to close down the sim with the end...
The volcano engine started to break down. Soon the power failed. Their neighbors managed to
help rescue some of the sea life. The resources for rescue were
limited. Then at the edge of disaster, a great event occurred. Four pillars and beacons appeared to notify the native population of a new arrival to their world. The Alchemists had come back in a great golden ship to rescue the natives who had been so welcoming to them. And they all departed for the stars and a new world to share in an unending partnership. Case #2: Inland-Search for the Sy Like all stories, the experience can be contained in a book. Dr. Wynn's Journal On the steps, you find this book
when you enter the environment. The book starts you on a search for parts to a tool that once assembled, will let you access a middle world called Transit. Transit was built by the Sy, for the reception of human avatars. The parts of the tool are everywhere on the sim. In this place, called Transit, you undergo a
transformation, becoming a Sy avatar for the
rest of the game. This transformation allows
you to visit the Sy world itself. The Sy world is totally made from fractals. Once your are Sy, and by solving another riddle, you can visit Sy space... Here you could claim a
trophy, and would get your name
put up on the "Finders of the Sy" board. Case # 3: Four Points "Four Points", The game is inspired by the convergence of scientific
discovery coming from Los Alamos National Labs and the Santa Fe Institute,
with the ancient Native American archeological/cultural history of the area around Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and specifically, Bandelier National Park.

While exploring this environment, each player will seek to meet four
non-player characters: the Coyote, the Storyteller,the Elemental, and
the Alchemist.

Game play will teach these global game fans about theories involving Bio-acoustics, Complexity and Chaos, and about Native American mythology. Questions I am asking as I develop this:
How does our current scientific theory
relate to mythology? How can we engage a scientist or an artist to expand their thinking?
What is the
"Spirit of the Space"? Some general observations about MUVEs and why they could be a good thing for museums. MCN 2011- Hacking the Museum - Atlanta - November 19, 2011 Game Play for Four Points Science theory, mythology, story telling and totem creation game It's kind of a Myst meets Graphic Novel meets Science Lab game (still under development) Elemental Alchemist Storyteller Coyote Player Command a force of Nature Understand the impact of Energy and Creation Understand the Symbols and the Real Backbone and Path Native American Mythos Chaos Theory Bio-ethics / Mythos of Science
Scientfic Analysis Ecology / Alchemy
Balance of Creation / Destruction There is a 6 part story with 6 animal spirits. The player
must find them - and they might just be represented by a sound cue - and get a keyword from each, which they bring back to the storyteller to hear the rest of the story segments. When the player has gotten all of the story told, they get an Icon, which they must wear to pass to the next level- the Solar Agricultural station where the Elemental is waiting. The player must get elements from Elemental without
killing it. To do this they must balance the energy of
4 growing things, and only take what they need from them.
When player has gathered the 4 elements, and this will probably involve some patience, they can collect another
icon, and move to the forge, and the Alchemist. Player brings the 4 elements to the Alchemist, and they
must solve the puzzle of the correct order to combine
these elements in the forge. They will not always get the
results they want, and will have to start again. If they get
it right, the elements combine into the 3rd icon which the
player keeps. Coyote Coyote Coyote Coyote is the chaos factor, on this level
she imitates other animals, leaves false
clues, and makes distracting noises to
confuse the player - but we never see her, she is like a shadow to the player. On this level, the Coyote tries to
get the player to disregard Bio Ethics
and rush the process to get the elements.
Will probably be vocal clues and the
appearance of time keeping devices. The Coyote tries to steal
the elements when they are
put near the forge. The player has to be on constant lookout for sneaky Coyote paws. The Coyote is pervasive throughout the game and
the player has several options in dealing with her.
1) Player can kill the coyote - but that means they will instantly lose.
2) The player can embrace the coyote by giving her food - that will mean an average win.
3) The Player can become the Coyote by wearing her mask, which the player has to ask for.

If the player chooses option #3 they will gain access to the Coyotes realm, the Edge of Chaos. In that realm, the player has the opportunity to win the coyote Icon, and get the
best Totem Pole to raise on th Final Ground. To win this, the player must find the pattern in the Chaos and tell the Coyote what it is. In this environment, non-player characters who interact with players, will provide information, and sometimes misinformation, as the players explore the paths of the environmental experience. Extend the experience....
It can extend the museum going experience well past the real space visit, and introduce it well in advance of the actual show. A well designed MUVE includes visual cohesiveness and consistency, a "sound landscape", clear directional guides (all major languages), and "audience participation".
Remember - "Design for all"...
reinforce the visual with sound, back up the sound with the visual, if possible provide human based avatar guides.
Don't make it "easy", make it accessible. Costs are relative...
In this age of crowd sourcing and goods exchange, and given the basic tools provided by most client browsers, it is entirely possible that the online community of a museum could build it themselves. Hosting and virtual land have become quite cheap, so the real commodities are conceptualization, leadership and stewardship. Build a community in a compelling space...
Essentially, a virtual world space is a social space, just as a museum is. And because of this, virtual spaces can become powerful community building tools for a museum, not only attracting locals, but people worldwide. diatoms- our earthly silicon-
based lifeform Backstory Description Development Off-site building Installation Play testing http://www.humansfuture.org Virtual Earth, with
grid breaking down
anomalies everywhere http://www.humansfuture.org/comics_strange_lands.php.htm De-evolution Pre-cambrian Rise of the Diatomata http://photobucket.com Abandoned sim
Empty station
Faded elegance
Overgrown by
vegetation. Concept models Research Content parts How do you introduce a game?
With a trailer, of course! Inland:Search for the Sy We listened through their earthquake scope to the heart of our volcano in a house made of water. We stood in awe of their volcano engine made to harness our fiery lands, with it's great bellows and pipes that glowed with the heat of the Earth's core.
We watched as they collected the power of the lightning and made it serve our needs. So great was the mass of the earthquake ball that we housed it in a stone cradle. We will remember the welder’s torches seen night and day from the age of our grandfathers into the futures of their children. And then one day- the ground trembled, not with the shrugs of an indifferent volcano, but with the thrusts of massive engines, huge rockets lifting the Alchemists into the skies.

Our loss cannot be measured by a widow’s tears, or the cries of their children, but in the silence of their empty workrooms and the slowing of their machines.

We have found only small clues about their secrets-They hid their treasures, secret rooms in our land, opening only with the correct keys-We seek the artifacts that they left behind, one for each elemental station, and hope that this will lead us to the keys that will unlock the secrets of our survival.

Help us, kind strangers, in our quest for survival and the secret gifts they hid from us… Now- the Data... Data Collection from Day 1 How successful?
3116 visits in 90 days
Unique Visitors-1812
Returning Visitors- 528
Average visit time= 19min. How popular? (1)
Sim Environment:
sets up scenarios
and poses "QUEST"
questions (2)
Data Overlay:
various qualities,
aspects of sim elements
that allow for the
of answers and
information OPTIMUM
"FUN" being
experienced (5)
taught (6)
Guiding story/gatekeeper for discovery on quest, allows for visitor to experience "FLOW"- for optimal information absorption and to build knowledge When did they visit?

Longest times on weekends

Most visitors during midweek

Kind of like network tv viewing? this inspired us... Spiked when announced in SL destination guide
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