A multiplayer instanced virtual world platform has been released by the Minnesota Zoo and Eduweb that allows kids to take on the role of a wolf in the wilderness.
This wolf game allows the player to create a wolf avatar and wander a 3D virtual landscape set near Yellowstone National Park. As a wolf you can follow the scent of elk herds and hunt the weakest elk. You can also hunt down rabbits for food, and compete with coyotes. The game is only intended to run a few hours with some in-world quests. The project is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
While this is not World of Wolfcraft, or Second Wolf, it is much more of a virtual world than the platforms I wrote about a few days ago. I hope others follow suit and develop other nature games that allow kids to step into other creatures in their natural environment.
The graphics engine is acceptable for the goal of the game. The controls could be a little more flexible. Running it through my pack of testers here (four boys), they all commented on how stiff the controls were, and that the graphics were a bit jerky. You can play a solo game or open up a game online for a pack of wolves to join in. The landscape varies a bit, as would be expected in this setting. You pick up a scent via an icon that shows up on the compass. Line it up and you can track your prey. When you get close you can attack with a quick bite.
This game was posted to a few websites yesterday, so the servers appear to be getting pounded today. It took a few attempts to download the file this morning, and the website is a little laggy. The forums have a few pages of comments posted so far, with no replies yet. This has just been made available online, so expect the load on the servers to improve.
This demonstrates a unique use of the technology to allow a player to assume the role of a four legged wolf for a few hours. We need to see more of these types of applications of virtual world platforms. I am hopeful that platforms like Multiverse and others will flatten the learning curve and provide the world construction toolsets needed to quickly prototype and roll out educational projects like this.