Massively Multiplayer Online Games - Cosmopolis

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The Cosmopolis project is a joint program between the USC GamePipe Lab (under the direction of Dr. Mike Zyda) and CASOS.

The goal of the project is the development and release of a free Massively Multiplayer Online Game in which players develop relationships, acquire property, and align with each other for territorial control. Cosmopolis will be designed around a growing set of subgames, and it is only through mastery of different subgames that players will be able to gain new resources and grow their property and territory. It will be maintained and administrated with the intent of fostering an active player community. The USC GamePipe Lab is handling all of the coding and implementation of Cosmopolis, and has the primary responsibility for game design.

In addition to providing its players with a collective social gameplay experience, Cosmopolis is also designed to serve as a platform for research into social science and games research questions about human interactions at the levels of the individual subgames and the larger Cosmopolis game itself.

Through the process of nurturing, catering to, and interacting with the game's player community, we hope to better understand questions of computer-mediated communication and how virtual behaviors and scenarios do and do not map to real-world activities. At CASOS, our goal is to ensure that the research perspective is well represented in the implementation process and to provide design input as requested.

To complement our research into how Cosmopolis can best facilitate the research community, CASOS is actively modifying the Construct modeling engine to facilitate study of game-like communities. Construct can be used to express a variety of relationships between different individuals and the information and beliefs that can be transferred between them, and is currently being modified to specifically support those relationships expressed in virtual worlds and online games.

In addition to modeling various game relationships, we also anticipate doing careful examination of the different relationships between people, places, objects, and knowledge within Cosmopolis using ORA, our dynamic network analysis tool. Like Construct, ORA is also under continuous development to support additional functionality and metrics, and will be modified as appropriate to support easy analysis of the data produced by Cosmopolis.

Landwehr, P., Diesner, J., and Carley, K.M. The Words of Warcraft: Relational text analysis of quests in an MMORPG. Proceedings of the 2010 DiGRA Conference, Brunel University (2009).