It is my great pleasure to announce that, after a self-imposed hiatus in our data collection and analysis, the PlayOn project at PARC is back thanks to renewed funding. While we are still focused on large-scale, quantitative data collection in World of Warcraft, this second phase of the project introduces a few interesting changes.
The first phase of the project relied on automated robots to log into the game world and collect a census of the entire population of five game servers. We used this data to analyze, among other things, general play patterns in the game, social interactions between the players, and finally the structure, performance, and social life of guilds. This time however, we are moving away from server-wide analysis to tracking the activities of volunteer participants. Roughly 1,000 players have signed up to participate in our study and provided socio-demographic data about themselves (age, gender, education, etc.) that would have been impossible to collect from the game alone. They also provided us with a list of their current characters, which we track in-game using updated version of our robots coupled with daily scrapping of the characters' data from the Armory.
The simultaneous collection of in-game and out-of-game data will let us explore the connection between a player's profile and his/her online behaviors. As an added twist, we recruited half of our participants in the US and the other half in Asia (Taiwan and Hong-Kong), which opens up the possibility of analyzing cultural differences between the two player populations.
As before, we intend to report findings as they come out on our blog - we'd like to invite you to subscribe to our RSS feed and/or follow our updates on Twitter. While our blog will be focused mostly on short, data-centric posts, we also plan to start posting more frequently on Terra Nova with summaries of the higher-level trends we see in the data. We're looking forward to exchanging ideas with all of you again!