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Jan 13, 2007



Just to note that we have our own bit of mapping here at TN, the oft missed Where in meatspace are we? link up there on the top left is a Frapper map of TNers and readers.


Here is a map mash-up that provides a better global view of locations of planes in the vatsim universe. Doesn't provide the drill-down info as Vatsim Flight Tracker, also seems less accurate, but it gives a good strategic view.

Additional discussion in Vatsim forums here.


There is always the question of whether or not your customers WANT their customers known. In the case of flight information, one of the more interesting stories going on in pro football right now is that the owner of the Miami Dolphins was shopping for a new coach. He has a private jet, and flew all over the world to interview people. Problem is, that information was available on the internet, and after a few days, the press discovered it, and started figuring out exactly who he was talking to based on where he was landing.

Of course, some of people he was talking to already had jobs, which landed those people in hot water with their employers. In the case of college coaches, this also can directly impact their school's chance to recruit (high school kids are less likely to sign up if they feel their potential college coach isn't committed to the program).

So yeah, making that information visible is cool, but there may be really practical reasons why you shouldn't do it that goes beyond the fact that some people find the concept overly 'big brothery'.


@Nate- do you mean players' meatspace locations or just the in-game character locations in the virtual worlds (or some combination of the two)? What do you think internal world residents or external non-residents could gain if a VW maps either (aside from just the curiosity factor)?

Would players have control over what personally identifiable info was mapped? Could players enter false information (if it was meatspace player locations)? In many cases the externally viewable maps would defeat the effectiveness of in-game blocking tools (features to help players manage harassment or any unwanted contact with specific players). Any kind of tool that can be used to spy on another player will be used maliciously by disgruntled spouses, in-game lovers, griefers and enemies to locate players and conspire against them. I can just hear the "what was your dot doing with HER dot all alone in an empty zone at THAT time of night?" ;p

If there is no personally identifying info on the map though, it's just a visualization of simple sum total per area metrics that are better expressed in charts than maps (because once you have a certain density of little map pins together it's nearly impossible to judge which busy areas are more densely populated than others without zooming in and losing the big picture/wasting time). What would a real-time WoW map look like (would it break down by shards or show a game-wide mashup of stats per zone)?

While not mapping exactly, some games tell you which servers are hopping by showing the relative server loads. The only people who would want more detailed info than that would be people with an agenda, imo. And if the map could be used for in-game advantage or social spying, then we're back to it being impractical from a customer service and privacy policy stand point.

What non-malicious uses can people think of for character maps in VWs? Are there potentially good uses of maps for player meatspace locations? Will we someday have games where your real world location matters in-game?


Kelly> meatspace or in-game character locations?

I meant in-game locations.

How often do players want to be able to enter their virtual world without their activities traced (e.g. daminon's example) or otherwised monitored by other players? I suspect that it likely depends on the world/activity, e.g. VATSIMming vs. "a quick run-around in [some MMORPG] w/out alerting my social network (friend or foe).


Nate> I meant in-game locations.
Though as Kelly and Damion points out, there can be RW location implications: "if my son's avatar is running around in the VW -- may be him, and probably from his home computer." Though these assertions may not be true.


A couple of months ago I saw a rough demonstration of SL mapping of avatars on a web page. It pulled profile pictures and made icons of them and displayed them on a map based on in-world "sensor" information uploaded via the http link stuff.

Then there is the SLStats wrist-watch (in-world avatar attachment that transmits location and proximity information about you and avatars around you). What use is that? Inferring connections between people who spent time together, or having your alts outed because someone you trusted wore one when you quickly logged in/out/in again while they were with you. That kind of thing.

The kind of data researchers would love to get their hands on I'm sure.


I suppose "privacy" is an old obsolete concept compared to "wouldn't it be cool if ...". Also, it's going to cost some resources maintaining that info feed, which may be a benefit or a hazard to the players in the game.

If it's a PvP game, information is definitely a valuable commodity to the players. In Eve you can find it out with a delay by asking an agent, which costs a bit.


I think it should be noted too that increasing the number of ways, and amount of data that your organization exposes for third party development, will help sustain your user base (i.e. VATSIM exposing the data of aircraft positions in its virtual world).

Although not gaming environments, I think Facebook, Flickr and YouTube are also great examples of this. You can include Google and Yahoo (Microsoft Live?) into this category too, who've released API's to access their search, weather, and mapping capabilities.

Thanks for the link to www.cayri.org Nate. Its taken me many long hours to create it.

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