At the Austin Game Developers’ Conference earlier this month, Kevin Hanna, Creative Director of Google Lively, talked about Google’s plans to open up an API for game development on the recently launched virtual world. In a follow-up interview, Hanna told GamesIndustry.biz that "There is a longer term goal of opening up the API so the architecture of Lively could be used as an online games platform." That runs under the headline "Google Lively to Become Online Game Platform," but in the full interview Hanna explained that it might not be so conclusive, at least for the initial API: "It’s maybe not 100 per cent interactive to call it a gaming API, but it’s interactive Google Gadgets which can include games."
It sounds like X-Ray Kid, the third-party studio created by Google for Lively that Hanna works for, is aiming in the games direction. He told me at the show that the studio would be working with many other groups, but it’s still strongly tied to Lively.
"We’re starting to put our toes in the water about other projects, but a lot of the projects are in conjunction with Google," he explained to GamesIndustry.biz. "Not exactly for Google, but part of the Lively project yet to come."
And when asked if any of that involved developing games with the new API, he reportedly smiled and declined to confirm or deny any specific projects.
My guess is that the emphasis on gaming does come from within Google’s own Lively team, but is amplified by X-Ray Kid (and GamesIndustry.biz). At the show, Hanna repeatedly declined to speak from an official Google standpoint about Lively, instead discussing his personal goals and plans.
In other words, I don’t doubt that Google has some interest in using Lively as a gaming platform–or at least making it available for others to use it that way–but it still sounds to me like the company has larger (or at least broader) plans for the fledgling virtual world.
From the beginning, its allowed approved developers to create content for Lively. Millions of Us, who had been working with Google for at least six months before launch, opened by creating a space for National Geographic on launch day.
That doesn’t preclude games being involved, but to focus on that as the plan might be limiting. In the other direction, we’ve already heard Lively’s User Experience Designer talk about plans for organizational use and seen Arizona State University begin educational pilot programs in the virtual world.
It sounds, in fact, something like the way Multiverse is talking about its new Places. There’s a larger virtual world and then zones for specific applications and experiences.
"I think it’s quite possible that we’ll have specific styles that are gated, maybe a scenario where you could go in and it would say, ‘You can’t be a regular Lively avatar, but you can choose one of these avatars specific to this area,’" Hanna told GamesIndustry.biz.
For Google’s take, come check out the Virtual Worlds London keynote from Niniane Wang, the mind behind Google’s Lively virtual world. Virtual Worlds London runs from October 20-21 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center.
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