Who needs planes when spectacular places are just a few pixels away?
Daily Bits is pleased to present a video travelogue of essential virtual destinations; a mixture of must-see places spread across consoles from the past, present and future, as well as some that are available to visit in your browser today. Start ticking them off your virtual list, and make sure you bookmark the rest — all due to arrive this year.
1. Ancient Japan, via Okami
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOT95HPv51E
The low-down: The original PS2 game was described by Eurogamer as a “work of art”. Okami’s representation of Japan in fluid brushstrokes and soft watercolors is one virtual place you simply cannot miss.
Get your ticket: Buy it now on PS2. Coming to the Wii later in 2008!
2. The World of Spore
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79hSzyQRKB4
The low-down: Spore is a multiplayer virtual world inhabited by totally unique and bizarre creatures in all phases of evolution, created exclusively by users around the (real) world. With a built-in creature modeller and stunning terrain, it’s probably the most-anticipated game of all-time. Just watch what happens when Robin Williams is let loose with Spore’s creature creator.
Get your ticket: Out on PC on 7 September 2008, followed by Nintendo DS, Mac, and XBOX, Wii and PS3. Sign up for further announcements here: http://www.spore.com/
3. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, via the Discworld MUD
The video: It’s a text-based adventure game! You don’t honestly want to see a video, do you?
The low-down: MUDs, or “Multi-User Dungeons” are where online multiplayer games all began. If you’ve never visited the text-only world of the MUD, you’re missing out! A MUD is an especially good way to visit places that have only ever existed as words on paper. For Discworld fans and lovers of retro gaming experiences, it’s an essential trip.
Get your ticket: Log in as a guest over at http://discworld.atuin.net/lpc/
4. Samorost 1 and 2
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pZhT3VWsJM
The low-down: Probably the most beautiful Flash-based virtual place ever created, Samorost is an exploratory point-and-click game that takes place on a piece of driftwood floating through space. If only all online experiences were this good.
5. Hapland 1, 2 and 3
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kF8CAtuLFm4
The low-down: A thoroughly infuriating yet devilishly addictive series of mini virtual places. Hapland has the steepest learning curve of all Flash-based virtual places, but will reward you with moments of sheer genius and delight.
6. The world of Quake — in your web browser!
Quake III video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRMn1tj5-Nc
The low-down: Did someone say Quake? In a browser window? That’s right! ID Software have announced a free, ad-based, browser-accessible Quake gamecalled “Quake Live” and they’re currently registering beta testers. Based on Quake III, it’s sure to be one virtual place you won’t want to miss.
Get your ticket: Sign up to get on the (long) beta list here: http://www.quakelive.com/
7. The Virtual Apple Store, via Second Life
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovL4pZod_gw
The low-down: A digital version of the NYC Fifth Avenue Apple Store, recreated in the virtual world of Second Life. Visiting the real store is an experience worth having, but if New York is a little out of reach for you, this comes a close second!
Get your ticket: Download the latest version of Second Life for free here: http://www.secondlife.com. Then search for “Aapl$tore” once inside the game.
8. PlayStation Home
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZY2vwlh5-g
The low-down: Home is a networked virtual community for PlayStation 3 owners. When it launches, it looks to be one of the most user-friendly virtual spaces ever created. Users are likely to flock to this almost as fast as advertisers will.
9. Little Big Planet
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEJrfcFuL7s
The low-down: This fun, heavily customisable 2.5 dimensional world from UK developers Media Molecule looks will be worth buying a PlayStation 3 for alone. With perhaps the most expressive interface ever to grace a console game, Little Big Planet looks set to be a colorful truck full of fun.
Get your ticket: Coming to Playstation 3 in September 2008. In the meantime, check out the funky developer’s site here: http://www.mediamolecule.com/
10. The World of Warcraft
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0s9M6h8mBZ4
The low-down: A discussion of virtual worlds wouldn’t be complete without WoW. As an immersive experience, this is about as good as it gets without plugging yourself into that VR console sent back in time from the year 2193 that you now regret flogging on eBay. Spectacular places and creatures are littered throughout WoW — even if you’re not into the gameplay itself, it’s worth wandering around just to see how far virtual places have come.
Get your ticket: Download WoW (Windows and Mac versions) and sign up for a free trial here: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com
What have I missed?
Where are your favourite digital spaces to visit in games or online? Don’t forget to give your virtual travel tips to Daily Bits readers in the comments below.