Ponca City, We Love You writes: "Academics have been flocking to use virtual worlds and multiplayer games as ways to research everything from economics to epidemiology and turn these environments into educational tools. A game called Arden, the World of Shakespeare, funded with a $250,000 MacArthur Foundation grant and developed at Indiana University was supposed to test economic theories by manipulating the rules of the game. There's only one problem. "It's no fun, " says Edward Castronova, Arden's creator and an associate professor of telecommunications at the university. "You need puzzles and monsters," he says, "or people won't want to play
... Since what I really need is a world with lots of players in it for me to run experiments on, I decided I needed a completely different approach." Part of the problem is it costs a lot to build a new multiplayer game. While his grant was large for the field of humanities, it was a drop in the bucket compared with the roughly $75 million that goes into developing something on the scale of World of Warcraft. Castronova is releasing Arden to the public as is and says his experience should serve as a warning for other academics. "What we've really learned is, you've got to start with a game first," Castronova says. "You just have to." The new version is titled Arden II: London Burning."