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Testing Methodology

AlphaWorld and other worlds have been tested extensively by members of the Consortium. To test, members enter a pre-arranged area in the virtual world with agreed upon avatars and name badges. Cooperative walk-throughs of the spaces are tried to test the ease of navigation and following ability. Conversations are carried out between testers and other users in the environment. Interaction with novice and experienced users are carried out to gage their impressions of both the medium and its usefulness for interaction. In worlds allowing construction, sites are built (such as Sherwood Forest) and a number of building floor plans and grounds lanscapes tried to enable communication and navigation. Numerous screen shots are taken of typical social situations. Videotapes are made of visuals of sessions and audio tapes are recorded with each line of text in the communication read off as it appears.

Testing Criteria

The technical and user interface criteria tested included:
  1. Appearance and rendering performance of graphics
  2. Avatar appearance and design (range of choices, badging, distance appearance, articulation or animation)
  3. Ease, options for avatar motion (movement in six directions, mouse and keyboard controls)
  4. Ease of communication (text chat, body language, voice)
  5. Effectiveness of controls and services (doors, stairs, walkways, rooms, signage, coordinate readouts)
  6. Server crowd control effectiveness (speed of rendering other avatars, collision detection)
  7. Ability of users to alter the space (object moving and assembly, building construction, message posting)
  8. Special features offered in the world space (custom design of avatars, community newspaper, feedback facilities)

Observations of interactions

Observations of social interaction within these virtual worlds posed some challenges. We found that the lack of a number of important social cues lead to frequent misunderstandings between users. Observation focused on:
  1. Tracking threads of conversation between individuals
  2. Noting differences in interaction between the observer and newcomers or veteran participants
  3. Observing occurrences of aggression or cooperation, either communicated through text or by motion of the users' avatars
  4. Interaction with participants on their reactions to the environment and its effectiveness
  5. Observing the use of special terms in the environment
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