Technology & Science

Game brings wolves to web

The Minnesota Zoo is offering an online opportunity to play wolf.

Wolf avatars must hunt, fight and ensure the pack survives

The Minnesota Zoo is offering an online opportunity to play wolf.

It has launched the first instalment in what it says will be a seriesof downloadable episodes that allow players to experiencethe life of a wolf in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

"WolfQuest players take on the role of a wolf," the zoo said.Players hunt elk and snowshoe hares, deal with strange wolves, harass coyotes who try to steal the wolf's kills — "or just for the fun of it" — and find a mate.

"Ultimately, your success will depend on forming a family pack, raising pups, and ensuring the survival of your pack," the zoo said.

The first episode, Amethyst Mountain, named after a peak in the park, was released Dec. 20. It has been downloaded about 13,500 times.It's aimed atchildren aged10 to 15 because they are no longer much interested in visiting zoos, project director Grant Spickelmier said.

The game is also intended promote conservation and knowledge about the wild. "The level of realism, and also the goal, which is to effect real conservation behaviour change, is what make this game unique," said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the American Zoo Association.

In the game, players, alone or with friends, have to createa wolf avatar, choosing sex, coat colour (which can be customized with tints) andattributes likestrength, speed, and stamina.

The first episode, set infour square kilometres of alpine wilderness in the park, takes a couple of hours to play. Other episodes will be released through the WolfQuest website in 2008, the zoo said.

There is also a forum to discuss thegame and talk withwolf biologists.

Wolves had almost disappeared from the northern U.S. when14were transplanted from Alberta to Yellowstone in 1995.

Thezoo and software companyEduweb developed WolfQuest with a $508,253 US National Science Foundation grant.

With files from the Associated Press