Archive | March 2014

The measure of a Metaverse


Source: Cover of Businessweek, November 26, 2006

What kind of metrics can we use to measure the success of a Metaverse?

We could measure the users. How many are there? How happy are they? How engaged? How long they stay? How much content they are consuming and creating? Something like like deviantART might measure and compare their success in these terms.

In my previous post, “Discussing Second Life: It is (and it isn’t)“, I talked about the difficulty in making general statements about Second Life. Everyone is all over the map. Second Life is a failure. Second Life is a success. Second Life is still alive, but it can’t survive.

Conventional wisdom is that Second Life is a failure. But that all depends on how you measure success. Did Second Life take over the world? No. When it hit critical mass, was it able to capitalize on it? No. Is the business a going concern? Yes! They’re still in business, and they’re still bringing in new users, even if there is still an 80% churn rate in their new subscriber retention numbers. A publicly traded company that answers to shareholders might find that situation intolerable. For a private company, that might just be okay. Read More…

Discussing Second Life: It is (and it isn’t)

Second Life Avatar Banner

Source: Second Life, “What is an Avatar?”

Second Life is a topic that is going to come up again and again, because it provides so many excellent concrete examples for a discussion on Metaverse design. Before it comes up for the first time, there is a thorny issue that we need to get out of the way.

In most cases, when I use Second Life as an example, I talk about the vanilla experience for an average user. One problem I’ve found in making observations about Second Life is that Second Life can actually be fairly tough to make general statements about it. For every general observation, there is likely to be one or more specific counter-examples. I don’t deny that these counter-examples exist, but I don’t believe that they fit the profile of the everyday experience. Read More…

The sci-fi Metaverse is bad (and you need to leave it behind)


Source: Larry Elmore’s Shadowrun artwork via the Monkey in the Cage podcast

Wikipedia defines Metaverse as “a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet.” The concept was not defined by computer scientists as much as it was brought to life by science fiction writers. They envisioned a singular persistent and logically consistent world like our own which only exists inside of a computer.

I believe that the Metaverse is coming. But when it comes to actually implementing a Metaverse, why do so many people believe that the science fiction version of the Metaverse should be our blueprint? Let’s take a look at the world of sci-fi for a bit.

From a writer’s perspective, it makes a great deal of sense to have a virtual world that is analogous to our own. It is easy to write compelling stories for an alternate world that is just like ours, but with the one major difference of it being virtual. “If it can happen in the real world, then I can have it happen in virtual reality.” However, there have been no hard design or implementation problems (scaling up to a large number of users, for example) which have been solved by these writers. These authors, to be fair, have mixed in some really great ideas, and they’ve done a good job of illustrating what a Metaverse can be.

Beyond the general idea, there isn’t much consistency between science fiction writers about many of the underlying rules of a Metaverse. How do people pay to use the Metaverse? One writer might say that citizens pay money to subscribe to a virtual reality or communications service. However, another writer might say that the connection is free, but transportation from one in-world zone to another costs money. Read More…

Your Metaverse design sucks

An object editor in Second Life

Source: “Second Life: Sandboxes and Privacy for Beginners”

The Oculus Rift, a consumer-oriented head mounted display, has re-energized a long-standing interest in the concept of a Metaverse. But what is the Metaverse? How will it work? How do we implement it? We are still searching for answers to these questions and more. Public discourse on the matter has generally taken the form of academic research papers and the occasional forum postings. In this document, I attempt to share my own views — not as the answer to those questions, but as a place to start an ongoing discussion.

The Metaverse concept was not defined by computer scientists as much as it was brought to life by science fiction writers. They envisioned a singular, persistent, and logically consistent world like our own which only exists inside of a computer. In my next post, I’ll talk more about the science fiction perspective and why we need to be careful when using it as a blueprint.

The title of this post, Your metaverse design sucks, was taken from some of the content that I wrote back in August 2013, and serves as a basis for some of my upcoming posts. A Metaverse is going to have problems, and that’s part of what this blog is about. There is no “Metaverse expert” job category (yet). Before even launching on a Metaverse project, there are some very serious and not entirely obvious design choices that need to be considered. Everyone is going to get more than a few of them wrong. The Metaverse 1.0 is going to suck.

This post is just an introduction to the blog; we’ll get into all of that and more down the road.  Thanks for visiting, and I hope that we have an interesting discussion.