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Experiencing Presence in a Text-Based Virtual World

I’ve been invited to participate in an online panel on MUDs, MMORPGs, and the Metaverse which includes Edward Castronova, a professor of telecommunications at Indiana University. He was heavily involved with the early MUDs and virtual world scene, and has written both papers and books about virtual worlds and their economies.

The DikuMUD Family Tree

The DikuMUD Family Tree

As part of my pre-panel research, I brushed up on my own involvement with MUDs during the 1990s. Much of my time was spend in the DikuMUD family tree, and mostly with ROM, the Rivers of Mud variant.

In the early 1990s, it was easy to sum up the MUD experience in just a sentence. You could say, “It is just like Zork, except, multiplayer” and most technical types would nod their head in quiet appreciation. Today, it is much more complicated to explain only because text-based games are unfamiliar to most people. Read More…

Book Review: Designing Virtual Worlds

It has been over a year since my last review of a vintage virtual reality book. I’ve recently come across a good one that I’d like to share.

In 1978, Richard Bartle co-authored MUD, the very first virtual world. In 2003, he shared his twenty-five years of virtual world and MMORPG experience in the book Designing Virtual Worlds. Here are some excerpts from the preface:

Too much virtual world design is derivative. Designers take one or more existing systems as foundations on which to build, sparing little thought as to why these earlier worlds were constructed the way they were.

Are designers even aware that there are decisions they can unmake? Although a good deal of design is evolutionary, that does not mean designers can’t be revolutionary, too.

The key is in recognizing the face that what seems eminently logical to you from your usual perspective might turn out to be disastrous when viewed from another angle — and then realizing that the worlds you’re drawing inspiration from almost certainly contain elements designed by people who didn’t recognize that fact until it was too late.

Obviously, the preface resonated with me on the topic of metaverse design.

The book is an incredible seven hundred and fourty-one pages, filled with decades of experiences and observations in virtual worlds. According to Wikipedia, it has been called “the bible of MMORPG design”. Read More…

Travelling Between Unrelated Virtual Worlds


If this is your first time visiting Metaversing, please read:

This blog is about going beyond the science fiction descriptions of the Metaverse and actually fleshing out some of the concepts, designs, and details that are useful in bringing it to life. The ideas described here are not to be interpreted as the exclusive way for the Metaverse to be designed. We’re here to put a stake in the ground. We hope to start the conversation (where it doesn’t already exist) and to move the conversation forward.


How do you navigate between unrelated virtual worlds?

Back in August 2013 when I first envisioned how I wanted a different model of the Metaverse to work, one of the fundamental questions I had was in how to glue everything together. Instead of building one large Metaverse and splitting it into pieces, as has been done before, I looked at a different solution. How do we start with a bunch of unrelated pieces of software and combine them together to form a larger Metaverse?

Images: VRChat, JanusVR, Anarchy Arcade, Minecraft

Image Sources: VRChat, JanusVR, Anarchy Arcade, Minecraft (house by PoPlioP)

Our universe starts with completely different and unconnected virtual environments, games, and virtual worlds. There are different authors, languages, graphics libraries, and more. If you wanted to create a way for players (avatars) to actually move between them, how could it be done? How would you move from JanusVR to Minecraft? How do you walk from Minecraft into VRChat? Read More…

A Review of Player Resource Control Strategies

Image source: Team Fortress 2 - Mann vs Machine

Image source: Team Fortress 2 – Mann vs Machine

Despite a previous article in which I explored how to represent a very large number of avatars in a single shared environment, I don’t believe that a single shared world isn’t going to be a mainstream approach. There are some good reasons why a large singular world should exist as one of several different solutions. But that’s a topic for another time.

When your virtual world is faced with a large number of simultaneous users, you’re going to need to find a way to keep the load under control. This article is a (non-exhaustive) review of known techniques which may be used individually or in combination.

We’ll be looking at denial, sharding, time dilation, feature reduction, and location distribution.

Denial: Hard Limit of the Number of Simultaneous Players

“Server is full.” The classic method of handling resource limitations. Read More…

Selling games in the miserable virtual mall

ReadWrite: "Virtual Shopping Malls Making a Comeback?" (2006)

ReadWrite: “Virtual Shopping Malls Making a Comeback?” (2006)

The image above represents the most obvious model for selling all types of real-world products in a virtual environment. Sad, isn’t it? We’ve taken the worst features of the real world and combined them with the worst features of virtual reality. If we’re selling video games in this manner, then we’ve failed to realize the potential of virtual reality.

So how about ReadWrite’s old question above, “are virtual shopping malls making a comeback?” I can only hope not. At least, not in this form.

VirtuaView "Virtual Aracde"

VirtuaView “Virtual Aracde”

So is this how we are going to be selling games in virtual reality? The virtual arcade? This is the second most obvious conceptual model. Perhaps you go to an arcade, look around the arcade machines, see one you might like, and use its interface to explore the game. If you like what you see, you purchase the title. This is only slightly more clever than the virtual shopping mall experience — it fits into a gaming theme. Functionally, it could work, but it really isn’t a, “Wow. This is a virtual reality experience!” Read More…