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Systemic Issues in Metaverse Implementations


This article is much longer than I would have liked, yet I wasn’t able to dive into each of the subtopics in as much detail as I would have hoped for. Still, it provides some foundational material for a later examination and proposal for a metaverse implementation. If you are a serious virtual world or metaverse enthusiast, this article is probably for you. The more casual reader may want to skip this article.

If you are involved in a metaverse project, you may find it referenced below. Nothing you read here should be considered a harsh criticism of any one particular approach. In most cases, these implementations are named to illustrate an example or a counter-example. This article doesn’t attempt to perform a complete review of platforms or to call winners.


Previously, we identified seven issues which hold back our current metaverse implementations. Can a metaverse actually break through all of these issues to become a major platform?

What if we build on a distributed services architecture? Should we position the desktop client as a 2D/3D content browser? What if we use open standards, or build upon a proven engine? These and other suggestions may turn out to be very good ideas, but we don’t know. We’re still trying to understand the underlying issues which are holding us back.

Image Source: Intland Software, Using Root Cause Analysis to Drive Process Improvement

Image Source: Intland Software, Using Root Cause Analysis to Drive Process Improvement


Clearly, there are more problems than the original seven which were provided in the first article, but those seven create a pool from which we can look for more systemic issues. Read More…

How do you Solve the Metaverse Problem?

When you meet someone who has a metaverse or virtual world project, ask them what they’re creating. If their answer is something like, “I’m creating a engine in C++ that uses a distributed computing to present an interactive world that is defined by point clouds”, they’ve only described their solution. Do you fully understand the problem that they’re solving? More important: do they?

An artist's interpretation of the Systems Engineering process. Source: Penn State Lunar Lion Team

An artist’s interpretation of the Systems Engineering process. Source: Penn State Lunar Lion Team

I came across a great quote about systems engineering at Wikipedia. “The systems engineering process must begin by discovering the real problem that needs to be solved; the biggest failure that can be made in systems engineering is finding an elegant solution to the wrong problem.” When we’re making a Metaverse, what is it that we’re trying to solve?

When I read the quote above, it resonated with me. Why don’t we make a fresh attempt to start with needs and then work towards a technical solution? Who’s problems are we trying to solve, what are they, and how important at they?

We are going to try to understand the needs behind something that is very thorny: a metaverse project.

It is worth pointing out that even though we’ll start our focus with needs and we’ll end up at solutions, we’re still following the same path that has been made many times before us. We’re going into this by saying that our solution is a metaverse. The only uncertainty is what form that metaverse will take.

The mistake? We’re defining the problem in terms of a solution. At least this time we recognizing that fact up-front. Perhaps this illustrates yet another reason why the very attempt to intentionally create a metaverse can result in its failure.

Now, back to determining needs…

The Users

To understand the needs that drive a metaverse, we could start by asking people what they want or need in their everyday life. (Finding an expert summary would make more sense.) It might be hard to turn their answers into something useful, but I think there is a lot of insight into basic human needs and desires that shouldn’t be easily dismissed. Read More…

A Review of Earlier Articles… and a Return to Metaverse Issues

Nine months ago, I wrote my last article on the Metaverse.

It was a short piece, mostly referencing an email from Fabian Giesen, a demoscene coder (and more) who was doing some VR work at Valve as a contractor. I’ll be honest, his message was a real downer for me, and I had my own Notch moment. Why was I working towards something that, if successful, would ultimately be used just to provide value to Facebook?

Over the past nine months, a surprising number of you have told me how those early Metaverse articles had actually been very helpful to you. A few of you said that you had a Metaverse effort going, but most of you were creating multiplayer virtual environments. Thank you all for your feedback and support!

I think the moment that it all crystallized and brought me back to Metaversing was seeing the return of Valve with the HTC Vive. Suddenly, it seemed like there were possibilities once again. Thanks, Gabe. I’m looking forward to learning more about your shared entertainment universe… perhaps a non-traditional Metaverse? Read More…

Competitors with Different Goals: Valve versus Oculus

The recently announced HTC Vive looks to be a strong technology competitor against the highly anticipated consumer release from Oculus in the PC space. While Oculus has long-ago stated that they are working to deliver their consumer VR headset at a lower margin, possibly even at cost, HTC/Valve has announced their entry of a premium VR experience.

A Different Focus

What is overlooked by many is that while these two companies compete in VR hardware and software, their focus couldn’t be any more different. Read More…

Why consumer technologies succeed and fail

SOURCE: Mike Rowe "Death of a Video Game"

Image Source: Mike Rowe “Death of a Video Game” on Flickr

I collect full-sized arcade games. Most of my games are from the 1980s, but occasionally I’ll find something newer that I like and I’ll add it to the collection. Arguably, arcade games are a decent enough example of how forces conspire in us to choose when a consumer technology succeeds and when it fails. Of the many possible reasons, we’re going two focus on two: novelty and utility.

In the picture above, this arcade game had lost both its novelty and its utility. In the end, the only novelty it had left was to burn, and the only utility it had left to have its picture taken as part of a photo collection. The remaining pile of ashes had no significant novelty or utility to offer us.

The Dimension of Novelty

YouTube: 1983 Atari Starwars Arcade Highscore Run

YouTube: 1983 Atari Star Wars Arcade Highscore Run

If you played arcade games in the 1980s, you’re going to relate very quickly to this example.

Why was this Star Wars game so popular? It had amazing high resolution three dimensional color vector graphics. It had digitized speech from the actual characters. It was based on events in the real Star Wars movie! So it had two cool new technologies from the period, and it was still very uncommon to see an arcade game with a movie tie-in. This game had novelty written all over it, and that was a good thing. It pulled you in and got you to play it. Read More…

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…