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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…

Fundamental Problems with Metaverse Implementations


We can define a metaverse in a number of different ways. At a minimum, a metaverse must allow users to experience and perform actions with others in shared virtual spaces.

Years ago, we should have recognized and learned from the painful problems associated with a social metaverse platform which focused on user generated content. Today, a new crop of companies are gearing up to repeat those same mistakes.

As we look back, it was never really the user generated content that was the problem. It was the metaverse platform itself. It couldn’t live up to the hype. The platform was not capable of capturing a large audience, much less living up its roots in science fiction.

The Metaverse (image copyright 2015 by <a href="">michelangelus</a>)

The Metaverse (image copyright 2015 by michelangelus)

The concept of a metaverse (or even “The Metaverse”) is something that might yet deliver a compelling experience, but not in its current form. The design in use today needs to be shelved and replaced with something better. Read More…

The Insanity of the Monolithic Metaverse

Lessons from the Past and Building the Future

Image Source: Future Virtual Reality (2011)

Image Source: Future Virtual Reality (2011)

How can we help the next attempt at the Metaverse to be more successful? This article will present the idea that our attempts to directly build the large general-purpose virtual environments (“to build the Metaverse”) are, in itself, what have prevented a successful Metaverse from happening.

The Andromeda Blog warns us that virtual reality is doomed to repeat the failures of the past unless we recognize what those failures are, and start thinking in a new direction. They remind us that a popular definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In the context of virtual reality, they’re right. We need to do something different than what has already been tried and failed.

What do people think is different this time around? “We have new technology!” “This time, we’re going to make virtual reality a platform!” “People are starting to take this seriously!” Those things are all important contributors, but are they at the heart of the problem? Only when we are able to recognize what we’re doing wrong are we able to figure out what needs to be different.

Image and quote of Albert Einstein via Andromeda Blog

Image Source: Compilation artist unknown, image via the Andromeda Blog

In previous articles, we’ve identified two easily overlooked but very substantial user needs which were neglected in previous implementations. First, there was a failure to maintain novelty (as the initial novelty decayed, large virtual worlds became boring). Second, there was a lack of utility (there was little real-world value which people obtained in virtual reality). A successful Metaverse has to continue to entertain its users. If and when that fails, it has to provide real-world value if it hopes to retain them.

What if there is another problem, more fundamental, that is baked right into the design? Read More…

Representing unknown avatars in high traffic public spaces

Maciej Kuciara: Cyberpunk 2077 trailer concept art

Maciej Kuciara: Cyberpunk 2077 trailer concept art

“The Street.” That’s what Snow Crash calls it. The Street is a shared virtual environment that grew to be used by over a hundred million users. The author eases us into how avatars might interact in the Metaverse by describing a simple problem: how to reach the front door of a famous establishment.

If these avatars were real people in a real street, Hiro wouldn’t be able to reach the entrance. It’s way too crowded. But the computer system that operates the Street has better things to do than to monitor every single one of the millions of people there, trying to prevent them from running into each other. It doesn’t bother trying to solve this incredibly difficult problem. On the Street, avatars just walk right through each other.

You might remember that in a previous article, Griefing and the Metaverse, we touched on some of the issues involved when avatars collide. In an even earlier article, The sci-fi Metaverse is bad, we realized that the science fiction Metaverse is actually an unrealistic blueprint for what an actual Metaverse should be like.

When Snow Crash describes a high traffic public place, I think that they got it more right than wrong. When practical considerations need to come first, the Metaverse does not need to be a faithful simulation of reality. We could stop here and implement a public space with Snow Crash’s description of the Street, but there are additional practical considerations to deal with. Read More…

Griefing and the Metaverse

Know Your Meme: Pool's Closed (Habbo Hotel)

Know Your Meme: Pool’s Closed

If you’ve been following some of the posts here on Metaversing, you may have noticed a slant towards planning and design issues. This isn’t by accident. Many issues seem innocent or almost trivial, but need to be carefully considered before jumping into an implementation. A well thought-out design can save countless hours of trouble down the road in the systems development life cycle.

Today, I have an easy prediction: the Metaverse is going to be the stuff of legends for hackers, griefers, trolls, vigilantes, security researchers, and spy agencies. If you’re already familiar with the scene at the top of this article, then you know what we’re looking at: an in-world denial of service attack. Do you see it? Is it the guy in the pool with the antlers on his head? No? To explain, let’s go back to design. Read More…

How attached are we to the open world and Euclidean space?


Math with Bad Drawings, “A Fight with Euclid”

In an earlier post, “The sci-fi Metaverse is bad (and you need to leave it behind)“, we talked about some of the notions we inherited from science fiction which shape our thoughts on how the Metaverse should exist. One such item is the open world concept. Another notion is of a single large contiguous (Euclidean) three dimensional space. These are romantic notions of the Metaverse, but do we really need them?

Second Life is an interesting example of both an open world and a contiguous Euclidean space. (This is the classical view of the Metaverse.) Land is a virtual resource in Second Life which is sold to players; it must be purchased in order to be used.

In Second Life, location can be important. The size to which your land can grow can be important. Sure, your avatar can teleport to almost anywhere on the map, but if you are so inclined, your can probably fly there as well. In 2011, almost 80% of the company’s revenue was from land fees. With revenue based on the constraints of real estate, Euclidean space makes a great deal of sense here. It is baked into the design, and with reason. 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…

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…