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Jun 25, 2007

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» The future of virtual worlds from TinkerX
Over at Terra Nova, Richard Bartle has asked folks to predict what will be going on in Virtual Worlds (VWs) and/or Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) in 20 years. And while many prognosticators like to hem-and-haw and disclaim that, OhR... [Read More]

Comments

1.

My only prediction I feel sure of is that people will look back at the whole RMT obsession in second life as a bit of an absurd embarassment. Ponzi schemes just aint computer games frankly.

2.

Is it safe to comment in this thread? Or is it PvP?

*puts on armour*

20 years ago = 1987... Oh... 2027 = new display techologies. And hopefully new input devices: better than gloves. Possibly also new home-movie technologies, so yes, in 20 years we'll have home-CAVEs, full body motion devices. Some people will use that, but most of us will be fat and lazy, so uhm... (No that is not an insult, just very probable).

Unfortunately, I think the masses will drive this to a place which will leave me quite unsatisfied. You'll have golf-CAVE-worlds, disco-CAVE-worlds, just replicating whatever people have fond memories of. Most likely things I won't like. Grr!

Still, for those who are adventerous there will be alternatives that will be a mixture of pigs-in-space and underwater-worlds where you are suspended in a way that make you feel almost weightless. Ah, yes, there will be swimmingpool-worlds, that is, worlds which you connect to when you are actually in your swimmingpool.

For nerds there will be the MtG 2020 edition where you fight constantly through whatever medium you have at hand, possibly communication through your cellphone. Like the cellphone tells the nearby display to show you an enemy, and you have to respond to it, QUICKLY.

And, yes, Linden will have released Third Life.

3.

If the VWs gonna be meant for fun , and if the humankind will afford to waste money and time on that " virtual" fun, there's a future. As dmx said, RMT is just a ponzi when it's institutionalized. Hard to make a prediction , but i believe the VWs gonna be just " niches ". The world, the real one , has too many big problems and challenges to face , so, my opinion is that one have to be a retard , a rich idiot ( in terms of time/money ) or a scammer , if she/he will chose to spent its lifetime seriousely involved in such things. The VWs atm are nothing else but 3D( screened on a 2D display ) sugarcoated ponzies or MUDs , and except for the fun, there's nothing appealing or of any real scientific interest in them. No matter how you 3D or 4 or 5 D you dress a pig , it's still a pig. Let hope it gonna be a funny one.
But Ola, you also might be right; if the " globalization " succeedes ", the VWs could be " enforced " . But don't forget that one have to pay the phone-bill too.

4.

Well, I'm going to steer clear of the predictions for full-fledged 'virtual reality' - I think those are probably way too far off to be realistic, especially as they were suggested in the 1980s and we've not gotten *especially* closer. However, input methods are conceivable; in some virtual worlds, for example, motion sensors will be cheap enough - and potentially ubiquitous enough - to allow for customized emotes on demand. In M*RPGs, this is likely to be one method for a better degree of immersion, and has already been used for decades on a smaller scale.

Likewise, I expect player-created content to become increasingly easy to define in graphical VWs; MUCKs and MUDs obviously already have that degree of player participation to a significant extent, as anyone who's ever gotten a building permit on one will be able to tell you. Combine this with the increasing simplicity of 3D modelers, and we might see incredible things in the future...or a general "SL Mainland" thing for the unwary.

The (imminent-- wait, no, it's going away again) release of Spore soon will probably define how developers in general look at player-created content; imagine an MMO with Spore's diversity, for example. At the same time, I worry that the gaming side will see even less ingenuity in 'crafting' and 'tradeskills', considering some of the games out there right now.

Summing up those and a few others...
1. Better input methods. Motion sensors, a breakaway from the overcrowded GUI, a general sense of immersion.
2. Better *output* methods. VR headsets have been on the list for years - but there haven't been any/many VWs with good functionality there.
3. Continued centralization in development, with companies appearing, merging, and disappearing faster and faster as time goes on. EA will drop out of the VW market, but SoE will go on.
4. Systems for creating, rating, buying and selling player-created content in games, and better systems for limiting what should and shouldn't be in there.
5. A friend suggested this one: More people will start spending more time in VWs than outside. Part of this may be assisted with virtual work environments. Likewise, VW (or MMO) addictions will jump over the next few years to a critical point.
6. Blizzard will produce 10 more expansions for World of Warcraft, increasing the size of the game world by two factors and raising the level cap to 125.
7. Any hint of good coding in VWs will disappear as bandwidth and graphics engines become more trivial. After all, software is an ideal gas.

5.

Sometime in the future, the popular perception of an average human's life cycle will change. Currently 'play' is seen as something children do to learn, and adults do not play games to learn. Learning is serious!

Hogwash. Adults can still learn through play, and it's the best way to make sure that people continue to learn throughout their lives. In twenty years (okay, I think this will take longer than that, but I'm playing the 15-20 year game!) play will become an acceptable pastime, and many virtual worlds will be designed to be more than mere entertainment.

We might even be able to start calling some of this art.

6.

Just a small note: I've always been sceptical of the VR-hype, like you, but since people have now made poliarized LCD displays I think the threshold might be been lowered. Simple depth cues from 3D could be a usability asset even on the 2D desktop, so if the tech is good, and nausea low, adoption isn't that farfetched. Combine that with the AV industry's need to push new tech: the natural thing is to go for 180 degrees home cinemas (which might be possible with polymer display tech?). If that is true, I think 3D on home cinemas isn't that far away, and it makes sense to use it for CAVES.`

Gah, that was longwinded, but what do you think? Still sceptical?

I think it is interesting to note that we still are stuck with mice and keyboards, most of us, just like we were 20 years ago. So perhaps new input-devices will have to be usable in more regular apps, like the web, in order to get beyond this stone-age stage... OH YESSS, we have this one great improvement, the moooousewheel...

7.

Mousewheel is essential, these days and a bit of innovation itself. :)

Well, definitely, the point to think is: whether or not are we going to like that our children spend all their day immersed on a VW? It's a disturbing thought that we cant know for sure if one is playing or working in a VW, and somehow i think it matches the worries our parents had when some of us just choose to be webdesigners or DBAs, sth that didnt exist in their time.

The central point in the VW matter is this: when can one tell you that you are 'addicted', in the bad word's sense, and not only 'devoted' to your job?

8.

The biggest change is going to be in interface, and I'm placing my bets on brain wave gaming. Reference extensive article: http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/272/brain_wave_games_4learning.php

I mean, this is already commercially available stuff. One of the biggest barriers I see to mass participation in virtual worlds is interface - the public in majore simply does not like WASD+mouse navigation. There's a reason the Wii is looking like the console space winner.

This has already been called. Bill Gates' top priority five years ago was finding a way to move beyond the keyboard. Using brain waves, we can equity peoples' imagination with peoples' spatial engineering abilities in Second Life; it can become the great equalizer for the technologically nonproficient or inhibited.

I do have one other (very fringe) thought for the 15-20 future, but it would take me in long excess of the limit; reference sutrosez.blogspot.com.

-Morgan Hardy (Sutro)

9.

The biggest change is going to be in interface, and I'm placing my bets on brain wave gaming.

At first I thought you were joking, but after some thinking I do agree. Some handicaped people who's only option of computer-access is to hit an on/off button with their head would perhaps be able to access and experience freedom in a virtual world that could mean a lot for their ability of self-expression. Good point!

It might be interesting to use bio- or brainwave-sensors for conveying emotions through avatars too. Hardly mass adoption, but for the hardcore? Certainly. (err... in a very relative manner...)

10.

Yes, I agree with most here, the difference is going to be in the interface. I think we'll see things like eyeball tracking as a way of movement or selection.

I was inclined to say that greater real-world integration, such as on handheld devices and GPS detection will make changes, but I think we've proven time and again that the market doesn't want that (hello Gizmondo).

Honestly though, I think that we aren't really in a position right now to be capable of these sorts of deriviations. 25 years ago, it was relatively easy to make the jump from 2D pictures and text games to thinking about the worlds as being rendered in 3D. Huge networked games were also easily hypothesised. I don't see anything in games right now which really flags an obvious extension of what we can do. Games are 3D, they are networked, and each new generation of console systems just seems to be making those two elements better.

I think it's going to be a pretty large revolution that's going to guide virtual worlds to their place in 25 years, but what that will be, I'm not sure any of us can predict with any real confidence.

11.

15 to 20 years? If I look back at 1990 and compare it to today, I think some of you are dreaming a little further out than 20 years. I'll set the bar a little lower.

Convergence is finally here and proprietary channels are the exception rather than the rule. This means the console, the set top box, the TV, the computer and the phone have finally merged enough to create one content delivery channel - the web. Retail is dead. Download and install is dead. No more multiplatform development, just create once and consumers can consume away.

The convenience of the 2D web is too useful for disseminating information to see it supplanted by anything else, however it will be the gateway into virtual worlds. Just click and play; instantly in with no loading bar and definitely no download, install, register, check your email, confirm the password, blah blah.

As a result of fickle consumers and choice, VW loyally is much more difficult to maintain; churn is brutal. As a result there is a huge emphasis on the experience during the first minute of play - because that's all you've got to make an impression. VWs and MMOs are there for a good time, not a long time and developers will have to scramble to stay ahead of consumers with new experiences.

12.

I don't see virtual worlds as replacements for the web or for basic communication. So I may be a wet blanket, but I see them as vibrant niches that will continue to be so, only better looking and performing.

BTW, the question journalists always ask me is "So, do you play games?" My response is usually: "Do you ask cinema professors if they watch movies?"

13.

but what that will be, I'm not sure any of us can predict with any real confidence.

Right, and that's probably why it is easiest to produce plusible predictions about the interface. Ok, so I'll jump into deep water and make yet another prediction then, before I go to bed:

I think that in 20 years some of the public-domain like efforts like Wikipedia, arhive.org and Project Gutenberg have reached maturity to such an extent that maybe they will start working more on adding meta-information. That is, maybe we will see the beginning of W3C's semantic web vision. If that happens it will make more sense to build non-gaming virtual worlds that integrate the existing web and other constructs into an immersive environment.

This is unfortunately a chicken/egg problem IMO, so I am not at all convinced. One could hope, I guess.

(I also hope Richard Bartle will present his own predictions when this thread has reached it's conclusion, if not earlier. There's a social contract in here somewhere...)

14.

..from a recent panel i was on as part of "5 facts for Metaverse Conference Attendees;)"

"20 years from now virtual worlds will look exactly like they did 20 years ago... when shown on television." -cube3

15.

Twenty years ago very few people had ever heard of the Internet (fewer than 1M were connected). Fifteen years ago the Web was just being born. Other than Vernor Vinge, few predicted anything remotely like what we have now.

So, perilously looking ahead, I'll point out a few trends, even if I can't see where they take us:

  • Ubiquity: we're almost there now, and will soon have continual access to virtual worlds across technology platforms, some linked with real-world locations, with combined online/offline shopping experiences, with our friends, schools, jobs, churches, etc.
  • Decentralization: the days of "we control the server" are numbered. It may still be a pretty large number (this is a terribly wicked problem), but the end is coming. Every machine will be a slice of a server, or its own server. World/game development companies cannot control online environments any more than AOL could control the Internet.

    Get ready for lots of microworlds everywhere -- just as soon as it somehow becomes economically viable to build the infrastructure to worlds that may be thinly monetized (to throw in the capitalist angle). If this sounds like the jungle of the web, it should. Technologically the difference is that the underpinnings needed for a virtual world are several orders of magnitude more complex and more expensive than those needed for a web server or web page.

  • Believable AI: it's a lot closer than you think. Not Turing-perfect, but it doesn't need to be. Believable, relatable, emotional, affective, artificial agents with whom you interact in a variety of physical, online, and virtual world settings will be as common and as useful as web pages are today.
  • Community Renaissance: Initially the 'Net and the Web were all about geekery. I remember hearing Cliff Stoll hype his book "Silicon Snake Oil" in the mid-1990s, saying that the Web would never be useful ("it can't help me make my garden better!") or good for commerce. Time has shown him to be astonishingly wrong. The 'Net was first about technical data, then slowly about information, and eventually it (and the visible Web on top of it) has become so broad-based that it is an indispensable resource for many mundane tasks.

    In a similar way, I see online worlds as having first been ultra-technical (BBSes and the like), then geeky (MMOGs), and finally, slowly, we're coming to understand the phenomenal power these have as community catalysts and vehicles.

    I believe than in 15-20 years we'll look back on current understanding of guilds and online sex clubs as early halting steps out of the "bowling alone generation, especially in American culture. We will be as at home with community then as we are with instant access to encyclopedic information now.

Oh, and we'll all have flying cars and spandex jackets too.

16.

I've been part of a team asking a lot of people this question for the last year, and we have the Metaverse Roadmap report up for download on metaverseroadmap.org. Take a look-see at what we came up with (20-something pages with lots of pictures). Not many specific predictions, more scenarios, but a lay of the land between Virtual Worlds, Mirror Worlds, Augmented Reality, and Lifelogging.

17.

By 2027 many people will say, "Where does the VW stop and the RW begin?" The descendants of modern day VWs will be looked at as part of a complex multi-dimensional global/universal brain, instantly accessible via neural interface. Virtual experiences will be customized on the fly in real-time, VWs will appear totally different to different people, we will flip from VW to VW and feel like we're accessing a memory or imagining something. Economics will be based on mind-share and a market for competing simulations, considerably more directly than today. Planetary info processing will be way more fluid. People will begin to willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly cannonball into nirvanic group awareness through virtual wormholes. :)

FYI -- It hasn't yet been publicized, but the white paper / overview doc compiled via the Metaverse Roadmap Project by the Acceleration Studies Foundation is now available for download on metaverseroadmap.org. Some good futuring there.

18.

Ha, I left my text field open while I ate some dinner and Jerry beat me to the punch! Apologies for the redundancy.

19.

Alvis Brigis wrote:

instantly accessible via neural interface

With all due respect, how do you look at the development of technology and see that in 20 years we're going to be practically interacting (as opposed to a few selected applications) with electronic data neurally?

20 years ago we were using keyboards, mice, and monitors. 10 years ago we were using keyboards, mice, and monitors. Today we are using keyboards, mice, and monitors. No doubt it will change, but I think you're one optimistic guy.

--matt

20.

I'm surprised at how cautious much of these predictions are. Twenty years, as we all know, ain't what it used to be, and while the only thing we can probably be really sure about is that the VW future will have some unpredictable applications (just as the phonograph was envisioned as a platform for speech, and the telephone as a broadcast medium, not person to person communications.

I think that in 20 years we will see experiences that are hybrids of movies, games and virtualized reality.

I think we will see lots of business and commercial use of 3D worlds or environments.

And I think we will see elements of 3D innovations fuel new ways to visualize data, for applications in science, financial services, etc.

And I also think that 3D innovations will become embedded in lots of other digital applications,services and environments.

However, I still won't get that jetpak I've been waiting on for the last 30 years....

21.

I enjoyed reading this thread so much that it inspired me to comment!

People in twenty years will have largely the same needs that they do today. I think virtual worlds will be accepted as a place for certain types of communication.

And of course there will be a whole set of innovations in display, interface, network, identity persistence...

22.

Matt -

20/10 years ago, we didn't have *commercially available* neural interface devices. We have now for about a year and a half, albeit on a small scale. Five years down the road, look for neural interface to be the DVD of 1993/4. Ten years, look for it to be the CD-ROM of 93/94. Fifteen? Could be the floppy disk drive.

-MH

23.

Dmitri Williams>BTW, the question journalists always ask me is "So, do you play games?" My response is usually: "Do you ask cinema professors if they watch movies?"

I get that question fairly often, too. They're disappointed when I say "I do, but not for the same reasons everyone else does", and much, much happier when I say "I have three level 70s on WoW". Give it a couple of years and they'll want me to have them on LotRO instead, though...

Richard

24.

Ola Fosheim Grøstad>I also hope Richard Bartle will present his own predictions when this thread has reached it's conclusion, if not earlier. There's a social contract in here somewhere...

Yes, I expect I will...

Richard

25.

One of the techies in the office here reckons he's almost got some crazy gadget working that hooks to an EEG and allows bio-control of WOW.

I'm not holding my breath that it'll be more than a curiosity, but he seems convinced.

26.

Gene Endrody: 15 to 20 years? If I look back at 1990 and compare it to today, I think some of you are dreaming a little further out than 20 years. I'll set the bar a little lower.

In 1987 the top-of-the-line for home computer use was an Amiga with perhaps 1MB RAM/20MB HD and 9600 baud modem. We've outpaced that with a factor of 1000-10000! Of course, we benefit from healthy competition between AMD/ATI and the others, if AMD goes down... ouch. On the other hand: asian and third world markets will grow, meaning higher volume, meaning shorter time to recover R&D costs. So if there is a market for a product, and there are no adverse effects of said product, I think it is more likely to be made in the future.

Richard didn't state whether he meant popular virtual worlds or niche virtual worlds, but making prediction about what might be fashionable in 20 years is very difficult. Most niche-possibilities could become fashionable!

Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that so many women would want tattoos??? Fashion is difficult to predict!

27.

>Today we are using keyboards, mice, and monitors.
Yes we are but that's not all we're using.
We're also using styluses and tablets (PDAs, Wacom and NDS), fingers & touchscreens (Iphone), webcams (eyetoy), voice, controllers like that of the WII, projectors, cheap "VR" headsets, etc... The list is growing fast.

As has been said, the first usable Brainwave interfaces are appearing. Hard to say where they'll be in 20 years but my guess is, pretty far.

28.

In 20 years the world outside games will change more than the games themselves. All youth of today play games, and most of who were youth a decade or so ago play games. How world politics will change when everyone with an important political function has been part of managing an mmo guild for half a lifetime is unpredictable. All I know is that an experienced mmo gamer values meatspace status symbols less than someone who never went deep enough into the gaming culture.

29.

Did anyone see the Avatar Machine?
http://www.marcowens.co.uk/avat.html

I wonder how it relates to these kind of questions. (I was kind of surprised it didn't elicit a post here @ TN)

30.

Olivier: We're also using styluses and tablets (PDAs, Wacom and NDS), fingers & touchscreens (Iphone), webcams (eyetoy), voice, controllers like that of the WII,

Yep, but really, how many application-programmers bother to support those even if it could be useful (e.g. how many email-programs access web-cams)? Programmers prefer to design for the most common I/O-abstractions and preferably only a small handful. If a new I/O device doesn't fit the existing abstractions there is less incentive to support it. Wacom is mostly getting the market for tablets, that tells us something about the difficulties non-standard device manufacturers have.

Microsoft/Apple have a lot of power here. They provide the abstractions and they have little incentive to create advanced abstractions for input... We need a third mainstream OS-player. Maybe Google.

31.

seens good

32.

Richard, very timely question.

I haven't had a chance to read the metaverse roadmap yet, but I've also been asked this question so many times by colleagues and press I wrote up a (not so concise) statement back on June 8th. It is a bit more about market adoption and dynamics than capabilities, per se, but think it fits the spirit of your exercise.

http://xianrenaud.typepad.com/weblog/2007/06/look_into_the_b.html

Koithuo Lives!
Christian

33.

This prediction is going to sound frightfully apocalyptic, and is not something I would want to go on record with, hence the obviously fake name.

During the next fifteen to twenty years, we are likely to experience ecological and political catastrophes that completely transform our governmental structures. It's reasonable to anticipate at least *one* serious pandemic transmitted between human beings, and equally reasonable to fret about the possibility of more spectacular terrorist attacks on the scale of 911.

When the pandemic hits, virtual worlds may turn out to be a viable way of communicating and keeping the system humming at a time when face-to-face communication is impossible. (Of course this assumes that the providers are able to sustain our broadband connections throughout the crisis.) No matter what, after the pandemic is over, virtual worlds will receive serious attention as vehicles for conducting business.

Unfortunately, the steps that governments take to combat viral pandemics are likely to be highly authoritarian. Any sort of hardcore terrorist attack would certainly reinforce authoritarian tendencies. So, we will have virtual worlds, and the technology will continue to evolve, but they won't be "free" in any meaningful sense of the word. We will find ourselves immersed in Panopticon-like structures that are monitored at all times for signs of dissent.

But the graphics will kick ass and NPCs will be more intelligent, so it's not all bad news.

34.

dmx>One of the techies in the office here reckons he's almost got some crazy gadget working that hooks to an EEG and allows bio-control of WOW.

Yes, I have people in my office doing that, too: http://cswww.essex.ac.uk/Research/BCIs/AABAC.html

Fine if you're never distracted.

Richard

35.

I can't do any detailed predictions that far ahead, nobody can. 5 years is hard enough.

Hardware interfaces are on everyone's mind, because they're set to change radically in the immediate future.

Neural interfaces are already borderline practical, but by 2012 their use won't be widespread yet. Even then, they'd only be for input, not output.

Motion sensors are cheap and lightweight; the Wiimote is one option, but I expect lightweight fingerless gloves to be more practical for VR use. Certainly you need a 3D input device for a 3D world. The mouse and keyboard are painfully inadequate tools for VR. Gestural interfaces like the iPhone are going to finally put an end to the keyboard/mouse rut computers have been in since 1984.

We already have cameras (standard on all Macs except the media hubs; PCs are low-tech garbage, but even they can buy cameras as an option) which can capture facial expressions; there's only the small matter of integrating them into the software. This is one of the cheapest, best low-hanging fruits possible, and I'm rather surprised SL hasn't done anything with it yet.

HMDs are cheap, now; you can buy a non-stereoscopic HMD for $350 at Sharper Image, and stereoscopic ones are not much more. You can live with just a screen, but VR does make stereoscopy much more valuable. I'd expect it to be on at least 25% of the computers doing VR by 2012.

The software I think has reached a useful plateau for a while, and only major changes in scale are going to occur for a few years. The business models, on the other hand, are about to undergo an extinction-level event.

By 2012, Second Life (more precisely, the open-sourced Metaverse grid descended from it) will be on almost everyone's desktop. Concurrency should be in the low millions by then, making real business work there practical. Expect that all business that is currently done by phone, will be done in VR instead; the benefits of presence are simply too high. Someone else could theoretically be competing with SL by then, but there's nobody remotely credible even in the starting blocks. If you can't provide access to real currency, protect private property, allow easy user development of their own content, and allow environmental control through scripting, your system will be ignored.

The casual entertainment model of SL's grid seems to scale out indefinitely. You can always add another nightclub (for music, standup comedy, strippers, or whatever), another swordfighting arena, another casino. That tiny incremental cost and easy access to a consistent platform means anyone can be a VR content developer, and the more people in the grid, the more value the grid has, and the less value any system not part of the grid has.

Most games will have moved to VR platforms; probably not on the main SL grid (though the current work on the heterogenous-server grid might let that happen), but server variants seem likely, and any distinct platform (WoW equivalents) will have to incorporate many VR features to keep the players interested. Expect more character customization, at least equivalent to SL's basic avatars, and at least user-generated homes and clothing. Expect an end to the stigma of RMT; your local currency cannot be protected from the global economy, and it is stupid and user-hostile to try.

The more popular games will allow some kind of character exchange. Guilds move between games now, long outliving any particular game, but you're forced to start your characters over each time. That's nonsense that players won't stand for if they don't have to. Games will resist it as long as they can, but as soon as two allow it between each other, those two will be the preferred games.

The level grind will be dead. WoW proved that reducing the level grind even a tiny bit is massively popular. The purpose of the level grind was to extract monthly fees by making it very slow and excruciatingly painful to reach new unique content, new experiences; give the junkie a hit just often enough that they're strung out and forced to come back to you. By embracing RMT and selling essential supplies and rare items, a game producer can make money without having to torture the players.

There will still be programmers foolishly trying to use AI NPCs in VR. They will continue to fail miserably at it, because real people despise interacting with NPCs; think of how much people hate talking to telemarketers, and then remove the empathy of talking to a human being, even one so degraded they'd take a job as a telemarketer. That's how people view NPCs. The value of a multi-user world is the other people, not some idiotic piece of software pretending to be a person. AI is a pernicious mental disorder many programmers are prone to (since autistic people have trouble telling the difference between machines and people, and many programmers are borderline autistic) but it will never be of use.

A common theme there is that games are going to piss the players off slightly less than they currently do. The current situation is one of absolute publisher dominion over everything your character does; you run on the treadmill for 12 hours, and you get a pellet, but you're still stuck in the cage. People hate that, but it's the only game in town. Players will always choose increased individual freedom over living in another slave state.

There are people promoting some kind of Google Earth/Second Life mashup. I don't see any productive value in that. If you're an independent contractor, where are you going to hold your meetings? In your apartment's representation? How do you map from real-world real-estate ownership into VR real-estate ownership? A large part of the value of VR is that it's not the real world, it's a separate space with fewer restrictions.


36.

Ola Fosheim Grøstad, "In 1987 the top-of-the-line for home computer use was an Amiga with perhaps 1MB RAM/20MB HD and 9600 baud modem."

Yes, however many basic ideas were in place. I was happily using LightWave 3D on my Amiga Video Toaster dreaming of Lawnmore Man. 1994 was the birth of VRML - that's 13 friggen years ago. Maybe the metaverse can avoid the same pitfalls, but the pitch sure sounds familiar. Unfortunately it's more likely to be corporate driven interests that break through.

We've been talking convergence, streaming video, multimedia for a long time - but the birth of an idea and it's acceptance into mainstream culture often takes longer than we think. You have to take that into consideration when looking 20 years down the road. Look 10 years and assume that the distance between early adopters and the mainstream will be another 10.

37.

More...I'm not saying that streaming video and multimedia are not finally here today. But look at the time it took from our first conversations about streaming video and YouTube.

38.

Yeah Gene, but I think there are some pretty hard caps on bandwidth compared to other technological areas. Pulling fiber globally is expensive, just think trans-atlantic, so I expect less growth there than in CPU power. Most of the useful 3D research was done in the 1970-1980s, sure enough, and only now are we beginning to see low-res real-time raytracing. So, that's true.

I still think that scaling up tech where it actually provides an advantage is a pretty safe bet. Size and resolution on displays. Currently big displays are ugly (low res) and smaller ones feel cramped. Our visual perception systems are pretty hard to satisfy and we like vistas, I think!

For adoption in mainstream culture, dunno, I think that is a fashion issue. I assume that some of the things mentioned in this thread will be available to the public, rather than just to businesses and researchers, even if not most people have swimmingpools with huge virtual world displays showing sharks and whales and what-not.

But God knows? Maybe our kids will be luddite hippies trying to save the world from polution and electronic garbage?

39.

Nature, of course, will be the same old nature. Only the accoutrements will take a whirl.

***

Meanwhile, dear old Terra Nova, I find herein a creeping self-reflexivity -- and, what is this, LoTRO is the newly watered?

If so, then sigh.

40.

VR head-mounted displays, glasses-mounted, hat-mounted, screen-mounted, etc., have been around since the 1980s. So have neural-output (EEG) controls, glove interfaces, etc.

They're all very cool tech with one failing: people won't use them. They've all been researched and productized before, but remain examples of those seemingly cool ideas that just don't go. It's not a matter of technology, but of usability. They don't provide a strong utility benefit and they're too invasive, among other things -- "true" 3D is marginally better than 3D on a 2D screen in limited circumstances, and it's easy to pick up or step away from a keyboard, mouse, tablet, or Wiimote. Anything more invasive than that is a non-starter for any but the most devoted of tech geeks.

I don't see strange new input/output methods taking over unless or until one provides dramatically more utility than what we have today. The modern typewriter was invented almost 150 years ago, and yet each of us still use this technology daily. I don't see that changing in the next 20 years.

41.

Yeah well, Mike, but with polarized light you only have to wear shades! And you can use the wall-display as a regular 2D display too by flicking a switch. I want one. People doing 3D modelling would want one. I am sure it is coming, but HMDs are a lost cause IMO. Agreed.

Btw, I think the first HMD prototype was showcased by Sutherland in 1968!! :-D

42.

Ola, polarized light LCD displays have been around since the mid-80s -- I saw my first one at Tektronix more than twenty years ago. It was very cool, but not sufficiently better than a simple 3D-to-2D display for long-term work. Like HMDs and the rest, these have been available, but haven't taken the world by storm.

43.

Ah, didn't know the LCDs had been around for so long. I'd still like one though, if it has decent 2D quality, even if the 3D functionality is only good for short term use. What's stopping me is the asking price ($2-3000) for a limited quality version. $400 for a 19" with good L/R separation and I'll buy. Call me optimistic. ;)

44.

Guys, the VWs have nothing to offer except for the fun. Anything else , one can do using the classic web , for cheaper. Not to mention the privacy and the security. Get real, the newcomers are going there to a VW , see what's all the fuss about, gets bored and leave . Look at numbers, only the addicted ones are still " playing " a VW after 3 months, and those are way less than 15 %.You dont need new thechniques / technologies , you need something new as concept , as goal, to offer.Forget about doing biz , nobody trust a private anonymous server/owner/operator it's big cash/biz. In the matter of biz, all one can do in a VW atm is scam and/or shady illegal biz. Even if you change the EULA , still, you don't offer anything of a more value to the potential biz-man , than the classic web and the classic biz.
Looking at the current state and potential of VW's i don't see any future for them , except for the fun . And that's boring too , after a while , no matter if you kill monsters or pseudo-socialize using yout tired neurons via a mouse or directly. It's just virtuality, wich basically means it is not for real. Believe me, it isn't.

45.

Kami Harbinger>The more popular games will allow some kind of character exchange.

Any games that do that become, effectively, the same game.

>Guilds move between games now, long outliving any particular game, but you're forced to start your characters over each time. That's nonsense that players won't stand for if they don't have to.

This says that there will be no character level structure in any game worlds, and, indeed, no tangible differences between characters (except maybe paid-for ones).

Richard

46.

Amarilla: Guys, the VWs have nothing to offer except for the fun. Anything else , one can do using the classic web , for cheaper. Not to mention the privacy and the security. Get real, the newcomers are going there to a VW , see what's all the fuss about, gets bored and leave .

Just like an art gallery?

But some of us view virtual worlds as an artistic expression. Art doesn't have to be popular to be meaningful and important. Does it?

Besides, I am sure many in this thread sit on novel ideas they don't want to share because they dream of implementing them before anyone else does. I certainly have some ideas... As long as people sit on such ideas and nurture them I think it is safe to say that there will be new kinds of worlds. Raph Koster seems to tease us with one such idea, which he won't let us in on yet. He is in a better position than most to bring his ideas to realization, but there will be opportunities for others too. We'll manage to get beyond D&D/DIKU, eventually...

It's just virtuality, wich basically means it is not for real. Believe me, it isn't.

It is real, but not as convincing as a physical hug. Which it never will be. It doesn't have to pretend to be real though, and therein is the potential for art.

47.

Kami: ... you're forced to start your characters over each time. That's nonsense that players won't stand for if they don't have to.

There are huge problems with this -- not the least of which is the patent Trip Hawkins owns on doing just this sort of thing.

48.

Kami Harbinger>The more popular games will allow some kind of character exchange.
Richard Bartle>Any games that do that become, effectively, the same game.

Not at all. Moving a character in some way from WoW to LoTRO doesn't mean it'll have the exact same mechanics, just that you get an equally-competent character with the same name and general appearance.

The current system is like being forced to die and reincarnate in another universe. A character-exchanged system would be like a single world with different countries, with different local laws. The fact that in the real world, people can travel and even relocate to another country doesn't make all countries identical.

Or are you asserting that the only unique element in each game is the particular implementation of the laws of physics and the combat system, that the setting and the people there doesn't matter at all?

Kami Harbinger>Guilds move between games now, long outliving any particular game, but you're forced to start your characters over each time. That's nonsense that players won't stand for if they don't have to.
Richard Bartle>This says that there will be no character level structure in any game worlds, and, indeed, no tangible differences between characters (except maybe paid-for ones).

Not at all. Translating Nyarlathotep, my FFXI Tarutaru WHM 60/BLM 50 into a WoW Gnome Shaman 60 doesn't turn anyone else into a gnome, doesn't force anyone else to be a mad and sinister doctor. Are you asserting that the only part of a character that matters is his level? That role-playing, character definition, and skill focus are irrelevant?

I am stating that the days of the level grind, and of level distinctions in general, are nearly at an end. It's an obsolete and noxious habit of people who were trying too hard to imitate D+D. It has no relation to heroic fiction, and it annoys players who just want to play with their friends. It's not that hard to set up character differentiation that doesn't depend on spending 320 hours killing rats and pigs. Would it really hurt WoW to make everyone 70th level right off, and let them respec when they want?

A player shouldn't have to stay on the level treadmill at the exact same rate as everyone else in order to play with their friends. It is malicious, bordering on psychotic, to inflict that on players. Right now they put up with it because it's the only option. But they don't love the designers who did that to them, they hate them. Read any forum full of MMORPG gamers. They despise the people who run the games, and fear every crazy-ass update that nerfs their characters and forces them to start all over again at level 1 to be effective. When someone gives them an option that doesn't suck, they're going to abandon anything that does suck.

49.

There are huge problems with this -- not the least of which is the patent Trip Hawkins owns on doing just this sort of thing.

That's a rather comical patent to attempt to own, since it runs into prior art such as moving characters from one D+D campaign to another in the '70s, and utilities for moving characters between Dikus in the early '90s. Since business method patents like that have had a very poor success rate in the wild, and the recent Supreme Court ruling has made "obviousness" mean "obviousness" again, if he tries to enforce it, he'll get smacked in the face with the rolled-up newspaper of reality.

But that's not why anyone currently doesn't do it; they want to keep the players locked into their world, so they can't ever quit paying subscription fees. They want to keep torturing the players forever, like AM tormenting the last humans. Sooner or later they'll just kill themselves to escape. Wouldn't you rather make money off them moving in and out of your world peacefully?

50.

A player shouldn't have to stay on the level treadmill at the exact same rate as everyone else in order to play with their friends.

Right, but you can design games where this is possible without the changes you call for? It just requires quite a bit more consideration design-wise (e.g. more defensive skills for low level players).

What you seem to be saying is that EQ++ suck?

51.

By the twenty year time frame I’m expecting most people, at least in the rich world, will mostly live in Virtual Worlds. For the same reasons they live in cities today, VWs will give more options for creativity, diversion, entertainment and self expression than the alternatives. Like the modern city dweller romanticizing the “natural” life, they will though be romanticizing the pure physical world. But like the modern city dweller and “nature”, they likely won’t spend much time there.

A critical tipping point is not so much the annotation of physical objects, but the semi-intelligent annotation of social discourse. Currently, most people feel a distinct drop in information bandwidth when they move from face to face interaction to interaction over the Net. Our face to face communication abilities are fixed, and significantly flawed. Our computer mediated abilities are increasing. At some point, the latter will overtake the former, and we will see a significant shift to net mediated communication being the norm.

Like Cassandra, I fear this change will be driven more by necessity than preference though. Accidental and deliberate pandemics, and other horrors may make physical interaction with strangers less attractive. And I think the flaws in unmediated face to face communication will become more apparent as our world gets steadily more connected. Doing things the old way won’t be a viable option over the next twenty years, not if we want to survive that is.

52.

or : i hope not.....rofl !

53.

My much-longer-than-400-word ramble here.

RL/VW overlays, fantasy baseball, porn-stars for all, user-created content wins the Pulitzer.

And bears. Oh, my!

54.

I’ll be conservative.

I also think that Neverwinter Nights is a more important harbinger of the future of VWs than SL. There’s nothing I can’t do in SL that I can’t do using normal web technologies more conveniently (well, if I filter out the mature content at least). Video conferencing is standard nowadays. There is still phone and even chat. Using a VW as an alternative just adds complexity. What SL does show us is that VWs will become a major porn medium. Neverwinter Nights paved the way for 3D graphical HOBBY VWs and introduced a lot of people to world building. There are other tools now that allow the same thing; Realm Crafter, Torque’s MMO kit and Multiverse. The last one is hyped enough in the mainstream media that it stands a good chance of becoming the tool of choice for would be builders of bad hobby worlds. We’ll also see good hobby worlds and ones that take risks that commercial worlds would never take. I expect to see all of those things that were tried during the MUD days and lost when diku became the standard for the 3D worlds to be tried again. We’ll see a few blockbuster MMOs and a million niche worlds for those who prefer to eat something other than hamburger.

…and those blockbusters will still have the grind…

I don’t expect to see a metaverse so much as lots and lots of little VWs popping up. Perhaps there will be a standard client, but designers – even hobbyists - won’t want to cede final control. For this same reason, I don’t seriously expect to see the transfer of characters between game worlds as long as we still have the grind. Designers will want control over the newbie experience and won’t want newbies going directly to the end game; unless they pay for it.

I don’t think we’ll se significant penetration of new control devices with perhaps one exception; motion sensors like the wiimote. The wii is in the process of introducing that to the mass market, and it is badly needed in many genres. Even that will take 5-10 years to achieve critical mass and make the jump from a proprietary console to become a standard. The same thing may happen with VR goggles if one of the console makers decides to make that the gimmick of the moment.

55.

"I also think..." as the first statement.

That's what I get for cut/paste rearranging of my post and not proofreading it...

56.

Kami Harbinger>Moving a character in some way from WoW to LoTRO doesn't mean it'll have the exact same mechanics, just that you get an equally-competent character with the same name and general appearance.

So it's the same game world, then.

It's not the appearance and name that matters, it's the character equivalence. Different gameplay counts for nothing. The end game for WoW is different to the levelling game, but that doesn't make it a different world. Changes in game world physics can make the experience different, but it's still effectively the same world as the same people are in it.

>The current system is like being forced to die and reincarnate in another universe.

Well how else would you get to another universe?

>The fact that in the real world, people can travel and even relocate to another country doesn't make all countries identical.

They remain in the same world, though.

>Or are you asserting that the only unique element in each game is the particular implementation of the laws of physics and the combat system, that the setting and the people there doesn't matter at all?

The opposite: I'm asserting that the people matter. If virtual worlds share characters, those worlds are all part of the same, extended world.

>Are you asserting that the only part of a character that matters is his level? That role-playing, character definition, and skill focus are irrelevant?

No, I'm saying that if you only have to make the highest level once in one game world for it to be good for all game worlds, then you pretty well have everyone at the highest level all the time, therefore there's no level structure.

>Would it really hurt WoW to make everyone 70th level right off, and let them respec when they want?

Would it really hurt WoW to give everyone every high-level weapon and piece of armour in the game?

>When someone gives them an option that doesn't suck, they're going to abandon anything that does suck.

Until they discover that the option they thought didn't suck does, in fact, suck.

I'm not saying there isn't a way to get to this point, but I am saying that it's not the holy grail many people seem to think it is.

As for a prediction, though, yes, I agree with you: some developers will try this.

Richard

57.

@ Ola : "Just like an art gallery?" Yes, noticing the differences toward WVs and kich .

"But some of us view virtual worlds as an artistic expression. Art doesn't have to be popular to be meaningful and important. Does it?"
Yes it does, because it's addressed to " others ".

"It is real, but not as convincing as a physical hug. "

Fun is real as well. Emotions are for real. Everything is for real . Your point is that the VWs' potential/future stands on Arts ? If yes, i sugest you to compare the experience of a Monet to a copy. Or, for the same matter, " Casablanca " to " Behind the scenes ". But ofcourse we could always make arts about Art and jokes about Jokes. " A GeForce walks into a bar ..."

58.

Your point is that the VWs' potential/future stands on Arts ?

For me it does. And on the potential as a creative medium. It's a medium, a canvas, it doesn't carry all these values which you attribute to it per se. What you are describing is the current VWs that you know of. Not the possible VWs.

59.

I just saw that the 400 word limit has been rescinded. So, for your ease of use, here's my post/comment/response/whatever:

1. Overlays. VWs will increasingly allow for the overlay of real life (RL) information, advertising, content, connectivity and metadata. We're starting to see, now, that people can add virtual objects to Google Maps with SketchUp. Very soon (within 2 years), we'll see these objects and user-enabled advertising, metadata and links embedded in Google Earth and Google Street-Level maps. Within 3 years, we'll see a major VW like SecondLife (or Areae?) host a sim-perfect replica of a major metro, where you can then purchase VW real-estate that links to RL spaces and artefacts; right-of-first-refusal will be given to the RL owners of same. Within 5 years we'll have portable GPS + Wireless Web devices that provide virtual overlays of RL depending on choices we make. The "1900 World of NYC," for example, that overlays history and points of interest on your mobile device as you move around. The entire world becomes The Freedom Trail. Services will also include the ability to ping nearby users of the same overlay. Within 7 years (by 2015), always-on, mobile devices that present a wide-range of personal tagging options allow for rich, constant interaction on both the RL and multi-VW levels. By 2019, as more and more of our lives involve interaction at the virtual/data level, identity theft will be upgraded in terms of both the severity of the crime, and the amount of money, effort and time spent to control it. By 2022, wearable HUDs (either projected directly onto the retina or projected via one-way glasses) will provide overlays of constant, pinpoint information from your choice of VWs. Interaction with strangers who meet high levels of tag-matched data will become common, as you will be able to see everyone's 6-degrees-of-separation, their rankings on various services, what moode (combination of "mood" and "mode") they are in, etc. By 2027, most control and communications related to these devices is by gesture and sub-vocalizations (via tooth microphone). We constantly monitor and interact in those worlds that best suit our RL and our VLs.

2. Virtual Reality TV (VRTV). The popularity of shows like "Real Life," "Project Runway" and "Survivor," lead producers in 2011 to launch a series of VRTV products/shows where users (or groups of users) are screen-capped while involved in virtual reality exploits of all kinds. "Seduction Island" is the first successful venture; hosted on a private SecondLife island, contestants are graded by viewers as they attempt to seduce as many partners as possible during a 24-hour period. Positive ratings give players access to better skins, mods and bling. The success of the show prompts a "live" version, in which random audience members can IM with players over a 2-week period, during which teams of players take turns controlling one avatar. Other VRTV shows involve quiz-type game shows; artistic endeavors; political trolling; and a race for enormous teams (5,000+ players on each) to complete virtual "Wonders of the Un-World." By 2016 the popularity of these shows is so extensive that other, targetted entertainments become embedded within them. Howard Stern moves his shock-radio show exclusively to a VR game/world in which all players and the audience are immersed in a constant state of total "Dive to the Bottom." Rude, ridiculous, childish and violent acts give one more prestige and leveling-up requires driving out the more easily offended.

3. Mixed RL/VW events. Starting in 2009 with (essentially) the current SecondLife platform, event management groups begin to host RL events with VW features. The first of these to get any attention are created by "XRV Studios" in order to promote the opening of various art galleries around the world. At each RL opening, a VW construct with all RL art meticulously digitized is provided for guests who cannot attend the RL event. Cameras in the RL gallery provide context and communication for avatar guests. Terminals at the RL event allow live guests to interact with avatar guests. Music for both "side" is synchronized. By 2017 it is considered somewhat rude to not have a VR presence at a major event, and most fine-arts establishments and performance venues rely on VR revenue for at least half their net (ha ha) profits. By 2022, led by Cornell, most leading institutions of higher learning provide the majority of classes in both RL/VW overlapped settings, and do not distinguish between avatar vs. live attendance.
In 2027, Virtual protests at several major RL/VL political events lead to the creation of
the VFBI, whose main purpose is to keep the virtual peace. The VCIA, however, remains a nasty rumor...

4. User-Created Trumps Studio Content. In 2012, "Armagaedon," the first major MMO to feature a "blank slate architecture," allows players to take a world with basic elements, physical rules (which include magic as a physics), basic UI and modding tools, and have at it. Slow to get started, Armagaedon does, however, have an appeal to serious PvP players and RPers, because there is, essentially, nothing that isn't PvP (or guild-v-guild) or out-of-character. There is no backstory beyond, "You wake up in the world after the world you know went away." Out-of-character chatter is characterized, in the game, as "past-channeling." This isn't a game... it's *you* thrown forward into the misty future. Content creation tools and the rules for individual, group, guild and governmental ownership of content are so slick and grannular that all kinds of in-game systems of leverage and creativity flourish. The balance of combat vs. crafting in terms of pay-out in game-smack is so finely tuned that high-level engineers are just as sought after as tanks, healers, etc. In game publisher reps watch for particularly "qualitative" good activities and reward such with bonuses, thus making artistic, entertaining, dramatic "play" as much of a way to level as XP/grindage. Mini games crop up within the game and begin to attract casual players. By 2018, Armagaedon has passed WoW's previous record of 19 million players, as continent-level guilds begin to form. In 2019 an in-game engineer/priest discovers that there are other worlds in the Armagaedon universe that can be reached through tech/magic. The space race begins... By 2022, three other major blank-slate games have moved into the Nielsen MMO Top 10, and the combined revenue of these four games surpasses the other 6, as players are doing all RMT in game, sharing content creation profits w/ the game publishers. In 2027, "Pablo," a game that began in 2025 with no rules, no physics... nothing but connectivity and space... becomes the first MMO to win the Pulitzer Prize.

5. Fantasy Everything. In 2011, "5th Base," the first MMO Fantasy Baseball league to incorporate real-time virtual games based on player teams is launched. By 2014 it is a worldwide, billion-dollar industry. By 2020, more people play/watch fantasy baseball leagues based on RL stats than watch the actual games. Similarly, in 2011, porn-star Jenna Haze becomes the first well-known sex worker to license her image and voice for use in VR sex scenarios, creating an entire "tribe" of SecondLife escorts who look and sound like Jenna. The trend continues, with both legal and illegal crafting of online "avastars" to interact in a variety of adult, VR entertainments. By 2025, the ability of strip-off artists to recreate in perfect, virtual simulacritude, any star, living or dead, in any situation has become so common as to be unnoticed. In 2027 the Supreme Court rules that the virtualization of an RL person -- so long as no claim to other rights of the person him/herself is made -- is protected speech.

6. Duh. By 2027 virtual LOL cats account for approximately 10% of all Internet bandwidth usage.

60.

Andy Havens>By 2027 virtual LOL cats account for approximately 10% of all Internet bandwidth usage.

Just as they did in 1994, before the advent of the WWW.

Richard

61.

From Jeff Barr's blog:
"From what he said, it sounds like Linden will continue to host the presence, search, and currency/payment services (or at least the default, global instances). As part of this effort they are apparently paying attention to emerging standards for cross-world portabilty of avatars.

He said that more details would be forthcoming (including white papers) in the next 90 days. I can hardly wait."


62.

Kami Harbinger>As part of this effort they are apparently paying attention to emerging standards for cross-world portabilty of avatars.

Is this cross-world as in from one grid to another? Or from one virtual world to another?

Is it only the avatar that gets ported, or does that avatar's goods?

Is this is only for non-game worlds, or do they have some idea of importing (surely not also exporting?!) characters from WoW or whatever, too?

Are avatars moved from one virtual world to another, or copied? If I port an avatar from WorldA to WorldB, does that avatar exist in both worlds or just one? Could I play in WorldA on one computer and WorldB on another at the same time?

Is portability seamless, or is there a transaction cost?

I ask all this, because each one of them has its own issues that could make a big difference to how this pans out. Example: if a particular virtual world is down on its luck and decides to allow portability to and from a more popular world in the hope that this will attract some of the popular world's players to their game, one of those worlds is going to lose out on players in the long term. For both virtual worlds to sign up to portability, they'd both need to think that theirs was the better. Otherwise, why would they risk losing customers/residents/players? The more that can be transferred between the worlds, the greater the likelihood that one world will wither while the other prospers at its expense.

Transfer of characters between differently-owned game worlds involving anything more than just the look and the name of the avatar are just not going to happen (except perhaps among the desperate) (hmm, strong RP worlds might be able to do it, too).

Richard

63.

Transfer of characters between differently-owned game worlds involving anything more than just the look and the name of the avatar are just not going to happen (except perhaps among the desperate)

It may happen, since so many worlds are D&D like. You could get a 30% XP-bonus on specific skills when transfering from one hard-core world to another. Other businesses do vaguely comparable things in order to attract desirable customers. This can be done if your competitors publish character stats through a public web-interface (HTTP/HTML/XML). Some do that with levels/class at least.

(hmm, strong RP worlds might be able to do it,too).

Well, actually, maybe the not-so-strong RP worlds might want to do it. Since on RP servers players some twink and grind until their character have the capabilites they want it to have, then switch roleplay. Hardcore roleplayers are less likely to want this, as they want a character that taps into the dramatic potential of the environment.

64.

Ola Fosheim Grøstad says:>It may happen, since so many worlds are D&D like. You could get a 30% XP-bonus on specific skills when transfering from one hard-core world to another.

Well what you're proposing here (which I believe has been attempted before) is a one-way copy. WorldB wants to steal WorldA's players, so offers to transfer them to WorldB. Because WorldA is not participating in the transfer, though, it's actually just a copying, not a transference. Should players find that WorldB is not as good as WorldA, they would not be able to transfer their now-improved character back (not that this won't mean hours of WorldA's Customer Service time being wasted when they call up to try).

>Other businesses do vaguely comparable things in order to attract desirable customers.

Can you give an example?

Richard

65.

The most obvious example is insurance companies that will give you the same bonuses you have acquired as a long-standing customer in another insurance company, IIRC.

66.

@Richard: In 1994, it was totally lame, 2D, no interaction lol kitties. In the future, we will have 3D, virtual, interactive lol kitties that will be able to pass the Purring Test, such that users won't be able to tell them from live-action videos of RL-LOL kitties. IE, your virtual lol cat will treat you with complete disdain, too.

"I'm in yer matrix, hairballin' yer red pills!"

67.

Given our tendency to extrapolate from our furthest current reach, and the fact that the deepest shocks and surprises come from not from there but from changes in the root system, I'd like to think closer to what napkin and pencil can manage than to head-mounted displays and the like.

*

We are going to understand that handling emotions as we pass through events is very like taking a truck loaded with a variety of volatile explosives through a series of high mountain passes, and will have begun to construct sims which allow us to practice the appropriate moves away from reality and its disastrous consequences.

This will, among other things, require us to internalize a set of kinaesthetic - synaesthetic feeling shapes, which will represent complex spaces and webs of tensions, constantly in weave and process, as something akin to what we now know as cat's-cradles – but present to the mind's-eye rather than strung between the hands just in front of the body. A marriage could be seen as one such cat's-cradle, the requirements of different children's personalities, the impact of in-laws or affairs, as additional fingers causing constant shifts in the tensional pattern.

To be able to express such patterns in communicable form, in two- or three-dimensional representation of shifting n-dimensional tension-webs, will be the preoccupation of our brightest minds, whether working on primitive "string webs" and mudra-like finger-dances for interpersonal expression, or the development of more subtle software tools for mutual visualization.

The latter approach will include the embedding of narrative features in spatio-temporal representations in a manner paralleling the aboriginal Songlines, and to a degree unimagined since the decline of the classical Art of Memory.

Since a great many software and design issues will have been sorted out to the point of commonplace, emphasis will accordingly shift from the tech of programming to the art of
multivariate imagination, and fugues of ideas will replace quantitative models as the working tools of a far subtler and more integrated approach to "problems" now viewed as human-with-world situations.

Whereas we now focus on player and avatar, our focus will turn (both in RL and VR) to a sequence of what I can only term "the betweens" – the spaces and tensions between people, the ratios between game desires and life desires, the solution spaces between conflicting stake-holders, and (hopefully) the prime mover, neither me as myself nor you as my other but the love-between which has the capacity to touch and heal us both.

With an increase in interiority, and a growing sense that suffering and sacrifice – our own, never those of unwilling others -- are among the great markers we can move, which empower us as we play life's game.

*

Strung on these meshes of tension and reconciliation, polyphonic discord and resolution, dream and game -- our politics, our lives and our world may have some hope of healing.

68.

Ola Fosheim Grøstad>The most obvious example is insurance companies that will give you the same bonuses you have acquired as a long-standing customer in another insurance company, IIRC.

OK, that's right, they do. Not just any insurance company, though - they wouldn't do it if you had a bonus for being a member of your own, one-man insurance company, for example. Furthermore, you can't be insured by more than one company for the same thing, and you can't give your unblemished driving record to someone else. More to the point, you can't use your unblemished driving record to get a discount on your household fire insurance.

Richard

69.

Not just any insurance company, though - they wouldn't do it if you had a bonus for being a member of your own, one-man insurance company, for example.

No, only if they thought that it might become a major source of new customers. The same would hold for virtual worlds, unless small operators choose to cooperate (to create a meta-world of their smaller worlds in order to keep customers within their ranks).

I don't believe so much in this scenario now, but if game players invest as much money in their characters as players of MtG do by item purchases and upgrades, then it might become a more viable design option.

and you can't give your unblemished driving record to someone else.

No, but if you choose to cover your own mishaps it remains unblemished... so it doesn't tell the company that you are a safe driver, it only tells them that you are a good customer... Translated to virtual world operators: they might not care about whether their players are bad players or not as long as they remain good customers.

More fto the point, you can't use your unblemished driving record to get a discount on your household fire insurance.

Oh, not directly, but indirectly, they might give you a better deal if you are a good customer in most areas. Not only that, they will treat you better on the phone if they want to keep you. I really dislike the practice where they look up your data and then decide what kind of service to give you. (They aren't allowed to deny you insurance, but so they offer you bad service and hope you will go away.)

As more worlds get funded by item sales we might see similar trends for virtual worlds. Probably even more visible favouritism than with the insurance industry. I know it happens already...

Depressing, isn't it?

70.

Ola Fosheim Grøstad>The same would hold for virtual worlds, unless small operators choose to cooperate (to create a meta-world of their smaller worlds in order to keep customers within their ranks).

This is what I meant when I said that virtual worlds which shared characters were effectively the same virtual world.

>I don't believe so much in this scenario now, but if game players invest as much money in their characters as players of MtG do by item purchases and upgrades, then it might become a more viable design option.

But how many different companies accept M:tG cards as valid in their own games?

>it doesn't tell the company that you are a safe driver, it only tells them that you are a good customer...

Good for just as long as someone doesn't offer the same service for less. Then, they go somewhere else.

Richard

71.

Good for just as long as someone doesn't offer the same service for less. Then, they go somewhere else.

Which is why we'll see increased favoritism as competition stiffens. World creators will increasingly depend on retaining the top 5-10% spenders in their player base.

72.

"Never mind how I see their future, how do you see it? Say, 15-20 years from now?"

I see it like this :17,500 billion active players in a MetaVirtual World managed by Libby ;he will stole 83 $L from my account using Bragg's hack and he will leake my ID to Bin Laden , then he gets - and serve - a life time sentence at Gitmo.

In order to have a future, you should learn from the past and take a better care of the present.

73.

Oh, I said I'd say how I see virtual worlds in 15-20 years' time.

A technology that's ubiquitous, mainstream, mundane, dampened-down, and so far removed from what they once were that people will wonder how it was that they once held such a hold on players' imaginations.

Oh, and historians will think they came from PLATO.

Richard

75.

"...so far removed from what they once were that people will wonder how it was that they once held such a hold on players' imaginations."

Would you mind elaborating on this? Do you see this as a necessary consequence of being ubiquitous and mainstream?

76.

@Richard: So... TV, basically.

77.

JuJutsu>Do you see this as a necessary consequence of being ubiquitous and mainstream?

Not necessary, just likely.

The steps that will be taken to get virtual worlds to the stage where they're mainstream will strip most of them of their soul, and people brought up with them (virtual worlds for children) will regard those that didn't sell out as oddities frequented by latter day geeks.

Richard

PS: I'd like to be wrong here, by the way...

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