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Mar 05, 2007



Bruce Damer>By restoring Maze to its rightful place in history

I had a look at the link, but it doesn't really say what this rightful place in history is. Is it direct, in that today's 3D games can all trace their history back to Maze, or is it indirect in that its being first prevented people who invented the idea independently later from patenting the idea of a game world rendered in 3D? Or is it some of both?



Richard -- you're talking about the Sitrick patent I take it? I don't know if there's a good answer to your question. There's a lot of places in any complete history -- I guess whether any place is more or less "rightful" is always going to be a value judgment that you reach after you've looked at everything, right?

Bruce -- thanks so much for the pointer to all this history. I've been browsing around the files you've got posted. That's a fabulous archive about the game. I hope I can make a pilgrimage out to the Digibarn some day. :-)

I will be poking around the files some more. I find this stuff fascinating. It isn't just nostalgia, since this is before my time, really. (I think I played Mazewar on an early Mac in the 80's, though my recollection is very hazy.)

It is interesting that the Mazewar "big visual window + mini HUD" is pretty much a standard element in most MMOG UIs.


I wanted to add, Bruce, that I'm really please that you're going to make VW history the theme of your posts here. Not just because I'm interested in it, but because I hope it will draw out Richard and maybe some of the other folks who have their own opinions about the rightful history of these things.

Btw, if Bruce has dibs on Gandalf here, does that mean Richard is Elrond? The Balrog? Galadriel? And who is Jess? And who's Randy Farmer? I'll claim Legolas, since it's so close to Gregolas. :-)


Bruce has already named me Gimli, though id rather be William Shatner as fat Kirk...

BTW- not one member of the Web3d.org or Contact Consortium as i know, where invited to speak ( but where invited to pay to listen> at the Virtual Worlds Conference in NY this Month.
Its being held at the Jewish Museum, Which I find funny, since maybe the conferences hosts will explain to them the concept of remembering history to create the future.

Hows the Timeline Bruce?- Time for some reality in todays blogs on virtual worlds and 3d immersive experiences...

Today its terrorists in Sl at CNET, and losing ones Light on ones garden in the LA times.....ugh.



Greg > I wanted to add, Bruce, that I'm really please that you're going to make VW history the theme of your posts here. Not just because I'm interested in it, but because I hope it will draw out Richard and maybe some of the other folks who have their own opinions about the rightful history of these things.

Right on, Greg. They're definitely different and complimentary virtual world communities with different experiences and milestones in that history.

I believe Larry alludes to this timeline of virtual world history that Bruce is getting going (here's an example of the kind of sexy AJAX timeline he proposes). I don't know where it stands right now, but is that something Terra Novans would be interested in contributing to (I hope the 3pointDizzles(?) will as well, maybe through the new 3pedia wiki)? I'd love to see that kind of comprehensive topsight on virtual world development and branches of experimentation come to life in a productive way. Bruce, is there an update on the timeline? Is there a place for people to go and contribute. I'm out of the loop on that.


PS Bruce links to Raph's timeline as a starting point.


Greglas>Richard -- you're talking about the Sitrick patent I take it?

No, I wasn't, although anything that breaks such a wretched award deserve heaps of praise. I really was just trying to establish what this "place in history is". We're told all of Maze's firsts, but not how those firsts lead to where we are today. I'm not saying there are no strong connections, but merely being first is no guarantee of influence. The "first video game", for example, was played on an oscilloscope, and had zero influence on any games that followed as far as I can tell.

I'm guessing that Maze spawned other games, which in turn spawned others, until eventually we got the 3D games of today. Graphical virtual worlds, because they use 3D images, can therefore trace their ancestry (in display terms) back to Maze. Is that right? Or was it that Maze did not lead to today's graphical games itself, but it nevertheless meant that whichever reinvention did lead to them couldn't be patented?

Bruce's statement that he would "bring some interesting greying-beard perspective on where this medium got its start" seems to suggest that there's an actual family tree here, rather than merely a timeline, which would make Maze's position in (graphical) virtual world history important.

That said, we shouldn't get too fixated on history. As with the concept of virtual worlds itself, 3D graphics was something that was always going to happen, because it was too obvious not to.



I looked at the site - was delighted to see some early game history that I didn't previously know about, as that's a special interest of mine!

You might want to try and get in touch with Greg Corson, who did A-Maze-ing on the Genie network in the 1980s. I suspect it may be another direct descendant of Maze, but Greg could tell you for sure. From his start on multiplayer games back in the 1970s, he's still at it to this day, working for Sony in the Bay area.

I remember Midi-Maze for the Atari ST also - noteworthy for using MIDI cables to connect STs for multiplayer gaming rather than for their normally intended uses!


Dr. Cat, are you the same Dr. Cat who created Dragonspires and who I met in Austin TX in 1994? I would like to include DragonSpires in our history project to be sure.

There is so much more history to come folks, just trying to determine what to put up next, PLATO? MUDs, onwards to Habitat?


Ahh yes, some replies to questions about "firsts" in Maze. Its aMazing innovations included: first first person shooter, first first person + plan (overhead) view of a 3D (albeit wireframe) virtual space over a network (Arpanet), first bot (nonplayer characters) in such a space, spoofing (taking on someone else's character), instant messaging, avatars (text handles plus simple arrow graphics, later on the famous eyeball in the Xerox Alto version), first in-world building (there were tricks, I think in the MIT Project MAC version where you could change the side of a hallway to create a fake passageway, and it had levels (going up and down tunnels). Alot of this is described in the audio of our 2004 Maze War special event panel at:

http://www.digibarn.com/history/04-VCF7-MazeWar/panel/index.html>Digibarn 2004 Maze War panel

Which includes Greg Thompson's original powerpoint from the session, aMazing!


... and a followup... I decided to create the project to recover the history of Maze after hearing so many "old timers" who went on to careers in computer graphics and gaming describe early memories of Maze. Thus it did seem that Maze, like Woodstock, was a kind of "tap root" cultural experience. Several college/universities reported to me that creating a version of the "maze game" was a standard undergraduate project. So to answer the question of what impact did Maze have one would have to really survey the community. Anyone in a position to ask Mr. Carmack if he had played Maze?

To give an idea of how Maze created a whimsical culture of "virtual presence" vs physical environment you can see Ted Kaehler's cartoon about playing Maze at PARC about 1980:

The beginnings of the dichotomy of realities: "inworld" versus IRL?


@Jerry/Bruce -

I think a SIMILE or Wiki timeline is a great idea.

I like SIMILE, but I haven't poked around it enough to be sure the interface is simple. Ideally, you want something that allowed an open type, drag, & drop. And you might want a few editors supervising. :-)

Bruce says:

I was thrilled when in Septeber 2006, Patrik Svensson, director of the HUMlab at Umea University in Sweden, stepped up to the plate to offer the VWTimeline a home base. I am currently talking with Patrik and several other universities about creating an academic partnership for the effort (with an organizational home in the refurbished Contact Consortium). We are looking at building an open contribution technology (a Wiki or other back-end database) that can create a channel for the contribution of artifacts and other resources (such as expert curation) by the community at large. In addition I have started to give a series of lectures about the origins and evolution of social virtual worlds and will be offering these lectures in the USA and Europe in 2007.

And that seems right on. When it goes live, we could definitely post about it here.


Yes indeed Greg, that is the whole goal of the Virtual Worlds Timeline effort. I definitely want multiple editors supervising and heck, a lot of them could come from right here at Terra Nova. Say, would TN consider being a partner in VWTimeline? It is going to be a massively collaborative effort from the get-go.

For other folks not in the know, the mission statement for VWtimeline is at:
http://www.vwtimeline.org>the VWTimeline site

100 GB of material has already been collected over the past dozen years, including video of Avatars conferences and other key events, screen shots, chat logs, personal recountings etc etc etc.

Now more for next guest column chunklet...


That screenshot looks amazingly familiar, especially in the context of that dated piece of equipment. There weren't many games, but that sure looks like something some of the computer lab guys were playing around with back at ND in the early 80's. Very cool seeing it here as it brings back memories (I've not surfed through TN in too long). Much appreciated.

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