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Jul 01, 2008



The only problem with the smaller virtual worlds is that they are basically glorified chat programs. They are going to have to pull something magical out of a hat in order to compete with the massive gaming worlds.



Agreed. Smaller virtual worlds at this stage are a solution is search of a problem.

Piggybacking on top of social networking sites or large sites like Amazon does make a lot of sense. I don't really want to have to take the trouble to sign up a virtual world account and then get my friends to sign up as well in order to interact with them. I'm not sure I would take the trouble to sign up for an Amazon VW account to talk to people with similar tastes in books and movies. If my existing Amazon account got me in I might give it a shot.


A point to make here is that we are pretty much talking *only* about social virtual worlds not game play worlds. Ie: no expectation of social (user created) space competing with big game spaces. We are looking specifically at the genre of social worlds.


Great post, I agree that the integration of virtual worlds and social networks is going to happen big time and will offer a similar, yet different experience to virtual worlds like Second Life. Personally I prefer the term casual virtual worlds to small virtual worlds. Just because they are embedded in a social network does not mean they have to be small, through load on demand the worlds could have infinite size. Even if they are not, in-world linking (teleporting) to other casual virtual worlds would lessen the effects.

Casual virtual worlds have the advantage of being quick to download, typically 5-10 MB and do not require any additional registration or logging in beyond the initial login to the social network. Depending on the technology used to create them, they can also be very inexpensive create and host, with processing done on the client and as opposed to server farms.

“The only problem with the smaller virtual worlds is that they are basically glorified chat programs.” If this is the case it should not be due to any technical limitation, but rather basic design decisions. There is very little preventing casual virtual worlds from offering the visitor a very similar experience to that found in the more monolithic style virtual worlds.


By controlling your environment, you give yourself the best chance to maximize your focus on the game and be a winning player. This is far and away one of the biggest assets available to all online poker players.


Great read. thanks for posting <img src="http://reviewsblog.pcriot.com/img/spacer.jpg">


Letting a few monopolists enter the market does good in ways..for example the Google revolution. But others may not be as endearing considering the opportunities involved.


Uncanny! Your small worlds future has arrived Bruce...

Check out http://www.smallworlds.com


Sounds like the SL platform is getting frozen out by the virtual winter of discontent. Photo-realism is the key to creating interesting virtual environments. Social networking is OK for the chattering classes but education needs more than the blah, blah, blah of the school teacher.


Wow very cool, I will check out http://www.smallworlds.com
Gosh how could I have missed this one? It is a sure sign of the health of an industry with this pace and variety of innovation going on!


Great read! One of the more interesting for a while on TN (for me at least ;) ). Good to see some discussions around the "bigger picture" of the industry and the relation to how all industries develop in more or less the same way, although the duration and intensity of the phases varies. To give my "answer" to your question, isn't it always time to invite to new poker games and new consortium efforts?

I might be going off on a tangent here, but your writing and some of the comments got me all exited :)

I believe that the virtual gaming world market is already in or at the least entering a state of an established market. A state where you have a few major players, and a plethora of niche products. All good, as the mass market will have its WoWs, and "the rest of us" can find our favorite niche to play around in.

I think you may be right that the "small" (I read this as meaning small in technical complexity and scope, not user base - big footprint/low barrier), or casual if you will, worlds linked with other social networks are going to be the WoW of social worlds.
With the emergence of advanced mobile devices and the impact it is already having on the worlds population (google nomophobia for a hint). I think a really big footprint world has to build on the existing social networks out there (and at some earlier comments, why would a facebook or amazon VW use anything but your already existing profile and network?), and be small enough to run everywhere - desktop, browser, mobile, you name it. Yes, it may be glorified chatrooms, but that is what the mass market wants it seems, so why deny them?
Yes, you need more complex worlds for proper educational, business and other uses. But that doesn't exclude simpler worlds, nor does the mass market dictate what is needed for special or niche uses/markets. Why does mass market success have to be the only measure of success, and why do we (some of us) always frown upon those that get it? A "glorified chatroom" may expose a huge user group to a new technology, and open their eyes to other and more "worthy" uses of it. And they don't really need to compete with more advanced worlds or games, do they? They serve different purposes.
In the gaming sphere WoW is the mastodon, and you often hear people wishing for, or predicting a WoW-killer. Sure, WoW will be replaced by something eventually, but that's not important imho, what's important is the huge market growth and general awareness it created, and the doors that has opened for all sorts of new (and even resurgence of older) games in it's shadow. Maybe that's what the "social virtual world" market needs as well? Something simple, to the point, polished and easy to use that grabs the masses attention, and thereby creates lots of opportunities for the existing and to-be more advanced platforms (photo realistic or not) to grow and gain acceptance?

This rant is long enough :) Thanks again for a good read!


Thanks for posting this, Bruce.

VM has been trying for a while to figure out the features it needs to get the people. As you note, it may be more sensible to get the people first and then figure out the features. (Or in the web2.0 model, get the eyes, then worry about your business plan.) Acknowledging the common denominator is perhaps the most direct path.

It's fascinating that social interactions do seem to be the primary activity in most immersive worlds. We're all so wired for communication, collaboration, & community that these fundamental programs will inevitably carry with us into any virtual space. It's pretty much our default runtime state.

The work we did with Adobe Atmosphere in some ways speaks to your suggestions. We enabled small worlds to be deployed and embedded in web pages but attempted to tie them all into a central com server. No one controls the content but everyone can communicate and interact.

Seems like we could take a cue from the web 2.0 service paradigm and work to separate the 3d scene from the social layer. Every platform builder will always want their own renderer and will want to control their feature set but the core data/comm pipes that are wiring through the cloud should be shared and available between all worlds, apps, & devices.

Instead of building a single open platform, it may ultimately be simplest to establish a standard API that negotiates the comm layer across immersive worlds and other web2.0 cloud technologies. Standards for indexing and user findability, for metadata and xml parsing, for RSS and SMS management, event sharing & synch, UI/scene methods and properties, etc. We need to explicitly and willingly punch holes in the walls so the need to connect is not impeded by the technology.

We need a shared standard for communication & collaboration within and across social nets and immersive worlds. It should be as simple as possible for users to find each other, communicate, and collaborate. Platform builders need to include rich API layers that allow users to analyze their behaviors & extend their functionality. And they need to wire in to existing Facebook, Flickr, del.icio.us, Vimeo, & Twitter API's. (The ubiquitous dissemination of web2.0 entry points and datastreams (think "YouTube embeds or del.icio.us tag clouds") is why these apps are growing so quickly.)

Once this is present, once you can easily find & be found, Twitter your friends across multiple worlds, RSS-push your personal updates across all domains, and share you Facebook/Linked-in profiles between avatars, then it's a simple matter of beauty and artistry that will carry the value of hi-res, hi-poly, shaderific 3D worlds over 2d chat rooms and homogenized corporate vehicles. Once you have the eyes, then the platform will have more strength and flexibility to push the really interesting features.


Yegads! With yesterdays announcement of Google's http://www.lively.com/html/landing.html>Lively beta and today's announcement of Tony Parisi et al's http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/08/vivaty-brings-the-3d-web-to-your-browser-starting-with-aim-and-facebook/>Vivaty which shows a demo plugged into facebook!

When it rains it pours (hey, I am in rainy London right now anyway).


Bruce, it's funny that Lively & Vivaty are getting so much press for bringing 3D to the browser. Seems we did that several years ago with Atmosphere...


A little max headroom of the future for you then...


Or not, I'm not entirely sure what I have created but I went with the max theme since it felt about right :)


Yes Chris you are right. It makes me consider what the reasons might have been that Atmo didnt make it. Probably a lot to do with the times and Google having such market presence/traffic and that wonderful "embed" code facility. Your thoughts?


I think we didn't focus enough on user affordances. We should have made it easier to find people and to join them in whatever world they occupied. I always wanted some sort of xml layer that users could easily fill with data about themselves.

We should have done more to create compelling avatars with scripted actions that could be easily added by anyone. In general, we should have created more canned objects, avatars, and scripts to lower the barrier of entry for content users/creators.

I think we also tried to do everything in 3D when it was probably more important to really focus on the things that naturally work well in the medium and leave the rest to 2D. Eg, how are 3D meetings and conferences better than using the flat-pane 2D web? Or why is it valuable to watch movies or browse the web inside a 3D scene? How could we create compelling narratives or games or social environments?

Ultimately, I think we were both ahead of our time and unaware or unwilling to face the reality that mostly people want to hang out and look nice, chat with their non-local friends, and get caught up in games and stories. I also think that so much was accelerating in the 2D web that 3D was generally seen as cute and fluffy, unless it was a fast-twitch hyper-real game.

My general feeling now is that 3D worlds should use the 2D web as a guide and build worlds that are explicitly open and wired into the established communication, collaboration, interface, and service models that are now laying the foundation of the cloud experience.


Well said, Chris!


Hi Bruce, it's been quite a while since I stopped by but great post! My company, WiloStar3D WiloStar3D. serves the K-12 education market and one key element that is critical to our educational paradigm is the ability to allow end-users (students) to create, manipulate and invent their own worlds. We have been trying for years to get out of the "walled-garden" server set up however the tools are still not out there for reliable Web-based 3D worlds. It's getting so much closer now and it's exciting. Our students live and breathe and go to school in our accredited 3D campus so stop by and see what we are up to one of these days!

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