Saturday, March 25, 2006

When Virtual Worlds Collide...

I recently wrote about something most gamers have been predicting for a while: the emergence of a Metaverse in the near future, where we'll have one large virtual world similar in size to the Internet but with different realms.

Looks like my friends and I are not wrong - even a contributing editor at Wired agrees that virtual worlds will come together in the near future.

Within a decade, then, the notion of separate game worlds will probably seem like a quaint artifact of the frontier days of virtual reality. You'll still be able to engage in radically different experiences - from slaying orcs to cybersex - but they'll occur within a common architecture. The question is whether the underpinnings of this unified metaverse will be a proprietary product, like Windows, or an inclusive, open standard, like email and the Web. (The Open Source Metaverse Project is currently working on such a nonproprietary platform.)

The technology for such an amalgamation of worlds exists today - but a neutral platform will need to be built first. In my opinion, bringing it all together is a Herculean task not even someone with Microsoft's deep pockets will be able to do - it has to be a neutral organization, backed by a board of corporate stakeholders like Blizzard, Microsoft, Apple, ICANN, Sony, Nintendo and the other biggies out there who'll put this new world to its best possible use.

An open source metaverse seems to be the best way to go, with no clearly defined ownership - but the money needs to come from somewhere, as do the 'realms' or 'mini-worlds' and that can happen only if those biggies mentioned earlier provide support. A Herculean task, no doubt, but possible? Yes - with perseverance. If you're thinking of starting on this, let me know :)