Fascinating New Statesmen article on Improbable, the well-funded virtual world company building cloud-based server technology to make single-shard MMOs (such as Worlds Adrift, above) which potentially a million users could inhabit at the same time. This isn't just about making ambitious new multiplayer experiences, but as co-founder Herman Narula explains, making it possible to simulate the real world at a complex level -- and by doing so, learn more about it:
One of the first projects was a simulation of the city of Cambridge and everyone in it: “the population, the transport network, the sewage network, the mobile phone network, electricity, gas, water, and also the spread of panic in certain situations. One of the things we found that was quite counter-intuitive was that in some situations, when something bad happens, damage can be limited by actually turning off communication, because it prevented panic spreading, which prevented traffic building up. That was startling. The idea that making people communicate less is going to help people in a disaster isn’t something we’re proposing as a policy, but these counterintuitive behaviours look to be interesting.”
Also notable for NWN readers -- Rob Whitehead, Improbable's other co-founder, got his start in virtual worlds as a humble grassroots content creator in Second Life:
Before he went to Cambridge, Whitehead “built virtual goods - weapons, gadgets, that kind of thing” in Second Life, the online virtual world that has been running since 2003. “That was my job. I went into uni with a couple of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of virtual money, made from this virtual thing. Of course from my side, I saw it as just content creation, but people within that world derived real meaning and had real experiences because of the things I made.”
Narula says most of the value now applied to goods is no more or less real than the things Whitehead built in Second Life.
Hat tip: Vanessa Radd.