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Wednesday, October 17, 2018


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I think there is evidence for a potentially HUGE market for a "metaverse", although it might depend on how narrow is your definition of it.

Shared worlds in which people both explore and express their creativity, not in the comfort of their bubbles, but in spaces shared with total strangers, are definitely "in". The (relatively) new brand of survival games like Ark and Conan Exiles hints at that when you see what people do in them. You see people flock to the official and popular servers while a lot of them could easily enough play solo or limit themselves to small private servers shared only with friends. Why, then, go play on servers populated with strangers? For a lot of them, the appeal is less about surviving, and more about creating, building together, and exploring to discover what other people created together elsewhere in this same shared space. It’s very close to what Second Life is about, only on a smaller, much less ambitious, scale.

So, TL;DR, what does it tell us? That people are very interested in the idea of sharing creative space not just with friends, but also with total strangers (I do want to emphasize ‘creative’ here, it is not just about murdering one another on a grand scale like Fortnite or PUBG).

But perhaps that, while people have interest in that, they have no interest in doing it in the scale of a metaverse? I think that we have strong evidence that they do. Surely you have heard of Star Citizen. People have, so far, pledged the head-spinning amount of 196 million dollars for a game that is still in alpha testing, and many argue will never see the light of day. Why? Because they just LOVE the idea of being space explorers in a gigantic shared universe (universe being the key word here, of course!). But, you might argue, you find other games out there, already out, with a much bigger universe, such as Elite Dangerous! But what is seducing to people is not just the scale, it’s the ability to feel like you are living in it. It’s waking up in your bed when you log in, pour yourself some coffee, get inside your ship with its fully fleshed out interiors, complete with living quarters. Living the space life. And what do people want to do the most in this shared universe? There is combat, both on-foot and in ships, but various polls and surveys organized by the community paint a clear picture of what people want to do the most. It’s not the combat, although there IS, of course, interest for it. It’s everything else! They want to be merchants, rescuers, settlers, farmers, repairmen, salvagers, miners… Cloud Imperium Games has made tons of money selling ships such as a flying hospital and a starliner for hundreds of dollars each! And people cannot even fly them yet, what they bought is the promise that, a few years from now, they might perhaps do such things.

TL;DR: How interested in a metaverse can someone who spent over 200USD on the promise that perhaps they will be able to run their own space-hospital or travel agency years from now be? How interested about it can everyone be when they collectively raised over 196 million dollars on this same promise? Very, I would argue. This kind of commitment amidst the controversies surrounding the game is insane.

To cut my rant short, my opinion is that interest in the metaverse, interest in Second Life’s vision, is very real. The problem lies with the lack of appealing options. In the days of AAA games, people have very high standards and make their mind in minutes. Most virtual spaces, including SL, do not even remotely meet those standards at first sight, and most people won’t stay long enough to make an effort and discover the jewel hidden under the very thick and smelly dirt. In lack of options that meet their standards, they fall back to spaces which meet their superficial standards but lack the vision and ambition of Second Life. They play Ark, Conan Exiles, Fallout76 (or soon will be), and dream of Star Citizen.


Right, and not only social virtual worlds don't seem like enough of a game for most consumers, they believe a social virtual world is a sort of game. That's what they expect, then they can't see "what's the point of this game", they find it pointless, boring or just weird.
If, let's say, you believe a forum is a game because it has avatars, you would find it a weird and pointless game, isn't it? And who instead could use a web forum, won't look at it, believing it's a game.
I think this misconception plays a role as one of the factors. It's not always simple to explain that it is a creative platform where you can also play or roleplay, but that you can use it for many other purposes (which aren't just "pixel banging"). Even among SLers there are different views, many of them too call it a game and say they play it, they call themselves and others "players", although they may perceive it differently than Minecraft or a MMORPG. Because, well, it isn't (just) a game.

It's a fact that actual games are vastly more popular than social virtual worlds. It's true that the latter didn't meet success and are a series of flops, but a couple of modest exceptions. The most successful one just "sort of works" according to its own CEO. Even in this best case, they don't seem to know exactly how that happened and what to do. At most they stick with the same model indeed. I doubt, unless something changes, that Sansar and High Fidelity would do much better than Active Worlds or Blue Mars. They would be lucky if they could get on par with at least VRChat, let alone Second Life.

People are complicated and I think factors are many, but it could be true that there is a banging on the same wall, neglecting something else.

Looking at evidences, I find what Will Burns says is true though.
In Second Life, despite all the issues, bugs, and the region crossing that hampers and discourages it greatly, there is still a market for vehicles and an active community that does many things with them. This won't have survived for so long, struggling with all those issues, if there wasn't a true interest and demand.
Apart Minecraft, there are many open world games with a vast space to travel and explore that became a success. There is also GTA Online that became quite popular. Looking at this and other ones, while meanwhile the SL vehicle community resisted despite all the issues, I can really see a missed opportunity here.
When someone gives you a ride or you try group cruises / grid flights, airlines or "Drivers of SL" with friends, you can get a glimpse of this and of what could have been. I think SL would have been more popular and alive now. You could still have your private "isles" to do what you want, but also a large, common contiguous open space, without region crossing, favoring that kind of enjoyment, and sharing it with other people. Consider that within a creative social virtual world it would have been more varied and social that any typical vehicle simulator, adding extra opportunities of interaction, socialization and fun.
And the virtual world would feel more like a world.

Clara Seller

Will Burns is right, today, and I'm sure he was right 3 or 5 years ago. It's too bad that it takes someone with Burns specific credentials to state the obvious. Yet, it will still fall on deaf ears. Let's take a moment to bang our heads on a concrete wall to celebrate 15 years of SL.

Burns is being very respectful to Philip and Ebbe. These are two people who once had the power to make a difference, but instead, have showed us how that you can actually make a career out of chasing your tail. It sure beats sitting on a corner with a cup and a guitar. Their spinning may actually break the sound barrier one day and that is pretty exciting when you think about it.


I can give you another reason why Sansar interest is starting to tail off, from my own perspective. 6 months ago I was pretty much enjoying being able to log in and enjoy pretty much the whole of Sansar in desktop mode, I don't have a VR setup. I could join in with the activities, engage with people on voice or via text. They even set it up so that people in VR could view text chat while using VR. At one time they couldn't even do that, so unless you used voice things were pretty much one sided.
Several updates later, despite the minimum requirements not changing a lot of experiences can no longer be reached, places like Draxtors 114Harvest experience which so many activities seem to revolve around take up to 24gb to download. I have an 8gb PC, and being looked down upon by people on Discord and being told it's not enough for a modern system when my PC is 7 months old and which was fine for every experience I tried before August gets annoying real fast.
And over a year on from joining, because it's in Beta if you contact support you're told the same thing, people are constantly updating experiences so while it may have worked a few months ago, doesn't mean it will continue to do so.
Well that's just great! If people want users to visit, make sure that we can all get in, especially if we could and now can't because otherwise you're just catering to the elite.
Even the latest major update catered for VR users with improvements to hand controls and movements. Not really good for those on desktop mode.
I don't have a terrible system. It's not the greatest but I play things like GTA V/Online, Forza, and SL with shadows and ALM.
If I can run Sansar perfectly for several months I expect to be able to carry on doing so, not have the goal posts moved.

Adeon Writer

I don't know, VRChat seems to be doing very well with the same exact instanced, pre-uploaded, non-dynamic model. Logged 230 hours now and it's probably going to become my most played game on steam after a year.

What's the difference? I don't know myself, but I think they just know people are want to be in VR for the cool factor and not the immersive reality/realistic factor.

VRChat's VR users are very vocal. Ask them what they think of Sansar, if they've used it, they'll say it's prettier but boring because there's nothing to do and that it's too hard to make content for.

Adeon Writer

(Also, as much time as I've put into VR now, I can tell you, I've gotten my VR legs and don't get sick easily.

Something as simple as walking in Sansar in VR still feels akward and a little sickening. I couldn't tell you what they're doing wrong, but it's wrong.)

Adeon Writer

Not being listed on Steam also isn't helping.

Joe Nickence

I had to smile when he mentioned Cybertown. Once that was said, I had the obligatory flashback to when they attempted "Cybertown NG". Which was supposed to be something better that paralleled Cybertown, but wasn't actually the same thing.
So we now have Second Life, and OpenSim, and Sansar, and High Fidelity. It could be argued that VRChat, Blue Mars, and all the other similar 3D/VR experiences come from SL as well, but you get my point.

I've been following the decentralized concepts from Enjin and it's partners for a bit now. And I think they have the potential to do what everyone has longed for. But not in the way of portals to persistent worlds that has been visualized up to now.

Every game and social experience online has a marketplace. We all have merch from them. If you don't, then I applaude you, and chastize their markets for not being appealing to you. What Enjin has done is tokenized products that can be removed from the game experience and placed in a personally owned wallet. As we jump from game, to social, to game, and back, each experience recognizes your inventory, and you can use those items in that game and social setting.

I personally don't need a persistent portal to teleport. It's called an exit button. If I had persistence, I'd never leave the PC to tend to bodily functions. What I want is to be able to use my SL inventory in VRChat. Or my IMVU inventory in High Fidelity. Or to use a particular weapon from League of Legends in Clash of Kings. Then I'll have all the persistence I'll ever need.


It is a mistake to assume HighFidelity is a social virtual world. It is a VR platform used to design virtual domains and works more like a VR website than anything. This is like saying Apache web server is a social website. It could be used to create a social virtual world if you want to, but is not a social virtual world by nature.

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