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Thursday, August 10, 2023


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So many fascinating things in this article! And I miss the old times, when everyone was building with prims, creating in the sandboxes. Another interesting thing is that in March 1992, just a few months before the publication of "Snow Crash" (June 1992), another influential work in the history of virtual worlds came out: "Ultima Underworld". Although it wasn't set in a cyberpunk world and it was single player (as a RPG, you interacted with NPCs), the player's character was also called Avatar (apparently, Stephenson came to the idea independently, even though it was called "Avatar" in the Ultima series since Ultima IV, 1985), the gameplay was nonlinear and with emergent storytelling, it was an immersive sim: there was crafting, fixing the equipment, cooking and eating, you needed sleep too, and to carry different kind of lights, each illuminating the walls differently and eventually burning out. Its first-person 3D engine was quite sophisticated for the time (and influenced Carmack's Wolfenstein 3D engine too, that was a lot simpler and flat, but also a lot faster): you could look up and down; when you walked, the camera would bob slightly to simulate the motion of the walking; you could jump, swim, and even fly, there were slopes and bridges, you could drop items inworld from your inventory (not too different than "rezzing" in SL), you could take notes on the map, and many other things... It gave you the sense of being in a real environment, freely esplorabile anywhere and interactive, and with customizable avatars.

By today standard maybe you won't call it a virtual world; but in 1992, when Snow Crash was published, Ultima Underworld was the closest thing to it. So this is the best Neal Stephenson or someone else could get from the most powerful PCs (and taking most of the hard-disk space) in 1992. In 1994, VR was still so early; in 2014 VRChat was released; now the Vision Pro is going to released in 2024 and I'm curious to see if it will be a flop or if it will be the the new iPhone, marking the beginning of a new era of devices.

Wagner James Au

I totally remember Ultima Underworld! In fact I mention it in the first book because Philip played it in college. Thanks for the reminder!


Virtus 3d and swivel3d. Both on the Mac. Tools that predate snowcrash and prims.. ;). Cube3


30 has been the new 10 fir 25 years.. that’s why burning man and virtual worlds fail…. No one wants to educate and manage the rules. This is why only the better games survive, and all tech solutions are just just color tv.


Copyright . And secondlife? Vs Facebook? Lol. Ask Star Wars. Ask Disney Ugc platforms could have been built organically without massive real world iP violations, they weren’t. This was all known at the time. XR ethics are not new. None of this is. Let’s keep it real.

Luther Weymann

I love these people. They are so harmless and so totally out of touch with the rest of us. Wearing Apple strap-on goggles is, in his quote, "gonna displace the mouse and windows." Best out-of-touch joke of the year!

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