virtual worlds

Blizzard Entertainment logoIn a recent blog post, Ciaran Laval wrote about Blizzard’s cancellation of its extremely ambitious project Titan, and opined that it could affect the fate of the new virtual world platform that Linden Lab is working on. What makes the cancellation of this project important is that it’s been in the works for about seven years now, and what makes it seem relevant to Linden Lab’s actions and product portfolio management is that Blizzard and Linden Lab both have MMOs as their main source of income, and that Titan was touted as the “next big thing”.

In comments to Polygon, Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mark Mohaime and Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s senior vice president of story and franchise development, offer partially useful insights into their decision to axe this big-budget project. Note that I say “partially”, because at least some of the real reasons will remain for a considerable amount of time with the people involved. Truth be told, it’s rare for any company to cancel without very serious reasons a large project it’s been working on for years.

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The successful crowdfunding campaign for the Oculus Rift, which led to Oculus VR’s acquisition by Facebook in March (which I have covered here), brought virtual reality back to the media’s spotlight. Suddenly, everybody discovered the immense potential offered by VR, but the discussion has been focused mostly on the devices and not on VR itself. This can easily lead to confusion. In fact, it already has.

The Oculus Rift. Image: Paste Magazine

The Oculus Rift. Is it a device for VR applications or is it VR itself? Image: Paste Magazine

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Yes, I know the hot topic of the week is the news of Linden Lab’s development work on a next-generation virtual world, and I must say I barely resisted writing something about it. I opted to keep my thoughts in draft form for the time being while the dust settles, along with my frustration and anger at Second Life’s self-absorbed user base, which is rife with people exhibiting how widespread the Dunning-Kruger effect truly is.

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Deep in thought...

Perhaps you were expecting me to write about the recent noisefest that surrounds the confirmation of Linden Lab’s ongoing work for a next-generation virtual world (let’s call it SL 2.0 and be done with it). Truth be told, I was tempted to do so, but decided to resist. After all, Inara Pey has been doing a great job covering the whole issue, and Nalates Urriah pushed out an extremely poignant post on the subject. Today’s topic is different. It has to do with pompously-announced, ambitious virtual reality projects that miss the point and potential of virtual reality completely.

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ebbe-altbergAs I wrote yesterday, Latif Khalifa reported on the SL Universe forums that Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg confirmed in an “oh, by the way” manner during the TPV developer meeting of Friday 20th that the Lab is working on a new, next-generation virtual world. The story was reported by Ciaran Laval, and Inara Pey blogged on it in far greater detail (complete with an excerpt of her audio recording of the meeting) – and I hope her reports might help (to whatever extent) do away with the FUD that started circulating shortly after Latif made his post on the SLU forums. In the meantime, the story was picked up by various blogs and commentary platforms of varying reliability and credibility.

What will follow will be the details I gathered from the initial posts, from Inara’s post, and from Ebbe Altberg’s replies on  the forum and on Twitter, and also I’m going to give my own thoughts on the matter.

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