What is a virtual world?

 Posted by (Visited 16945 times)  Game talk
Jun 152007
 

In response to Lum and Cuppy and Moorgard:

Online games and virtual worlds are not the same thing. If you’re building an MMO, you better be sure which one you intend to make.

Online game: a game played using network connectivity.

Virtual world: a simulation of space. cf long usage in the VR community, 3d viz community, etc. Somewhat deprecated since these days, everyone wants connectivity.

Online virtual world: a simulation of persistent space connected to via a network, wherein users are represented by proxies often terms avatars. Note thatboth “online” and “virtual” are often elided from the term.
Synthetic world: see online virtual world.

MUD: old term for online virtual world.

Avatar: the proxy by which a user is represented in an online virtual world.

Toon: see avatar.

MMOG: an online virtual world wherein embedded systems layered atop the spatial simulation present game rules.

MMORPG: an MMOG where the game presented is an RPG.

“Worldy”: an adjective applied to MMORPGs to describe RPGs with certain rather specific game characteristics, such as freedom of character construction, diverse rule systems including non-combat roles, etc.

“Social”: an adective applied to online virtual worlds to indicate that their primary emphasis is not on games.

Metaverse: the hypothetical idea that online virtual worlds would be linked together to form a single network.

Mirror world: an online virtual world that mirrors data from the real world.

  33 Responses to “What is a virtual world?”

  1. Generally used for all types of online community like systems, but also used as a reference to MUDs by some authors. multi user player-extensible game (MUPEG) See Bartle’s MUDReport. Of course, this is list is not complete. Raph Koster provides some other terms on his blog. Here is a selection from his blog-entry: Online game a game played using network connectivity. Online virtual world a simulation of persistent space connected to via a network, wherein users are represented by proxies often terms

  2. (Feedster on: secondlife) 06/16 04:50 Second Life: Genome: Tower: Mitochondrial Code (Feedster on: secondlife) 06/16 04:40 Heeeeeeeey!: Playboy Opens the Doors in SL (Feedster on: second life) 06/16 04:33 What is a virtual world? (Feedster on: metaverse) 06/16 04:32 State of Play IV: Building the Global Metaverse (Feedster on: metaverse) 06/16 04:11 Second Life: Genome: Tower: DNA Sequencing (Feedster on: secondlife)

  3. to be a user logged in, making the sole client at that time a text-and-graphs client. Is a virtual world running in locked debug mode not a virtual world until it has a 3d client connected? The thing that is frustrating to me (and others) is thatlong-standing termsare once again getting co-opted by marketing, essentially. Me, I am stubborn, so I am going to keep saying the whole field is called “virtual worlds” and the gap between Habbo Hotel and World of Warcraft

  4. You forgot the Massive in MMOG! 🙂

  5. So, Raph – given those definitions…do you think you can have an online game (specifically speaking, MMO) without a virtual world?

  6. Sure you can… at least in my mind. Is an online Texas Hold ‘Em table or a chess game on Yahoo Games a virtual world?

  7. I said specifically speaking, MMO.

  8. Yep, Ilsoap has it right. Those are great examples of online games that do not simulate space.

    Heck, NeoPets is a good example — there’s no persistent spatial simulation there either. Gaia Online, however, adds the towns, which puts it over the line.

  9. For example, in the phrase “Online games and virtual worlds are not the same thing. If you’re building an MMO, you better be sure which one you intend to make.”

    If you’re building an MMO don’t you think you ARE building a virtual world by definition?

  10. NeoPets certainly qualifies as massive. That said, “massive” was born as a marketing term, not a term of art. By the original definition of “massive” it was anything bigger than the common multiplayer cap in the mid-90s — in other words, bigger than 16 or 32.

    The first game that “massive” was applied to (M59) had a cap of 250 users simultaneously. And muds did too, they all qualified.

  11. Oh! A better example of a non-spatial online game: fantasy football. Or bar trivia.

  12. Oh now, just to muddy things up a bit, NeoPets *does* have a primitive sense of geography to it — bizarrely similar to how Kingdom of Loathing does geography. You aren’t in a location so much as you choose a map, and then you do things on that map (say, visit a shop, or play a mini-game there). In that sense, there’s an extremely primitive sort of world there. It’s just more representational than simulationist.

    My most concise definition of “virtual world” is EXACTLY the same as yours above. In fact, I covered up yours before I saw it, and then came up with my definition, and then read yours, just to compare. A virtual world is a simulation of space. Yes, exactly. I think we make a mistake to load that phrase with any more connotations than that.

    Thus, in the grand venn diagram of online games and online virtual worlds, the two blobs overlap, but but never completely.

    One thing I’ve noticed about online virtual worlds is that my brain stores memories of the space as though it were a real location. And so, I have the same sort of odd nostalgia-of-place for them that I might experience for a real place. Even worlds which I am not particularly fond of, in retrospect, have this effect on me. This does not necessarily require a 3D representation, as there is almost certainly some element of imagination to it. The mind easily fills in missing details. So, for example, I might remember a place in EverQuest very vividly, but when I go back to look at screenshots, everything is much uglier and blockier than I remember it.

    Perhaps it is just as true of virtual worlds as it is of the real world: You can never go home.

  13. […] In response to Lum and Cuppy and Moorgard: Online games and virtual worlds are not the same thing. If you’re building an MMO, you better be sure which one you intend to make. […]

  14. […] master of gaming design, Raph Koster, posts some definitions that we ALL need in our back pocket as we try to speak the same language regarding games, […]

  15. […] Koster helpfully provided a technical perspective. Online game: a game played using network connectivity. Virtual world: a simulation of space. cf […]

  16. I continue to disagree on the fact that a “Virtual World” is necessarily related to the internet.

    I can understand that you all are focused on your job. But a virtual world isn’t *necessarily* online. Nor a simulation of space on VR.

    Virtual != technologic. Virtual being the opposite of virtuous, that means: “it exists now, in this moment”.

    Since technology enables projections, then it’s likely “virtual”, but not everything virtual is technology.

    See my comment on Lum’s.

    Virtual world = (projection of a) complex system

    Complex system = relationship between the elements that make a system

    “Social” = Most likely complex, so most likely worldy

  17. Virtual != technologic. Virtual being the opposite of virtuous, that means: “it exists now, in this moment”.

    In connection with computers “virtual X”, means “provides the interface of X” or “can be dealt with as if it is X, even if it really is not X”.

  18. […] What is a virtual world? […]

  19. Ola: True. But usually, a virtual can’t be static, which marks a clear difference to virtual worlds.

  20. Rich, I don’t think I understand. What is the relation between static and “virtual” as the term is used in computer science?

    Virtual memory may use the disk in a static fashion. What makes it virtual is that you don’t care about the implementation, but keep referencing the memory as if it was regular memory.

    A virtual function may be compiled down to something static. What makes it virtual is that you specify and use the interface without being concerned about the variety of implementations that might be attached to it.

    The term Virtual World is following this pattern. The user can approach the world making assumptions about it that holds for the world(s) the user has previously interacted with or has knowledge of (e.g. by reading fiction), even though the underlying implementation is completely different.

    I haven’t played it, but I assume that LOTRO is a virtual middle-earth. If you’ve read the books you can interact with it using assumptions about the world described in Tolkien’s books, assuming that it behaves in a similar fashion.

    Historically, virtual probably was used to signify that something usually implemented in hardware was actually simulated in software in a transparent fashion. So, not static vs dynamic, but hardware vs software. I don’t think this is how the term is used now, though.

  21. Err. Let me correct myself. I believe “virtual” was historically used to refer to a hardware sub-system being partially implemented in software or in a different manner. (Hardware implemented as software is an emulator…) Though, I am not certain that this is the whole truth.

    In reality the term has probably been used quite sloppily in various computer applications because it sounds cool (“Gee, we’ve invented something that presents itself as X, but where it’s internals might be quite different. Gee, finding a slick name for this is hard… Let’s call it ‘virtual X'”). My guess.

  22. I continue to disagree on the fact that a “Virtual World” is necessarily related to the internet.

    I specifically didn’t link it to the Internet above, in order to leave room for the older use of the term:

    Virtual world: a simulation of space. cf long usage in the VR community, 3d viz community, etc. Somewhat deprecated since these days, everyone wants connectivity.

    Online virtual world: a simulation of persistent space connected to via a network, wherein users are represented by proxies often terms avatars. Note thatboth “online” and “virtual” are often elided from the term.

  23. […] 17, 2007 at 2:00 pm | In Technology & Gadgets, SecondLife | Copio y pego, directamente, de una entrada de Raph Koster: Online game: a game played using network […]

  24. Not real is virtual

  25. Quick clarification… in the case of something like, again, Texas Hold ‘Em, if 100,000 people are playing at the same time, even if it’s on 20,000 tables, is it still considered an MMO? Or is it defined as MMO by the number of people per world? I’m guessing it’s the latter… but if that’s true, does that mean that a 32-player first-person-shooter server is an MMO?

    Just posing questions since this is the clarification of terms thread.

  26. FWIW, Raph seem to have bypassed the older (deprecated) MPOG term which was used by those that made a transition from single-user to small-scale multi-player. “Massive” was just a marketing extension of that. IIRC. Hence anything that tries to be larger than those single-user-games-turned-multi are MMOs. A better distinction would be to evaluate if the game-design can scale beyond 16-32… (A small track racing game can’t)

    Perhaps an intersting exercise.

  27. […] thing that is frustrating to me (and others) is that long-standing terms are once again getting co-opted by marketing, essentially. Me, I am stubborn, so I am going to keep […]

  28. […] Raph Koster, master game designer: An online game is a game played using network connectivity. An online virtual world is a simulation of persistent space connected to via a network, wherein users are represented by proxies often termed avatars. Note that both “online” and “virtual” are often elided from the term. […]

  29. […] Giff Constable’s version of Joel Greenbergs original definition of a virtual world, with a nod to Raph kosters definition and using Christian Renauds excellent VW07 presentation as a marker for what not to include. […]

  30. […] the following key characteristics:1 Footnotes 1. 1. Raph Koster (2007). What is a Virtual World, https://www.raphkoster.com/2007/06/15/what-is-a-virtual-world. Retrieved on 23.11.07. page_revision: 0, last_edited: 1220886409|%e %b %Y, %H:%M %Z (%O ago) […]

  31. […] dünyada sanal dünyalar yaratmak, “sanal” denen şeyin varlığından beri mütemadiyen zorlanan bir fikir. […]

  32. […] eğlence mekânı: Sanalika 23 Kasım 2008 Pazar , Kategori: İnternet Yalan dünyada sanal dünyalar yaratmak, “sanal” denen şeyin varlığından beri mütemadiyen zorlanan bir fikir. […]

  33. […] dünyada sanal dünyalar yaratmak, “sanal” denen şeyin varlığından beri mütemadiyen zorlanan bir fikir. […]

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