Virtual Worlds Group Page

Virtual Worlds


– What is it?

Virtual Worlds (VW) are online communities that are often composed of simulated environments where users can interact with each other, create objects, and use various objects. Virtual Worlds can be 2-D, 3-D, or even text-based. However, Virtual Worlds are most often associated with 3-D environments in which users can interact. There are primarily two types of Virtual Worlds. The first is VW-based multiplayer games where the game is goal-oriented and social interactions are used as a tool in order to complete tasks within the VW. Entertainment is generally considered the primary goal, however there are some "serious games" where the primary goals are training and education. The second type of Virtual World is a VW-based social environment. VW-based social environments have fewer obvious goals. Instead, they value structures and offer more open-ended user freedoms that leave it up to the user to decide what they want to do. These could be the creation of objects, economic or social interaction, and forming interpersonal networks with other users.

–What platforms does it run on?

Virtual Worlds are primarily run on computers, but they can also be run on other consoles with internet access such as Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, etc.

–What does this involve?

Virtual Worlds can involve a variety of different things. An important component of a Virtual World is the avatar. It is the representation of yourself that you present to the rest of the Virtual World you are a part of. In fact, in Sanskrit the word "avatara" means "incarnation", so it is literally an incarnation of yourself that you can design and customize to be whatever you want it to be. The avatar's capabilities also affect what the user can do in the Virtual World itself. It is through the avatar that you interact with the virtual world and the other people in it.

• Origin/History

The Beginning

The idea of a virtual world predates computers. It began with the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, who lived in the 1st Century AD, expressing an interest in the perceptual illusion. Then in the 20th Century AD, Morton Heilig developed the first version of a virtual world, called the Sensorama. It was a contraption that looked like an 1980’s arcade machine developed in the 1960’s that purpose was to encompass all of one’s senses effectively, thus putting the person into the movie.

Computer Age

Ivan Sutherland was one of the earliest workers on a virtual world on the computer. His more famous works have been the invention of the sketchpad in 1988 and for his work on the Sword of Damocles.
The Sword of Damocles was the first virtual reality and augmented reality system that was used as an HMD or head mounted display. It was developed in 1968 and was given its name because of how formidable it looked, as a mechanical arm had to be used in order to move the HMD since the gaze of the person wearing the HMD was important.
Development of Virtual Worlds began when technology that could be used to create worlds that the person can be immersed into was developed. This occurred independently from the Sword of Damocles, as the gaming industry was slowly become the power that it is in the present.

Maze War

First Networked 3-D multi-user shooter game. Developed in 1973 on the Imlac PDS-1 computer at the NASA Research center in California. It was a major innovation in the development of many different aspects of the Virtual world. It was the first game to
• Use a first person perspective so that the person playing the game would see through the characters eyes.
• Use organic beings as the avatars (since spacecrafts and dots have been used in previous games)
• Use a map to put a position on where other players are.
• Use network play, as the same match can be played on two separate peer-to-peer computers.
• Use online chat

First Virtual Worlds on the Internet were Chat rooms which developed into MUDS (Multi-User Dungeon) and MUSHes (Multi-User Shared Habitat). MUDS is a virtual world with many people interacting in it at one time. When they first were made, most were text based and had very little graphical interface. Most of the early games used command line interface. People interact with others in either role-playing or competitive games by typing commands. In fact, users could read descriptions of the world and other players as well.

The MUD1 is the oldest Virtual World in existence. Created in 1978 by Roy Trubshaw, he got the idea of the game from the computer game “Zork” which was one of the first games that had an interactive element from the player.

MUDs developed into MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), where a lot of people can play at once and interact with others.

– Today’s version

As stated earlier, Virtual Worlds are most often multiplayer games or social worlds. The five main categories are the purpose (content of interaction), place (location of interaction), platform (design of interaction), population (pattern of interaction), and profit model (return on interaction). There are also five prominent classes of virtual worlds that come from the previous categories. These include education-focused and theme-based worlds which are based on the purpose element, community-specific and children-focused worlds which are based on the population element, and self-determined worlds which are not particularly based on any one element. Popular Virtual Worlds today include World of Warcraft, Second Life, Everquest, Sony's Home, Peacemaker, Perfect World China, Club Penguin, Active Worlds, and Runescape. Virtual Worlds can also be categorized into certain groups based on what users do in the game.

• Identify a case studies (one per person in group)

Brianna's Case Study
Hunter's Case Study
George's Case Study

• Analysis of the Future

– Room for growth?

E-Commerce = Currently lack oversight

In Second Life, Ginko Financial was created on the premiss that people could use their real money and turn in into virtual money to be used in the Virtual World.
Ending up taking money from real world and never converting the money to “Linden Dollars” = $700,000 Lost

Zynga, the folks behind Facebook’s well-known Farmville game, sued earlier this year, alleging unauthorized sale of virtual currency and virtual goods without the permission of Zynga.

Courts will soon have to rule on who, really, is in control in these worlds, and what property really means when it is constructed out of bits and bytes

– Next generation?

Armed Forces-

The armed services aim to simulate real combat situations via virtual reality technology similar to Second Life and other computer games. The Department of Defense is training soldiers with a variety of tools similar to computer games that create virtual worlds simulating environments and situations soldiers may encounter during warfare.

The Enhanced Dynamic Geosocial Environment, for example, prepares soldiers for encounters with IEDs and other types of explosive devices by simulating the type of physical environment in which they might find them, as well as the explosion and damage these devices create.

The Navy, too, is leveraging virtual worlds for battle simulation, but under the sea rather than on land. At its Navy Undersea Warfare Center, the military arm is engaged in a series of virtual training programs for firing torpedoes and engaging in other battle exercises.

The Army is looking to expand these kinds of virtual training grounds on an even grander scale. Last year, the military arm detailed a complex architecture for a virtual world, similar to the virtual reality environment Second Life. It's seeking a system integrator to build for warfighter training.

The DOD is planning to have that expansive virtual world for soldier training up and running in the next five years, according to the AFPS. The world will provide various avatar-led combat training situations that will merge operations from various branches of the military and prepare warfighters for a variety of scenarios. In the meantime, numerous military and other government agencies already are testing training and simulations in Second Life itself, including the Air Force, which has created a base in Second Life as well as several fields called Huffman Prairie after the place where the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane.

– Potential use?


When common approaches have failed, young patients are enrolled in a program that treats teens using something familiar to most of them: the virtual world, in this case a customized one called Simulated Environment for Counseling, Training, Evaluation and Rehabilitation (SECTER).

Teens have been treated using the program that allows them to role play in a 3-D virtual world environment in which they communicate with therapists through avatars.


Goal = Virtual Worlds + Academics
See Case Study

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