My Prediction for Virtual Worlds in 2011

At the end of each calendar year, it’s common for people to offer up their predictions for the new year ahead.

Such predictions are fun to make and fun to read.  Since I mostly swim in the waters of online communities and virtual worlds, most of the predictions I come across have to do with the future of technology.

I have a prediction for the coming year.  And while my prediction involves the technology landscape of virtual worlds, what I predict will happen actually has nothing to do with technology.

A Time of Options

The current technology landscape of virtual worlds is in flux.  Second Life continues to be the largest general-purpose virtual word out there, but other viable options are gaining ground.  Opensim provides an increasingly stable open-source environment with interconnectivity between different grids via hypergrid protocols.  Blue Mars continues to grow while adding new features.  And various web-based virtual worlds based on Unity3D offer compelling lightweight ways to quickly bring people into virtual worlds that can be developed using mesh-based content creation tools.

Looking at One’s Past Work

People who have been developing projects and content in virtual worlds for many years, particularly Second Life, are starting to spend a good amount of time looking at the above options.  But they’re also thinking a lot about all of their preexisting work.  Many people have invested significant time and energy in their past and current efforts.  This investment naturally makes them hesitant to make any dramatic change in their current virtual world platform.  How will I move all my stuff to a new world?  Will I have to learn how to use new tools?

As a result of this, many people are not outright abandoning their current virtual world platform of choice.  Rather, they are starting to dip their toes in other virtual worlds.  Testing the waters.

My Prediction: A Realization

Which brings me to my prediction.  As seasoned virtual world users begin to test the waters of new platforms, I predict these people will have a striking realization.  A priceless epiphany.

I predict people will realize that all their past and current work in virtual worlds has given them a wealth of experiential knowledge and connections to amazing communities of people.  And it is this combination of wisdom and community that will allow them to succeed in any virtual world they choose to explore in the future.

The most important things in life are not things. And in a similar fashion, the most important things in virtual worlds are not the objects you’ve created or the code you’re written. And while you may have gained many specific skills with different technological tools, those learned skills are also incidental.

To use an artistic metaphor, it’s not about how well you’ve learned to hold different sized brushes or how deftly you can mix paints.  It’s about how you’ve learned to create beautiful works of art that seize the imagination.  That wisdom goes beyond any specific tools. And that kind of wisdom is eminently portable to any new tools you happen to pick up in the future.

What matters most is the wise hand that wields the tool and the community of other wise hands that can work together.

So in a nutshell, what’s most important are the experiences you’ve had, the wisdom you’ve gained, and the communities of people you’ve connected with over the years.  It’s a powerful realization.  And I believe it’s one that many people will have in the coming year.

As a growing vista of new virtual worlds spreads out before us all in 2011, we will stop focusing on the things we’ve wrought.

We’ll pause.  We’ll look down at our own hands and at the hands of all our friends and colleagues.

And we’ll realize that we don’t have to predict the future of virtual worlds.

We have the wisdom and community to simply create it.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

24 thoughts on “My Prediction for Virtual Worlds in 2011

  1. Great post! I think that a lot of the pull to make predictions is from a psychological coping mechanism working to handle the fear of living in what is an unpredictable world (both RL and SL.) I think the strategy you write about here and that you live through your hypergrid traveling sessions, is a much more empowering and productive approach.

  2. What we need is to agree on a defined set of basic rules that most virtual worlds will follow with regards to the avatar skeleton and all preceding parts being reliability alike or easily modifiable within the system to suit the virtual environment someone has designed and easily importable and exportable through an API.

    We should be pushing to bring realistic 3D interpolatable avatars across multiple grids and multiple virtual worlds served from multiple sources (servers) but pulled though a persons online contact profile.

    Second Life can all ready send content to open simulator or some such but this means we’re forever reliant on Linden Lab as a gate controller whom in certain circumstance’s is a problem when an account is banned it’s content is forever blackholed unless it’s been backed up.

    I have my eye firmly set on a universal avatar, and I’ve been trying for a while to ask certain companies to look into it’s feasibility, and I won’t stop pushing for it and if you know me I’m relentless, well as much as I can be.

    My idea which I’ve pitched is to install avatars into contact domains, as links to avatar files and links to .xml stored across the web, and using oath/open id to login to any VW or mobile app and be able to rapidly pull out the correct sized avatar from those links, and the contact data stored or encrypted in the .tel into a persons profile on the fly.

    Imagine how we see a link to a jpg

    This is all is needed to be stored into the DNS server that is a .tel contact domain/card
    with links to the .xml of objects and links to skin files and other such things that can be processed on the fly.

    I don’t know what the asset server looks like over in the back end of Second Life, but if it’s anything like MYSQL I’m guessing it’s just a bunch of urls to skin images, and XML e.t.c.

    I don’t and can’t know everything but I do see .tel as the future gatekeeper of users contact data, avatars, and online content, that can’t be blackholed if banned from one virtual environment.

  3. “We have the wisdom and community to simply create it.”

    Perfect – thank you, Pathfinder, for building a new and fascinating community of hypernauts!

    Happy New Year to you all!

    • grmbl… bad, bad mimi….

      Seems you just stole the words right out of my mouth!

      If you hadent already written them this would have been EXACTLY what i would have typed 😉

      So now i can just say:



  4. lovely post, Pathfinder; that is the way I feel. Technique can be taught; tools can be learned, options explored, but it is the mental process, the inner eye, which is the most valuable asset. And a towel of course 😀

  5. Excellent Path. I’ve been thinking along the same lines recently and as I’ve dipped my toes into other waters, I’ve recognized how much I have learned during my journey and how that knowledge has helped me determine my own direction.

    Keep up the good work!

  6. This post really got me thinking, I want to leave a considered response because it’s worth thinking about content, our creations and our skills in VW…So more from me later.

    • Fantastic! To be honest, I was really hoping you’d reply. You’re a very skilled content creator in SL, and I really hoped to hear your thoughts from your perspective on all this.

      And I hope I was clear in my blog post that I was sharing my opinion of what I considered *most* important in the big picture. I think content/creations/skills are indeed *very* important and valuable. The blood and sweat that you’ve put into honing your skills at using specific content creation tools and the time you’ve spent actually *creating* content are far from trivial.

      I’m really looking forward to reading your thoughts.

  7. Really great to read this post as a start to the New Year. You hit the nail on the head.

    How can we complain about student resistance to using VW technology, then complain that it’s too hard for us to learn new tools? Don’t understand. It’s fun to learn new stuff, and we should be leading by example.

  8. One of the best posts I have ever seen, and terrifically inspiring.

    Really got me thinking more about all the tools I have made and how to re-apply them and re-work them now that built-in chat translation is (finally, yay!) taking over the role played by scripted translators in main chat.

    There is a real need for free tools like IM-only translators, text-to-voice and voice-to-text via Viewer 2, iPhone and Android to SL translators, shopping systems and greeters that greet people spam-free in their native language, and 2.+ viewer ‘talking’ products.

    As you pointed out, how to do it is already ‘up there’.. we just need to look down at our fingers and make it happen.

  9. Nice..
    But, it’s value is completely counter to how the machines of monetization and ego have come to work. What you described isnt an epiphany of the system’s well being, but the realization that it’s infected with MIPS.
    I predict that similar to what happened with Aspurbergers, MIPS will become fashionable starting in 2011.)

  10. I think you are quite right Path, while tools will vary, the mind behind the tool is what truly counts in the end.

  11. Right on, John.

    After the great Linden diaspora of 2009 – 2010 where about half the staff left or was laid off, I started thinking about the consequences. And I thought about the many developers who have left for tertiary industries. I concluded that many companies and industries are gaining the benefit of these forward-thinking folks, and that we’re still all talking as a community and sharing ideas. Honestly? Linden Lab’s loss is a huge gain for social media in general.

    And so I think this idea ties into your central 2011 prediction. I think the realization that the community we’ve built is still here, thanks to social media, and is working in ways we didn’t predict 2 or 3 years ago.

  12. Pingback: Hypergrid Adventurers Club meet #28+29: Physics Education and Giant Laboratories on NewWorldGrid | Be Cunning and Full of Tricks

  13. I agree that the experiences and connections I have made in a virtual world are priceless… but that which I/we’ve in virtual objects and scripts made is not. It has a USD or L$ value and it would be hard to justify further funding, investment, etc. if it weren’t entirely transferrable to another VW (which, today it isn’t). Even my community isn’t entirely transferrable, especially with the fracturing of communities into new spaces.

  14. Thank you for the reality check.

    In our worries that the hair, the garb, the anims won’t be as good on the other side, we might forget that the people we really like will be there waiting or will follow us.

    The rest is details.

    And our skills follow us, too. What took me over 100 hours to accomplish with our SL build took about 20 hours in Jokaydia Grid.

  15. I just found your blog and I love it!

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I used Second Life for a long time but I’ve found that the browser based virtual worlds are just that much easier for me to use. I personally love Smeet’s 3d virtual worlds because it’s totally browser based and it’s great if you want to meet some new people. They have platforms in a lot of different languages so it’s very international!

    Just my two cents!

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