History[ edit ] The concept of virtual worlds significantly predates computers. The Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder , expressed an interest in perceptual illusion. Such devices are characterized by bulky headsets and other types of sensory input simulation. Contemporary virtual worlds, in particular the multi-user online environments, emerged mostly independently of this research, fueled instead by the gaming industry but drawing on similar inspiration.
Maze War was the first networked, 3D multi-user first person shooter game. Maze introduced the concept of online players in — as "eyeball 'avatars' chasing each other around in a maze. The initial game could only be played on an Imlac , as it was specifically designed for this type of computer.
A MUD is a virtual world with many players interacting in real time. Users interact in role-playing or competitive games by typing commands and can read or view descriptions of the world and other players.
Such early worlds began the MUD heritage that eventually led to massively multiplayer online role-playing games , more commonly known as MMORPGs, a genre of role-playing games in which a large number of players interact within a virtual world. Some prototype virtual worlds were WorldsAway , a two-dimensional chat environment where users designed their own avatars; Dreamscape , an interactive community featuring a virtual world by CompuServe ; Cityspace , an educational networking and 3D computer graphics project for children; and The Palace , a 2-dimensional community driven virtual world.
However, credit for the first online virtual world usually goes to Habitat , developed in by LucasFilm Games for the Commodore 64 computer, and running on the Quantum Link service the precursor to America Online.
The Virtual Helsinki project was eventually renamed Helsinki Arena project and parts of the city in modern and historical context were rendered in 3D. Bell in  "an automated, shared, persistent environment with and through which people can interact in real time by means of a virtual self", by Richard Bartle in  "A persistent, simulated and immersive environment, facilitated by networked computers, providing multiple users with avatars and communication tools with which to act and interact in-world and in real-time.
For example, EverQuest time passes faster than real-time despite using the same calendar and time units to present game time. As virtual world is a general term, the virtual environment supports varying degrees of play and gaming. Some uses of the term include Massively multiplayer online games MMOGs games in which a large number of players interact within a virtual world. The concept of MMO has spread to other game types such as sports, real-time strategy and others.
The persistence criterion is the only criterion that separates virtual worlds from video games,  meaning that some MMO versions of RTS and FPS games resemble virtual worlds; Destiny is a video game that is such a pseudo virtual world. Emerging concepts include basing the terrain of such games on real satellite photos, such as those available through the Google Maps API or through a simple virtual geocaching of " easter eggs " on WikiMapia or similar mash-ups , where permitted; these concepts are virtual worlds making use of mixed reality.
Collaborative virtual environments CVEs designed for collaborative work in a virtual environment. Massively multiplayer online real-life games MMORLGs , also called virtual social worlds,  where the user can edit and alter their avatar at will, allowing them to play a more dynamic role, or multiple roles. Virtual economy A virtual economy is the emergent property of the interaction between participants in a virtual world. While the designers have a great deal of control over the economy by the encoded mechanics of trade, it is nonetheless the actions of players that define the economic conditions of a virtual world.
The economy arises as a result of the choices that players make under the scarcity of real and virtual resources such as time or currency. The choices they make in their interaction with the virtual world, along with the mechanics of trade and wealth acquisition, dictate the relative values of items in the economy. The economy in virtual worlds is typically driven by in-game needs such as equipment, food, or trade goods.
Virtual economies like that of Second Life , however, are almost entirely player-produced with very little link to in-game needs. While the relevance of virtual world economics to physical world economics has been questioned, it has been shown the users of virtual worlds respond to economic stimuli such as the law of supply and demand in the same way that people do in the physical world. The investment of real world resources time, membership fees, etc. Geography[ edit ] The geography of virtual worlds can vary widely because the role of geography and space is an important design component over which the developers of virtual worlds have control and may choose to alter.
In this way, virtual worlds may provide a glimpse into what the future economic geography of the physical world may be like as more and more goods become digital.
MacArthur Foundation for example have funded research into virtual worlds including, for example, how preteens explore and share information about reproductive health. Fields, and Mizuko Ito. Many users seek an escape or a comfort zone in entering these virtual worlds, as well as a sense of acceptance and freedom. Virtual worlds allow users to freely explore many facets of their personalities in ways that are not easily available to them in real life. Thus, virtual worlds allow for users to flourish within the world and possibly become addicted to their new virtual life which may create a challenge as far as dealing with others and in emotionally surviving within their real lives.
One reason for this freedom of exploration can be attributed to the anonymity that virtual worlds provide. It gives the individual the ability to be free from social norms, family pressures or expectations they may face in their personal real world lives.
The avatar no longer represents a simple tool or mechanism manipulated in cyberspace. While greatly facilitating ease of interaction across time and geographic boundaries, the virtual world presents an unreal environment with instant connection and gratification.
A person has unlimited access to an infinite array of opportunities to fulfill every fantasy, grant every wish, or satisfy every desire. He or she can face any fear or conquer any enemy, all at the click of a mouse Toronto, Another area of research related to virtual worlds is the field of navigation. Specifically, this research investigates whether or not virtual environments are adequate learning tools in regards to real-world navigation.
One experiment had two groups of subjects, the first of which examined maps of a virtual environment, and the second of which navigated the virtual environment. The groups of subjects then completed an objective in the virtual environment. The test subjects, though, were generally unfamiliar with the virtual world interface, likely leading to some impaired navigation, and thus bias in the yielded analysis of the experiments.
The study concluded that the interface objects made natural navigation movements impossible, and perhaps less intrusive controls for the virtual environment would reduce the effect of the impairment. Handipoints , for example, is a children's virtual world that tracks chores via customizable chore charts and lets children get involved in their household duties offline. They complete chores and use the website and virtual world to keep track of their progress and daily tasks.
There are also online platforms such as Uniiverse which are designed to re-connect people to the real world via virtual means. Users can post activities and services on-line and meet up off-line to share the experience. Even those users who do make use of HIDs which provide such features as six degrees of freedom often have to switch between separate 3D and 2D devices in order to navigate their respectively designed interfaces. Like video gamers, some users of virtual world clients may also have a difficult experience with the necessity of proper graphics hardware such as the more advanced graphics processing units distributed by Nvidia and AMD for the sake of reducing the frequency of less-than-fluid graphics instances in the navigation of virtual worlds.
However, in part for this reason, a growing number of virtual world engines, especially serving children, are entirely browser-based requiring no software down loads or specialized computer hardware.
The first virtual world of this kind was Whyville.