The most recent issue of Wired magazine has a large feature on gaming. Wil Wright begins with a great article on the psychology of games and play, and there’s a sneak preview of his upcoming game Spore (fun animation on the official site). There are also some excellent illustrations from Feric Studio throughout the features.
The one article that really caught my attention was, When Virtual Worlds Collide. It discusses the idea of building a common “metaverse” that individual games could share and tap into. It mentions the Open Source Metaverse Project which is trying to do exactly that, using open source technologies. Much like we have standard web protocols that let us share information between sites and services, players in different games could visit others in different worlds. This definitely makes sense for games like Second Life, where the focus is on player-created content and open-ended worlds.
But what about something like World of Warcraft, or a sci-fi setting, where mixing of worlds and characters might not fit? Maybe a certain amount of information or characteristics can be shared or linked. Xbox Live is kind of doing it with reputations, scores, gamer points, etc. I would love to see the lines blurred between different games even more. A metaverse similar to that imagined by William Gibson or Neal Stephenson could be the next killer-app. Maybe your orc from Warcraft can’t just walk into a modern-day Grand Theft Auto setting, but maybe there are some loose interactions possible. At the very least, there could be currency conversion, trading or sharing between worlds. Or maybe we arrive at games within games. Your “real” metaverse character wanders the open worlds, but enters virtual arcades to play other games. However it all morphs and changes, I think there are some exciting possibilities. It may be an existing game that continues to change and lead the way, or it might be an open source project. Whatever happens, cyberpunk isn’t all fiction anymore.