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Will Harvey On Virtual Worlds, Technology Curves 94

CowboyRobot writes "Slashdot's former editor Chris DiBona has an interview with videogame creator Will Harvey over at ACMQueue. Harvey has had a hand in lots of stuff you've used, from Zany Golf to Adobe AfterEffects, and now runs There, a kind of online 3D 'virtual world' game. Their conversation covers games in general, as well as specifics of the challenges that There is facing. From the article: 'You have to project the curves: the rendering curve; the CPU speed curve; the money spent on the Internet on online games curve; the number of people who play online games curve. I think we guessed right on almost everything, but we underestimated Moore's Law and we overestimated the low-end graphics capability'."
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Will Harvey On Virtual Worlds, Technology Curves

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 22, 2004 @07:57AM (#8354928)
    by Will Harvey.

    It used precisely timed 6502 assembly to get 4-voice polyphony out of the system address $C030, which only toggled the speaker diaphragm from one state to another. Amazing.
  • by S3D ( 745318 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @07:59AM (#8354934)
    That is the comon pitfall of all latest MMORPG: desiners rely on player created content and player-driven economy. The problem is - it never work. Worlds designed for player created content are blan and empty. Player-driven economy unwieldy, inconvinient and is not fun. To be creative players have to be provided with a lot of extensive tools and abilities, and that kind diversity usually destroy balance. No balance = no fun. More restrictive tools - no players creativity. The "There" seems too abitious - they want all genres in one game. Too much framework usually mean too little premade content, and that usually spell disaster...However there's always a hope that this time they will manage to do it right...
  • by Tei ( 520358 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:10AM (#8354956) Journal
    Will be not really much faster, and buggy. Because will be not optimized for really fast framerate, can crash. Because will not include code for new features the hardware will provide (like new OpenGL extensions) will not use that features, and will not benefict from that. If the game was compiled for 486, will not use MMX, so will not benefict from that CPU feature.

    A old game in new hardware sould run faster, but not too much faster. If you need a old game to run faster, you have to rewrite some code, add hardware features, rewrite more code, and recompile for the new architecture. Thats too much rewrite, and old games sould be closed source, and the source is lost forever (closed source end losing the source, while open source live forever).
  • by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:40AM (#8355002) Homepage Journal
    " That is the comon pitfall of all latest MMORPG: desiners rely on player created content and player-driven economy. The problem is - it never work."

    That's like saying that the Internet will never work because what most people want is to just sit in front of a TV set and watch.

    There ARE online activities that you would like to just be a passenger in, but there are also things where you want to be the driver too. Why else would so many people have their own web pages, spend so much time creating textures and flash presentations, or post messages to something like Slashdot for that matter?

    Early online games were tightly controlled because the technology didn't allow it to be otherwise. I think MOST, not just a few, 3D online content of the future will be open-ended. Once you have the proper infrastructure in place there is no reason to separate user created content from that provided by the infrastructure vendor.

    Second Life is where There plans to be in two or three years. It needs a broadband connection and 3D graphics card, but if you have those there is no reason to be using a more primitive system such as There, or Sims Online. Might want to give it a try, if you have the hardware.
  • Re:I wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tweaker_Phreaker ( 310297 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:46AM (#8355011)
    Or you could just do the smart thing by turning vertical syncronization (vsync) on in your graphics drivers so that it will only render as many frames as your monitor can display. I'd recommend never turning vsync off when playing games; only turn it off for benchmarking.
  • by alumshubby ( 5517 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:38AM (#8355117)
    I looked at one of the demos, and it's pretty cute, but this mediated reality stuff still leaves me cold. William Gibson spoiled me; I want to jack in and have a more synesthetic experience than just watching pixels on a flat screen.

    Especially with that one brunette.

  • Zany Golf! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BobWeiner ( 83404 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:22AM (#8355231) Homepage Journal
    Now THAT was a fun game -- I remember playing it on my Apple IIGS many years ago. It was simple in concept, fun to play, and absolutely frustrating at the higher levels. Whatever happened to these type of games on today's machines? Despite the brilliant graphics and sound on the new first person shooters and RPGs out there, I prefer games of yore that were simple, yet challenging.

    Bring back Zany Golf, Bubble Ghost, and Droll!

  • by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @10:51AM (#8355326) Journal
    My reaction to There was quite simple. I know that they don't want me around. How do I know this? Because simply trying to look at their freeking website gets me kicked to a "we dedected that you aren't using IE, go download it right now before we condesend to let you see what's happening". So to heck with them. It just isn't that damn hard to make a web page that works for all browsers.

    It did immediately answer my question about what platforms were supported though: Windows and nothing else...

  • Will Harvey in AI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by po8 ( 187055 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @12:41PM (#8355891)

    Will Harvey is quite the genius. We were briefly graduate students together before he got his Ph.D. His thesis on a method for complete combinatorial search (with advisor Matt Ginsberg) is still widely cited in the AI literature.

    I knew he'd done some game stuff before reading this interview, but never how much. With Will at the helm, I'd take There very seriously.

  • There Inc. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CrystalCut ( 307381 ) * on Sunday February 22, 2004 @03:16PM (#8356701) Homepage Journal
    First, I applied for beta access to THERE early LAST year. I had a fairly decent Windows system, with enough ram. But was told that Windows machine didn't meet the required specs. This bothers me, because this was a newish "low-end" machine..but still not good enough.

    Now I'm a There user. Using a much newer Windows machine. I've got enough power to access better graphics then THERE offers. I've got broadband, and plenty of it. And There is pretty cool. The system is interesting, the people are cool, and there are some fun things to do.

    But I can't use Firefox to access There, and the submission process is horrible.

    Having read many sci-fi authors take on "Metaverse", I'd say we are years away from having something like There, Uru, Second Life and The Online Sims work for everyone, on any computer, over any sort of connection.

    But it's coming. And maybe people like Will Harvey will be the first to create those brave new worlds.
  • by S.Lemmon ( 147743 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @05:48PM (#8357462) Homepage
    Have you ever tried any? Remember most of these rendered via software directly to the video card - no acceleration at all, but they were designed to be playable on systems of that time.

    Since then everything from CPU to memory, bus, and video speed has increased dramatically, and the later DOS 3D games do play much faster and smoother on a modern system (if they play at all). You can usually crank all GFX up to full and never see any slowdown.

    The main "problem" I notice is just that the software rendered 3D looks so ugly by today's standards. Supported resolutions are usually very low with none of the filtering and effects we're used to.

    Also since many had no speed throttling, earlier 286 era games can be completely unplayable without something like moslow. It's actually a bit comical to try. By the 486 era PCs varied in speed enough that games at least were written to throttle their max speed. Many won't go above a certain framerate.
  • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @08:57PM (#8358514)
    Second Life and There are not MMORPGs they're not even technically 'games'. They are MMOEs.

    MMORPG : MMOE :: Windows : Linux

    You can play with a lot more of the innards in an MMOE like SL & There.

    I don't know much about There, but in SL you can build 3d objects, create custom textures & clothings, write scripts, and even great games within the world. And you don't need anyone's permission to build things, upload your textures or sounds, or approve your scripts.

    You can't do those sorts of things in most MMORPGs like EQ, SWG, DAoC, etc. Sure they have crafter classes, but you only earn the right to "craft" premade objects that have already been modeled, textured, and scripted by the creators of the game.

    Personally, now that i've gotten a taste of the freedom in SL, I don't want to go back to the restrictive MMORPG genre.
  • Re:Second Life (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Sunday February 22, 2004 @09:06PM (#8358588)

    SL is much closer to metaverse-like qualities than There or Active Worlds, but I will concede that There has it's place too for those who don't do so well with a technically complex world, and just want a simple place to hang out.

    I think SL has greater system requirements too because *everything* in the world is dynamic. Every single primitive shape in every object, the ground mesh, the sky, the trees, particles, etc. are all dynamic and can change right beneath you at any time if the owner is around and editing it or if he/she has scripted the objects to change. You even see the changes happening in real time.

    There's no way to do the traditional compiled 3d scene with baked textures like you get in most games. Therefore the system requirements are higher to make all this dynamic content possible in a real-time environment.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington