I’d like to start this post off with an interesting graphic.
A simple iPhone game called “flappy bird” has attracted explosive attention in the past few months. Created by an independent game studio in Vietnam, this game went viral before the publisher removed it from the app store. If the game wouldn’t have been removed, you can see it was well on its way to garner more search engine attention in a few months than virtual worlds have had in six years.
These days mobile apps and games are hot items. There is a lot of competition, but there doesn’t seem to be a lack of demand for new apps based on new ideas, and challenging games that you can pass some of your free time on while waiting for the bus. Challenging old style platformers seem to be back on the rise again, and a simple one can be completed in less than a few thousand lines of code. The market is ripe and there is an extremely large set of users of mobile devices that play games. Make a decent/fun/aggravating or innovative game, advertise it, and you have a chance of making a living. It is not easy money, nothing is, but there are much more difficult ways to spend your time as an independent software developer.
Speaking of which, developing a virtual world platform is not easy. If you get the opportunity to grow, you will end up running into some of the most challenging problems in computer science, where there is still much ongoing research to try to solve problems, or make operations faster and scalable. At scale, a virtual world will store billions of large binary assets and related records and must be able to search and analyze the data, often in realtime. You’ll have to solve many of the problems of modern MMOs, plus you’ll need to be able to handle user generated content that is not optimized for fast 3d rendering. You’ll have a community that is depending on your work to keep them in business creating content, and any deviation in behavior no matter how small it may seem to your team may well end up being a big deal to them, causing you to have to go back to the drawing board. You’ll do all this, commit hundreds of thousands to millions of lines of code, a ton of money and man hours to your platform, and you may end up doing all this for less income than what you might make on a single release of an iOS game. When you look at the graph above it seems that we’re fighting a losing battle.
So with much of the current opportunity for freelance development gone mobile, what is keeping some of us working on virtual worlds?
We enjoy the challenge.
I think first and foremost developers are attracted to virtual worlds because we enjoy the challenge of creating a stable scalable platform, but we don’t want to get involved in integrating and creating the actual content. When I was asked to join InWorldz, what really pulled me in was that I knew I’d be dealing with large ever growing datasets (with a user expectation of zero downtime), 3d mathematics, physics simulations, script engines, and a bunch of other topics that require a lot of learning to master. I really wanted to dive deep into solving hard problems and InWorldz was the perfect opportunity.
We believe 3d environments have a bright future
The true potential of 3d hasn’t yet been realized. Many of us watched Star Trek as kids, teens, and young adults, and we loved the idea of the holodeck. The holodeck was a place where books, and games appear before your eyes in full 3d and are fully interactive. More importantly, the holodeck allowed you to create your own sequences, turning your imagination into a 3d canvas. We believe with the acceleration of development of 3d hardware and appropriate sensors, general purpose 3d environments will provide a place where businesses and individuals can express their ideas in a realtime, fully interactive, 3d scene.
We like seeing what you create
We love seeing the creativity that is unleashed when people from all over the world come together and generate their own purpose and content on the blank 3d canvas we have provided. We see everything from naval battles, large and diverse elven colonies, to sci-fi role play with ideas that rival the greatest authors. You create games, communities, and entire cities full of interesting things to see and do. We get to watch the world come alive.
We believe virtual world tech can be used for good
Open ended virtual worlds give us the opportunity to use our skills to do some real good in the world. We’ve already seen this with Relay for Life and the countless other charitable contributions that have been donated by members of virtual worlds. This Christmas alone InWorldz and residents raised $4,538.00 US dollars for the Toys for Tots foundation.
We want to get our technology involved in directly helping people as well. InShape is an idea we believe can motivate people to get up and be healthy. We think it can make exercise fun again and provide an additional benefit of allowing people to design their own exercise environments and equipment. We’re trying to take the strengths of virtual worlds and apply them to real problems, and this is only the beginning. Maybe some day we’ll be fortunate enough to see or be part of projects that can help rehabilitation, and maybe we’ll even influence more distant future advances like what we see in the video entitled World Builder below.
Virtual environments let you build your imagination. Let’s build the future together.