Metaplace Founder Raph Koster Chats Up Linden Lab Co-Founder Cory Ondrejka

by Alphaville Herald on 01/07/09 at 8:15 am

The hairy edge of augmented reality colliding with virtual worlds

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk

At a much anticipated game god gabfest yesterday, Raph Koster and Cory Ondrejka neatly avoided the controversy over Metaplace male's second-class sit animations – possibly the most vital issue facing the metaverse today – by standing throughout the event. Rather than focusing on avatar emotes and poses, the Raph and Cory chose to discuss smaller issues – presence in new media, how virtual worlds are affecting the web, user generated content, the role of economies in sorting the gold from a sea of user created dross, and music in the virtual realm.

As predicted, a touching Linden Lab alumni scene was played out with Sunchaser – Robin Linden Harper – in attendance. A full transcript of the event (courtesy of Cuppycake) is reproduced below, and the Herald's own Urizenus Sklar was pressed into duty as a photographer.

(left to right – Raph Koster, Cory Ondrekja, Sunchaser )

Raph: Well, Cory, I'm glad to have you here today…
Raph: Seems like several years since I first told you about this crazy Metaplace idea!
CoryOndrejka: Great to "see" you after catching up at state of play
CoryOndrejka: Austin Game Conference, 06 right?
Raph: Yup… a long time ago :)
Raph: So our goal back then was to build a next generation virtual world platform, something that worked mor elike the web
Raph: It is fitting that you are the first guest at an event in the remote embed :)
CoryOndrejka: I think being able to toss up not only a pointer to the event and the event itself on my blog is great
Raph: It seems like a lot of the discussion around VWs is about "pleateaus
CoryOndrejka: Kudos to your team for getting this working so smoothly
Raph:, plateaus. What do you think about that?
CoryOndrejka: I'm just glad I don't have to spell plateau :-)
Raph: Yeah, kinda tricky :)
CoryOndrejka: Interesting choice, given the explosion of interest in "real time"
CoryOndrejka: and "presence" on the web
CoryOndrejka: we've seen some key elements of VWs and games coopted by Twitter, FB, et al
CoryOndrejka: so I'm not sure that Plateau is accurate at all
Raph: It does seem like many previously asynch experiences are becoming synchronous or at least a lot faster
CoryOndrejka: How about "a lot less asynchronous"?


Raph: Like, Twitter seems to be used almost in real time
CoryOndrejka: since they aren't real-time by any rational definition (yet)
Raph: Facebook ha added chat
Raph: On days when I am moving slow, I wonder if real time is in real time ;)
Raph: Is the Net co-opting some of the elements that made VWs special?
CoryOndrejka:sure, IM is real time, but it I think the cross site and corss serviceexperiences — which is what happens when people coopt twitter foreverything from music sales to payment to presence — is veryinteresting (and more so than IM)
CoryOndrejka: For me it is when I don'tknow what timezone I'm in
CoryOndrejka: but, just looking at people builing on twitter
CoryOndrejka:we're seeing an explosion of experimentation because the new "real-timeish" service is available (most of the time)
CoryOndrejka: in a lot of ways, it feels like the explorations we seeon the Linden scripting language, where tons of people play withprogramming
CoryOndrejka: and we see all over Metaplace as well
CoryOndrejka: give new capabilities that are easy to play with and we see an impressive level of enagement
Raph: It seems like there is a real split between open and closed virtual worlds looming
CoryOndrejka: and most of the energy seems to be in areas that feel VW-ish, so again, doesn't feel like a plateau to me at all
Raph: it has always been there, of course, but we are seeing even the UGC style worlds splitting a bit it seems
Raph: With things like Blue Mars aiming more at "prosumer" content creators…
CoryOndrejka: there's sort of always been these splits, right? games v. vws, MMO v. multipleplayer, etc etc


Raph: And thigns like Metaplace aiming more at end users
CoryOndrejka: lots of commons technologies, with different application layers on top
CoryOndrejka: good part being that the tech is racing forward
CoryOndrejka: and being driven by web, mmo, online fps, etc
Raph: Yes — a few years ago when ineroprability was the hot topic, I made the argument
Raph: that this was the worst time to settle o nstandards
Raph: because it was such a rich perido of innovation
Raph: and settling on standards prematurely could be very stunting
CoryOndrejka: *and* all of it happening alongside incredible increase in javascript vm performance
Raph: Where do you see standards going? Towards the web standards, like JS?
CoryOndrejka:valid point, I think, although much like the rest of the web, there islikely value in standardizing on IM protocols, identity, etc
CoryOndrejka: the web sure seems to be winning, but with Wave jumpingon XMPP, there's an infection path for more real time approaches, right
Raph:Should VWs be the source of those standards, or should we be looking tothings like OpenID and other web-driven initiatives?
CoryOndrejka: I like playing to strengths, so borrow from the web when it makes sense
CoryOndrejka: and as the web does more and more that was formally domain of games, there is more to steal
CoryOndrejka: I mean leverage
CoryOndrejka: :-)
Raph: Seems like so much of the standards discussion is around avatars and inventory…
CoryOndrejka: meh
CoryOndrejka: file systems have been inveted a few times I think
Raph: which to me closes off a huge amount of the scope of the discussion
CoryOndrejka: agreed
Raph: One of the things I love about MP is that I might turn into a fish when I go through a gate :)
CoryOndrejka:appearance is interesting of course, and the ideas of smooth path fromphoto through 2d avatar throught 3d animation is sexy and tempting
CoryOndrejka: I wonder about that
CoryOndrejka: (not that you like it :-)
Raph: heh


CoryOndrejka: but whether or not persistent visual representation has value
CoryOndrejka: we know from Jeremey Bailenson's work that we are hyper responsive to mixing in images of "us" into other faces
CoryOndrejka: so I wonder if the killer version would be a fish that still looked like you a bit
Raph: It might be!
CoryOndrejka: you could standardize on morph targets and blend
CoryOndrejka: sort of disney rules of character creation
Raph: I suppose all I am getting at is that the diversity of possible envuironments is curtailed if you limit avatar apearance
CoryOndrejka: all avatars have eyes, mouths, etc
CoryOndrejka: I generally agree
Raph: We are importing a lot of the psychology of real worlds when we do that
Raph: which can be a good thing, but also can cause us to import things we didn't intend
CoryOndrejka: but I wonder if varialbe representations will make it less approachable in general, so how to mitigate that risk
CoryOndrejka: absolutely, it is very easy to miss what rules come with simple decisions
Raph: My favorite example is adding avatar height
Raph: Research at Stanford showed that shorter avatars, like shorter people, get treated differently
CoryOndrejka: otoh, we ask a lot of residents in open virtual worlds, so providing some expected context may ease the path in
Raph: they lose out more often in negotiations, for example
CoryOndrejka: ditto unattractive
Raph: exactly
CoryOndrejka: yeah Jeremey and Nick do the coolest work :-) !
Raph: Are we losing that "no one knows you're a dog" quality the Internet had?
CoryOndrejka: hmmm
CoryOndrejka: thinking
CoryOndrejka: I don't think so
CoryOndrejka: but I wonder if that is a bit of a trick question
CoryOndrejka: lots of evidence that we don't shiled who we really are nearly as well as we think
CoryOndrejka: from gender differentiation in chat styles to racial biases imported right on in
Raph: There's an audience questionthat seems relevant…
CoryOndrejka: in fact, the more channels we give the users, the harder pretending to be someone else becomes
epredator: do you think we will evolve past avatars in this form, i.e. can I be the room
CoryOndrejka: I hope so!


Raph: Hmm, Crwth, there's a coding project for you… :)
Raph: (Crwth is one of our most programmery users)
CoryOndrejka:Think of it as the dungeon master role, right? You could imagine lotsof possiblities for being embodied differently that helps the fictionof a room, a location, a game, etc
Raph: What about with the Internet of streams? Is an avatar a stream?
Raph: We have something called the Metastream
CoryOndrejka: lots of SL scripts sort of do this, where LSL is reaching out to the web to act as another embodiment of the owner
CoryOndrejka: Something that you guys have done very well is to make sure Metaplace plays well with the web
CoryOndrejka: and given how many places streams make sense
CoryOndrejka: from activity streams (ie FB)
CoryOndrejka: to content streams (what the participants are watching now)
CoryOndrejka: being able to share all of those easily from MP to the web is the right decision, imho
Raph: In Metaplace, both users and worlds can generate streams as equal participants
Raph: Do you think that we will see a blurring of world versus user?
CoryOndrejka: throttling problems of course if scripts can createstreams, but that makes sense to have both user-centric andspace-centric
CoryOndrejka: goes back to eprador's question
Raph: I guess I mean more in terms of identity
CoryOndrejka: What about the way that virtualworlds are being used? Do youthink there's a "killer app" that will finally bring virtual worlds tothe everyday web user?
Raph: Well, I hope it's Metaplace! ;)
CoryOndrejka: if you can setup controls where *you* are represented bythe experience of a space, that could be as important a representaitonof you as your flickr stream
CoryOndrejka: :)
CoryOndrejka: we know that music has been a killer app in virtual worlds — both in SL and MP
CoryOndrejka: which makes a ton of sense
Raph:I am not sure we have wrapped our heads around what all the usecasesare. I tend to think they lie around the notion of co-presence
CoryOndrejka: music has long been a great infection vector for new technology
CoryOndrejka: plus, as you just said
Raph: Music is a great case where co-presence just makes the experience richer
CoryOndrejka: being able to coexperience music makes for a much more enjoyable experience
Raph: Last night I sat in the lobby of this theater and played guitar for people for two hours
Raph: It is a surprisingly intimate experience
Raph: even when all I was doing was playing MP3s, not even live
CoryOndrejka: we hear that from SL musicians as well
CoryOndrejka: we're seeing that on iPhone music games as well
Raph: Is the music industry going to jum into this space then?
Raph: I mean, you can MAKE it jump now, right? ;)
CoryOndrejka: well, labels, musicians, and fans have all been jumping in for a while
CoryOndrejka:the challenge, like much of online, is balancing when awareness is thechallenge (ie audience building) versus monetizing the audience you have
CoryOndrejka: what makes VWs cool is that we see explorations of all kinds
Raph: The variety of worlds users make always blows me away
CoryOndrejka:The experience of music, as we all know, extends well beyond atransaction around a little plastic disk, so virtual worlds offer somegreat options for extending that experience, through interaction withother fans, richer content, connecting to the web, etc
CoryOndrejka: how many worlds in MP at this point?
Raph: Well, every user gets one when they join
Raph: so over 30,000
Raph: many many users make more tha none
Raph: there are a few users who have made over 100
CoryOndrejka: that was going to be the next question — what that curve looks like
Raph: most of them are small and simpe, hardly changed
Raph: But that is the classic UGC curve
CoryOndrejka: right, but subtle changes in that curve make for big differences
Raph: Oh yes indeed
CoryOndrejka:Wikipedia has 0.2-2% participation (depending on how you count) whichis *way* more participation than ever before and enough to create thelargest repository of knowledge in history
Raph: as does the issue of surfacing interesting content
CoryOndrejka: absolutely
CoryOndrejka: one of the strongest reasons to create real economies within VWs is to allow the economy to be your filter
Raph: actually, that to me raises an interesting question
CoryOndrejka: sure you can use voting, attention, time of use, etc etc etc, but money is a useful signal
Raph: It does seem like a lot of the discussion around VWs often comes back to money
CoryOndrejka: you're investors are doing this for fun, right?
CoryOndrejka: :-)
Raph: heh
Raph: What I mean is that it seems like often a lot of the discussion around them gets commercialized
CoryOndrejka: do you mean money as in "in world economy","real world transactions" or "business models"
Raph: Mor ethe in world economy aspect
CoryOndrejka: well, commercialization raises its head because these projects are still expensive and risky
CoryOndrejka: (making virtual worlds, that is)
Raph:it is, I guess, intrusive, in a way. I worry sometimes that we may losesome of the interesting qualities of VWs if money is the filter foreverything
CoryOndrejka: eg, see Lively
CoryOndrejka: I agree.One of the great promises of SL and MP is to make the barriers tocreating a world and finding an audience so low that people will try
Raph: Would the twitter Iran protest stuff have been as notable if it cost a penny a tweet?
CoryOndrejka: exactly
CoryOndrejka: that is to say, if it cost a penny and hadn't happened, how worse off would we all have been?
CoryOndrejka: risk, cost, and time (and impact of failure) all impede innovation
Raph: yes, and in many ways, with VWs the biggest barrier there now is time
CoryOndrejka: so, platforms for virtual worlds — especially those with thriving, connected communities — change the game
Raph: The very placeness and co-presence aspects, also make them more time-constrained
Raph: And the process of making one is still time intensive relative to typing a tweet :)
CoryOndrejka: absolutely, time to understand them, time to use them, needing to coordinate meeting at an event
CoryOndrejka: depends on how complex an idea you're trying to get into 140 characters ;-)
Raph: True. A few times I have had to bail on conversations i Twitter bc of that
Raph: So what do you think the future of vws is then?
CoryOndrejka: of course, the time barrier to use is also a search problem
CoryOndrejka: (cause if you can't find what you want quickly you leave)
CoryOndrejka: on the future…
CoryOndrejka:with the myriad "we can do high end 3d in a browser" options combinedwith high performance JS and native code in browsers
CoryOndrejka: we'll see more and more complexity entangled with the web
Raph: Which may work against that time and simplicity factor!
CoryOndrejka: maybe
CoryOndrejka:alternately, the ability to execute complex code can make the clientsmarter, more flexible, and more reactive to the context of the user
Raph: I do look forward to the richer environments in a browser, though I think people tend to forget the distadvantages
CoryOndrejka:we're also on the hairy edge of augmented reality being doable, which Iexpect to collide withvirtual worlds in a "you got your chocolate in mypeanut butter" kind of way
Raph: Have you seen the Google Maps mashup that one of our users did with the remote embed?
Raph: I look forward to seeng that sort of thing mashed up more, with GPS and mobile devices
CoryOndrejka: no, sounds cool
CoryOndrejka: yes!
Raph: Basically, it put a Metaplace world in the pop-up on a Google Maps location marker
CoryOndrejka :o f course, right now a modern laptop will give you 4-6 hours ofbrowsing but an hour of 3d gaming, so there are challenges to goingreally high end
CoryOndrejka: very cool
Raph: Wow, we have a lot of audience q's piled up
CoryOndrejka: let's have at 'em
Raph: Well, that's a big one
Raph: My take is that everything is going more social and more mobile
CoryOndrejka: sure, a few different pieces here
CoryOndrejka: yeah, agreed
Raph: It does feel like there is a convergence device coming
CoryOndrejka:in detail, I think we'll have to rethink a lot of our interfaces longterm to accomodate gphone/iphone screen size, pointing accuracy
Raph: Yes, it'll be a device that has in some ways less affordances than we are used to from a PC
CoryOndrejka:the problem of your "mouse" (ie finger) obscuring the where you arepointing is a problem poorly understoof by a lot of iphone games
CoryOndrejka: yes
Raph: but also nwe capabilities that reshape the landscape
CoryOndrejka: less oomph
CoryOndrejka: but more connectivity, built in gps and voice, etc
CoryOndrejka: great opportunities to blend real and virtual
CoryOndrejka: pity that right now mobile if fragmented into the flash and not-flash worlds
CoryOndrejka: s/if/is/
Raph: Well, if JS keeps improving, we may see that convergence too
CoryOndrejka: absolutely
Raph: And Flash is onto most smartphones, barring iPhone, by this winter
CoryOndrejka: the delta between actionscript and js is getting much smaller
Raph: crosscompile, gere we come ;)
CoryOndrejka: I'd hate to have to ignore the iphone/touch market
Raph: shall we take the next one?
CoryOndrejka: da
Raph: whoops, we took two
Raph: So streams first?
Raph: I think they give the sense of sitting at the nerve center, the nexus
CoryOndrejka: I wish the questions went into the chat stream o' writer of the moderation code :-)
Raph: they are going into the backchannel


CoryOndrejka:given that we are used to communication streams fragmenting therealworld *all the time* I'm not sure I understand the question, babbage
CoryOndrejka:real world distance is a problem all communications technology hastried to overcome (hand waving oversimplification)
CoryOndrejka: so while streams break local space, that is a good thing
CoryOndrejka: and, to raph's great point,a lot of folks like being able to juggle all the inputs
Raph: Yeah, though another thing that happens is losing track of it all
Raph: :)
CoryOndrejka: sorry, what were we talking about :-) ?
Raph: Well, Kliger asked, this
Raph:kliger: Is 2.5-D a feature or a drawback to MP? Or, does the lack ofseparation between agent and camera limit MP to specific content types?
CoryOndrejka: but I'd rather have the choice to turn off streams that are there than not be able to get them
CoryOndrejka: that's a great question, although my biases are clear
Raph: We consider 2.5d a feature, because without that featre, you wouldn't be able to be here via a web embed
Raph: It doesn't mean 2d is the ultimate answer though
Raph: I think you use the right camera, display, etc, for the job
CoryOndrejka: I agree


Raph: There is also the question of user content creation. Most of the web is 2d content
CoryOndrejka: sure, but's its text and 2d because there is a dearth of good 3d and experiential tools
Raph:I don't think it is just that. I think that reading text inside a 3dspace is kind of obnoxious much of the time too. :) Again, right toolfor the job.
Raph: We tend to prefer our text facing us directly ;)
CoryOndrejka: sure, but wasn't suggesting consumption needed to be 3d
Raph: Yes… as you know, I am a fan of even letting the user choose the display of a virtual space
CoryOndrejka: I think we all agree about the problems of reading — or worse, entering — text in 3d :-)
Raph: see this psace in 3d, 2d or plain text, as you choose
CoryOndrejka: "you are sitting in a twisty row of chairs, all alike"
Raph: haha
Raph: As long as there are no nasty little dwarves with sharp knives
Raph peers out at the audience
CoryOndrejka: or so long as they are *your* nasty little swarves
CoryOndrejka: dwarves
Raph: heh
CoryOndrejka: or dwarfs, I suppose
Raph: shall we take another question?
CoryOndrejka: We have a few more minutes. Any other questions?
web207: Is there anything wrong with real life? Besides the obvious like war, disease, famine, rascism, poverty, etc?
CoryOndrejka: that's a big etc
CoryOndrejka: and who says that virtual worlds aren't part of real life, anyway
Raph: I'm not one of those folks that thinks that VWs replace real life
CoryOndrejka: you wouldn't say "don't use the telephone because it isn't natural"
Raph: I'm interested in how they supplement it, enhance it, embrace it
CoryOndrejka: although people said basically that around the turn of the century
CoryOndrejka: I agree, Raph
CoryOndrejka: virtual worlds are another communication mode, which is what makes them so much fun to work on and with and around
Raph: VWs have a great strength which is their "separate placeness"…but at the same time, if they are just isolated bubbles…
CoryOndrejka: *and* why they will only entangle with the web more
Raph: exactly
CoryOndrejka: and the great opportunity is to give this rich interaction both at a distance and locally
Raph: They are more like rooms in a house… you go there for their purpose
Raph: But the house is our lives
CoryOndrejka: I'm not sure I am ready to go quite that deep ;-) but I do think they are another option for how we connect
CoryOndrejka: and how we choose to use the techology around us
Raph: I guess what I was getting at is they should be seen as gathering places, not as isolating bubbles
CoryOndrejka: absolutely!
CoryOndrejka: assumption of loners in basements is wrong and incredibly misleading
CoryOndrejka: Are there any more questions? If not, I want to thank Cory and Raph for taking the time to talk with us today.
CoryOndrejka: of course, since we're talking to an audience that gets that…
CoryOndrejka: Sorry Cory – didn't mean to cut you off
CoryOndrejka: :-)
Raph:I think a big test of VWs is actually the day when the folks in thisaudience have no qualms about asking any of their friends andacquaintances to use one
Raph: I don't think we are there yet, but I think someday we will be
CoryOndrejka: I think we're a lot closer than a decade ago
CoryOndrejka: games in general — and vws in particular — have made enormouse, positive strides
Raph thinks back to our discussions at MUD-Dev conferences years ago… :) W've come a LONG way
CoryOndrejka: exactly
Raph: Seems like a good note on which to end the chat :)
CoryOndrejka: works for me, thank you so much for the invitation to chat!
CoryOndrejka: :)
Raph: Thank you so mch for coming!
CoryOndrejka: anytime
CoryOndrejka: Thanks to you both for taking the time! And thanks Cory, for yoining us
CoryOndrejka: *Joining
Raph: We'll unmoderate the room and let the lively backchannel loose! :)
chooseareality claps
MacZ: woohoo
CoryOndrejka: you are very welcome and thanks to everyone who came to listen
Johndaman: YAY
MacZ: thx for coming
davidorban: Thanks, Cory! :)
Ace: thanks
Johndaman: thanks
gracemcdunnough: Thank you!
Bieeanda: Thanks!
babbage: thanks
CivilE: yay!
s3x4_1zz4 claps
babbage claps
Twomix: yey
superbad: Good show !

One Response to “Metaplace Founder Raph Koster Chats Up Linden Lab Co-Founder Cory Ondrejka”

  1. Prof. Archie Lukas

    Jul 7th, 2009

    I’ve never read such mindless twaddle in all my life, honest Guv’nor.

    Using complex phrases to try and sound intellectual does not reduce the core message that this is just a stream of mindless drivel.

    Proof: the opening bubble-speech in the first image.
    It says nothing, means nothing and no-one understands anything by it.

    Remind us: What chemical were you abusing your brain with?

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