Aug. 31st, 2016

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One score and negative one years ago, I read a book titled Snow Crash, by one Neal Stephenson. Notably, it featured the Street, aka the Metaverse, a virtual environment where diverse characters meet and do unto one another. I was cutting my teeth on LPMuds at the time, and unreasonably fascinated by the Java VM, which led to a terrible idea: I was going to write the Metaverse.

Writing an environment to handle mutually hostile foreign code was briefly fun but left me rather jaded, and I abandoned the project; neither the first nor the last to tilt at that windmill. I have come back to it several times since, generally with the same (lack of) result. 

My most recent attempt started earlier this year, when Amazon released Lumberyard, a 3D game engine. On poking around, I was puzzled to discover licensing restrictions that forbade use of any cloud services with Lumberyard other than AWS. The epiphany came slightly later: "the cloud" really might change everything.

(Disclaimer: I was kinda late to all the cloud hype. I'm still not totally convinced by this whole new-fangled web thing.)

All of my previous ideas for writing the Metaverse revolved around uploading code to some central service that would run it for you. I thought I was being clever by having users upload JVM bytecode, rather than giving them another language to learn. But Cloud services are falling all over themselves to make it as easy as possible for users to write and host their own publicly accessible code. A shared virtual environment can be a thin layer of glue on top of that. That on its own was a pretty exciting idea, but when I tried out a friend's Vive, I was hooked.

I published the first version of an example server (source) and client (binary) a few days ago. It happened to be exactly 25 years since a chap named Tim did the same thing with his little project.

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Miki Habryn

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