Online Virtual World Revs Up

March 20, 2002 | Source: MSNBC

It’s ten past 6 and you’re late. The two full moons are already peeking above the horizon, drenching the marbled purple landscape in an amber twilight.

The Crystal Pyramid Theater, that you architected and built last week, is just in sight now as you glide over lollipop trees. Above a field of giant cotton balls you glance up at your holographic watch.
(Click image for high-res version)

The Pyramid Theater radiates like a prism atop an Escher-like labyrinth of staircases. Almost there, the parking lot is filled with hovercraft and subterranean vehicles, and a crowd of guests who teleported from across town. Past the granite 6-headed Hydra that guards the front gate, robot ushers take their tickets.

It’s opening night for the Luminescent Laser Light Show, and the whole World is there…
– all of “Linden World”, that is, the online Virtual brainchild of Philip Rosedale.

His 1999 Silicon Valley start-up, Linden Lab, hopes to win over millions of online gaming fans with its “revolutionary form of shared 3-D entertainment.”

As former CTO of RealNetworks, Rosedale pioneered the development of many of today’s streaming media technologies, including RealVideo. He’s banking on Linden Lab’s innovative streaming technology, which allows online players to navigate the virtual world from their desktops.

The virtual environment has an initial 30 second download. Other pluses: users create the world from within. While most gaming environments are pre-fab, Linden World gives players collaborative, real-time, 3D construction tools. The thousands of objects that comprise the world can be moved and customized.

Backer Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus, believes, “People will pay for this kind of entertainment.”

Some gaming developers are critical of the strategy, saying that the gaming community prefers online environments with structure and rules, and a clear path for mastering the game.

The Linden team is pushing for a 2003 launch, concentrating on solving tech problems like reducing the lag time in streaming graphics between computers.