After attending a talk on SecondLife at the Transmediale festival (Berlin), I ran into Achime there and we got talking on the way home about 3D on the web. we both agreed that SecondLife‘s graphics and performance were well behind commercial games and wondered why this should be. I also didn’t like the way that you have to buy ‘land’ in order to create anything in SecondLife. Its like a new type of internet, but with only one server that controls it all.
A 3D client
The Quake 3 engine source code has been made open source for a long time now. Its a far superior real-time 3D rendering engine to anything the SecondLife people are likely yo come up with any time soon. Perhaps the argument is that the Secondlife client is supposed to provide access for the wider audience. Well, I guess if you adapt one Quake engine you can do them all. The Quake 1 engine is also available for download and use under a GPL licence. Further, one of the speakers at the ‘Designing your Second Life’ discussion had problems on her virtual art opening as she couldn’t move and was forced to stand in one spot for most of it.
Open standard server for all
3D Content authoring tools
One of the other things Quake might contribute to a new 3D web is authoring tools. There are already plenty of them for Quake and army’s of people who know who to use them. If you can write a converter between Quakes own BSP file format and X3D, as you would have to and what the core of this project is about, then you can take advantage of this massive community of 3D content developers that already exist int he gaming community.
The time is right
Why has 3D online become a big question when it didn’t take off in the 90s? Shirky had a few ideas about it at the time. There appear to be a few reasons it the time is right:
- 3D graphics cards were not as standard as they are now. Every Mac has one now and even office PC come with a low-end one these days as they are cheap
- Application was sketch. A classic case of the hammer before the nail. What would you use 3D on the web for. Now that SecondLife has started to take off and MMOG sales are making online gaming one of the biggest uses of online time. In short, people want it.
- Bandwidth is more readily available. 3D models are big and real-time interaction in these environments needs fast relay times of chunky information. This is finally here on an affordable basis.
The reason Netscape was so huge is because it took graphics (images) to a text medium. I think this leap in technology is going to be just as revolutionary as the Netscape 1.0 browser was. If a serious 3D browser emerges which is as good as the Quake3 engine, is free and the server technology is free, then the Willam Gibson vision of the web may finally have arrived.
So this brings us to a few questions about what the nature of a 3D web would be like:
- What would a 3D search engine look like? What would its results look like?
- Would you want to interact with other looking at the same ‘site’ as standard?
- How will/could hyper-linking work
- Since you are designing the web browser from scratch, would you include all the new web ideas like P2P for downlaoding content? Perhaps torrent technology would be the protacol?
- Is space only useful if you are sharing it with others, such as in SecondLife or is this only useful for online communities?