[MUD-Dev] Habitat Redux

Mirjam Eladhari mirjam.eladhari at interactiveinstitute.se
Tue Apr 6 13:02:00 CEST 2004


at the MUD Dev Conference about a week ago Randy Farmer and Chip
Morningstar in the end of the first day held a speech with the title
Habitat Redux.

Due to time constraints (we had to leave the conference room and hop
into cars to go for dinner) the speech was kind of cut off.

I'm so curious about what the end of the speech would have been,
since Randy and Chip also proclaimed that this was the last time
they would speak about Habitat.

What was it that you would have said there, in the end?


For those who couldn't make it to the conference, here is a short
summary of Randy's and Chip's talk (excerpt from my notes):


As I perceived it, this session was originally planned to be divided
into three sections,

  1) Lessons of Habitat, from 1990

  2) New lessons from Habitat, from nineties and beginning of this

  3) What now. Due to time constraints, this was the last session of
  the day, we never really got to section 3.

I might have misunderstood though.  Anyway, here is a recap of what
was said.

1990 Randy and Chip presented the paper "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's
Habitat" at The First Annual International Conference on
Cyberspace. It was published in Cyberspace:

  First Steps, Michael Benedikt (ed.), 1990, MIT Press, Cambridge,
  Mass. The paper is available at

Habitat was done 1985 and ran on networked commodore 64
computers. This was ten years before the Palace and ActiveWorlds,
and of course, pre-Internet.

The lessons are in short

    - A multi-user environment is central to the idea of cyberspace.
    - Communications bandwidth is a scarce resource.
    - An object-oriented data representation is essential.
    - The implementation platform is relatively unimportant.
    - Data communications standards are vital.
    - Detailed central planning is impossible; don't even try.
    - You can't trust anyone.
    - Work within the system.
    - Get real.

All this is fleshed out in the paper. New lessons are:

    - You cant tell people anything. (when an idea is new and not
    yet implemented, people will make an interpretation, and
    understand what they would like the idea to be.)
    - Beware the platform (its easy to become obsessed by the
    platform and its tools)
    - Its business (People that invest are not interested in awesome
    stuff, they are interested in money)
    - User generated content is not free (It costs to filter)
    - First movers get slaughtered
    - Program small things, one at a time. (Plans will change
    - Smart people can rationalize anything (and give solutions to
    problems that not yet exist)
    - Compartmentalize (Its lethal to apply boxed single player game
    architecture to MMOGs. Use the best distributed object model you
    can afford. Don't think client/server, think "division of
    labor".  "Threads are evil." "State machines are for ppl who
    doesn't understand programming")
    - You cant trust anyone so you may just as well give away the
    whole source code.

This is as far it got before the time ran out. The final
exclamations I noted was "Stuff changed!" and "It's time to build!"
I oh so much wanted to hear the continuation of this.

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