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One of the first large-scale graphical online communities from 1985 to 1990. Coined the term avatar. From The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat (Morningstar and Farmer, 1990)...

The Habitat project proved to be a rich source of insights into the nitty-gritty reality of actually implementing a serious, commercially viable cyberspace environment. Our experiences developing the Habitat system, and managing the virtual world that resulted, offer a number of interesting and important lessons for prospective cyberspace architects. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some of these lessons. We hope that the next generation of builders of virtual worlds can benefit from our experiences and (especially) from our mistakes.

The paper begins with several technical explanations, and later explains many social/community decisions. A couple quotes from the paper:

A multi-user environment is central to the idea of cyberspace.

It is our deep conviction that a definitive characteristic of a cyberspace system is that it represents a multi-user environment. This stems from the fact that what (in our opinion) people seek in such a system is richness, complexity and depth. Nobody knows how to produce an automaton that even approaches the complexity of a real human being, let alone a society. Our approach, then, is not even to attempt this, but instead to use the computational medium to augment the communications channels between real people.


Again and again we found that activities based on often unconscious assumptions about player behavior had completely unexpected outcomes (when they were not simply outright failures). It was clear that we were not in control. The more people we involved in something, the less in control we were. We could influence things, we could set up interesting situations, we could provide opportunities for things to happen, but we could not dictate the outcome. Social engineering is, at best, an inexact science (or, as some wag once said, "in the most carefully constructed experiment under the most carefully controlled conditions, the organism will do whatever it damn well pleases").

See also the [iBiblio archive] of Habitat notes.


Morningstar, C. and Farmer, F. R. (1990) The lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat. In M. Benedikt (ed.) Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Available from http://www.scara.com/~ole/literatur/LessonsOfHabitat.html although Google:lucasfilm+habitat is probably safer.

A typical scene from Habitat, as quoted from (Morningstar and Farmer, 1990):


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