Information for those studying virtual worlds, developing virtual worlds, writing technical papers, thesis and
disertations on virtual worlds. If you are aware of any major virtual world research sources not listed below,
please contact us.
If cite some of the references you find here in a technical paper, please cite this page as well.
The initial virtual worlds were text based. The world and your surroundings
were totally described by text. The first world, called MUD (Muliti User
Dungeon) was created in the late 1970's in England at Essex University.
The game did not really have a dungeon sitting. Zork, a popular single player
Fortran game, has a version called DUNGEN. Roy Trubshaw, the creator of MUD,
was inspired by DUNGEN and wanted to create a similar multiplayer game. He
switched the DUNGEN spelling to DUNGEON, and used it as part of an acronmyn and
named his game MUD (Multi User Dungeon). Early versions of MUD were hosted
on a DEC-10 computer.
By the mid 1980's, several players started building their own versions of
MUD and giving them different names.
None of the early virtual worlds were hosted on personal computers. You had
to get on a network (usually a university network) to access them.
Some popular text based MUDs were AberMUD and TinyMUD.
In 1992, a Neal Stephenson science fiction novel, Snow Crash, widely introduced the
idea of humans acting as avatars interacting with each other in a 3D space that
resembled the real world. He called it the Metaverse.
By the mid 90's, Sceptre of the Goth was running as a PC dial up virtual world.
Each game was hosted on a computer in large city in which its users lived.
AOL, Compuserve, and the Internet significantly increased the number of people with
access to virtual worlds.
Some early graphical virtual worlds were Meridian59, Ultima Online, Kingdom of the
Winds and Everquest (world of Norrath).
A much more extensive history of early virtual worlds is avaialable in the book,
Designing Virtual Worlds, by Richard A. Bartle, one of the early MUD developers.
It was only a matter of time till virtual pets began to populate the new media.
First, some pet based virtual worlds began to popup, most noteably, Neopets.
Then after a while, Ganz introduced the Webkinz model (buy a plush pet in a retail
store that bears a secret code, enter the secret code online to enter the virtual
world with a virtual model of your retail pet). When Webkinz was successful,
others quickly jumped on the model including:
Ty 2.0 Beanie Babies
Russ Berrie's Shinning Stars
Be-Bratz (Bratz dolls)
Rescue Pets (MGA)
BuildABearville (Build a Bear)
Hasbro's Littlest Pet Shop VIPs
SeaPals World from Russ Berrie
World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment) has plush pets with secret codes that can be redeemed for online pets
Freaky Pets (Abandon Interactive Entertainment in conjunction with Halmark)
Neopets added the plush pets to their existing online operation
gogo517.com (Webkinz's plush pet manufacturer, the Haili Group in Zhejiang China, runs their own
site similar to Webkinz in China. Webkinz in Chinese means Net Doll)
Several other sites followed somewhat similar web hybrid/toy models:
Barbie Girls can purchase a special MP3 player, plug it into a PC, then connnect to
BarbieGirls.com to unlock VIP content and wear a sparkly tiara (the same VIP content
is available to others for a monthly fee).
Bella Sara for young horse lovers requires an activation code from Bella Sarah trading cards
in order to register.
Club Penguin lets you purchase a Puffle Plush with a coin in its pouch at various retail
locations. Pull the coin out, enter its "code" in the online game to purchase online items
and recieve online coins.
In a February 2008 press release, Disney announced a new world, Pixie Hollow, that would introduce
"Clickables". Clickables are real jewelry, bracelets, charms, and trinkets with embedded RFID chips
that are readable by a USB device (jewerly box) attached to your computer. Clickables will allow
increased interaction with their virtual world.
In November 2008, Ubisoft announced they would be releasing UbiPetz plush toys with Petz Dogz,
Petz Catz Clan, and Petz Monkeyz for Nintendo DS. A code on the plush pets would unlock exclusive
UbiPetz items. Now (2010) the codes are entered online to get a secret password that allows you
to unlock your virtual pet on your Nintendo DS.
In August 2009, Nanovor (Smith & Tinker) initally require the retail purchase
of a handheld Nanoscope for enhanced play, then switched to a web only version.
In mid 2010, Disney announced a new "World of Cars Online" based on their Pixar film, Cars.
Users enter "race codes" off tickets inside specially marked die cast toy cars purchased from
retailers to create an account or add cars to their existing account.
In early October 2010, Nukotoys announced a virtual world entry based on trading cards, books,
and other toys. The operation is in association with Ology books, Animal Planet, and PBS.
Some Virtual Worlds allow avatars to own virtual pets:
Habbo Hotel launched in 2000 was one of the earliest graphical virtual worlds that allowed
you to outfit your room (hotel room) including having a pet.
The Sims Online launched in late 2002 and allowed ownership of virtual pets. Sims Online
has since closed.
Second Life was launched by Linden Labs in 2003 and allows their "citizens" to have pets.
Pets were also possible in some of the MUDs.
Virtual World and Computer Game Acronyms
As MUDs and other computer games developed, a lot of acronyms emerged. Among them
MMO or MMOG - Massively Multiplayer Online Game
MMORPG - Massively Multi Player Online Role Playing Game
MOO - MUD Object Oriented (text based online virtual reality system with mulitiple
players at the same time)
MUD - Multi-User Dungeon
RPG - Role Playing Game
Databases Containing Several Virtual World Papers
In addition to listing databases below, we also provide a list of search terms you
may helpful in the next section.
Player Created Content
User Created Content
Persistent playing objects (an early term)
MUD Multi User Dungeon
MOO MUD Object Oriented
MMO Massively Multiplayer Online Game
MMOG Massively Multiplayer Online Game
MMORPG Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
RPG Role Playing Game
Snow Crash (book that introduced the Metaverse)
Virtual Pet Virtual World keywords:
virtual dopperganger (tangible double)
web toy hybrids / hybrid web toy
Phrases that may find Virtual World College Design Projects:
Senior Design Project
Capstone Design Project
Senior Engineering Project
Major Virtual World Papers
By now, their are hundreds of papers discussing virtual worlds. A few really stand
out. They are listed below along with some other representative articles:
Virtual Worlds Past, Present, and Future: New Directions in Social Computing. Messinger,
Stroulia, Lyons, Bone, Niu, Smirnov, and Perelgut. Decision Support Systems (an Elsevier Journal).
Vol. 47. (2009) Pgs. 204-228.