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Habitat is a "multi-player online virtual environment", created by Lucasfilm Games, a division of LucasArts Entertainment Company, in association with Quantum Computer Services, Inc. It was arguably one of the first attempts to create a very large scale commercial multi-user virtual environment in 1985. The system we developed could support a population of thousands of users in a single shared cyberspace. Habitat presented its users with a real-time animated view into an online simulated world in which users could communicate, play games, go on adventures, fall in love, get married, get divorced, start businesses, found religions, wage wars, protest against them, and experiment with self-government.

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 hoped that the next generation of builders of virtual worlds can benefit from our experiences and (especially) from our mistakes.

- From The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat, Chip Morningstar & F. Randall Farmer

Editor's Critique

Over the decades many multi-user virtual technologies have come and gone. The Palace, VNet, Habbo Hotel and others all held interesting design questions and solutions. It's a shame that so many lessons learned are lost on today's developers. The reasons for loss vary: a lack of connection between disciplines (different goals, terms, & people), hyper-publishing of mediocre works in major media outlets (both academic and mainstream), personal hubris (virtual space tends to inflate the ego), blog formatting (They tend to ramble, like I'm starting to do now) ... SO, in closing - within Habitat there's a wonderfully naive mix of Diegetic, Magical, and Conventional 2D interface design.

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