While the first high end consumer virtual reality headsets are just beginning to launch, virtual worlds have been around for years. Although they may not be immersive in the sense of VR, they are undeniably complex and engaging, as illustrated in the record-breaking Battle of M-OEE8 which took place in EVE: Online on the same day the Oculus Rift launched.
What are already incredibly complex and intricate virtual worlds are only going to become richer and more potent with the advent of consumer VR headsets.
Some of these virtual worlds—like EVE: Online and Second Life—have real economies, with exchange rates tied to real currencies. For many, that means their property and assets in the virtual world are equally ‘real’ (in the sense that they have real value) to their real world belongings; so too are their relationships and social structures. This leads to many complex behaviors that we see in the real world, including war.
On March 28th, the same day the Oculus Rift launched, a record-breaking battle involving more than five thousands players resulted in more casualties in one day than any other like it. It was the Battle of M-OEE8 and it took place in the constellation 1P-VL2 in the Tribute Region of EVE: Online.
Nothing about EVE: Online requires that players fight one another; the engagement, which was just one battle among a broader war currently unfolding in the game, was entirely player-driven. Thousands of players belonging to vast opposing alliances were compelled to put their own ships and assets on the line (remember, this stuff has real world worth) to ensure victory for their side.
Reddit user ShadowPhynix gives a summary of the broader conflict happening inside EVE: Online:
The largest coalition in the game decided to take a poke at the numerically inferior Low Sec alliances. Instead of crumbling as expected to the superpower, they banded together and pushed them back out of their area of space, taking all of the big coalition’s income in the area as they did.
Once people saw it was possible to beat this super-coalition, most of the player groups in the game decided to band together, with encouragement from the enormously rich ‘I Want Isk’ (IWI) gambling organisation who have grievances with the super-coalition’s component alliances.
Today marked a major victory in taking the strategically important staging system of one of the super-coalition’s player groups which caused that group to flip sides to the attackers.
Whether or not you’re interested in EVE: Online, or even VR in general, the behaviors seen in these sorts of virtual worlds are of anthropological importance. As VR opens the door to virtual worlds for a huge number of new users, these forerunners give us the first glimpse into how many of us are likely to view virtual worlds in the future: as equally complex and important as the real world.