GTA Online: A Blueprint for the Metaverse
Grand Theft Auto Online (GTAO) is basically a simulation of real life where you get to break the rules without consequences, and that makes it the perfect blueprint for creating an engaging VR metaverse.
First, let me state what I don't mean by that. I don't mean that you can simply mod VR support into GTAO, and have a workable product. What I do mean is that if someone created a product from the ground-up for VR, and used GTAO as a model, you'd have the beginnings of something really exciting. Here's why:
If you've read Snow Crash, or watched Westworld, Caprica, or Black Mirror's San Junipero episode, you'll find that fictional metaverses tend to be rooted in reality. When your virtual environment is familiar, you instinctively know a lot of rules without having to be told, like how gravity works. And GTAO is a damn fine simulation of a realistic metropolitan area, and its surrounding environs.
GTAO only supports 30 players on a single server, but with the necessary server infrastructure, the map itself would be big enough to accommodate hundreds of VR players, which would really make it feel like a living city. It's also beautiful. The game has really beautiful day/night cycles, and convincing lighting and weather effects. It's also really diverse. From trailer parks to big city high-rises, from dusty dirt roads to stunning beaches, there's a lot of interesting places to live or visit.
But it's not enough to have a beautifully detailed world; you need things to do in that world. Well, GTAO has a ton. For players who enjoy a bit of sport, you could play a game of tennis, or golf. For those who enjoy things a little more extreme, you could join a race, or go sky-diving. Shooter fans could jump into a PVP match, or do cooperative heist missions with some friends. For social players, you could invite people to come hang out at your apartment, meetup at the strip club, or have a party on your yacht. And if you're bored and not sure what to do, just start shooting up the place and have fun running from the cops for a while.
And when you do these things, you're going to want to look good doing it, right? GTAO is over 3 years old, but still has some really good looking avatars (unless you intentionally make them ugly, that is). AltSpaceVR is a cool social app, but boy do I hate the stupid looking avatars. I want to look like a badass, thank you. Not only does GTAO have good looking characters, its got hundreds (possibly thousands?) of ways to customize your look, so you can always switch it up depending on your mood.
In these ways, I think Rockstar unwittingly created a great blueprint for a VR metaverse. But I have some ideas that would make it even better. People in the VR community would love to have a virtual "home" space they can decorate, hangout with friends, and launch into other applications. Imagine if that virtual space was one of the apartments you can buy in GTAO. Feel like a quiet night with friends? Invite them over and play some card games, or watch Netflix on a virtual screen. Feel like something more exciting? Leave your apartment, and you've got all of Los Santos waiting for you.
It would also be great to give people an outlet for their creativity. Let people virtually design clothing, furniture, car decals, tattoos, gun skins, etc., and put them up for sale in their own virtual store. Let musicians or comedians perform live in bars and clubs that are owned and operated by other players. Really, the possibilities are endless.