What will cities look like in the Metaverse? No one knows for sure, but we can learn from the fragments of virtual cities that are already being constructed.
Metaverse cities have one big advantage and one big disadvantage. One advantage is that physical laws need not apply in the Metacity – including laws concerning time, space and gravity. Metaverse days can last 2 hours or 100 hours of real time. Characters can transport themselves from one part of the Metaverse to another in seconds, in “real-time”, or over a period of years. But this possibility can also bring a disadvantage: the sense of “urbanity” and the power of the city can get lost. Real-world cities are sometimes awkward, sometimes slow, sometimes smelly, sometimes grand and often riddled with imperfections. Many different versions of a Metaverse city can be created – but it will be rare for people to deliberately design a failed city with imperfections running through it.
Metacities will most likely be represented by a two-by-three field of possibilities. This field consists of two masterplanning principles and three design (architectural) strategies.
The two masterplanning principles are: “real-time” spacetime masterplanning and free-from-real-world spacetime masterplanning. The first tries to emulate the laws of the real world. For example, an avatar walking in the park would require the same amount of time to pass through it as a real human does. In “free-from-real-world spacetime masterplanning” the city has a different spacetime continuum: an avatar can move in seconds from one space to another.
The three design strategies will most likely be: “authentic”, “cartoonish” and “abstract/artistic”. “Authentic” design strategies will aim for a realistic representation of the world. “Cartoonish” design strategies will be simplified, over-the-top, and colorful. “Abstract/artistic” design strategies will create abstract cities and spaces with an artistic flair.
Some Metacities will be new mega-metropolises with their own rules, their own business models and their own designs. On the other hand, some will follow design strategies that seek to emulate the rules of real, physical cities. It will be exciting to see how the process of developing these Metacities unfolds.