Intelligibility/Legibility of large-scale virtual environement?

MMORPG players with an architectural spin may wonder about the intelligibility of (large-scale) virtual worlds. This topic has been addresses by Ruth C. Dalton in an article entitled Is Spatial Intelligibility Critical to the Design of Large-scale Virtual Environments? (International Journal of Design Compiuting, Vol4. 2002).

Abstract: This paper discusses the concept of 'intelligibility', a concept usually attributed to the design of real-world environments and suggests how it might be applied to the construction of virtual environments. In order to illustrate this concept, a 3d, online, collaborative environment, AlphaWorld, is analyzed in a manner analogous to spatial analysis techniques applied to cities in the real world. The outcome of this form of spatial analysis is that AlphaWorld appears to be highly 'intelligible' at the small-scale, 'local neighborhood' level, and yet is completely 'unintelligible' at a global level. This paper concludes with a discussion of the relevance of this finding to virtual environment design plus future research applications.

Conclusion: This paper has discussed attempts to understand how we find our way through virtual environments and what factors may contribute to the design of environments that are easily navigable. It continues by discussing a number of applications of ideas from Lynch about how to create virtual environments that have a high degree of 'legibility' It goes on to argue that 'legibility' is not as important as the concept of 'intelligibility' defined by the author as the need for a spatial structure which is easily retrievable/communicable and defined more specifically by Hillier as the relationship between local visual cues and global spatial structures. A 3D, collaborative, online virtual environment was subsequently analyzed in a manner consistent with analyses of the spatial structures of real cities, in order to determine how intelligible its structure. Although at the level of the local neighborhood, this environment appeared to be highly intelligible, overall (and hence by Hillier's definition) it must be considered to be extremely unintelligible; this environment being one which contains no unifying superstructure.

Why do I blog this? I think that this topic seems very intriguing both for level designers and architects