In modern times, virtual reality is mostly used for gaming, and it is unlikely that this will ever really change. For the purpose of this section, a Virtual is a program that uses neural peripheral technology to create an immersive environment for the end user. The original concept of cyberpunk saw virtual reality as the keystone of futuristic hacking - avatars of gleaming steel doing battle with geometric forms of light along highways of glowing data - and while modern hacking is mostly about using known exploits to gain access to systems that haven't patched software or hardware vulnerabilities, with very little flash involved, the practice of 'script kiddies' who hack using software they have obtained, and the practice of adding flair to one's tools for one's own amusement, implies that the futuristic hacker may have an equal chance of facing down a wall of green text on a black background, manipulating 2D tools on a modern-like graphical user interface, or slashing through security programs with a blade that runs a crash script on those it touches. In the end, it is up to the gamers what they enjoy most - if they're the type to think too hard about Virtual hacking being unlikely, then they can use Virtuals for simple entertainment and leave the real hacking to those working on less immersive environments. If they want their cyberpunk old-school, they can run flashy programs as bolts of lightning in the digital aether.
That said, let's discuss the various forms of cyberspace - what one might want projected into one's mind.
Basic Text Interface: The most old-school of old-school interfaces, a basic text interface with only one foreground and one background color. Simplest and fastest to produce, but limits the effective amount of information that can be presented at once.
Enhanced Text Interface: An improved interface that allows for color variations in text and background, allowing for better ASCII artwork as well as bringing attention to important details (red text for warnings, for example).
Primitive Graphic Interface: A limited color palette, but better than raw text and capable of generating basic imagery in addition to text. Sophistication may vary from Atari-level to Super Nintendo-level in terms of graphic quality.
Basic Graphic Interface: What would be called basic by any futuristic entity, with graphics matching a modern cell phone in ability to display text, images, and iconography, and minor tactile feedback responses.
Intermediate Graphic Interface: A standard computing interface, such as might be found on a desktop computer. Technically sufficient for most needs, using a Virtual Graphic Interface to interact with Virtual environments.
Advanced Graphic Interface: An advanced computing interface with customizable controls and displays, allowing the end-user to essentially build his own augmented reality extensions to the graphic interface.
Virtual Graphic Interface: This produces a 2D representation of a 3D environment, allowing a user to see what a Virtual looks and sounds like from the outside without having to be immersed into it. However, control over the Virtual avatar is vastly limited or simplified, and tactile feedback is non-existent; thus it is often used within another shell.
Primitive Virtual Interface: Considered an early precursor to the Virtual, this produces a limited Virtual environment with imperfect graphics, sound, minimal tactile feedback and no other sensory output. It is impossible to confuse with reality, although it may still be visually impressive, and typically is included as a failback mode on more modern Virtual interfaces in case of poor connection; it is usually supported by Virtuals for the same reason, although some detailed ones may require 'prims off' to look their best.
Basic Virtual Interface: This interfaces with all of the user's senses to create the illusion of being truly within a Virtual environment, as well as redirecting the user's neural outputs to control the Virtual world instead of the real one. Basic Virtual Interfaces are usually designed for common public consumption and have limits on excessive neural feedback - pain, shock, and discomfort are limited, but so are strong sensitive responses, excesses of pleasure, artificial emotional responses, and the like. Users can further limit these factors through configurable settings. Basic Virtual Interfaces also include a safeguard 'eject' protocol if the user experiences panic reactions; in short, it is possible to scare someone offline.
Immersive Virtual Interface: This interface provides full immersion into a Virtual environment, including full sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. It effectively takes over for the nervous system in informing the brain of what the body is experiencing and what it is like, allowing the user to experience life in a wildly different form (useful when attempting to remotely control vehicles and equipment.) The flip side is that while there are safeguards against overstimulation, as well as assurances that the actual body is kept in a neutral state while the mind experiences the Virtual, Immersives appear real to the end user and as such can create psychological, emotional, or even physiological trauma; likewise a well-programmed Virtual can seem so much like reality that one might find the real world pales in comparison to the joys experienced within.