Wednesday 14 July 2010

Continuing my travels...

Now I have published everything I wrote for C&M I will set to work to update my Radegast review and tell the story of how MakeAIML became a plugin and a little of how it works.

Stay tuned travelers...

Free Metaverse vs Patented Monopoly

 Here I re-publish a rant I made about people who patent code that should have been contibuted to the Opensim project. I have not included all the comments that were made but the article did cause more then a little bit of a stir and the comments which you can read on  Chapter & Metaverse blog make interesting reading. 

 I have been reading a recent article from Deva Canto, an Opensim dev, on her blog in which she makes a plea to developers who build on top of the Opensim platform not to patent their code or it will hinder the continued development of Opensim. She gives a warning too to those who take the open source code which a dedicated core of developers have been working on for a long time and use it for their own business ends and, while contributing nothing back, actually threaten the prospect of a free Metaverse.

She goes on to say,

one of two things will happen: either (1) what you patent is so important that it will be critically missing from the common infrastructure because of your patent, therefore the infrastructure will never happen; or (2) what you patent can be done in a different way, in which case that other way will make it to the common infrastructure, and your patent-based business will miss the point.

We are seeing a growing number of grids based on Opensim who's developers take full advantage of the freely available source code. The core developers of Opensim have from the beginning had the goal of building the infrastructure of a free Metaverse for the benefit of private, educational and business interests alike. Everyone owns it. It is the virtual air we breath and just like polluters, there are people that would strangle the baby at birth for the sake of personal gain.

The dream is very clear; a Metaverse of immersive interconnected virtual worlds. Not walled-up monopolies like Second Life or the twenty or so other contenders for the virtual market. The aim is to have lots of small and large grids sharing a common resource on which to build a rich and diverse virtual super grid. Users will be able to grid-hop as easy as teleporting from one sim to another. The hope is for Common standards and methods to arise for names registering, search, money and copyright protection. The users will be able to hold their own property and wear it and use it where ever they go. All this is threatened by those who are effectively stealing and damaging what belongs to everyone.

Deva warns,

you won't gain any friends among some of us core developers (me, at least). You're putting the whole effort in jeopardy. I can guarantee you that if something you patent is critical, I won't stop until I find another way of doing it that doesn't step over your patent.

Not withstanding all this however, Opensim enjoys substantial, and growing support, and there are many new grids emerging built by people that heard the message given long ago by Linden Labs; A virtual world built by the residents and for the residents. OpenSim is not a walled garden. It is open and free and it will cost the individual a lot less to build and express their creativity. Those wannabe Grid Barons will only ever make it more restrictive and expensive for everyone and that's the author's opinion.

Role Play Worlds

Here again I re-publish a review I did for RPW on the C&M Blog...

I like to see myself as a hitch hiker travelling in the free Metaverse looking for grids to visit and things to see. Well, I spoke to Rock and we both agreed that I should set off and take a look at some role play worlds since that is the back ground I come from. So I hitched a ride on a passing metabeam and materialized in the world of Gor.

I arrived at the Gor Grid only to find it is now called Role Play Worlds. I landed in the reception region that was apparently still under construction and, with no links available, I resorted to using the map to try to find some life. I teleported to another sim and found it also under construction and at this point I was beginning to feel I might be wasting my time but I am glad I decided to barge in on two avatars way off in the distance because this was going to turn out to be better than my first impressions were having me believe. One of the two ladies I accosted turned out to be a builder busily doing her work, I had come across Breezy Kanto who welcomed me and gave me an LM to the Gor reception building on the same sim. Seems I had chosen the right place quite accidentally since I could have gone to any of the 100+ regions on the grid which, surprisingly, did show more life than you might expect from a large OpenSim grid.

I found myself in a gothic chamber and I followed the circular walls to a door and entered another chamber.  This one had Gorean information notices informing me of the castes I could chose from to begin my role play. There was a free combat meter available too which I was obliged to wear if I intended to continue. The RPX meter controls what happens to you in world, your health and such and in the next chamber I came to I found the walls lined with assorted weaponry that could be taken free and used to interact with the meter. In other words, these weapons could be used to kill or capture me!

Finally, I left the building and found myself in a market offering both freebies and paid items. There was plenty on offer too but I couldn't buy anything of course. I no local currency. I saw some notices though that said you can pay for your goods in Second Life and have them delivered in RPW. When finally, I got to meet the owner I would learn that RPW is laid out as a number of role play worlds as the name states and the world of Gor is the main one. There is a main reception area and another for each world. You will get all the help you need at the receptions as I did and on leaving the reception you are treated to a themed market where you can prepare and clothe your avatar with plenty of freebies.

Now, I confess, I had already been to the Gor grid once before some while back and had skinned up and dressed in freebies so I was respectable which is just as well because the one thing I hate is landing as a Ruthed avatar. I can't find the freebies quick enough. Yeah, I am vain.

Well, I was wandering about pretty aimlessly until I came full circle back to the reception building to find Breezy and the other woman, Tessa Mureaux. I decided to question Breezy about the grid and she called the leader and had him TP in to talk to me. This was Aramil Ewing. one time leader and founder of the Askari Mercenaries in SL Gor. He told me that this all started out as a hobby when he and friends decided to setup their own Opensim grid. They chose to run a role play based on Gor because that is what they all enjoyed in Second Life but in Opensim they felt they could manage it better and more by the book so to speak which loosely means they make rules and laws based on common events found in the Gorean novels - all 27 of them. Aramil explained, "All of us, well the 90% of the users here has been on SL. I was a role play gamer even before I joined SL, when D&D was done in pen and paper, as well a deoria. Our aim is to develop a planned world, thinking of a true MMORPG."

Aramil called me over to a large map of Gor which is taken from the web and most Goreans accept as a true representation of their world. The map was overlaid by a numbered grid and Aramil said, "We choose that one because the names of the cities are on it and kind of more by books. Still there are some SL add-ons like Midgard, but was a good one to start with. Each rectangle you see there is a sim location so we use it as guide to know where and how to terraform and build the sim located in a defined spot.

I replied, asking, "That is a lot of sims. Do you really believe you can create them all?"

"Yes," he answered, "we already have several ones. Of course is something that will not be filled in the short term."

I fired back, "It will take a lot of people to populate such a vast area. Do you think you can get that many people to come here?"

"We have a group there (in SL)," he said, "The Gor Grid, and recently Role Play Worlds, mostly to keep informed the interested users about the progress but the same community spread the word and invite users to RPW."

So, my understanding from the conversation was that there is considerable inter-grid travel between RPW and SL and, while I noticed there were about 14 people actually on the grid at the time of my visit, it was clear that the numbers fluctuate considerably at the moment but there are times the numbers rise sharply so this is due in no small part, I think, to their maintaining strong links and contacts in SL. It also accrued to me that this may well be the pattern for RPG and other gaming ideas, people will maintain strong links with SL while they build their grids. In deed, I can imagine a gradual exodus of Second lifers finding their way to the free Metaverse via role playing connections. Some may chose to grid-hop and play in both worlds while the numbers who stay permanently will depend on how Opensim develops and the advantages to be gained. Certainly, there seemed no lack of enthusiasm on the part of Aramil to create a world that would give the Gorean community, at least, what they might be looking for and not finding in Second Life.

Aramil offered me a tour and with three others in tow we set off and on a walkabout crossing sim borders, climbing hills and visiting camps and outposts. Along the way I asked, "tell me. Are people role playing?"

He answered, "lot of them are building but always there is time for rp."

"Building has taken up much energy..." said Jet Racer, who had been tagging along with us, "but there has certainly been roleplay."

At this point I asked about the slaves, whom Goreans call Kajira, "Do you get many Kajira coming over from SL?"

Aramil laughed and said, "Yes, the major population are Kajira and you can see this by the polls on the web site."

Next we came to a port with a dock and several ships moored up. "Ok, this is another thing in our grid," said Armail in his slightly broken English as he stepped onto the dock. "Some (of these) ships that tp you to exclusive points on mainland like one to the north, the other to the vosk region, the other to the south and from there you need to travel. What we plan is to block intersim teleports once the grid is more filled so in rp you actually need to travel and that encourage rp. People will travel by foot, (fly) tarns and (sail)ships, once vehicles work properly on opensim, etc."

"Will that confuse people first time they arrive?" I asked.

"When people arrive, they will land in a General Welcome Area that is on the build and they will find the info needed there and from there to each world welcome area so before they reach mainland (the rp continent) they will have all the info and tools."

"Try to board the ship." he told me, "and choose mainland in the menu. Each one of them take you to a far away area of the continent. The idea is in time have ships drived by users to transport them along the world."

He turned now and headed off up a path with the rest of us following and after a long trek uphill we arrived at Black Stone town and here Aramil informed me that a major aspect of their RP would involve taking and holding locations such as this one.

Aramil explained, "One feature of rpw are the fight to keep sims. This town is one of them so any group can take over the place and keep it while they are able to defend it. Imagine yourself as a free woman of this town and the admin and the guards are defeated by another group, so you will be now under a new admin, and it is up to you how to rp that scenario. This is the way to encourage more realistic role play."

We set off again and Aramil pointed, saying, "ok if we follow that path. You will cross all the northern lands to the west and will find a path through the forest to the south we going west to the crossroad but to walk the mainland will take a lot (of time) and one thing we are tying to keep is to make the terraform the most natural and realistic possible so we are going down a mountain and you will be actually going down, and you will experience that all grid wide."

We had arrived at Tovaldsland and I was informed this is another sim to keep if you fight for it. Armail then said we can go on to the city of Ar now and to get the picture of Ar in the mind I recalled reading the book, Tarnsman of Gor in which Ar is described as the leading city of Gor and famed for it's many cylindrical towers.

And sure enough I beheld the towering cylinders rising above the city. Breezy proudly explained the amount of work going into the city's construction.

"It covers 9 sims," she said, "It will be most glorious."

I could certainly tell heart and soul were going into this work as I took to the air and flew over the city. I landed on a platform and took a look at the designs on huge post prims. On the ground stood a large model of the city too and I looked around at the city and couldn't help being just a little awe struck.

I loved the city yet I found myself regretting I had not come to the Gor Grid sooner. I would have seen the old city of Ar and the pictures Breezy gave me reminded me of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. It had suspended walkways high up in the mist spanning between the towers and the colours were not so bright. It had the feel of Steam punk, slightly Victorian yet modern and I could imagine the great Tarn war birds flying over and landing on the tower perches.

I have posted more images of old Ar here.

Shortly after I arrived at the arena and was treated to a show of arms by Aramil, Jet and Tessa. This prompted me to ask about their combat meter, the RPX system. Aramil filled me in...

"ok, when we start, we was thinking on use some of the meters that users was used to, so Qapla offer himself to bring it to RPW and develop with us a system we has been working on paper since the beginning. But his schedule is kind of busy, and was delaying us, so we decide to give priority to it and develop it in our own (time). So BlueWall Slade, start to code what we had on plans and create a starting meter, and that is what RPX is atm."

He continued, "now Rpx is not going to be like the meters the users are used on SL, given the fact that we can manipulate the servers and merge it with the platform itself. Lot of things will be managed by the meter, not just combat."

I now asked if they supported the basic idea of a hypergrid with connecting worlds. "aye we do, that's the future of the virtual worlds" he replied, and went on, "We have plans for some Sims to be HG so people can come to rp from any grid they reside. You should see how we are building the continent, so you can have a better idea of the concept we are managing for Gor, and the future worlds. Several good things are on develop and will be release soon, and we know for sure, the community will love it."

Gor in Second Life is noted for it's inter-sim raids, stealing of slaves and trading.  I though how fantastic it would be if there was raiding from one grid to another and I'm sure it will happen because I already know that there are start-up Gorean sims elsewhere across the hypergrid.

At this point I wondered if they might be developing some special features. I was thinking of  RLV which is Retrained Life Viewer used with Open Collar LSL code in SL and the fact there are slaves here I thought about the restraining collar they might wear. so I asked, "Do you plan to promote a particular viewer  with special features. I am thinking perhaps RLV and Open Collar?"

Aramil answered, "Yes Open Collar is on Role play worlds, Tessa can give you more details about it, as she has been with the developer of the collar testing it but so far i can remember, some RLV features work and others still don't. (But)  we recommend the Hippo viewer cause is pretty light, don't have prims size restriction, etc."

Tessa Mureaux explained it all to me, "We're still modifying the scripts to get them all working and for now, we need the girls to put them on here, first in the non-script area, for attachment and adjusting.... then to a full script area to recompile the scripts and sync the database. From there, they can go on about their business as normal.  As we do more upgrades of both sims and servers, the grid itself, and the collars... then it will be a whole lot  simpler. It's matching the right code to the LSL grid for a better sync and  communication. For now, the couple animations in the collars do not work but as most of the owners were primarily wanting the leashing option to work, and some RLV functions, so we went ahead and released this rough version."

I smiled and then decided to ask about Role Play Worlds and I put it to Aramil as almost a challenge, "I see you recently branched out to cover role play in general. Is this because Gor is not working out so well?"

Aramil had no doubts that their Gorean venture would succeed and said, "aye, in fact we start to plan and build the vampire and fantasy world. Mostly cause the environment help us to build it quick but our goal is to manage several themes and build them planned and organized."

"But then the question I have to ask is, with all the work involved running the grid, new releases of OpenSim and trying to manage many themes, will the Gorean part suffer?"

"oh not at all," he insisted. "Our baby is the Gor world."

See Role Play Worlds home page here

Sim Pricing:
  • Slave Sim (3750 prims) =30$ setup fee + 30$ monthly tier
  • Master Sim (15000 prims) = 30$ setup fee + 100$ monthly tier
  • Slave Package (2 slave sims) = 30 $ setup fee + 50$ monthly tier
  • Peasant Package (4 slave sims) = 60$ setup + 90$ monthly tier
  • Homestone Package (1 Master sim + 8 slave sims) = 100$ setup + 300$ monthly tier
  • Merchant Package (2 Master sim + 7 slave sims) = 100$ setup + 350$ monthly tier
As I took my leave I couldn't help feeling a fondness already for these intrepid builders of Gor. I wasn't sure about the other role play worlds they had in mind to create. I figured it was best left to another time when they had got a new theme going but none the less I was convinced they would make the best of Gor. In Second Life Gor is big but fragmented with many Sim owners imposing their own interpretation of the books which is a constant source of dissent and drama. Here in RPW there is but one rule book and one meter and, moreover, the world is laid out according the map of Gor. There is no duplication of Sims either as found in SL. You can rent one of the cities here or, if you can't afford to, then there is nothing to stop you getting together with friends and forming a clan of Panthers, Outlaws or Mercenaries and using your RP  and combat skills to capture and hold a Sim for free. That, in itself is a unique concept.

I really believed in what they are doing and given that Linden Labs have in the past snuffed out this kind of creativity with their erratic pricing policy it was good to see people building like this, and knowing they have the chance to do it better and bigger than can be done in SL.

I was invited back to role play and you know what? I am tempted. I think Aramil and his team are here on the free Metaverse to stay.


Radegast and the A.L.I.C.E. bot

I wrote about the Radegast text chat client for Second Life and Opensim way back at the start of the year and it was pusblished on the Chaper & Metaverse Blog but now I am re-pubishing it here so I can pick up on recent developments I has a small hand in.

Radegast is a light weight text client that can connect to Second Life and Opensim grids. I have tried out a number of these clients but this one grabbed my attention because it is rock solid stable, packed with features quite apart from chat handling, and something extra which has proved to be a very useful tool. It has a plugin for the A.L.I.C.E. bot.

I was able to turn an avatar into an AI bot very easily which I thought might be useful on my Second Life sim as a greeter. More especially I wanted to program my bot to help and inform new arrivals. To this end I have to find the AIML files in the Radegast directory on my hard drive and edit them with what I want my bot to say. AIML script is actually a derivative of XML and is not hard to learn. Basically, I need to edit the definitions in the file's paterns (what the user might say) and templates (how the bot might respond). For example:

{pattern}TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF{/pattern}

I have read elsewhere that people have actually used the bot for other purposes and scripted LSL attachments to control the avatar which will be my next task. I would say the bot could do a lot more and certainly I would use it in my Opensim grid when I eventually set one up (maybe). In practice I found the bot can only respond to a visitor if they use the bot's name but if they IM the bot then it will engage in conversation without the name.

Given that Radegast is a light weight with no view of the 3D world, it certainly has more features than any others of this type I have seen. Here is a list:

  • Chat (local, IM, group, friends conference and voice in version 1.12)
  • Inventory (allows manipulation, deletion of the items, moving them around, sending to other people by dropping item on their profile)
  • Ability to wear/take off clothes and attachments from the inventory
  • Backup of all scripts and notecards from the inventory
  • World map (very fast implementation using Google maps)
  • Object finder - list objects nearby, sort them by distance, name, see details
  • List of all avatars in a region (radar), and those within 300m in nearby regions
  • Movement controls via arrow keys
  • Support for activating gestures from the inventory
  • Avatar appearance - others using 3D client will see you appear correctly, and will not be able to tell that you're using a text client
  • Streaming music

The fact it has a plugins button opens it up to more tools and features. One I suggested on the forums could be an AIML editor so the bot definitions could be worked on directly in the client and tested but I don't expect that to happen anytime soon. I did actually speak to Grant, the creator of MakeAiml, via his forum and he said he was interested in making a plugin and will look into it. MakeAiml can be downloaded from  Radegast can also run the Looking Glass viewer from the tools menu if you download it. The client actually provides the chat and all the other features while Looking Glass renders the 3D world using Orge (see review of Orge elsewhere in this blog). Looking Glass is in alpha state and personally I see no use for it. For me Radegast's strong point is the bot which really doesn't need a full view of the world but it is interesting and yet another example of open source creativity in the free Metaverse community.
Images of Looking Glass with Radegast

Time to re-visit my Blog...

I have been to busy with other projects to post here recently and the writing I have done was actually posted on the Chapter & Metaverse blog. I wrote about Radegast, Role Play Worlds and posted a rant about those who would patent code that should be contributed to the Open Simulator Project. Well. I don't want to neglect this blog too much so I will be re-posting my articles here as well to bring the blog back up to speed.

As it happens I have a lot to say about Radegast since I originally posted about it. I suggested to the creator of MakeAMIL that he might code a plugin for Radegast to allow a user to write their own Bot files. To my delight, this was taken up by Grant at MakeAMIL and with the help of the Radegast developer he did do everything I suggested and it was a fine result. So, I am going to review Radegast and MakeAMIl again as soon as I can.

For now, as I said, I will start to post my set of articles from C&M.

Stay tuned...