Sunday 16 December 2012

Second Life: Upgrade or leave, your call...

The title of this post is a quote from The Tigress's Second Den by Tonya Souther, Firestorm developer who, in a plain talking arrogant tone, tells us where to go if we don't upgrade to the new V3 based viewers when Linden Labs rolls out code for the upcoming server side baking changes which will leave V1 viewers seeing gray avatars or clouds. She dismisses any chance that the V1 viewers can be upgraded and confirms Phoenix definitely won't be upgraded anyway.

For some Second Life folks, the more fanatical and geekish perhaps, this is good news and Toyya has certainly fueled their reaction with her views. However, Siana Gearz, developer of Singularity viewer, is on record saying there is no problem, quote "For Singularity codebase, it just keeps getting simpler, not harder to keep up." and another TPV developer, Latif Khalifa adds, "All of the LL's plans she outlines are correct, but there is nothing stopping developers of Cool VL Viewer or Singularity to adopt those changes. At this point much of their code is V3 anyway so merging in those changes is no more difficult than merging then into Firestorm. V1 viewers will as long as there are people willing to keep them up to date, and not a minute sooner, no matter what protocol changes Linden Lab introduces.". He also said "Tonya comes with a prediction of doom for V1 viewers on regular basis. She's been wrong every single time including this." in comments here form last July.

Personally, I am not a great fan of Firestorm/Phoenix anyway. I have always found these viewers to be bloated and suffer memory problems the longer I have them open. I personally prefer Singularity and Imprudence or, of the V3 based viewers only Teapot is light enough for me. But, it's horses for courses really. What one person wants from a viewer is different from another. I would only say to this that Second Life will never pull in more users with complex viewers like this. I think the current decline of Second Life has as much to do with the increasing viewer complexity as with the excessive costs and the current direction Rod Humble is taking it in. It can't help when a viewer developers tells residents to upgrade or leave either.

Perhaps that's why so many have left and of the 10k+ daily signup's only a tiny fraction stay. Second Life has become a geek's paradise with a bewildering array of complicated viewers the new comers can't understand. Minecraft is far simpler and far more successful so there is something to be said for the lowest common denominator when it comes to getting the masses on board.
Teapot V3 viewer for Opensim worlds which are built on open source with more options and choices, less cost and no over baring corporate dictatorship.

Second Life has proved incapable of serving a mass audience. V1 viewers handled more people in the past than V2/3 viewers do now and there were a lot more happy people willing to pay Linden Lab's high charges. The grid is declining steadily (over 2600 regions so far this year) and the traffic is dropping too. Sadly, the excessive charges, the  geekish attitudes of the Lindens and a very vocal bunch of viewer fanatics is, IMHO, causing the decline of Second Life.

I think the vast majority of residents don't give a hoot for all the tinkering when in the past what they had worked well enough for their needs. It's been a roller coaster ride of upgrades and disruption these past few years for the loyal users to endure and all that is promised is more of the same. And all the stuff people bought in the past is likely to become obsolete into the bargain. However, it is unfortunate that a Tonya Souther takes such a blatant attitude and is so sketchy with the truth because it doesn't instill much confidence the Firestorm team have a strong commitment to Opensim in spite of a commitment they recently made. Other viewer developers, like the Singularity team appear far more committed and that's the good news.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Opensim Virtual. A New Google+ Community

Today I did the unthinkable and set up an Google+ community!

Opensim Virtual
"First there was Second Life then there was Freedom"

Well, I did notice G+ had launched this thing and I was curious as to how it worked. I am already a big Twitter fan but, as cool and useful as Twitter is, those tweets are pretty short. It would be good, I often thought, if they could be expanded into a longer posts. Well, with G+ that is exactly how it works and I can add images too. Okay, so it sits there with a load of other stuff too and stupid G+ bosses have a name fetish issue which must be born out of some primitive instinct thing about recognizing one dinosaur from another. Yeah, yeah, they need to figure out what is the best crappy spam to sling at you where ever ye wander.

However. Yes, well, what use is it and why bother?

Well now, I did think it could be useful to promote my role play game or this blog but then I heard that someone setup a G+ community for Second Life and I was prompted to do similar for Opensim. I had already joined a new working thingy called Grid Cache which, again, is a lot like Twitter and includes file sharing and images but the tweets, if I can call them that, on the Wire don't expand like G+. I also looked at Vanish Firecaster's new messaging system for Opensim Creations, OS Chateau and it is cool, and much like Grid Cache. However, sorry but none have the look and feel of G+. Also, G+ is likely to be a better promotional tool since it can be found by a much wider audience.

Anyway, this is an experiment basically and anyone who enjoys the Opensim Metaverse is welcome to join it and simply post comments and pictures of your sims and creations. Its a party promotion so feel free to make use of it. It costs me nothing and we who enjoy playing around and grid hopping to meet up can do with it what we will.

I added some categories already so if you have new fashion items to show us, post images to Virtual Products or Virtual Fashion. If you have a role play sim to promote then tell us all about it on the Virtual Role Play section. I will add more sections if peeps want them.

So guys, see you on G+ @ Opensim Virtual

Thursday 15 November 2012

Kitely Roll Out New Opensim Asset System

Kitely has rolled out a new cloud-based asset system which promises to offer significantly better performance than the regular OpenSim inventory service. Acording to Kitely the new inventory service provides...

  •     Avatars enter worlds faster, and experience less lag while inside.
  •     Avatars that are already in a world experience less lag when someone else enters    the world.
  •     Opening large inventory folders is much faster.

This sounds like a great advancement because inventory is proving somewhat of a problem on OSgrid which is probably down to the huge storage requirement given they have the most registered avatars and regions. Clearly, Kitely are meeting this problem early on in their development and that is a big plus for using their service.

I think more grids could push their databases to cloud and I always thought how useful it would be if a company like Kitely, or even Second Life, offered cloud based inventory data storage to other grids where Kitely or SL could, in effect, shield content from copy thieves since no grid owner using the service would be able to look at the data and change permissions. A service like that could help to make Hypergrid more secure and instill confidence in more content creators who want to sell stuff in the open Metaverse without the risks. I agree it would probably have to be on offer with a proprietary server package but even that would be worthwhile since the majority of us don't tinker with the server code anyway so never need access to it.

Linden Labs are not likely to do anything like that even though they are well placed both financially and with a huge store of content but I wont say never for I keep hearing rumors.

Kitely, on the other hand, could boost their business by developing a Metavers-wide asset server and proprietary Opensim server in the cloud for distribution where content could flow securely across the whole market. I would certainly be willing to pay for a service like that on top of the cost for a presence on the Kitely grid. I hesitate though to simply accept Kitely as a Metaverse in it's own right for that would be falling back into the kind of monopoly that is Second Life and wannabe's like SpotON3D.

It's food for thought but really any one could set up a cloud MySQL to serve their regions but a mass storage under the management of a reputable company could serve many securely and that is the point.

Monday 29 October 2012

SecondLife & OpenSim Don't Need Client-side Havok Physics!

According to Firestorm TPV developers you don't need the new generation of viewers with client-side Havok physics to access Second Life or OpenSim grids. In comments on an Hypergrid Business post authored by Maria Korolov, a Firestorm team member, Lette Ponnier answered me when I asked why the viewer could not use different modes to switch between Havok and standard configuration in order to keep the grid manager and enable the viewer to be used for OpenSim grids as before. My point was they would not have to develop two viewers as they said they would in order to comply with Linden Lab's new rules on TPV's. Mode switching would simply change the configuration to switch off the Havok code and all neatly wrapped in a single viewer. Lette Ponnier replied, saying...

"The other point I wanted to clarify concerned Gaga's comments here:

    The OpenSim version of Firestorm WILL be able to connect to Second Life. Users will only need to use both if they want to use tools that require Havok while they're in SL. These will include things like pathfinding capabilities and improvements to rigged mesh upload. If they don't need those, then they will be able to install only the OpenSim version of Firestorm and use it to connect to both Second Life and their other grids. Due to Havok's licensing policies, it is not possible to have both Havok and OpenSim accessibility within the same build. Trust me, the team would have MUCH preferred to do it that way. It wouldn't just be easier on users, it would be easier on the entire team.

        Just to be a lil' more accurate, I should have written *full* pathfinding capabilities above. The current and OpenSim versions of Firestorm have most of them, but there are a few that will need Havok, like viewing navmesh.

        - Lette, of the Phoenix Firestorm Project support team."

Gaga visits Firestorm/Phoenix office in OSgrid which was kindly donated by Walter Balazic of Littlefield regions.

So there you have it, the new viewers are meant for handling Havok and therefore the new video games and tools which is a completely new development and has little or nothing to do with the virtual world of Second Life as we have known it. Indeed, it is probable that most residents will never play the games anyway so will never need client-side Havok. The people who will be most interested, of course, will be low budget and garage video game developers who are looking to make money on their creations. Second Life tools are relatively easy to learn and there is a wealth of content to call on for building, props, vehicles and avatar clothing so getting a game from concept to the market wont take a massive team or too long to achieve. But, with Linden Labs promising to list games on the Steam video games site it would appear they intend to allow content, ie. the video games, to be marketed under their own label and downloadable via Steam which begs the question; what will the owners of Steam be getting out of it?

Well, it is clear enough now where Linden Labs is headed and they will be sure to monetize their new tools and probably even rake a percentage off the sales revenue too. Users are already modifying games in Steam using Garry's Mod application and selling their own mockups which yields a whapping 75% for Steam and 25% for the Modder - as they are known. One assumes then the creators of SL video games will gain even less if Linden Lab wants a cut too and Steam still takes their huge rake. Anyway, be that as it may, the real problem for us dedicated to preserving our virtual worlds is how much more damage will be done to Second Life in the process and will they get their new projected revenue stream into the big numbers before they run out of money and SL sales totally collapse. Well, it is a strong possibility for already traffic numbers are falling and sims are closing at the average rate of a 100 a week now so the outlook is not exactly good.

It does all seem rather incredible though that no matter how many people voice their love of Second Life as it is or was and urge Linden Lab to leave it be and just fix the bugs and lag they are intent on surging ahead at any price and taking the old platform with them. One wonders just how much of SL will still be around in two or three years from now or maybe LL are just quietly letting to old cash cow die as they strive to get out of the virtual worlds business and into the lucrative video games market.

Yeah But, Nooo But!

Rod Humble seems relatively unfazed by the decline of Second Life and recently hinted at something big for their virtual worlds on the horizon so are we looking at a case of great expectations or a smoke screen to reassure those residents thinking of packing their bags? Well, perhaps it's not a smoke screen for I have heard a few things on the grape vine that intrigue me. Rod has made a few noises about "investing in virtual worlds" which has lead to some loose speculation that he could be planning a new pricing model possibly using cloud technology and there was mention of expanded regions which has to be borrowed from Opensim and AuroraSim. Anyway, the jury is still out I guess but whatever Rod does he had better get a move on and do something to stop the increasing rate of decline for the gate has been left open and the sheep are already bolting!

Humble's Bundle

Others have already blogged heavily about the new video games from LL but for the sake of readers that don't know anything about them I will wiz briefly through them. Yes! the good news is that Rod Humble has finally started to show us what he has been keeping up his sleeve since he joined Linden Lab and that includes three new "Virtual Spaces" games (as Rod choose to call his new brand of Metaverse) including a Minecraft clone with physics no less and some kind of authoring game. The titles are Paterns which is the Minecraft look-alike and is in early development. Next up is Creatorverse, which is destined to release on iPad. This one is a 2D sandbox game in which players create shapes that are brought to life with physics. The idea behind Creatoverse is that whatever you make, mazes, puzzles, etc, can be uploaded to a cloud and downloaded by others to edited or play as they are found. Third up is Dio, which is a room creator where players can construct an adventure or develop an interactive wedding album perhaps. Finally, there is Versu which has been developed by the LittleTextPeople studio that was bought up by Linden Lab earlier this year. Interactive fiction author, Emily Short and The Sims AI designer, Richard Evans are the people behind Versu which is basically a set of storytelling tools where players assign motivations to characters. These characters then respond to players actions. If murder mystery, tales of romance and dating games are your cup of tea then this will surely be one for you.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Second Life the Video Game According to Iron Man, Rodvik

They say that even a brick will fly if it moves fast enough and the same might be said of Minecraft's meteoric rise given the way their blocky graphics have caught on with a younger generation brought up playing with Lego. Minecraft came long after Second Life and quickly overtook it in the traffic stakes which can't have gone un-noticed by the Linden Lab bosses who have been struggling for a long time with customer retention issues. Second Life attracts in excess of 10,000 signup's a day, so I have read, but has proved incapable of keeping any more than a fraction of them. If that wasn't bad enough we are now witnessing a steady drop in regions too and that has serious financial consequences when the major part of the Lab's cash flow is from hosting. But, whatever, the Lab has a savour!

The Steam video gaming community web site
Enter Rodvik Humble who came from Electronic Arts where he was vice president and led the EA Play label. I am calling Rod the Savour but others are more inclined to call him the Grim Reaper or the Iron Man sent to see that the dismantling of the virtual trappings of Second Life are handsomely replaced by the functionality of video gaming. However, I would say, on the whole, Rod got a fairly good, if guarded, reception from the Second Life community when he arrived and the hope was he would get stuff fixed and the horrible lag reduced if nothing else but, while there were some improvements amid continuing disruption to the service, it gradually began to dawn on the community that something else was afoot that would amount to a big departure from the traditional focus of Second Life, which is basically a social, economic and role playing culture with no specific aims or goals other than what might be in the mind of the user. The change has come gradually starting with Mesh and some simple quest games on the new Linden Realms. Then came their faltering attempts to roll out Pathfinder tools, and now they announce the Lab's intention to get listed on Steam, albeit very quietly.

Yes, it's full Steam ahead actually but you wouldn't think it for the low key way in which it was announced. Linden Lab's still worries about negative reaction I suppose but they can't gloss over the plan any longer and, in my humble opinion, it seems rather cowardly and rather unfair on paying customers to not be open and clear about things that might effect the many businesses and interests that have been encouraged to build in Second Life at considerable expense to the users over the years.

With hindsight it's not really that surprising though given Rod's background and expertise in video gaming that there is now a clear intent to break into that market especially as it commands tens of millions of potential customers. This was always the problem and it is clear to me that Rosedale had made the decision to break out of the virtual world's recruitment dilemma a long time ago. Even before he rather ungraciously belittled his customers and called them  "broken" people he had sacked a full third of the Second Life work force and dumped one of Mark Kingdom's acquisitions, Avatars United. Three weeks after that Mark resigned and Rosedale took over. He went on to close the teen grid and stop education discounts which some saw as a bid to make SL more profitable for investors - I remember at the time speculation was rife that Linden Labs was being prepared to be sold off. It wasn't of course but at that time no one had any idea what was coming and, on the face of it, things looked much the same. That is, more blunders and U-turns and apparent bewilderment all round following Mark Kingdom's departure.

It can't be denied though that Mark Kingdom failed to do anything that might help maintain the growth the grid had experienced in 2006-7 while the mainstream media were fascinated by Second Life. The news stories usually dwelt on clever young people making money by creating content which attracted many more who might have stumbled at the gate in confusion had they not bought into the vision (Your World, Your Imagination) and saw the potential. Making money was at the heart of the system and a powerful incentive to explore the platform, read stuff and learn how it works. Video gamers, on the other hand, don't generally have any interest in the inner workings of the environment in which they play other than what type of game it is and what the means are to achieve the game's end goal. They hear about a game from their friends or see it promoted on the Steam web site perhaps and with little ado they want in and will spend a little money while it holds their attention. First impressions count a lot and the first impression a video gamer gets of Second Life is, like, what the f*** is this all about?

Video gamers want challenges and goals and are seduced by impressive graphics. Virtual worlds citizens want challenges too but they also want experiences which play on and fire their imagination. Video gamers will move from one game to the next most readily when they complete the levels and achieve it's end goal while virtual citizens will more likely settle into an open ended experience like role playing. Virtual citizens tend on the whole to be very creative as well and many will try to run businesses or none-profit arts and entertainment venues. Education too has been shown to make good use of virtual worlds but Linden Labs has obviously sacrificed that market in favor of gamers they want to court by cutting the discounts. However, it would be wrong to say video gamers wont spend time in virtual worlds at all or that virtual citizens wont play video games ever but not the teaming millions which is what Linden Labs has their sight's on. Bringing in Rodvik Humble to master mind this change of focus might seem a smart move and potentially profitable for Linden Labs in the long term but it could back fire badly because it's uncharted territory really. When did a virtual world platform ever become a video gaming platform before? Mores the point, how do you marry two markedly different cultures unless the intention is to gently let one die off in favor of the newer, and hopefully more profitable one?

Here is where the Grim Reaper jib comes in. I read some time ago that Rodvik Humble had a reputation at EA for being the tough guy and was involved in putting the "Sims" game to rest. This was recently brought up in a post by WADE1 jyr in a SL Forum post and picked up by Darrius Gothly who posted in a blog article, I’m Quite Frankly Befuddled And Wrong...

Rod’s involvement in the Sims at Electronic Arts was as the 'End Game Manager' (Darrius' words), carefully shepherding the very popular title into the history books.

Darrius was blogging about the recent closure of SL Jira for bug reporting which he feels is a mistake and, in fact, all part of Rodvik's grand plan. Closing Jira where residents not only reported bugs - many of which have been on it for years with no resolution in sight - but also tended to rant about the problems. Darrius felt it's value, despite the rants, indeed, because of the ranting, actually served as a gauge for the importance that should be attached to any particular issue by Linden Labs. I agree and would also mention another recent decision to order TPV developers to remove the grid manager from the viewers ostensibly for Havok licensing reasons but dose all seem rather obvious Rod is attempting to blot out all connection with Opensim and as far as the SL Jira is concerned one would imagine he don't want all that ranting seen by the Steam community.

Drone Wars. a Second Life 1st person shooter video game by Sergio Delacruz

Getting back to Mark Kingdom's tenure as CEO of Linden Labs, Mark's focus was to tap into the Facebook millions by dressing up Second Life more as a social network platform, on-line profiles and all that stuff. It was hoped no doubt it might present a more acceptable face to the Facebook minions but it didn't actually go down that well with the Second Life community and got slatted really quite badly. I believe now that Mark had some very good ideas and, while I didn't think the Facebook focus was very smart and I would find it hard to forgive him for the Open Spaces fiasco, I would have to say I supported the release of the viewer code into the open source community which lead to the development of Open Simulator. Mark Kingdom presided over other important ideas as well. In fact, there was a time back when Mark was in charge that they employed people that were actively pursuing interoperability and the ideas we now associate with an open Metaverse. In particular Hypergrid travel grew out of those early attempts to enable teleports between Second Life and an Opensim grid. How this would have benefited Second Life is not clear but if they had made a proprietary version of Second Life server available for sale or on subscription where content was controlled by Linden Labs on central asset servers then SL would have been at the center of the open Metaverse today and probably much more loved than it is. They probably would have kept on growing too.

Well, that is all so much water under the bridge now and the vision of people like Mark Kingdom was taken up by Opensim supporters anyway. The Open Metaverse exist today or, at least, Opensim is the only platform offering the nearest thing to a Metaverse of independent grids and standalone worlds where they may all connect via Hypergrid travel and move content from one place to another. Rod's drive to turn Second Life into a video gamer's platform could well be the straw that broke the camel's back and lead to more SL citizens deciding to cross the divide and explore what Opensim grids have to offer. The fact is they wont be disappointed if they arrive with an open mind and don't worry over the apparent lack of traffic. Much of the Metaverse is by it's very nature hidden anyway. There are some 200 grids with over 100 of them Hypergrid enabled and presently the viewers don't make it easy to find them. We think there may well be more grids and certainly there are education grids behind firewall's and not allowing general public access. The kids though are learning Opensim fast due to that exposure. For ex-Second Lifers Opensim has a huge amount to offer and there is no Linden TOS or video game moguls pushing the video gaming envelope. In deed, there just aren't any mega corp's involved at the world level even if companies like IBM and Intel have contributed server code.

For Second Life role players the Opensim platform can easily match what SL is capable of and do it on a bigger scale at a fraction of the price. RPG's like Gor would easily fit into an Opensim world where enterprising leaders and Ubars could easily set up their own Hypergrid city state as part of the world of Gor. Hypergrid travel makes it easy to travel the Metaverse in search of other Gorean grids and standalones to raid. This would apply equally to many other game themes currently suffering the high cost and the lag of SL. Yes, there is traffic in SL but once a few Gorean or other role play sims establish regions in the open Metaverse more will follow and, anyway, what's to stop anyone expanding into Opensim while keeping regions in SL. This is what I have done and it is giving me time to make themed content and learn all I need to know for the future.

In any event if Rodvik has his way, and he surly will, the regulars of Second Life are going to have to live with an influx of young people who are first and foremost video gamers and probably wont know much about the culture of the existing community or their conventions and tastes. Mores the point they probably wont be adding much to the culture of SL and few will be role players in the sense we know it (the In Character descriptive word and para). I mean, God knows there has always been tension in role play circles when people fail to play by the rules - both the written sim rules and the un-written rules that players generally adhere to. Young video gamers wont buy all that. We have seen it already! Maybe, though, the video gamers wont show too much interest in the rest of Second Life after all although I'm sure some will out of curiosity if nothing else. When they do explore one wonders how they will behave and, in deed, what their expectations will be. I'm pretty sure there will be an increase in tensions and the established citizens might well see any foolishness on their part as griefing.

A lot will depend on the video games being developed with SL tools. I have seen a Doom first person shooter clone which is ok but definitely old school. The lab will undoubtedly develop more games of their own anyway and they have a wealth of royalty free content to work with (The TOS has been changed to read that way. Surprise, surprise!). It could be the Lab is either hoping some individuals will create the next super game on the lines of Sim City or even World of Warcraft mayhem right inside the Second Life grid which then raises the specter of Gold Farming Sweatshops coming to SL. Gold Farming is big business in the video gaming world with actual businesses set up to exploit workers in third worlds countries who spend hours on end gold farming or power leveling avatars for Western clients. It's a business netting hundreds of millions of dollars annually and possibly in the billions world-wide. However, game sweatshops can seriously affect a game's economy by causing inflation and Second Life's economy would almost certainly be highly vulnerable and the virtual experience would surly degrade for everyone.

Rodvik Humble and the Linden Lab directors are taking a huge risk that may pay off but it could go the other way too and be the death of the company. For the past nine years a lot of people have put their heart, soul and money into Second Life and, while the investors would loose money on such a failure, the residents who made the content and did all the creative work will loose a big part of their lives not to mention many small businesses and the community that has grown up around the company. Whatever happens to Second Life I, personally, am not prepared to leave all my eggs in one basket given the huge risks being taken so I am grateful to the developers of Opensim helping us build something far bigger and far stronger than any one company can make. The open Metaverse is our life boat and, as far as I am concerned, the future for virtual worlds.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

3Di Launch Cloud Based Unity for Web Pages

3Di, the Tokyo based company that has been developing solutions to place virtual world's spaces on web pages has launched a paid cloud service that promises to make it easy even for none-programmers to set it up for commercial or private use.

Presently, anyone can get an html code snippet and paste it to a web page that gives immediate access to 3Di's own world known as Teddy town but now customers can download the 3Di web kit (30 day trial valid until September 30th 2012) and make ready their own 3D rooms for the web. Charges announced in the last few days are a personal use version at 1year advance payment of 9,800 yen (about 817 yen/month) and a professional commercial version at 3 months advance payment of 29,800 yen (approximately 9,934 yen/month).

See an example of the working application on the Resources link of this blog.

Click here

Previously the company had worked on version that used Opensim for back end but the results proved unsatisfactory and they switched to using Unity 3D. Unlike Opensim or Second Life the Unity server doesn't offer in-world tools for creating content and requires templates and avatar files developed in 3D modeling software that supports export of FBX or COLLADA files. Unity is a Mesh based world but 3Di has gone to great pains to make it as easy as possible to use. None the less, while they handle the server end in cloud technology there is still a steep learning curve to develop the Mesh models so customizing one's own world is not as easy as getting the world online.

However, according to 3Di they will be providing some basic templates and avatars to get a world up and running quickly. The api kit is aimed at content creators and has been developed as an extension module on top of the multi-platform 3D game development environment Unity. It supports smartphone platforms such as Android and iPhone. The development kit focuses on ease of use through simple drag-and-drop of sample scripts. With some programming experience you can do much more.

For some time now virtual world's owners have expressed a desire to have a browser based window into their world to make it easy for casual visitors to look round without commitment or a heavy download. Having a 1st Look option is thought might encourage people from the web to eventually download a viewer in order to do more. Ideally thought, the Opensim owners wanted a portal to an Opensim world directly and a solution for that was developed some years ago by In Duality which still requires a download and launches a viewer in a web page. This solution was placed in the open source community after In Duality failed to find a market for it at the time but it is not considered ideal anyway even though it dose still enable in-world building tools. However, the In Duality version has now been re-developed by SpotON3D who have taken a patent on their code so no one can use it without a licence from them.

Another company, Tipodean, worked on a browser based Unity solution to view Opensim in a web page some time ago but gave up on it after running into problems similar to the problems 3Di had. Tipodean offers a service now to do conversions of Opensim regions. They can create templates for Unity if you can't do it yourself. A lot still has to be done to get your own unique world up and running using Unity but 3Di have at least taken some of the work out of it with the web Kit.

Another web portal that requires no plugin, Cloud Party is the latest solution that is gaining considerable interest from Second Life residents. The  application is also browser based and uses webGL which presently only works in Chrome and Firefox.  However the Cloud Party developers are updating and launching new features very quickly with an eye on capturing as much of the browser based and smart phone market as they can before more solutions become available. They have now launched their own market place and they have token coinage.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Linden Labs At War With Opensim!

You will forgive me for opening this post with a little dramatics, the rebel flag and all, but read on and you will see why. Linden Labs has been firing shots at Opensim for some while now and I don't just mean a war of words here. The Lab is taking an aggressive stance with direct action now where, in the past, they seemed not to care too much. They were big enough to ignore the upstart. But the story has taken a new dark twist and the knives appear to be out and pointing.

For many month's now we have been witnessing the steady decline of Second Life losing up to a 100 or more regions a week. Linden Labs has lost close to 2000 sims since the start of last year and that represents an awful lot of money in tier payments. In an interview with Botgirl Questi, Zombie Linden agreed that last spring Linden Lab said they were going to cut off access to emerging SL features unless third party viewer developers stopped linking SL customers up with Opensim grids. In the interview Zombie Linden complained, "It didn't make sense to give technology weapons to the 'rebel' grids they could use against us." He went on, "Business is war isn't it?"

Botgirl's Identity Circus: Interview with Zombie Linden on loginURI Controversy

Botgirl reminded Zombie Linden that the Lab use to encourage open standards and wanted other grids to do the same. In deed, Linden Lab was fully engaged at one time under the direction of Mark Kingdom in developing the original inter grid teleporting between SL and Opensim. Hypergrid teleports and the notion of an interconnected open Metaverse grew out of those experiments. However, the Lab has clearly run up a flag of war now, and using language to match. The Opensim grids are Rebels they declare - all 200 of them, or 200 at least known to exist at this time. And growing! Business is war in their words and they are at war with the open Metaverse!

Zombie Linden went on to say the Second Life community is dysfunctional and thrives on drama which, when Botgirl put it to him the Lab would rather stir up drama than worry about releasing new features and fixing bugs, he didn't deny it. In fact he had already said rather cynically, "The more drama we create the more time and money people spend on the grid." He even dismissed Linden Realms as a lame feature!

Opensim Reaction

Reading the log of OSgrid's resident Town Hall Meeting the LoginURI controversy was a hot topic with many points of view being aired. Basically, given the Lab's decision the main issue was what would happen with the viewers and would some developers toe the line and turn their back on Opensim. Firestorm/Phoenix developers have already stated they aim to produce two viewers - one for Opensim and one for Second Life but no one yet knows how rigidly Linden Labs will enforce their policy. It could be the TPV (third Party developers) have to chose which viewer to work on with no option to work on both, even separately.

The issue is, of course, the grid manager and the Labs changes they aim to make in the viewer code to enable client-side Havoc physics. But clearly, that is only part of the argument. Linden Labs want to curb Opensim development because they are losing out to it more and more. Before, while the Opensim server code was still unstable and buggy, the Lab didn't care too much but the platform is far more stable now and easily starting to rival Second Life. Declining traffic to the Second Life grid and the huge loss of sims is taking it toll. The Lab has run out of patience and the directors want action. That clearly comes over in the Botgirl/Zombie interview.

The Second Life grid has been changing too as it declines. A full 12% of the regions are dedicated to Adult content and this includes gambling, a fact probably not gone unnoticed by parents and teachers for Linden Labs, in a change of policy last year closed their Teen grid and allowed children onto the main grid - albeit under supervision. But, kids being Kids and computer savvy they quickly get round restrictions and the age verification process was found to be a total farce anyway.

Linden Labs is obviously pointing a finger at Opensim grids stealing their customers while they should be looking closer to home for all their bad decisions, contempt for their residents, and a shockingly expensive and poor,  service.

Opensim is growing while Second Life is declining and perhaps the single greatest reason is the low cost of Opensim hosting. But there is more, anyone can use the open source software and set up a virtual world for school, business or just a private home, role play game or small club hangouts. Linden Labs could have opened some doors to Opensim people and fostered cross-grid cooperation and mutual support. The Lab could have been at the heart of the open Metaverse but instead it chooses war with it in pursuit of profit. Trouble is, not everyone in the Open Metaverse is bent on commercial interest and the Lab is not up against just another rival company. They are up against many companies and many educational institutions as well as a whole bunch of individuals getting on with their private  and affordable interests.

Dose Linden Labs really want to go to war with people, many of whom are actually still their customers?

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Reaction Grid Out. Opensim HG2 & WebGL on Horizon!

Heritage Key on iPad
Reaction Grid has decided to go all out for their Unity3D web platform just when webGL is making it's debut going one better for it needs no plugin as Unity dose and it could stream Opensim regions right into a web page as demonstrated by Cloud Party without the conversation that is needed to put a region in Unity.

I'm not surprised though that Reaction Grid decided to abandon Opensim in favor of their Unity-based Jibe platform because it must be a lot of work maintaining two platforms, doing all the conversations and if the CEO has his heart in one and not the other then this is to be expected. RG has not been upgrading and keeping up with Opensim anyway so it was almost certainly going to happen eventually.

Gaga visiting the British Museum in Heritage Key grid during last year

Last year we saw Heritage key go the same way after putting more and more effort into Mesh for Unity. Originally, Heritage Key ( formerly the Rezable Greenies when they left Second Life) used Unity to put a showcase platform in a web page to draw visitor's attention to their Opensim grid which amounted to a living History Museum. I found HK after visiting their web site where I registered. I remember at the time though I still had to install the unity plugin.

Heritage Key was a pretty good virtual place with many exhibits ranging from Stonehenge to the Terra cotta Army of ancient China. I can't help thinking if they had stuck with Opensim then NPC bots could have been adapted to add even more life to their living exhibits.

The way in which HG set out to use Unity remains a valid objective for Opensim users regardless and the SpotON3D application - an invention taken from the open source and patented much to the disgust of the wider Opensim community (see this) - that streams a background viewer in a web page dose a similar job although you still have to have the SO3D viewer and application downloaded and installed. Ideally this is not the best way to do things though since there is a heavy download initially which, of course, is the put-off to mass adoption. The objective was always to have a basic first look at an Opensim world in a web page with no more than a light plugin application or, better still, nothing to download at all.

SpotON3D Opensim forked clone on a web page

Recently, we have seen the all new Cloud Party utilizing webGL to open a viewer in a web page. The speed with which it has been developed holds out the promise others will develop a similar webGL application for Opensim although webGL is still only supported by Firefox, Google Chrome, etc. Internet Explorer doesn't support it because Microsoft has stated the application is not secure enough yet.

There has been a call to crowd fund the development of a webGL application published on Hypergrid Business which, if anything comes of it, should encourage interested developers to  give it a go. I, personally, would certainly be willing in contributing money but, anyway,  Ludocraft, the developers of RealXtend - who have considerable experience of Opensim - has included a web application in their RealXtend/Tundra Road Map 2012/13 which aims to put work into the project this fall. Here is a quote from it... 

Bring Tundra to web via a NPAPI plugin - June-September 2012, 1-2 man months Compared to alternative ways to target the web, the NPAPI plugin route is relatively easy and feasible to implement. Some limitations have been identified (due to Qt and Ogre), but the code can be adapted to take these into account.

Their aim is to support their own flavor of Opensim of course which is the RealXstend platform and they are also aiming at the smart phone market but it remains to be seen if their work can be adapted for Opensim in general or even if they will do the work needed. Certainly, webGL dose hold out a lot of promise and there is a good chance that Opensim regions will make an appearance in a web page before too long and when it does I am confident it will boost traffic to the Opensim Metaverse.

Second Life look-alike, Cloud Party webGL viewer

Ideally, I think a webGL application need not be too heavy and I see no need for building tools or the many, many features available in a full viewer. It really doesn't need to offer anything more than the ability to render the scene reasonably well, allow avatar movement and a chat window - perhaps some limited view of a choice of complete outfit changes to view and wear all with a click. A decent AO built in for either gender goes without saying but the visitor should not have to learn too much. We want them to see the world and interact with it and even Hypergrid Teleport around. Once they are familiar and sufficiently immersed they will get a viewer to be able to do more and, in deed, use the grid search function to find more grids to visit. This is my vision how it should all work.

Hypergrid 2

Back in April, Diva Canto (Christa Lopes), joint developer of Hypergrid with Melanie Thielker of Avination Grid, said she expected to be releasing HG2 by the end of the summer so this month of August could be it. It's going to be an interesting experience and I for one am mightily curious how it is going to work.

What we are expecting, apart from a more secure inventory structure, is for content creators to be given the choice whether the content they make, give away or sell can leave their grid or not. Once objects are allowed to leave a grid then their is a high chance they will be copied and possibly redistributed or even sold in breach of the creator's copyright. However, with HG2 putting the decision in the hands of the creator rather than leaving it to a blanket decision for the whole grid dose offer a much more flexible system.

People who distribute Freebies like Linda Kellie who is willing to give her stuff away with no copyright restrictions at all can allow stuff to leave the grid. Other content makers and vendors can disallow it which has the effect of making all grids semi-walled gardens. However, how vendors choose to do business will be the acid test of the system really. Some may offer to deliver goods to other grids they trust while restricting the immediate sale to the home grid in which it was sold. The vendor will have to make it clear what they are prepared to do at point of sale which will probably mean offering some sort of list of grids they will supply too. This is not unlike Total Avatar Shop really as Sunny Whitfield, the owner, is willing to supply on many grids if you buy from her web site and, as far as I know, this has worked out fine.

Vendors might have to work a little harder in Opensim but at least the security will be improved and more options available and that will help build the Opensim Metaverse a lot quicker as new content makers come over to take advantage of this expanding market.

Saturday 30 June 2012

Opensim Can Do Anything That Minecraft Can Do

Presently, the only real money being made out of Opensim is by those who host regions for other people. These are either fully fledged grids with community and economy that lease land to be bought and sold within the confines of their respective virtual environments, or basic server companies who will host full grids on behalf of their customers or host standalones and regions connected to open grids like OSgrid. There is no serious money being made by content sellers yet or from in-world services and uploads. In deed, some grids like Inworldz don't charge for uploads anyway. So, the thing is if money can only be made from hosting, how will Opensim break out of the wilderness of vast tracts of virtual land that is well enough built but is also very empty?

The owners of Inworldz have done a lot of work to build community over the past few years and, while it has grown to be the largest and most populated individual grid on the open Metaverse, it can hardly be sighted as an example of meteoric growth. In the same time that Inworldz has existed Minecraft has grown to in excess of 33 million registered users and that includes some 7.5 million since the start of the 2012 alone. Both worlds can be described as open-ended build, share and connect with friends type platforms and when comparing their graphics, well, there really is nothing in it! Minecraft is out of the 8-bit world of NES for blocky graphics while Inworldz is as good as state of the art. Minecraft is old school while Opensim is up to date. And yet Minecraft pulls in the gamers like tomorrow is the end of the world!
I know, the graphics are awful but the kids love Minecraft and perhaps it's not the graphics they love but the game play itself. There is a whole bunch of monsters to kill and they give you things when defeated. Spiders give you string to make bows and Zombies will drop feathers that can be used in arrow making. With 33 million users it must have some pretty powerful magic!

Minecraft has got something that is not particularly special or that unique but it works. It works to such an extent that the owners, Mojang are now rolling in money. The blocky graphics have even worked in their favour to secure a deal with LEGO. So what is it with Opensim worlds that they can't pull in more users quickly even though Second Life is flat-lining?

I am sure brighter people than I can offer better answers to these question than I can but I am just looking at the way it is and wondering how an Opensim world could steal some of Minecraft's magic. I mean, what is that something that is not particularly special that works for Minecraft and can it be made to work in an Opensim world?

Actually, the more I look at it the more I realize it has all been done before in Second Life. In fact, I did very similar when I scripted the Barbary coast combat meter. Minecraft has several modes of play but Survival is the mode that best highlights it's specialness - if you can call it that. In Survival mode you enter a random world and you own nothing but you can wonder around gathering resources including food, materials and tools with which to construct a house for example or even a small fortress. Creating the stuff you need is the most important thing to do in Minecraft and you do this by basically converting the resources you find to the items you need. How it is done is explained on the various forums and Wiki pages. It's not very well explained actually and takes a lot of effort to learn everything. There are a lot of recipes and items you work with in the game and it can be quite intimidating and time consuming to learn yet people dedicate countless hours to it.

Here, Air Buccaneers from LudoCraft on Unity3D
demonstrates exciting game play in a Steampunk
inspired world with all the action of battling air ships.
Imagine the fun of finding the meterials to build
such an ship then using it to dominate the skies

Minecraft dose actually have quite a steep learning curve but once you gain mastery over the system there is a great sense of fulfillment and it's all very addictive anyway. It gets mildly scary too when night falls and the monsters come out to play! This is when all that work gathering and learning to make stuff pays off. You need simple things like a torch to light your way and a sword to kill the monsters with. Indeed, you are by and large the master of your fate by what you can make.

Opensim worlds are rich in features that can simulate pretty much anything that Minecraft dose except perhaps mining down through the blocky landscape. Opensim has NPC bots now and they are getting quite sophisticated in what they can be programmed to do so what is to stop a nifty script that turns a bot into a monster? An NPC can be given purpose just like monsters in Minecraft which can be found inhabiting deep dark mines where the most precious resources are to be found. Surely this can be done in an Opensim world one way or another. Why not?

You just need a combat meter that enables certain functions related to the game system you want to make. Your NPC monsters need to suffer damage from your sword and your character needs to suffer damage from the horrid actions of the monsters. Moreover, you need to gather food resources that can be eaten or converted into consumables to maintain your avatar's health. You should be able to grow food or hunt meat and net fish. It should also be possible to fight other avatars and even capture them too. It should even be possible to force a captive to work in a mine or in fields getting resources for you.

The drawback with Opensim is that if you run your sim on, say, OSgrid where content can easily be copied at present then the combat meter is wide open to hacking and cheating which rather undermines the game experience. In a closed world like one of the commercial grids this is not a problem but if you are like me and would prefer to be connected with the rest of the open Metaverse then  a security solution is required. It is one thing to develop features that resemble Minecraft but, in my view, it makes no sense to then shut yourself off from the potentially huge market Hypergrid is likely to make possible. Absolutely not. But no worry, Hypergrid II promises to offer new solutions to the content security issue that can work for us.

Here an Amazon warrioress at Barbary coast in Second Life. Over her head you can make out the meter tag with her name, role, status, health level, skill level and the balance of her money.

HG2 is expected to uphold the permissions set by the content creator rather than leaving it to the region owner to set the OutwardBounds permission to allow all content to leave, or not leave, the grid or standalone. Once we have this method for setting permissions then the grid can remain open to Hypergrid travel and the free flow of perm-allowed content while keeping our combat meter safely locked into our world no mater who gets to own a copy. What's more, it is perfectly feasible for the meter to be supplied on other HG2 grids that have been approved trust worthy. And the meter, provided it uses data storage on a http server independently of the virtual world we are active in, it should have no problem recognizing individual avatar names across worlds.

As mentioned already, in Minecraft you have to master the art of making what you need from the resources you gather or mine. Nothing is infinitely durable in Minecraft either. It will wear out, get consumed or perish eventually. Thus, there is constant demand and it is the job of meeting this demand that takes up a good deal of your time. In Opensim and Second Life we don't have resources in the form bricks, fire or wooden doors like Minecraft has but we do have a supply of prim's that can be shaped, linked together and textured to look like all kinds of items from clothes to sail boats. We have token currencies too and people create items that never wear out and sell them on the open market. There is no real sense of value until we consider leaving Second Life and find we can't take all that stuff we paid for with us. Then we suddenly realize it has value but it's a real world value and it is the ability to use real world money to buy your way through Second Life or Opensim that actually undermines some of the functionality that should be enriching your experience and sense of immersion.

Here a store room at the Port of Moresh in OSgrid
holds some innocent looking crates and barrels.
Sure enough the barrels hold ale that was brewed
in the port using grain gathered locally by slaves.
The barrel can dispense tankards of ale but it
could just as easily be a powder keg made from
saltpeter mined near by. It can be used to

blow a scripted door open no less!
To take an example consider a role play game in Second Life where warriors slog it out in countless fights using swords, bow and arrows or guns even. To register hits from the weapons some kind of combat meter must be worn by the combatants and, where the meter will probably be supplied for a particular RPG theme, most often the weapons themselves are bought on the open market. No one has to do anything but spend some Linden dollars or local currency (perhaps OMC or Paypal) which they buy with real world money. So there is little or no regulation as to what the weapons can do or how fast they do it come to that. There may be something in the rules of the RPG that forbid certain types of weapon but I have never heard of a role play game were the rules require you to find or use up resources to justify the use of a particular weapon. Indeed, I doubt if it could be enforced even if there were such rules without doing the actual scripting one's self as I did.

Another example might be the use of a ship with an array of cannons on either side. Who is to say what kind of ship you can own? Here again some venues list a selection of acceptable ship types but I don't know of any that basically say in their rules, if they have any, that you have to justify using a particular ship for reasons such as the resources you spent or the training you can prove to have received. For Second Life and even Opensim it basically comes down to what you can afford to spend which is really quite unfair on the guy who can't afford it. There are few games that do sell their own weapons which depend on the dedicated meter the game developer has made available to work. We have this in Barbary Coast RPG but it is still just part of the solution I would want in order to get anywhere near that model on which Minecraft functions. Generally, however, most combat meters in Second Life don't require resource gathering, no weapons making, no skill earned and really no work involved at all other than the speed of your connection and your quickness to hit the buttons. You buy your ship or sword or gun and do your worst and S/he that owns the best kick-ass-kit stands to win the day.

Here we need to reconsider what content really means and what value to place on it in our Opensim worlds if we want to have better, fairer and more impressive gaming. We need to engage players in the way Minecraft dose. We want to make their experience enjoyable whether they content themselves some days to gather or mine resources, another day to turn those resources into products useful to anyone in the game, or yet another day in which they battle with enemies, capture slaves of just kill monsters and vermin that infest the world.

The game builder needs to design a combat meter that can handle a fair few interactions including regulating the state of health of the avatar both in terms of nutrition as well as combat injury. Healing must be possible and the ability to eat food and take drink. The meter must have a skill level determined by winning and losing fights at least. There must be token money as well (not money that can be bought with real world money) to buy some of the goods being produced (you can't make everything). Players need to be able to trade goods, resources and make token money. For that the system must be able to deliver finished freebie goods that can only be bought and traded in the game. The same goods must have resource value and a life expectancy attached to them in a way the meter and world understands. They should perish or become unusable once they reach the end of their service life. And, above all, the freebies must be quality products that are locked into your game world even if the region is open to Hypergrid travel.

So the developer needs to get content made that is in theme or serves special purpose in the game such as food products. They need a meter and a well built region or set of regions that accurately represent their game world. They also need some rules - not necessarily intensive rules but enough to set the player on the right course quickly. This is especially needed for those players - probably more than you might think - that don't bother or skip over the material and prefer to rush off and learn by trial and error (just the sort that get it wrong, upset others and cause much of the angry exchanges in role play worlds). There should be a well written bio as well from which to gain a sense of the world the player will inhabit. Preferably, write a short novel in an ebook or PDF file for those who do take the trouble to read and are likely to be your most stable long term players. They would appreciate a story centered in your world and it would convey a lot more meaning to it which can place the gamer in the right mind set to begin their adventure.

Minecraft has something special that works for a lot of people but Opensim has huge potential to do some of what Minecraft dose. It can create a more realistic environment too. Minecraft's blocky graphics are part of it's unique character and it appeals to the very young and not so young alike. It can't do anything that is more suited to a mature user base and certainly not adult stuff. In contrast the Opensim platform is powerful, sophisticated and you can script for it. It can be used to develop most types of game both interactive and graphically realistic. The game we want to build and sell is not meant to be anything like Minecraft but it should exploit some of the features that work for Minecraft but done in a totally Opensim way. 

Here a somewhat bow legged Gaga visits the all new Cloud Party to check it out. My real interest of course is if webGL -  which puts this viewer in a web page (no download!) - holds out any hope it may become a usable application for Opensim. Certainly, with such ease of use it would be ideal for role playing on a web page while doing all the hard work and building in a full viewer. I must admit though is was quite good and I didn't need to use Facebook to get in. Just use Mind you I couldn't gain any land without a real login but, hey!

Opensim has clear advantages over Second Life. For one, you as owner, can decide what terms of use to impose. You don't have to allow the kind of pornography allowed in Second Life. But you might want to allow the kind of adult behavior that is erotic but not vile beyond reason or involving child avatars. You, as owner, can also control much of what happens in your sims unlike SL and while it is true many people stay with SL for the sake of their personal inventory or the traffic that affords them some income from sales it remains a closed world and basically a dead end street. Opensim continues to develop all the time. It's free and open source but yes it still has bugs and short comings which give Second Life that vital edge for now. But Hypergrid is developing too and soon it will offer new avenues to a greater market. We may even be able to experience Opensim via webGL before long similar to the new Cloud Party viewer in a web browser. The bottom line is there is everything to play for and Opensim really is a fantastic tool for creating virtual worlds by just about any body.

Monday 28 May 2012

Building Role Play Across The Hypergrid

Fabulous 1001 Nights in OSgrid is a beautiful build and a trip to visit it is well worth the time. Within the city is a bizaar where you can get freebie themed clothes and accessories so the owner has put a lot of though into it. Presently they are looking for a Sultan to run the RPG and promote it - any takers?

Much of what has been written about the open Metaverse gives the impression that there has never been very much user traffic going to the Opensim grids it is made up of and this minimizes the impact they might be having. Most accounts only look at traffic in a few grids - generally the bigger ones of course - but when you take a broader view and look at the many small grids and standalone's out their a much bigger picture emerges and, thus, the impact the Opensim grids are having becomes more significant.

We are already seeing a small explosion of grids and standalone's coming on line. Each new start-up has one or several owners so we can count those as likely regulars online. Seventy HG enabled grids is probably double that number in traffic - about 140. Add next some friends of the owners who may visit and even stay to take part and you can double or even treble that number again. I think even that would be a low number as most people have quite a lot of friends and, dare I add, supporters? Certainly, some grids are the work of long established gaming and role play communities within Second Life and that is precisely the back ground I am come from so I can talk about it from some experience. Communities like mine generally have quite a lot of regular players in SL and it is not too hard to persuade them to register and try the open Metaverse out since they have a place - your place - to get acquainted. If just five or ten of those seventy startup's have established role play gamers to call on then you can add a lot more to the traffic. So, just on a guesstimate, the hypergrid connected mini-grids must collectively stand at around 500 active residents at least and probably a lot more.

Pirate raid on a port in Second Life leads to the capture of the local Pasha and the RP spills over into OSgrid. It could end up anywhere on the hypergrid. A portal region in OSgrid leading to a standalone mega sailing region representing the Caribbean sea or perhaps even the Mediterranean sea and the Barbary coast of North Africa in 1775. And finally back to SL. Never has there been such a great opportunity to expand role play in virtual worlds and reduce costs.
I can, of course, just sift through all the welcome screens checking the stats as shown on my new Teapot viewer at peek and off-peek times and add up all the current online traffic but it's a bit of a chore (I've done it in the past). Anyway, just taking the figure worked out above you get 3 X 140 = 420 which, alone, is greater than any single grid has achieved to date. Now go on adding the casual visitors, the serious travelers and the visiting gamers and role players that have been invited like I have been doing in recent months. The numbers then start to climb. Yes, they are all out there and using hypergrid teleporting to hop from one grid to another. I've even started to call it the hidden Metaverse which I wrote about recently here because that traffic is hardly accounted for. Hopefully though the viewer developer, Armin Weatherwax will give us more ready access to those hidden grids as revealed by the new grid listing functions in Teapot viewer or Kokua and their metrics will start to be better known. Certainly, this is something I have been pushing for over the last two years.

Role play at its best! Here we learn the old Pasha is
on the run in OSgrid but where? And who is behind this raid?
Not all but a sizable number of the start-up's are hypergrid enabled and while a fair few are pitching for the rental market in competition with other grids we are now starting to see grids that do have something specific in mind rather than come-rent-from-me-social-hangout  type of grid. The social/commercial grids like InWorldz and Avination all promote themselves as both hosts and providers of services including currency and economy. Residents are encouraged to build themed regions too which is the basic Second Life model - Your World, Your Imagination. However, the open Metaverse is really a very different animal than Linden Labs grid. Second Life is and always will be a closed grid both for protection from copyright theft and basically to keep the user base firmly rooted in their commercial realm. It's a monopoly and those Opensim grids that use the same model are doing so for the same reasons.

Armin Weatherwax is developing a new viewer grid list function to add, seek out and find more grids. It's now only a matter of time when HG2 and functions like this really start make the Metaverse a truly open and connected market.

There are thousands of ideas for startup's to try and I can think of a 1001 role play ideas right off the top of my head for building a grid that people will want to visit and I think eventually hypergrid will see a huge number of these small standalone's that offer any number of themes starting up. Moreover, the owners will be promoting their venue on the net, in SL, blogging and where ever they can. The more doing it the more people that will be entering the HG connected worlds and traveling about. It's only a matter of time now before the volume is turned up and the market explodes. This is what makes the Opensim Metaverse a very different animal from Second Life and, while I have come to accept there will be commercial closed grids on the open Metaverse, in time, I am convinced they will be dwarfed by the growth of themed startup's just as sure as AOL was dwarfed by the Internet.

Here, the port of Moresh in OSgrid serves as a welcome area for role players into pirate role play and sailing. Themed freebies are found in the local bazaar and a water front tavern offers good ale, help and information. The ship at dock is actually a hyergate portal offering a number of destinations in the network. Just select, board the ship and be teleported there.
The RPG theme, Gor is still quite big in Second Life. It has declined from its high point around about 2009 along with other RPG's as the players have left SL for other MMORPGs on the Internet but it could easily grow as big on the open Metaverse too if enough role players venture over and spend time there. Hypergrid fits perfectly with the Gorean modus operandi because in SL these groups constantly raid each other and engage in slave stealing and trading (all as role play). It would also suit other genre like the Ancient Empires network of regions that collaborate sending war parties to each other's sims and engage in epic battles. Same can be said for many others too including the many pirate sailings sims such as Fairwinds, Ocean Realms and Antiquity. Add to that a raft of other themes from Furries to Steampunk and the potential is huge. Opensim grids are becoming better known in Second Life all the time. I belong to one of the Opensim groups in SL and when I'm there I find the group chat is often alive with people asking for help and advice. And, as sure as you like there will be people around to answer - I sometimes do myself. Grid owners can promote their own game in SL via the Opensim group and other groups they belong to. If they have role play regions already like I do then you have every reason to make the most of it to promote your new world.

Here Lani Global's Dune region in OSgrid offers plenty of free Sci-fi related content. Lani is also the central region of a cluster of other Sci-fi regions which, together, form an association. Presently, they enjoy the highest traffic in OSgrid.

There are problems with Opensim of course. It still suffers weaknesses compared to Second Life especially in the area of physics but in other areas it is way ahead. New people have to face all this and get their heads round it so it's really important that those running mini grids can explain things and ease the visitor's concerns while promoting what they have to offer. Having a good stock of freebies on hand at the Welcome regions is very important too and, presently, this is where you see a serious shortage of clothing that would be expected for the particular theme being promoted. Lani Global in OSgrid has got all the right ideas when it comes to creating what a role play theme needs so a leaf can be taken from her book and grid owners must make or find the kind of things that fit the theme of their game even if it is just enough to get a bunch of avatars dressed up in period clothing. You can give LM's to other suitable stores all over OSgrid and the Metaverse. There is plenty of free stuff around but it's still hard to find all the kind of things you might need for a particular role play game.  And given that role players tend to be very imaginative they also make serious demands for highly detailed clothing and accessories. Some grids like Inworldz and Avination do have some class designers with outlets in their respective grids but presently they are both closed worlds although there is the possibility that at least Avination will open up to Hypergrid once HG2 arrives (expected this summer) and content security improves. I also think some of the others that are presently closed will reconsider it once they see the growth in the traffic it spawns. I guess though as business opportunity increases many of the top designers will turn their gaze to Hypergrid worlds with a renewed interest.
City of Alsium - Roman Role play in OSgrid is set to open soon.

Most role players will go where their friends are and it needs small dedicated groups of players in a particular theme to put in the time to do authentic builds that look good to the eye and make people believe this is an interesting place to spend some time role playing. Visitors wont join a role play game just on the strength of what they see though no matter how good the build. They need to be persuaded to stay and  immerse themselves in the role play and that takes time and effort. Someone must be there. Preferably more than one person needs to be there day in and day out, all hours to welcome and help visitors. Ideally, there should also be some role play taking place so that visitors can look in on it and judge for themselves. Serious role players don't just jump in so you have to remember that. Lookers will say they will come back but usually don't. Serious players might not say too much to start and visit a few times looking around to gauge the RP if there is any so all the more reason to try to keep some activity going near the welcome area if you can.

One way is to build a tavern or bar near the welcome area with a serving maid or dancer to help create atmosphere. Hell, even an NPC dancer and a real avatar can do that. It doesn't take that much really but it does take up someone's time. Like the Internet the Metaverse is 24/7 opening hours. Grids that close for the night or are left unattended can not expect to succeed - even in Second Life players are spoiled for choice so you have to make what you offer look better than the competition. If someone arrives at an empty Welcome region without anyone to actually welcome them then that is probably going to be a brief and easily forgettable experience for them. Constantly changing things leads to confusion for your less regular visitors, and moving the regions about too often just leads to frustration. Even worse is letting visitors land in the sea or under the floor of a building. That is just like, what kind of grid is this?!

Experimenting with airship flyers for possible inclusion of Steampunk elements to the Farworldz grid. Here again gird operators pursuing role play themes need to consider vehicles and scripted combat meters, all of which play a huge part in Second Life role play.

Now, considering HG2 when it arrives, I do actually think Avination could do very well out of it if they open up and we have every reason to believe they will since Melanie Thielker - owner of Avination and an Opensim core developer working with Crista Lopes on HG2 - has gone on record saying they would once the content secruity is improved. If this happens then Avination's vendors will be a serious attraction especially those selling role play goods. The sheer lack of high quality content available to role players is a serious disincentive to joining the open Metaverse as I have already pointed out and Avination could be well placed with very little competition from other grids to take advantage of the opening. There are designers producing highly detailed clothes for role players but you can't expect them to give away all their long hours of work for free and this is where Avination is well fitted to the commercial aspect of the open Metaverse. For small startup's that focus on individual themes then they should be making content or sourcing it for their players anyway to help fill the present gaps. There is lots of good stuff out there though and much of it is free but to gain serious traffic I think we have to start to match some of the fine creations that  Second Life vendors can offer. Low cost sims, great builds and endless land mass alone are not enough - in fact huge areas of empty land just look bad unless it's sea for sailing.  Second Life residents have huge inventories they enjoy. If they can't get some of the same quality content in the open grids when they arrive then I doubt many will stay. That has already been proved to be the case.

News from Kitely Virtual, the cloud-based grid with easy start-up sims at low cost, is they will open up too once HG2 arrives, and to be sure of that they are even working on their own security measures that will further enhance things since Kitely does contribute a lot of code back to core Opensim. Kitely also has plans to introduce Kitley currency and this will certainly provide yet another strong outlet that vendors can have confidence in. I think that between Kitely and Avination as well as some of the smaller but up and coming grids we might just find that the supply of role play related and themed content has a good chance of improving provided they do actually open up to Hypergrid and allow content to go to other grids. In any event my view is that whatever HG2 does I think it is about time that creators had a direct say in what leaves a grid through the permissions system and this seems to be what Kitely is aiming for.

Avination main welcome region today. Clean and pleasant with commercial shops before you and not a freebie in sight. I might add I never met anyone to greet me either and I was left with a sense of it being cold and lacking any community. But I do know Avination has a community but the grid has suffer a big drop in traffic since last year when it went right to the top of the pack for users. Since then it has declined steadily but it still has many of its vendors and a really well developed platform software with easy border crossings and many in house features. It also has its own combat meter.
Above I did some informed guesswork on the true size of the open Metaverse which left out the closed commercial grids. I was concerned only with Hypergrid connected worlds and if you follow Hypergrid Business grid list metrics you can't fail to notice all the new grids coming on line. It's true that it remains difficult to estimate the true size of Metaverse traffic and the way opensim reads this data means that a traveler visiting many grids will register as traffic in each which does distort the figures somewhat and is a diminishing factor but I don't believe it is enough to cast much doubt on my conclusions because all along I have really been under estimating if anything. Fact remains that collectively, the hypergrid enabled grids do form a cluster that attracts more traffic than any single commercial grid does or could ever hope to and it is my view that in the future it will expand into a huge market. At the center is likely to be OSgrid as a HUB with many portal regions that invite travel to a host of small educational and themed role play grids. Kitely, Avination and other startup commercial grids will all be part of it too if they open up. But, crucially, traffic will be shared right across the open Metaverse and it will have that special quality that helped Second Life to grow, lots of small startup grids each building their own worlds. That is the beauty of the Opensim Metaverse, it truly is our world, our imagination from the open source software base on which we build and up.

Formally of Second Life, Darkrose Castle is home to Prince Gabriel of
 Darkrose, the last in a long line. Opening soon in OSgrid this a roleplaying
sim of dark conspiracy and gothic Vampires with an emphasis on storytelling.
If we rely on anyone it certainly is not the overpowering corporate power of a monopoly like Linden Labs unless we chose to join a closed grid that is based on the SL model. There are many contributers to the Opensim Metaverse in so many ways and this is all part of what makes Opensim so different from Second Life. Indeed, I would venture to say it has the potential, if it hasn't been realized already, to be a more creative platform all together.
One of the many city regions of Gor in Second Life. OSgrid has some Gor regions
but links need to be established for exchange RP and raids from SL to OS and HG
and back. Role players in general and Goreans in particular could help to open up
the Metaverse making their Second Life part of a truly global community.

In Second Life there are a whole bunch of regions dedicated to ancient empire building and epic battles. They
interact with each other in Second Life so why not expand to OSgrid and take advantage of lower costs? Here
we show the Athenian Empire of SL but there are many more from Persia to Rome and right across the ancient world.
In the cities you find the training grounds and tournament arenas plus the day to day events that shape the
virtual lives and culture of the Elite, the warriors, the citizens and their slaves.