Sunday 1 January 2012

Open Metaverse: Looking Back to the Future!

So this is 2012 and, before I launch into looking back at what I got right and wrong with my 2011 predictions last January, I have to mention some good news for Mesh fanatics desperate to see their beautiful mesh clothing move with the same grace as their pixelated bodies. I wrote about a crowd funded project back in October which was my last post for several months due to heavy commitments elsewhere. Anyway, the project was organized by Second Life residents who where frustrated by Linden Labs tunnel vision and lack of action. They raised money to pay a bounty to Karl Stiefvater, better known as Qarl Linden from his days at the Lab, to develop a parametric deformer, which will cause mesh clothing to fit the avatar shape and move with it more realistically.

Well, Karl has finished some preliminary work and put up a video to demonstrate things. Karl emphasis this is a first look and far from complete. The "heavy lifting" part is done he says but "I’m giving it to you in this form now, so that you can give me feedback. There are decisions to be made which we should make together."

Here is the demo vid and the source code is here. Feedback can be given here.


First blowout to mention was that Opensim would come out of alpha in the last quarter of 2011. Well, no one has said it is beta so there you go. Still Alpha but, to be fair. I did say "maybe" when I predicted it would. On the other hand, the developers finally made up their mind to do something about the six month rule for submitting patches which everyone agrees was holding the project back and stopping people working on the viewer to. They set up the Overte foundation to handle the legalities the developers were so worried about. The advantages of the foundation are many since they can now raise funds and impose rules to make it difficult for Patent trolls hijacking parts of the project and stifling development and innovation

My 2nd prediction fell way short of my wishful thoughts but the latest release of Hypergrid dose have the Outward bounds permission and more work is being directed at security. Nothing yet has got Avination HG enabled despite the owners well-meaning statement early on in 2011 which said AVN would enable HG as soon as possible.

My 3rd prediction was a rather bald statement that more developers would pull out of TPV development. Well, actually, a few have, notably Kirstens and Jacek of Imprudence. But, on the whole I would say more rather than less are working on TPVs since Opensim devs relaxed their rules for submissions but getting stuff like Mesh to work in V1 viewers has got coders busy again especially finding upload solutions for Opensim where Mesh can be handled free while Linden Lab decided to penny-pinch (or nickel n dime as American's say) as usual.

My 5th prediction was that LL would lose more market share but, though they lost over 500 sims the traffic is still holding around 60k peek and 30k off-peek but, when you consider LL gets in excess of 10,000 new signup's a day, then they really are running on the spot and going nowhere. And, in my view, its not going to improve in the coming year since LL continues the same old policy of cashing in on everything they do rather than looking at new developments as part of the service people are already paying a high price for through tiers and setup fees. In deed, it seems to me they are not content to let the residents make any profit on top of what they pay to the Lab. What I see is LL heading off in the Farmville direction with Linden Realms when surly the residents should be building these games? I mean, the Lindens cleared the malls, markets and stores in-world so they could profit from their web-based market place and introduced Linden homes that compete with the land owners paying tier so they could bring in more premium signup's. Second Life is/should be a platform on which "Your World, Your Imagination" can bare fruits for the hobbyist, game maker and content seller. Linden Labs just can’t stand seeing anyone else doing well out of what they made unless they get a huge slice of the cake. Thankfully, Opensim is getting better all the time and the recent survey on Hypergrid Business clearly shows the open Metaverse has grown a lot since the last survey while SL continues it’s slow decline.

That’s the beauty of Opensim, it can truly claim to be Our World, Our Imagination from the ground up.

My 6th prediction was an odd one really since I said we would see a breakthrough in browser based portals into virtual worlds. Well, there was actually a lot of progress and no one solution that really grabbed a new market yet other than, perhaps, Unity 3D. But we did have a serious patent scare courtesy of SPOTON3D. Their browser solution actually worked quite well but it was almost the same as work done previously by others. What hit the news was that the owners of SPOTON3D had the cheek to file a patent on it which effectively stops anyone else from using the code - which was open source and in the public domain!

My 7th prediction about Blue Mars having a bright future if the money holds out? OUCH!!!! the money ran out!

My 8th prediction was more than bang on target! Kinect did come to virtual worlds successfully but, as far as I know, it got mostly used to build animations for avatars and not a lot else so far.


Well, I am not going to get carried away this time but I will stick my neck out and predict Linden Labs will pull out all the stops to get Second Life growing again. Really, they must, yeah? Or will this be the year they call the beginning of the end!

Enough of that. I want to make a considered prediction about OSgrid which currently is the leading grid of the open Metaverse. Based on the Opensim platform OSgrid is, in my view, the HUB of the Hypergrid with many small standalones connecting to it via hypergates. I predict OSgrid will grow substantially in the coming year because refugees from SL will continue to cross the divide in ever greater numbers. LL will pull the plug on V1 viewers soon and, since they will remain usable in Opensim with MOAP and Mesh this will have an impact too and might even herald the beginnings of a break with some of the SL protocols leading to a more Opensim-focused viewer.
Here Lbsa Plaza on OSgrid is busy most days. On this day 24 people were sharing information and getting help from mentors

I would also predict we will finally see a viewer for Opensim that includes Grid Search in one form or another as an option on the menu bar of the opening splash screen. This has been on my wish list for several years and the one thing I think that would really set the Open Metaverse apart from Second Life. I know there is a lot in common especially in the area of content but LL is never going to allow content to be transferred to Opensim grids even while so much that is sold in SL is actually made in Opensim!

It's true, people with large SL inventories are held back from going to Opensim - not that they have to lose that inventory anyway. There is nothing stopping people from using both Linden Lab's grid and the Open Metaverse grids since the viewer is presently compatible with both. Call it dipping a toe in the water and finding the Crocodiles no long bite. In fact, stability is better than it ever was and for sims run on good hardware run easily as well as Second Life and, in many cases, better. Personally, I experience more lag and crashes in SL these days than I do in OSgrid, especially on my own sims which I know are well resource. Yes, the beauty is I control the virtual server and it costs me a fraction of what LL would charge.

Now for a bit of a downer. Sadly, I do actually think the walled garden grids like InWorldz and Avination will not fair that well. We have already seen a sharp decline in Avination who's renters have probably gone to Kitely and OSgrid, both of which have seen the biggest increase of sims. InWorldz declined sharply at the time Avination was growing back at the start of 2011 but, even though they have recovered a lot they still have not grown beyond what they had before Avination took off. On the other hand even though Avination lost many sims and users they may yet pull up a bit but my money is on grids like OSgrid simply because more people want low cost virtual land and some community more than they worry over content. And anyway, OSgrid is bristling with free and low cost quality content anyway. Not just that but the physics in OSgrid, though far from ideal, are actually reasonably good. InWorldz physics are presently none-existant by contrast and Avination still has only ODE the same as OSgrid although there has been talk of them getting Havoc while InWorldz developers have been talking about PhysX for over a year now. In fact, I think the residents of InWorldz were promised it as early as March last year and it still hasn't happened. Perhaps I should predict that for 2012!

Can I predict anything for Aurora sim?

Actually, No, not really since I have been left largely in the dark about what is happening in that team even though I was invited to report news for them. All I can say is that Revolution Smythe continues along with other team members to patch the code but most of the work done is bug fixing and nothing new and exciting to report. Work also continues on Astra viewer and I was told my ideas about the grid search are in the works. I feel sure something is going to happen soon though. Just a feeling.

Anyway, I think I will leave it to the grid builders to predict for themselves where they are going.

Let me just wish everyone a prosperous New Year.


  1. InWorldz residents will have PhysX physics in 2012. There's no need to speculate on that, I've already begun the work.

  2. Submitted too soon:

    PhysX work was delayed to deploy high scalability/high reliability inventory services. This was more important than physics and bumped the project.

    We (InWorldz) never have been larger than we are now. There was a period of time when around 80 test sims were put up to begin testing new hardware. These sims were subsequently removed a couple months later making it look like the sim count had a drastic decline. Dead sims were subsequently pulled down at the same time and we have put in a really good system for takedowns and removals since this time. Not to mention we've never done any advertising for ourselves.

    As far as commercial grids having no chance, I have to disagree. Continued scaling of "free" grids depends on donations and people doing a lot of work for free, or next to no money at all. In a paid grids case there are people actively working because they have been enabled by money flowing into the service which prevents the issue where a primary developer or stakeholder has to quit because they need to feed their families.

    I feel that if the community has a goal of removing any commercial potential, or appearance of commercial potential, it will have a detrimental effect on the use and development of opensim software.

    It is good that some people have the desire, time, and ability to do work only for the good of the community, but a growing metaverse means that these ideals will be strained and tested. The number of nights I've been up until 3 and 4 am fixing glitches, bugs, and downtime is justified by an income that allows me to continue working for my customers. Working this hard for free would leave me looking for other opportunities that I would be very tempted to follow.

    Also comparing the usage and sim growth statistics of grids that are actively charging money and grids that currently do not yet bill their customers nor remove sims that aren't paying is a bit misleading.

    I hope that both commercial and non commercial use and development of opensim and 3DVW technology continues to grow at a good pace this year. If developed properly there is more than enough potential for everyone to be able to support their families as well as continue to develop the metaverse as a whole.

  3. wow! great retrospective look at 2011 (and i'll say that OpenSim is Beta, even if Justin says it is not - it's as good as OpenSim so there) =p

    i like your 2012 ones and they seem reasonable and more bold than your 2011. too bad the end of the world is in december this year, we may never know how these predictions fared! =D

  4. Hi Tranq

    I was speaking of what I read in forums about InWorldz plans for PhysX and there was talk of rolling it out in March last year but anyway I know you have done a lot of work to improve lag in InWorldz and I have been there to see for myself. And its true! My experience in IW compared to a year ago was far better. But more than that I do think IW has a great community which is, in my view, its strongest asset.

    Regarding OSgrid I can only go by what I see as one who gets around the open Metaverse. It's not that I think commercial grids have no future but I really can't see them growing significantly since they are all clones of SL in one way or another. Too many people try Opensim grids and suffer unfortunate experiences. Things that don't work yet, or don't work as well as SL. The biggest case is physics in my opinion and I really can't see why anyone who values good physics would use Opensim grids as they are presently. Vehicle physics are still no match for Second Life even without sim borders on mega regions. Aurora sim is no match yet either so with IW currently lacking any vehicle physics at all it should be no surprise I sight this.

    However, it's good you take the time to let us know you will be working on implementing PhysX in 2012, Tranq.

    I agree that people who work full time coding for their grid or Opensim deserve and need a wage to support them. And, of course, the grid needs to bring in money from renting sims to residents but there are many people working for free and submitting code to Opensim core for the good of all. OSgrid runs on donations too and no one is getting paid so a number of the contributors run their own hosting services like Kitely for example or Dreamland Metaverse. InWorldz could be doing the same.

    So her is the rub; The cost of hosting is dropping and already we get News right now that New Voice can put you up a sim for free for a whole year! I knew this was coming when I predicted commercial grids will have a difficult year ahead. On the other hand I think basic hosts or hosts running estates on grids like OSgrid will fair well simply because they don't have the overhead of running a grid or paying coders and a lot of support staff. OSgrid also has a community too and a lot of free content. I think people will be willing to start paying for quality goods if they don't cost too much and we see Sunny's Total Avatar shop happy to supply without worry about content theft. Island Oasis grid takes the same view for being Hypergrid connected will do more for traffic to their grid so letting people buy and take stuff with them works for them. It's the services small grids are creating that will bring people to them. The services include role play and the kind of games Linden Labs is pushing with Linden Realms. I travel via HG often. I love doing it and I am willing to spend money in the grids I visit if they have OMC. I can use the pocket money for instant and secure purchases.

    I know this is a thorny subject for commercial grids but I still hold to the view that ultimately connectivity between the grids of the Metaverse will happen big time and some things will just have to be reconsidered if you want to do business and make money.

    I have a big article coming up about OSgrid and the Metaverse in a few days when I will be saying a lot more about how I see things developing for both the open and closed grids.


  5. Hey Ener, thank you!

    Yes, Opensim has got to be Beta but until the Foundation tells us so we have to talk Alpha *sighs*

    The end of the world is nigh?


  6. Hi Gaga,

    I stick by my assertions nonetheless. Free doesn't scale. Eventually there needs to be someone doing the work and ultimately the world isn't a place where people can get by without money. People will give their time up when it suits them and when they have it to spare, but eventually as those demands grow, the free work they're completing will feel like a job. Opensim is very lucky to have a software developer with a masters degree working almost full time committing patches. But one still has to ask what happens if he gets a really kick ass job offer for something completely unrelated to 3DVW and he has to work long hours.

    The free deal that you're mentioning (if it even works well at all) is enabled by a large commercial entity (Amazon). They can cancel it at any time and leave all the customers with bills to pay. It's also only a year long so you can't tell me you consider a year sustainable business practice. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    You also can't equate the price of hosting a website with the price of hosting opensim. This is a very annoying metric that is spread around by people that don't know the difference. You can EASILY fit 300 websites on the same physical server. Even if they get moderate traffic, unless someone has some really terrible PHP scripts you will never see the difference between 100 ms of response and 300 ms of response. With opensim this is the difference between walking and not moving. Get 60 avatars in a well populated region and watch as you burn up more than a full processor core, as much traffic as modern cable modems can upload, and 3 GB of ram.

    Is quality important here, or is it enough just to say there are sims maybe online? I don't know many free deals that offer the amount of bandwidth we use on a daily basis. On the weekends you'll find us saturating about 70 megabits of outbound bandwidth. Internally we spike up over 200 megabits of traffic between asset servers and simulators alone.

    Am I stating a commercial grid is the only answer? Nope. But if you want to get the attention of top notch software developers and other people who can contribute in big ways to the project, I think it is best of have an example of at least a few ways businesses can directly thrive via 3d virtual worlds.

    I would love to see a star trek esque way of life, but I'm just not seeing that kind of idealism happening any time soon. This means I'll have bills to pay, as do others who work on these technologies.

    My goal would be to grow a business that can support the software developers who work very hard on free software. To run something that is sustainable, reliable, and scalable. To have the money to keep up with the demand of the people that use these systems. Just because I'm not there yet doesn't mean I cant, or won't be there.

    If you don't think that there is a commercial future to opensim besides maybe to content creators who don't mind that you have complete control over their rights once their content hits your home computer, I think that would be good to state outright.

  7. Hi Euro

    I think we all know you are not a believer.