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.


  1. Nice article. I have never been in Minecraft, but it does look like something from the C64 era. We have tools to do what you are talking about in OpenSim for meters, skills, etc. With region modules coupled to plugins on the grid side of things you could make just about any environment you need and have no worries about the security of them. As we build out tools for V3 viewers we will have even more tools - MOAP, Mesh, Webprofiles...

    Also, I think more people are coming up to speed with region modules, etc. I have some resources for any7one wanting to get started with OpenSim region modules: / These are nice learning tools and can help a person get a good start in writing their own modules.

    Re: Cloud Party - from what I understand, the regions are limited to about 800 prims and as you could tell, then regions are not connected. Moving about is like logging into the grid again. Consider some regions in OpenSim have thousands, or even tens of thousands of prims. The webgl viewer would probably never render the scene. We always look for the time that these will work though. It will be awesome.

  2. Hi Blue

    Thanks for the detailed comment and sorry I crashed the other day while we were in IM at OSG. I had connection outage but it was interesting what you was telling me. I hope I can catch you again soon and talk about the learning tools and modules you mention here. I certainly do want to get into working MOAP and the web profiles. Mesh is a bit beyond me at present - there is just so much to learn!

    Of course we have talked about combat meters before and your own RPX system. I do personally want to develop my role play gaming in an Opensim world. As yet I am undecided quite which way to go since there are serveral branches now. I am sticking with OSG and a private HG enabled standalone for the present but Kitely and Avination appear to be doing important work and contributing some of it back to core. So, I am kind of sitting in the middle of all these platform options building my stuff, experimenting and generally getting on with content creation waiting for the next be thing to come along - I suspect that will be HG2 before long.

    As for Cloud Party I accept your take on it. I know you understand these systems better than I but I think it is, so far, the best web app for a viewer in a browser to date. But I guess it has a ways to go before it really makes any difference to Second Life or Opensim come to that. I have always hoped someone would come up with a web page viewer that is as easy as CP though. I really do think it could draw in more traffic if there were some cool games and RPG's running on it.

    Anyway, thanks again and catch you soon


  3. There is an open source RP System available, Myriad. That doesn't mean that everyone who uses it creates "god" objects. For those sim owners who wish to, the scripts can be edited to use different channels, ensuring only one system on their sim. I mention it because I am used to it.

    There is a big advantage to using an open source system. Open monitoring. Its easy enough to tell when someone has "god" objects. They always hit, they always 'kill' and they never take a hit. And those people soon find themselves unwelcome and blocked from sims.

    Another plus is that it is also a system that can be used across many grids/stand-alones. You don't have to keep switching systems to match the sim you are visiting. That also means that any experience points you gain on one sim are kept when you visit another sim. Your RP experience points, and levels, become an accumulation of your travels and adventures.

    But RP isn't all about the weapons. Those just add a bit of adrenaline to the roles being played. Its the build of the sim that is most important. That sets the mood, the atmosphere. That can make or break a RolePlay sim.

    Its the fact that the whole sim can be created by the user. They don't even have to own the computer running the sim. They could be paying tier for an island on someone's grid. But they, we build the sims, and do so without any special software or skills.

    I've never played Minecraft, so I can't say much about it. But we don't need 'recipes' to build anything from a tree to a starship in OpenSim.

    I visited Cloud Party. Nice place to visit, but I live in OpenSim. In Cloud Party, you have to use mesh. No prims used, just some basic things Cloud Party has as their version of Inventory Library. No thanks. Guess I'm an old prim-adonna :-D And then there's the whole FaceBorg assimilation thing.

    1. Hi Sarge

      Thanks for commenting. I have looked at Myriad long and hard but there are problems if I want to use it. For others I think it is developing into a good system.

      For me the 1st problem is the license dose not allow any commercial use and I would prefer not to have that restriction. 2nd, I don't see any way to prevent cheating since it's open source and the license imposes the same conditions on any code you write to adapt the work or tailor it to your own game requirements. I would certainly want to use a http server for example so I can include RP money and trading/rewards/theft and anything else that may require security encoding. I wouldn't want that exposed so I don't see Myriad as secure.

      I take your point about open monitoring but, honestly, I personally would not be wanting to stack up problems to deal with. To me that would just lead to OOC dramas I can do without.

      You also said...

      "Another plus is that it is also a system that can be used across many grids/stand-alones. You don't have to keep switching systems to match the sim you are visiting. That also means that any experience points you gain on one sim are kept when you visit another sim. Your RP experience points, and levels, become an accumulation of your travels and adventures.

      Not sure this will work since I might want to use adapted versions for particular games. Also, I don't think that if I switch from a medieval theme to a Sci-fi theme I should carry XP over from one to the other. That don't seem right to me.

      However, I do agree that role play is not all about weapons and combat. It can only ever be part of a system. Myriad though dose not include some of the other things that I would describe as Interactive role play which is what I have been writing about. The Meter must include the means to gather resources and convert them to consumable products such as food, drink and even weapons. The products must have a service life after which they become unusable. Healing must include some of these products too such as potions and medicines. And, of course, we want to trade the products produced so the RP coinage is important.

      Myriad, as far as I can tell, is geared towards combat and questing adventures but I don't see anything in it that covers the interactive elements I have mentioned.

      Finally, I think you missed the point about my focus on Minecraft. I never said we needed recipes to build everything but the point I was making is the same one I made about the use of Myriad. In Opensim and Second Life we can make anything and because of that it undermines a meaningful system and thus it undermines role play in general. People will cheat if they can and cheating leads to arguments and dramas. Open systems bread all that. Now, I am not saying you have to use recipes to build a house or build up your sim. Not at all. But I am saying we can get better role play out of an interactive system because it gives a lot more realism and reduces cheating. So, I am saying weapons and food for health need to be produced in a controlled manner as part of the role play. Arrows or bullets need to be made from resources and be in limited supply. People that have only so many arrows will not waste them on rapid fire to try and win. I think they will try to be more accurate and thus develop their skill. In any event, the things we need most in the system to interact and play such as food, medicines and weapons should be part of a Meter system. Moreover, I would go further really and include vehicles.

      Okay, Sorry Sarge but I don't share all your views about Myriad. But I am looking at it and a number of other options to.


  4. yes, I missed the point with Minecraft. Maybe I'll get a copy one day.

    And I would like to see resources included. A system that can be setup in modules or sets of modules. That way, you could have a resource system that could go as detailed as elements (nano-tech) up to whole plants as well as various levels of refining. An idea would be to set up the Resource system across a number of HG connected sims. That would encourage trade for resources. And perhaps conquest :-D But the big stumbling is Why? Why is this need to make that when you can just rez prims and build. That's what defeats the use of resources, except as a mutually agreed upon thing. If that happens, then a Resource system can be built. Maybe to be used along side any other RP/Combat system.

    No problem about differing views. That's how things get improved. Myriad has its problems, but its still at the development level, too. Its working fine for my purposes, but there's room for improvements. And there's certainly room for other systems, too. Btw, Myriad will be changing to a BSD license soon, which I believes allows commercial use.

  5. lol, I think the "Why" was explained Sarge. I said no problem rezzing prims to build on your sim but I some objects would be subject to meter control. Like food objects for example. Sure, make food objects and role play their consumption if you want to but those objects are just role play props and there is no value imparted to the player's meter.

    What I am talking about is resources appearing randomly around the region that are generated automatically by a scripted object that is getting control data from a http server. The players can gather, hunt, fish or mine, or even steal these resources and then use factory objects they own or have been granted by the game admin's to convert what they find or buy into usable products they themselves can consume or sell.

    The usable products are consumables that have value in the system because the meter imposes it. Health drops slowly for want of food and drink. Low health leads to sickness and weakness in combat so food and drink must be taken regularly. But there is more for the matter of healing, ammunition, weapons and perhaps vehicles can all come under meter control. This then requires RP money and leads to trade and RP commerce and, of course, piracy, theft and even trade wars at another level.

    A key advantage to the system is that it needs no rules. The meter imposes value to game-generated objects and consequences for the use there of. Even NPCs can be roped into use as workers and slaves or even guards. Imagine buying and selling and even breading NPC slaves?

    Okay, my imagination gets carried away but you must now get what I am saying *laughs*

  6. I think that can be done now. A rezzer, or many, loaded with one or more resource items. They could have a random timer that would cause a resource item to be rezzed at random coordinates. Other rezzers you have to touch and do something, maybe s part of a mining anim-poseball, for a period of time. A camp-spot sort of thing, which I think is built into OpenSim. You can add a mailbox script so that adding enough of a set of resources produces a refined resource/object. Gather corn, put in refiner, get chicken feed, use chicken feed to get chicken dinner :-D

    I've got a pic of a Table of Imaginary Elements. They'd be great resources to use.

    1. Yeah, I have already made a test resource generator, a collection basket and other odds and ends such as the factory script and growing stuff. I just don't have a meter to work with at the moment. My SL meter was not fully designed for all this. Well, it was partly but that was related to SL and not Opensim. I have had my SL meter working in OSG but it has some difficult problems to solve and probably needs a considerable re-write for OS. I may do it yet but I was hoping to save time and work by using an existing meter that is already proved working and stable.

      So far no such luck and I have a ton of other stuff to get on with from making period clothes, airships, sail ships and other scripts and building the sims on OSgrid and learning to do the server handling of Opensim code. I still have my RP sims in SL on top of all that, lol. Wow, I have taken on more than enough!

  7. Gaga, have you asked the ML meter creator in SL for help? They might be interested you never know until you ask.

  8. dang, excellent post - gee, i miss a lot of great information by being so friggin' scattered all the time!