The SLENZ Update – No 36, December 24, 2008



We wish all our readers the best for 2009  in real life and virtual worlds despite the economic downturn which has spread around the globe. May all of you have  a safe and happy Christmas and may  the prospects for our world, whichever world that is,  brighten in the New Year. The SLENZ Update will not appear between Christmas and New Year, even though all worlds will continue turning.  The next issue will be about January 5, 2009, although  we may blog anything special which happens in between the holidays. In the meantime for  you who are still reading blogs on Christmas eve here are two items to think about over the holiday break.  By the way I think I want a Playstation 3 from Santa!!!!

For VW tourists

amongst us …

No Virginia, Santa cannot teleport with Rudolph, his sleigh and his assets between Virtual Worlds. Yet.

But as Peter Quirk (Senior Consulting Program Manager at EMC, Boston)  says its “the early days” for Virtual World interoperability.

Commenting via LinkedIn he  noted that most of the worlds (hundreds at present – see ) have been “designed as walled gardens”. quirkpeter

Commenting that interoperability comes in many forms – asset compatibility or interchange, common authentication systems, avatar compatibility and re-use, real-time messaging and voice interoperability, common currency, trade between worlds, etc – he said  that in terms of asset compatibility, it’s becoming clear  that commercial tools like 3D Studio Max, Sketchup and Maya and free tools like Blender can produce assets in multiple formats that can target multiple worlds.

The Collada format and the KML wrapper supported by Sketchup and Google Earth is gaining traction as an import format for a number of platforms.

Asset libraries are also developing quickly. Google’s 3D warehouse provides assets in Sketchup or Collada format, but tools exist to convert them to other formats (see my post for an example) Dassault Systemes has leveraged its investment in professional parts libraries to build a library of 3DVia parts for Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and 3Dswym. I’m sure more will follow. Turbosquid is a clearinghouse for digital artists to sell 3D models and textures. The assets are delivered in the formats used by high-end design tools, with which they may be repurposed for Virtual Worlds.

“Unfortunately, that’s only half the story – scripts are what make assets interesting and the interoperability of scripts is minimal,” he said. “There is some compatibility of Linden Scripting Language between Second Life, OpenSim and realXtend but there are enough differences to make it difficult to predict whether a script will be usable on any platform. OpenSim has its own script extensions (OSSL) and realXtend achieves a lot of its scripting power from server-side Python scripts which can make up for missing functionality in the OpenSim LSL implementation.

However, Quirk said, common authentication in Second Life, OpenSim and realXtend is getting close. This year’s experimental  teleport activity between Second Life and IBM’s OpenSim  was based on major work to develop open grid protocols for authentication, grid discovery and asset management. (See ).

But, Quirk went on, Avatar compatibility is likely to be more complex due to the fundamentally different ways of representing meshes and skeletons, not to mention the IP issues of taking clothes and accessories between worlds.

“Real-time messaging and voice between worlds shouldn’t be hard but there hasn’t been a lot of focus on this, presumably because one needs to be able to discover the identity of someone in another world before calling them,” he said.

Noting there are tools in Second Life for connecting to Jabber, MSN Messenger, AOL and other IM systems, Quirk said, “I would expect these to appear in OpenSim/realXtend soon. You’d think each of the IM platforms would have some interest in becoming the interworld chat conduit, but the advertising-subsidised models don’t work in virtual worlds. On the other hand, mobile phone operators have demonstrated solutions for talking between Second Life and the real world and they have a workable revenue model for equipping each avatar with a virtual mobile number.”

Quirk said he believe a common currency is a some way off. OpensSm is starting to implement support for “play money” as some call it, but a serious bank or Linden Lab will have to provide the back-end services to enable conversions from real currency to in-world currency and for currency exchanges between worlds.

On this point  he commented that many national and state governments are interested in taxing sales and capital gains in-world, further complicating the roll-out of cross-world trading. In many of the teen worlds the money enters the world via gift cards sold in stores. The sales tax is paid in the store. There is no indication that these walled gardens want to open up to other currencies yet.

I just wannna

go Home … ;=)

YouTuber “thecreativeone” (David diFranco)has created an interesting “newbie” consumer tour of Sony’s Home virtual world for Playstation 3.  The graphics and some parts of the user interface look terrific, although movement sometimes leaves something to be desired. But  for those in their teens and twenties and even thirties Home  looks like real competition for for Microsoft and Nintendo in the console catchup game (wish it was on PC) and could even threaten the up take  of  Virtual Worlds, like Second Life, through cannibalising their client bases.  While this video isn’t well organised, it gives you a good idea of what Home is about even though he did not cover the Mall where you purchase items with real cash and  the customisation of one’s room’s wallpaper, as well as other some other major points (grin).  diFranco, who  said that although bowling was  all right, it “definitely is not as fun as Wii Sports’ Bowling, ” added, “Home is a living, breathing world, with real players interacting with one another in a variety of ways,” he said. “Whether it is furnishing your personal space or versing someone in bowling, there is something for everyone. While Home is definitely far from perfect, its future seems to be bright, and with many enhancements on the way. I made a “short” video showing off Home, which can be viewed below. It’s very loosely edited, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect in this online world.”

He didn’t mention it but  Sony,which announced  last month that 17 million PS3s have been sold worldwide leading to one estimate of the PSNetwork having 8.5 million users, would appear to have a headstart over almost all PC-based Virtual Worlds.  The major exception is  Habbo Hotel which has 100 million registered avatars, an average 8 million unique visitors monthly,with 75,000 avatars being created every day. Eat your heart out SL?