Games and MUVES– VLENZ Update, No 182, April 22, 2011

Future Forecasts for Games and Virtual Worlds

Is Rod Humble going to take

 SL back to the desert?

 Seriath sees days of Bohemians and pirates reborn…

 The new CEO of Linden Labs CEO Rod Humble just might have something in common with OpenSim blogger and builder, free content distributor and Hypergrid explorer, Vanish Seriath.

Humble, although talking about gaming specifically, commented recently  ‘let’s go back to the desert’ — because we were better off then”.

Earlier at UC Santa Cruz’s Inventing the Future of Games symposium, according to Christian Nutt in “Gamasutra – the art and business of making games”, he had said that video games developers had made it to the “Promised Land”, as video gaming as an artform was spreading across the Globe.

Rod Humble

Seriath, for his part, in his TGIB blog - published within a similar time frame to that of Gamasutra – quoted Neuromancer (1984) author William Gibson, in his only appearance in Second Life in 2007,  as saying the virtual worlds “I cooked up were always in the backroom of something else, like, in my novel Idoru, there are virtual worlds that kids had broken into abandoned corporate or virtual websites and, in the basements, in the back rooms, they created whole universes of stuff, so they don’t have to pay for it. And that’s a much more appealing fantasy (than SL) to me…”

William Gibson

 Seriath said, “I think … it’s already clear which technology fits Gibson’s description today. We don’t even need to break into abandoned networks, we can run  (OpenSim) in our own basements, backrooms, anywhere. And really, it’s not going to be the corporations, the commercial grids, that will define the culture of this our metaverse, but rather the vibrant and living subculture of bohemians, of pirates, of artists, musicians, coders, builders and explorers, who are running this (a MUVE) on their own machines, out of love, and for the thrill of being there.”

In Seriath’s view – and obviously that of Gibson – the future might not belong to Second Life (TM), although if Humble is able to take the bull by horns and  “return (Second Life) to the desert” it might once more become as exciting as it ever was – and home to  Seriath’s real bleeding edge bohemians,  pirates, artists, musicians, coders, builders and explorers.

‘Hard to keep track of’

 “This is the time I’m least certain about the future of games that I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said  Humble at the Santa Cruz conference, as reported  by Gamasutra. “The way our art form is spreading across the Globe, I find it hard to keep track of.”

However, Humble who has created a number of   successful games, including The Marriage, and is well-known from his time working on The Sims series at EA, believes “games can change human behavior”.

Those who rate games, he said, “treat our medium more seriously than we do. I think we in the game industry have this clown nose on, clown nose off attitude.” We want to be recognized as art, but when criticized, we say “but it’s just a game!”

This may, in fact, be disingenuous, he implied, according to Gamsutra. “I think we can do both at the same time … and take responsibility for it.

 “I believe that the structure of the game has a meaning and a message that gets through, and seeps into the player’s subconscious, and gets delivered. And whether it can change human behavior or not? I say it does. I believe games can change human behavior.”

 That is not to say that it’s as blatant as some critics suggest. “I’ve played D&D and war games and shooters all my life and I am not violent,” he said. “But I have played games that have entirely changed my outlook, and how I live my life.”

 That said, “I think it’s extremely important to look at it and say how can we take responsibility as game creators. What games should we ethically build? If you are going to be influencing those [players] you have an enormous weight on your shoulders.”

Vanish Seriath

In Humble’s view, game developers should “follow the tact of art forms before. The most noble art to make is one that celebrates nature and human nature.”

And that is just where Humble and Seriath and Gibson might disagree. And so might the Bohemians and pirates and those on the bleeding edge of the virtual world technology and dare I say it, in the virtual world of pornography, where many  MUVE developments are taking place today.

Lost cool edge

In many ways Second Life is being destroyed by the same popularity that  The Saturday Evening Post was in its heyday. Even though not really mainstream Second Life  has lost its cool edge – as Face Book  is now doing through becoming peopled with wrinklies –  and more and more the  dread hand of  corporate Big Brother  appears to want to make Second Life into an homogeneous world that’s is safe, gentle and very  little  different from real life – a safe place for the kids, or suburban Moms and Dads to play in. Like the Saturday Evening Post,  which died through becoming too popular with its circulation mainly among the  small town folk, typified by Norman Rockwell,  the nostalgic, the retired, the unemployed and the  boring, and “widows” and “orphans” who didn’t have the spending power to attract corporate advertisers,  Second Life is no longer at the cutting edge of virtual technology. It appears to have become mundane.

Its  corporate walled garden sometimes seems sanitized and sterile, even though the reality is rather different.

But there is a place where one can do what one likes in one’s own world as well as visiting other worlds in basements around the Globe. That is the OpenSim environment where there really are countries without borders.

Seriath’s bohemians and pirates, albeit in small but growing numbers, are in this OpenSim universe, hypergating or hypergridding between worlds, even though the OpenSim universe is not as good in a software sense as Second life.

As Seriath says, “I’m excited about the metaverse to come, and I love the company I keep. Let’s make some really cool shit in our basements.”
But read the full stories in Gamasutra and TGIB from the links above. 

OpenSim Worlds– VLENZ Update, No 177, January 09, 2011

OpenSim Grid worlds are spreading

But do you want to pay

‘twice’ for your skin?

… and  everything else just because you

want to ‘travel’ the worlds

The Hypergate …one simple way of “jaunting”* around a myriad of Virtual Worlds.

Well it’s the New Year and everything is well in Virtual Worlds? Or is it?

Anyway before I start griping. Happy New Year to everyone, in every world and every universe.

And sorry for the four-month hiatus between blogs. It’s not that I havent been looking at virtual worlds or even living in them - its just that doing things in those worlds and “jaunting*” by any method – hypergridding or hypergating (www.thehypergates.com) - has taken precedence over writing.

There is no doubt that the OpenSource Universe/s is/are rapidly expanding, propelled not only by the Linden Labs’ withdrawal of its discounts  for educational institutions operating within Second Life and its “closed shop” mentality,  but also by the fact, that according to some women I know in Second Life, the male sex idiots seem to have taken over many regions, despite adult activities being limited to specific zones. One only has to look at the Welcome Areas, particularly Ahern, to watch and listen to males behaving like teenage, test0sterone-driven, predatory lunatics, in voice and text.  The Linden’s should take note that for most women and for many men these sort of crass advances outside “adult” zones -and often even in adult zones – are totally unwelcome, and probably result in a large portion of the estimated 80 percent plus female noobie drop-out rate. Once they are lost they wont come back.

Those aspects aside Second Life is still the virtual world of choice – even beyond the great graphics and effects of Blue Mars, the quest and teambuilding addictiveness  of World of Warcraft and the advantages of Playstation Home or Kinect Xbox 360 ( Microsoft has plans to make the system avaiable on PCs) -   along with the Opensource OpenSim lookalike worlds which are burgeoning and  fast catching up to Second Life, especially with the Havoc physics engine reportedly becoming freely available to educational insitutions.

Second Life still has the people!  That’s the fact, however.  It’s people who matter in the long run. And its a wonderful place to relax or  virtually network.

But the OpenSim growth (Especially OpenSim Version 7 and HG 1.5 and V6.9  with HG 1.0),  alongside the development of Hypergating has created new excitement for virtual world tourists akin to the early days of Second life. This  has led me to the conclusion that if Linden Labs don’t allow “jaunting”* – hypergating or hypergridding – from Second Life into other similar, compatible worlds  in the not-too-distant future  the Linden Grid is going to stagnate and then eventually fade if not die.

And then the mainstream users will start to leave as many of the first adopters already have.

Arrival point in Avination - all you need at at a cost ... for the second time.

The Lindens have rightly been concerned about guaranteeing intellectual property creator rights and Second Life’s place in the sun (Let’s lock in the users to a closed world by not letting them take their purchases/creations elsewhere), but it is possible that “legal” Linden Lab-approved  inter-world “jaunting” with the right safeguards is the only way for Linden Labs to prevent an exodus of core-recreational users, through allowing people  to move  freely between virtual worlds with all their legally-purchased assets and inventory, with all the permissions/limitations intact.

This is the only way to keep Second Life as the core – the home world, the New York, the Rome – of the burgeoning Second Life-style OpenSource environment – a  world which one visits, no matter where one lives virtually, to buy products, to exchange ideas, and to meet  avatars from the next suburb or the world.

I’m a roleplayer in all worlds, and I  am not happy when I have to purchase the same skins, clothes, equipment I  have bought and live with in one world, when I visit another world, be it a Linden World or an OpenSim World. I feel the same travelling in the real world. I don’t wish to buy new clothes, hair, spectacles, toothbrush, deodorant, every time  I visit a new real-world city. The same goes for the things I build. Over the years I’ve paid $US10s for the assets in my Second Life inventory. I wish to carry them with me or  at least be able to access them freely when I travel virtually.

This was brought to mind recently on a visit to  www.avination.com at the invitation of  Jayalli Hawthorn, a consumate  Second Life roleplayer, builder and writer, who is now moving her operations to this world.
On arrival one is given a default  avatar, which in some ways harks backs to the bad old days of SL noobs (one cannot change the size of the hair or move it on one’s skull,  if one wants to alter the shape of one’s head) and is immediately confronted by a Redgrave store selling that  group’s excellent skins  for the local currency ($L999) which one can exchange one’s Lindens to obtain. This is not a world where there are any real freebies except for the default avatar which is limited in both appearance and assets.

Klarabella Karamell's notice at Freebie Heaven, in Dorena's World - a must visit for Virtual World travellers.

I’m not criticising the Redgrave attempt to make money from people who have never bought a Redgrave skin before but I was peeved by the fact that  I have three or four Redgrave skins, among the 60,000 items in my inventories in Second Life , which I will never be able to use in this world.  As a result I wont buy Redgave in Avination  or in any other world for that matter. The same goes for any other vendor who tries to rip me off twice for the same item.

In other OpenSim worlds ( currently excluding OsGrid because of a software glitch) one can step through a hypergate between world’s with one’s avatar and inventory intact. In fact, I can step from my own virtual world on my own home computer through a Hypergate to a MUVE virtually anywhere in the world, and possibly on  a distant friend’s home computer, wearing my skin, my hair, my shape, my AO  and with all my assets in my inventory.

Despite  my experience with avination  I have found through “jaunting”  that there are now a number of competent builders operating in OpenSource MUVEs  who are both selling their products courtesy the Virtex  money exchange system and others, particularly Klarabella Karamel, of Freebie Heaven, on Dorena’s World (HG 1.5), and Eppilonia (HG 1.0), who are giving things away which they are constructing themselves  and guaranteeing that they are the orginators.

And there  are already great virtual world avatar skins in the wild – and on lots of  OpenSim grids – based on Eloh Elliot’s splendid OpenSource, Creative Commons, freebie  works of art as well as many other items which have been created by OpenSource builders like the much venerated but late Arcadia Asylum, of Second life, who was renowned for her run-ins with the Lindens over the OpenSource issue.

The popularity of “jaunting” can be gauged from  the growth  in membership of John (Pathfinder) Lester’s (formerly Pathfinder Linden and education guru for Second Life) Hypergrid Adventurers’ Club based on Pathlandia, in the blossoming http://www.jokaydia.com/, which is attached to http://reactiongrid.com/.

He runs twice -weekly tours (http://becunningandfulloftricks.com/) which are drawing more and more  Second Life refugees who crave the bleeding edge excitement of the early days of Second Life. Check him out. It’s well worth taking one of his tours.

* Jaunting – The method of  travel/teleportation discovered by Charles Fort Jaunte, in Alfred Bester’s 1956 sci-fi novel, Tiger!Tiger!, later published as, The Stars my Destination.

Pathfinder Lester's HGAC members are briefed for a hypergrid tour.

NZVWG Update, VLENZ No 166, March 14, 2010

NZ Virtual World Grid hosts

international  guests

NZVWG Auckland portal now accepting

‘resident’ avatar applications …

Educause Roundtable meeting on New Zealand Virtual World Grid

The  University of Auckland portal of the New Zealand Virtual World Grid (NZVWG)  has successfully hosted its  first international seminar, attracting  a number of leading MUVE educators and researchers from  around the world.

The meeting coincided with the announcement by Dr Scott Diener (SL: Professor Noarlunga), the virtual meeting host,  that the University of Auckland portal of the grid, although  still in a trial phase,  was now open for  virtual-world users to apply for ‘free’ registration from the Auckland portal.

Dr Scott Diener.

It also coincided with a ‘demonstration’ of just how easy it is to teleport an avatar from the University of Auckland portal MUVE on the NZVWG ‘Hypergrid’ to the MUVE of   the University of Otago and return with inventory intact and retention of all abilities.

The NZVW Grid based on OpenSim software has grown out of the original ONGENS  grid, developed by the University of Otago in concert with the University of Canterbury, and the University of Auckland.   Weltec has also developed a portal for the grid and Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology has associate status.

Welcoming the 20 plus guests from Educause’s Virtual World Roundtable  to the meeting in the Great Hall of “Kapua Castle” on the island of Kapua 3 in the New Zealand Virtual World Dr Diener said, “This is a really exciting development for us.

“We are stand-alone…we run our own asset server (database) with  the University of  Otago and Canterbury University having  similar setups, which have been linked together.”

Members of the Virtual Worlds Roundtable, who have previously visited a number of other Virtual Worlds  as a group for their meetings to assess and monitor MUVE development around the world praised the  apparent stability of the University of Auckland portal MUVE, the ease of entry, the fact  that it was open source and free, and  the  use of the Hypergrid, which opens up possibilities for easy, transparent connections to tertiary institution   MUVEs around the real world.

“We have found the Hypergrid does work, albeit with problems, “Dr Diener said, explaining that the goal of NZVWG was first to experiment and eventually to link to other grids.

Detailing the  setup of the MUVE, he said, the Auckland University portal is running on two virtual servers (VMware), and has a total capital investment of some $NZ10,000 ($US7000). This compared to an investment of say $US55,000 for signing up for SL Enterprise (previously Nebraska), the Linden Labs’ “behind the firewall” solution for standalone virtual worlds.

The Auckland MUVE is running on two dedicated, virtual machines with one server running a database and six sims. CPU usage has never got above five percent. Freeswitch voice is available on the MUVE but not yet completely activated.

“We can duplicate them (the virtual machines) in about 30 minutes – to scale if necessary,” he said in answer to a question, adding that OAR content was backed up automatically.

A  University of Auckland staff member is assigned one day a week to the MUVE , he said, with most of the work involved with things like getting voice working, and getting the Hypergrid fully functional.

He said the portal had been created out of his own budget as associate director of IT Services at the University of Auckland.

Dr Diener's Kapua Castle where the Roundtable meeting was held in the Geat Hall.

The portal, Dr Diener said, “is focused mostly on proving the concept of Hypergrid.”

“This is how our Writing Center began,” Iggy  Strangeland, of the University of Richmond, observed. “I bought a server out of budget, and then eventually got it supported by our data center. Now they maintain it and I just design content.

“We proved the concept. If it works for 2D Web, it can work for Virtual Worlds,” Strangeland said.

The major current problem with using the NZVWG MUVE for education purposes was the fact that there were as yet few resources “in world” … “all scripts have to be brought in,” Dr Diener said.

Given success for the NZVWG, however,  Dr Diener said, he would be excited to work on connecting  the that portal  with any other university  grid in the world.

Commenting on this, Lindy McKeown, of the University of Southern Queensland, said education.au in Australia was trying to set up a Hypergrid for all Australian universities to join.

Dr Diener, who is also a Lecturer at the University of Auckland, is well-known in Second Life and virtual world education circles around the globe for his and his associates’ creation of successful medicine/nursing/architecture simulations on the three University of Auckland Second Life islands in Second Life, the first of which was “Long White Cloud”.

Dr Diener mentioned that the “very active” New Zealand virtual world  group  VLENZ was represented at the meeting by Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology  and Second Life Education New Zealand Project founder and joint leader,  Dr Clare Atkins (SL and NZVWG: Arwenna Stardust). Dr Atkins, on behalf of SLENZ and NMIT, operates two islands in Second Life, Koru and Kowhai.

“I think it WILL be a viable alternative (to Second Life) soon,” Dr Atkins said.

Other speakers agreed with Dr Atkins’ view that NZVWG and OpenSim were a good replacement for Second Life: “for me (as an educator) one of the huge benefits to OpenSim is that we can use it with under 18s,” she said.

Visitor Margaret Czart, of the University of Illinois,  said that all of the virtual worlds the Virtual Worlds Roundtable group had visited over time had provided good alternatives to Second Life but, “it is not so much the place but how you run it.”


A sitting room in Kapua Castle.

Dr Atkins’ and Czart’s comments about possible replacements for Second Life followed a remark that the Linden Labs’ position of Second Life education guru Pathfinder Linden had been disestablished and that the Lindens appeared to be showing  less interest in education.

Lindy McKeown foresaw the development of a “Hypergridded federation universe of locally-hosted worlds with some access by others but some private spaces” as appearing to be “a great education alternative for many reasons.”

But, she added, that for these alternative worlds to be successful “we need an SLexchange type (virtual worlds sales) system for other grids since Linden Labs had bought out virtual world goods sales competitors.

Iggy Strangeland replied that http://imnotgoingsideways.blogspot.com/2009/11/alternatives-to-xstreetsl.html was a good source for other sales portals. Lindy McKeown added that one also could buy OAR files full of content one  the net and there were lots of free ones too.

James Abraham (SL: Calisto Encinal  and http://calistoencinal.spaces.live.com/) said he was writing a grant to  “roll out a 10 college zero-cost OpenSim virtual world program for the Maricopa Community College District [James Abraham's Mi Casa Es Su Casa won a prize for full sim builds at the recent SLPro! Conference sponsored by Linden Labs for Second Life content creators.]

On this point AJ Kelton, director of Emerging Instructional Technology at Montclair State University, founder and current leader of the EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds Constituent Group and Roundtable moderator, agreed with Mirt Tenk who suggested that it would be good for tertiary education providers to share the “stuff  WE have built in Second Life as  open source for OpenSim users. Others agreed with this view, including Dr Atkins who noted that all SLENZ Project builds were free and open source.

Asked how close he thought tertiary educators were to replacing Second Life with other virtual worlds, Dr Diener said, “ I don’t think we ARE close … and in fact, I don’t think that is even the question…I think we need to ask how we can augment our Second Life resources with Virtual World like this.”

There was also a question, raised by Liz Dorland, of Washington University, in St Louis,  and others, of the importance of virtual world students and educators being able to connect with the rest of the world community as they could in Second Life.

Dr Atkins said that she thought the “richness of Second Life and its diversity” would be hard to grow in an OpenSim environment although other speakers noted interoperability between all MUVEs, including Second Life, to get the best of all virtual worlds, was a possibility.

Another "resident's' Castle on the NZVWG portal grid.

The SLENZ Update – No 95, June 8, 2009

Teleporting between  Virtual Worlds

‘Seamless, intuitive and immediate’

travel  between OpenSims

The future  is here:  a seamless virtual world environment where one can teleport  transparently between any OpenSim virtual world  – no not SL yet but wait for it -  no matter what the OpenSim virtual world is and where in the real world it is mounted.

If it lets you in and door is open you will be able to teleport there.

Zonja Capalini referred to  teleporting between OpenSims via hypergrid  in her comment and video on THE ‘OPENSIM’ EXPERIENCE – Worlds of difference but ones that Kiwi developers should probably try out but now  OpenSim boundary crossing was given the imprimateur  of  the mainstream virtual blogging community  by  virtual world guru Wagner James Au (pictured right) (SL: Hamlet Au) in NewWorldNotes  last week.WagnerJAu

Au described it as a “milestone breakthrough”  following the Second Metaverse U  conference(Stanford University) demonstration of Science Sim, the Intel-backed, OpenSimulator project linking a number of 3D science experiments into an interconnected network.

The ” exciting” and “jaw dropping” event was presented by  Tom Murphy, professor of computer science at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Ca

“In the demo,”  Au said, “Murphy ran an OpenSim viewer on a big video screen, teleporting from a science project running on sims located in Oregon, to another in Utah, to another at NorthWestern University in Illinois, and back again. From the viewer’s perspective, the teleport procedure looked exactly like it does in Second Life, except instead of TP-ing from one part of the grid to another, Murphy was going from one private cluster of OpenSim servers to another.

“The process was seamless, intuitive, and immediate,” Au said.

“This strikes me as a profound innovation,” he said. “From an avatar’s prospective, it’s now possible to travel from private OpenSim sim to private OpenSim sim in a way that’s indistinguishable from Second Life.

“Of course, teleportation of virtual money and assets is another question, but for metaverse experiences which don’t require those, OpenSim is now a viable alternative.”

Au noted that the teleportation code had been created by Cristina Videira Lopes (pictured right) (SL: Diva Canto), Associate Professor in the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to joining Academia, she worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.  She is co-inventor of AOP (Aspect Oriented Programming), a programming technology featured in the MIT Technology Review (2001) as “one of the 10 emergent technologies that will change the world.”Cristina Videira Lopes

She’s also the visionary behind OpenSim’s hypergrid, which Au and Capalini have  previously written about.

Maria Korolov commenting on Au’s report said  that on OpenSim residents had been  happily using hypergrid teleports for some weeks now. For example she recently took her avatar shopping at OSGrid (picked up a free hot tub) and took  it back to her standalone grid, and installed it there.

Assets transfer fine, including clothing and hair and inventory,” she said. “I still have the same rights to them as I did on my home grid — I can’t give something that’s marked “no transfer” or copy something that’s marked “no copy.

“If I make a backup (by saving an OAR) file I will have a copy of all the assets that are on that region. for the purposes of restoring them later if something happens. If I distribute that OAR to other grid owners for them to load up on their grids, I will be violating the IP rights of the producers of my assets — same as if I made a backup of a computer program and then distributed it.

“So we already have cross-dimensional shopping.  Currency is still an issue — it would make more sense to keep currency in an on-grid account, rather than with your avatar. For example, if you go to a website that gives you credits, those credits aren’t stored in a cookie, but in a secure database owned by the website.

“That way, when you go from one website to another, the money doesn’t go with you — it stays where it’s safe.

“Or one can use PayPal or Google Checkout, which  can use on OpenSim as well,” she concluded.

Zonja Capalini  videos about hypergrid teleporting are here and here.

All I can say: The whole wide world is waiting out there, baby! Well virtually anyway.

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