OpenSim Grids Growing apace – VLENZ Update, No 180, January 24, 2011

Is SL fading?

The ‘Top 40’ OpenSim grids

gain 529 regions in month

Latest figures from Hypergrid Business

OS builds are now as good as if not better in some cases than SL builds ... Rommena at Rom20 at julpet.ath.cx:9020 (local http://slurl.com/secondlife/Rom20/183/212)/30 (HG 1.0) built over 16 sims by Nick Lassard is a case in point.


The top 40 OpenSim grids gained 529 regions since mid-December, to reach a new high of 15,623 regions on January 15 of this month, according to  Maria Korolov  in her latest article in  Hypergrid Business.

The full Korolov article is a must read for those involved in virtual worlds.

Maria Korolov, editor, Hypergrid Business

The burgeoning growth rate of the OpenSim movement  follows the Second Life Linden Labs’ decision to end discounting of education sims. Other reasons for the growth, in my opinion are that the builds on some OpenSim grids (See pictures) are now as good and as interesting as the best builds in Second Life with build numbers, content creators and residents now reaching a tipping point which will see the OpenSim movement grow even faster.

Although the monthly growth rate, 3.5 percent, was down, possibly for seasonal reasons, Korolov noted that the total downloads of the popular Diva Distribution of OpenSim grew by 18 percent over the previous month to a  new high of  3,707 downloads. The Diva Distro is popular but it is only one of a number of OpenSim distribution channels. The others do not provide statistics.

Borgo Antico ... another example of an OpenSim builder's skill and a great place to visit. (HG 1.5)

Korolov said that  OSGrid, which currently has more regions than all other top-40 grids,  gained almost 500 regions to a new total of 9,009 regions.

In second place in terms of growth was the new role-playing grid Avination, which gained 172 regions in just one month, for a new total of 324 regions.

MyOpenGrid was in third place, gaining 63 regions, giving it a new total of 200 regions. InWorldz came in fourth in growth, gaining 47 regions for a new total of 766 regions, in the Hypergrid Business statistics.

Korolov said, “At Hypergrid Business, we expect to see both closed and open grids continue to grow through 2011. However, new hypergrid security features are currently in development which will allow content creators to lock down content so that it can not be moved off-grid. As these features are rolled out, we expect more grids to turn on hypergrid and allow their users to freely travel around to other grids for events, meetings, shopping, and exploring. She noted also that as the OpenSim world has burgeoned  Second Life, according to data from Grid Survey, continued to hemorrhage regions during the month losing 132 regions, for a new total of 31,413 regions.

The Titanic memorial in OpenSim … the ship, built to scale, covers three sims and is as detailed inside as the famed Bill Stirling-built SS Galaxy of Second Life. (HG 1.5)

... and part of the historically accurate Titanic interior.

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‘Full Perms?’ – VLENZ Update, No 178, January 18, 2011

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Arcadia Asylum's Mission ... "free" to do anything with except sell.

Virtual World Commerce and transport

Second Life: where you can

pay through the nose  but

never ‘own’ your skin …

I have never had a real problem with individual creatives who protect the intellectual property in their product: Just with  those who want to regionalise the real world and the virtual worlds so  they can force me to buy things twice or pay through the nose for it a second time in another place.

In the real world this goes for software developers,  record and book publishers, and film producers who have “regionalised” the world and licensed different markets even though with the internet there are no actual trade boundaries any more  … or at least there shouldnt be. I should be able to buy a product (Film, CD.  recording, e.book) anywhere and use it anywhere, without the problem of “regionalised”  playback technologyor other manmade hindrances.  In fact I feel the world’s consumers should boycott anything that prevents  free use creative products  once purchased … but,  by that, I don’t mean illegal “replication” for sale.

I know it is a hobby-horse of mine, but as a writer and a journalist of almost 40 years, I’ve written/worked  so that people will read my work – and hopefully appreciate it  – rather than to make money.  I don’t mind even if  others  use parts of it as their own – in fact,  I would consider it a compliment, in much the same way  16th and 17th Cenutry artists, writers and musicians did.  For me immitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If someone can further an idea I have they  should go for it.  The same goes for my builds in Second Life and other virtual worlds, as meagre as they are. They are free to anyone who asks for them, but they cannot be sold. If I had wanted to be a scam artist selling the same thing over and over again to the same person I could have become a banker.

A number of Second Life residents include in their profiles a parody of the Credit Card ( which shall be nameless) “Priceless” promotion. It goes something like this: Your membership  of Second Life ,  Free;  Your avatar skin and shape, $L5000; Your hair, $L1200; Your shoes, $L1000;  Your avatar’s clothes, houses, boats, planes, animations etc, $L50,000;  Linden Labs and Second Life own all your assets – you own nothing, Priceless!

Yes  that’s right, even though you make use of the pixels in your assets, and have bought and paid for them, you cannot legally take them out of Second Life or do what you like with them, even if they are labelled “full permissions”. You cannot even back them up on your own computer, so you won’t lose them  if Second Life closes down or there are glitches in the Second Life software… and there are plenty of those.

There have been those in Second Life who have fought against  the Linden Terms of Service strictures over the years but most of them have come off second best or worse.

Arcadia Asylum’s credo

The first I knew of was Arcadia Asylum, a clever builder,  now possibly dead in real life, whose works are remembered, adored and used and altered throughout Second Life and a myriad of OpenSim virtual worlds. The have possibly been exported/transported illegally – in the eyes of the Lindens – from Second Life via the reviled SL Copybot or viewers which at one time  allowed export of legally bought full permissions assets. The Lindens have since made sure they have closed these loopholes.

In everything she created  Arcadia Asylum included the note card (see picture above): “All Objects created by me (Arcadia Asylum) are FREE and opensource. you can coppy(sic) and modify and pass around to anyone anywhere, the ONLY stipulation is:  *YOU CAN NOT RESELL ANYTHING WITH MY NAME ON IT FOR EVEN ONE LINDEN DOLLAR* That sed (sic), you may distribute in any way you like, you may use the things anywhere and even blow them to bits if thats your thing. I only don’t want the stuff sold.  As FREEBIES theres no warentees (sic) or product suport (sic).  Thats it, KIS (Keep It Simple) :D

Her  credo lives on in many virtual worlds. In Osgrid for instance Fred Huffhines, of   wardrobe, wardrobe (131, 60, 48), has an enviable collection of Arcadia Asylum works among  his magnificent.multi-storey Freebie Collection. His is  one of the best Arcadia Asylum collections I’ve seen in any virtual world. Others in Osgrid who follow the  Arcadia Asyulum credo, sometimes less, sometimes more, are  those who distribute their wares at Wright Freebie Plaza under Creative Commons license, something I think all virtual world builders should use. There are too many of them to name here.

Klarabella Karamell’s notice at Freebie-Heaven in Dorena’s World

Another who follows the Arcadia Asylum credo is Klarabella Karamell, of Freebie-Heaven, on Dorena’s World (OS vers 7, HG 1.5), who is putting together  what is a burgeoning collection of “orginal” freebies for all virtual world users (picture of sign left) and seeking “original contributions from virtual world builders.

There are others in Second Life today  who  stick  with the Arcadia Asylum credo,  like skin designer Eloh Elliott, who allowed her “$L6 million” products to be “uplifted” via LoL-Iota Heavy Industries, GmbH from the SL online shopping mall and used in any virtual world.  The Lindens, however, have now curbed this activity – the “samples” are no longer freely available for evaluation – and made the task of  distributing full perms freebies  increasingly difficult. I have no doubt they will continue to do so as they attempt to close off their world from competition, particularly now  Blue  Mars looks to be going down the gurgler, and OpenSim activities are surging.

The latest to recognise the inevitably of a myriad of virtual worlds needing transportable creative products that an avatar doesn’t want to buy twice is  longtime, period piece and whimsical  furniture builder and texture creator, Aamiene Despres (she is in the process of setting up websites, http://www.Purplepixiedesigns.com/ for  SL stuff; and http://www. blackcatsgraphics.com/ for her freelance/contract graphic work) of Purple Pixie Designs (formerly known as XoticKreationS).

Aamiene Despres … her textures will travel.

Recognising a “buy once” credo she recently adjusted her Terms of Use for her textures to allow them to be used “in any world or platform you choose … this includes any virtual world and the real world.” She, however, wisely retained her restriction on reselling or giving away or distributing the textures as is, either packaged or separated in any virtual world or platform or in the real world. “They are only to be used in your creations and not sold, given away or distributed in any full perm form as textures,” she said.

My hope is that one day it will be normal  to transport one’s assets between Grids. As I’ve said before I don’t mind paying once. I do mind paying twice or three times for the same item.

SLENZ Update, No 133, September 01, 2009

CARTOON  OR SUPER-REALISM

Do the graphics really matter

in virtual worlds?

… and is Blue Mars really the third generation?

Blue Mars 2050 … does super-realism matter?

I have always wondered just how much the graphics matter in virtual worlds: I know my personal preference falls into the super-realism category when it comes to graphics but I’m well over the age of 30 and even as a youngster never had much time for cartoons or comics.

I ‘ve been enamored with World of Warcraft for years as well as the latest Grand Theft Auto offering. The CryENGINE (R)2 graphics,  when proposed for Entropia  Universe, really turned me on. I’m also intrigued  with the possibilities of Lenova elounge, by Nortel, and the  latest offering from  the MellaniuM stable,  the Furnace, and love  today’s graphics in Second Life, especially when seen through some of the better viewers on a high-end computer. I also felt  the failure of Google’s Lively to get any traction with any age group was due to the cartoony style of its graphics.

However, the digital generation, unlike the digital migrants or my generation, the digital dinosaurs, seem to have no problem with cartoon characters or environments: Look at Habbo Hotel (135,000 m users). Although accurate figures are notoriously hard to come by the best estimates from the industry-leader in understanding the marketing dynamics relating to virtual worlds, British-based Kzero, suggest that 57 percent of the estimated 579 million people who are registered users of MUVEs around the world, are children.

Virtual Worlds ‘not a passing fad’

As Victor Keegan reported in the UK Guardian almost  all of the 39 percent growth in MUVE usage reported by Kzero for the second quarter this year came from children.

“Girls used to grow up with their dolls; now they are growing up with their avatars,” he said. In this largely unreported cartoony VW  flood poptropica.com – aimed at five- to 10-year-olds – had 76 million registered users; among 10- to 15-year-olds, Habbo (135 million), Neopets (54 million), Star Dolls (34 million) and Club Penguin (28 million). The numbers start tailing off among 15- to 25-year-olds – apart from Poptropica (35 million), underlining the likelihood that as youngsters get older they will be looking for more sophisticated outlets and for ways to link existing social networks such as Facebook or MySpace to more immersive virtual worlds, he  said, arguing that virtual worlds “are not a passing fad”.

Do those digital generation figures mean, however, that Second Life,  described by  Larry Johnson, CEO New Media Consortium, as “the most currently evolved of the virtual world platforms … the seminal first instance of what the 3D web might look like”,   could  be beaten to a pulp in the marketplace, either by  virtual world  offerings which have even more realistic  graphics  or  over the long term, as the current generation of teens and tweens become adults,   by cartoon worlds like Habbo Hotel.

But, although, we’ve also seen the growth of  the Second Life software-based, opensource OpenSimulator environments, such as OpenLife, OsGrid and ONGENS among others, the arrival of behind-the-firewall applications such as Nebraska and offerings from other stables such as OLIVE Forterra, Twinity, Wonderland, Kaneva and peer-to-peer offerings such as Vastpark , Second Life at the moment, like Microsoft before it, seems to have the critical mass, the content  and the graphics to carry the game among adult MUVE users for at least the next five years.

That doesn’t mean to say that Second Life  wont have competitors in the  short or the long run.  It currently  seems to be moving  to ensure that it can beat this competition by  again emphasising  real life applications;  in some ways it is moving away from its core  user-base, of mainly nerdy, older (as compared to the popular teen and  tween worlds)  fantasists, first movers, former lounge potatoes, weather-bound, shut-ins  and others who delight in interacting with each other around the world, but at a distance.

Mainstreaming Second Life

Although apprehensive about some of the future plans the Lindens have for Second Life, which I feel will, in many ways, destroy the things which contribute to its attractive game/play/art/on-the-edge  feel,  I think the Linden move  to promote training and education uses of virtual worlds and its expressed goal of mainstreaming  through “extending the value of Second Life beyond the virtual world (through) helping Residents more closely integrate Second Life with their daily lives” are  correct moves in  an economic sense.

As Larry Johnson, summing up the growing momentum of Second Life and virtual learning, said in April this year, “I think it’s safe to say now that nearly every college and university has some sort of project in Second Life.”

For many users, however, that is probably the “boring’ direction. And it probably means that many  early Second Life adopters are already moving or will move on to other more edgy worlds taking their creativity – if not their content – with them.

One of those worlds just might be Blue Mars 2150 which  is scheduled to launch into its open Beta phase tomorrow, September 2. Or, of course, it too might join the virtual world scrap heap which is already littered with virtual worlds which have been created, promoted, and sometimes marketed,  and then faded away over the last few years. Remember Outback?

From the preview above – and remember it is a promotional video –  Blue Mars’ graphics are stunning, as are its partners.  It to obviously wants to cash in on the fact that the average social website user today spends $US148 each year, a figure that can only rise.

Blue Mars 2150, which  describes itself as the third generation of virtual worlds (also here) and like Linden Labs is based in San Francisco,  has already secured joint ventures with numerous leading academic institutions around the world, including the National Association of College Stores, with its 30,000 plus members, TERC, the National Geographic Society Alan Watts, NOVA and Smithsonian Institution.

It remains to be seen just how successful  Blue Mars 2150 will be. My belief is that unless someone comes up with something like “interactive, shared, controllable, lucid dreaming”  the Lindens are going to be very difficult to knock off their perch.

The SLENZ Update – No 101, June 18, 2009

Is there really virtual world

promise in peer-to-peer

… at this stage?

As if,  worrying whether the soon-to-be-released Second Life Viewer 2009 will  require educators to completely revamp their techniques and training of students, was not enough, we still have to wonder whether we might not have backed the wrong  horse and that the possible peer-to-peer virtual world competition for Second Life –  both public and behind the firewall – waiting in the wings, might not provide better applications.

We already have Entropia, Forterra(Olive),  Twinity, Wonderland,  Croquet, Prototerra, Kaneva, Hipihi,  and others  in the virtual world arena but just when one might have thought that Second Life and the Second Life-based OpenSim worlds – OpenSim, OpenLife, OsGrid, and smaller players like ONGENS, etc – were holding their own for education purposes,  at least one and perhaps two of  the Open Source alternatives to Second Life appear to be  breaking through, although they don’t have numbers yet.

The latest food for thought on this issue came from Feldspar  Epstein, of  The Metaverse Journal, who  explains the difference between the OpenSim concept, and that of Open Source such as  “Open Cobalt” and “Solipsis”,  as being that essentially while  OpenSim grids are designed to be served from a common point,  Open Cobalt and Solipsis implementations are designed to be served from many points – they are both peer-to-peer technologies.

“Open Cobalt (based on Croquet technology) consists of two parts: a browser and a toolkit,” Epstein says. ” The browser is used to view the 3D virtual workspaces created with the toolkit. Each workspace can live on a separate personal computer. Workspaces are real time and computationally dynamic, and each can host multiple participants. Additionally, individual workspaces can be interlinked into a private and secure network of work spaces.”

Attractive features

Epstein lists a number of  attractive Open Cobalt features, particularly for researchers and  educators, as: Open source licensing (MIT);  deeply malleable, collaborative space; runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux; internet access is not required; it can run over LANs and Intranets;  private and public environments can be created; in-world text, voice and video chat, web browsing (VNC allows access to browsers like Firefox) and annotations; Access to remote applications via VNC; Navigation between virtual workspaces is possible using 3D hyperlinks; Mesh, texture, media, and whole avatar imports.

An alpha phase Open  Cobalt download is available here and further information is available here. The beta release is due this year, and a full implementation is expected to be released in 2010.

Meanwhile the efficacy or on-going  viability of the French Telecom-developed Solipsis is more murky, although according to Epstein it is about to go into beta testing but I would question this.

A search of the net would suggest otherwise.

On Solipsis netofpeers.net  it  is revealed,  in a link from Professor  Shun-Yun Hu, of  the University of  Taiwan, that although Solipsis is a pure peer-to-peer system for a massively shared virtual world with no central servers,  only relying on end-users’ machines, the initial Solipsis project  ended some time ago when the core team left the project. The original Solipsis web site is available here. Although the dowloads are available there appears to have been little real activity since 2005, and the developers’ page is here but a number of the links appear dead.twinverse

More recently, however,  Joaquin Keller, has started TwinVerse – a virtual world based on geography, pictured right- and which seems little more than a glorified video and text chat room overlaid on Google satellite pictures/maps of various world spots, and nothing like the 3D virtual worlds, as presented by Second Life or Twinity or Entropia et al, and less than half as interesting.

Speaking of peer-to-peer virtual worlds Epstein doesn’t go into the much-touted Australian startup, Project Outback (from Yoik) which  folded sometime ago after considerable promotion by one of the former Kazaa peer-to-peer network promoters, nor the most viable other offering VastPark. currently in closed beta (downloads here) and based on the OPeN (Univ. of Melbourne) software funded by NICTA, Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Research
Centre of Excellence,  which signed a commercial license agreement with VastPark, in 2008.

Other peer-to-peer possibilities, in various states of array and disarray, include :  Colyseus (CMU); HYDRA (National Univ. of Singapore);  and peers@play (Univ. of Mannheim, Duisburg-Essen, and Hannover).

However, after looking at all the offerings I could find for peer-to-peer worlds ( I may have missed some) I believe that aside from Open Cobalt, which is actually Croquet in another form,  and VastPark, there appears nothing in the peer-to-peer virtual world public domain that is any real threat at this stage to Second Life and open-source Second Life-based products, for credibility, ease-of-use, attractiveness, population, and what I believe is the fundamental key to virtual world success,  immersibility (suspension of disbelief).

So forget peer-to-peer virtual worlds for the moment and concentrate on worrying about  the Second Life 2009 viewer, or perhaps the new adult continent of Zindra.  Just kidding.

The SLENZ Update – No 88, May 21, 2009

THE ‘OPENSIM’ EXPERIENCE

Worlds of difference  but  ones  that Kiwi

developers should probably try out

My experience in  OpenSim, OSgrid, OpenLife and New Zealand’s own ONGENS would suggest to me that  the variety and usability of  multi-user virtual worlds are really opening up and educators should not rule  out any of the possibilities.

I have not previously quantified/qualified my feelings about the OpenSim movement,  which is based on Second Life software – as opposed to being a resident of Second Life itself –  and I must admit I have had problems in a number of OpenSims, which have at times made me somewhat critical of them

But I am  not as critical as some of the Second Life experience, still having fun, building memories, and feeling it is a “real world” despite the Linden’s often-criticised, totalitarian-appearing regime and changing rules – many changes that I believe, in hindsight, have been beneficial.

However,  Zonja Capalini (pictured right and below)Capalini, Zonja1,  in a recent article, “The Open Space fiasco: six months later,” clearly sets out the benefits and pitfalls of  joining the  OpenSim movement.
At times I feel she is hypercritical of  Second Life but  her article and the comments are worth reading if one wants to really get a feeling of what a move to an OpenSim is like.

But I will let you form your own opinion: I think it is essential reading if you are interested in multi-user virtual environment technology and the changes that are taking place every day.

Although there have been some stability problems in the past the best opportunity for Kiwi education developers to get a look at the OpenSim movement is probably through ONGENS, running on KAREN, but accessible via Broadband internet.

The major thing these worlds don’t yet have for the general user is people, clothes, SHOPPING (products and goods to buy in world) entertainment, both live and recorded, and social networking.

Social networking to me is the major advantage of Second Life.

One can choose to benefit from the Second Life world, with up to 100,000 people on-line at any one time, and make “friends” from around the world, or one can choose to ignore them – become a recluse on your own little island – and get on with building, terraforming or just exploring a far richer environment than any of the Second Life-based other virtual worlds currently have.

For education, however, the opportunity to be on your own server and in an education world  of your own creation might be attractive.

Even if you don’t move now you should watch these spaces.

PS: I’m indebted to SL resident Wendy Steeplechase for pointing me to the Capalini blog.

capalini, Zonja

Update your viewer

For Second Life residents Dessie Linden has announced:  “The third iteration of the 1.23 viewer, Release Candidate 2 (RC2), is now available for download as a mandatory upgrade. As always, this RC may be installed along side any official viewer, and remember… on Thursday, May 21, anyone still using version 1.20 will be required to upgrade to either 1.21 or 1.22.”

It should be noted that the new release viewer also gives you the option of choosing whether you are PG, Mature or Adult, in the first page of preferences.