The Future of Virtual Worlds…

•April 11, 2014 • 2 Comments

Reading Maria Korolov’s feature piece on Philip Rosedale’s keynote speech at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference made me smile a little… After so long a period of Second Life being a ‘walled garden’ and so many other grids seeking to emulate that model, his speech basically endorses what OpenSimulator has been trying to achieve since day one – though it has to be said that this is probably what Second Life was intended to develop into long term. Of course, what was behind this acknowledgement that OpenSimulator is on the right track, is of course that great capitalist catalyst: the profit motive. Philip Rosedale is CEO of High Fidelity, which seeks to develop yet another virtual world platform. Maria states that it is unknown as to whether High Fidelity will be compatible with OpenSimulator, but given Philip Rosedale’s acknolwledgement that it is the OpenSimulator project that has shown the way it would seem to be an act of almost inconceivable stupidity to not make it compatible. Virtual worlds need to work more on solving the compatibility issues, and surely there are already more than enough different, competing, platforms as it is.

For me, the most promising of any of the existing platforms is OpenSim. From day one in Second Life when I created my first avatar there one bored evening in September 2009 I asked myself the question about the supposed 3D Metaverse that Second Life was supposed to herald, only to find that the promise remained unfulfilled, and likely to remain so. I soon discoverd that there were alternatives to Second Life, and that the most promising was the OpenSimulator project – though I didn’t understand that at the time, just that there were other grids out there with Second Life-like qualities. It wasn’t until a while later that I reailised that all these grids were based on one platform, OpenSimulator. Soon after that I discovered that it wasn’t always neccesary to create an account on a particular grid in order to visit – one’s avatar could teleport from one interconnected grid to another, and that it was called Hypergrid. OK, in those early days it was advisable to Hypergrid without hair or shoes, as it was quite likely that those items would be lost in transit, but it worked… kind of.

That there was often little to see, (apart from a seemingly ubiquitous Linda Kellie Mall) and virtually no-one to meet once your avatar had successfully arrived on that newly discovered obscure grid was neither here nor there, (literally!) it proved that the platform had a potential, but for what?

I think the idea that the metaverse will be a platform on which ot make money is seriously flawed – it might make a few people (relatively speaking) a decent living through providing content, or hosting and expertise, (the last being perhaps the most viable) I very much doubt that many will make the obscene levels of cash that were seen in the early, crazy days of Second Life.

Virtual worlds no doubt have a huge potential in the world of education, and I use the term very broadly here. Already a lot of work has gone into developing the platform for educational use, at all levels, and the flexibility of OpenSimulator allows anyone with a modicum of patience to have their own mini grid. However, one of the perceived obstacles to adoption is complexity, but this too must be put in context. In the UK IT teaching ususally comes down to brain dead click & play Microsoft Windows stuff, and as a result hardly anyone knows anything about computers. Anything like a command line results in mass panic, and here we are back to stage one: perceived complaxity. I have nothing against click & play solutions, but I also think it vital that everyone also has a basic understanding of what is happneing ‘under the bonnet’ (‘hood’ for you North American ex colonials :)).

But there is more. Most computer users are using machines that are hardly able to cope with the demands of Second Life/OpenSimulator on Low Graphics, and many users don’t seem to realise that the viewer itself is a major resource hog often way beyond the abilites of many of the machines used to attempt connceting with virtual worlds. Consequently there is a huge diasppointment factor, which surely leads to many visiting virtual worlds once and never returning. Another issue is the sheer complexity of the viewer itself, as well as the fairly steep learning curve of just doing the basics in a virtual world. It’s a recognised issue, and certainly there is a wide acceptance amongst the OpenSimulator community of the need for a browser based viewer that is easy to use. (There is also an equally wide acceptance of the need for a dedicated OpenSimulator viewer that is optimised for OpenSimulator, and not Second Life, but that is a subject for another time). Added to all this is the increasing practice of people using smartphones and tablets to do increasingly more things online, but so far none is really capable of coping with the resource demands of virtual worlds, and it’s my guess that it will remain so for a good long while yet.

High Fidelity will have to cope with all of the forgoing, and unless it is to be a niche application like the very, in my opinion, over-hyped Unity3D (which would completely defeat the object) it will not only have to successfully work on all the kinds of devices that we are increasingly being ‘forced’* to use, but also remain compatible with already existing platforms, and of all of them, only OpenSimulator offers most of what High Fidelity seems to promise. But, even then, to experience the rich, immersive qualites tentativley suggested would requitre significant investment in high end hardware that many people, apart from hard-core gamers, would be willing to invest in.

I have no doubt that Philip Rosedale is sincere in what he hopes for, ater all, we’ve all been here before with what Second Life promised at the beginning – it didn’t deliver, but it did result in people picking up the idea and going long way to realising that dream with OpenSimulator. I wish the High Fidelity project well, (and have, in fact ‘signed up’ to it) but I can’t help thinking, that like OpenSimulator, it’s a bit of a solution looking for a problem.**

Virtual worlds do have a future, and we in the OpenSimulator community are part of that future. Are most of us aware of the lack of people using the platform? I’m quite sure that we are. Are we overly concerned about that? Not really, as primarily it’s not about sociability for us, as we just want to create in peace… and affordably! Many think that all the various OpenSimulator grids are in ‘competition’ with Second Life – they are not, and in reality there can be no direct comparison. I do go on Second Life, but increasingly my time is spent using OpenSimulator, as only there can I create in the way that I wish. I am constantly asked by people in Second Life as to why I don’t do what I do in OpenSimulator there. Most do not seem to understand that even if it were technically possible, (which it isn’t) it would be fiscally impossible. I have up to 22 regions running in OpenSimulator, and to host all those regions in Second Life for a month would cost more that over 13 years of internet access, and I have a premium FTTC connection – that’s how expensive Second Life is. High Fidelity will need to address that accessibility issue as well, if it is to succceed, and this is why the project at least needs to consider being compatiible with OpenSimulator, perhaps being a fork of the software in the way that Aurora Sim is. I’m watching that space, but I’m guessing that High Fidelity will be yet one more platform that is a solution looking for a problem… a problem that, despite dubious graphics and well known shortcomings, (at the present time) OpenSimulator is most likely top be ‘best fit’ as a solution.

*’forced’: I have a smartphone, nothing fancy, (a cheap Android, unlocked bought on ebay) on which I have installed Lumiya – I sometimes use it, but it’s hardly functional. As far as smartphones go, for me, they are a bit of a gimmick, and I can see myself returning to my 1999 vintage mobile phone, which, though far from ‘smart’ is supremely reliable, and the battery lasts a week on standby, and not just a day! Until portable devices have capabilites approaching towards top-end laptops they will, to me, remain largely a gimmick.

** This is very much how I see OpenSimulator and similar projects. I’m of course looking at them in a strictly narrow, busisness sense, and it would seem that the text based web is what works best for that. I personally derive huge pleasure from my use of OpenSimulator, as anyone who knows my work will attest. It’s allowed me a freedom to create and share in ways that I just could not do in the restrictive confines of Second Life. OpenSimulator probably isn’t the best platform available, technically speaking, but, like a Model T Ford, it is accessible, and affordable in a way that all other platforms aren’t. Though it requires a certain level of technical understanding, it isn’t that hard to impart that understanding. I have personally taught complete n00bs in OS Grid, (and Windows users to boot :P) how to have regions up and running in less than 3 hours… amd that was using a strange piece of software running on a machine running a strange operating system… and they hadn’t heard of a command line, either! (I did explain that all this could be run on Windows… but they insisted that they wanted Linux, despite not ever having used it previously!).

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Is OS Grid full of Techno-Communists?

•October 8, 2012 • 1 Comment

This post is inspired by some of the comments to Fleep Tuque’s blog posting “Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later” I was appalled at some of the obnoxious redneck views expressed there. True, there were some moderate voices there, I didn’t agree with them, and they also tended to support and buy into the anti Communist/Anarchist world view – without bothering to actually know what the heck they were talking about!

Is OS Grid really full of Techno-Communists? I seriously doubt it. If one delves a little and considers the kind of behaviour usually dubbed ‘Techno-Communist’ one finds that this label is usually attached to people who share similar political views to that of Barack Obama, that well known Marxist currently domiciled in the White House.

Let’s get one thing straight. Communists and Anarchists DO NOT condone theft. They may have some difficulties with the idea that profit is an OK idea, becasuse, and proponents of the profit motive conveniently forget this, profit is theft. It’s the difference between what a worker is paid for their work, and what that worker has actually earned – the ‘excess’ being appropriated, i.e. stolen by the capitalist employer. This is of course a gross simplification, but it serves to illustrate

Many proponents of the ‘for profit’ motive in virtual worlds also sound too much like corporatists, who see the only role of government being to protect their proprietorial rights, including their profits, and their ‘rights’ to exploit. This is of course a description of the corporate state, but we’ve been here before in recent human history, only that time it was called by it’s proper name: Fascism. Perhaps it’s becasue they are Repulicans, (they all sound like redneck bastards to me) though from my perspective as a Welsh Anarchist, I can’t see much difference between them and the Democrats. But then I have difficulty in telling Labour and Tory apart in England!

OS Grid is run as a ‘not-for-profit’ which is a concept that is probably the best approach to business. It may say that it’s not for making a profit, but one thing is certainly sure, and that is that it certainly isn’t out to make a loss! A good nor for profit enterprise will almost certainly make a ‘surplus’ which usually gets reinvested, or passed back to consumers in terms of reduced charges, or maybe invested in other projects of a social nature. Not for profit means just that. There is no need for the profit motive, only a need to cover costs, and not make a loss. Sometimes a ‘surplus’ might be made, and that’s nice, so long as no-one has lost out becasue of that- it’s a real bonus, treats all round! But I believe that profit should not be the raison d’etre. (Oh what a silly European cuddly leftie I am!)

This leads me to the oft regurgitated lie that OS Grid, (and by implication, Open Sim) is a haven or rampant copybotters ditributing stolen content all over the grid. I can’t deny that it exists, but it isn’t at alnywhere near the level you’ll find in Second Life. And the reasons it exists at all in OS Grid is probably because of the dearth of decent content, though what is available as original content created by OS Grid creators for use by OS Grid, (and Open Sim) residents. I’ve also noticed that those most vocal in complaining about IP theft are usually the ones with an over-inflated view of what their content is worth, but like in RL, if you charge an unjustifiable price for your product you stand a big chance of being ripped off. Don’t complain, you started it by buying into the culture that values ‘excluisivity’ and the ‘must have’ label culture. I’m not for one moment condoning theft of content, but I would be lying if I said that I wept tears when I hear that some inflated ego of a ‘creator’ is moaning because they’ve been ‘ripped-off’ by a copybotter. Perhaps if they didn’t try an elaborate form of extortion for a living they wouldn’t be ripped off. On the other hand I do genuinely sympathise with the creator of decent content who sells at a reasonable price who then has their content stolen. I would be more than happy to support the creators I buy from in SL if they ventured to OS Grid – I have signed up to VirWox, but so far have not spent anything, as there is so far no content I would wish to purchase, and those items I would willingly pay for, happen to be free.

Whatever, I think the whole content security issue is largely a red herring, an excuse for not dipping the toe into the water and experimenting, by those who have a vested interest in the status quo. I for one certainly don’t want the status quo that allows creators the freedom to extort several times for the same content on different grids, which is what has to be done in order to have a similar look in say, SL and InWorldz and Avination – try doing that with a few Redgrave skins and DE outfits! (And anyway, Claudia Sanz’s freebie skins in OS Grid knock Redgrave into a cocked hat – they look so amateur by comparison!) It rapidly gets very expensive. In RL we don’t expect to have to replicate our wardrobes in each and every country we visit. I hope that soon some enterprisong creator of decent, reasonably priced content from Second Life decides to put a toe in the water and takes a bit of a punt on OS Grid, or another Open Sim grid that’s part of the Open Metaverse. It’s my guess that they’d be very pleasantly susrprised. I for one would be more than willing to pay again for content like, say that of Guu Nishi of House of Curios in Second Life, or the amazing Jade hair by Topaw Jewell. If a few creators like these ventured to the Open Metaverse and discovered what most of us already know, that it is populated largely by decent people who know the value of content and are prepared to pay a fair price for it. Yes, there is a bit of copied content here, and I don’t condone it, but it isn’t driven by any kind of greed, merely by a desire to have nice things, things often paid for ‘somewhere else’ and copied because there is no other option. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the misanthropic malcontents will change nothing – if someone wishes to copy something, they will, and no technical or legal measure is going to prevent them from doing that. The only safety we have is to create content and sell it at a fair price. It won’t remove the possibility of having your creations stolen, but it will severely reduce it. The vast majority of people are honest and will respect fairness – we all need to pay the rent and put food on the table, what they won’t do is condone greed. HG 2.0 may persuade some creators to come here but if the Metavers, Open and free is to really take off then it will make no difference, as those grids that go for restricted access will inevitably shoot themselves in the foot. I don’t want to go to any virtual world equivalent of North Korea where the grid owner dictates what I can do with the items I have bought and paid for, and whether I can take it home with me. A little trust goes a long way.

And I vote that we oppose Fascists (corporatists who want ‘government’ and ‘police’ in virtual worlds) in Open Sim worlds – they don’t know they’re Fascists, and very few yet realise they are Fascists, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are Fascists. Keep Open Sim Anarchist… so we don’t want the Commies either… nor the so called Anarcho-Capitalists. Total security cannot be assured, but most people want to be seen as playing the game. Given that, anyone peddling dodgy ripped-off content will not be viewed as doing that, especially if they are ripping-off the hard working creator who sells at a reasonable price.

So, is OS Grid a haven of Techno-Communists? No, it isn’t, unless you have political views to the Right of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy. Is OS Grid Anarchist? Maybe but that’s understated, and often misunderstood – I’m quite glad it’s as free and as open as it is, with no Linden-like figure presiding over it. Rules are made by individual region owners, and it is they who decide who goes and who stays. If you don’t like that, then don’t come here, stay in your closed, and soon to be sinking walled gardens.

I create content, and I like to do that. Some of the items I make are available in OS Grid gratis, but I do charge for them in SL – after all being in SL costs me Lindens, and that is the ethos of that place, (though I often give my items away for free in SL too).

In conclusion, OS Grid isn’t the hotbed of Techno-Communists that those of a right-wing dispositon think it is. Techno-Anarchists are probably pretty well represented though!  Are Anarchists bad at business?  Well, to be honest, they’ve had even less of a chance to prove themselves than so called Communists, (who were really just corporatist capitalists in disguise = another form of fascism really), They did have some limited success in 1930s Spain in Catalonia, where despite being handicapped all the way by the Communists and there being a war on, managed not only the formerly capitalist enterprises more efficiently, but generated enough of a surplus to invest in other industries, reduce prices and reduce working hours and still remain viable – all this in a middle of a war against the corporatists/fascists whilst being undermined by the Communists.  So much surplus wealth was created that there was enough to start investing in social wellbeing, such as affordable/free at point of need healthcare – something that the so called Land of the Free still hasn’t managed!  If it came down to a choice about who I’d rather ran the economy it wouldn’t be the capitalists, or the Communists.  Neither really believes in freedom. Anarchists do.

A Caveat.

There will no doubt be those who see this article and me as condoning theft. I do not. I am an Anarchist, but that does not mean I condone chaos, misrule or any of the other common misconceptions surrounding Anarchism. As far as economics go, Anarchism favours no particular economic system, they all have their merits and demerits, but all forms of exploitation are condemned. Anarchism is not a free for all, there are rules, but the only ‘laws’ Anarchists respect are the so called Natural Laws that can be basically summed up by what most of us know as the Ten Commandments, but tempered with Justice – e,g, Killing is wrong, full-stop. Murder is killing, and the death penalty is murder, and is therefore morally wrong. However, though killing is always wrong it is sometimes justified – such as in the heat of the moment when one’s own life, or the life of another is threatened. Premeditated killing is an abhorrence, no matter who commits it. Theft is always wrong, but can sometimes be justified if someone who is poor and starving steals in order to eat. Not all these laws can be broken in the name of justice, as I fail to see how greed could ever be justified, or for that matter adultery. Get the drift?

Want to know more? Ask for a notecard inworld, SL or OS Grid.

 

Farewell Linden Labs… you’ve had enough of my cash. Hello Speculoos… you may well get some of mine!

•February 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In the light of my recent acqusition of a completely free sim on Speculoos.net, a new Belgian grid using Open Sim and connected to other grids through Hypergrid I have had to seriously consider whether my small land holding plus the obligatory premium membership of Second Life can be justified, now that I spend less and less time in Second Life.  It will be a big wrench giving up my home of over 12 months on the coast at Jenesis, but I can no longer justify the cost.  Suffice to say that I have been happy there, and have had some great times with my friends there over the months, but things move on, and given the financially streightened times we live in, SL is simply too expensive.  How LL justify what I consider to be extortionately high charges for sim rental when compared to Open Sim I’ll never know.  Sim hosting for other grids starts around $10 a month for a sim comparable to one in SL, (supporting 15,000 prims), though that has to be supported ones-self, nonetheless, the difference is a glaring one.

 

 

Though I am giving up my premium account, and my home in SL, this does not mean that I am leaving SL, though, as at present, my visits shall be fairly infrequent as I have so much more to do on my sim in Speculoos, and in Open Sim itself.  I am experimenting with a Diva Distro implementation, which will reside as a standalone on a pc here in RL, and be accessed by me only initially until I can sort out things like loopback and Hypergrid connections and then I’ll open that up for a chosen few visitors.

 

So, as of midnight 11 March 2012 Susannah’s home at Jenesis shall be no more.  Sad to go, and sad to leave behind me wonderful neighbours Pat and Jenn.  Thanks for being such good neighbours.  If you haven’t yet visited my little home here on the coast, then be quick.  From Sunday 4th of March until midnight on the 11th, I shall be making my parcel open access, so you will be able to wander around without fear of being bounced by the security.

For the adventurous of you, you are more than welcome to come and visit me in my new, and much larger home in Speculoos.  To visit you need to create an account in OS Grid and from there Hypergrid to Speculoos.  For the uninitiated, Hypergrid is just the ability to teleport from one grid to another, something you won’t be able to do in SL until hell is just about to freeze over.  To arrive at my home there simply type ‘speculoos.net:8002:redoutable’ (without the quotes) in your Map Search window and press ENTER twice.  The system might complain that ‘no such place exists’ but please persist, Open Sim is nothing if no clunky at times!.  If that fails, teleport to Belgium Jump in OS Grid and then choose ‘Residences’ from the Teleport board there.  My sim is a short walk/fly to the south from the landing zone.

Second Life Essentials: Part One, AOs and HUDs

•November 20, 2011 • 2 Comments

Something that has struck me in my time in Second Life is that the cost of some items that are deemed neccessary is sometimes very high, and often, in my opinion, unjustifiably so. Fair enough if it’s a one-off custom build for someone, or some obscure attachment that has no function outside of a particular variety of roleplaying, but I’m talking here about AOs and dance HUDs. Some cost thousands of Lindens, and then with many you are tied in to using that particular creators animations – at further great cost to yourself. Some may say that this is fair enough, and that everyone has to make a living, but how many people seriously make their living from Secondl Life, and quite honestly, anyone considering Second Life as a viable way to make a living is, in my humble opinion, quite barmy. Fine as a hobby, so why charge such extortionate prices? Greed?

 

However, there are some creators out there who seem to make things for the sheer joy of it, and though some do charge a reasonable amount, many also give their stuff away free, sometimes even with full permissions, so you can give your friends a copy.

 

Everyone loves a freebie, and if the item turns out to be a dud, what is the loss? It’s a bit of a different matter when it costs L$ 1000, and that is the case with quite a bit of stuff available in Second Life.

 

As a ‘noob’ or even a more experienced SLer we are all on the lookout for that much needed addition that makes our SL experience more pleasant. Cost is sometimes a big hurdle for some, and for others, like myself, getting something that will do the job at a minimal cost is what we need. And some stuff is really worth paying for, but that is a subject for another post.

 

Oracul AO.

 

A few months ago whilst trawling the SL Marketplace looking for a decent AO I came accross the Oracul AO. The price varied from a modest $L150 to a very reasonable L$300. However, what I didn’t know at the time, was that the actual HUD is available for free, without animations, but here is where the big surprise lies, individual mocap animations are available for around L$10 each. There is also comprehensive support available on a website, and the creator, Daiz Papp deals with issues very promptly indeed. He is Japanese, and I’m not sure if he speaks English, or uses machine translation for his website and instructions, so at times it takes a while to work out what is meant, but at least it is there, and is a lot easier to comprehend than some of the stuff I’ve tried to understand written by geeks who suspposedly speak English as a first language. It’s a very well thought out AO, and takes up minimal space on the UI, just three small buttons in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

 

CG Facelight.

 

There are facelights that are really searchlights in disguise, and there are expensive facelight ‘systems’ that can cost quite a lot. Being of a ‘sod that, I ain’t paying that‘ kind of girl I searched for a more reasonably priced alternative. I came across the CG Facelight on the old Xstreet website, but it’s still available on the SL Marketplace at the same price, L$0. Now, that might make you think that it’s a load of rubbish, however, as a ‘basic’ facelight it does have a lot of very useful features. The colour of the light can be changed, I think there are nine options in all, not only that the brightness levels can be varied, and also the radius of the light, so there is absolutely no reason to blind everyone within 100 metres, unless of course you want to. This item is full permissions too, which means that you can give copies aways to your friends, or your enemies too, if you are of a truly kindly disposition.

 

NuTec Dance HUD

 

Now I like dancing, and as it is such an essential and surprisingly popular activity in Second Life that it almost requires an HUD so that we can access our favourite dances at the click of the mouse. There are many available, some costing quite a lot, and that is without any dances included. I, of course, was not prepared to fork out a lot, and then find myself tied in to using proprietory dances, oh, no, no, no. “Proprietory” is a very dirty word to me, and even where proprietory stuff is supplied free of cost, it is still regarded with some suspicion by me. I am not a purist though, and will use that kind of stuff if I need to. A quick look on the SL Marketplace soon led me to the NuTec Dance HUD at a very reasonable L$49. I read the product description, and thought that it was worth a gamble, as so much on the Marketplace doesn’t do what it says on the tin, or is incredibly hard to use. I bought the item, and all I can say is that I’m well impressed. It is simplicity itself to use, and dances can be added. It comes ready loaded with a lot of freebie dances, but what really caught my eye was that it has the ability to have as many dances as you like installed. It is easy to add dances too. Just drag them from your inventory into the contents tab in the Edit window. That’s all, the HUD does the rest, no configuring notecards or anything like that. You can also invite up to 25 others to dance with you, and a chimera is also supplied so that others can invite themselves to dance with you, but this is an optional extra: you don’t have to use it.

 

HOC Expresso HUD

 

Wanna be a grinning idiot? Or be the best at gurning in SL? Well, this is the tool for the job. A freebie, and one of the products of Guu Nishi’s creative, and sometimes slightly warped mind. You’ll find the Expresso HUD on the freebie wall outside the HOC shop (House of Curios, for the uninitiated), along with a large selection of other free stuff, all of it, except the Nixi Tube clock is free, so don’t be put off by the prices on some of the product displays, they are a legacy of when these products were being sold. The Expresso HUD sits neatly on the top right hand side of your screen, though unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have a minimise button… no problem, we’ll come to that a bit later. There are twenty expressions included in the HUD, all except the auto-smile are fixed, so if you click an expression accidentally, you will be walking around with maybe a scowl, or with your tongue sticking out at people. The auto-smile turns you into the grining idiot I just mentioned. The jury is still out on auto-smile, some love them, some hate them. I personally would like something that automates a range of facial expressions, randomising them, and I’m sure that somewhere in SL I could get something to do just that, but it probably costs a few thousand Lindens. Whilst your at Guu’s shop, check out the stuff you have to pay for, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised that you don’t have to shell out a fortune for decent stuff, and Guu is especially talented when it comes to shoes and eye glassses. There is a lot of other stuff too, which is worth checking out, all really well made and excellent value. I can’t praise HOC products enough, and just wish there was a greater range of products available. The Strawberry Fizz shop opposite is also well worth a peek, if you like nice clothes.

 

My Eye View HUD

 

If you don’t like the default camera view angle of the viewer there are alternatives. Some, of course you have to pay for, but those are beyond the scope of this post, and though they may include some advanced features, if all you want is a basic HUD that allows you set your camera angle so that it follows your bum around, the My Eye View HUD is hard to beat at L$0 on the Marketplace. I love it, and it is a permanent fixture now, and great if you are into machinima, in which I’m taking my first faltering steps. The controls are basic, but adequate, and above all, easy to understand and use.

 

Laser Eyes + HUD

 

If you are into entirely frivolous and essentially useless items, then this is one for you. Useless and frivolous it may be, but it is a lot of fun! Basically this attachment gives you the ability to zap other avatars with twin laser beams from your eyes, Very easy to use, you just wear the laser eyes and the seperate HUD and you’re away! There are various colours of beam to choose from, and also different thicknesses of beam, and differing ranges. The sound effects are quite fun too. I said that this was useless, well, not entirely, as is pointed out in the accompanying notecard to the product, it can be used as a laser pointer to show other avis where to look – I just prefer to use it to zap people!

 

Ahh! I mentioned the lack of a minimise button on the HOC Expresso HUD.  If you have by now got everything mentioned here attached, your screen will now be quite crowded.  Easy solution, you can ‘hide’ all your HUDs with a simple keystroke – just press Alt + Shift + H and they disappear.  Press that combination again and they are back. Simple!

 

DISCLAIMER

 

I do not work for, nor have I been commissoned by the creators of the above products to give them a plug. I am just a very satisfied customer.

Wandering the Metaverse

•October 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

SL is a wonderful place to meet people and have fun… but I’m increasingly becoming frustrated by the petty strictures imposed by LL and their money grabbing ways. Though technically it’s still the best and most advanced in terms of features it is still a ‘walled garden’ in that you are stuck in SL. I have become bored with SL and much of what goes on there, and if it was not for the people I have met there, many of whom have become friends, I would have departed long ago.

‘Me’ in various parts of the Metaverse

Until recently visiting other grids was a very frustrating experience, InWorldz a year ago was quite bad… if you could log in at all the chances were that teleporting anywhere would be met by failure, and even if you could teleport, I would find that my AO wouldn’t work and would need resetting. That’s not to mention the dearth of decent clothing or skins at the time. Just over a year on things have improved dramatically, and now teleporting is almost as hassle free as in SL, and no longer do I have to endure an avatar that is awful to look at. I now have the same look in InWorldz as I do in Second Life, thanks to the presence of many of the labels and boutiques found in Second Life. I recently spent a fortune on my avi, twice over, as I had to buy the same outfits and skins in both worlds, and as you will all know Redgrave skins, nice though they are, they are not cheap. And here is where we come to one of the major stumbling blocks to the development of the 3D web… content. Content creators are understandably worried that they’re intellectual property rights may be compromised, and so they do not usually allow their creations to be taken from whichever particular virtual world they have created/sold that particular product. But this situation is analagous to a Real World where an oufit bought in a branch of Benneton in, say, Britain could not be taken to Germany, and that the same outfit would have to be bought there once again. A cynic might say that creators have an ulterior motive in wanting to maintain the status quo because it increases the amount of money they make. I don’t wish to minimise the seriousness of the risk of the theft of intellectual property, as an anarchist I believe that an individual should be allowed to enjoy the full fruits of their labours, but also that someone purchasing that work also has certain, limited rights, i.e. to be free to be able to use that product in any way they see fit within the parameters of the contract agreed upon purchase, which in the metaverse I believe should parallell that of the Real World. Maybe a voluntary agreement could be reached amongst the various grid operators to have a single policy as regards content created, and to pursue a policy of not allowing stolen content to be available on their grids, that way content creators would have some safeguards, and it would also allow individuals the freedom to transfer their inventories to other grids as well. In all this it must be remembered that most people are honest in RL, and do not wantonly go about passing off the creations of others as their own, and the same applies in the virtual worlds. Content creators could potentially benefit massively, as having a presence on many grids would presumably increase overall sales. I know from personal experience that creating a similar look on two different grids cost me twice the amount, and who in their right minds would do that in two different countries in RL? It may be that the actual sums involved in terms of RL money may be relatively small, but it still irks.

I have also been lured to OS Grid, and almost surprisingly have found that I love it there. I did register an avi there some time ago, but visited once, wasn’t impressed, and then lost the login details… until a fortnight ago. Logging in again brought some very nice surprises. Still no economy, and an ambience that seems very anti-economy, with a comittment to Open Source and the many different kinds of licencing available. I have read some accusations on the Web that Open Sim doesn’t respect copyright, but this is either an error, or spitefully libellous, as intellectual property rights are indeed respected, and go way beyond the simplistic, and I dare say selfish demands of copyright. If one thing has convinced me that

Pseudospace provides some hospitality for those ever-so-popular Lindens

Open Source does indeed respect intellectual property rights, it is the fact that many of the ‘free’ items I have obtained in OS Gird that come with a notecard explaining the licence… something you don’t get in SL, even though you have paid, often through the nose, for items that, whilst nice, are not as good as that available in OS Grid for no money at all. There are places that would like to try and persuade you to part with denominations of various virtual currencies, many based on a one for one exchange with the Linden dollar, but a caveat on the OS Grid forum has persuaded me to give that a miss. However, where a price is charged, it is small by SL standards, and the quality high. But 99% of the time items are free to copy, or ‘buy’. Don’t think nasty ‘noob’ looking avatars either, there is even less excuse in OS Grid to look a mess than there is in SL, (Though surprisingly ‘old’ avis can be seen in a state of awful noobishness, even where decent stuff is free). And many avatars look quite fantastic. Some of the accompanying pictures tell the story far better than words.

No easy escape by Hypergrid here…

OS Grid isn’t as ‘social’ as SL, and you are more likely to find that someone is busy in the middle of a build than in the middle of a steamy sex session, as would commonly be the case in SL. That’s not to say that people don’t let their hair down here, they do as witnessed by the weekly D&J Friday event held in a spaceship which sees 20+ avatars in attendance. That’s a big crowd by OS Grid standards. The relatively huge (and largely German) BDSM comunity points to the popularity of at least some varieties of sexual activity – and some of the freebie items I have collected (for curiosity value, of course 😉 ) makes one realise that sex is there, and often more explicitly than anywhere I’ve seen in SL. (The entire Littlefield community upped and left SL for OpenSim too, but the less said baout that grid the better.) Unlike SL, OS Grid is an 18+ grid, and whilst child avatars are tolerated, they are barely so, and many sims have an outright ban, which is correct in my opinion. Leaving aside the legal issues, which are very serious indeed in many European countries, particularly the UK and Germany, the moral ones are the most important to me. And I cannot for the life of me understand why adults wish to indulge in ageplay of any kind… and some of it has a decidedly ‘nasty’ feel to it. It has been rumoured that this was partly behind the demise of Meta 7, and I have to that on my few visits to that grid before it closed, I felt distinctly queasy in many places, for though there was little blatant evidence of things untoward, there was plenty that suggested that not all was wholseome about that place. Which brings me to Pseudospace, another grid I infrequently visit, and when I do I often find that I am the only one there, and that getting around by TP is almost always prevented by technical issues. I had that same queasy feeling here that I had in Meta 7, though thankfully there is now a clear warning about ageplay and appropriate behaviour, and the grid owner seems to be very serious about enforcing that. There isn’t a lot there, but what there is is pretty good, though somewhat unfinished. The Ellis Island welcome area is worth a visit, and there you will find a store of freebies to get you going. Again, Pseudospace has no economy, but the basics are there, though I can’t for the life of me find any decent eyes, and have had to make do with a pair of ghoulishly red ones. Near to Ellis Island there is a quite magnificent re-creation of the Statue of Liberty. Worth a visit.

Not many emigrate to this place…

Another virtual world that I visit is New World Grid, but again most of the time it is deserted, though there are some very worthwhile places to visit, the Mount Grace monastery being the most noteworthy. Here the project is recreating the Mount Grace monastery in Yorkshire over four sims, progress is slow but steady, and the project team members are to be congratulated on doing such a fine job. This is not pure entertainement, as there is a strong educational purpose to the project – as witnessed partly by the herb garden which is interactive, and explains the traditional use of herbs, both culinary and medicinal. New World Grid is strongly orientated towards education, and the University of Plymouth has a centre there, (though I have yet to see an avi there) and the grid hosts various conventions ‘inworld’ which residents of other grids on the Open Sim technology can access through Hypergird, which quite simply is the ability to teleport from one grid to another. Not all grids running this technology are Hypergrid enabled, New World Grid is acessible by this method, but other grids using the Open Sim software are not. InWorldz and Avination are two such grids, and I think that Open Life, Pseudospace, Your Alternative Life and My Open Grid are ‘walled gardens’ on the model of Second Life. All these other grids seem to be more or less deserted, many are voluntary projects, as indeed is the whole Open Sim project, and OS Grid itself. Though this may mean that some things remain annoyingly unfixed until someone has the free time to deal with, there is the flip side of the coin that you often have a chance to meet the devs inworld.

So, there we have my quick spin through the metaverse, badly written, and certainly lacking in some of the finer details. Second Life can be a wonderful place, and is certainly a hugely more popular place. It’s great if you want to be social, and there are some wonderful places to visit, but somehow I began to feel a wanderlust, and wanted to know something about that ‘otherworld’ on the opposite side of the garden wall. Even if you are happy in Second Life, why not go out and see some of those other worlds? It will make you thankful on one hand that some things about SL are very good, but that some other things… are actually quite bad, and need to change, (and probably will in the fullness of time).

Hmmmm, only scary red eyes could be found… but 5 mins after this pic was taken, I found some, and a (male) AO… oh well, better than nothing

I shall be posting more about many of the aspects mentioned above in further posts, Particularly about OS Grid as it is the one grid that I see as having potentially the greatest future. Many of the other grids suffer from being pale, (very pale in some instances) imitations of Second Life, and because of their walled garden status, I suspect have no long term future. Second Life and OS Grid are considerably different prospects, Second Life because of it’s sheer size and a Unique Selling Point of having a huge, captive market, and OS Grid with it’s USP of being open; if you are capable enough, (and it isn’t rocket science) you can connect to OS Grid yourself and have run your own sims for a small fraction of the cost of the tier for one sim in Second Life – indeed, even if you used a hosting service for your sims in OS Grid, you could run almost ten sims in OS Grid for the price of one in Second Life – host it yourself on your own server machine, (and even quite old equipment is sufficient, dependent on intended use) and the cost falls dramatically further. But all this will be the subject of upcoming posts… watch this space.

Driving in Second Life

•January 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

Having now been in Second Life long enough to have become completely bored by sex here I have recently been searching around for something else to tickle my fancy. Apart from parachuting accross Gaeta, (and almost making it accross the straits to Corsica, only let down by lack of altitude) the main appeal recently has been driving. Given that there are 473 pages devoted to car related products on the SL Marketplace website, I’m surprised that the A&E departments in SL aren’t inundated with injured avatars. However, the reality is that owning and actually driving a car in SL are two completely seperate things. Lack of a decent road network is one obstacle, as many of us cannot access a road because of banlines on land over which we must cross to access a road. Another obstacle is the road infrastructure itself. Take the continent I live on, Gaeta. We do have SL Route 7 and 7A, which do, in theory, go around the continent, but frustratingly there are large sections where SL Route 7 becomes a canal, and unless your vehicle is of the amphibious, or submarine variety, you won’t be able to do a circuit of Gaeta.

Running out of road on Gaeta

Things get much better on Corsica, as I discovered very recently. The road goes round the continent. Completely. Corsica has a more European feel to it, (a nice change from the dominant North American influence in SL) with reassuringly European road signs, many of which give warnings of 20% inclines/declines (that’s 1:5 to you who have yet negelcted to go metric!) indicating the hilly nature of the central region of the continent. Obvious attention has been given to roadside landscaping, and informational signposting is well provided, giving distances to rez zones and upcoming sims. Whilst it’s great to have well signposted and marked rez zones, confusingly this information is provided on both sides of the zone itself, so one is never quite sure if one is in the rez zone or not. Why not indicate this by putting a diagonal red line through the rez zone sign indicating the end of the rez zone, rather like that great European idea of doing this with places along the route, you know when you’re leaving, as the sign with the name of the place you’ve just driven through has diagonal red line through it.

On Gaeta, there isn’t much local traffic to worry about, as there seems to be little organised traffic. (Though I did see a bus drive past my house the other day, which may not seem unusual, excepting the fact that my house is on the water’s edge, facing out to sea, and the bus went past on the seaward side! The marvels of SL). It’s different on Corsica, as there is actually quite a bit of organised traffic, local buses and a refuse truck being two, and a tank (!) and a farm truck being the other vehicles likely to be encountered on the continent’s roads. All these vehicles, with the exception of the tank, sadly, are rideables, which is a pleasant, if slow way of travelling the highways. The tank, whilst not rideable, will shoot you if you stand in the way, though it will also confusingly, apologise if it bangs it’s sides into you. I have yet to meet any other vehicle, other than the automatic variety, such as the four just described, it would be nice to meet a fellow traveller engaged on a similar quest, at least it would mean that I wasn’t alone in my questionable sanity.

Light local traffic on Corsica

My choice of vehicles may seem, to those who do not knwo me, a little strange. I have several vehicles in my inventory, but at present my favourites are a tracked rideable car that was either a freebie, or very cheap on the SL Marketplace, and a representation of a motor scooter that has a bit of a cult status in Germany. It’s an SL renditon of the Schwalbe, (Swallow) scooter that provided basic transport in the former GDR. Of course, being SL, the Schwalbe has the ability to fly, rocket assisted, (who said the German’s don’t have a sense of humour?) though in my inexpert hands, this has proven to be more of a liability than anything else – I tend to crash a lot. The tracked car is now my firm favourite, it has three gears, and can be persuaded to climb almost any obstacle, including the pier, just off SL Route 7 at Frostar. First gear is a little slow, so I usually change up to the medium range gear as this allows decent progress. It’s a fun vehicle to drive, and the tracks have a very realistic motion effect. It’s just a pity that it’s a single-seater, as it’s make the basis of a fun vehicle to take friends out in.

Sim crossings are a constant source of complaint, and up until now it’s a problem that hasn’t affected me too much, but now it’s starting to, big time. It is extremely frustrating to have to stop every couple of minutes drive, and wait whilst the servers do their stuff, and you can continue on your way. It’s especially frustrating when there are two sim crossing very close to one another on the road, as this can cause you to become stuck on that crossing, and no way out other than to dismount, take the vehicle back into inventory, and then seek out the next nearest rez zone, and hope you’re on the correct side of the sign. Even at relatively low speed sim crossings can be a problem, at high speed they become positively dangerous for one’s sense of inner calm. I don’t know, and maybe it’s one of those chicken and egg scenarios, but maybe we see few vehicles on the roads of SL because of the frustrastions caused by lag and sim crossings?

Whoops! This was a very bad sim crossing

It also has to be said that many of the vehicles seem to be very difficult to control, and certainly most seem to oversteer quite badly. Some seem to have no sensible speed control, as one car in my collection seems to have only one speed: amazingly fast, for a car that is supposed to be a rendition of a famous early 20th Century car. All these problems are capable of being solved, and I suspect relatively easily, but maybe, just maybe SL is an analogue of our RL to come, where most of us will be able to afford to buy the shiny status symbol that is the motor car, and park it proudly on our driveways, to polish it on high days and holidays, and perhaps, every once in a while, go out for a drive in it, if we can afford to put fuel in it, or, if we shall indeed be able to find any fuel, at any price at all?

I wonder what the railways in Second Life are like…?