Wandering the Metaverse

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.

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~ by susannahavonside on October 3, 2011.

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