Open Sim Grids

In my last post, I decided to venture in to the untamed islands on the frontier of the Metaverse: The Open Sim Grids.  Today I introduce 4 good grids to start out on, and I will introduce others in the weeks ahead.

A few basics about Open Sim.  Open Sim is to Second Life, what Apache is to IIS.  Both are internet server software that work with a common client.  To the casual visitor they will seem to be the same, but there are underlying differences that will show up when you are building. Open Sim for example does not support vehicles, but does allows prims bigger than 10 meters per side.

If you are used to Second Life, you will find Open Sim grids to be very similar, and you can even use your Second Life program to connect to these Open Sim programs by adding ‘-loginuri’ and the grid web address on the client shortcut target.  The Second Life client was released as open source under the GPL, allowing programmers to play with the code.  The Second Life server was not released as open source, though it is for sale by Linden Labs.  Open Sim is a freeware open source program that works in tandem with the Second Life client. It was built from scratch and released under BSD, and shares no copyrighted code with the Second Life Server, meaning Linden Labs has no control over Open Sims.  So far Linden Labs has fully supported the Open Sim grids, but even if they stopped supporting them, Open Sims can still continue to operate legally.  The upshot is, if Second Life were to suddenly close down like There or Vivaty did in the last month, the Open Sim grids would still be around.  Its a safe bet that as long as there is an internet there will be Open Sim grids available to play in (in the same way that text based MUDs have been around for over 30 years).

Despite the number of grids being more then 300, the total combined regions, players, and traffic on these grids is considerably lower than Second Life.  Second Life is more than twice as big as all the Open Sim regions combined.  The people that run these grids do not always have the resources to make sure the grids are stable and always online, so sometimes logging in is a problem.  Inventory can suddenly disappear as well occasionally.  Luckily its all free.

Before you begin, you are probably going to want to get a dedicated client.  The Hippo Viewer is designed primarily for Open Sim use, and allows you to log in automatically to many different grids.  Decide on a name as well and use it on each grid.  I am Ariane Barnes on all of these grids. A common name makes switching grids easier.

You may notice that I am wearing nearly the same thing in each picture.  These are the nicest hair and clothes I have available in my Second Inventory program to upload.  When you first join these Open Sims, you will look like “Ruth”, as they call the default avatar.  All of these grids have freebie avatars available if you don’t have your own hair, skin, or clothing textures to upload.  Second Inventory allows you to move stuff that is free and full perm or stuff that you made yourself to other grids, but the program itself is not free. There are free and legal ways to move inventory between Open Sim grids by “hypergridding” but that is a topic for later.

The four Open Sim grids I have chosen to post about first are all free, all allow free uploads (textures, animations etc.),  have free sandboxes that allow Second Inventory uploads,  and all have English as a primary language.  These four also are representative of many different kinds of grids out there.

Inworldz
Website: http://inworldz.com/
Account Registration:  http://inworldz.com/register.php
Login URI:  http://inworldz.com:8002/ (in Hippo Viewer you will have to add this to the grid list)

Inworldz is the smallest of the grids I am visiting. I picked this one first as it is the most SL like. They host some mainland regions as well as offer private grids at considerably lower than SL costs. They also have their own in world currency the Iz exchangeable at $1 = 500 Iz.  Inworldz reminds me of SL as it once was: small, friendly, and very experimental. Its a place to build and play, and hang out in the welcome center and chat.  The picture above was taken at the Inworldz welcome center.

OSGrid
Website:  http://www.osgrid.org/elgg/
Account Registration: http://www.osgrid.org/elgg/account/register.php
Login URI: http://osgrid.org:8002/

OSGrid is by far the largest of the Open Sim grids, it is sort of the closest thing there is to an “official” Open Sim grid, though there really isn’t such a thing. OSGrid.org is a non-profit organization and maintains a small core of regions and the grids main asset servers via donations. They do not sell or rent space.  Instead, they provide a service where you can attach your own private region up to the  grid for free if you have your own web server.  I have seen hosting services offer your own private OS region hooked up to the OSGrid for as cheap as $15 a month.  Dedicated core regions with 15,000 prims can be obtained for $30 a month with no initial setup costs.  A real bargain!

The downside is that the OSGrid is made up of hundreds of different providers, including many regions hosted on home computers connected with home broadband.  No telling what regions are up or down at any given time, and no central authority to go to for troubleshooting, or reporting bad behavior of other players.  It is very close to a 3D internet in that regards.  No central authority also means no central economy. Sales of in world items are done through PayPal usually.

Reaction Grid
Website: http://reactiongrid.com/
Account Registration: http://reactiongrid.com/Register.aspx
Login URI: http://reactiongrid.com:8008/ (in Hippo Viewer you will have to add this to the grid list)

Reaction Grid is a PG rated business friendly grid designed to be a place to host company meetings and conferences.  It is also used by schools and colleges for online courses in a 3D environment, which means you can expect to run into student created builds as you explore.  Many companies and colleges that used to be in SL have moved here for budget reasons.  Like OSGrid, Reaction Grid allows independently hosted grids (meaning there is no in world economy), but unlike OSGrid, Reaction Grid maintains some control over the grid so they can troubleshoot problems.  Reaction Grid has a good reputation as a result and an impressive list of clients.

New World Grid
Website: http://www.newworldgrid.com/
Account Registration: http://www.newworldgrid.com/lang/en-us/register/account
Login URI:  http://grid.newworldgrid.com:8002/

New World Grid is an artistic community sponsored by multiple non profit charities based in England, France, and Canada.  The primary one being Virtus France.  The grid is completely bilingual, everything labeled in English and French.  There is no in world economy, but because it is primarily an artist community, there are lots of freebies to be found.  Some lands are rentable, but you can also petition for a free land grant if you have something worthwhile to build and share with the community.  The latest addition was a region dedicated to “Life After There” for former therians.  If you go there, an incomplete Saja like platform hovers in the sky.

I include this grid as a good example of the majority of the grids out there.  Most of the grids I researched have a primary language other than English, providing a 3D multiplayer environment for people that speak something other than English.  There are at least 4 grids for German speakers, and they are working out a common currency between them. I have also seen Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese grids, probably others.

There are many more grids out there to explore.  The grid list maintained at OpenSimulator.org is unfortunately out of date, with a lot of closed grids.  I have a list of 30 grids known to work on my 3D Virtual Worlds page (under the RealXtend / Open Sim Project section). This page lists 40 grids, with a note that there are over 300.

The next few posts will also be about Open Sim.  Next, I will revisit setting up your own private grid (it keeps getting easier) with links to free content, then take a tour of a couple of really impressive private grids, then walk through the hypergrid process which shows promise to join all the grids together in a single 3D world wide web.

Fun With Virtual World Cartography

OK, where to start. Let me start with where the screenshot was taken. It was taken at Rumsey Maps, which includes a huge 3D map of Yosemite Valley, as well as a bunch of other cool examples of cartography.

Maybe I should now start at the beginning. I was researching for an upcoming blog article and came across a fact that Second Life has over 1800 square kilometers in land. (I originally thought it was around 1000, but I was looking at old statistics). There are however reports that the amount of land is dropping rapidly because of the change in open space policy.

Anyways, I got into yet another discussion about the difference between There.com and Second Life, and this land issue came up. There.com actually resides on a 3D planet sized sphere slightly smaller than planet earth. It is possibly the largest 3D object in virtual space navigable by virtual avatars. It has even been circumnavigated, taking weeks to complete. The question always comes up, how much actual land is there in There’s globe? Turns out the answer is 630 square kilometers, plus or minus 20, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The next question usually is, how does all this compare to the real world?

It was about then that I discovered this entertaining video called A Geophysical Survey of World of Warcraft

Now this video awoken the geek in me, and all this talk about the relative land mass in There.com and Second Life, and that got me started on a pretty cool project.

The end result being this map. A scale map of Second Life, There, World of Warcraft, and Oahu:

Click picture for full size version. Its about a megabyte big, so feel free to copy and distribute it elsewhere so as not to kill my bandwidth. The relative scale is 14 pixels = 1km.

According to Linden Labs figures, the total land in Second Life is just over 1,800 sq. km. Oahu is around 1,500 sq km. So when you measure all the Second Life regions,  they a little bit bigger than Oahu.

To figure out There.com land area, I took the scale map of There, selected all the water and made it black, then inverted the selection and made the land white. I went around the map making sure I did not have any stray odd pixels to mess up the calculation. I also remeasured known distances to make sure my scale was correct. I then used a histogram function to find out how many pixels were black and how many were white. Of the 14,256,222 pixels, 122,883 were white. Divide that by 196 (14×14) = 627 km sq. There is stuff in There missing from the map (Saja, Snowman Island, and Coke Island), plus possible errors to my methodology, hence the plus or minus 20 km sq. part.

In scaling all the maps, I used multiple methods as well. The second life client, used to tell you the total distance from where you are to your destination, it doesn’t anymore. But, I found a way around that by finding the “grid position” of the region I am on in the debug tools then going to a region on the far left and the far right and finding how many regions across it is and multiplying by 256 to get meters, and divide 1000 to get kilometers. The regions charted at slurl.com (which is the map I used) is 186km across and 110km top to bottom.

I did the scale work in There years ago on my web site. Two prominent dots on the map, the white mountain on Comet and the tiny island of Egypt are 225 km apart.

WoW was based on work done on this link, confirmed in the video above.

Then I needed a real world island to use as a comparison. Ireland was way too big when I scaled it, Manhattan was way too small (about the same size as WoW). The big island of Hawaii fit but covered most of the map, and then decided to use the most populated and more famous island of Oahu.

And there you have a method, as accurate as I can make it, of comparing the relative size of three prominent 3D worlds with the real world.

Second Life Cliché Bingo!

It seems that Second Life, especially the mainland, is like an American shopping mall. Go to any shopping mall and you will find the same 50 chain stores as the mall closest to your home. Most mainland builds are all the same unoriginal clichés repeated. I’m sure there are some original builds, but mostly its generally the same stuff over and over again.

So I decided to make a game of it. Introducing Second Life Cliché Bingo! Its part Bingo, part scavenger hunt.

Start with the picture above, or make a 5×5 matrix and fill each square with something you see a lot of in Second Life. Then pick a random spot on the mainland, and see how long it takes you to find five in a row or black out the whole board. Notice that I did not include any avatar clichés, the truth is that if you really pick a random mainland spot, you run a 70-80% chance of going somewhere where there are no other people around.

Anyways, here are the clichés I included in the picture above. I found all 24 within a group of 6 servers, and screenshot the evidence.

Top Row:
A piece of furniture with sex “pose balls” attached.
An object with the default pinewood texture
One of those stupid home security scripts telling you to leave in 10 seconds or else!
A parked vehicle (car, boat, plane, etc)
A tree made of sculptie prims

Second Row:
An Asian build (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc.)
A flag or banner made with a flexi prim
A house, complete with yard, floating high in the sky
A nearly vacant plot of land with an off limits barrier in place
Something that spams Notecards or landmarks to passers by

Third Row:
Any object that emits particles
A vacant nightclub or bar
free space
church, cathederal, wedding chapel, or religion oriented build
A beach with fake prim waves

Fourth Row:
A clothing store
A wall picture containing nudity (or selling skin textures)
A “Castle” or a medieval inspired build
A pointlessly tall skyscraper build
Prim rotating spotlights

Fifth Row:
A temp object that didn’t de-rez, or any object that got stuck and abandoned
An animated animal or robot wandering around
A rotating “land for sale” sign
A “No Fly” zone
A 16m plot of land with advertising

Good Luck!!

There vs Second Life: Exploring

As a follow up to my last post on There vs. Second Life, I want to briefly explain my own history and interests in these two games. Everybody’s tale is different, here is mine.

As you may be able to tell on my There Magic page, one of my primary activities in There was exploring. This interest started all the way back on my first day in There, June 24th 2003 (yes almost 5 years ago). One of the things I bought on my first day was a black hoverboard “The Fed”, and I started riding it everywhere. At the time the world consisted of five islands: Caldera, Ootay, Tyr, Saja and Egypt. All with lots of cool professionally designed spots by creative artists like Don Carson.

I spent nearly a year exploring There, and finding new creative stuff, even a year later I was finding stuff I had not seen before.

In April of 2004, I made my second attempt at Second Life. (I signed up once for a 7 day free trial, free accounts did not exist, in November 2003, and did not like how buggy and slow it was, and my video card would not render the graphics right.)

Second Life had no professionally designed content, and the vehicles sucked. True you could fly from place to place, but it just wasn’t as cool as hoverboarding in There. The content that was there was boxy looking and repetitive. I got bored fast.

It was the next month, May of 2004, I joined my first MMORPG, City of Heroes. I spent the better part of the next year playing that instead. Meanwhile, There started having financial trouble, threatening to shut down.

August of 2005, I finally became a “Premium” member of Second Life. By that time, the community had grown enough that I could return to my favorite virtual world activity of exploring.

I still jump into There occasionally to see new stuff, but as you can see from my postings over the last few months, exploring new and cool stuff in Second Life is a never ending activity. Multiple independent companies of artists are building cool 3D environments to explore, with new ones coming out daily.

It makes mathematical sense: There started out with tons of material at release, way above what SL had. The amount of new material getting into There’s grid though is limited by the approval process. Only so much new stuff can get in, hence growth is linear.

Second Life started with zero at release, but gave players the tools to make whatever they wanted, and add whatever textures they wanted, no approval necessary… just a 10L fee per file. Growth in SL has been exponential. It did not take long for SL to bypass There as far as content goes.

But the approval process in There has another advantage: New material introduced into the game is generally of higher quality. So even though Second Life had more content, the majority was crap.

Thats why it took so long for Second Life to become this explorer’s game of choice.

And just like I gave There explorers the There Magic page as an exploration resource, I also give you Second Life explorer’s the best resource with my Second Life Blogs page. Just skim through the entries, chances are you will find an article about a cool new build you have never been to. It’s what I do.

Happy Exploring!!