Guild Wars 2 Revisited

In the past 6 weeks or so I have got two characters all the way up to 80, and the weird thing is that I almost never duplicated content doing it. One character is human and priory, and stuck to Human and Sylvari zones.  The other is Norn and Order of Whispers, and stuck to Norn and Charr zones.  Except for 4 or 5 personal story missions every character does, I have not repeated content — and I still have 5 zones of content I have yet to explore on either character.
That is an amazing amount of content for a newly released MMORPG, and why I have been playing for 6 weeks straight without getting tired of the game.  I remember I was playing DC Universe Online for 3 weeks and got a hero and a villains both up to max level in only about 3 weeks and pretty much exhausted all the content there was to play.

Early Concerns

When I first started playing the real game and not the pretend beta game, I had two major concerns that were quite annoying: Personal stories and crafting.

GW2 has personal instance missions which can be done as a team but they are designed to be solo missions.  A lot of them were either too hard to play for the level they were supposed to be at, or were bugged where you could not finish and had to get out and start over.  The good news is that Anet is responding to complaints about these missions and fixing them. Many were fixed in the 9/25 update, and many more in the 10/1 update. Unfortunately, many bugs remain.  The most notorious is in a mission called “Forging the Pact” which is one of those 5 missions that everybody has to do.  Despite ANet saying it is “fixed” in the last two updates, it still isn’t.

The second concern is in crafting.  Just before launch, ANet increased the requirements to crafting green “Masterwork” weapons and armor, but did not increase the drops of the materials to craft them.  As a result it is basically impossible to specialize in two weapon/Armor crafting professions, because you will never get enough drops to do both, unless you “farm” for drops, and even then ANet has anti-farming programming in place.  My plan was to have my Ranger craft Huntsman and Leatherworks so that she always had the latest gear, but was very disappointed to learn that was not possible.

The In Game Economy: Heavy Deflation

However, things changed as the economy started to flatten to a market clearing prices on items.  In the trading menu, you can buy pretty much anything cheap, and getting cheaper.  This is very bad for people trying to make money, but for people that want stuff, it is good.  You no longer have to “farm” for stuff, you can just buy it cheap in the trade center.  And you don’t even have to craft to get the latest armor and weapons, in fact pre-crafted armor and weapons are always priced below their materials price, except for rare and exotic stuff.  Thanks to the in-game economy, the only reason to craft at all is free experience points to level up.

Anet, to their credit, set up a true laisse fare economy, where supply and demand rule the day.  World of Warcraft trading was limited to each server so it was possible to “corner a market” and raise prices. The Trade Center combines stuff from 50 different servers, so market cornering is impossible.  Of course, as you play you  gather materials and get weapon\armor drops.   You can sell or salvage drops to get rare materials that might be worth more, or if the drops aren’t worth it, you just sell to a merchant.  Only the latter choice (sell to a merchant) stops supply from rising.  Everything else results in increased supply and lower prices across the board.

The only thing that is increasing in value are gems.  Gems are purchasable with real money, and can be traded for in game gold, so if you are willing to put up the bucks, you can buy whatever can be purchased.  In the first few weeks, people needed gold to get lots of stuff to have the best characters.  Then people started getting rich and bought gems, increasing their value vs. gold.  With all items deflating in price, the only way to make money is invest in gems.

New Concerns

One of the cool features of GW2 is the “level down” mechanism that allows you to do lower level content at the appropriate difficulty.  No taking your level 80 character to level 5 zones and slaughtering everything in sight.  If you go to a level 5 zone, you will play as a level 5-7 character, and can be attacked and killed by these low level creatures.  This makes all content playable and challenging, and worth doing.  The original plan is that when you play low level areas, you would still get drops relevant to your level (and sometimes you do), but most of the drops are appropriate to the level of the zone you are in.  If  you are trying to gather crafting materials for low level weapons or armor, this is a good thing.  If you are trying to collect high level rare or exotic items, or get lots of XP from events, then you pretty much have to stick with appropriately level zones.

The bad side of this is as time goes by, most players will be either playing in low level zones, or high level zones, just like every other MMORPG out there.  Now ANet has thought of this issue and if you are in one of those neglected middle zones where no one else is playing in, you will get bonus XP for kills and events, and sometimes the bonuses exceed the normal XP if you are in a particularly barren land, but I am not sure how big of an incentive that will be.

Final Note: Whiny Players

There was a post on Reddit’s GW2 board that got a lot of attention:

God save me from some aspects of the MMO community. You people are impossible. You have ruined a ton of AAA games in the last few years – you DEMAND treadmill gated endgame, beat it in a month, and then whine and abandon a game for not having enough content (you all know exactly the games I am talking about). Now a game has to literally FORCE you to stop doing the same mindless activity over and over and actually do different things to enjoy endgame, and you all bitch and whine because you can’t grind yourself to boredom in a month like you have done with every other MMO.

You are destroying the viability of MMOs by being entitled impatient kids who can’t make fun for yourself, you have to have a game hand it all to you on a silver platter and whine and bitch if you don’t get it fast enough, or complain because you have to work hard to get something you want because they won’t let you run the easiest dungeon over and over or run the same dynamic event over and over. […]

Maybe the problem isn’t the MMO, maybe the problem is you. Maybe you need to examine the way you approach an MMO – many of you will spend hours playing a FPS with no progression because it is fun – and then you whine because spvp has no progression and say so “what incentive do I have to do spvp if I don’t get better gear?” (Actual statement I have heard).

Guild Wars 2 is a reinvention of the MMO, and I read with disbelief people complaining about some of the best features.

I was visiting GW2guru which is one of the largest GW2 forums but not official. Some clueless player posted a thread about “What would you change about GW2” and he had “No down leveling, bring back the Trinity (healer-tank-wizard), and bring back Henchmen” as his 3 changes. I had to post that those are precisely the three things that makes GW2 GREAT!, and that he should go back to WOW if he doesn’t like it. There were an amazing number of people on his side. (sigh)

There is an awful lot of content in GW2, and it is likely going to be late October/November before I will see it all. Being an altaholic I have no problem re-rolling, but those who don’t can find dynamic events, WvWvW, or dungeons to do forever.

GW2 is not perfect, and there are legitimate gripes to be made. But I hate when complaints about the game are along the lines of it not being like all the other MMOs, because that is precisely the point.

3D Virtual Worlds Are In Decline

Catching up with the news on 3D Virtual Worlds, has been getting a little depressing lately.  Bottom line: they are all down in traffic.

Lets start with some news on the LL/SL front:  Linden Lab announced two weeks ago that they bought an interactive fiction company called LittleTextPeople. The small company develops 2D interactive fiction for play on mobile phones from what I can tell.  The group will develop new products under the Linden Lab roof, but they will not be associated with Second Life.  In other words, Linden Lab is finally diversifying its gaming line up.  This is what happens when you hire a game developer as your CEO, you start to develop new games.  Not reported anywhere is that one of the 3 developers at LittleTextPeople is Richard Evans, lead AI programmer for The Sims 3 who no doubt worked with LL CEO Rod Humble when he was in charge at EA/Maxis.  The other two are Emily Short, writer/programmer of text adventure Galatea, and Andrew Stern co-creator of a really cool experimental 3D interactive game called Façade.  Both are available for free.

So from the sounds of it, Linden Lab is looking to get into the mobile app market with interactive fiction.  Based on my minimal level of research, the project(s) that LittleTextPeople are working on are pseudo menu driven graphic interactive fiction. (since typing things on a phone/tablet is an annoyance to begin with).  Looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

But that is not all from the Linden Lab front. It seems LL has stopped publication of statistics for Second Life. The unanimous consensus is that the reason for no publication is that the numbers are way down.

Lets put these two items into perspective.  Linden Lab is diversifying their product line towards mobile apps, while Second Life is dropping in traffic, land sales, etc.  Linden Lab is looking to a future without its signature product.  I said before that I believe SL will close its doors when it stops being profitable, and we seem to be close to that point it sounds like.

I decided to take a look at other 3DVWs and see how they are doing.  IMVU is seeing lower numbers these days too.  There Inc is not seeing the huge influx of returning customers it was hoping for when it reopened its doors. It seems that maybe the age of the 3DVW is about up.

Some of the smaller ones are doing OK: NuVera is finally out of beta, and it seems a lot more stable. Avination says they fixed the sim crossing problem for vehicles in OpenSim.  InWorldz is now big enough to start holding a conference in Las Vegas. Onverse is still expanding with new lands and content. Despite some small time success, I am not hearing about any new ones lately, not even new OS grids.

What’s driving people away from the big 3D Virtual Worlds? Probably boredom, social networking, and the influx of “free to play” MMORPGs which are learning to incorporate the social aspects that used to be exclusive to 3DVWs.

I’m not expecting a lot of closures though, just the usual 3 or 4 a year. These things have long tails, and can get by for quite a while with loyal fan bases.  But the “golden age” is behind us.

 

Second Life Given Back to the Role Players

The Tesla Room in the soon to close France3D futuna sim

So I spent a  fair amount of posts devoted to what seems to be a battle of “visions” going on in Second Life.  A string of posts starting with this one I wrote a year ago.  I have written so many I just decided to create a new sl visions tag. Click to see all the related posts.

So here is the story in a paragraph.  There have been three competing “visions” of what SL should be: The role-player vision, the merchant vision, and the 3D Facebook vision.  Since the resignation of the last CEO Mark Kingdon, the temporary CEO Philip Rosedale has systematically disassembled the 3D Facebook vision, largely because it is unworkable (as I predicted).  Because of the resources spent, changes requested by the merchants have not only not happened, but actually they are worse now.  Merchants continue to quit with profits way down.  That leaves us role players basically in charge, and if you have seen the latest re-design of the main Second Life page, you will see, that SL has recognized it as well.  We are back to “Your World, Your Imagination” again (though not in those exact words).

Now a lot has happened under the brief Rosedale administration:

  • Second Life Enterprise Grid – Gone
  • Basic account support – Gone
  • Premium support – once 24 hours, now limited hours
  • Non-Profit/Educational Sim discounts – Gone (or soon will be)
  • Avatars United – Gone
  • X-Street, soon to be integrated into game, currency exchange Gone
  • Teen Grid – Gone (or soon will be)
  • Community Gateways – Gone

Now many of these I am sad to see are disappearing, while others I say good riddance.  What they are doing is simplifying the whole thing.  Simplifying, always a good thing.  The general philosophy is now a “hands off” policy, meaning they are giving us players more autonomy.

Meanwhile, check out where their current development efforts are focused:

  • Mesh
  • Display Names
  • Voice Morphing
  • Wearable Avatar Physics
  • Havok 7 support

Here is what they all have in common:  They are all good for us role players.  If you are in SL because you enjoy pretending you are someone else, whether that is a formal role player in a community, or an informal role player pretending to be someone you are not, then SL seems to be catering to you again, after a couple of years where they weren’t.

Here’s the cloud to go along with that silver lining.  Philip Rosedale has stepped down, and Linden Lab is once again looking for a new CEO.  Furthermore, there is good evidence that the remaining employees don’t really seem to “get” the whole RP vision thing.  Here is hoping they hire someone who does.  Unfortunately, I am not that hopeful.

Wither the Merchant Vision

So there are now two different visions left about what Second Life is, or should be. What vision you are apart of is largely based on what motivates you to play. I call these visions “role play” and “merchant” as a short hand way of understanding them.

There are builders who build for fun, they are part of the role play vision. There are builders who build for profit, they are part of the merchant vision. There is a lot of mixing and gray area obviously.

We can all see that SL has plateaued, and will likely decline soon. This is very bad for the Merchants. It is possible that Mesh could revitalize the market, but I am leaning to the idea that it will radically change the market so much that it is unlikely to help the current merchants.

Most of us Role Players have accounts in other places, especially many open sim grids. When SL closes, we’ll probably spend a little time mourning, then we’ll be elsewhere.  Us non-merchant types will likely move on to Open Sim and start building there. Heck, a lot of them already are. Similarly the various role play communities would move and rebuild as well.

The Merchants don’t have many other places to go.  With no currency, no theft protection, no one to file a DMCA complaint to, the merchants have no desire to move to Open Sim, even if there were no SL.  The market place in SL is one of a kind, the closest is IMVU, and it is about a tenth of the size of SL.

The RPers may have built SL, but it is the merchants that made SL popular, they provide most of the content we RPers enjoy.  We non-merchant RPers are better off with the merchants around, which means we are better off with SL around.

I believe that when SL eventually closes, there will be a new virtual goods market somewhere, innovation abhors a vacuum.  Maybe not of the same nature as SL, but I see other virtual good markets, like Renderosity and various app markets, succeeding in other similar venues, so it is only a matter of time before there is another virtual goods market where creative people can make a few bucks.  This is another topic I have already written about.

The Problem of a Multi Grid Economy

My last post was about the slowly being developed 3D Internet, which I am guessing is likely to be built on the Open Simulator platform. There are other open source platforms in the competition, Open Cobalt is one I mentioned, while Open Wonderland is one mentioned in the comments. For completeness sake, I should also mention Sirikata, another open source platform.

Don’t expect a battle royale between these different open source platforms.  It is possible that in the end, they all might work together.  The IEEE (a major engineering organization that develops standards for web protocols) has put together a workgroup called VWRAP (Virtual World Region Agent Protocol).  The group’s first easy to read paper on the topic can be found here in PDF form, if you are more technically inclined, you can read their preliminary drafts here.

From a Second Life perspective, a 3D Internet presents many challenges.  The biggest one on the minds of most people is “How do I make money?”  Because of the open nature of a 3D internet, any rules regarding permissions and copying simply cannot be enforced.  The Second Life economic model will not work.  There will be money making opportunities on the 3D internet, but the buying and selling of 3D goods for virtual cash can only be done in a closed off system like Second Life or an individual Open Sim grid.  The 3D internet will involve multiple grids and possibly multiple platforms.  Moving stuff from grid to grid, platform to platform, and avatar to avatar makes the SL economic system worthless.

Second Life’s Flawed Intellectual Property Policy

Before discussing what a multigrid economy might look like, lets take a look at the biggest weakness with the Second Life economic model.

Second Life is the first ever to try creating a virtual economy where people retain ownership of their creations. When Second Life decided that was what they wanted to do, a lot of people said it was unprecedented and would never work.

Guess what? It doesn’t work!

There are two court cases right now, one I mentioned here, and another detailed here.  Both take issue with SL’s Intellectual Property policy from two different perspectives.  While neither case has been tried yet, these cases are the apparent cause of  Second Life’s recent rather draconian Terms of Service changes.

The problem with making an unprecedented policy is that the legal ramifications are unclear, and it may cost quite a bit of legal fees to hammer out clarity in the courts, a price I am not sure LL is willing to pay.  Eventually, Linden Labs is going to have to change to one of these two proven models:

1. The There/IMVU/Facebook/MySpace model where “We own everything you upload, so you can’t sue us if your stuff is copied, or if we remove your stuff, because we own it, not you”.

2. The Internet Host/OSGrid/Google model where “We just sell the server space and index stuff for search, so solve your own damn Intellectual Property issues.”

SL Beta member Oz Spade made a good response to this:

I think LL intended to do #2, but wasn’t doing it fast enough or in the right ways. I recall when they first announced this whole IP thing and people were asking questions like this and the answer was “well eventually we want to be like an ISP or Linux distributor or website hoster, we host, provide access to content, and support and you do everything else.” Which is fine, and would work if they really were going for that model and not sitting on their ass trying to sweep up the cash. The problem they’re having is relinquishing control because, well, they’re a company, and not a non-profit.

The other problem with that model is, in the example of the ISP/hoster you still have to respond to take down requests and “violations.” The difference between LL and the other models is, with the other models your content can go with you, i.e. you can have all the html files on your computer and take them to another hoster. However with SL, your content, if you play by the rules, can only be accessed via SL grid. So in reality they aren’t really providing only a hosting service, which is what fucks them and is completely their mistake / stupid-attempt-to-keep-out-competition-that-might-use-their-software-features. It’s like if to host a website on a hoster you had to write your website in a special language that could only be written and hosted on that hoster and you couldn’t convert it to html without hacking around.

So basically they made a legal decision before they had worked out all the kinks in the technology that uses it. Or had made a legal decision without wanting to fully commit due to money/selfishness/whateverdouchery.

The first thing they should have done when saying “you own the IP” is make sure that you can take that IP with you, that you actually DO own it. And this is what people have been screaming for since they announced it and why we have things that people freak out about like “copybot” and other ways to “illegally” copy objects/etc. If LL had ignored the douches freaking out about “holy shit people will steal shit!” and actually implemented backup features properly that allowed content to travel with the creators, we would be avoiding a majority of this bullshit.

Seems spot on to me.

And another problem I have not even mentioned is the conversion of dollars to lindens and vice versa.  Linden Labs has insisted that the “Linden” currency has no real value outside of the game, and yet nobody believes that.  Lots of virtual worlds, both 2D and 3D, have virtual currencies exchangeable for money.  If a court were to rule that these virtual currencies should be treated like real money, it opens a whole new can of worms legally speaking.

Linden Labs is not going to be able to straddle the line between IP freedom and IP protectionism for long.

Eventually these legal difficulties could eventually follow over to other grids, or other grids could take this as a precautionary lesson and try something else.

A Possible Open Grid Economic Model

The SL economic model can only possibly work in SL, because there is one entity that controls all the asset servers.

In an Open Grid model with cross grid travel and communication there will be hundreds of asset servers controlled by hundreds of independent companies, just like the 2D internet is controlled by hundreds of web hosts. In the case of avatars, everyone may possibly host their own avatar outside the grids, so we could be talking thousands of asset servers.

An OpenSim grid is going to have to toss the whole SL paradigm out completely. Forget about inventory, selling individual units, and permissions, it won’t work in an open grid.

The open grid must work as a true 3D internet, with the internet as a paradigm.
Region = website
grid = webhost
inventory = stuff you store on your computer or via “cloud”

Think of the way the internet works now. If I have a website, or blog, or facebook account, etc. I can easily copy pictures, text, scripts, music embeds, etc, from other websites and post them on my web site. Its my responsibility to make sure I have the rights to what I post, but of course, most people don’t check the rights of everything they post. Since most sites are non-commercial, and visited by very few people, nobody gives a damn mostly.

On the other hand, if a site gets popular, and designed to make money, or has a big company behind it, then that website will be required to have the rights to all content on that site, or find itself with a cease and desist notice, or the web host might get a take-down notice and suddenly your site is gone.

This is the way an open grid has to work as well: everything is full perm, but copyrights are still in play.

What is needed are sites similar to Renderosity for open sim grids. Nothing on Renderosity is ever copy protected, because it makes it unusable. Buying a file is not what is important, it is buying a license, which is why most things are overpriced at Renderosity, but if you are using Renderosity objects for a commercial project, you damn well better have a receipt.

That has to be the model for open grid as well.  For example I make a couch object that in SL could sell for maybe 100L. For Open Sim I sell a commercial license for $10 or about 25 times the SL sales price, which I sell on a specialized website.  If someone buys it, they get a full perm object that they can edit, or copy, or give away, but can’t legally sell.  Most Open Sim grids have no in world currency so I can’t sell there anyways. I could try to post it for sale on a specialized website, but if the website is a legitimate one, they could investigate the origin of the items on sale on their site and prevent resales.

Because the object in world is copyable, why would anyone buy a copy when they could just grab a copy in world? Well that is where the “Internet” paradigm takes over. You could just grab a copy and post it on your region, but if the region is commercial in any way, you damn well have a commercial license for the object or be potentially subjected to litigation or grid take down.

The big money in Open Sim is going to be in the building of commercial regions for clients. Professional region builders who want to use your couch will definitely pay the $10 for the license to use it, just as the region builder expects to be paid for use of his region model for anyone that uses it.

I have proposed this idea to many, the primary objection is that it will limit the people that make money to only the best creators.  I’m sure that other methods of making money on the 3D internet would emerge that we have not thought of yet.  My primary point is that the SL economic model is not one we can (or should) consider.

Signs of the Economy in Virtual Worlds

I predicted a year ago how economic troubling times would affect virtual worlds: Those profitable ones are likely to be even more profitable as people seek out cheap entertainment.  Those relying heavily on VC money will likely be hurting as VC money dries up.

The economy is apparently good enough in Entropia for someone to pay over $300,000 of real currency for a virtual night club in world.  Another night club made headlines a few years ago for selling for over $100,000.

Its not so good for Metaplace, the 2D virtual world preferred by the SL crowd for its flexibility in building.  Metaplace closed its doors to the public on Jan 1.

Also problematic is life over at Forterra, a platform provider that gets most of its money from military contracts.  They recently laid off more than half of the staff and are probably looking for someone to buy them out.  Their principle product, OLIVE, is a nice flexible 3D platform with text, voice, and video capabilities that runs on inexpensive computers.  Their lack of success lately is probably due to stiff competition in the platform market: Unity, Torque, Multiverse, and Open Sim are all available for cheap or even free.

Meanwhile, Blue Mars is slowly adding user created content and additional features.  Recently the makers of the steampunk region Caledonia in SL have built a city in Blue Mars.  I wonder if anyone has done a “Mirror World” of a virtual world before?  (I’m pretty sure it has been done, just sounds funny)

I foresee the next year doing the same thing.  Profitable Virtual Worlds will remain so, maybe even becoming more profitable.  Meanwhile I would not be surprised to see another 3 to 5 virtual worlds shut down operations.

Why BUILDERBOT is an Awesome Idea!

The Second Life world seems to have its panties in a bunch over a new 3rd party utility by Rezzable dubbed Builderbot.

Basically, Builderbot can copy every object in an Second Life sim and put it into an OAR file that can be loaded onto any OpenSim server, thus making a near exact copy (scripts as usual are a problem).  They also are creating an OAR editor, and (even more impressively) a way to port OAR files into Second Life, thus making transfers from OpenSim to Second Life possible.

There are two things that are upsetting to the Second Life community: 1. Builderbot does not look at copy permissions or ownership, it just copies everything on the sim. 2. Rezzable was planning to release the SL to OAR part of the Builderbot for free.  These things had the whole community grabbing torches and pitchforks ready to boycot Rezzable. Rezzable finally gave into demand and will not be releasing the SL to OAR part free.

Hate to be the person that disagrees with pretty much everybody on this issue, but maybe I’m the only one who sees the big picture. Builderbot is an awesome idea and a key component to expansion of the 3D web. It is probably the most important 3rd party SL utility ever, and if Rezzable doesn’t release theirs, someone out there should release something similar, including the ignoring copy permissions and ownership part.

Mobile Building

Lets start with the obvious need for Builderbot. Currently, putting a build in Second Life requires that you actually be in Second Life and spend sometimes weeks building there, paying monthly tier as you build. If you want to take your time and do it right it will cost you. Then there is the occasional system hiccup that could cost you hours of work.

Builderbot does two things, it moves the building part of the project off the SL grid. You can now build your server build on your own computer, no system outages to worry about. You can save and backup your work to OAR files as often as you like. If you make a mistake, just load the latest backup. When you are done building and ready to move your build to SL, it can be moved into SL in a matter of minutes, or at most hours. This is the primary design of this program.

Fixing SL’s Design Flaws

Second Life as it was initially concieved is a flawed system. Whoever thought it was a good idea to equate Real Estate with computing power, I hope they have learned a valuable lesson. I have written about this major flaw before. Bottom line, SL runs on thousands of computers, and as many as 80% are not doing anything at any given time.

The obvious fix is to store unused regions in memory and load them up to an available server as needed. Linden Labs could cut their server need by 50-75% with such a system.

They could also bring up mirrored instances of extra busy servers. Want to give a concert that 1,000 people can attand? Just copy the build on 10 different servers that can service 100 people each. If more people want to show up, add more instances.

None of this is possible without a reliable backup system. OpenSim has OAR files, SL has got copybot (basically nothing). What Rezzable is doing is creating a tool to save SL regions as OAR files that can be stored when not in use, quickly loaded when needed, quickly mirrored on multiple servers. Obviously there is some extra programming involved to do all this, but considering the cost savings it is definitely something worth doing.

Why it is necessary to ignore permissions

The biggest concern from most of the Second Life players, is that Builderbot ignores permission. Copy a region, move to OpenSim, and everything in that region has no permissions at all. Anything in Second Life could be quickly copied, permissions be damned.

Rezzable argues that there is nothing in SL that cant be copied already. Players argue “True, but you shouldn’t make it so easy.”

Building a region is like building a website. I build websites myself and anyone can steal my code by right clicking and click “view source”, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It is super easy.

What most Second Life players  are asking for is DRM management for SL content!

DRM has been a failure everywhere it is tried. Music, video, ebooks, the case against DRM is pretty clear. Read boingboing.net to find out why. How many of you asking for DRM for SL have stripped DRM off a music or video file so you can play it in the format you want?

A Future Marketplace

I come from the 3D Artist community where people build and sell detailed models for use in other people’s projects. All of these models are distributed DRM free and fully copyable and sharable. Yes, there is piracy in 3D models, but it is part of the cost of doing business. But since I do artwork I may want to sell, I pay for all my models and commercial licenses.  This business model is where the 3D web (SL and Opensim) will eventually go.

Most SL players are thinking in L$ economic terms without seeing the big picture. Eventually there will be an xstreet for all grids, and the ability to buy a pre built full region builds (OAR files) to load on to your personal server or hosted server is likely to be a new popular alternative method to static build exploring.

There is much money to be made in building custom regions.  Especially commercial clients who would not dare copy other people’s work. Individual objects and props have their place in the new marketplace as well, especially if they include commercial licenses that will allow the objects to be put into other builds.

I believe this could be a huge market. If I could explore lag free by loading OAR downloads to my computer based open sim server, I would love it! If I could edit them and share with others to show my edits, that would be really awesome as well. I’m quite certain I am not the only one.

The possibilities for Second Life are numerous as well. Can you imagine the fun of going to an SL club that has a different build for every event? Random combat locales? Roleplay setting that can be brought up as needed?

Like it or not this is the future! Second Life is just the early primitive beginning. In a few years we will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.

The Potential of the Open Sim Paradigm

This is a detailed follow up to my earlier “comic” post about Open Sim.

The Paradigm:  The Open Grid

For those who do not know, Open Sim is an open source clone of Second Life. The Second Life download client, itself an open source program, can connect to an Open Sim almost as easy as it can to Second Life.

Open Sim networks run the same way as Second Life runs. You set up an account with a first and last name, log into the grid, decorate your avatar, possibly buy some land to build on, attend events, make stuff, sell stuff, etc.  So far there is little difference between OS grids and the SL grids.

Except there are differences. SL runs SL server software, OS grids run OS server software. OS has some advantages over SL, generally less lag, megaprim support, etc. But, as of right now, SL is the superior and more fully supported system. For example LSL scripting is not fully supported in OS yet.

The first thing you notice when you go to an open sim is that you are starting from scratch again. There are legitimate ways to get some of the SL stuff over to Open Sim, but it is time consuming.

Within a year, the OS project hopes to be at parity with Second Life, meaning if you can do it in SL, you can do it in OS. Soon after that, it is hoped the pattern will be reversed and it will be Second Life playing catch up. Among the things being worked on:

  • “Mesh” imports made from 3rd party 3D models (Maya, 3DMax, Blender, GMAX, Lightwave, Cararra, etc.). Complicated models would generate serious lag, but simple models could do more than the current “prim” system with even fewer resources. This is what There uses.
  • New avatar meshes, allowing more detailed form fitting clothing, or  even non humanoid avatars.

The Paradigm: Region Archives

I mentioned before that Second Life’s fatal flaw is the lack of virtualization of real estate. Open Sim has an archive system (so does Second Life, but the Open Sim one is better). With some improvements, it could be used to store unused regions in storage, instead of taking up server power.

A system could be designed to work as follows:

  1. Player picks a region they want to travel to. System looks to see if the region is active, if so, player is sent to a server running the region, unless region exceeds maximum occupancy, in which case proceed to step 2.
  2. An inactive server is activated, as soon as possible, player is moved to the server. Items are loaded from archive file while simultaneously “data” is streamed to player’s client. If this is an “instance” copy, player may be prompted to move to original once room is available.
  3. When the last person leaves a region, temp items are deleted, foreign items are returned to owners, the region data is backed up (if changed by an authorized person), and sever is freed for later use.

Such a system would eliminate the need for so many servers, and would make expansion easier and less expensive, and also allow events to run across multiple servers with potentially thousands of players.

There is also the potential of people to run their own private servers on their own hard drives. People could build their region privately without needing to use web resources. People could share region archive files with one another allowing another method of group cooperation. Maybe people could even participate in certain events (concerts, lectures) on private sims by downloading copies of event venues and NPC data.

The Paradigm: The Multi Grid Marketplace

Under the Open Sim paradigm, there are multiple networks acting independently. Second Life could be like AOL of the early 90’s, and all the other networks like other web sites.

Under such a scheme there needs to be trade channels set up between networks, so stuff I make can be sold for use in any other network. In the 3D market place today there are web sites that sell 3D models for use in various 3D programs. Daz3d and Renderosity are ones I have used for my Poser work, but there are other big ones used by 3D artists using more professional programs (3DMax, Maya,  etc.). Artists can sell their original works for commercial and/or non-commercial use, via “brokering” arrangements. It wouldn’t be difficult to change XStreetSL into a multiple network market site.

Moving the SL model into the wider Open Sim model requires a lot of work, and involves a lot of hammering out of issues, chief among them being copyrights.

In future posts, I’ll discuss some of these issues, as well as an even broader 3D web paradigms (who says there has to be only one standard?).