Nov 062014
 

An interesting post on The Verge : The Big Future: Can we build a virtual world? The question may initially seem odd to those who have experienced virtual worlds such as Second Life, Kitely, OpenSim and are keeping their eyes on future virtual worlds such as High Fidelity and Linden Lab’s next generation platform. However the question is one that goes beyond the current generation of virtual worlds :

The web is fine, but how do we get the internet we always wanted — a “real” space you can walk around in, like the Metaverse from Snow Crash? It’s not a new question, but it’s one that’s being taken a little more seriously now that a huge company like Facebook is putting its weight (and its money) behind virtual reality. In this week’s Big Future, we look at what it takes to build a convincing virtual world, why we’re not there yet, and what we might do if we got one.

The Metaverse that exists in Snow Crash has long been the inspiration and dream of many a virtual world enthusiast, but will we ever get there? Indeed do we really want to get there? That level of immersion may well read well in a novel but can it ever really be a place that will happily co-exist with the physical world?

There will be no real answers to this until we have an answer to the question “Are we there yet?” As The Verge article states, it’s easy to trick the eyes, it’s a lot more difficult to trick our other senses and natural motion. For example The Verge talks about walking in a virtual world and how that’s far more of a challenge than tricking our eyes. I remain sceptical because of the sheer number of peripherals required at the moment to achieve greater immersion. However over time those peripherals will become less intrusive and more intuitive.

Obviously the full on immersion that some crave may not be the route to go. Whereas I fully expect greater immersion to open many a great door, I do feel that some doors may be better if they remain locked. The Verge article does mention the current virtual world scene :

We already have examples of “virtual worlds” like Second Life, and they’ll only get cooler with immersion. But some of the most exciting possibilities involve blending the physical world with VR. Sharing experiences will become more intense, and online research takes on a whole new meaning.

However one area that The Verge article doesn’t touch upon is who will be running the bold new worlds.

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Nov 042014
 

If EndgagetExpand doesn’t tickle your fancy then there’s another conference taking place this weekend that is well worth keeping an eye on, it’s the OpenSimulator Community Conference, which takes place on November 8th-9th. Unfortunately inworld tickets are already sold out for the conference but you can register for a free streaming ticket.

The basics of the conference can be found on the about page of the conference website, but I’ll give you a brief snippet :

The OpenSimulator Community Conference is an annual conference that focuses on the developer and user community creating the OpenSimulator software. Organized as a joint production by the Overte Foundation and AvaCon, Inc., the conference features two days of presentations, workshops, keynote sessions, and social events across diverse sectors of the OpenSimulator user base.

The OpenSimulator Community Conference 2014 features four themed tracks and a Learning Lab for hands on hackerspaces, speedbuilds, and more:

  • Business & Enterprise
  • Content & Community
  • Developers & Open Source
  • Research & Education
  • Learning Lab

This conference features a lot of speakers whom followers of Second Life and virtual worlds will be familiar with. They include :

  • Philip Rosedale – High Fidelity
  • Nara Malone – Greyville Writer’s Colony
  • Steve LaValle – Oculus VR
  • John “Pathfinder” Lester – Reaction Grid
  • Maria Korolov – Hypergrid Business
  • Ilan Tochner – Kitely
  • Caledonia Skytower – Seanchai Library
  • Tranquillity Dexler – Inworldz
  • Latif Khalifa – Radegast, Singularity
  • Jessica Lyon – Phoenix Firestorm
  • Kim Anubis – The Magicians

There are many more speakers whom some of you will be familiar with, it’s a jam packed schedule full of interesting looking discussions.

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Jul 292014
 

In a fashionable couple of days for extending deadlines, the RezMela contest, being held on the Kitely grid, has been extended until August 31st. I previosuly blogged about this contest here.

For those wondering, the blurb about RezMela includes :

RezMela™ allows subject matter experts create, tailor and manage avatar based interactive 3D virtual training environments in minutes without any programming or 3D modelling skills. Our approach enables intuitive and deep control of virtual content components from our growing library. These functionalities help blur the boundaries between virtual scenario creation and manipulation. RezMela™ thus provides trainers with the much needed ability to calibrate in real time the flow and complexity of their custom virtual exercises. The need to match rapidly and precisely unanticipated changes in learning requirements is well established by virtual exercise designers and facilitators. RezMela™ is designed from ground up to address this outstanding need.

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Jul 232014
 

RezMela are running a competition in Kitely with prizes on offer of up to USD$250.00. Now you may be wondering what the bloody hell RezMela is, we’ll get to that later, for now here are the details of the competition :

Category A – Photography Contest

You need to submit:

  1. An in-world photograph taken using a RezMela scene
  2. Text (maximum 100 words) to describe the scenario depicted by the photograph

Prizes:

  • Gold: $50
  • Silver: $30
  • Bronze: $20

Category B – Machinima Contest

You need to submit:

  1. A link to an video (maximum 5 minutes) using a RezMela scene, uploaded to YouTube
  2. Text (maximum 100 words) to describe the scenario that the machinima presents

Prizes:

  • Gold: $250
  • Silver: $110
  • Bronze: $40

Note that YouTube videos must be set to Public or Unlisted, and must allow embedding.

To enter the competition you will need to visit RezMela Competition or RezMela Competition 2 in Kitely. Please note that the contest deadline is Thursday July 31st 2014, 11 pm EDT. All submissions need to be made on or before that time.

For further details please go to : http://rezmelacomp.wordpress.com/

Ok so what on earth is RezMela? At a very basic level it’s a way of building and saving scenes for your sim in OpenSim. This way you can quickly load scenes for different scenarios, it’s an excellent idea for many use cases but it seems to be particularly useful for educational usage and education is the sector that the product blurb is aimed at with talk of virtual learning environments and such like.

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Jul 212014
 

Book Island Landing Zone

Book Island isn’t new to Second Life, it has been around since 2007 and claims to be the oldest dedicated literary sim in Second Life. They’ve recently welcomed back a renter by the name of V.L. Dreyer who is the author of The Survivors series of books.

The sim exemplifies what virtual worlds do well, community, it’s clear that there’s community work here with events advertised for a 500 word writing challenge, Open Mic where you or one of the regulars can read in voice, live literature where one of Second Life’s regular live performers reads.

Then there are events aimed at writers, such as an Improv writers challenge and writers chat. There’s also something called Promptly Erotic, which you will have to ask Freda Frostbite about!

I’ve seen communities such as this inside and outside of Second Life. Earlier in the year I took a trip to Opensim to look at the Hypergrid Stories Project. Indeed this community were so nice that even though Second Life isn’t part of the Hypergrid, it was included in the Hypergrid stories project!

One of the reasons for that is of course related to Second Life having an audience that it worth engaging with. This point arose recently in my blog post about Seanchai’s discussion of Second Life and Kitely. The discussion in the comments is quite interesting as we see that authors in particular are not happy with Linden Lab’s TOS but they still want to engage with Second Life.

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Jul 172014
 

I’ve mentioned before how much I like the art of storytelling, I’ve also mentioned before how I’m surprised there’s not more storytelling in Second Life and how a virtual world is an environment that could allow for a feature rich interactive storytelling experience.

I haven’t changed my mind on any of the above but this evening I read an interesting post regarding storytelling in different virtual worlds : Why Kitely? What about Second Life? The post is from the Seanchai Library website.

First things first, Seanchai Library have been bringing stories to Second Life for over six years now, they are very much supporters of Second Life and aim to continue in Second Life. The post isn’t a bash Second Life post, it makes an interesting comparison between what can be done in Second Life v what can be done in Kitely and points out the cold, hard, financial realities.

The post talks about the possibilities of immersive storytelling and why Kitely may be a more attractive proposition for that sort of storytelling :

As we continue to explore creating increasingly immersive story experiences – an opportunity in what we do that several of us are very interested in – we run into immediate limits in Second Life. Those restrictions are, to be blunt, money and prims. A build like last year’s Dickens’ Project takes nearly 3800 prims (incomplete, by the way) and the space to manage them, none of which comes cheap in SL.

This is a reality that many a venture in Second Life has to face, be it storytelling, art, roleplaying, money and prims quickly become an issue. When you’re looking to tell an immersive story, it becomes more of a challenge. The room to expand and contract, to rebuild, to have space to manage the operation. Kitely offers a cheaper alternative. However that doesn’t always make Kitely the better option, it’s going to depend upon what you want to do.

The post compares the way different storytelling styles can work in both platforms :

Most of what we now produce in SL is fairly presentational: people sit in rows of seats inside of an environment and we stand (or sit) before them and present the literature. That is certainly one way of bringing stories to life, and one that we have been very successful with. But could there be another means of becoming transported into the story without shifting completely over to role play? Imagine you were wandering through the different environments visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past and Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol while listening to the original text, presented live. Imagine exploring an ancient Irish tower house while listening to Gaelic folk tales. Imagine poking around 221B Baker Street while listening to a Sherlock Holmes adventure. As long as the environment engages you within voice range of the speaker, you can wander, explore, sit and experience the literature just as you do in a more traditional audience-performer setting.

The potential to get more immersive leans towards Kitely due to its lower costs, but traditional sit around the storyteller style storytelling can happily thrive in Second Life. Both are decent ways of telling stories.

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Jul 012014
 

Back in the summer of 2009 a new menace appeared to be on the horizon in the shape and form of BuilderBot. The tool itself in some ways had noble aims, it was designed to assist a sim owner in making the move from Second Life to the Opensim world. Rezzable were the team wanting to make the move from Second Life to their own virtual world, they had owned some very popular sims such as Greenies and Black Swan. The problem was that initial reports suggested BuilderBot would also take with it content not owned by the sim owner. This was explained in a now archived blog post by the Rezzable team :

Our intention is to make tools for serious builders. So now someone can more easily take a copy of their build off SL and archive, keep it safe. Taking stuff linkset by linkset is really slow and painful. BuilderBot allows for a significantly better way to handle content. You can then save versions of builds to make a sorta library and then use these versions to make new iterations. It is your stuff, so now you can take care of it. The risk is that rippers can also use the tool to take unauthorized copies.

Rippers don’t seem to care much about DRM and already they can use copybot to take (and sell usually) illegal copies of content. In fact there is really no way to stop this technically. It is more about not giving content thieves safe haven to sell and benefit from their theft. I don’t think this is any different that issues with music being copied or dvd films. It is just a reality of creating digital content and virtual content creators need a better way to address rather than just filing DMCA protests.

BuilderBot will grab a copy of everything on sim–so you need to be careful on what is rezzed. You can of course delete stuff that you do not have rights to. But it is possible to grab stuff that you were not intending to have in your OAR file–and accidents do happen.

Unsurprisingly Second Life content creators were not impressed. Rezzable changed their mind and decided not to release the product as originally intended. Shopping Cart Disco reported on the issue, as did New World Notes. In the Second Life forums concerned residents were trying to get the then Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon to intervene. Eventually matters settled down, but this did open a wider discussion about virtual worlds other than Second Life and the rights people have to content. Some Second Life content creators started to stipulate their content could not be used outside of Second Life, others were happy for their content to go to other grids. This was unchartered territory because prior to this it really hadn’t been much of a concern.

Opensim worlds have grasped this nettle to a degree. Kitely’s market for example has permissions for export, which means someone can export the content outside of Kitely. Second Life is not part of the Hypergrid and so has not had a need to set such permissions. However there still seems to be some confusion as to what rights people have to their content.

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Jun 282014
 

The Storytellers Pub

The Storytellers pub stands proudly near the water’s edge in the sim of Winterfell Laudanum. The pub and surrounding area are extremely picturesque. The pub has as its landlord one Danko Whitfield, who as well as having a home in Second Life also has homes in Opensim and Kitely.

Danko has also decided to open an art exhibit in one room of the pub, where he is currently exhibiting his photographs of Winterfell in Second Life. Winterfell itself is compromised of a series of sims that make up the Winterfell estate, it neighbours Caledon and  there is some light roleplaying involved in these areas at times, don’t let that put you off!

Danko Whifield Exhibition

 

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Jun 142014
 

Kitely recently announced that they will be removing metered worlds and introducing premium worlds. The change is explained in the blog post :

The change that we’re announcing today is that from now on only users with a Premium Account will be able to create Premium Worlds. That’s the reason that we renamed them (from “Metered Worlds”): to emphasize that having Premium Worlds is a benefit that is reserved for users with Premium Accounts.

Despite this change, there are still ways that users with a Regular Account can end up with a Premium World. E.g., if they created the world while they had a Premium Account, but later they downgraded to a Regular Account. In such cases we don’t delete the worlds: they remain in the users’ accounts. However, only users with a Premium Account will be able to visit them: Regular Account and Hypergrid users will be prevented from visiting a Premium World that belongs to a user with a Regular Account. Note that this includes the world manager herself.

However these Premium Worlds remain much the same as the old metered worlds in other regards, if non-premium or Hypergrid visitors choose to visit your Premium World, a 1KC (Kitely Credit) per minute fee is billed to the Premium World owner. However other Premium account holders can visit another Premium World without extra charges.

Visitor costs in Kitely have always been problematic when such charges do not exist in Second Life. Originally, visitors had to pay these fees, then Kitely switched it so that region owners paid the fees. The problem with the fees for region owners is of course that costs can be unpredictable, so I’m not sure how attractive an option Premium Worlds will actually be or how attractive they were. Now if you are only allowing Premium members to visit your Premium worlds then they remain a bloody good option. As part of your USD$19.95 you can create up to five of these Premium Worlds without incurring any costs.

So what of worlds who do want Hypergrid and regular account visitors? Well you’re probably better off opting for a fixed world option. A starter world costs USD$14.95 a month and supports 10 concurrent users with no charges for visitors. For USD$49.95 a month you can have 1 or 4 worlds that each support 40 concurrent visitors with no extra charges. An advanced worlds costs USD$99.95 a month and comes with choices of 1,4,9, or 16 regions. All of these options will not incur visitors charges. For full details read the services page on the Kitely website.

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Apr 282014
 

The Seanchai library team have been telling stories in Second Life for over six years, but like all good story tellers they have decided it’s time for their stories to reach further shores and this has resulted in Seanchai Library announcing that their first storytelling session in Kitely will be on May 2nd.

The initial event will include an Estate Tour at 6:30pm ~ Ghost Stories at the Firecircle at 7:00pm (All times Pacific Time).

Location : hop://osgrid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29 or IM Shandon or Caledonia once you arrive.

Another way of getting there if you have a Kitely account is to go to the Kitely page : http://www.kitely.com/virtual-world/Shandon-Loring/Seanchai-2

Seanchai In Kitely

When you arrive there you find yourself at the central hub and from there you can teleport to twelve Storytelling venues or one of eight additional themed worlds. The blog post informs us that :

Each Venue provides an immersive environment for the story-listening audience, and each is parceled to be capable of supporting simultaneous events concurrent with events at the other Venues.

Small skyboxes at Seanchai are connected to the Storylink Radio Channel providing recorded stories from our Storytellers 24 hours a day.

So it’s clear to see the potential in this venture for plenty of storytelling locations and venues. When you click the main board you’re teleported straight away to a different location. When you walk through the portals there may be a short delay whilst the world is brought online and then you are teleported to a different region.

There’s potential to break these additional worlds down even further and parcel them so that even more stories can be told at one time.

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