Mar 072014
 

News reaches me that Kitely and their Kitely Market are moving closer to being able to deliver goods to other grids. This move will mean that merchants who list their items on the Kitely Market will be able to make their merchandise available to other Hypergrid enabled grids.

However, the system is currently in closed beta and this means that things may change before the system is officially unleashed.

Therefore if you are a hypergrid user this feature may be coming to a grid near you soon but please bear in mind if you see any discussion regarding this that this is an early beta system. Features you may hear about now, may not be in the final product, indeed much of what is in early beta could change.

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Mar 052014
 

No matter what price a company puts on a product, there are going to be people who complain about it. There are umpteen examples of this, a glaring one for Second Life users is tier pricing. The tier is too damn high for many potential use cases of Second Life, but it is what it is. However there are ways and means of introducing pricing structures that can help to attract more customers.

The Elder Scrolls Online will be out soon, with an upfront fee and a USD$15 a month subscription fee, and there have been plenty of complaints about it. The price itself is not outrageously expensive but the pricing models for MMO’s has for some time been moving away from a subscription only model. Indeed Second Life is a glaring example of a product that moved from a subscription only model, to a choice of payment model and undoubtedly prospered.

I’ll be amazed if The Elder Scrolls Online does not change its pricing model within a year or two of release. I’ve seen this before with Star Wars The Old Republic, Age Of Conan, Star Trek Online yadda yadda yadda. The MMO market has moved on in the main from the subscription only model. There are at least two whopping examples of pretty much subscription fee only models, World Of Warcraft and Eve-Online. WoW has the people, that’s something you simply can’t buy. Eve-Online is far more niche, that’s a good advantage, but in the main the subscription only model is heading into extinction. The thing to note is that many a free to play MMO model offers a subscription option.

Now the new SL Go is getting criticised for its pricing model and I personally think this is a bridge that the concept won’t be able to cross. The technology really is brilliant in terms of delivery, the pricing model is quite heinous and there is a virtual world precedent here, Kitely.

Kitely had a pay per minute plan, it was not quite the same as the Onlive SL Go model, but it was a pay for your time model. On January 1st Kitely changed their model quite substantially, announcing in a blog post:

Until now, users had a certain number of Minutes that they could spend in-world; this was similar to the Minutes in a cellphone plan. Unfortunately, using Minutes had some downsides.

The biggest problem was that using Minutes caused anxiety among casual users: they had to count their Minutes and “spend them wisely”. But starting now, visitors never pay for visiting a world. It’s possible that a user won’t be able to visit a particular world due to the access settings chosen by the world owner, but if they can visit the world then it’s completely free for them.

Whereas paid time has not been completely removed from Kitely, the onus now falls on a sim owner to pay the bill for visitor’s time, but Kitely has a range of other options that mean sim owners can avoid such fees and it’s this sort of range of choice that helps end users.

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Jan 092014
 

On January 1st Kitely finalised their new pricing structure. This provided new fixed price options, but worryingly took away the two free hours a month from free accounts. New accounts will get six hours of free time, which once used up, means they will need to buy Kitely Credits to visit their own metered world, those six hours don’t need to be used up in one month. However on the plus side free accounts no longer have to buy minutes to continue exploring. I have some concerns about how this will pan out and things didn’t start well when I tried to login.

Image of Kitely message

Not allowed to login

That was due to trying to login to the last world I visited. This world must have set their world to not allow free accounts anymore. So I decided to head home ….

Kitely image should be here

My Home Suspended!

So now I can’t visit my own free world anymore! This took me a little by surprise, I thought they may have allowed people a month with a little free time at least. However as there’s pretty much nothing on my own world, this is no great loss. So what next? I decided to explore and this is where the new pricing structure could well work well because now I can explore without worrying about being charged Kitely Credits for doing so.

Dragon's Teeth In Kitely

Dragon’s Teeth

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Dec 302013
 

The challenge with a review of the year is to try and make it worth reading. There’s a balance between including information and including too much information. This year’s review is largely based on Second Life and my own posts, so there’s plenty of information that I will be missing. For those who want a more in depth review, Inara Pey has been reviewing 2013 too.

For me personally it was a difficult year, Reed, Dee, Izzy and TJ Linden all gave me wonderful support, even when I myself was more than a tad grouchy with them but I do appreciate the efforts they made to accommodate me.

This post is not as long as it looks, if you skip the pictures, links and embedded videos it won’t take as long to read as you may think at first glance. I did consider breaking this down in to different posts, as I did last year. However at the end of the day it is what it is, so it looks like it’s epic in length but it’s really not. However to aid people I’ve decided to go back to HTML school and create a table of contents! Hurrah.

Contents

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Dec 152013
 

In my previous post I mentioned Kitely’s forthcoming changes to their pricing structure. I had a few questions regarding this and other aspects of Kitely so I contacted co-founder and CEO Ilan Tochner who was more than happy to answer my questions.

Ilan also talked about the Kitely market, arts and education in Kitely and how users would like hypergrid access. For the purposes of this interview CL is me and IT is Ilan Tochner … I think you probably worked that out for yourselves, now on with the interview!

CL : “What is happening to the free time based plan that provides users with one free sim and two hours worth of time based access a month?”

IT : “The Free Plan will be discontinued. The Regular Account that will replace it will also include 1 free Metered region (what is now called time-based billing region) but will not include the free time quota that you have now. What will replace that will be announced on Jan 1.”

CL : “If someone signs up this month for a Gold or Silver plan, even if they are not currently a registered user, will they be grandfathered in too?”

IT : “Yes, you’ll be grandfathered in as long as you create an account before the end of the year and get on the Silver or Gold plan before Jan 1. Please note that our backend uses GMT so US-based people shouldn’t wait until the late afternoon of December 31 to order because our system will already consider that to be Jan 1.”

CL : “The bronze plan granted people two free sims a month, will people currently on the bronze plan still be able to keep their 2 free regions a month when they are downgraded to a regular account?”

IT : “The Bronze Plan is discontinued, as stated in our announcement people who were on that plan will be switched to the Regular Plan on Jan 1. They will not have 2 regions grandfathered in as they are no longer paying us for a subscription (we canceled all the Bronze Plan holders’ PayPal subscriptions for our service). People who had more than one Metered world can continue paying for it using our standard 10KC/day/region rate. The only price change for Metered worlds is that OAR-based operations will cost 150KC/operation instead of 10KC/region/operation. Alternatively, they can export that world to an OAR file now (while it still costs just 10KC/region) and delete the excess world.”

CL : “When will you be announcing the new fixed price options?”

IT : “Fixed-price options will be announced when we make them available on Jan 1.”

CL : “Under what circumstances is the time based billing option, the better option for someone?”

IT : “Time-based billing can be better for Premium Account holders as it can provide them with a lot more regions for a much lower cost than paying for each region using a fixed-price option. When all the visitors they expect are Premium Account holders neither they nor their visitors have to actually worry about time as none of them will be paying extra for it. Funding other people’s access to your Metered world can still be cheaper than paying for a fixed-price world if you don’t get a lot of visitors/hours in that world.”

CL : “Just to clarify, minutes only apply to visits to time based regions, minutes are not deducted when someone visits a fixed price region?”

IT : “The entire concept of Minutes is irrelevant for fixed-price worlds. They aren’t used there. Those worlds are like regions in Second Life, you pay a fixed price for the month and no one is charged for time inside them.”

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Dec 142013
 

It’s a matter of out with the old and in with the new as Kitely announces new pricing plans for their virtual world offerings.

Going – The USD$35 a month Gold Plan that gave users 20 free time based regions and unlimited access.

Going – The USD$20 a month Silver Plan that gave users 10 free time based regions and 120 hours access to time based regions. Access to fixed price regions doesn’t deduct time from a time based plan.

Gone – The USD$5 a month Bronze Plan that gave users 2 free time based regions and 30 hours access to time based regions.

Incoming – The USD$19.95 Premium Account which gives users 5 free time based regions and no restrictions on time spent in time based regions, your own or anyone else’s. This will replace the Gold and Silver plans. The Bronze plan is disappearing completely and people on the Bronze plan will be put on the regular account plan, which will replace the current free based plan. The details on the new regular account plan are not detailed anywhere I can see.

However there’s a grandfathered perk on offer for Gold and Silver plans which means if you’re using one of these plans at the end of the year you can stay on those plans and receive added perks. For example the Silver Plan will no longer have the 120 hours restriction, you’ll have unlimited access to time based regions as well as still being able to have 10 time based regions instead of 5 for the Premium Account.

The Gold plan, which has always had unlimited access to time based regions will boost the number of free time based regions you can have from the current 20 free time based regions to 30 free time based regions.

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Nov 192013
 

One of the issues regarding Cloud Party is the inability to cash out. This is understandable as content creators are more likely to be tempted to engage if they can find financial reward. Cloud Party do allow you to pay for services such as island rentals using Cloud Party coins, so there is a degree of economic movement but it stays firmly within Cloud Party.

Kitely on the other hand allow people to list items on their marketplace with the option of a Paypal payment as well as Kitely credits. There’s no cashing out from Kitely but paypal payments are a way of a merchant getting cold hard cash. Again, like Cloud Party, the inworld currency can be used to pay for services.

However what people would really like to be able to do is to sell Cloud Party coins or Kitely credits in the same manner as Linden Dollars can be bought and sold. The beauty of this solution is that it adds an added level of consumer confidence, because when they make a purchase, they are doing so with an inworld currency, they aren’t handing over details to a stranger in a virtual land. That’s the beauty of the virtual currency.

Recent legislation in the USA has given platform providers the heebie jeebies about users selling virtual currencies, hence why they aren’t that widely available. However you would think that someone would seize the opportunity to tap into this market, be that Paypal, Amazon or even Linden Lab.

Now I’m sure plenty of companies would like the idea of selling virtual currencies to consumers, the part they aren’t so keen on is allowing users to sell that virtual currency. Linden Lab of course do this with the Lindex, so why can’t they expand this to offering a service to other companies?

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Nov 062013
 

I downloaded a Sinclair Spectrum emulator for the android the other week. After the initial buzz of seeing all those old game titles from the eighties my interest waned. The android is a bit clunky for such games, many games don’t work and time has not been kind to many of them. However it was a thrill at first. When I had a Speccy as a kid, so did lots of my school friends. We’d share games (piracy as my teacher scolded us, so don’t try that at home). We’d go to each others houses, we’d have fun not only due to the games but because there was also a social aspect.

I left the Speccy behind many moons ago, as I did the Commodore Amiga after that, and I have been looking to see if there’s a legal Amiga emulator but will most likely go through the same cycle as I did with the Speccy emulator, thrill, then flat and no social side to keep the interest.

As it’s my blog I can draw comparisons between the Speccy and Second Life, a bit of a stretch it may be but I can draw them. The Speccy was not the height of technology on release, there were better products around but the Speccy caught the imagination. Therefore software developers were alerted to it and stretched the Speccy to limits beyond what many thought it was capable of, Lords Of Midnight springs to mind here. The Speccy had the people and of all the ingredients that make a product a success, that is arguably the most important one.

Roll forward many years and Second Life is simply where it’s at in virtual world terms. Cloud Party has some very impressive concepts going for it. I like their royalty system on content sales whereby if you sell an asset with royalties enabled, if someone else then sells another asset whilst using your asset as part of the build, you’ll receive a royalty payment. Cloud Party has also had materials for quite a while now. Another impressive apsect of Cloud Party is that objects are not the only limiting factor in a build. In Cloud Party you can have x amount of objects, or x amount triangles or x amount of bandwidth, whichever you hit first will strike the build limit. This is a well considered concept as objects are far from the only issue when it comes to performance.

Kitely has some impressive offerings, such as putting sims to sleep when not in use due to using a cloud based system. Kitely is also not only cheaper than Second Life, but for those who may only spend a few hours a month there they have a time based billing option and under any plan you get at least one free sim to play around with.

Inworldz is also cheaper than Second Life, Jim Tarber and the team are also moving in directions Second Life isn’t, as can be seen in the Inworldz Techblog where they inform visitors they’re implementing physX and project Thoosa, which is aimed at making everything run faster and more efficiently. Inworldz has also implemented Qarl’s mesh deformer project.

However despite these advances in other virtual worlds, Second Life still has that magical community ingredient and what makes this all the more impressive is that Second Life still has the community despite the fact that Linden Lab have been actively distancing themselves from the Second Life community for a few years now.

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Oct 222013
 

The TOS debate goes on, there’s an epic three hour (TLDL) video of a legal panel meeting inworld, which you can view here: http://youtu.be/jifM2n4ttSE. Now if that’s too daunting for you, Bixyl Shuftan comes to the rescue with a summary of the meeting (although Bixyl does point out that the video really helps to understand the details).

Personally I feel that the TOS oversteps the mark and really, Linden Lab should explain to their users where this is headed because the new TOS makes very uncomfortable reading. However when concerns like this are raised others see opportunities. Kitely have already done this with a blog post explaining their more friendly sounding TOS when it comes to content creators.

Now into the fray comes Cloud Party. Hamlet Au over at New World Notes posts information regarding a blog post from Cloud Party’s Cyn Skyberg. Cyn Skyberg used to go by the name of Cyn Linden and parade around Second Life as a pirate with a peg leg whilst being a fearless leader of the support team, she also had a taste for eels …… oh wait, that was the band, The Eels! I’m not making this up! More of that later, for now, the blog post from Cyn states:

In short, our TOS states “Cloud Party does not claim any ownership right in any Member content”.

Photos, textures, materials, objects, models, scripts and all other content uploaded to our platform are owned solely by the user. We do reserve the right to use them for shameless promotion of the platform via marketing, but the content you create is, and always will be, yours. In fact, there is a “download original” button for everything you put into the service, so you can grab it whenever you like.

The devil of course is in the detail and below the cut I’ll go into more detail about the detail, unless you’re already below the cut, then the detail will be right below this sentence!

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Jan 212013
 

Kitely are currently developing a marketplace for their virtual world, one they hope will also be able to serve other virtual worlds. They have recently blogged some information about how their market will work and they are offering an early bird promotion for merchants to apply for, the details can be found here.

The Kitely market will be different from the Second Life marketplace, for a start there will be listing fees, although I’m unsure how often you have to pay a listing fee, or whether it’s a one off fee. The listing fees are:

  • Add product: 100 KC
  • Add variation: 25 KC

KC being Kitely Credits. Now the reason for the variation fee is because variations will be listed under one product, so instead of seeing umpteen different listings for a shirt in different colours, you’ll have a listing with variations.

Kitely are also offering some early bird offers to try and encourage merchants to start setting up shop:

Early-Bird Discounts for All Merchants

 There will be a 50% discount on listing fees until the market opens for buyers.

 In addition, we will provide a special free world that registered merchants (see below) can use for creating their objects. Since we don’t charge upload fees, this means that even users using the Free Plan will be able to create items without any cost except for the listing fees. This world will only be available until the marketplace opens.

However if you’re an established merchant, you can apply to be a featured merchant and get even better discounts.

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