Back to the Basics

In Cloud Party it’s easy to experience an authentic feeling of noobness. But new challenges enrich your life, don’t they? :)

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New Worlds

Do you remember the golden years of Second Life, when the virtual world was growing and everybody was excited about the future? Many saw Second Life as a pixel revolution, which would become a 3D Internet one day. But it didn’t and it won’t. The long term trend shows, that Second Life land mass is shrinking steadily and the current Linden management lacks vision, how to fix that. Meanwhile its competitors are becoming stronger and stronger. Recent statistics show, that OpenSim-based virtual worlds, especially InWorldz, are gaining popularity steadily. I feature two interesting alternatives to Second Life below shortly: InWorldz and Cloud Party.

InWorldz

OpenSim-based technology is improving little by little. It’s a project to build similar server software like the one running in Linden Lab’s clusters. As the name implies, OpenSim is open-source software built by community and contributed by some of the major commercial grids too. On viewer-side we can use either Third-Party-Viewers (TPV) or grid-specific viewers, that both are based on Second Life technology.

InWorldz is one of the leading grids currently, according to the statistics. Many Second Life content creators are selling their products in InWorldz too. It’s not difficult to find high-quality skins, hairs, clothes, houses and other goods there. Some time ago InWorldz even asked ex-Linden developer, Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz), to implement clothing deformer in their viewer, which is a branch of Firestorm. Other cool technical enhancements are Nvidia physx integration and the phlox script engine.

St. George Reef, InWorldz

St. George Reef, InWorldz

But what about the world itself? Since the viewer-side is practically same as in Second Life, it looks and feels same too, that lowers learning curve dramatically. When I signed in InWorldz, my first question was, how to find shops and destinations, since there is no marketplace or destination guide. Currently Firestorm and Kokua lack V1-like searches, that are required to make in-world search to work, but InWorldz viewer supports them. Kokua is planning to add it in the future.

InWorldz Search

Search dialog

In addition to content and technology, social life is very important part of virtual worlds. If you are a new resident, you will end up to InWorldz Desert Island (IDI), where you can find mentors and other people, to ask questions and recommendations. There is also a board, which gives you a long list of landmarks to different stores and places. To find events, I was recommended to join two groups, called “Where Can I Find It” and “Pulse of Inworldz”. It was an interesting co-incidence, that I met a content creator in InWorldz Desert Island. She was very upset because of the recent ToS change of Linden Lab too.

InWorldz Desert Island

InWorldz Desert Island

For some reason, I had problems with world map search. It couldn’t find anything, but remained in searching state. I contacted to InWorldz support, who responded quickly, that they will ask developer to check out the situation soon. This was impressive, compared to Second Life support.

Cloud Party

Cloud Party was started over two years ago and has matured significantly during that time. Its software architecture is very modern, as you can use a WebGL capable web browser as a client (Chrome or Chromium are recommended, though) and there is a lot of innovation included, that makes SL look like a dinosaur compared to it. Builders should be happy, because they can use diffuse and normal maps to improve surfaces, and meshes are supported out of box. There is no home-made scripting language, similar to LSL, but all scripts are written in JavaScript, which is one of the most widely used programming language in the world.

The world of Cloud Party is different from Second Life or OpenSim grids. There are islands (also known as “builds”), that are like isolated planets in the universe. You can make them look exactly as you like. There are many builds, that look like nature, but some others are surreal. There is no such thing as water level by default, but you can create large volumes, that look like water. So far I don’t have any information, if it’s possible to swim or sail on them.

Island template by Landscapes Unlimited

Island template by Landscapes Unlimited

There is a marketplace, where you can find different kinds of things, like houses, clothes, plants, etc. Still, the selection is very humble compared that of Second Life. That makes your freedom to customize your avatar limited, but the selection is improving slowly, as content creators are becoming interested in the world. A fascinating feature of marketplace is, that you can sell building components and get royalties of their use automatically, when the derived works are sold.

My house in my free starter land

My house in my free starter land

You can find people in the public places by keeping your eyes on the “active” tab of the navigation app. Some of them are from Second Life, others not. There is a mix of people with pseudonym names and Facebook-based real life identities. If you want to have a private place, it’s best to become a subscriber, that includes far more advantages than SL premium account.

Cloud Party still lacks the critical mass of active residents and content creators, but it is improving steadily and has a lot of innovation.

Conclusion

Both InWorldz and Cloud Party are nice options to Second Life, but both of them are still determinedly under construction. InWorldz has attracted many content creators already, that is vital, to make a virtual world to survive. If you decide to give try another world, don’t be chocked, if you feel yourself like a clueless newbie in the beginning… ;)

InWorldz Mainland

InWorldz Mainland

Their World, Your Imagination

Do you know, who was Pablo Picasso? He was a Spanish painter, who lived in 1881 – 1973, and is one of the most influential artist of the 20th century. Many consider him as a genius.

What if Picasso was born about hundred years later and would be starting his career in our times? What if he liked to share his works in one of the modern virtual worlds, like Second Life? He might have uploaded many of his works and had a galleries, where he has his works visible. Perhaps thousands of people had visited there and admired his creativity and talent.

Since he is an artist and not a lawyer, I guess, he would bypass the changed in Terms of Services by shrugging and rather concentrate on setting up his galleries in-world or continue painting in real life. However, one day he might realize, that his works are owned by an American Corporation, which silently had changed their Terms of Service (ToS), which he had accepted unwittingly. He would have permitted the corporation an unlimited power over his creations, that he had uploaded to the virtual world. I’m quite sure, he and many other would be enraged.

Picasso died before our digital age and never needed to face the hypotetical situation, described above. Still, many Second Life content creators were shocked, when New World Notes posted an article about the change in the ToS of Second Life. As a conseqence of the update, CGTextures forbade using their textures in Second Life and warned content creators about the related problems.

So, if you create textures, 3D objects, scripts, sounds, poems or whatever, Linden Lab will have the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats… (From their Terms of Service) As someone said, it’s no longer Your world, your imagination but Their world, your imagination.

Linden Lab has regretted the reaction among the Second Life users. They try convince us, that they still respect our rights and encourage us to create new things. However, the only thing, that matters in a court (if you have to go there), is the contract between us and Linden Lab. That contract is called as Terms of Service. If they really respected our rights, wouldn’t they fix their ToS as soon as possible?!

Second Life succeeded only, because thousands of people have used their time and creativity to make it a more beautiful place to live. Now, many of us content creators have expressed their disappointment because of the change. Many feel, that Linden Lab has betrayed us. Maybe some of us will stop their career in SL, while others will concentrate on other virtual worlds, like Inworldz, Avination, OSGrid and Cloud Party. Still, there is a group of builders, who have never cared about copyrights or origin of their textures (or other building blocks) and won’t care in the future either. Linden Lab won’t lose them any soon.

I knew a skilled builder, who left Second Life, because he didn’t like, that you have to pay, if you want to express your creativity. Now you not only have to pay, but also give up your rights too. I’m not a famous content creator, but I have to say, that my motivation to upload any of my new creations to Second Life is very low currently.

Is it time for game over finally? If you have at least little of the spirit of Pablo Picasso, I would say, it is!

Update: Also Renderosity expressed, that their content can’t be used in Second Life.

Update 2: All content creators, please, join to the group United Content Creators of SL.

Update 3: Qarl Fizz (also knwon as Qarl Linden earlier) said goodbye to Second Life, because of the ToS changes and some lesser issues.

Betrayed and disrespected builder

Betrayed and disrespected builder

Cruise in New England

Following the Shoreline

Following the Shoreline

New England is among the oldest parts of United Sailing Sims area. There are a lot of to see still, even if it’s not as big as during its Renaissance, when Nantucket was the center, surrounded by lively homesteads and full sims. One of the highlights of the area has always been the long island, which consists of two sims, Point of Pines and Lands End, currently. Its actually Sudane Erato’s home, who owns and manages the area.

Personnally I have so many memories related to this area, because my fourth home in Second Life was located there, in Watch Hill region (which doesn’t exist anymore), and during that time I had a special scripting project going on with Sudane. That all happened in the latter half of 2009, when Second Life land rush had been declining for some time and many estates were having their death struggle. Fortunately SL New England was among the survivers.

New England waters are a good destination, because there are beautiful nature and houses and landscaping is very consistent in general. If you love the style, how about renting a small piece of land there? :)

Lands End

Lands End