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