Sunday, July 31, 2011

Other Worlds

Almost all my time in virtual reality is spent in Second Life, and all of my posts here so far have been about SL. But you should know that there are other virtual worlds on the web. If SL is not to your liking, maybe another world will be. I’m not the experienced guide that some other intrepid explorers are (most especially, see Ener Hax and her ilivesl blog). Still, these may provide you with a starting place to do a little more research.

Blue Mars. BM (what an unfortunate acronym!) has very high-tech underpinnings compared to SL. In theory at least, its visual appearance is superior. When I visited, I found the range of avatar customization to be much more limited than SL.  BM features some interesting concepts. For example, one can have a designated private space, such as the inside of one’s home. People outside this space can’t see into it, in fact it does not exist at all in their version of reality. Moreover, there can be multiple “instances” of this space; a landlord could rent out the same apartment to several tenants, and each would have their “own” place, all at the same physical address. Object creation is done with offline third party programs, much as Mesh will be done in SL. Desmond Shang, the owner of the very successful Caledon estate in Second Life, has established two colonies on Blue Mars; one is a steampunk-themed area like Caledon, while the other is a less structured tropical island type of setting.

InWorldz. The best way I can describe InWorldz is that it’s Second Life, but four years ago. But that is misleading. IWz is a grid based on the OpenSim server software which is indeed derived from an earlier version of the Second Life server code. So technically speaking, it’s like an earlier version of SL. Apparently, a (really good) physics system has now been added, which removes one of my major complaints. Many of the newer features such as avatar physics and multiple clothing layers are not available. On my visits there, I have found things to be even less stable than SL, with frequent crashes when trying to fly long distances and cross region borders (this may have improved, I haven't been there in a year or so). However…IWz has a much different social “feel” than SL, or even SL-as-it-was. This is because most of the inhabitants of IWz are experienced Second Life residents, people who know how to behave in virtual reality. The hordes of griefers and rude people who throng the SL infohubs are simply not there. The technology is shaky, and financially speaking IWz is a “basement hobbyist” effort compared to the enormous Second Life Grid…but the people who live there are smart, polite, and intensely passionate and involved in making “their” world an attractive place.

OpenSim.  This isn’t one virtual world, but many. You can download OpenSim software for free and install it on your own computer, and create your very own private Second-Life-like virtual world. You can even link it to grids hosted by others in a sort of hyper-grid system. Travel between these grids is nowhere near as straightforward as teleporting to another sim. It’s much more like logging off one set of internet forums and logging onto another.

IMVU.  IMVU is really geared toward the teenagers. Content creation requires a premium account, and all virtual goods are subject to approval by the game’s managers. Sony, the owner of IMVU, gets a cut of all content sold. The world consists of linked “rooms”. You can go from one room to another in a process like SL teleporting, but there is no physical connection. Each “room” is its own mini-universe. While their ads entice you with slogans like “Dress Up for Grownups” and “Be Sexy”, IMVU does not permit any adult content.

Red Light District/Utherverse. In direct contrast to IMVU, this virtual world is all about adult content. In fact, many of the things that make Second Life a “world” are not present here. The emphasis is on sex, not on living a well rounded virtual existence.

Eve Online.  More of a roleplaying game (like World of Warcraft, but in a science fiction type of shared universe rather than a fantasy-based one). Captain a starship, fight space battles. Develop strategies and tactics. Eve does not have 3D animated avatars, but the space graphics are gorgeous.  There's a free trial, but it costs about $10.00 - $15.00 per month to play. 

World of Warcraft.  Huge fantasy game.  Free to play, up to level 20.  Despite being games with rules and levels, rather than open ended virtual world platforms, both Eve Online and WoW are used by many for social networking purposes.


  1. Lindal --

    Actually, hypergrid travel between hypergrid-enabled grids is exactly like teleporting from one region to another.

    For example, if you have a standalone mini-grid that you're running on your home computer, and you set the hypergrid settings to "on", you can teleport to OSGrid by pulling up Map and typing in:

    That will take you to the OSGrid welcome region -- LBSA Plaza. If you want to teleport to another region on OSGrid, just enter:

    For example, to go to Samsara, enter:

    If the teleport works, you won't be able to tell that you landed on another grid -- your avatar, clothing, everything will show up as normal. The only difference is that your avatar name will change -- if you were John Smith at, when you land on OSGrid your avatar name will change from "John Smith" to "" -- to keep you from getting confused with the John Smith who lives on OSGrid.

    You can make friends, send instant messages, even have landmarks that all work over the hypergrid.

    But the hypergrid doesn't work all the time. Many grids have it disabled. Some grids, like ReactionGrid, JokaydiaGrid and GovGrid are running a old version of OpenSim with a different hypergrid protocol (1.0 instead of 1.5) -- you can hypergrid between them, but you can't go to OSGrid and most other grids running the latest OpenSim.

    You also can't hypergrid teleport (or in-grid teleport, for that matter) between two regions more than 4,096 regions apart. It's a bug inherited from the Second Life viewer that's not an issue in Second Life but causes problems in OpenSim. If you're teleporting from a region at coordinates at 1000,1000 to a region at coordinates 7000,7000 you'll have to make an intermediary stop at a region somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000,4000 -- it's a PITA, and I'm hoping they'll figure out a way to fix this soon!

    Hypergrid teleport is different from in-grid teleports in one other way -- local grids can lock down their content so hypergrid travelers can't take it with them to other grids. It's a nice security feature, I'm looking forward to HG 2.0, when the security controls will be more flexible (to lock down individual pieces of content, while letting travelers take others -- like souvenir t-shirts of the grid!).

  2. Thank you, Maria! Very good to know.

  3. I would add SpotON3D to your list.