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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Replacements and Alternatives to Second Life

Second Life is the oldest, biggest, most diverse and most successful virtual world in existence.  But ever since about Day Two of Second Life, people have been predicting The End Of SL.  Despite the Rants of Doom, though, SL continues to soldier on; aging, a bit clunky, and increasingly a collection of old and newer technologies kludged together.  Today, we'll take a brief look at some other virtual worlds that (some people) claim will replace SL.

OpenSim.
OpenSim is an open source alternative to Second Life.  You can download the OpenSim software and run it on your local computer, creating a region, or even several regions, that you can access with a number of Second Life viewers.  You can even give other people the address of your little virtual world and they can visit it.
http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Main_Page

OSGrid.
OSGrid is one implementation of OpenSim.  If you set up an account there, you can use OpenSim to create region(s) on your computer, and link them to OSGrid so that they show up on its world Map.  For better performance or reliability, you can rent server space and host your regions on a commercial server.
https://www.osgrid.org/

There are any number of other virtual worlds like OSGrid, based on OpenSim.  You can use an analog of SL's teleportation to travel from one to the other.  Collectively, they're known as the "Hypergrid." Members of the Hypergrid are known as "open worlds"; you can exchange content from one to another of them.  In contrast, SL is a "closed world".  You cannot teleport to it from another Hypergrid location.

There are a few problems however.  For one thing, the software they're based on, OpenSim, is basically a reverse-engineered Second Life.  It contains all of SL's problems, plus a few of its own.  Being open source, it's not updated as often or as comprehensively as SL, and the updates often introduce bugs of their own.  But the biggest problem is the economy.  There is nothing like the Linden Dollar, although some of the grids have their own currencies.  As a result, almost no one is creating content for these virtual worlds.  And so, almost nobody goes there.  I just now looked at the grid stats for OSGrid.  There are a total of 5,980 regions, and a total of 77 people on line.

IMVU.
This virtual world is nearly as big and diverse as SL.  It has its own currency, and you can create and sell content.  Avatars can look as realistic as in SL.  However, it has a number of significant differences, and I see them as deficiencies.  You can't walk or fly in IMVU...you use local teleporting to hop from one pose spot to another.  There is no actual "land"...there are only "rooms".  While a "room" may be set up to resemble an outdoor space, it's not connected to any other space or room in a physical sense.  You go from one room to another by teleporting only.  IMVU doesn't have the age limitations of SL, so there are a lot of kids, pre-teens, and teenagers there.  It's largely advertising-supported, so if you create an account, expect to receive a ton of email ads.
https://secure.imvu.com/welcome/ftux/

Red Light Center.
This world is very similar to SL, but is even more focused on Adult content.  In fact, one might say that it's All About the Pronz.  Red Light Center has a virtual currency, and a creator community.  It has also adopted VR technology, unlike SL.  I've met people who owned and operated clubs there.  If your focus is on virtual sex, this may be the world for you, but a constant diet of porn quickly becomes old, at least for me.
https://www.redlightcenter.com/vr/  (CAUTION:  Link is NSFW.)

Blue Mars.
This was widely touted as the "next Second Life."  But it never really got off the ground, and has been dead and gone for years.

High Fidelity.
This replacement virtual world was created by Philip Rosedale, the inventor of Second Life.  The idea was to make a virtual reality that was much more "real" than SL, and to make your avatar within it much more like the "real you."  While I have seen videos of people using VR equipment like Oculus Rift headsets and hand controllers, and watched their on-screen avatars moving in response to their Real World motions, I think the avatars themselves, and the world around them, are anything BUT "high fidelity."  The world and the people in it look closer to Minecraft than to reality.  It's currently in beta, and you can try it out.
https://highfidelity.com/started

Sansar.
This is a new virtual world, or more precisely, a network of virtual worlds, created by Linden Lab itself.  Like High Fidelity, it's designed from the outset to make use of VR technology.  The content is all Mesh...none of those clunky Second Life prims.  While some of the environments created by users are fascinating and highly detailed, Sansar is still very buggy and has a LONG way to go before it contains even a fraction of the content and variety of Second Life.  In addition, Sansar is not really aimed at the SL community of users.  It's more for people who want to build a VR environment as a part of, or a supplement to, a web site.  It's unclear, still, how its business model and internal economy will ultimately work.  It will probably never have the huge community of anonymous users that SL enjoys.  You can explore Sansar here:
https://www.sansar.com/

Once the kinks in VR get worked out, and we figure out how to use it to interact with our online simulations in a really effective way, something like High Fidelity or Sansar may replace Second Life.  But I think we still have a LONG way to go before we really get there.  In the meantime, enjoy your Second Life!

2 comments:

  1. There's a number of problems with opensim, however I think that the hypergrid adds a lot to the mix. So you can look at the few people on osgrid, and the few people on hypergrid.org in isolation but you don't really get the big picture until you realize that the hypergrid is made up of the people on osgrid AND on hypergrid (and the population of every other hypergrid-connected grid as well).

    Osgrid is far from the only option, and I don't believe that the opensimulator wiki is all that relevant to anything any more.

    Instead, for folks who are interested in trying out opensim for themselves, I would suggest that they look up the Dreamworldz installer (https://www.outworldz.com/outworldz_installer/) which allows you to have a region on your own desktop fairly pain-free.

    There are downsides to opensim -that's for sure! The community can be toxic to the extreme and there is a rash of copybotting which has increased over the last year.

    Regardless of that, there are still great people out here who are working hard to make their own content (and often releasing it open source) and sharing their own visions with the world.

    It's not a "one or the other" choice -I've been in SL **and** Opensim since 2010. :)

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    1. Thanks for reading, Han, and thank you for your helpful comment!

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