Thursday, October 30, 2008

Exploring alternative virtual worlds - This time a new OpenSim: Avatar Hangout

Prompted by my growing distrust in Linden Lab, most recently aggravated by the company’s abusive pricing tactics, I continue to explore alternative virtual worlds in the hopes of identifying a place where content creators can work in a dependable and secure environment that offers stability, effective creation tools and good governance. Importantly, the leadership should demonstrate a credible commitment to permanence, too.

Extreme explorers have warned me that I’m in for a rough time and to approach the experience with modest expectations, and I am. I’m not looking for another Second Life®. I’m looking for a virtual world that has the potential to be much better than Second Life. It stands to reason that if you take a good foundation and add great content creators of all kinds, then the sky is the limit.

Hern Worsely, a gifted clothing, accessories and building creator in Second Life, as well as someone who's insights I appreciate, wrote to say that he was going to be checking out Avatar Hangout, one of the newest OpenSim worlds, so I followed suit.

According to the Wiki, OpenSimulator, often referred to as OpenSim, is an open source server for hosting virtual worlds similar to Second Life. OpenSimulator uses libsecondlife to handle communication between the client and server, so it is possible to connect to an OpenSim server using the Second Life client. Other clients for Second Life are also interoperable, since Second Life and Opensim use the same communication protocols.

Avatar Hangout is brand new, having just opened its doors on October 18, 2008.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by no less than three people prepared to sell me land and one person who offered to create any surname I desired. I asked for Tizzy, logged off, re-registed, and came back as Bettina Tizzy.

Jake Detman, its founder and owner of Detman Entertainment, INC., is Count Mercier in Second Life (rez: 11/2006), where he was a broker for residents selling their estates full transfer to other residents.

Count Avatar, as he is known in Avatar Hangout, happened to be at the Welcoming area greeting about 8 newbies when I arrived, and agreed to chat with me a bit.

Count Avatar welcomes new arrivals

Hello Count. What's happening with the physics here? (We were bouncing up and down).

The code is still Alpha leaning into Beta. There is still lots to be done.

These would be the equivalent of class 5 sims, yes?

Yes, our servers actually run a little better than a class 5. The staff here all have used this software for over a year and me just under a year, so we have the experience to understand what is being done and from my SL days I understand how I think a Grid should work to benefit all parties involved, from Estate owners to the residents that occupy the land and those that just want to Hangout.

Diablo Island

There are people who just want to hang out? That is surprising.

That’s why we do not offer land to the residents except estates. This is a different ball game, open grids, and has to be treated as such. It is hard enough to get people to take a look so why be in competition with Estate owners?

I just wish I could put my avatar's feet on the ground :D

I feel that with the low prices, people can actually build what they started out to in SL, before they got stuck with high tiers. With land here, the best use is what you want to use it for :)

Is there any possibility that you will increase prices abruptly?

No, there is no reason for doing the ol' bait and switch like LL does.

I am as interested in the quality of governance as I am about the ability to build and inhabit a grid. Would you be this grid's Phil?

No, I will be the Grid’s Count :) We are not strict. We are operating on ethics. We expect everyone to treat each other in a decent way. There will be issues, sure, but we will hear both sides before passing judgment.

The Grid's Count...

How many estate owners do you have?

Right now we have 5. We will have a lot more going on as these regions go up daily, and users are building things to have people stay and enjoy themselves and continue on with the basic foundation of people making excellent products to sell to the community.

My Space, but 3D

You are thinking of it more as a social space?

Our first in-game meeting will be this Saturday. That way the community can voice their opinions and we all can talk and get to know each other a little more, but basically a 3D social network like My Space, but 3D.

The profile of Avatar Hangout's goal population does not fit with my readers then. They are not social butterflies! Far from it.

That’s fair. We have a whole grid to play with. They don’t have to be near the home regions at all.

What are you doing to address the physics issues? They seem quite serious.

The OpenSim software core developers are handling that issue. This is their platform we use to make our world along with our Modules that bring the economy functions. It affects all OpenSims running this version.

Dream Island

What version is this?

I am not sure of the specific number of the trunk, but we always use the most stable and not the newest release. Stability is our most important thing. The Viewer that we use was developed by MJM Lab’s Mana Janus.

What about voice, scripting and currency? Any new stuff coming up?

Voice does not work yet, scripting is coming along. There have been a few scripters that have modified their scripts to get around certain functions that are not implemented or completed. Here is a list of functions that are complete. We do have in game money, and people can set things for sale. We have events coming in the next update, which is the beginning of search working. People will be able to place events and it will show in the map. We are waiting for the next version to test stability and see if anyone reports bugs before we go and download it to the main servers.

How secure is my information, my system, etc. here?

We do not share information with anyone. We do use the Hippo Viewer which is hosted on SourceForge. We have firewalls in place just in case of an attack. They are provided from our Data Center. All projects are tested and approved by SourceForge before they are published.

Meanwhile and like Hern Worsely, I am of the opinion that Openlife continues to be the most viable option for disappointed Second Lifers, so far. More as soon as we have it.


Cathy said...

Thanks for all your exploratory work! Can you recommend good alternate platforms for Mac users? Some of the platforms so far are only Windows :(

Bettina Tizzy said...

Cathy, hopefully someone from Avatar Hangout, OpenSim or SourceForge will answer this question you. However, I will make a point of asking this question and reporting on the answers as I continue to tour the metaverse.

Todd said...

@Bettina - Sourceforge has nothing to do with OpenSim. Sourceforge is a place thousands of programming groups place their code for download and review.

@Cathy - All the Opensim Worlds are accessible with the SL Mac viewer.

There is information here about connecting a Mac to OpenlifeGrid. I believe Hippo also makes a Mac viewer.

Bettina Tizzy said...

Thanks *again*, Connected Worlds! I have so much to learn. With your guidance as well as that of others, I just might figure this all out.

Solo Mornington said...

Just a word of warning: Being a Mac user, I used my regular SL viewer (1.20.x) to connect to OpenLife, and it changed many of the default user interface sounds. I'd suggest making a backup copy of the viewer first, and running that for OpenLife.

Masami Kuramoto said...

@Solo - There are no default user interface sounds. Each grid has its own set of sounds. Remember to clear the viewer cache before switching grids.

Merry Gynoid said...

Any chance of you looking at non-SL type worlds?

It would be interesting to see what you think of Twinity, Just Leap In and all the other worlds that exist.

Pandora Wrigglesworth said...

An unregulated Second Life sounds like a real playground for content and credit thieves. Frankly, it sounds like one of the worst things that could happen for content creators.

Unknown said...

pandora: I'm not sure why you would consider Avatar Hangout to an unregulated SL. Protecting content creators was at the top of our list when building AH. I believe we have achieved that better than any other grid using opensim. You comments of "credit thieves" is greatly unfounded. All passwords are encrypted and the only form of payment currently used by AH is Paypal. The payments are not processed on our site. I think sometimes people get so used to one thing that when another comes along they become fearful of it. There have been some huge investment both financially and in development and maintenance put into Avatar Hangout. Come see what we are about. Talk to our user, residents, and customers. Yes at times there will be growing pains, but every move we make is to bring those people a better and more affordable experience.