The Reality of Virtual

Virtual relationships have been on my mind of late. With the opening of High Fidelity on the horizon and the possibilities of better communication tools within the software, I ponder over where the changes will lead. Friendships, romance, lust and love are all likely to take a turn as the pixel world comes closer to the carbon based one.

We know that lasting relationships are made within our virtual landscapes; I have several friends who have been living combined partnership lives for many years. A few have even joined households across the miles to live together on land as well as on the computer. They still however meet in the virtual world as they need the avatar connection for balance.

It is easy to slip from a virtual to real life relationship. IMs turn to emails, voice chat turns to phone calls. And there you are; reality within the virtual.

I remember my mother telling me that you couldn't go back once you had "slept with a boy" (we were all so politically correct back then). That insight was incorrect; I know that now -- or perhaps we have simply evolved a bit. Still, it seems more difficult to put ourselves back into virtual only mode after we have shared a more complex relationship in the two different worlds.

Pixel pairings don't always last. They are one step removed from the start and come with built in disguises. Just like corporeal affairs, computer counterparts take time to unfold.  Who is behind the keyboard? Who is under the skin?

We ARE the same people in both places. We may look different, we may even have a different backstory, but our intrinsic components are the same. Things like integrity, trustfulness and mores don't change. The new virtual world enhancements will likely speed that unveiling.

So where does this leave us with the changes in virtual on the horizon? I suspect the dividing lines will blur even more. It may be difficult to find our footing. It may be even harder to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined.

If it feels real; it is real.

OSgrid and High Fidelity

Well there hasn't been all that much news to add to this blog for awhile, but last night the OSgrid opened again! Folks were linking up even before the official unveiling and venturing over via hypergrid. It is really great to see that rising from the ashes scenario. I look forward to exploring.

Another new platform is almost ready for visitors, High Fidelity. While the home page gives the impression that you can download and begin, not so. Patience is called for. But you can sign up to be notified when  client, server and name saving are open.

There was lots of shuffling when OSgrid went down, Metropolis became the first port in the storm, then other connect for free grids came on the scene. It will be interesting to see what ripples the mother grid's return creates in the OpenSim community. I for one am looking forward to exploring places I have never seen.

High Fidelity, in some ways, wants to be the new and improved version of OpenSim. That worries some OS folks; others see it as a natural progress of the metaverse. With better tech and the possibility of some high profile designers  -- not sure about the security issues on the High Fidelity platform, so that will be a piece of the puzzle there -- it could be a glorious new world.

So get ready to explore!

Content Creators in New Worlds

 
I have been to a lot of new worlds lately.

A pattern emerges.

Now before those of you reading this say to yourselves,  I don't care about OpenSim; I'm not going over to OpenSim; I'll skip this post -- remember that  The Next Generation of SL IS indeed a new world, an even more different world as it isn't based on the one we know.    

Here is what often happens.


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A new grid opens its doors. Announcements are made. A few of the owner's friends have come over pre-opening. Sometimes they set up storefronts, or at least a welcome grid with some items to buy and some gifts.

The next influx that follows closely on the heels of the opening are the second wave of creators. They bring over already made goods, set up shop and wait for the new arrivals to show up and buy their offerings.

A mini rush ensues (almost always :D); some new folks come in and buy items. Great. All is good.

More folks come in slowly and there are sales. Creators make some new things for the young grid or bring over more of their previous made stock.

But here's the issue. It takes a certain amount of population to create enough sales to make it viable for content creators to stay. When the population stagnates or the buyers simply stop buying because  they have what they need -- sales drop sharply or stop. It isn't quite like the Walmart "we must keep opening new stores or we will die" issue, but it flows alongside that stream.

In many cases, after a few months (sometimes weeks, sometimes longer) the content creators leave.


So there is the problem. Is there an answer?

Well The Lab while it has made some pretty bad decisions in the past -- mostly by not listening to the public opinion -- isn't dumb. They have that covered, or at least they hope to.

They are planning on making it as easy as possible for people to come over to their new platform. Notice I didn't say MOVE over. Some folks will, some will visit, some will have dual citizenship.

As announced there will be the same money balance, friends list (not everyone will be in both grids of course) and perhaps some of the same goods.  I was hoping when the SL 2.0 announcement came that they were going to make it possible to click a "I want to move, send whatever I have that I can use in the new world over" button.   Silly me. It would be a good trick though.

Instead it looks like (NO inside info - just postulating from bits and pieces of information, subtle slips and things not said ) designers will likely need to port over there goods, much like they do now to those new OpenSim worlds. The file type may be different; that has yet to be officially stated -- and with that comes some issues, but an option for some items. The tech and rules will likely be far removed from what we are used to.

So a furniture maker for example could import (we don't know if this will cost yet) a mesh couch file. The current dae file may need to be converted to another file type. The uploader will likely be different, so existing notes won't apply.  Hopefully (ALL fingers are crossed here) the physics won't be such an issue.

Once the item gets into the new world, new animations and new scripting (officially announced as being needed although no word as to what file type or language will be used) will have to be added to work on the new platform.

Textures and material layers will get uploaded and we have our couch. Whew!

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Just like coming to a new world in OpenSim, residents will need new things. Mesh bodies with new matching clothes?  Dances?

HAIR!!!!!

So it is important that these items are available when the new world opens to the public. Those who venture over in the first wave of tourists  and emigrants will likely want a bit more than what the visitor's bureau hands out.   The first designers on the new platform will likely do well. 

But there needs to be enough in the new world to hold on to the population. And for the most part, that takes community.  It will be difficult if half of your friends are across the ocean.

Easier access (web based browser or specially made aps) will help. Lower land costs will help.  I am all for new, but you can't be all things to all people so some folks won't find what they are looking for in the Next Generation.  

The official word from Linden Lab for some time is that the new world will be for content creators. Let's reflect on that repeating pattern. Without a buying populous, content creators have no reason to stay.