State of the VR Nation

I have been thinking about writing this post for some time now. I am not thrilled to be writing it, but in some ways I feel like an historian  -- so here goes.

Statistics show that closed grids (all closed grids including Mother SL) are in decline and OpenSim is gaining in popularity. A shift seems to be happening but along with that an overall decline in VR interest.

While I do believe in statistics, I also know that they can be manipulated to "say" just about anything one wants. So for me, a personal barometer is best.

Here is what I have seen this last month.

SL mainland continues its move into wasteland status. There are very few non-maintenance lands adjoining any of the mainland parcels I use. Large commercial multi-sim areas that used to be fully occupied are now two thirds to three quarters yellow (for sale) with no buyers in sight.

High profile designers that used to have full sims have opted for 1/8th or smaller plots for their new stores.  Some of this is due to the popularity of venue shopping; folks typically by at events or on the Marketplace these days. There are some exceptions who market their virtual brick and mortor stores well, but in general the inworld shopping experience is not the same as it was five years ago.

I have noticed -- this month in particular -- a lot of designers joining new venues that were previously not part of their marketing plan. I am wondering why the mass interest.

On a personal level, my sales are down a bit but fairly good considering the current state of affairs. I sell niche products however, many things that aren't available from others. So my retail gauge isn't really a fair one. BUT, it is very obvious that my design blog views are way down from the beginning of last summer -- over 33% I would say and that is a lot. The feeds that post their statistics have dismal numbers, some of the top bloggers have gone to one post a week; readership I am guessing is down overall.

Does this all both me?  You betcha. This is not what I want to see. I have been in a handful of worlds on the steep decline slope -- some of which are no longer. They were good platforms, but they couldn't get and keep enough growth momentum.

I am not sure there is an answer, a magic pill that will solve the problems.


Over on Opensim there is a fairly noteworthy schism burgeoning.  The "commerce" grids want more protection for their creators. The "free meta" sims want to protect old, free, pass along content. Having both sides happy is going to be tricky. Many are worried that an even wider rift will appear between the money and no-money camps.

After talking to quite a few folks that know much more than I, it seems unlikely the plans will come to fruition. There are just too many things that need to happen and some are in direct contrast to the needs and rights of others.  So while folks are flocking to the $5 and $10 a month sims that are almost like SL, paradise is not without its issues.


Now there are lots of new platforms on the horizon. So far none has beckoned loudly enough to get my attention. I am sure they will each find their own followers, but replacing SL is going to be a tough act to follow.

As I write those words I find that I am not terribly convinced that replacement will happen. Even with a glorious new platform (it seems pretty obvious by now that we aren't talking "world" but indeed something more akin to a VR ISP) I am not really convinced that SL will die. To many people with too much invested -- both years and money -- will be hard to smother under the blanket of the new flavor of the month.

The next year may be one of the most important in VR history as new platforms open and population shifts occur, but looking at the number of mesh bodies and heads being sold in SL, I don't think too many folks are planning on jumping ship.  

A Divided Opensim - Export Filters

Kitely Chic in exportable outfit at the first Kitely Merchant Fair opening mid October.
Free versus commercial. Export or no? Content creators rights. Freedom.

There have been lengthy conversations going on in Opensim this week (links to posts at the bottom of this entry). Retailers, mostly of the newcomer variety, want more protection for their products. Those who have adopted the "free meta" version of Opensim worry that a huge (really huge) amount of free and transferable goods will no longer be in the public domain.

Many feel that Opensim may be on the verge of a schism.

For those of you not familiar with Opensim worlds, they include closed commercial grids such as Inworldz, free meta worlds such as Metropolis -- and many models in between. Opensim also includes private grids only accessible to groups or individuals, not open to the public.

Some grids are connected via a hypergrid, so that on a good day you can teleport via landmark to a large variety of sims and vars (larger than sims) as easily as if you were on the same grid. Simplistically? It is a bit like a long distance phone call or Skype. Aside from money and some items not being available, it is much like you just walked down the street to a neighbor's house.

This inner-connectivity opens up the possibilities of collaboration between artists and creators on various grids.

Balancing the wonderful creative possibilities the hypergrid enables, there is a dark side. It is very easy to steal work, change permissions and rename the creator of items.

That brings us to now. 

I am sure most of you aren't astrology buffs, but there are some interesting energies afoot which became more obvious last weekend.

... a combination of tension and working out of certain issues ...

This can be a destructive cycle and it can also place emphasis on creating solutions to problems that seem intractable.

... the result of action or the choice not to act ...

It’s a reminder that something is not true merely because you believe it. It’s a reminder to answer the question, “Where’s your data?”

Quotes from Eric Francis: Where Ideas Meet Ideals (membership material, but free to read a few articles).  This is a long and technical but extremely good article. If you skip through the planetary material and just read the "outcome" of the energies, it will likely give you some insights.

I have been in VR for nine years now. I have lived, made art, and set up shops on a dozen platforms.  Grids have booms and busts and now and then resurrections. The grid owner and citizens decide (sometimes peacefully, sometimes not) the future of the grid. Even the biggest grids have changed policies when faced with an overwhelming outcry from the populous. Other times, owners make the rules and those living on the platforms cope or leave.

It has been a heated time. Fingers have been pointed; lies have been told. It is difficult to see the other side of the issue -- the one that you do not accept as "correct".

I am in the leave things alone camp for several reasons. I have lived and sold in enough closed grids (and adding export filters so that items cannot leave the grid makes it difficult at best to hypergrid) to have watched them decline. Items may be better protected, but there are also fewer sales -- in essence from those that plan to use the product only on the grid where it is sold and never venture outside the grid.

To be fair, creators will in theory have the ability to update their items and choose if they want to sell things that can still be exported. Generally, from people's comments, those asking for protection will not be selling exportable items -- at least not in the near future.  Those that have gifts they want to export to the free meta will need to mark those items as such.

What I have watched in the past on many grids seems likely to repeat. Some new, often mentioned as "better", creators come to various protected grids and set up shop. They sell things for awhile and then when they have sold to the resident population of those actually living on the grid, sales drop.

Most of these "better" creators do not make a home on the grids; they simply leave their items and go back to the big grids. There is a short time when an influx of new folks make accounts and perhaps buy land. It DOES give the citizens of that grid the ability to buy from a larger variety of items. It does not typically enhance the general well-being of the grid.

One of the biggest worries which as of this writing has not been addressed is what will happen to the myriad of freely giving to the metaverse items that float around hypergrid enabled Opensim. It appears it will break all that content, making it no longer "pass along" as it was intended to be.

The closed commercial Opensim grids have been in decline for some time now. Some have recently shared their code and others have offered to share their code. This could be simply a magnanimous gesture, or it could be that they are looking for a way that would let them comfortably join the larger and definitely growing hypergrid community.

I am stepping back and watching for awhile. Money has been raised to implement this new code. As of this writing it appears that when completed and working it will be added to at least some grids.

How much this will divide the metaverse is the question of the season.


DigiWorldz spearheads fundraising for export permissions fix:

Call for Crowdfunding:

New Record Highs for Opensim:

GCG to Filter Exports:

Avination donates code to Opensim:

A busy but tenuous week with my computer always on now as the hard drive is on death's door. With a new be-still-my-beating-heart machine at the order desk, I have been blogging ahead at Phil's Place "just in case". With some group filming done (you'll here more about that later - not my story to tell) a sigh of relief was heard by all.

Enter Virtual Open Google Group, +Inara Pey *wink* and (really a great name).  Note that "space" is a domain extension. So many of them now, but this does seem fitting.

Seemingly on the same wavelength (yes, a pun) as Sansar, Sinewave is opening for experienced creators now and further along the timeline towards opening.

Once my new computer arrives I will be journeying over on yet another adventure --- and you know how I like those. And of course I will keep you informed as much as I can.

I was thinking lately -- WAY back to when the web was new. For those of you too young to remember that time, there was a browser war going on. I was in the Netscape camp and very active on the web as a designer. Back then, you most often were greeted with a notice on the entry page of a website. "Best viewed in IE2", "Please use Netscape 3 to see these pages as intended" etc.  It was messy.

With so many contenders out there for the next generation of the web, it will be interesting to see who wins the biggest piece of the pie. But, as I wrote in a comment on Virtual Open last night, the public is really the winner as we are being given a choice. And choice is GOOD. Some will find a place to call home and settle in. Some will be vagabonds flitting from place to place and enjoying them all.

I am guessing you know which camp "I" fit into.

See the Living in a Modem World post here.

The New Marketplace

What's a girl to do when frustration gets overwhelming? Well put on her skimpiest bikini and get in a little beach time.

It started a couple of days ago when I read that a merchant had their store deleted during the upload process of the new marketplace.

Now I was looking forward to the new and improved market. Admittedly, marketplace listing is at the bottom of my fun to do list in the retailer area, right above "networking" which I simply do not do. But still, improvements are good and I could see in part the wisdom of having store inventory kept in databases of the shop owners. Well it seemed like a good idea.

Then I found out that a friend of mine who I work with sometimes had his store corrupted somehow. Now he cannot delete unlisted items (maybe he never could, I don't know if that is a feature or not) OR upload anything new (now that's a biggie). His numerous existing items seem to be OK -- at least for now.

He is of course not happy and had that "leaving the building look" in his eye (OK, it was an IM but you get my drift). So he is taking a break in hopes that they fix things. Support was of no help. Many of us have been there before :D.

In the meantime, I have been working my key combo fingers to the bone in Blender making a cycles rendered skybox -- not a simple thing and at the fineness of my renders it takes 40 minutes to process with many tries to get what I want. Lesson learned there -- well part way through and it was learned, but I am a stubborn gal and so I finished with many house cleaning breaks while Blender looked at numerous light sources and various textures in an attempt to be real.

I got my skybox finished and up on the Kitely Market in OpenSim. I had already tested much of the build in SL on the beta grid and even had most of the SL physics correct (First try! I was so happy). Planning to upload and use in SL and put in my store ...

And here I am today.

Do I want to take the chance of losing my 100 items store (for awhile most likely but awhile translates into dollars) OR the ability to upload items (again maybe short term, maybe not so short).

A long time friend of mine of real world status who has been working in e-commerce backends from the beginning of e-commerce explained that the "live" nature of the market while pretty impressive makes it also very difficult to  -- well "fix" works in layman's terms.

Indeed my market store friend with the issues received continuous emails  (many pages worth deleted) of "unlisted due to failed delivery" messages even after reporting -- and he apparently has marketplace notifications off.   I don't want to deal with that either.

Since I believe that stumbling blocks often offer opportunities I tried to look at the last few days in that light. So what could I do if I was unwilling to take a chance with the current state of affairs?

Well I could, it seems, make a new account and upload things that way. I couldn't find anything saying that was against the rules although it might be in there somewhere.  Could I have my alt (already with payment info on file and mesh upload certified) make a store? Much easier.

Well NO, apparently not. She could not get the website to accept her acceptance of the marketplace terms. There is also a note on the marketplace front page stating that the viewer based browser won't finalize orders for some folks -- so apparently website problems. 

I could ask my RL ex to make a store (he has my RL credit card so that is about as trusting as ya get), but I didn't want to drag him into all this -- and what is to say he would have better luck making a store?  I could possibly partner with a good friend who already has a store (although empty at the moment) and give her part of the profits for uploading hassles.

None of these options are making me want to do a song and dance.

Now I know there are always issues when a big change occurs. I know databases are often problematic; I have certainly lost plenty of virtual  things over the years due to there quixotic nature. But in the back of my mind I kinda feel like the SL folks are being used as beta testers. Is this leading to the improved Sansar Marketplace?

There seem to be many good changes, but at least in the old days a store owner could often fix their issues. With this new model, most of the power is with the tech folks running the show. I am not sure if I like the trade off.

So, after a very long day and lots of thinking, I guess my plan is simply to do nothing so far as the Marketplace goes. I have noted lately that a lot of the big name folks are NOT on the market -- or are not uploading anything new. This was before the changes, so not due to that. Maybe it is the percentage deducted?  I have no issue with that; the Marketplace is a service after all. Maybe the just don't like the extra hassle?  Well I really get that one.

Perhaps taking a step back to when shopping was inworld wouldn't be such a bad thing.  There was a certain charm there. Exploring. Experiencing.

And so ends my very long and frustrated musing of the day. May the issue rectify themselves soon.  

A Comment on a comment - SL versus OS

Just for myself mostly, I wanted to repost (save) a comment I made on the blog of someone newly exploring Opensim. Over ten years old in SL, she does have some background in VR. She visited Inworldz and now Kitely, but has yet to actually discover what Opensim and the hypergrid is all about. *wink*

Talla pretty much said it all. In my experience CURRENTLY Kitely is a much better choice than IW. From all accounts and the folks that I talk to still in IW (and login statistics) like most or all closed commercial grids, IW is in decline. SL is too of course, but it is so big and with THE BEST content creators that slow decline doesn't count for all that much.

Most of us have been where you are, trying out worlds. The thing that may take you some time to understand is that the hypergrid OS "is" in many ways the equivalent of a grid such as SL. So while there may not be that many folks in Kitely, there is the WHOLE hypergrid that is actually part of your world. Things are very different here and there is no way to grasp that in a few weeks.

IW has very little to do with OpenSim even though it is technically part of it due to the platform. They have a model much like SL only cheaper. That worked for a long while, but now there is plenty of evidence that shows the hypergrid is the growing part of the metaverse.

Time will tell. I was in the alpha program at Hi Fidelity but there are MAJOR issues for content creators there that don't seem to be on the docket for change. That means it will be the hobbiest creators that make up the world. That isn't a bad thing, just that I don't see that we should expect top notch SL content there. When I was there briefly, well known designers were leaving in mass simply because publishing content there was much like giving it to the world (there is that issue in OpenSim in general also so I am not saying OS is better than HiFi in that regard *wink*). 

From all that I can tell, the studies I have done and people I have talked to. Sansar will be very different from SL. For some it will work, for others not. The same for Hi Fidelity. Honestly at this point, I don't see any clear winner. They all have their pluses and minuses and it will depend on the individual which one fits the best.

And I don't see SL going away any time soon -- even five years as you say. Too many folks have too much invested and The Lab is doing a good job keeping things current and making improvements. True, it is old architecture, but it is amazing what folks on their own have figured out to make it as good as it can be. With my Maitreya body and Lelutka head, I look DAMN good *wink*.   I am not sure what my inventory is worth at the moment but it could easily be $10,000 US and I have thrown about five times that or more away (I have been blogging for eight years). It would take a lot for me to abandon all that goodness.

I love OpenSim for what it is. Free. Easy. Less drama. Creative. Sharing. It will never REPLACE SL for me. It is a different world with a different draw. I think there is room for both.

VR - A Look Mid Year

There is plenty to say about the trends in virtual reality this year, but as a friend of mine stated the other day, "we won't really know who the winners are for a couple of years." I think he is correct with that summation.

With two new contenders in the wings, one with plans fairly well stated, the other a little more vague -- there will be possibilities. Hopefully everyone can find their perfect home.

Hi Fidelity seems to be geared for the stated theme of the "3D web" with freedom being a big part of the equation.  Sansar (SL 2.0) appears to have the content creator's safety as a high concern and will likely appeal to some of the big time designers.  We can't really say how the platforms will unfold at this point; even those etched in concrete plans can take detours along the roadway to a completed project.

We CAN say that OpenSim is growing by leaps and bounds, both land and residents. The almost free nature of that platform has much to do with the popularity. Creation is mostly for fun and while there are a few lovely builds, much of the content is made for enjoyment rather than monetary gain. The big gun designers will not be journeying over any time soon IMHO, the citizens in general aren't the same addicted buyers that Second Life hosts -- they mostly  build themselves or make do.

Second Life, still in steady but VERY slow decline seems to be having a very lazy summer. I honestly can't remember such a yawn-y one :D.  That may just be my world, but I hear it from others and it isn't JUST Second Life -- it seems to be all or most VR worlds.

My business is quite good "for summer" -- especially since I gave up my demo area last month. But I sell "niche" in The Lab's domain. More mainstream designers seem to be feeling those summer woes. To either compensate or cope, some have upped their releases and event appearances -- others have taken August off.

Still, conversation on the SL forums is way down and events less often (or at least publicized less often). Some role play areas are doing exceptionally well with sims close to busting at times, but they seem to be the exception. It is all subjective of course. Some folks may be in their busiest August ever, building new sims or stores or creating art. My little corner of the world might simply be out of sync with others.

Back in the OpenSim camp, the big revelation this year was the embracing of hypergrid enabled (open) grids over closed commercial grids. Those based more on the SL model have been in marked decline -- generally speaking. Inworldz took a big hit this late Spring when the private marketplace, Inbiz, went down.  Research hasn't found any info about the missing owner; I only have forums and resident input to go on. I lost money, but not much. Others who did not regularly take their Izzies out could have lost a substantial amount.

A new market is planned and underway and you can read about it on this thread.  I won't be taking part. From all I know Wolf Hartnell is a very upstanding and honest man and my dealings with him were always pleasant and businesslike, but the process is too much energy expenditure for too little rewards.  This whole issue points out how tenuous resident owned business can be -- on any grid. To me, it does seem safer when the marketplace is owned by the grid company as in Second Life or Kitely.  

It will be interesting to see how the established worlds hold their own against the newcomers. I am thinking they might do quite well. There is something comforting about that well-worn and comfy velour shirt -- that one you just CAN'T seem to give up *wink*. 

Ebbe Speaks on Sansar

screenshot from the website

In a recent video Ebbe talks more about Project Sansar. There were a few tiny new breadcrumbs of news as well as some reiteration of previously revealed behind the scenes info. Things still seem to be a year away for the general public folks with some handpicked intrepid testers joining the team soon.

A few snippets of conversation seemed to be contradictory, but then we are looking in from the outside. The theme more of a platform - less of a world was echoed once more.

What interested me most as a content creator was a passing comment about building in Maya and publishing directly into Sansar.  This said alongside a comment about making the creation process easier.  Seemingly a dichotomy? Again, difficult to say from our outsider perspective.

In earlier reports Blender and other 3D softwares were to be supported eventually and hopefully this is still true. If not, the creator base will definitely be  shifted.

I looked up the cost of Maya. I have no plans to learn or purchase, but as I remembered the price was a hefty one. The license fee software will only be a monthly or quarterly charge in the future ($123 a month currently) with no perpetual license available.

That means instead of paying high prices for land, content creators might be spending that money in order to access the tools needed for Sansar. A larger cut of sales will be going towards paying for the platform; that seems to be a certainty as the plan is repeated often.

There was no longer a mention of tools for inworld building, but could there possibly be an integration with Maya for inworld use?  That would level the playing field just a bit. At the moment it is the only answer I can come up with that blends the revealed parts of the puzzle. 

In the meantime I will just be working on my Blender skills, content with the VR worlds I presently call home.

Linden Labs Adds Adventure to SL 1.0 witih Paleoquest

Paleoquest, the new Linden Game opened yesterday.  See my report here. 

There is plenty of adventure to be had in the five area theme park where you can win prizes and earn lindens. This isn't a new folks game in the theme of the Realms; it takes both skill and wits to complete the quests.  I have to smile as I type those words; they reflect an assumption only since  Lani's skills weren't quite good enough to grab the golden mask from the nest in the premier challenge.

There are quite a few additions to this game that slow down adventurer's progress.  Making the long trek to the monorail stop is one. The monorail time schedule is another. Once you reach Quest One there are brief pauses while you wait for dangers to pass and it appears that the quest object will have a time period to appear once it is grabbed by a lucky gamer.

No matter how many hours you put in practicing, you can only pass one quest per week and quests must be passed before you can collect quest objects (in Quest One these are dinosaur eggs of various sizes). See the comment someone left on the review post (linked above). So The Lab is in some ways limiting  -- or actually slowing down -- the amount of money paid out. It was not clear from the literature if you could repeat the quests once you had completed them (note: yes weekly but you need to complete all five; so not clear in video :D ), of it would be like Linden Realms where once you get all the canons afiring, that part of the game is over.

This opening follows the rollout of the new inventory based marketplace model. That makes two BIG new additions to SL 1.0 in a week. Not bad, and a good sign that The Lab isn't forgetting about its flagship product.

That Cart Before the Horse Thing

The viewer managed marketplace migrated today. Happily after the last big marketplace change and subsequent outcry, The Lab in its wisdom decided to do the work for the merchants -- this time. Hopefully this went smoothly; I haven't really checked, but I sold about the normal amount of goods today so I am guess that I at least am good.

But, there is of course a "but". The new method has been put in use, but there is no official SL viewer with the ability to add new products, only a release candidate. Firestorm, leader of the third party viewers, announced that their devs are working to get the code integrated into their viewer, but you have to HAVE the code before you can integrate the code.

It looks like this new method may be a positive change. There are echos of the Kitely Market method which works nicely. But it SEEMS like it might have been a better move to have a (non-beta) viewer out and the code sent to developers to -- well develop, before switching over. As it is, some folks will be waiting awhile to add new products.

But after all it is mid summer -- and the living is lazy. 

That OTHER Grid - Well, Grids

I haven't written on this blog in ages simply because there doesn't seem to be much news about the new world. The official reports are repeats of earlier revelations - nothing more.

Select Alpha testing is supposed to begin in August last I heard. And as I dutifully checked for any news releases or even rumors about the as yet not officially named grid, I find that like me -- no ones knows much.

Interviews rehashing the same info really don't count.

And,  I am wondering if this no news policy is a good thing. Most of the folks that I know are in a 'ho hum - well we'll see when it happens' frame of mine. Originally that was supposed to be 2015 (for beta) with an all's hunky dory green light in 2016.  OK. We are a patient bunch.

We have our new mesh bodies (well lots of gals do anyway) and many bright and pretty shinnies to keep us enthralled. When there is NO news at all? People kinda tend to lose interest. I am not sure that is the best plan.

Originally we were told that our mesh would port over. Later we found out there will be a proprietary file format conversion AND a different type of 3D file. This isn't boding well for "instant gratification".

Meanwhile, SL is reportedly in " slow decline" (one site with statistics is Daniel Voyager's blog). According to the records, the downward trend is indeed gradual, but it is steadily downward and has been that way for a very long while. While the economy still seems to be strong, my mainland lots are almost completely surrounded by "maintenance land of Governor Linden". That makes for a nicer experience for ME, but tells a tale of the interest in land.

Long, long ago (maybe six years?) a friend of mine bought a couple of 512 lots on the mainland ocean. She paid 20,000 for one lot and 16,000 for the other. She sold them a few months later for a profit. I am currently renting a MUCH larger lot on the water in a lovely neighborhood with over 500 prims for basically a linden a prim per week. Things have definitely changed in the land department.

So does that mean that virtual reality is in a decline? 

Nope, it does not. OpenSim (a collection of grids based on the SL like experience) has doubled its size in the last year. Now OS is not for everyone. There are no mesh bodies (although I found a very nice mesh HEAD today on the Kitely Market). Content ranges from "the good old days" to some fairly nice items, but nothing like the top content creators in SL produce. SL is the King of Content; I doubt anyone would argue with that statement.

BUT, for folks wanting to party and visit and "play house or store owner", OS is a perfect match. There are plenty of free places to move into (I have a quarter sim in a very posh estate (16 sims) in Kitely -- gratis. I also have a full sim on the Great Canadian Grid ($5 - $10 a month depending when you purchased -- and there IS no purchase price, just tier).

So for artists especially who just want to create (no upload costs) OS is a perfect match. There are writer's groups and weekly get together tours. There is the ability to visit thousands of sims via the hypergrid (much like teleporting to another sim with a little bit of trickiness involved).

So you give up some of the pretties for almost free status. OS isn't quite as techie or smooth running. Not all SL scripts will work, sometimes there are "issues". But all in all it is MUCH like living in Second Life.

So as The Lab keeps quiet about what the future holds in regards to the new world, folks are moving to OpenSim. I know the newcomers are from SL and Inworldz because they are very  upfront about their history. Many are like kids in a candy store with the free uploads and almost free sim costs. They are having fun.

Not all will stay of course, but there is no doubt that OpenSim is growing (chart here).

Alpha Homesteading at Hi Fidelity

One of the problems (well for some of us) in the Hi Fidelity alpha world is that setting up your domain part. For some it is easy and for others not so much, and a few just really aren't interested in that part of the equation.

The whole theme of Hi Fidelity has always been the 3D web, and with that comes domains and "3D web pages" (well there is a correlation anyway).  But while I have had many websites over the years, even back when people wrote code from scratch in notepad; I am SO not interested in setting up my own world on MY computer.

For the same reasons there are commercial grids in Opensim, it seemed logical that eventually there would be commercial domains in Hi Fidelity.

And reading the posts in the forums this morning I found it was already happening -- for the alphas. Kudos to the folks behind this!

Read more about the project here.

Hi Fidelity - The Backdoor

Open Sim  --- Second Life

I joined the Hi Fidelity Alphas when the call came. I got into world and explored and found a couple of very impressive builds -- way beyond "alpha" expectations. True, there was no physics yet, so you walked THROUGH stairs rather than up them, but still lovely and many possibilities are evident.

There are (or appear to be at this point) some security concerns for content creators. The forums concurred with my reading of the Google docs. So for those of you familiar with OpenSim, Hi Fedelity appears to be based on the "Free Meta" concept.

When the phrase "3D web" was mentioned, they were not kidding. Most anything you can see on the web, you can take. The theme seems to run true with Hi Fidelity. Now things COULD change, and perhaps if the "I don't care  -- I give my stuff to the world" concept doesn't entice folks over, it may.

Still, there are plenty of people working at HiFi in the alpha state. I hang around the forums and read the posts -- most which are WAY over my head technically. Since I am now a seven month citizen of OpenSim  -- a Canadian grid on the Hypergrid which means lots of travel, I understand the concept,  but again "security concerns". I can see that some folks certainly will be willing to share their designs. After all, I give away thing to the "Free Meta" too. But long time making a living with my virtual products folks may balk at the exploit possibilities.

There has been a lengthy discussion over at Opensim Virtual (a Google+ group) about security and exports and the hypergrid. It has been a good one and I am pleased it will remain on my Google+ page for historical reasons. Most folks there believe in the "free" concept and so it is likely that Hi Fidelity will find its audience.

One thing of interest that I read on the HiFi forums this eve concerned avatars. Someone wanted their SL avatar in HiFi. You actually can build whatever you can imagine it seems -- if you have the skills. So it is possible if you want to take the time and effort.

We get SO attached to "ourselves" it is funny. I am in that camp, but still it amazes me. It seems to me that PART of the key to getting folks to accept a new world is to be able to take some of "yourself" along with you. There are many mentions of "ten years of this look", "Maitreya body" (I get that one) etc.

The Next Generation promises a "better avatar". Is that better than Maitreya? Wow if that is true. But at the same time, "better" needs to stay in that comfortable and familiar zone, at least that is the message I am getting from reading posts in many forums.

By the time the new year rolls around we may have a clearer picture of what the new platform will be like -- here's hoping.

Mesh Content Creation in SL 2.0 Next Gen

NOTE that there are very differing reports relating to the info I referred to earlier. I have not found THE SOURCE of this info although I have been looking. So when found (hopefully) I will reference.  

MEANWHILE, my personal thought is that while those with Maya abilities will be FIRST on the scene simply for convenience of using the same program as The Lab, those using other programs will have the ability LATER. That only makes sense. Any other choice certainly seems to be retail suicide and since some sort of "tax on goods" is on the table, definitely not a smart move.


After some research I found the original talk that folks were reporting on, or in some cases misreporting.  So, I suggest that if you are interested you listen for yourself.  The 39 minute mark starts the info on the new platform. The YouTube link is here.

Mentioned in the talk, INWORLD BUILDING TOOLS are in the plan -- reported as NOT being a feature by someone :D.   3rd party tools integration is high on the list as is "easier dressing" (had to smile at that).  After the initial ALPHA stages, other third party 3D tools WILL BE SUPPORTED. 

A new program of AutoPay is in the works so that money can move out of Second Life  "in hours rather than days".   Lots of testing in the works apparently. 

Identity Crisis

Info on the status of The Next Generation SL (2.0) is pretty sketchy these days. I have found some breadcrumbs but nothing that I can call "facts".  

If you missed Inara Pey's article from last month (and I did) it is well worth a look, INCLUDING the comments (always interesting if seldom always accurate :D). 

I do have a couple of thoughts on the responses to her well thought out and documented post.  They are simple and I will be brief (well for me).

OpenSim cannot compare with Second Life except perhaps for Windlight settings and framerates. Honestly, there is VERY little content. There are definitely some good designers in OS, scattered amongst the grids with many on their own grid. But while they (and I) make our content and our own world, much isn't available to the general populous. 

It is very much (VERY MUCH) like going back in time to early SL days. So you have a $5 a month sim (I do), BUT unless you can make your own goods, it cannot compare to Second Life.  I have a tiny wardrobe there and still probably one of the best in OS. 

Kitely is filling a gap nicely and some mesh clothes and hair makers have put up goods for export, HOWEVER --- the people complaining about costs should note that those really nice items can be up to ten times the cost of the equivalent in SL.  So, cheap land? Little and very expensive good content. It is a trade off. For some folks it works; for others it would definitely not. 

And now to what my post was going to be before I found Inara's article.

[Note: photo of new skin and info removed by request of the creator. Sorry as this makes less sense :D ]

It has been officially stated that TNG avatars will be much better than our over a decade old models. Most folks are reading that as mesh with a better skeletal structure so that we could actually sit with our knees up and not look like we are folded in half.

Mesh bodies are becoming commonplace in SL and happily I found my favorite last month, Lara by Maitreya. My head is still the same one I started out with seven plus years ago. I did however get a new skin recently courtesy of Skin Fair 2015. It is a lovely and beautifully made skin and quite impressive. I have been wearing it on and off for about a week.

And even though I know it is SO much better then the skin I have been wearing for two years, I am having a difficult time switching permanently. Now, why is that?

Do we get a picture of our pixel selves that we dare not change in case we would lose our identity?  I think that must be partially true, at least for some of us. I look completely different in OpenSim. Well my shape is the same but that is all. I look very different in Inworldz and the pattern holds true for all the grids I joined and then left over the summer and fall.

And STILL, even though I feel just fine and "me" on OpenSim, I am hesitant to make a switch in Second Life. I am wondering how the new avatars will influence the general populous of SL 1.0 and their decision to move or share both worlds. It is an interesting phenomena to watch -- and I will be.  

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.


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!


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


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. 

Firestorm in OpenSim

I didn't get an inside tip; in fact I missed the first Firestorm class in OpenSim.

I was following breadcrumbs left on the Opensim Virtual Google+ group looking for a new clothes store -- which led me to a Twitter page (I don't Tweet) and I saw an ad for the first OpenSim Firestorm class. Woot!

Now it was long over but as a good little reporter I wanted to know what was going on over at the Littlefield grid.

A lovely and well-made complex awaits you at "Firestorm" (well natch). And even if you missed the class, those on the hypergrid can zip on over to the office and pick up the class notes from the box on the floor. Just click and be PATIENT (a sometimes keyword in OS).

Since I hate to miss anything I snuck over to the Firestorm Residential sim that I saw nearby on the map. Again, very lovely in any world. And I SO appreciate lovely.

So welcome to OpenSim Firestorm team!!!!!!

FBX the winner for SL 2.0?

I have to admit that I haven't been keeping up with SL 2.0 announcements of late. I have been spending a lot of time in OpenSim in Back To The Land mode.  But this bit of news got my attention today.

SL 2 will only use Autodesk FBX formatted files, the scripts are based on Javascript and it will run in Chrome
This wasn't an official Linden Lab press release by any means but it came within a very long, well written response to a question about mesh versus prims. I could not find any official disclosure that mirrors his statement and have asked the writer to site his source. No reply as yet, but I will update this page as I get more information.

{later note: The poster wrote back stating that this was (I am paraphrasing) an educated assumption based on High Fedelity (see the comments to this post just now up) and Unity. 

Looking up the poster I found someone with many hundreds of followers who is in both SL and OS and has lots of techiness in his portfolio along with mesh building -- a perfect candidate for an invitation to test the new platform.

So for me, and for now, and until I hear differently -- this statement seems to be a lapse in that non-disclosure-agreement, most likely brought on by the siren song of the creative writing muse. I go there too. I am personally treating it as that; you can make your own decision.

Recently I have downloaded some mesh files for personal use on my land in OpenSim. I found that some converted well from their native format and others not well at all. Hopefully this won't be an issue for builders.

IF this intel is correct, it puts the new platform in the Cloud Party camp (different tech undoubtedly but still browser based as we already suspected).  The rules were very different there so it is likely that designers will need to think differently.  Hopefully many of them are over there now working on their skills to make a beautiful world for the first arrivals.

Finding Our Perfect World

Or better yet, the world that is perfect FOR US.

New Years is my favorite holiday. It marks new beginnings and for me is a time of reflection.

I have been out and about in the metaverse this last six months (well, a year really but in overdrive since summer) trying on grids and seeing what was out there.

I have no plans to abandon Second Life. Too many friends, too much invented, too well ingrained in the culture for a departure -- I still like to know I have choices.

There are plenty of other grids out there. Largish and tiny, each with their own owner and siren's call. I visited maybe fifty and joined maybe a dozen. As the calendar turned I was sifting through my picture postcards to decide which grids were "keepers" -- just for me, you understand.

My list is not your list. We each make our choices based on our needs and sometimes on our links within a community.

I have decided to divide my time between Second Life (SL 2.0 should a beta come along and accept my candidacy) and the Great Canadian Grid.   Parkville is feeling a lot like home these days. It is peaceful and restful and I can both play and explore. SL with my seven year history and ties to MOSP-LEA7 is pretty much a no-brainer. Honestly I can't imagine life without it. I would cope as I DO that, but it would not be a pleasant experience.

I will be leaving my "stuff" in Inworldz but not be taking part in the community. I sell very little there these days (the first two quarters of 2014 were very good, the last dire) and the toxic nature of the forums is off-putting for me. I have a very good friend there and will visit her often and likely upload  new creations for HER (I have been doing that) as gifts, but commerce is no longer part of my scenario there; neither is the art world. Of course there are stories and details, but they really don't matter.

I will likely be abandoning Avination and wishing them well. Nothing much for me there.

Hanging in with Virtual Life as I actually sell more there than most grids if you factor in the population, I will not be making or porting anew. My stores are reaching prim limits. No personal ties there; the folks I knew have mostly left.

Other grids fall into the same pattern, not many sales -- no personal ties.

And that pretty much tells the story.

What keeps people coming back?

Low cost is good. You can have a sim (or several) in OpenSim communities that let you host on your own computer and hook up to their address (sort of like free webhosting). There are $5 per sim grids and $8 per sim grids and $10 per sim grids -- the list goes on.

But there needs to be something else to tie folks together. If people simply wanted to make a sim and create their world, there would be no need to become part of the metaverse.

I am not the most social person. When I am in the midst of a project I tend to get annoyed if someone wants to chat. What can I say? The creative muse is a harsh mistress. But I do like knowing other folks are out there. I like contributing to the community. I like having visitors see what I have created.  I think that is true for many people.

I want to watch the metaverse grow in all its forms. I want to be able to say "I remember when the hypergrid didn't work all that well and landmarks to other grids would not get you where you wanted to go".

Things will change radically in the next decade. I have no vision where we are headed, but I suspect it will be grand. Our personal jobs right now are to find a spot to call home.

Go forth. Explore. Set down roots.

SL 2.0 Testing Sign Up -- Really?

Rumors are flying about the SL 2.0 "next generation" testing sign up.

Is it here? Is it coming soon?

A friend wrote me today SURE I would be the "one in the know". Well she obviously has me in a loftier position that I actually inhabit .

I did some research, wrote to some "in the know friends".

You know that theory "you can find out anything if you ask your three most influential friends and they ask theirs"?  Well you might be able to get to the President that way, but finding out about testing signup? Not so much.

I have decided to let it all flow by me. I am a patient gal and I don't feel all that comfortable with alpha testing which I assume this would be. I can be in the second or third wave.

But keep your eyes peeled. There may be something behind this rumor. 

Or not!