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Note:  The following blog is not intended as critical of Inworldz specifically, but is rather a commentary on virtual reality in general... and what may be necessary in order for it to survive in a world of highly-competitive computer games and entertainment.

Inworldz has stated it is "not an SL clone" and has no intention of being so.   But more is going to be needed than a few improvements on the basic SL concept to make that claim stand.  This article intends to point out existing limits that have been plaguing VR for years... and that need re-thinking.

A recent Inworldz forum mentioned the huge success of GTA online, a subscriber-based system that bypassed SL in no time at all as far as profitability is concerned.

Why did this happen? Well, aside from the fact that GTA already had an immense following (which says something sad for our society to begin with) just look at the world. The graphics make SL look like Lego Land. I wonder if the owners of GTA online tolerate coder excuses in regard to lag, lost packets or internal server communications? Sure, they may have bugs and glitches. All systems do at the beginning. How long does anyone think those bugs and glitches are going to continue from a super-professional company looking at potential billions in revenue?

But we also notice something else: no 256m blocks of land. This has been a major irritation for me ever since I joined Second Life. I've spoken with techs about this and they've all said the same thing: the 256m land limit on SL is unnecessary. It was an arbitrary decision (supposedly based on a valid reason, but I think it was typical LL "taking the easy way out").

Look at your favorite computer games: do any of them have themselves set up in travel limits of 256m?

Is there any reason for example, a region with 45k prims can't be 1024m square... giving us room to develop some REAL vistas? Or how about dynamic sim borders that can expand in any shape and size the user desires?

Under the current code people say it can't be done... but that's the point. The current code is too limited. I spoke with a tech years ago who said there is no reason terrain can't be thousands of meters wide, nor is there any sensible reason to limit grid layout to a 2-D "map" rather than a "location map" such as they have in Active Worlds.

The current 2D map severely limits the growth of individual lands and in fact, causes severe problems when one person encroaches on the "area" of another (a complaint that has come from both Magellan and Elf Clan... as our groups have grown larger) and non-authorized people have started planting non-theme sims in our region without so much as a do-you-mind.

Why instead, can't we have our own "universe" which no one else can even enter without our permission, much less build within? Why can't groups be guaranteed their own "dimension" in VR, with unlimited potential for growth and no chance of encroachment by non-theme intruders?

In the game KANEVA (I have no idea its status at this time) each user has their own "universe", which cannot be encroached on by anyone else. They can add as much to this universe as they wish. Another startup project I once saw (I forget it's name, Cobalt or something like that)... had landscapes that were unending. That's how the game was designed from the ground up, and like Active Worlds and Kaneva, each user's/group's universe was their own.

There were no 256m claustrophobic, severely limiting land borders. Such limits are for low-cost games. That limit was set up by Linden Lab and is as outdated in concept as rotary dial telephones.

Let us discuss one of the major conceptual flaws in the LL-type of virtual reality: environmental limits. One of the major problems all users of VR have experienced since the beginning has been region crossing. Wouldn't it be nice if there were no region crossings... if we purchased "regions" not by land area, but by prim allotment... and we could set up our land areas and masses to our liking?

Technically it's possible. Imagine if OpenSim rather than following the SL limited-everything concept of thought, had said from the beginning, "Hey, rather than being a clone, if we're going to do this let's do it right and start with the idea of eliminating sim boundaries, giving each user their own "universe" to work in, and allot assets by prim count rather than land area?"

Now, once we're past that... imagine our world with the level of advanced graphics we see in other online games (rather than the relatively primitive graphics we see now). Granted, since automatic Windlight and now the addition of mesh, we should see our worlds look a little better.  So as time passes, this may already be a matter handled and waiting to grow.  Time will tell.

This is why Inworldz cannot afford to clone SL. For years I have just been waiting for some huge company to come along with a new, top-secret project, releasing a VR world the way it should have been done in the first place and putting Linden Lab out of business almost overnight. I'm amazed that has not happened (yet).

The problem is that while Inworldz has no intention of being an SL "clone"... Inworldz and in fact every OpenSim grid is in reality a clone of the SL concept-- a concept that is already outdated and could be turned dinosaur the moment some big company decides to take over the market.

Why does that danger exist? Because Linden Lab left a great big open potential for competition right from the beginning. It's frankly amazing no one else has taken that opening and pushed SL off the profit highway already.  We surely do not wish such to happen to Inworldz... or any other SL-similar VR grid.  That is why Inworldz will eventually have to cease being SL-similar and move far beyond that restrictive "box".  That box needs to be not only expanded-- but eliminated.

We submit that the 256m square land concept cannot continue under the current market environment. We submit that the sub-par graphics and lag cannot continue.  We submit that the severe limits Linden Lab put on VR-- limits that were carried forth in their viewer and thus carried into OpenSim and Inworldz-- cannot continue over time with any certainty of the future of this company. For its own survival, Inworldz is going to have to majorly step up its game.  That of course requires manpower and investment.  How that comes about is solely in Inworldz' hands.

Frankly, Inworldz needs a significant influx of development capital and a programmer department with people as sharp and professional as Tranq, developing a far-extending concept that will make SL look like last week's leftovers.

We cannot be an "SL Clone". Inworldz stated it has no intent of doing so. But the reality is that at present... we kind of are, aren't we? If Inworldz isn't going to be an SL clone it's not enough to make the script engine faster, to have a superior graphics engine, to have lower prices, remove link limits and allow megaprims. All of those things are nice, but they're not going to save Inworldz against the ever-looming possibility of someone creating something completely new.  It has to be Inworldz that creates a completely new world if Inworldz is to become the market leader.

Of course Inworldz is pretty good as it is.  It's head and shoulders better than other grids.  We're talking about the future-- and what is yet to come.

Setting up a totally new, easier-to-use scripting language would be good.  We don't need something more complex and versatile-- but rather something easier, with built-in functions such as "door", "window", "auto engine", "airplane engine", easily-applied rotations, etc. We've already taken a toe-dip in the bot language... but it's not good enough. We need even simpler and better.

For example.. imagine a script that consists of the following:

script Door(standard)

That's it, the entire script.

Alternatively we would have:

script Door(iris)
script Door(portal, destination)
script Door(sliding)
script Door(vanishing)

Would anyone know of a user that can't script a door now?  Why don't we call it "designing" a door instead? Sounds far less intimidating.

If we're going to not be an SL clone, Inworldz has to start thinking not just outside the box... but destroy the box. Inworldz is going to have to do more than just make changes-- they're going to have to create totally new, awe-inspiring innovations. Dynamic sim borders and an end to map encroachment by individualizing user "universes / dimensions" may be a very good start.

I know this is a lot to take in and swallow in one lump, but sometimes one just has to stand up and point out the obvious reality that everyone knows but denies.

"The Emperor has no clothes!!!" The Emperor needs to start dressing a whole lot better if he's going to stay Emperor.

If Inworldz plans to not be an SL clone... we need to start thinking outside the SL iron box. WAY outside. In fact, the box needs eliminated so Inworldz can really grow.


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Comment by Balpien Hammerer on May 22, 2014 at 2:22am

An interesting and timely article. InWorldz is experiencing a reduction of its growth, and when that happens it means margins get smaller and funding for new development gets tighter.  This is not something unique to InWorldz as it is happening to all "SL style" grids. Yes, OpenSim grids are having the same issue. Though they show ever growing regions (something that easy and free to do), their unique login numbers are somewhat flat. SL is having a retention angst too. The  program "Designing Worlds" produced a show to discuss SL's retention problem. It is almost an hour of viewing but well worth watching: http://vimeo.com/95444686

If that is too long, the summary is that the hosts had two Lindens, who said they are tasked with working on retention issues, and two other guests, one being Carl Metropolitan who was involved with the community gateway at Caledon.  It was a good show, but I was appalled by the loss of history by the Lindens. I was glad Carl was there to explain all the things that were tried to the new Lindens on the show, and to impress upon them the need for multiple entry tracks.

Still, when looking at WoW with 10 million people, SL with 1 million people, and all of OpenSim based grids with a combined 20,000 people, I have to ask what is Wow doing to retain that many people? (and yes, I know they too are going through a contraction)

Is it, perhaps, that their avatars move beautifully and smoothly with scant use input? It is going to take much more than 24 starter avatars to make it easy for people to feel comfortable in their critical first three minutes. A fundamental difference in avatar motion dynamics, from the start, needs to happen along with helping them find their social niche, or as Carl said: “finding their wish fulfillment”. Another aspect of places like WoW has a lot to do with spaciousness and no glitches as one moves through that spacious landscape. I hear talk of too small regions being the issue because of crossings, but two things come to mind: InWorldz crossings were awesome for a while. Have a look at this old vehicles video I made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzPk0ESbO4A and see how smooth the crossings were back then. Take a look at a more recent one, my jetski cruising dozens of high prim regions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDqe9yIOmCE, and you can see how well crossings worked. Then one day, after a new upgrade, things went bad and to date have gotten far worse. Have a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J0iWceOYLs. This complications on complications reminded me of this snippet from the movie "Brazil": http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=KyHilw...

Thankfully Tranquility has taken over to once and for all fix this worsening problem.  People should see something in a month or so.

If crossings were like they were two years ago, I think no one would be complaining heavily about region sizes. Nonetheless, the idea of partitioning servers to spread the load based on avatars and objects instead of simulated land space is a great idea. It eliminates an arbitrary partitioning of space and lets people take their allotment of prims and other resources to spread them in novel and exciting ways. It just would take a long time to get that kind of change done. And it would break a lot of content, notably scripted objects. So, a transition time is needed to get there, and too, other kinds of attractions need to be developed to generate the revenue needed to move to NextGen virtual worlds.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on May 22, 2014 at 5:00am

Good post Balpien. What WoW is doing is obvious:  they give their users a quest with goals and rewards from the moment they step into the game.  Their customers learn how to use the game as they complete those quests and thus the learning curve is very low.  And they do so on a "gaming" basis to make it interesting, rather than someone walking through a set of "sign tutorials" with no reward system.

In short, WoW knows that to retain users... especially users that are paying $15 a month to play... one has to "hook" them right from the start.  That is something Linden Lab and every grid since then has failed to accomplish. 

You also mentioned avatar motion dynamics.   I honestly have to wonder why it is after all these years, the default animations in virtual worlds are still those clunky "duckwalks" and runs.  People actually have to hunt down and wear "AO devices" just to be able to walk in a reasonably normal manner. 

The only time an AO device should be required is for special movement.  Wearing one just to be able to walk and run and fly correctly points to a major flaw in the thinking process of VR:  provide users with a realistic environment.  They have us walking and running as if we're physically challenged... and as if computers haven't progressed in the last decade.

With the number of proficient animation creators out there, one would think Inworldz and every other world out there would have someone make a totally new set of default animations.

Don't even get me started on menu simplification and organization, or intuitive tools.  Some progress has been made there in the Inworldz beta viewer; the menu makes much more sense (in some places) and the tools (such as favorite places) are easier to use (IF one can figure out how to add a new place to favorite places, because that is not intuitive.)

This was my greatest misgiving when I first saw OpenSim years ago:  they're just trying to make an SL clone without improving on the concept all that much.   People were already leaving SL by the thousands.  Seemed like creating a new laboratory based on faulty research.


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