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.
THE QUALITY OF VR
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?
ELIMINATE LAND LIMITS
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.
ELIMINATE THE 2D MAP
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.
ELIMINATE REGION CROSSINGS
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?"
UP THE GRAPHICS BID
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.
THE DANGER OF COMPETITION
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.
IF NOT A CLONE... STOP CLONING
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.
NOT SCRIPTING-- DESIGNING
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:
That's it, the entire script.
Alternatively we would have:
script Door(portal, destination)
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.
DESTROY THE BOX
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.
TAKING A GREAT LEAP
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.