"Stagnation and declining numbers should be sufficient warning to the wise."
This is a follow-up to this post. I would like to encourage Elf Clan members and other readers to circulate this blog URL to your friends and anyone who cares. This time I'm keeping things relatively short and to-the-point.
From Inworldz to Second Life to OSgrid to Hypergrid to OpenSim... virtual reality as we know it has stagnated. OSgrid is still recovering from their disastrous no-backup system crash. Second Life and Inworldz both are failing to grow. Hypergrid is fragmented and confusing to use, with widespread copybotting (just as was predicted in these blogs). OpenSim, despite years of development, still is nowhere near the stability and performance of Inworldz... which itself is still nowhere near the stability and performance it should have after some six years of hard-core coding. (The same can be said for Second Life itself, and it's more than double Inworldz age.)
The Linden Lab style of virtual reality is stagnated globally. It's difficult to use, the viewer still confusing, the cache system still doesn't work, the graphic system still crashes rather than regulating itself, 2-D textures still do not load properly-- after more than a decade on the market. This field is like an adolescent child that has reached a certain age and mentality and just refused to grow any further.
So, to the point. Why is virtual reality (and Inworldz in particular, since it's our home) failed to grow? Why is it still like the full-grown adult living at home rather than venturing out and expanding?
It would seem because it simply isn't trying to expand. Because if it wanted to, it surely could.
DOWN TO THE CAUSE ON INWORLDZ (and I'm gonna be blunt)
First, I am not anti-Inworldz. I and the dwagon enjoy Inworldz. It's the home of Elf Clan. We've accomplished beautiful creations there.
However, as a group we've dropped from some 60 regions to under 40... and this is with our grandfathered regions. Established merchants throughout Inworld have closed shop and left the grid. Why is this? What happened to the enthusiasm?
The matter is simple and has been said before. It is easy to summarize:
1. Inworldz seriously needs to totally re-design and rebuild the "welcome" center. It is unimpressive and unwelcoming. Sorry to be blunt, but them's the facts.
2. Inworldz very much needs to offer a product the average person can afford, namely: limited-purpose $20-a-month regions. 15,000 prims, 20 avatars max, 4 sims stacked to a "server" (if that even applies any more... whatever is required to reduce hosting costs). Four such sims = $80, same resource expense. This is essential if Inworldz is to grow. This grid must compete with OpenSim if it is to ever grow beyond its current status.
3. SIMPLIFY THE VIEWER. The viewer (and intake experience) is still a nightmare of complexity for new users. It is not intuitive. It is not "learn by doing" as it needs to be. There is nothing built into the viewer to automatically lead and teach brand new users. Games have proved this method to be a necessity for decades. No one wants to read a lenghty manual, and many, many of the "features" in the viewer are undocumented / without details. The viewer still crashes. Client cache and texture management still doesn't work. The Viewer needs overhauled bigtime and simplified down to the very basics. People can learn to build and script and set this and that tweak later. Give new users a viewer that works, is easy to understand and use, and offer them the ability to advance one step at a time. Major job? Yes. Essential to the future of VR? Absolutely.
4. Inworldz needs to adapt and comply with Firestorm URL standards. OSgrid works with Firestorm and their URLs work just dandy. Why should Inworldz have its own specific, non-compatible, non-conforming URL format? It just makes things difficult for customers not using the official Inworldz viewer.
(There is a 5th need, but I'm saving that as a post-script so we can emphasize the above four items.)
THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE TASTE
Do I know what I'm talking about? I would hope after being active in VR since the year 2000 I would have a clue or two about how it operates... and what the everyday person thinks of it.
Let me introduce as an example Replicant City, built by a small dwagon. Most of you already know of it. Many of you have been there. It is in high sky of ElvenSong region:
This is the basic initial layout of Replicant City, built in just a few hours, including scripting and animation. It remains to this day as region center:
The point is... is it possible to build fascinating welcome centers? Visitors to Replicant City seem to think so. The self-guided tour takes them throughout the entire multi-genre, multi-exhibit region-wide display.
I'm not saying the Inworldz Welcome Center has to be a Replicant City. It can be greatly simplified and of a totally different design and still be impressive. But it needs to catch attention, it needs to inform, it needs to encourage exploration and eventually... investment in Inworldz. The current Welcome Center does not do that. It must do so if Inworldz is to grow.
Does Elf Clan have experience in achieving goals? There is little doubt our Eldars have lead this group to glorious accomplishments, and a colorful, vibrant history. But at this point even we have reached the bottom of our bag of tricks. Without the cooperation of Inworldz Founders there is only so much we can accomplish.
Peter and I have "retired" from VR, mostly because we've been at this far too long, but also partially from frustration at the lack of progress in this genre (not just Inworldz but all of VR). Although we still work in the background to keep Elf Clan functional, we've left management of the group in younger hands. But as a result of Inworldz "failure to launch" and resultant stagnation, Elf Clan population has declined as well. The health of Inworldz affects groups throughout the grid. There is a direct correlation. That is why this is important.
We like Inworldz, mostly. But changes need to be made if it is to survive existing and coming competition. If anyone believes it is impossible for Inworldz to fail, we need to be reminded that no one is too big to fall. Such falls usually come quickly, unexpectedly, from unforeseen causes, and are almost always a result of failing to plan ahead and adapt to changing times (OSgrid is a prime example). Currently we do not see Inworldz adapting and changing. Just the opposite-- we see resistance to such when it is obviously needed. Change is required. Failure to change = failure to grow.
That's all I have to say this time around. Thanks for listening. Please direct your friends to this page. If you want Inworldz to prosper, someone is going to have to get the Founders to do something different than what is currently being done. Because what is currently being done is not bringing about the growth of virtual reality... anywhere.
Just the facts, ma'am.
Your friend and Founder of Elf Clan,
Post Script: here is the 5th item needed on Inworldz:
5. OAR functionality. Inworldz is still under the illusion and delusion that grids can somehow be gated, protected. They can't. That is a fact of life . Anyone who does not believe this is the case is (pardon my frankness) naive to how virtual reality works. Based on simple examination of history and competitive grids, Inworldz needs to drop the delusion and provide customers with the basic tools and features they need and want. That includes backing up their own sim to their own computer. Failing to recognize this reality of life is hiding one's head in the sand and hoping someone "doesn't break the rules". While the first four items listed in the main article are far more important, this still is an issue on the potential customer's mind and should at least be seriously considered.
What happens if Inworldz vanishes overnight? It's not impossible. There are myriad things that could cause such a thing. Users of OSgrid will verify that the unbelievable can and does happen. Even Second Life could be closed down instantly. Does anyone think Linden Lab incapable of such a decision?
Perish forbid, but what would we do if something catastrophic happened to Ele and Tranq at the same time? All of our work, years of effort and investment, and we have no backup. That is why this needs to be strongly and fully considered... and the worst possible scenario planned for.
I hope this helps. If virtual reality as we know it is to survive and flourish... it needs help. Stagnation and declining numbers should be sufficient warning to the wise.