I got an email from the virtual world / computer game company Utherverse, who makes a similar product ( apparently.. ) to Linden Lab’s Second Life, which, like Open Simulator, is a metaverse I’ve tried to poke into.. As far as I know, they don’t use the same engine, but then, I haven’t been able to login or confirm this either way.
(note: read my previous blog posts on SL and OpenSim!)
Anyway, the good news was, they came out with a build for the Mac! I was delighted to find this out, since I wanted to try out their engine and see how it functioned, so I signed up an account for free and got it all ready to go.
The Utherverse client download was about 500 megabytes, which is HUGE in comparison to the Second Life viewers. It then downloads another couple hundred megabytes of data, ending up at a MASSIVE installed size of 726 Mb. Part of the reason for this is, it’s not really a native Mac application, it’s a bit of a hack of the Windows version, indeed the viewer window has the looks of a Windows XP sort of style, blue gradient bar and all.
Now I’d like to make a few casual observations about the Utherverse client. Just so folks wanting to try it can get an idea what they may be getting themselves into. The first thing you may notice about the DMG file is the size.
For example, the official Linden Lab viewer (Second Life 2 or 3, depending on your viewpoint) is about 175 Mb, the 3rd-party viewer ‘Imprudence’ takes up about the same (170 Mb for the old build and 127 Mb for the new beta), Phoenix ‘Firestorm’ is around 204 Mb even with all it’s extra tools.
If you’re not short on disk space, then that’s not an issue, but the size of the downloads may be a bit daunting for slower Internet connections. Expect the whole download to be about 1.5 Gb when all is said and done.
Like OpenSimulator, Utherverse is broken into several different ‘grids’ with focused content, for example you have the ‘Utherverse Social Center’ or ‘Virtual World Web’ (a phrase they are trying to promote as the 3D version of World Wide Web, however there hasn’t been much adoption of the idea across the Internet).
Other than Utherverse, which is kind of the main adult-oriented HQ of it all, then you have spin-off grids like Virtual Vancouver, which is a virtual city somewhat based on Vancouver BC, Rude Virtual Social Center and Red Light Center, which are more focused on adult content such as watching erotic movies, virtual clubbing, pixelsex, and such, yet each grid or part of the VWW Utherverse having their own sort of niche or focus, even though they are all essentially the same build engine and primarily (interconnected, I think) adult themed massively multiplayer online thing. Whatever Utherverse is, it seems their main goal is to create various pixel sex meetup activities, since this is what the marketing stuff leads me to believe.
Anyway, they have free accounts and 2 levels of paid accounts which they refer to as “VIP” membership. This seems similar to Linden Lab’s premium account, though much more expensive. Utherverse offers a $20/month or $30/month plan, in comparison to Linden Lab’s $72 annual or $10/month plans.
Is Utherverse worth the 2-3x expense of Second Life? This I didn’t know, since I’ve never been in world to see, though from all the videos I’ve seen it appears the Utherverse is at a graphical level around 10 years behind today’s SecondLife or OpenSimulator experience, the detail of the environment and avatars are more on the level of Unreal Tournament or ID Software’s Quake from around 1999, before things such as shading, dynamic lighting, shiny or glowing objects, bump mapping, alpha transparency, and all those modern day 3D engine things most gamers take for granted, well it doesn’t appear that the Utherverse has them. The female and male avatars I’ve seen all seem to have about the same size and shape, just skinned differently, some with more photorealistic textures than others, which look like older Linden avatars from, again, around 10 years ago.
Can you build in Utherverse? Well they do have a sort of content creation thing, where you can upload posters and decorations of sorts, though otherwise Utherverse seems to be a closed system, I don’t know what facilities they have for building or scripting your own things in world, or if you have to do it all outside in another app or stand-alone 3D program such as Blender or Maya, though surely content creators must exist.
Is there land or houses in Utherverse? I don’t know what sort of virtual real estate is available, either, whether it be parcels of lands, skyboxes, or what not.
What about radio, video, media stuff? Well, Utherverse does seem to have some media options, such as streaming music or video, but beyond that I don’t know either.
How about making your own textures for clothes and avatar appearance? Well, the avatars and outfits seem to be all pre-coded and, like IMVU was, you have a limited selection of what is available to you. I’m not sure if the average person can upload their own clothing, skin, shapes, objects, etc. or not.
How about support? Yes, there is documentation on this, most of what I have seen are just simple FAQ files that read like stereo instructions, and so the information is mostly focused on getting people to download the client software or become an affiliate to advertise their product. They do have forums for users to interact with each other from their website.
Let’s talk about money: Utherverse has a sort of virtual currency system called “Rays” which is similar to Linden Lab’s “Linden Dollars” though I am not aware if Rays are traded in the real world like Linden Dollars are.
I’d like to tell you how it worked, but unfortunately for me, after several hours of downloading, patching, repairing, troubleshooting, and logging into and out of their website, I was told by their support team that it doesn’t work on Mac OS X Lion.
Talking to their customer service team was like pulling teeth, but finally I was able to get word that it only works on Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6, and they have no plans to make a Universal build or do any sort of version-specific patches for other Mac users.
Just for yuks, here is a copy of that correspondence:
Me: Hi Support — I’m a metaverse blogger in the middle of a review for your sites, and I’ve just did a new install of the client on OS X 10.7.2 (Lion), MacBook Pro, 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT 256 Mb video card. Tried to login, got error. Did a repair from the client, error still. Went to website to reset to factory defaults and save that as my outfit, error continues. Tried registering a second account under new email, username StarLord827, that didn’t help either. What’s next steps? I’m comfortable in the shell or GUI, Thanks! –Christopher “Star_Lord”
Utherverse: Hello Christopher, you need 10.0 OS X with snow leopard in order to run the client
Turn around time for that detailed reply was 2 days. I wasn’t completely satisfied with that, so contacted them once more for clarification:
Me: Hi (name removed), OS X Lion 10.7.x was released after 10.6.x SnowLeopard, thus I would believe it meets the requirement and should also run if your build was a Universal binary and not an earlier PowerPC based build.
If any error or system logs would assist you in filing bug reports or such things, please don’t hesitate to ask me for them. If receiving no good response from your team, may I simply say that Utherverse works under Snow Leopard 10.6 but not Lion 10.7, if so, what is your roadmap for a fix to work under the current operating system version?
Can you please send more detailed technical information regarding the system requirements, and if it works on Snow Leopard but NOT Lion, can you inform me as to the core reason why not, perhaps I can adjust my system to compensate..
Though, I can not downgrade my OS to the now discontinued OS version. I do have a dual boot (BootCamp or VMware) with WindowsXP, if the client will work using that, please advise, thanks and best regards. Christopher ‘star_lord’
PS: I am trying to review the software and your virtual world for a magazine article, so your assistance is greatly appreciated.
Again, I awaited for the person who represented their company to give me the ultimate level of technical expertise they could come up with, and 2 hours later, a different person replied:
Utherverse: Hi There is currently no plans to update the MAC version of the software to run with specific MAC OS builds. All of the developers time is spent on the new client, which will be fully MAC compatible. To answer you question about BootCamp or VMware, we have a number of successful installs using BootCamp and the dual boot. So there should be no issue running it that way. Thanks (name removed)
That is, until they redesign the entire client app from the ground up, which they plan to do sometime in the future, given no clear roadmap when that will ever happen, of course, I guess I would need a PC or older Mac, or run their Windows client using Bootcamp, or run through a virtualization engine such as Parallels or VMware. Well, I’m not downgrading my OS just so I can run one piece of questionable bloat-ware (which may or may not even work), but I do hope to learn more about Utherverse at some point, so I can give them a proper review.
Their strength though, is they have a team of volunteers who are eager to help new users get around. I have a volunteer assigned to me, though they haven’t responded to my latest inquiry.
I think once I get in world things will be a better experience, though I don’t feel completely confident at this point, and my view has been a bit jaded or biased by the better experiences with other virtual world systems, which set a benchmark that Utherverse so far has failed to meet.
If anyone reading this has a Mac OS X with Snow Leopard (or got their client to work on Lion, in spite of their support team saying otherwise), or if you are an experienced person with Utherverse, it would be great if you drop me a comment or two and make any corrections where I may have been mistaken on talking points.
My login name for Utherverse is “Star_Lord” (with the underscore), apparently someone else nabbed my usual login name before I could create an account there. I have a video of the install and troubles I went through trying to get the thing to run, but decided not to post it since it didn’t provide any real value beyond what I already stated in the article. If you would like to see it, I’ll upload it to YouTube.