The metaverse is out there .. in fact, lots of them are.. for a price! A short synopsis..

So, followers of my bloggy rantness know that I am (or was..) fairly active in SecondLife. In fact, I still regularly visit, shop, hangout, etc, even though I am not particularly active in the SL grid anymore. That is to say, I am not terribly active in ANY of the grids, since I run my own stand-alone server which is virtually closed off from the outside public Internet/world..

There are new policies in SL which make it less fun to play (1: enforcement of age verification, 2: the land policies have changed once again, and 3: the current fiasco surrounding the viewer vs. third party viewers, which I touched on in an earlier post.), so I thought I’d poke around and see what else was out there.

Second Life, OpenSimulator, OSgrid, The New World Grid, and many many others I personally haven’t tried – Well just read some of my past posts for some of the basics. For content creators, the build tools in SL are much like Alias|Wavefront Maya so, it’s quite robust just using the in-world building tools where you may not really need outside tools, except for primative shapes not in one of the predefined forms, in which point you use scuplty prims, or, flat 3D image files which represent a 3D shape. Also, SL and OpenSim are media friendly, you can very easily stream audio and video in your world just by entering the URL (if it’s a web stream like shoutcast for example), or file location (if it’s on your local computer or a mounted network drive).  There are currency systems in place on some grids, while others do not (or forbid) any sort of monetary exchange. For a list of active grids that people login to, just check the grid listing in your chosen sim viewer client. Currently I am using the Imprudence viewer, which has robust development teams working away and  is available for multiple platforms.

Official Video (also see their YouTube Channel for more!) for Second Life:

Satire Videos (ppl poking fun at SL?):

Other than Second Life, and OpenSimulator grids (which are very close, but not the same thing), we have some other contenders for our metaverse travels. All of them boast millions or thousands of viewers (including SL) but realistically, just by logging in and checking server status, we know this is no where near what the actual, active numbers are. Anyway, here is what I have found out there thus far..

IMVU – This is a client-based app available for Windows or Mac. By what I can tell it gives you a custom home (a small room) that you can customize by purchasing objects others have created. Likewise, you can customize your avatar by purchasing clothes, skins, hair, eyes, accessories that others have created. There doesn’t seem to be any in-world building tools, so everything must be created outside using some content creation tool I have yet to see. IMVU consists of people’s chat rooms that they can invite each other to chat in. I would guess there are some common areas that two people can randomly meet at, or hang out, but I have yet to see that, and the free accounts don’t seem to let me go there.. All I was able to do thus far was look at my avatar in a sort of preview mode or make it sit on a default chair in the empty room which was my free little home. I know IMVU is a bit larger than this, and popular, at least it is heavily marketed, and I know of some SL veterans that have moved over to (or do both) IMVU, but the rest of this experience escapes me, and I do find the avatars a bit strange, what with their large anime heads and eyes it looks a bit off, but that is just the stylized look of IMVU default avatars. From the advertisements I have seen, this too is customizable to some degree. I just don’t know how, but I think it involves money 🙂 Also, if you have a free account your name starts with the word ‘Guest_’ which is not removable until you become a paid member, that sort of blatant separatism I just find annoying.

Official Video (there is no audio apparently, and I should mention I saw nothing like this in IMVU):

Frenzoo – Uses a web-based browser plug-in. There are free and paid accounts. They have a currency system called coins. Frenzoo is much like IMVU in that you have your own custom home (er, room…?) and can join other spaces (er, large rooms) in either public or private chat. For content creators, they have a web-based build too, as well software or plug-ins which allow you to import from 3D StudioMax or Blender, something with SL has thus far failed to offer, however.. that’s another post.. maybe.. Anyway, I don’t see the appeal yet, except for one very big thing that SL doesn’t have, which is web-based browsing via plug-in. What with the viewer 2.0 software out right now, which is headed to making SL a web2.0 experience, I can guess that web-based SL is not far off in the roadmap (if the Lindens have a roadmap, which I haven’t seen hehe.. but, I suspect this eventually is where SL may go.. to offer both a client software and web plugin viewer. Going to different “places” is much like joining an IRC chat room or AOL chat room, you pick what seems interesting and drop into a public room, then can go into private chat rooms with people at your discretion.

Videos:

VWW, Utherverse, Virtual Vancouver, RedLight, Rude – VWW is a bit confusing, and only works for Windows PC, therefore I haven’t really been able to explore it, since I am on a Mac. Their focus is a 3D social network for adults 18+ only, primarily for virtual sex, though since I can’t see it, I don’t speak from experience. Apparently, there are free accounts, though, with a very limited feature set of the paid VIP version. There is a currency system in place, and apparently you can trade your SecondLife linden dollars for their dollars. I’m not sure what sort of tools they have for content creators, but with some of the videos I have seen on YouTube, they have plots of virtual land similar to SL put into a grid system where you may teleport to and from different places. VWW is part of Utherverse, and their main properties are a place for adults called Virtual Vancouver (which is a bit tamer than the others) and a hardcore virtual sex place for adults called Red Light Social Center and, uhm, I guess another one called Rude Virtual Social Center. I would suppose the advantage to going to one of these places vs. SL would be everyone there is going there for virtual sex, though, SL and other grids I would gather have purely adult areas as well, shrug.. maybe if they make a Mac or Linux/Unix version some day or if someone posts videos or what-not somewhere, then I will get a better idea what this particular thing is about.

Videos:
(couldn’t seem to find any official videos, but Utherverse looks like an earlier type of SL without all the bump mapping, shading, shiny, light sources, etc… you can search YouTube for some user-created ones to get an idea.. thus far I haven’t seen anything Utherverse does that SL doesn’t do much better (and upon further research I found that while accessing and doing simple things SL is free, while Utherverse is more-or-less VIP oriented and you need to pay for everything, much like IMVU for something as simple as changing appearance you need to pay.. so, it loses big points in my book for that).

There.com – This was one of the first virtual worlds for PC, perhaps before SL, I don’t recall, however, the graphics never quite evolved past paper looking avatars (think early Linden default avatars, it looks like that). However, they did apparently have a strong community of players, who often looked past the technical limitations of the service. True, there.com never ported to Mac, and for this and other internal reasons perhaps they ended up closing not long ago. One of there’s primary focus was doing VR sort of online games, which their paintball game was apparently pretty fun. I don’t have much info beyond that, but their website is till up if you want to browse it. I may be wrong but I think they had a sort of in-world exchange system which acted like currency. There is also talk of a ‘New There’ being developed from former user/developers called vonira.com. An interesting feature of There.com was a sort of audio waveform appearing around you when you talked. SL has this but it looks like waves coming out from you, while There.com had one that looked much like an oscilloscope would appear.

Videos:
Couldn’t find official ones, but there are a good smattering of (some very funny!) machinima and videos at this YouTube user’s channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/VirtualVikki

If you have additional information on any of what I’ve touched on here, or know of other grids, metaverses, virtual worlds, etc, please do leave me a public comment or private message via the contact page. Thanks!

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