Someone uploaded the International Space Station, check it out, if only to get a sense of how friggin’ huge it is!
Over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure and frustration of exploring a new virtual world. Space, by Sine Wave Entertainment, is a cross platform virtual world. [Full disclosure: An NWN sponsor. - ed] If you’re at all interested in checking it out, go ahead, it’s about one hundred times easier to get into than Second Life. You can signup and login without ever leaving your browser; and enter without downloading a viewer.
If you plan to stay for a while, you can go ahead and download a viewer, just like in Second Life. The viewer brings you into the same virtual world but with improved graphics and performance. Eventually, you’ll be able to log in with a tablet or phone as well, without creating other accounts, or paying a third party.
Here's my first impressions as a longtime SL content creator:
My free region. On the left as seen running space in Google Chrome. On the right through spaces downloadable viewer.
In many ways space seems to be built as a response to all of Second Life’s “pain points.” It runs natively in any modern browser using WebGL, regions are free or cheap, new players are helped along in the learning process with goals and rewards, strong digital rights management protects the work of creators, and scripts are written in real goddamned languages. You know, all the things we’ve been complaining about for the last 10 years.
Much of this is possible thanks to Unity. Unlike Second Life, where the engine is built and maintained by Linden Lab, Space uses a fully fledged gaming engine. Although not as popular for professional developers as Unreal, you’ve probably played, or at least heard of, many games created in Unity. Kerbal Space Program, Never Alone, Rust, and Firewatch were all made in Unity. When Valve created The Lab to show off the capabilities of the HTC Vive, they made most of the mini games in Unity ( not their in house VR engine Source 2). So all of that power and potential will be possible in Space as well.
Great example of what’s possible in Unity’s graphics engine, and thus possible in Space.
What does this mean if you're a builder in Second Life? For mesh makers looking to expand their businesses, it’s pretty good news. Getting your content into Space isn’t very difficult. With a few tweaks, the same meshes you upload to Second Life can be added to space. I’m currently working on a tutorial covering just that topic. Selling in Space is already enabled with their own exchangeable currency, much like Second Life.
Protip: Don’t log into Unity after 3 months and expect to remember how everything works.
It is a beta, and I’ve run into a few bugs. For instance, in the creator preview mode, most of the time I can’t seem to spawn my own items. Often regions get stuck while loading. And sometimes items spawn in walls and can’t be moved.
If you’ve had to work around Linden Scripting Language’s limitations, or are sick of Second Life’s aging rendering engine, or if you’ve had your work copybotted and resold, Space may sound like a panacea. But I have some doubts.
In my mind, Second Life’s magic came from the fact that it was a unified grid. You have neighbors, and neighborhoods. You can walk or fly across huge sections of it. It feels like a world. Space just doesn’t feel like a world to me. In Second Life terms, its grid is made up entirely of private islands, more like Valve’s Steam than Stephenson’s Snow Crash. It’s as if you could play any of your library of games, but as the same character in each. It’s a neat idea, but to me at least, it lacks a certain grand vision that Second LIfe had, at least in the beginning.
Another question has been bugging me as I worked on getting some of my content into space. If you have the knowledge to work with Unity, why not just create for Unity? If you create a game, why upload it into Space, why not just sell your game? If you can create assets, why sell them in the Space marketplace, why not sell them in Unity’s Asset store?
I’m excited to see how Space evolves over the next few years. It has a lot of potential, and I’d like there to be some real alternatives to Second Life, and it seems like a smart strategy to concentrate on a more casual user. Where Sansar and High Fidelity are both working on integrating VR into their worlds, you’ll be able to visit Space on a well specced phone. It’s definitely something I’ll be logging into and seeing how well things sell in this new market.
EDITOR'S NOTE: While Space has a sponsoring relationship with New World Notes at the moment of publication, this post is Brookston's unedited opinion as a contributing freelancer to NWN -- Wagner "Hamlet" Au