Live right now, here's Jessica Pixel's stream from an OpenSim grid, a good-bye party for OpenSimulator pioneer Justin Clark-Casey. "Justin CC is a big deal in the OpenSim world," as Jessica puts it, "he was one of the major contributors, but he has to move on to other things so we're having a 'good luck have fun' party for him." And as you might have noticed, this stream is happening through YouTube's live streaming feature, so you can also participate with the OpenSim party from Jessica's YouTube page right here.
The open forum on the success of Minecraft versus SL has attracted some really interesting reader comments, one of my favorites being this one from Jo Kay, an educator deeply involved with Second Life and OpenSim as a teaching tool:
One of the key factors IMHO is Minecraft's simplicity AND its complexity. A small child can quickly learn how to negotiate the space (without lengthy tutorials or clunky viewer software to learn) and get almost instant satisfaction from exploring and socializing, monster slaying and/or building a little house, castle, secret base etc.
Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, Minecraft allows for complex modding which has seen developers from around and world and across a huge age range creating their own versions and flavors of the game - from themed servers (Hunger Mines, Harry Potter etc) to Factions, Feed the Beast and PVP).
Additionally the extensive "metagame" that exists around the game is compelling - from YouTube stars to kids writing epic Minecraft theme stories and beyond, the eco-system of fan created media is endless and amazing and operates from beginner to elite. Kids are able to join that community easily via Twitch, Youtube, fan sites and Forums, and via coding communities like Bukkit.
... all of which leads to several advantages of Minecraft as a pedagogical platform:
Open Forum: Why Has Minecraft Captured a Mass Market and the Education Space Where Second Life Has Not?
Mimi Ito has a really interesting Boing Boing post on the rising popularity of Minecraft as an educational tool, which emerged very soon after Minecraft becoming extremely popular -- over 100 million players, in recent estimates. Then she makes this point:
Minecraft isn't the first virtual world to value player creativity. Remember Second Life? But, what makes the DNA of Minecraft fundamentally different from Second Life or WoW is that any player can set up and administer their own server. This makes the Minecraft scene a breeding ground not only for digital creativity, but social innovation. Players are building their own server-based communities in Minecraft governed by the values and rules that they develop and enforce. No corporate overlord dictating the rules of property and play here. The mod world in Minecraft is teeming with social engineering tools, ranging from chat moderation add-ons to systems that assign plots and different privileges to players to minimize griefing. Lessons in digital citizenship anyone?
OpenSim, the open source spinoff of Second Life, also enables player-owned servers, so that doesn't make Minecraft unique. Also, Minecraft player-owned servers did not exist for some time after the game launched - it was originally a single-player experience.
All that to one side, what remains true is that Minecraft has captured both the mass consumer market and the education space where Second Life and OpenSim tried and failed. So let me put the question to readers (especially virtual world educators and those who play both): Why?
Please discuss in Comments. I plan on featuring the best insights in a future post.
Can Amazon AppStream effectively replace OnLive's SL Go? There was a lot of talk around that question recently, and I put it to Cristina Videira Lopes (aka Diva Canto), a Xerox PARC alum who's now an ICS professor at UC Irvine and a longtime innovator in virtual worlds. She deferred on whether AppStream was right to stream Second Life in particular, preferring to talk about using AppStream for commercial applications of virtual environments. (Which she uses, as it happens, for her OpenSim-based world.)
Short version? The main obstacle is cost: At the moment, AppStream costs 83 cents an hour per user, so much more expensive than SL Go. So AppStream is probably not a good fit for extended use -- but appropriate for virtual world use for shorter, business/real world/educational based applications.
Anyway, here's Diva's full breakdown:
OpenSim, the open source spin-off of Second Life, passed 30,000 active users last month, according to HyperGrid Business, which represents a relative growth spurt from 2012, when it was floundering with around 15,000 active users. The largest OpenSim world is InWorldz with 8,212 active users, which is not surprising, as that one is probably the most consumer-facing. Notwithstanding HyperGrid's "record-breaking month for OpenSim" language, it's still worth keeping in mind this is relative growth for OpenSim, but compared to the larger market for 3D avatar-based worlds, not so much. With 30,000 monthly OpenSim users, for instance, more people still use Second Life at any given moment than use OpenSim for an entire month. (Median daily concurrency for Second Life is around the 40,000 range, according to Grid Survey.)
Radegast, a lightweight viewer for Second Life and OpenSim, ceased development a few months ago, as lead developer Latif Khalifa withdrew due to reported RL health reasons. "Radegast is open source," Latif noted in the departure announcement, "so if there is interest people could continue improving it." So far it seems no one has taken up the reigns, which is a shame, as it could be a good alternative for running SL applications on a low-end machine (possibly on mobile?)
Hat tip on this to Snickers Snook, who gave me some more background via Twitter:
DX Exchange (a proud NWN partner) has just opened its virtual currency trading service up to OpenSim grids, starting with the Sunlight Grid (based in France). So now OpenSim grid operators can sell their currency through DX Exchange. (And if you own an OpenSim, and you're interested in using this service on your grid, drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
For consumers, the purchase process is pretty simple:
The OnLook viewer is a new OpenSimulator viewer lead developed by Cristina Videira Lopes, an OpenSim pioneer and Xerox PARC alum who's now an ICS professor at UC Irvine -- known as Diva Canto in the metaverse. As she announced a few weeks ago, the special thing about OnLook is it allows UI customization, so users don't have to deal with the confusing Second Life interface that OpenSim viewers are based around:
The idea here is to allow OpenSim operators to have more control over the experience that their users will have; specifically, I want to be able to design much simpler user interfaces that are more appropriate for people who have no experience with Second Life and/or may be even uncomfortable with seeing themselves as avatars. But more importantly that any specific UI, I want to be able to provide those UI specifications dynamically as the user enters the simulator, rather than being hard-coded during the viewer’s build process. This way, we can change the UI without forcing users to install new versions of the viewer. And no one needs to agree on any specific UI.
This is super important for a number of reasons:
OK this is seriously cool, and a great real world application of OpenSim, the open source spinoff of Second Life: Subquark, an Australian development studio, used Sim-on-a-Stick to create 3D art for a real life card game, Mint Tin Aliens, which they developed. (As depicted above, and blogged about here.) Sim-on-a-Stick, as the name suggests, is a portable version of OpenSim, making it easy to create and transport 3D art files at an extremely low cost. (You could use Second Life for doing this, but thanks to SL's thorny IP rights, you'd have to create the 3D content on a simulator you were paying for, and make sure you had the underlying rights to the all the 3D content used in your 3D art.) For that matter, standard 3D modeling software tools come with their own high costs and licensing challenges.
This isn't a conjectural application, by the way, because this game actually already exists: "It was used for the final deck of Mint Tin Aliens and six copies of that game have already been sold," exlains Ener Hax, who did the OpenSim development.
See for yourself:
Hosoi Ichiba, a Japanese-themed SL market which supported six very beautiful sims, has entirely left Second Life, moving to the OpenSim-based Kitely. The sims had attracted a community of some 150-200 SLers, owner Amiryu Hosoi tells me, "All very active in samurai, geisha and villagers roles", but the collapsing real world economy made it difficult for Hosoi to maintain those islands.
During its heyday, he says, "There were months Hosoi Ichiba earned about $4000 USD/month and every dime flooded back in the project... I had 5 people working for me assisting customers and helping them find what they needed." Then the bottom started to fall out: