by Pixeleen Mistral on 06/03/07 at 7:20 pm
by Onder Skall, courtesy of Second Life Games
Let me start this off by stating that I have no interest in the “world vs. platform” debate. It’s boring and played out, so don’t you dare try to draw me in. What I’m trying to do here is answer the simple question:
Where are the best candidates as viable alternatives to Second Life?
In order to answer this question, I’ve come up with the three things that in my opinion make Second Life irreplaceable at the moment. Since these are entirely formed from my little brain, we’ll call them “Onder’s Big Three”. They are:
1. Cash transactions must be easy and readily accommodated flowing both into and out from the system.
2. Users must be able to create unique content and retain some form of ownership over it.
3. The fabric of the world itself must be possible to affect. IE: land ownership, room decoration, or some other content that remains viable even when the player who created it is logged off. (”Pervasive” is the word I’m groping for here…)
I guess one last note here: devkits don’t count. To even make it into this list it has to be a running, functioning environment that people can walk into, not a tool for developers only. Let’s take a look at the candidates:
HiPiHi – Chinese only right now. The YouTube demo reel shows very many SL-like things like custom avatars and building. It remains mysterious as far as economics or whether or not you can upload files to the world. They’re in closed beta so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Point 1 – No idea.
Point 2 – You can definitely create, but uploading is unknown and ownership is unknown.
Point 3 – Definitely.
Here, check out the demo reel. Anybody know if there’s an English translation of the voice-over somewhere?
Entropia Universe – This is an MMORPG, granted, but with a twist: the money is easily transferred in and out of the world. In Entropia you develop skill points, get armor/weaponry and fight monsters. You can also go mining and participate in the active markets trading in-world materials. The trick, of course, is coming away from a hunt/crafting activity/mining excursion/trade having made more money than you spent doing it. The client is quite a bit more stable than SL’s, but there isn’t any scripting and creating unique content is quite difficult. Despite this it scores reasonably well in the Big Three:
Point 1 – Yes, very easily. They even had a RL bank card at one point.
Point 2 – With difficulty, yes users can create unique content. Unsurprisingly the best example of this is in the fashion industry.
Point 3 – Land ownership, buildings and general self-expression are restricted, but not completely impossible. Expect a major expense to leave your mark here.
This is a video overview hosted by a lady wearing some weird thing…
Areae Inc. – They’re being very secretive, but seem determined to create a space that marries Web 2.0 (social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube) with Web 3.0 (immersive user-created environments like Second Life). They have an all-star cast of advisers, but so far we know very little else. Check out their press page for interviews with the owner.
Point 1 – No idea.
Point 2 – Possibly unheard of abilities to create content, although we have no idea about ownership.
Point 3 – No idea.
Outback Online – Promises to be just like SL but also with multiple planets. They claim being able to get 10,000 users in one area, console based clients as well as PC and Mac, and some kind of distributed networking scheme to run the whole thing. No other info is available really, but they’re accepting beta applications.
Point 1 – Uncertain, but seems likely.
Point 2 – Yes, but specific details are sparse.
Point 3 – Unknown.
The Sims online – Works well, obviously, but has limitations. Movement around the world is locked down, communication is difficult, and creativity is limited to the objects and textures they provide. The economy is locked down too.
Point 1 – You pay your monthly subscription and that’s it. If you want to make money here you’re doing it through eBay or an equivalent.
Point 2 – You own everything you create, but you upload nothing and you can’t build from scratch.
Point 3 – This stays true. Your house is there, in the neighborhood, with all of your stuff. You can’t really affect much elsewhere, though.
There – It’s been around for a few years, and does well with the teen crowd. It’s PG only and there’s an approval process for anything you upload, but at least you can upload. Also, I’m not sure how liquid Therebucks are. Many of the people who were buying and selling Therebucks seem to have been shut down, with the only exception I found being tbux.com. Anybody know why?
Point 1 – It’s possible to move money in and out, but seems like it might be troublesome. It’s definitely not a supported function.
Point 2 – Yep, ownership and trade is alive and well, and they even have an active auctioning system. Creating things is severely restricted – you need to sign up as a developer, have to go through an approval process, and everything you make is heavily taxed.
Point 3 – You can absolutely own property and houses in There.
Activeworlds – A commercial platform, basically, but but mentioned here because of Dotsoul. They take care of the hosting and manage it so a user can bounce from one world to the next. They claim 1000 unique “worlds”, but to give you a sense of scale: “Rick’s Café” is a “world”. As mentioned earlier, Dotsoul was built with Activeworlds, which was an art utopia free of prim limits and with loose terms of service. Also, no real economy…
Point 1 – Nope. Subscription services apply, but that’s it.
Point 2 – Yep.
Point 3 – Yep.
Weblo – Not a 3d environment at all but a “virtual real-estate” scheme that exists entirely through a website… nothing to do there but try to play the market. You won’t run into people here and chat, it’s just straight commerce of pretend things that have a webpage created about them. Most people don’t understand what it is and just namedrop it next to “Second Life” in the hopes of being among the first to find “the new thing”.
Point 1 – Yes, money moves in and out easily.
Point 2 – No.
Point 3 – After a fashion… when you create a webpage that represents a space, object or event it stays there.
Project DarkStar – This is just a server platform, but then again, that’s how Second Life started out. Created by Sun Microsystems, this is a series of specialized servers meant to accommodate MMO environments. Rumors float about that Second Life may migrate over to a system like this, but as with everything with Linden Labs, we have no idea what the thinking truly is.
Point 1,2,3 – NA… YET.
Virtual Object System – Worthy of note purely because they share the dream of creating “The Metaverse”. There’s not really a lot to see yet, but the reason is that they’re taking a very “from the ground up” approach. IF this ever launches, it will end up being fast and reliable. Their wiki is active, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. If they ever decide to go for VC funding, they could crush everything else.
Point 1,2,3 – still vaporware I’m afraid.
Kaneva – Here’s the problem: at the moment you have to go to the website, create a Myspace-like page, group up, and start bugging people to rank you. You will be immediately leapt upon to start ranking others. If you end up, somehow, in the top X number of users, you get to go into the virtual world and create an apartment. Just an apartment. That’s it. Is it just me, or does this sound like the most irritating thing on the planet?
Point 1 – Not really, no.
Point 2 – Yes, although we have no idea how flexible the tools are or how liquid your assets are.
Point 3 – You get the apartment and you get to furnish it.
For a list of Devkits, see here: MMORPG development toolkits. Many of them are very good, especially for the indie crowd!