Avination in talks with Havok

Avination may deploy the Havok physics engine for its grid. This is the same physics engine used by Second Life.

Melanie Thielker

“It is being considered and talks with Havok have started,” Avination grid manager Melanie Thielker told Hypergrid Business. “The content of these talks are under NDA [non-disclosure agreements.”

OpenSim grids normally use the open source ODE physics engine, which lags behind in functionality.

Thielker previously made history by negotiating an agreement for Vivox voicefor Avination and other grids hosted by her company — at a low enough cost that there was no increase in region prices. Thielker is also CEO of OpenSim hosting company 3D Hosting.

As a result, Avination became the first — and, still, the only — grid with Second Life-quality voice. If the talks are successful, Avination will also become the first grid with Second Life-quality physics.

With a commercial-grade physics engine, Avination will improve its competitive position in the increasily crowded field of commercial OpenSim grids.

Avination grid welcome area.

Today, with 903 regions, Avination is only slightly behind InWorldz, which currently has 911 regions. Both are closed, commercial grids focusing on providing secure platforms for merchants to sell virtual goods and on creating supportive and helpful communities for residents.

InWorldz sets itself apart technically with a custom-built scripting engine, Phlox, but some residents have complained about its physics. Physics is of particular interest to role playing communities, where better physics leads directly to more realistic vehicles and weapons.

Avination also has a custom-built scripting engine — XMREngine — which went live over a year ago. “It has been active at the time of Avination’s inception,” said Thielker. “It is the basis for the rich array of scripted products Avination has to offer.”

According to Thielker, XMREngine  is a fully microthreaded script engine with portable states, like Second Life’s Mono engine.

“Unlike the engine used in OpenSim, you can teleport or log out and your scripts will keep all information,” she said.

The engine is also 98 percent compatible with Second Life scripting, she added.

“Scripts don’t need to be written any different from Second Life,” she said. “Some major script sets have been ported to Avination with few or no changes.”

A third commercial competitor, SpotON3D, currently has a little over 200 regions but just released a plugin that allows access via a Website — and, in September, will have Facebook integration. SpotON3D’s viewer may prove to be a significant step forward in attracting new users to OpenSim, and may give that grid a significant marketing edge. It also leapfrogs ahead of Second Life’s attempts to offer access via the Web.

The heated competition between the various commercial OpenSim grid operators promises to give users more choices and better technology — all at competitive prices.

Havoc isn’t just for commercial use, however. The company allows free use of the physics engine for anyone who doesn’t charge for the games built on the platform. There are no non-profit OpenSim grids yet that use Havok.

“Post your game on the web, share it with friends, link it to your on-line resume,” the company says. “There’s no charge because the license fee has been covered by Intel under a commercial agreement with Havok.”

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

28 Responses

  1. ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi Maria,

    Kitely, which already has Facebook integration, holds (as of right now) 985 worlds. Most Kitely worlds are 1 region in size but some, like http://www.kitely.com/virtualworld/Maria-Korolov/… are 4 region in size.

    This means that we currently host more than 985 regions and, based to the statistics you've mentioned in this article, Kitely now has more regions than the 903 regions Avination has and the 911 regions that InWorldz have.

  2. JoeB says:

    You can Have 10,000 regions if isn't stable it isn't worth anything.

    • ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

      We are using the latest official OpenSim release + the fixes we created and contributed back to OpenSim. As most of these fixes are not yet deployed on other OpenSim grids running the latest official release, Kitely is more stable than most grids tracked by Maria.

  3. Yoshiko — Technically, Kitely is a single grid with 900+ regions. They call them "worlds" but they're just regions on a single grid. They're working out the kinks now to enable in-grid teleports, and at that point it will be completely indistinguishable from a regular grid. They say they will be offering private-label hosting, and that will be interesting, but right now they just do regions.

    Neb — They might not be up 24/7 but they're accessible 24/7. From a user perspective, I don't see the big benefit of a region that's up 24/7 if you're not using it for all that time — but are still paying for the servers and the electricity to keep it active. Meanwhile, the technology they're using, of shuffling regions off into storage when they're not being used, is something I expect a lot of grids rolling out now that Kitely has shown it can be done (especially if they get the teleport thing settled). Grids can run central plaza and shopping and club regions 24/7, and run less visited residential regions on demand — this will allow them to dramatically lower prices, or even offer home plots for free to residents.

  4. IIan,

    I think it only fair to ask, since you're trying to insert yourself as the largest here which is fine with me but:

    How many of those sims are actively used and how many are just sitting abandoned as oar files because you're not currently billing anyone? If I counted all of our past sims that are no longer with us we'd be much much higher. I really dont like to think you're intentionally creating a misrepresentation, but it seems an easy one to make.

    So lets at least be fair here.

    • ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

      Hi Tranquillity,

      I just stated the facts as they were this morning.

      Like most grids, including Second Life, some regions see a lot of use, most see some use during the month and some are hardly visited if at all. People can, and have, exported and deleted Kitely worlds they no longer use and we don’t count those in our statistics. When I said there were 985 worlds on Kitely 9 hours ago, there were exactly that number of worlds stored in people’s accounts. As I stated previously, most of those worlds are 1 region in size while a few are 4 region in size (we don’t officially support megaregions yet so you are bound to just 1 region but by moving the camera and looking at the sim statistics you can see that 4 regions with all their assets and scripts are working properly).

      While, it would seem, we currently have more regions hosted in Kitely than Avination and InWorldz, we are still far behind on the registered and active user count. I’m in no way claiming that Kitely is currently the largest commercial OpenSim grid, I’m just stating that we host the most currently available regions.

      I hope that cleared that up.

    • harrietinglewood@gmail.com' Harriet Inglewood says:

      I think it is only fair to ask, since you questioned Kitely’s region counting, that we question yours:

      1) Why is it that your region count, which was hovering around 890 for weeks, suddenly swelled by 80 or so to 975 – just in time for the July Hypergrid Business OpenSim Grid Survey?

      2) You made mention of abandoned regions, you currently have lots of them on your grid now. They are easy to find. Just check the map, find ones with no owner listed. TP to that region and check the owner of the land and prim count. Quite frequently you will see that they are owned by a founder without a prim on them and they are not listed for sale. Why is that? Are these included in your region count?

      3) What about the I’z Straits and Ocean sims? They are currently unusable, merely useless voids at present. Are these included in the your region count?

      So, in your words, lets be fair here.

      • Harriet — Avination, InWorldz, SpotON3D and other commercial grids don't have to release any numbers at all, since they're privately held companies. I'm grateful that Avination publishes both region counts and active user counts. InWorldz does not currently publish its active 30-day user numbers, and SpotON3D hasn't released any data at all for a few months.

        And, like you demonstrated, it's easy to check region counts. For example, it's easy to see that many of ScienceSim's regions are used for testing — there isn't much activity on them at all.

        But most grids have some natural fluctuation in regions. It takes time to spin up servers and load up regions (at least, for traditional deployments of OpenSim) and then get building and everything else organized, and you're bound to have some regions up and running that aren't being used yet.

        Similarly, you're going to have some abandoned regions, and some regions set aside for public works projects that haven't started yet.

        Second Life has this as well, as do most other commercial grids. If the region counts on Avination suddently tripled overnight with no explanation, then I'd be concerned.

        Finally, if Avination is trying to game our grid counts, they're doing a bad job — our monthly report comes out on the 15th, and Avination lost regions in July compared to the previous month:

        Keeping empty regions up and running (again, in traditional deployments of OpenSim) costs money. Not much point in doing it just to get a sentence worth of mention in one article. You're better off taking the money and using it to buy advertising, or to run promotional give-aways, or organize events — or anything else, really, that builds community and business for the long term.

      • Hi Harriet.

        Any land owned by InWorldz founders are mainland regions that are not yet sold. People prefer private islands. Those regions are not "abandoned", they're part of mainland and never go offline. They're not listed for sale in world because of the way our purchasing works, you can however buy them off the website.

        Im not really too concerned about gaming anything. I have a real life career and reputation to look after which is far more important than a "region count".

        I dont pay attention to when HG business releases its region numbers, i'll usually end up on the site a few days after the posts during my free time. If you've seen our previous announcement about a joint venture, i can tell you that was related to the change in count. About a week before the HG business poll came out we were load testing a new large capacity server. We connected it to the main grid to ensure avatar teleport and object crossing was working properly between the old setup and the new one . If asked, we would've given out these details freely. These servers will be used to replace our current infrastructure once they've proven that they can handle the appropriate loads.

        Iz oceans and straits serve the same purpose as SL oceans and waterways. Yes we have these. Yes they go on our region count because every active region goes into the same table so that inbound connections work. No I'm not trying to hide that. You can in fact cross them, and they are active regions. If they are down that is not intentional and should be reported. No I won't remove them, our residents like to be able to fly across the straits to other mainland areas.

        I honestly wouldn't even mind if Maria wanted to remove us from the survey. If it causes people to suspect us of fraud any time testing happens (which will actually happen quite a lot over the next few months) then I'd rather keep our good name out there than have reports of "suspicious" activity everywhere. We've worked really hard to pull away from the general distrust that seems to surround any non LL grid.

        InWorldz will survive or fail on its own merits. Not smokescreens.

        • Harriet, Tranquility — Sorry, I thought you were talking about Avination! But everything I said still applies — I'm grateful that InWorldz releases its monthly region counts, and its logged in user numbers. I think the latter is a great indicator of activity on a grid. As are 30-day active users — I'd love to see those numbers from InWorldz as well.

          Every grid will have empty regions due to expansion, contraction, public works projects and open waterways. All of these regions cost the grids money — it really makes very little business sense to put up fake regions just to pad the counts.

          Our rankings are intended to give people a quick way to tell, in general, which grids are active and popular in any particular month. That's why we track not just region counts but active users, and growth in registered users.

  5. Tranquility — I agree that regions isn't the best possible metric, but it works well when combined with active monthly users (or as well as anything, right now). By the way, any chance InWorldz will start releasing active monthly user numbers?

    Of course, both of those metrics are constantly upset by ScienceSim — right now, they've got 1,815 total regions and 814 users online right this second. I'm sure most of those 814 are bots being used for a scalability test — as are most of the regions. They're trying to see how far they can push OpenSim, which I'm happy about, but it throws all my statistics off!

    Eventually, I believe we'll be ranking grids like Google ranks websites — by inbound hyperlinks. And folks will be setting up hypergate farm grids to try to game the system…. if it's not one thing, it's another… 🙂

  6. Hi Maria,

    I agree with you. Because of the differences in the way services work the more stats the better in judging viability and performance of grids.

    Some stats on our end were actually removed and others we had to cache for 10 minutes because (and this is kind of a funny story) our users have scripts running in world that poll those pages to make InWorldz online indicators where they can have the number of people logged in and registered showing on their region. One day our website ground to a halt and it looked like it was being DDOSed. It turns out that there were so many of these online indicators running they were hitting the login page around 80 times per second. So that page had to be greatly optimized.

    I would love to provide a more detailed XML data feed to those interested I just need to get some spare cycles which can be hard to come by, but I've heard other's ask for it so I'll try my best.

  7. Tranquility — That would be fantastic — I hope other grids follow suit! Remember: add active 30-day users to the stats!

  8. usvemo@ymail.com' usvemo says:

    I think this was a really interesting article… thank you for that! I wish you could dig a bit further into the different physics implementations. Somebody told me (in Lbza plaza ;o) the other day that Avination currently are using physics originally developed for Meta7, is that right and in what are the bad and good in that?

    Are you saying it would be possible for OSGrid for example to use Havoc as OSGrid is not commercial?

    If I understand correctly InWorldz are planning to implement Nvidia physx on the server side. Does that mean they have to license it at a fee (like Havoc for them) and what would the benefits be of choosing that implementation?

  9. lady.sakai@gmail.com' ladysakai says:

    As I see it since your regions are not up 24/7 its hard to create a community. In InWorlds, Second Life, 3rd Rock etc they have the regions up 24/7 making exploring, sharing much easier.
    Basicly your using the region count as Second Life uses their registrered users. It really dont say a whole lot. Currently there is 10 milion+ registrered users in Second Life but only 35-40K (approx) active on a given day So that leaves 9.5-9.6 million users that I never get to interact with. Ok if we are fair and say half of that are bots and alts then we are down to 5 milion but that still leaves 4.5-4.6 million I never get a chance to interact with. (I like round numbers 🙂 ) While your company might be good some people wanting to have a hosting that they can use when they have the need for a region (meetings, conferences etc) its not a grid in a traditional sense.
    Its really more that someone comes and removes the forrest when there is noe one in it 🙂

  10. ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi ladysakai,

    All Kitely worlds are available 24/7 they are just not using a sim when they don't need to. InWorlds, Second Life, 3rd Rock etc. don't offer a higher level of availability they just waste computer resources running regions when no one is visiting them. Let me repeat what I just said, the community doesn't get any benefit from having sims being allocated to regions when no one is using them. When someone wants to enter a region in Kitely that region gets its own sim automatically. If Second Life started doing this tomorrow you wouldn't know the difference as a user.

    Other grids' regions are no more real than Kitely regions, they are both exactly the same and deserve to be counted as such. To use your forest analogy, if every time you, or anyone else, goes to the forest it is there waiting for you what does it matter if it disappears when you are not there? How would you even know the difference?

    • Iian,

      That might be true for your users but for ours without regions running 24/7 a ton of services fail. In world item delivery systems fail so online market places would stop working, in world external groups systems fail, any scripts utilizing HTTP-in fail, scripts performing simulations (such as artificial growth of foliage and environment scripts) wont work…

      For a social world such as ours the list goes on and on. We're not wasting anything.

      • ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

        Hi Tranquillity,

        I agree that with the way you currently have your system set up and the types of scripts your users are using, shutting down your sims when they are empty will cause many problems. Far be it from me to try to convince you otherwise.

        That said, the way our system is set up, we will have a delivery system for online markets in the not too distant future (I believe Maria mentioned it somewhere on her site already). Most of the other user visible functionality that you mentioned can be created in Kitely as well, just differently.

        I like you guys, I really do. You are talented developers and you care about your customers. The only thing that saddens me is that you don't give back to the OpenSim upstream. We would all be much further along if we all gave some of our OpenSim-specific improvements back (I'm not saying you can't keep some things to yourself). There wouldn't be so much time wasted on people reimplementing things that other people using the same virtual world architecture have already implemented.

        Just my $0.02… 🙂

  11. jeffspanger1990@gmail.com' Jeff Spanger says:

    Good for Melanie. First quality voice features and now a possible physics engine that people can benefit from.
    Good stuff!

  12. netinterprizes@yahoo.com' alexsandro says:

    Well I to ask. What about creation? New items, quality scripted items, motivation , incentive? Is that happening in Kitely?
    What is the currency used? Does Kitely offer these opportunities to its residents? For example can they make money or create a business? How does a world with no currency (meaning no incentive, no motivation to create anything) will survive and actually be useful? Only for studies and virtual schools?
    As far as I see Kitely is nothing but a bunch of off and on islands that do not offer any growth opportunity for its community and no monetary incentives. Kitely residents can only SPEND but cant make any money.
    This is my opinion.

  13. ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi alexsandro,

    I respect your opinion but I think you missed a few things that might change your view about the financial opportunities Kitely provides.

    You may have noticed the various online stores for freebies and premium assets popping up during the past few months. Maria has written several articles about them, e.g.: http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2011/06/where-to

    People can and do transact using PayPal and credit cards like they do on millions of sites on the internet, an inworld currency is not a requirement for commerce… For example, http://www.kitely.com/virtualworld/Sunny-Whitfiel… sell to Kitely users. The purchase experience will be improved in the future when our API will provide a way to automatically transfer assets to people’s inventories.

    People also use Kitely worlds to provide services for which they can charge money using the same billing tools used on regular Internet websites. For example, http://www.kitely.com/virtualworld/James-OReilly/

    When we start providing billing, world managers will gain the option of choosing to have visitors to their worlds cover their own usage costs. This means that people wishing to provide services inworld in their own regions running on dedicated sims will be able to do so for very little money ($0.20 / hour for just when they are inworld) thus increasing their profit margins because there won’t be big hosting / land maintenance costs to cover.

    In a nutshell, with Kitely people have the same incentive as they get anywhere else and much lower costs for having their own regions accessible to them / their customers 24/7.

  14. dcolivares@gmail.com' Dan says:

    Just a FYI. In order for you to qualify for the free use non-profit Havok license, your program must be classified as a game and be used that way.

  15. netinterprizes@yahoo.com' alexsandro says:

    Hi Ilan… I did also have paypal and Virwox currency on my grid in the beginning and the reaction I had from people was very negative. Iam just relaying what I experienced.
    A grid needs to have its own identity. Meaning a Virtual Currency. With that in place the grid will offer numerous ways for people to make money which is the basics of economics in a virtual world.
    Life for example. People can trust your grid more, respect it more also. People being able to increase credits, process credits, sell or buy the virtual currency. That is very much needed if the grid wants development to come to it. Otherwise like I said before. It doesnt matter how you login or where…. If theres no incentive for development it will only be islands floating on the ocean. Sand Boxes…Another thing is how you are going to look for in a map World Map for the grid and find the sims? If they are off..? A grid needs consistancy and that means the islands being there 24/7. OSGRID has the same problem. Very little development.
    We need development inworld also!

  16. ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi alexsandro,

    I'll answer your first question first. We are going to add a list of public worlds that will also include the number of people who are currently visiting them. This will make finding other people who are inworld (in non-private worlds) extremely easy. Worlds don't need to be running on a sim for this to work. Once a user clicks to enter a world from the list the world will get a sim and start automatically. A world map is really not a requirement for creating an inworld community.

    The problem with sims in osgrid is that when they are offline they are unavailable. Kitely doesn't have this problem as worlds are always available regardless of whether they are using a sim at the time or not. In Kitely if someone enters a world it gets a sim automatically so all Kitely worlds are available 24/7.

    Regarding an inworld economy requiring a virtual currency, that is debatable but if we find you are right we can always add one or use Kitely Credits as that currency. In any case, we intend to add tools that will make it easy for people to use regular websites for commerce. Time will tell if that is good enough or even preferable for people who wish to sell and buy virtual goods.