Grid review: Next Reality

We write a lot about business models in Hypergrid Business. You’ve got the big commercial grids, offering a lower-cost and more personal alternative to Second Life. The non-profits, which allow anyone to connect regions and live on donations from users, founders, and hosting companies. The school and company grids that exist to provide a useful service to their respective organizations. And personal sandboxes, mini-grids set up by individuals for their own pleasure, and sometimes used as jumping-off points to explore the universe.

But we’re starting to see the emergence of a new kind of grid, a grid with a public-facing purpose, but with little or no business model.

On the web, there are many such websites. More than a simple personal blog or a site set up by a company or a non-profit, but without any particular plans to become a big commercial success. These are the community websites. The forums and discussion boards that take advantage of the low cost of the Internet to bring people together. Some eventually grow up into full-fledged commercial enterprises, or organize themselves as non-profits. But whether they do, or don’t, they provide a critical function to the growth of the Web — a giant, crowd-sourced research and development function that identifies and brings together otherwise under-served groups of users. They can afford to take risks, to innovate, to experiment.

We are now seeing the emergence of these community grids on the hypergrid. The newest — and largest by both land area and active users — is Next Reality,

Welcome Island on Next Reality grid. Hypergrid address infinity8.org:8002:Welcome Island. (Image courtesy Merrie Schoenbach.)

Welcome Island on Next Reality grid. To visit, paste hypergrid address infinity8.org:8002:Welcome Island into the Map Search field on any hypergrid-enabled grid. (Image courtesy Merrie Schoenbach.)

The grid was the brainchild of two friends who brought their pet virtual world projects together in one place.

“Next Reality is a hobby for both me and Andres [Mueller] and I suppose it’s about our passion for OpenSim – when it works right!” said grid co-founder Mike Hart.

Hart met Andres Mueller — who is known as Andreas Mueller in-world — on Metropolis grid and they became friends through their interest in each other’s projects. Mueller had his Future City on Metropolis and Hart had his Pro Racer Circuit on a personal grid. They teamed up to create a new project called Water Islands and began talking about bringing all their projects onto one grid, their own.

That became Next Reality.

“I wanted to have more control over what was going on,” Hart said, “not having to rely on someone else to go and set up, load OARs, IARs or changes that have to be requested by email.”

With over 175 regions, Next Reality is not your average personal grid. Hart and Mueller want to share it with people who will have fun playing with their creations.

“We did not want a grid that was going to rent land or regions,” Hart said. “So we decided on a community grid where anyone in OpenSim could either login as a member of Next Reality or hypergrid in and take advantage of all the activities on offer and have some fun.”

Whale watching on Next Reality grid. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

Whale watching on Next Reality grid. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

Hart got his start in virtual worlds about ten years ago in Second Life. He first worked as a host at a popular club and later designed clothing. But motorsport is his lifelong passion. He designed and developed The Pro Racer Circuit in Second Life on a single region, owned by a friend. It became very popular for racing events and vehicle exhibitions and sales but when the friend left Second Life, it closed. Not long after OpenSim was born, Hart brought Pro Racer to OpenSim as a four-region sim and continued to work on it and related projects for the past several years. It has become arguably the most popular and best-known race circuit in OpenSim.

So, of course, it is one of several attractions on Next Reality.

“Pro Racer Motorsports is now a 12-sim megaregion. A dedicated motor racing circuit where hopefully we will be holding racing events,” said Hart. “Pro Racer also features a small airport, hotel, restaurant, shops and car dealerships. My favorite part is the pits as this is the first piece that was built when we were starting off Pro Racer.”

Hypergrid teleport directly to Pro Racer Motorsports at infinity8.org:8002:Pro Racer Mega.

Another attraction is Alexander City. “It’s a spin off of Pro Racer, this time set out on a 24-sim megaregion,” said Hart, “It’s basically set up as a street racing circuit. Lots of features including the main center and grandstand, car dealerships, skateboards, a larger airport, exhibition center, ruins, shops, a Formula 1 Center, a 50’s Diner and a vast array of cars.”

Hypergrid teleport directly to Alexander City at infinity8.org:8002:Alexander City 1.

The Alexander City area on Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

The Alexander City area on Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

Visitors can test-drive some of the cars. I took a spin around the Alexander City course in a Mercedes-Benz SL 500, a nice shiny purple car. As I left the starting area and rounded the first turn, I was in for a surprise — a big sign over the track advertising Hypergrid Business.

I had a big laugh. For me? Hardly. “That sign’s been there for eons,” Hart told me later.

If you’ve never had the chance to drive a well-scripted vehicle on a multi-sim course without border crossings in Mega-region mode, l highly recommend trying it at Next Reality. If you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s not really my thing,” think again. Your humble correspondent doesn’t have any particular knowledge about cars but I had a great time in that Mercedes. Once you get out there with that much open road in front of you, well it’s way more fun then driving to work or the supermarket in real life.

I also had a blast from the past, driving a ’57 Chevy yellow convertible around the track. Sweet!

Test driving a convertible on Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

Test driving a convertible on Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

If it scares you a bit, take heart…or Hart. Mike Hart.

“I am always available to show visitors how to handle these cars as they can take a bit of practice to get it right. Most people will jump in a car, hit top gear and fly off, landing in the big open wide bowl of water never to be seen again and sometimes blowing the region out of the Metaverse.”

Well, okay, Hart probably scared you further right there but really, he will help you- – if you need it. I didn’t have any trouble on my own. Just look for the Test Drive sign near your landing point.

But auto racing is only part of the Next Reality story.

“Future City was originally set up and built by Andres and is running on about 13 regions offering skyscraper buildings, shops, a harbour, night clubs and other attractions including a mini zoo,” Hart said, “with plenty of spare shops available to rent out free.”

Hypergrid teleport directly to Future City at infinity8.org:8002:futurecity.

Entrance to Future City on Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

Entrance to Future City on Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

A few new women’s fashion shops were open and there were familiar things like Linda Kellie’s flower shop. The stores are generally on the ground floor of the tall buildings in the extensive downtown area. Next Reality is not looking to rent out residential space but there are a few apartments in the upper stories of some of the buildings, so interested parties might inquire anyway.

Future City includes the smaller places of a city as well, such as parks and an outdoor market. The trains are not running yet but subway and street car lines have been built. Away from downtown, there is also a grittier neighborhood, Hafen, and I saw another neighborhood build in progress.

It all has the look of a major modern city, a busy financial and cultural center. It’s the kind of place that makes one wonder if virtual worlds could ever grow to the point where this could be a regional capital of sorts on the hypergrid. It certainly appears Future City could handle such a role. And what a great place to roleplay.

The largest attraction on Next Reality, in terms of area, is the 100-sim megaregion known as Water Islands, featuring virtually every recreational activity you can think of which requires open water. Swimming, boating, jet skiing, hang gliding, scuba diving to underwater caves, sunken ships and other below the surface surprises. There’s also a large airport you can fly planes from, a dance club, the Arabian Shopping Center, a hotel and an active volcano.

Hypergrid teleport directly to Water Islands at infinity8.org:8002:water islands.

The airport on the Water Islands area of Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

The airport on the Water Islands area of Next Reality. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

But the volcano may not be the hottest place on Next Reality grid. Competition would come from the Red Light Hotel & Club – an adult region. You can go night clubbing with scantily-clad male and female dancers and hosts or enjoy the Spa & Health Center or Massage Center. The hotel has six private suites, a free-to-use photography studio and other accommodations. You can shop for sexy clothing and there’s also a book shop which will soon feature erotica from top authors in OpenSim. Hart said his favorite part of Red Light is relaxing in the spa.

Hypergrid teleport directly to the Red Light Hotel region at infinity8.org:8002:redlight hotel.

The Red Light Hotel on the Next Reality grid. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

The Red Light Hotel on the Next Reality grid. (Image courtesy Danko Whitfield.)

Next Reality will be adding new attractions and services such as the Pro Racer Driving School and a huge SuperCars Exhibition Center which, Hart said, “will eventually house about 100 of the best mesh cars that OpenSim will see. From Ferrari, Mercedes, Ford, Lotus, Audi, Top Sports Cars, BMW drag cars and some unusual builds. Also some of the cars that are prim-based — which is how we started a long time ago, including the first car I built in Second Life.”

Other places to visit that I did not get to include: Chinese Island, Island Oasis and the new Tomb Raider Island.

Next Reality is a non-commercial grid so there is no income from it. On the other hand, as Hart  and Mueller  built and maintain the grid themselves, it’s not expensive to run. Of course, as with any hobby, there is some financial cost.

“It’s mainly paying for the electricity to run the servers,” Hart  said. They are not adverse to a little help. “If anyone would like to donate to The Next Reality Grid which would ease the bills every month. It would be very much appreciated.”

The grid is run on servers in Germany, owned by Mueller. Next Reality operates on OpenSim 0.7.6 and is hypergrid-enabled.

Hart said setting up the grid with Mueller and creating the attractions has been a lot of fun but it’s also been fun to meet the OpenSim users who visit Next Reality and those who have helped with ideas and suggestions via social media.

He hopes to see more people joining the community grid as members or as regular visitors by hypergrid to enjoy the fruits of the hard work he and Mueller  put into it.

My observation in watching Next Reality from the first it was announced, is that Hart and Mueller really wanted to make their grid hassle-free for members and visitors. I asked Hart if there was one thing in particular he was adamant about getting right as opposed to how other grids have handled the same matter.

The answer was scripts.

“Getting the scripting done right and working properly for the cars, boats and planes – that has been my one most pain in the rear task I have had to do,” Hart said. “It actually has taken years to get it right…and not without the help of some of my colleagues in OpenSim.”

Hart is in virtual worlds for the same reason many people are. “I suppose in a way OpenSim and Second Life is an escapism or another way of expressing your personal creativity.” He’s enjoying expressing himself on Next Reality and he hopes it has a long future because he has more he wants to do with the grid.

“I would hope that we would be in for the long haul, but who knows what can happen. The future is unpredictable as we all know. But while our servers in Germany are churning away everyday, Next Reality will be here. Not only that, I have my own server at home here in the U.K. running regions connected to Next Reality for the purpose of creating new regions and ideas.”

You can teleport to the Next Reality grid’s Welcome Island from any other hypergrid-enabled grid by pasting infinity8.org:8002:Welcome Island into the Map Search field. Or you can create a new account on the grid here. If you need to add the grid to your viewer’s grid selector, the loginURI is infinity8.org:8002. For additional information, check out the grid’s community page on Google Plus.

George Miner

George Miner - known as Danko Whitfield inworld - is a retired journalist who has covered everything from politics to sports. He now writes several blogs about virtual worlds. He is also a consultant to virtual world business, organizations, estate and grid owners in the areas of community, marketing and media.

  • nextreality

    Superb write up about our little piece of the Metaverse.
    thank you very much.