10 reasons I would leave OpenSim

In a recent discussion, a reader suggested that High Fidelity might become a worthwhile replacement for OpenSim.

Philip Rosedale giving a recent presentation about High Fidelity. Click on image for full video.

Philip Rosedale giving a recent presentation about High Fidelity. Click on image for full video.

The same had been said before, about Blue Mars, and about Cloud Party — both of which are now gone.

But it made me think. What features would a platform have to have in order to make me consider switching away from OpenSim?

Now, I’m not a typical OpenSim user. I run a hyperport, so hypergrid connectivity is more important for me than most people. I also use OpenSim for meetings with other entrepreneurs and with my company partners and employees, as well as a little bit for creative building.

According to a poll I did a year ago about how people use OpenSim, the majority of people used it for creative self-expression, followed by socializing, creating products for sale, role-playing, training and simulations, virtual meetings, and, finally, professional networking.

So the following list, while primarily reflecting my own needs, will also include some of these other aspects of OpenSim.

A platform doesn’t have to have all ten features in order for me to make a switch, but the more of these it has, the more likely I am to consider it.

1. In-world content creation

I like buying a nice mesh jacket or skirt now and then — who doesn’t? But I’m not about to become a 3D modeler. I love having relatively easy-to-use in-world tools that allow me to create my own virtual environment.

If I need a special shape, I can always buy a sculptie or mesh or download one from Linda Kellie.

In-world building tools are also great for schools, who can have students use them to learn geometry and 3D design and teamwork.

So easy in-world building tools are an absolute must.

More than that, to get me to switch, these in-world building tools should be easier to use than what we currently have, and compatible with immersive headsets like the Oculus Rift.

I made these boxes with my own avatar hands.

I made these boxes with my own avatar hands.

2. Customizable avatars

One of the reason I hate visiting closed grids is that I have to create a brand-new avatar each time. And, until I upload my own custom skins, hair, and shape, the avatar just doesn’t look like me.

I feel like an impostor.

The more I can tailor my avatar to look the way I want it to look, the more closely I identify with that avatar, and the more immersed I feel in the environment.

Platforms that force me to choose from a limited collection of looks just don’t do it for me.

To get me to switch, avatars should reflect who I am better than what we’ve got now. Some ways it could be improved include facial expressions and hand gestures that reflect my actual ones.

My hair might change from world to world, but the face is the same.

The hardest part of having avatars on multiple grids? Getting the hair.

3. Low prices

My company doesn’t exactly have big budgets to throw around for virtual worlds. I don’t mind paying a little more for a virtual meeting space than I do for a Website, but not much more.

For personal building, I expect prices to be even lower.

Low prices have another benefit, as well. They allow schools and non-profits and artists and roleplaying groups and individual builders to create new destinations.

That increases the value of the platform for everybody.

4. Multiple vendor support

I’m always wary of a platform that you can only get from one vendor. If that vendor goes, so does the whole shebang.

Plus, if you have a problem with the vendor, you can’t just switch everything over to their competitor.

For example, I host my website with Dreamhost. They’re pretty good, but sometimes they have their issues. If their problems ever get bad enough, I know that I can download my entire website and upload it again with another hosting company. I wouldn’t even have to change my domain name.

More than 30 different companies offer OpenSim  hosting.

More than 30 different companies offer OpenSim hosting.

It’s not that I’m opposed, on principle, to using closed platforms. I have a page on Facebook, I use Twitter, I have an avatar on Second Life.

But I’m extremely reluctant to make a big investment in a closed platform. Take, for example, Facebook. If the platform goes the way of MySpace, I lose all my posts, my photos, and all the social connections that had built up over time.

5. Open source software

There are many benefits to open source software. The main one is the ability to customize the software to meet your own needs. Open source licenses also frequently result in lower prices for the software, as well as multi-vendor support.

The two are not necessarily linked, of course.

There are many open source projects that don’t have multi-vendor support. Even in the virtual environment arena, Open Wonderland, Open Qwaq, and Vastpark have little vendor support outside their core backers.

Meanwhile, some proprietary projects do have multi-vendor support. Take, for example, Word documents. You can edit them with Microsoft Word, or with OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Even Google Docs will allow users to save documents in Word format.

6. Content marketplace

Most virtual environment platform allow the import of mesh content.

But uploading a mesh object is just the beginning of having usable content. Objects need to be optimized for a particular environment, properly rigged and textured, and, of course, scripted. That can involve a lot of manual work, or expensive custom development.

A content marketplace that makes it easy to buy content for a virtual environment can dramatically reduce the time and cost it takes to create a build.

OpenSim and Second Life offer a wealth of both on-line and in-world shopping venues.

OpenSim and Second Life offer a wealth of both on-line and in-world shopping venues.

7. Hypergrid connectivity

This one is pretty important to me. Without hypergrid connectivity, or some equivalent, then my office has to be located in the same world as everyone else’s. Either that, or I’ll be alone in my own little private build.

I very much enjoy the freedom and control from having my own virtual world. And I also enjoy the ability to visit stores and event venues on other grids, and to have friends come visit me from other worlds.

If another platform had hypergrid connectivity, on top of the other features in this list, I would consider switching.

My first attempt at building a hypergate, back at 2009, to take me from one OpenSim world to another.

My first attempt at building a hypergate, back at 2009, to take me from one OpenSim world to another.

8. Browser-based viewer

Cloud Party proved that we could have a virtual world built on top of HTML 5 that runs in a browser, no download required.

It means that sending someone to a virtual space is as simple as having them click on a URL.

The fewer obstacles there are to getting in-world, the easier it is for everyone to use.

Rest in peace, Cloud Party, which  ran in a browser.

Rest in peace, Cloud Party, which ran in a browser.

9. Easier user interface

Right now, interacting with objects in Second Life and OpenSim isn’t the easiest thing ever. Moving a cameras around is tricky. All the menus and settings are super complicated.

I’ve been using the platform almost daily for five years, and I’m still getting lost in the menus.

10. A big marketing budget

I remember the days of AOL, where you couldn’t leave a store, get your mail, or open a box of cereal without getting an AOL disk.

Linden Lab, by comparison, seemed to rely completely on media hype for its marketing, and media hype is a two-edged sword. It focuses on sex and violence, and moves on quickly to the next big thing because it’s always in search of something new.

(Image courtesy dehub via Flickr.)

(Image courtesy dehub via Flickr.)

AOL spent over $300 million on sending out all those disks and CDs, at a time when getting online was difficult, expensive, and required special equipment. Imagine what that kind of marketing budget could do for a virtual world platform.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

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.

  • “Meanwhile, some proprietary projects do have multi-vendor support. Take, for example, Word documents. You can edit them with Microsoft Word, or with OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Even Google Docs will allow users to save documents in Word format.”

    I would not bet on even those being supported some fine day in the future. For example, I had some older versions of this and neglected to upgrade in a timely enough manner [though all of those files were really unimportant anyways…thought I would love to read an old diary I kept on one, again…lol]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPerfect

    I am not even sure that at one point I could even upgrade the format to be useable elsewhere, and in any case, the floppy disks I had them on lost all their data, eventually, also….lol

    • The format problem cuts across the opensource/proprietary issue. Formats evolve. However, try Googling it — there might still be a converter around, if your old format was popular enough, or someone might still have a copy of the old version of the software lying around.

      • I have. I think it was a early dos version, but ty. Besides, the files are gone anyway, de-magnetized so I ditched the disks…don’t have that kind of drive anymore anyway, the old 5 1/4 ones…hmm, it may have been on 8″ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floppy_disk …to dam long ago to figure out the timing there….lol

        I guess my point was that formats change, and sometimes enough to make them unusable if one does not keep up with upgrading them.

  • lmpierce

    Additionally, I’d think some of these would be weighted more than others. Hypergrid connectivity, or some equivalent, might be a go/no-go aspect, while easier in-world building tools might be nice, but not a deal-breaker.

  • Browser-based without a viewer and the ability to allow non-account people to view your work – no sign up required (but should be a switch that on and off or by group).

    • Alex Zed

      Hey Ener, is very necessary move everything on the >web< browser? 😉 Another point of view: a click on an ancor of a webside rise my viewer and it teleport my avi there. 🙂

    • Carlos Loff

      HF neves promised that and is not doing that – Browser Based Viewer

  • LordNine

    What? Still no love for RealXtend’s Tundra platform ? Have you tried Meshmoon yet ?

  • Carlos Loff

    It has been a while and HF does not deliver half of what isn promised, all the features stated also are in OS and Who the hell said HF will be a browser based viewer ? He is using the as a reason to lave Opensim – Where is the Browser page to enter and use HF ?