InWorldz vs Second Life
Before I lurch into comparing Second Life to InWorldz, just a bit of background about my history in other virtual worlds. Naturally most of that experience – incredibly wonderful and incredibly sad – was gained in Second Life.
I’ve seen the best and worst of Second Life. After the events of 2008-09 that signalled its obvious culture change, I said to everyone who would listen that it can’t all end like this.
I left, as did all of my closest friends. I forayed into InWorldz and SpotOn3D, and then finally attempted to set up my own grid using the services of Sim Host.
The lack of time however, compounded by the latter’s obvious incompetence, made that unviable. So finally, in late 2011, I went back to SL. It wasn’t a case of customer satisfaction that led me back to Second Life. It was purely a lack of options.
The fast rise and tedious fall of Second Life
I find Second Life an ugly place now. It never used to be. Pre 2008, it was a wonderful dreamy canvas, where Linden Labs’ catchcry of a world created by residents was actually true. People came in droves to see what it was all about, while others saw an opportunity for artistic creation. That was certainly my inspiration. And I did create – Thousands and thousands of things. I never intended to become a land baron as well. That happened accidentally, and so the Irukandji Continent was born.
It was a raging success, but unknown to me, that success would lead to its downfall. Irukandji and Jillaroo Estates had 18 good months followed by 18 bad. A succession of amazingly incompetent bigshots at Linden Labs decimated the grid; not just my estates but everyone’s.
At some point – Phillip Linden, I believe from memory – apparently didn’t like the fact that the likes of Anshe Chung, myself, and a handful of others with close to a hundred regions each, were making money, so the powers-that-be at Linden Labs decided to have their cake and eat it too.
Their first step towards taking market share from ‘Land Barons’ was to devalue the price of regions from US$1675 to US$1000, to make sims more affordable to the masses. That much was fine to a point, but no compensation was given to those who had paid the higher fee. Hence, I lost US$45,000 overnight. The next stunt was to increase the cost of the monthly tier on water spaces by 67%. And that pretty much, was the end for most of us. And the end of the old Second Life.
Complaints fell on deaf ears. No apologies were given. In the words of one Linden Labs support helper, if you don’t like it, leave. That’s what my US$100,000 a year that I spent with Linden Labs got me. So I did leave. I have never felt so victimised in my life.
For Linden Labs though, the move was reportedly profitable. New region owners came, and without the knowledge of what SL once was, they have developed some large – if irrelevant - estates. That’s not their fault though. With LL’s current business model, it isn’t viable for a land baron to create the best possible user experience. Hence, the world map looks like a checkerboard. The grand estates with bays and seas that people once wandered about at their leisure, are gone.
To me, that was the one great thing about being a land baron – building a community of like minded people, with covenants to protect them, with facilities for everyone to enjoy.
Profits were a bonus if they came. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. As I said earlier, I wasn’t really there to be a land baron. I was there to build community, and in Second Life, with so many people disenchanted and its exorbitant price points, that isn’t achievable anymore.
A short time in SpotOn 3D
Look, as far as stand-alone grids go, SpotOn 3D is making a go of it. I’m not sure what market share they have or how big their population is, but it is a worthy venture. I bought twelve sims and gave myself three months to make a go of it. I didn’t. No one ever visited, and there was little real world promotion for the grid. For my purposes at least, SpotOn 3D doesn’t suit my needs.
A big problem I had with the grid though, was the viewer. The mindset at SpotOn 3D seems to be to integrate the 2D web with virtual reality, and I’m all for that, but the way that their viewer is set up, I honestly felt like I was bombarded with that goal. I did not feel like an avatar in a virtual world, but rather a guy sitting on a computer moving an avatar inside a web browser. When I use virtual worlds, I want escapism from the daily grind, not a reminder that I’m hiding from it.
In the Open Sim community, there is a lot of animosity towards SpotOn 3D regarding patents on certain bits of code. I’m not familiar with the key points of the problem so I won’t dissect it here.
The Sim Host experience
Was disastrous. I could write an entire blog on it. I won’t. Another guy has already done so and I echo his experience. I just want to put it all behind me.
InWorldz has come of age
On the search again, I decided just a few days ago to venture into InWorldz once more. When I first visited in 2011 – and my apologies to its creators – InWorldz was tragic. It felt like out-of-the-box OpenSim, which it probably was, and had nothing more to offer me than what I had already built myself. And the lag? by God, it was horrendous. I didn’t walk away from InWorldz - I ran!
So it was with very low expectations that two years later, I tried it out again. What prompted me to do so was an article I read on some website where the usual collection of I-want-everything-for-nothing whingers were complaining about InWorldz. Some were bitching that it wasn’t on the hypergrid, while other complained of its low population. Another writer, seemingly well informed and clearly an Open Sim guru, beefed about InWorldz forking away from Open Sim, and how they were stuffing around with perfecting the old V1 platform instead of embracing the advances of other virtual worlds. Footnote 4 August 2013: Since writing this post four months ago, InWorldz has progressed to V2 and I’m loving it
It was this last comment that interested me. The fact that InWorldz wasn’t following the herd into building more and more unstable platforms was comforting. And I liked V1. And I liked that they’re serious about hypergrid security. What others saw as negatives, I saw as positives. So I ventured over to InWorldz again.
Overall, I was impressed – very impressed. A few hours later, I ordered four sims.
The pros and cons of InWorldz
Sure, this is personal bias, but I like V1. Things were simple then and things rarely broke. According to those i’ve spoken to, the mindset at InWorldz seems to be to perfect V1 before adding features, as opposed to other grids that seem hell-bent on adding unnecessary features to unreliable foundations. And yes, that includes Second Life.
Mediocre things about InWorldz compared to Second Life
There are some things in InWorldz that don’t function as one would expect in SL.
- In Second Life you can attach multiple objects to the one attachment point. This is a relatively new feature and handy. In InWorldz, it is still one object per attachment point. *20 June 2013 – Multi attachment points now work beautifully with the InWorldz V2 Beta viewer.
- The traffic count doesn’t work, but I don’t think people believe traffic figures anyway;
- The world map is the old school less-pretty style;
- Clicking on ‘Buy Land’ does transfer the land but not the funds; *27 April 13: I stand corrected. It just doesn’t transfer the funds on-screen until you relog. The funds appear instantly in your transaction history and will be on-screen when you reopen your viewer.
- Covenants don’t work in the About Land boxes. Only the estate owner can read them. The workaround is to set up a landing point on the block you want to sell and have a notecard giver to issue the covenant; *28 Oct 2013 – Covenants now work exactly the same as SL.
- Low resident population but that can change and who really knows how many alts are in SL just to populate the sex venues? A long term friend of mine with a chain of adult venues has 145 alts in Second Life. I’m sure s/he isn’t the only one doing the same. As for InWorldz, the welcome area always looks busy and people are chatting away. It’s just a matter of steering those people out into the ‘burbs.
- Offline message notifications do work but they could be better. That is, you do get an email to say you’ve received a message but the email doesn’t contain the actual message like it does in Second Life. You have to go inworld to read it. It’s mildly annoying but I guess no worse than having to check the message bank on your phone; *In the past few days since I wrote this, the problem has either been fixed or it only applied to notifications other than IMs. I am getting IMs through to my email perfectly fine now. Good stuff.
- When you buy a new sim, it is added manually like it used to be in SL. Nowadays a new sim appears instantly in Second Life, whereas my InWorldz sims took 18 hours. It needs to be said though that an SL sim has a $1000 set up fee as opposed to $75 for InWorldz. It also needs to be said that when SL used the manual system, a new sim could take up to 14 days to appear;
- I haven’t explored physics engines yet but apparently there are big things happening. Maybe someone in the know can add a comment down the bottom of the page;
- The welcome process needs work – More on that later.
That’s about it as far as the below-par things go, and one has to bear in mind that all of these problems are inherent to all Open Sim platforms, of which InWorldz is one, even if it is a forked version. In the Open Sim communities, solutions don’t appear to be forthcoming, so maybe no one is working on them or they are keeping the info to themselves. Perhaps one day InWorldz will fix them. Given the Open Sim community’s seeming unwillingness to solve the problems or share the fixes, maybe forking was a wise way to go.
Things that are the same in InWorldz as they are in Second Life
- The stock viewer is very good and reliable. I recommend it over the Imprudence Viewer, which to me seems crash prone on any grid. I only use Imprudence to import stuff from Second Life. I’ve crashed twice in InWorldz using Imprudence, and not at all with the stock viewer. Editing big builds with Imprudence is a nightmare; 4 August 2013: My preferred viewer is now the InWorldz V2 Beta viewer. It is basically a Firestorm viewer, and users from Second Life will also enjoy its familiar functionality.
- InWorldz has its own web-based marketplace inBiz, just like SL, though it’s pretty average;
- Currency works fine. You can pay other avatars and buy goods in stores just like SL;
- Friend and group permissions work exactly the same;
- Estate Manager abilities work the same BUT you need to add the estate manager to each individual sim. The new estate manager also needs to relog for it to take, which sometimes happens in Second Life as well. Again an inherent OpenSim issue but not a biggie;
- Lag levels on InWorldz private regions is easily comparable to private regions in SL, and way less than on the supposedly top-shelf Bluesteel mainland regions. The sims that take forever to load in Inworldz – the Australia sim was awfully slow – was due to the huge amount of annoying scripts and way too many textures;
- InWorldz has attracted creators of the calibre of Luna Bliss and Craig Altman, and well … now me :) Without doubt, this is due in large part to InWorldz wish not to join an insecure hypergrid. Re content, I say this to every grid owner – You need top notch animation dudes on your grid to stand a chance of competing with Second Life. The presence of Craig Altman was the final deciding point for me to buy sims here; 5 May 2013 – I have since discovered some brilliant creators here who only produce for IW. And there are many, many good animators. I swear it’s easier to find good stuff – and help – than in SL.
- Terraform lag, which I found problematic on SpotOn3D and ridiculous on SimHost, is virtually non existent here; maybe a tenth of a second at the worst of times;
- Another problem on past Open Simulator grids was sim edge stitching, i.e. terraforming the edges of two sims to make them appear as one contiguous land mass. This is seamless in InWorldz;
- Ban lines work fine for group, individual avatar etc;
- Land deeding works the same as SL;
- Sculpties work the same;
- As of October 2013, InWorldz has LSL vehicle scripting – Refer my separate article Vehicles in InWorldz or watch the video on YouTube Vehicles in InWorldz – The Road Test.
Things where InWorldz kicks other virtual worlds
- Account setup is dead simple. You can be inworld in under a minute. Yes I timed it
- The InWorldz landing point is usually populated by a couple of mentors who readily greet you;
- In edit mode, hollow drops in 1% increments instead of 5% in Second Life. This is very useful when working on fiddly builds;
- Texture uploads and object imports are free;
- Support response time is virtually the same day. I put in a ticket and go to bed. When I wake, it’s fixed. Compared to SL which took 8 days for them to mark a 512 block of abandoned land for sale to me earlier this month, I’m impressed.
- Regions cost $75 compared to $1000 in Second Life;
- Regions have 45,000 prim capability compared to 15,000 in Second Life;
- Maximum prim size is 128×128 metres compared to 64×64 in SL. There are Open Sim based grids that allow much larger again, but really? 128×128 is a good max compromise of size versus lag, especially when the prim allowance is so high;
- Estate Owners are rewarded for bringing people to the grid with a discounted tier based on the number of sims they own, compared to getting nothing in Second Life even if your tier bill is a hundred grand a year;
- I can upload RAW files from the old Irukandji continent that I hosted on SL (2007-2010), and they appear perfectly true to the original. Even Second Life screws them up, where you have to spend an hour raising the land half a metre then smoothing every edge. I had to do the same fix ups on SpotOn3D and SimHost which is doubly weird. This wonderful ‘phenomenon’ of getting RAW uploads right seems to be unique to InWorldz;
- RAW files take about three minutes to take effect in InWorldz, which in Second Life can take up to 20 minutes or not appear at all. In SL, you also have to remain in the sim for the upload to work, which isn’t necessary in InWorldz. Here, you just set the upload then hop to the next sim and do the same while leaving the system to carry out your commands. Neato;
- InWorldz’ policy of not joining a hypergrid unless it can be absolutely secure shows their commitment to protect the IP rights of the artists that make the grid what it is. Second Life also has this policy however copy bots still run rampant;
- The website region management interface – Wow! I can change my region name and estate name at whim. It’s totally self-service and instant for the princely sum of $5 a region. In Second Life, that same process takes days and costs $50 a hit;
- Also on the website interface, I can reboot a sim while out of world if it fails to boot up properly. Assuming that I end up owning oodles of sims, this feature will be extremely handy on days when I only have website access;
- The asset servers aren’t clogged full of newbie’s free startup stuff or well … anything at all. You basically have empty folders and I like that. Startup inventories are a huge drain on resources in Second Life and I suspect that the InWorldz crew chose this route to ensure they did not replicate the problem. The absence of startup stuff also forces the newbie to interact with his/her environment and go check out the freebie shops adjacent to the Welcome landing spot. I like this practical introduction for newcomers;
- InWorldz don’t sell parcels of land like Second Life and SpotOn3D do. In the latter, I found it almost impossible to compete as a land developer, and in SL the only land worth having is absolute waterfront, for which you’ll pay a premium. Even then, the guy behind you might have a gothic castle spewing fountains of blood into your tropical paradise and there’s nothing you can do about it. A private region is SL? Apart from the inexplicably high setup cost, the tiers are unfathomable. $295 a month is off the grid – forgive the pun. For that sort of money in InWorldz, I can have 3 regions and 4 bays, and as I said earlier, they are just as good and just as fast as in Second Life;
- There is no grey definition about land use. Open Space sims are exactly that. InWorldz defines in clear language what that means and penalises anyone who doesn’t comply. In contrast, the response in SL was to blanket-penalise every open space owner by increasing tiers 67%;
- The ease with which objects can be imported from Second Life using the Imprudence viewer eliminates the need for the sluggish and glitchy Second Inventory system.
A problem with first impressions
First impressions count, right? InWorldz needs to take this fact on board as a matter of urgency. Earlier I spoke glowingly about the welcome experience for newbies, but it’s a long way from being perfect. Indeed, the welcome process needs serious attention.
The mentor system is a great idea but it’s not enough. I’ve logged in and out at different times of the day with different avatars in order to see what really goes on there. This is important to me if I’m promoting land sales on my website and attracting people who may have never used a virtual world before. In fact, this is my target market – not SL refugees but bored Facebook users – so I’m assuming that the newcomer will be a complete noob to 3D social media in every sense.
First login: The noob (and I use the term lovingly – I enjoy noobs) has just set up their account, downloaded the viewer, and logged in. By default, they arrive at the welcome area. Herein they are utterly lost. They don’t know how to move or communicate or interact with their surroundings. They are helpless and immediately need assistance.
The following scenarios are from six welcomes I experienced over two days, at different times of the day, and using 3 different avatars for anonymity:
- The first time was the worst time. There were no mentors around, just a single male avatar in the welcome area. He greeted me then asked what I wanted. I said I’m just looking around. He immediately went on the attack about me being some sort of mentor police spying on everyone, then lauched into a rant about hating InWorldz and Second Life; conspiracy theories and so on. In short, he was nuts. I had the good sense just to block him and walk away. However, if I was a newbie unaware of the lunatics who can reside in virtual worlds, I would have logged off and told all my RL friends NOT to try InWorldz. That said, it happens on every grid.
- Every subsequent time, I was greeted by a mentor, and usually with three or four other noobs/mentors within chat range. On one occasion, I was given a welcome folder. That never happened again, so I guess it’s a random thing. On every other occasion, it was clear that I had interrupted two mentors chatting about their RL home lives, i.e. what they’re having for dinner and so on. They said hi to me then carried on with their other conversations. Cool, that’s fine – Hanging about as a mentor can be boring – I get that, and it’s all very social to chatter away. It shows that there’s a vibe, but it’s also intimidating. Look at the real world to qualify this statement. No one likes cutting in on a conversation, especially a GenX like me who was taught that it’s rude to interrupt. Also, noobs don’t want to look like noobs. I cringed at the label that appeared above my head – “Please help me!” By God, what a horrible tag for an already intimidated newbie. Thankfully, I knew how to deactivate it. As a result of these first impressions, for the first few logins at least, I ended up walking off or asked a stranger for help or joined a band of equally bewildered noobs wandering the streets of what I have to say is a very dated and bleak looking sim.
- The most obvious and easy fix to help noobs begin their InWorldz experience is an automatic scripted giver that delivers three things on first login:
- A notecard with a quick how-to guide. Keep it brief. Simple things; how to use your keyboard to move, how to type in the chat box, how to use the Home key to fly, how to use right-click to interact with an object. Basic stuff that has many noobs tripping over themselves for days. At the bottom of the notecard, have landmarks that can teleport noobs to the various freebie shops on the sim;
- A 512×512 map of the welcome area so they have a visual of where to go;
- A landmark back to the welcome area. Noobs will have questions in days to come. They need to be able to find the welcome area again. I had to search through the world map to find it, as there is no landmark in the welcome pack.
- Renovate the whole welcome sim. I’m guessing that the aim is to make it look quaint or charming but it looks dusty, old, and unappealing like something out of Second Life circa 2005. It certainaly looks exactly the same as it did 2 years ago. It reminds me of somewhere that Grandma might stroll on a Sunday, not somewhere I would go for fun. At first glance, I assumed that the aim of such a lacklustre sim was to keep lag to a minimum, but in hindsight, I suspect that it’s more a lack of time by the grid owners and their volunteers. It should also be said that it is easier for an outsider such as me to see imperfections than for an insider looking out. Philosophy aside, my point is that the sim desperately needs a makeover. To the grid owners, if time is the issue, just tell me – I’ll put up my hand right now to volunteer to build a more vibrant vilage with an economical use of textures, hence low lag.
- Inside the mens freebie shop reflects more of the above. It’s wonderful that residents put free things in there for noobies, but terrible that the grid owners have no ability to arrange it more appeallingly (this is what they say at least but completely untrue). As an example of this chaos, one creator has filled a whole wall with very basic T-Shirts which could have been bundled into a couple of boxes. This has been done for self promotion, not altruism, and prevents other creators from putting better quality merchandise in the store.
*the content creator in question has responded with an explanation – see comment #9
InWorldz need to jump on this. The simple solution is for the grid managers to place the stock. The creator simply gives the grid manager a copy/trans/no mod version of their object complete with landmark and notecard. Problem solved, and the grid manager retains the ability to move the stock around to make the shopping experience more cohesive. Alternatively, set the block of land that the shop occupies to group, allowing content creators the ability to place stock but not move other people’s product, and the group owners – i.e. the grid monkeys – the ability to move it. Simple stuff.
What I will add in closing about the welcome area is that when I did approach a mentor, I found them helpful. When I wandered about as a noob, I also found that strangers were quite happy to talk and show me where to go. The vibe is certainly more friendly and natural than I’ve experienced on any other grid, hence my willingness to offer help if required.
I didn’t set out to write a 5000 word essay, which unfortunately I have, so just a few brief things.
I haven’t addressed the comparatively low resident population of InWorldz. To me, this isn’t a big issue if the grid owners are proactively promoting the grid, and to the right audience. Also, addressing the issues I mentioned above re the welcome process will boost the retention rate significantly. Land developers and content creators actually doing some hard yards on their websites or via their offerings on other grids will also help fill InWorldz.
One of the big things I learned in Second Life when I first started out, was that the population didn’t matter. I simply had to build and people would come. The Irukandji, Jillaroo, and Volpe continents were the result, and at their peak, turned over $175,000 USD a year.
A final suggestion to the owners of InWorldz is that they should market the grid to newcomers to virtual worlds, not refugees from Second Life. Forget being an alternative and be something new. You should assume that newbies have never been to any other virtual world, and I’m sure that many of them are in that boat.
With this in mind, my points about the shortcomings of the Welcome process need fast attention, or the noob will simply go to another grid.
For myself though, and only four days in, InWorldz has won me over. It is now my grid of choice.
I wish its founders, managers, and fellow residents every success, and I look forward to a mutually fruitful relationship.
@ Tamita Island in InWorldz
Written by Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson is an artist, author, businessman, science nerd, social commentator, and virtual world geek based in Queensland, Australia.