MUVE Platform – Open Simulator
Open Simulator is an open source server software platform that is used for hosting virtual worlds. Since Open Simulator is open source that means that anyone has access to the source code and therefore be their own little developer. However for the programme to work they can’t just release a version of the programme that has been worked on by many different developers that are unknown to them. So while you can get the code and play around with it for yourself your custom version will never be released to the public. So what actually happens is that Open Simulator has a small team of what they call “core developers” who actually develop the bulk of the code that gets used in the public release of the Open Simulator server software. The only way to become a core developer for the Open Simulator project is via invitation, so this means that the developers actually working on the project is very controlled. You can find a list of all the developers, past and present here.
The Open Simulator project was started in January 2007 by Darren Guard who saw the potential of creating an open source 3D virtual environment server that could be used for many different applications. The starting of the Open Simulator project was done in conjunction with the release of the Second Life code as open source. This meant that they could create a server platform that would be compatible with the Second Life viewer and not have to focus on building a viewer of their own to access worlds that would be hosted on the Open Simulator platform. http://opensimulator.org/wiki/History
Because Open Simulator uses the Second Life client code everything seems so eerily similar to Second Life. When you log in everything look the same, the avatars seem to be displayed the same way, the movement controls are the same and you can even build the same way that you would within Second Life. They even have support for the import of mesh objects into a world hosted on the Open Simulator platform, although this feature is listed as being in the beta/experimental phase at the moment so it might not work as expected. So really anything you can build in Second Life you can build within an Open Simulator based grid.
One thing that I did like is that Open Simulator is not just restricted by one scripting language like Second Life. Within an Open Simulator world you can still use the Linden Scripting language as developed by Linden Lab, but you can also use C# and VB.Net programming languages to script in as well. I think that having some versatility in the scripting languages can be good, but perhaps may lead to some errors; this could lead back to why these features are deemed to still be in experimental phase right now.
In terms of avatar movement and customisation you can do pretty much everything that Second Life can do. One thing that isn’t supported right now is “display names”. What display names are, are the ability to choose a different name other than your user name to be displayed to other users. This to me isn’t really that much of a big deal and it doesn’t stop users being able to fully customise their avatars appearance.
What I found when looking at the features on the Open Simulator website is that there is currently no support for group, profile and search functions. I should really clarify this though, there is no support for these feature within Open Simulator yet, however there is 3rd party support via modules. I decided to try this out and do some searching, and it seemed to work fine… that is till I actually looked. I had decided to search for groups and got results and figured that all is well, then I clicked on a group and realised that it is actually searching Second Life groups and not Open Simulator groups, Doh! To me I think that this is a bit of a downfall for the Open Simulator platform as communities and groups seem to be an integral part of online virtual environments.
Open Simulator has a great concept in what they call Hyper Gridding (http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Hypergrid). Hyper Gridding allows you to connect your Open Simulator world to other Open Simulator worlds via the internet. The idea is similar to the hypertext links that we use to get to webpages but instead of pointing at a webpage it points to another Open Simulator world (also known as a grid). How it works is that there is a virtual world hyperlink the links to another virtual world that supports Hyper Gridding. When the user interacts with this virtual world hyperlink they will be teleported to the other world without having to log out of the grid that they are currently on. Also in conjunction with this the user’s avatar appearance and all their inventory items will be transported to this new grid as well. So as you can see is that this enables different virtual world grids to be interacted with as though they were local Sims on the current grid you are logged into. At the moment not all Open Simulator grids support Hyper Gridding, or perhaps they support Hyper Gridding but do not have any virtual world hyperlinks set up with other grids. While this feature currently works it is still listed as experimental on the Open Simulator features page (http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Feature_Matrix), so it may not work exactly as desired.
I decided to try out Hyper Gridding for myself; I started my journey at Applewood on Jokaydia Grid and travelled all the way to Lbsa Plaza which is located on an OsGrid Sim. What I did find is that it is kind of frustrating to get to where you want to because you have to hop from location to location to get to your final destination if your destination is not within 4096 regions. I think I ended up going to 4 or 5 different locations before I finally got to my destination. I used a list of Hyper Grid landmarks supplied from the Hyper Grid Adventurers Club (HGAC) to find intermediate destinations.
The idea of land ownership is not missed by Open Simulator but is instead left up to the people running their worlds using the Open Simulator platform. For example I was looking at Jokaydia grid to see what the pricing would be there. According to the website (http://www.jokaydiagrid.com/jokaydiagrid-rental-info/) it would cost you $25au per month with a one-time establishment fee of $50au. Now this is a significant decrease in cost compared to owning land on Second Life which for a sim allowing you to have 15,000 prims would cost $195us per month. Alternatively you could download the Open Simulator platform yourself and run your own server at almost $0 cost to you. This way you can experience the joys of owning your own virtual world, and could even connect it to other worlds via hyper gridding if you connect your world to the internet.
There are a reasonable number of Grids that are run on the Open Simulator platform, and all of these range in their user base. The largest grid would be OSGrid which has a user base of approx. 64,000 users and contains 7178 different regions. At the other end of the scale you have grids like Jokaydia that have a user base of approx. 250 users and only around 20 regions. So if you compare that to Second Life’s user base their average user concurrency reaches the size of the approximate full user base for OSGrid. So as you can see in comparison Open Simulator based virtual worlds are relatively small. You can find an extensive grid list of Open Simulator based virtual worlds here.
So in the end after playing around a little on Jokaydia grid and also experimenting with the Hyper Gridding features of the Open Simulator platform I am reasonably impressed. I think even more so when you take into account that the developers still deem it to be in the alpha stages. I think that there is plenty of potential for Open Simulator to grow and to also become more independent and move further away from its current extreme likeness to the Second Life platform.