Posts Tagged ‘redlightcenter’

Many of the smaller 3D Virtual Worlds are trying to lure in There.com members.

Twinity wants to attract There.com developers by exchanging some Therebucks for Twinity Globals.

Active Worlds is offering 6 months free to former There players.

Frenzoo is offering free lifetime VIP status to There members.

Moove has a special sign up area for There members.

Kaneva has a There Channel available.

Blue Mars has a new region called Pavonis, designed by a member of There, with the same tropical archipelago theme of There.

Utherverse, makers of adult oriented virtual worlds like Red Light Center have created therenewworld.com Not sure how that will go over with the teenage crowd that dominated There.

Second Life created a special greetings area just for There members who join SL

A blogger at Second Life left a stirring farewell:

This week brought the sad announcement that the online world There.com would  be closing its doors come March 9. We were sorry to hear the news;  There provided a valuable service to its users, and is one of a very few  pioneers in what is generally know nas the “social virtual worlds” space. There  helped prove that 3D online worlds could be more than just chat rooms  with moving pictures. They provided a wonderful space for their vibrant  communities who gathered to hang out and have fun — even before the  paintballs became free.

Though Second Life has to an extent  served a different audience, we do hope that those who care to (and who  are 18 or over) can find as much enjoyment in Second Life as they did in  There.com. Our two platforms have developed along very different paths,  but each offers the opportunity to interact with other people in ways  that can’t be found anywhere else online — the opportunity for  unparalleled expression in an environment that offers experiences that  are every bit as meaningful as those that take place in the physical  world.

Many of us at Linden Lab know — or are —  There.com members. Others — myself included — have friends who work at  There. It’s safe to say that all of us are sorry to see the end of a  truly innovative company and product, but I’m confident that the people  involved with it, whether as employees or as members, will keep on  creating and exploring the most social and expressive technologies  available today and in years to come.

The end of any community  platform is an unhappy moment, and we certainly feel for the community.  Although it may not be the same as the world you know and love, we hope  you will come and explore another online world of possibility and  engaging experiences. We are working on creating some new places for  you, so look for news of those in a future post. We’ll look for you inworld.

What would Second Life be without There.com?  Both have as their original source material, the “metaverse” of Snow Crash, though their interpretation varied. Both opened their beta in 2003.  Approximately half of SL beta members were also There beta members. Because at the time There had more stuff to do, while SL was a pure build it yourself world, a lot of the early SL builds were inspired by There.com.

Many prominent SL pioneers came from There. Yadni, of Yadni’s Junkyard, the first great “freebie mall”, was from There. As was Starley Thereian of Celestial Studios, the first great high end fashion boutique, Desmond Shang who owns and operates Caledon, the largest privately owned themed continent (50 regions), Cristiano who runs sluniverse.com the largest independent forum dedicated to Second Life (and named after a once popular, now non existent independent forum called there universe dot com), to name a few.

Thanks to competition from There, SL gave us freebie basic accounts, auctions, classifieds, camera controls and voice capabilities.  Former There software engineer Jeff Ventrella joined Second Life for a while and gave us flexi prims, and improved avatars.

Second Life would be a very different place, and probably a lot smaller place, without There.com.

This is the first of three “opinion” pieces I am writing about the future of 3D Virtual Worlds. I believe that ultimately the future looks bright, but we are at the beginning of a long overdue “shake up” that should finally separate myth from reality. Lets start with legal realities:

So one of the oldest but least successful MMO providers Worlds.com filed for patents of their 3D online technology back in 1995 and were awarded the patent finally in 2007. The two patents obtained were Scalable virtual world chat client-server system, and System and method for enabling users to interact in a virtual space

During those intervening 12 years a multi billion dollar MMO industry has grown. Some of it based around the same technology patented by Worlds.com.

So earlier this year I saw an announcement that Worlds.com has retained a major patent rights law firm to represent them, and on Christmas Eve they filed their first suit against NCSoft, founded in 1997 two years after the original patent application.

According to Wired, NCSoft’s official statement in response: “We can’t comment on potential litigation except to say that NCsoft takes all legal action seriously — even if the company believes a lawsuit has no merit. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.” (emphasis mine because it is funny)

I have not studied the patents, and do not know how broad or narrow they are or what they actually cover. I do know that in worlds.com programs, you pre-load all the shapes, textures, etc. and there is virtually no way to do custom textures and buildings etc. MMORPGs work just like worlds.com programs, hence they seem to be the first target.

NCSoft is the largest MMORPG producer in the world (yes bigger than Blizzard), producing Guild Wars, City of Heroes/Villains, Lineage 2, and the upcoming Aion. They were part of a landmark suit before. Marvel sued them over the ability of players in City of Heroes to create custom heroes that look like Marvel heroes. The suit ended amicably, with CoH game runners creating “Generic Heroes” of characters that potentially violate copyright.

Worlds.com lawsuit has far reaching implications. If Worlds.com wins, they could theoretically go after every producer of 3D online games, potentially killing the whole industry. You can bet there is a lot of support building for NCSoft to do everything in their power to invalidate the patents.

Two things can kill a patent: Prior art, and obviousness. The other defense is that the burden of proof of patent violation is on the patent holder.

Prior art can come in the form of older patents. Like this one. Or it could come in the form of 3D online games that existed prior to Worlds.com development. Obviousness is also an obstacle as the whole concept of 3D online games is a combination of Habitat (a 2D virtual world built by Lucasarts in 1985) and Doom (a 3D game that included multiplayer network play in 1993).

Then there is the burden of proof problem. The patents were based on technology developed in 1995. The technology around online game playing has changed radically in the 14 years since, and there are many ways to do the same thing. In a future posting I plan to compare the underlying structure of Second Life, There.com, Guild Wars, and World of Warcraft. The technology behind these four games is so radically different there is no way they can be compared as using the same technology except in a “look and feel” way.

While I do not know the ins and outs of patent law I do know technology. The whole paradigm of online game play changed radically in 1997 with Diablo. Blizzard offered online play for the successful desktop game and ran into a huge problem: cheaters.

Before 1997, the only thing online programs dealt with was communicating between players was position, movement, and chat. Everything else was handled by the player’s own computer. People soon figured out that by modding the game on their hard drive, they could do things that other players without the hacks could not.

The fix implemented by every online game that followed was for the game servers to keep track of everything. Hit a beast with a sword, the damage is calculated on the game server and the info is relayed to your computer to display the damage. Swing the sword again and another exchange between your game and the game servers is made. This keeps the game fair for all players. It also requires a very different conrol structure for online play, different than anything worlds.com has ever developed.

This lawsuit is do or die for worlds.com. Once the star of online gaming they have watched dozens of upstarts fly right past them. They have announced two new virtual world projects, but I bet they do not have the money to actually do them. They are counting on winning lawsuits to get them the capital to go on. Losing is likely a death sentence.

Good riddance I say.

I believe that all software patents are an abomination and should end!! Copyrights are fine, if another company is using art or code without permission, go after them. But NCSoft has built all of their games from the ground up. They are mirroring what everyone else is doing true, but they are doing their own thing. For Worlds.com to profit off the work of others because it is “similar” to what they did first, seems to me to be immoral.

But since when has law been equivalent to morality?

A trio of articles about legalities of virtual worlds:
The Rocky Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds, Part 1: Trademarks
The Rocky Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds, Part 2: Patents
The Rocky Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds, Part 3: Copyrights

Note: While Red Light Center was built by worlds.com, it is a seperate entity, and not part of the litigation.

Update: Case Has Been Settled!

I have not written in a couple of weeks, I have spent time updating the look of my website arianeb.com. Check it out!

Its been a while since I visited some of the virtual worlds I reviewed earlier on this site. I’m partly writing this inspired by a post about the fate of There Philippines, a Filipino version of There which is declining in popularity. Based on what I read, the game runners of There PH, were content with a subset of There, leaving out what I believe are the most important elements: Paz’s and custom content approval.

Ariane’s first law of Virtual Worlding:

If you want a successful virtual world, you must have two things: 1) Custom player content, 2) customizable homes for players. Leave one or both out, and your virtual world will be a bust.

The most successful virtual world game is Second Life, which was built entirely around both principles. Other successes like There and even the limited in scope IMVU have both, and as a result have thousands of players on at any given time.

I recently took a look at The Lounge to see how things are going there. There were about 105 players last night, which is about 102 more than last time I was there. Similar story in Red Light Center, which has 147 currently logged in, and they have porn! I know they are both new and what not, but the rule still applies. Neither has custom player content, neither has customizable homes for players. (RLC has private rooms for virtual sex, but that does not count.) They will never succeed as virtual worlds, just as novelty add ons.

Currently, there are two new virtual worlds in beta that I know about. Kaneva is in closed beta, and PS3 Home (see previous post) was just announced. Both feature customizable homes, but based on what I have read, neither are adding custom player content. PS3 Home says it will eventually, but launching without it already built in is a mistake. Both will allow user pictures and music to decorate their homes, but custom housing isn’t enough, just ask The Sims Online.

They also need texturing walls, clothing, furniture, and especially avatars, even if it requires an approval system like There. Otherwise they are doomed to draw in crowds initially, but people won’t stay.

This is a new 3D social game designed primarily for its adult content. It is currently being advertised as “open beta” and it does have a few bugs and lacks much content.

A lot of the doors around town simply say “coming soon”, and if you try to access anything interesting, like the streaming video, it asks for you to purchase the VIP membership for $20 a month.

Currently there is no custom content, so you are very limited in wardrobe and avatar looks, and most of the wardrobe is extremely revealing, at least on the female side. Animations are also very limited too.

For all intents and purposes, this is just a clever gimmick to sell membership in a porn site. There is nothing here that isn’t doable better in Second Life.

The one thing I am interested in is this: What the makers of this program have done is make a simple bare bones 3D chat and navigate system. I am curious as to how small it is and how simple it is. A simple bare bones 3D chat and navigate system as a front for other websites and commerce besides just porn could be huge.

http://www.redlightcenter.com/flashtour.asp

Update: The makers of this program also have opened up a MySpace like place for adults (R-rated content) http://www.utherverse.com

They WILL add custom clothing for sure as it is an option available in the profiles. They should add custom faces as the 3 they currently offer are pretty boring.

Bottom line: Not worth $20 a month just to access porn content. There is not enough free 3D content to keep people around for long. The social networking end shows promise and it is done much better than Xpeeps, but the community is a bit too small right now.

UPDATE #2: Wired did a review of Red Light Center as well and came more or less to the same conclusion as me. Their review is here.