The Potential of the Open Sim Paradigm

This is a detailed follow up to my earlier “comic” post about Open Sim.

The Paradigm:  The Open Grid

For those who do not know, Open Sim is an open source clone of Second Life. The Second Life download client, itself an open source program, can connect to an Open Sim almost as easy as it can to Second Life.

Open Sim networks run the same way as Second Life runs. You set up an account with a first and last name, log into the grid, decorate your avatar, possibly buy some land to build on, attend events, make stuff, sell stuff, etc.  So far there is little difference between OS grids and the SL grids.

Except there are differences. SL runs SL server software, OS grids run OS server software. OS has some advantages over SL, generally less lag, megaprim support, etc. But, as of right now, SL is the superior and more fully supported system. For example LSL scripting is not fully supported in OS yet.

The first thing you notice when you go to an open sim is that you are starting from scratch again. There are legitimate ways to get some of the SL stuff over to Open Sim, but it is time consuming.

Within a year, the OS project hopes to be at parity with Second Life, meaning if you can do it in SL, you can do it in OS. Soon after that, it is hoped the pattern will be reversed and it will be Second Life playing catch up. Among the things being worked on:

  • “Mesh” imports made from 3rd party 3D models (Maya, 3DMax, Blender, GMAX, Lightwave, Cararra, etc.). Complicated models would generate serious lag, but simple models could do more than the current “prim” system with even fewer resources. This is what There uses.
  • New avatar meshes, allowing more detailed form fitting clothing, or  even non humanoid avatars.

The Paradigm: Region Archives

I mentioned before that Second Life’s fatal flaw is the lack of virtualization of real estate. Open Sim has an archive system (so does Second Life, but the Open Sim one is better). With some improvements, it could be used to store unused regions in storage, instead of taking up server power.

A system could be designed to work as follows:

  1. Player picks a region they want to travel to. System looks to see if the region is active, if so, player is sent to a server running the region, unless region exceeds maximum occupancy, in which case proceed to step 2.
  2. An inactive server is activated, as soon as possible, player is moved to the server. Items are loaded from archive file while simultaneously “data” is streamed to player’s client. If this is an “instance” copy, player may be prompted to move to original once room is available.
  3. When the last person leaves a region, temp items are deleted, foreign items are returned to owners, the region data is backed up (if changed by an authorized person), and sever is freed for later use.

Such a system would eliminate the need for so many servers, and would make expansion easier and less expensive, and also allow events to run across multiple servers with potentially thousands of players.

There is also the potential of people to run their own private servers on their own hard drives. People could build their region privately without needing to use web resources. People could share region archive files with one another allowing another method of group cooperation. Maybe people could even participate in certain events (concerts, lectures) on private sims by downloading copies of event venues and NPC data.

The Paradigm: The Multi Grid Marketplace

Under the Open Sim paradigm, there are multiple networks acting independently. Second Life could be like AOL of the early 90’s, and all the other networks like other web sites.

Under such a scheme there needs to be trade channels set up between networks, so stuff I make can be sold for use in any other network. In the 3D market place today there are web sites that sell 3D models for use in various 3D programs. Daz3d and Renderosity are ones I have used for my Poser work, but there are other big ones used by 3D artists using more professional programs (3DMax, Maya,  etc.). Artists can sell their original works for commercial and/or non-commercial use, via “brokering” arrangements. It wouldn’t be difficult to change XStreetSL into a multiple network market site.

Moving the SL model into the wider Open Sim model requires a lot of work, and involves a lot of hammering out of issues, chief among them being copyrights.

In future posts, I’ll discuss some of these issues, as well as an even broader 3D web paradigms (who says there has to be only one standard?).

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