Small Worlds

I apologise for the rambling nature of this post. I began writing it some weeks ago and felt that I should just get it posted as otherwise it would just sit for several more weeks. So, Small Worlds…..

Or more to the point, Virtual Worlds. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, Google’s Lively (although not for much longer), There, etc. I perhaps somewhat naively think that these things are going to be the next big thing on the web, or if not the next big thing then the next big thing after that. I think that the potential for creativity, remote working, entertainment, work, distance learning, collaboration and communication is huge.

I am however a little concerned that the sheer number of virtual world providers with their closed standards (or lack of standards) could mean that we won’t be able to settle on a specific platform and that we’ll end up with a number of non-integrating virtual worlds.

There are a large number of, for want of a better expression, virtual world sites out there at the moment and they all seem to have boundaries to creativity. Take Second Life as a first example. It would be great if 3D models produced using a 3D modelling package (Blender, 3D Studio Max, etc.) could be imported into Second Life but I don’t believe that this is currently possible. Instead the in-world tools must be used. Some of the newer virtual worlds are in beta phase still and there’s no way for your average user to create content, they must rely upon existing models. This applies to Google’s Lively and Small Worlds.

On the subject of Small Worlds this world seems to be more of a game (and a world full of games) in itself rather than a place where business may be conducted. Small Worlds is in Beta and, currently, there’s no way of obtaining currency with which to purchase things unless you perform various tasks. For example, you have a small amount of currency, or credits, when you first enter the world and receive further credits when you complete a task or mission. These missions cover some of the basic tasks that you may want to perform such as visiting a shop to buy a sofa for your room or making a simplistic drawing on a whiteboard. The missions are good in that they offer a number of things to do for the newbie and essentially provide training in a fun way so that the new user can get to know how to achieve things in the virtual world. However I feel like it’s akin to jumping through hoops to receive a reward.

I’ve recently gained an invite to the Metaplace world beta but I’ve not had much chance to take a really good look at it yet. My initial impressions are that it’s a bit like Small Worlds, has the same isometric 3D viewing system, but the existing objects seem to have very little interactions available. I’ve spent a very short time playing with There and perhaps should go back and take a further look.

One rather exciting possibility is Sun’s Wonderland project. I became aware of Wonderland because some of the folks at work are beginning to experiment with it. As far as I’m aware hosting of the world would have to be arranged but the potential seems big as the project is open source, content can be created and the behaviours behind objects can be extended or even completely written as far as I can deduce. The server and client are both written in Java and it even supports voice communication.

What I want is something like Second Life where it’s possible to buy some land and start making things, such as buildings and the interiors of those buildings, but with the ability to produce the models of these objects outside of the virtual world and to then import into the world. If anyone knows of such a place please let me know. I may return to Second Life one of these days and look into getting a piece of land for myself. Why do I want this? Well to keep my options open and to explore what might be the future of the web.

A possible future post: Are the Virtual Worlds one way of getting off the current consumer bandwagon? Shifting consumer greed (my own included) from desiring real world (energy greedy and resource greedy) possessions to virtual world possessions?

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~ by gblake on November 20, 2008.

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