Alternatives To Second Life

 Posted by (Visited 16590 times)  Game talk
Apr 132007
 

Onder Skall has a nice post up entitled Alternatives To Second Life – Uber Edition which runs down lots of “metaversey’ style worlds. There are a few historical ones he missed that are still running, I think, and he missed a few upcoming ones that I think are of interest as well: Whirled and Ogoglio.

More interesting is that list of three core requirements that he sees an SL-like world as needing to have:

  1. Real money must move in and out of the “virtual” economy freely. RMT (Real-Money Trading) is designed in, not forbidden by TOS.
  2. Users must be able to create unique content and retain ownership over it. Things like scripting and accepting uploads are important here. Multimedia is a bonus. We must be able to control the rights to our content.
  3. The world must be persistent, and the users able to change it. Residents like being able to build the world themselves, and don’t need somebody stepping in and erasing their work.

This is a nice, endlessly debatable list. Right off the bat, I think that #1 is probably the most problematic (do you become a bank, terrorists laundering money, tax implications, illegal business activities, and on and on and on). #3 has been around for a while for lots of worlds. And as I have mentioned previously, the real rub on #2 is actually whether you are submitting your IP content to the world provider and having them claim ownership or just a perpetual license (if you use their tools and their format, you are surrendering control of the data no matter what).
FWIW, I think that #1 is a bit of a red herring. The point of a metaverse world, or indeed any sort of world including the real one, is not to make money. Money is an enabler, a convenient tool. I suspect that the current explosion in “metaverse service bureaus” is a sign that RMT is not the key ingredient involved in making big bucks with a virtual world.

  20 Responses to “Alternatives To Second Life”

  1. the common tools with the use of 3D visualization. For groups such as designers, manufacturers, claims adjusters, and others that need 3D, this is the easy choice. For a look at a number of other virtual worlds, check out Raph Koster’s article on Alternatives to Second Life, and the original source article from Onder Skall.

  2. #3 about persistence and impact of user play appears, to my eyes, to be a universal if we are talking about virtual world design…but already there are qualifications if non-sandbox worlds are included. Anyway, have a go and add to the list. Thanks Raph Koster for the heads up on this.

  3. I actually take issue with “Persistence” in the conventional sense of 3d spaces, and if I infer from your cryptic press materials correctly, so do you. Home, combined with the lack of a Flash 9 client in Wii’s Opera browser, suggest to me that the consoles are not where the cutting edge is, or will be, at least this year and probably next as well.

    Anyway, something like Whirled seems to be the cutting edge of this because of the agility involved, though I know about something even better.

    Yeah Raph – how does it feel to have really cool proprietary information hinted at and then withheld from you? 😉

  4. […] style worlds. There are a few historical ones he […]      by Raph’s Website » Alternatives To Second Life April 13th, 2007 at 11:41 […]

  5. Just a small note:

    You are insightful, as always, but please keep in mind that this is about SL, not “virtual worlds” in the larger sense. If I was talking in generalities I’d agree with you, but…

    Survey SL residents to see if they care about trading L$ and I think you might discover something here. This is about what current residents care about, after all.

  6. Survey SL residents to see if they care about trading L$ and I think you might discover something here.

    That’s like saying, “Survey guitarists to see if they care about strings.”

  7. I think web based VWs are the bee’s knees, but to be fair to Onder there isn’t a lot of easily digestible information on Whirled and Ogoglio.

    I’ll be interested to read what Onder posts after the veils are lifted.

  8. RMT is important to a lot of people. They’re almost all Second Life users right now, because it’s the only one that does all of Onder’s Three Laws Of Things That Are Exactly Like Second Life And Nothing Else. And yes, it’s like asking guitarists if strings are important, but… Strings are in fact very important to guitarists. When Joe Satriani writes Three Laws Of Things That Are Exactly Like Guitars And Nothing Else, strings will be way up there.

    If you make a world that isn’t just a game, allows user-generated content, and is persistent, people will want to get paid for their creative work. If they can’t do it legally, they’ll do it illegally; if you make it inconvenient enough to do it illegally, they’ll go somewhere that supports them, and you’ll have no quality user-generated content.

    RMT has some legal issues, but they do appear to all be solvable with a lawyer and an economist. Game/virtual world designers generally aren’t either, so they should go get experts to help them rather than screw it up themselves. This may come as a shock to certain game/VW designers who have created bad ecologies and economies without outside help before. LL’s had the good sense to ask professionals what to do.

    The notion that the real world is not “about” making money is only true in the most facile sense, that the real world isn’t about anything, you make your own goals. However, in practice almost everyone chooses a primary or secondary goal of making money, because it supports all of their other goals, or because they really do like money. Second Life is a very, very thin layer on top of First Life, and people choose goals in remarkably similar ways there, there is no other “point” to it.

    The “metaverse service bureaus”, as you call them, are not doing their work out of the goodness of their little sheepy hearts and love for making things with prims. They’re doing it because they want to make LOTS of money; more money than you can reasonably push through the current small SL economy, so they have to do it in US$. I make a decent secondary income in L$ on the weekends, as do quite a few other people.

    I’m quite sure that you’re not making Aeaeaea out of love for the world, either. You want some of the phat loot your former corporate masters made from your work. Don’t be ashamed of it. It’s okay, that’s a good goal in life.

    I disagree on the other points, as well, but that’s hardly a surprise: I’m using Second Life. If I didn’t like persistence, user-generated content, and property rights, I’d be somewhere else. If you liked persistence, user-generated content, and property rights, you wouldn’t be bothering with anything else, you’d be in Second Life, too.

  9. What Kami said.

    And kudos to Onder for sticking it out with his three simple criteria past the Scylla and Charybdis of game ideology at Terra Nova.

    RMT *is* what people want. They want it so much they make it out of nothing in games that don’t even have loot by selling the accounts with their skills. And gold farmers wouldn’t be a problem even in a closed world like WoW if it weren’t what people want.

    Of course people want game loot, but they also want to monetarize their time on line. If they can’t get the world to at least pay for itself, they won’t feel they can justify spending time there.

    Raph, you seem to be saying that the unfolding of events, with the Lindens taking pre-emptive action against casino advertising, with the tax man getting interested in SL, etc. that the tide is inevitable, and RMT is just not going to be able to be part of a feature set of virtual worlds.

    But I think it will always be like black markets in currencies in closed societies. You can keep arresting and jailing people and confiscating the currency but they will just keep doing it. People want to be free and buy and spend as they wish.

  10. Kami, I think there are lots of people making real world livings from worlds without RMT, and without official cash-in/cash-out (those two things are different; one happens with the world, the other happens in parallel to the world). So I wouldn’t limit ourselves to cash-in/cash-out when discussing the subject.

    Nor should we think that Linden has managed to resolve the legal issues surrounding the cash-in/cash-out; a lot of stuff, like the question of whether virtual worlds need to become banks, are simply unresolved at the moment. Linden is definitely on the cutting edge though. I would not minimize this as “some legal issues” — they are big big issues; that’s why Linden brings in folks like Lessig.

    The notion that the real world is not “about” making money is only true in the most facile sense, that the real world isn’t about anything, you make your own goals. However, in practice almost everyone chooses a primary or secondary goal of making money, because it supports all of their other goals, or because they really do like money.

    Hmm, wow. I would not at all call it facile. I would say that deeply and firmly I believe money is an enabler. Most people choose money as a goal down the tree, I think, because lots of other goals take precedence over money. People earn money for things like subsistence, for education for their kids, for their hobbies, whatever. Money as a goal in and of itself is a relatively rare choice, in the population as a whole, I believe. YMMV.

    I am indeed working at Areae out of love for the world. I could make more money doing something else, frankly.

    If I liked persistence, user-generated content, and property rights, I maybe would be doing something that had better support for persistence, user-generated content, and property rights. 🙂 These are hardly virtues exclusive to one platform.

    Look, I am not trying to minimize the fact that lots of folks do indeed make money in SL, an enjoy doing so. More power to ’em. I specifically said it was a red herring for metaverse worlds because SL is not the only possble model for the metaverse.

  11. >I am indeed working at Areae out of love for the world.

    I Heart Raph Koster : )

  12. “Enable” is a great word in this context. I really like what SL has done with economics, but fear that the attention to certain aspects of those features will outweigh the overall importance of them to the platform.

    Randolfe asked, at one point, in one of the long and winding posts/comments on the subject of SL economics, “Why can’t they just use $US?” Well, I think that the main issue is one of scale — there are things going for $L1, and that would be about 1/4 cent. The cost per transfer in-game of that is almost nill, but processing that in $US would be a pain. If a bank could figure it out… more power. Also, I think there’s the issue (as I’ve said before) of some people wanting $LD to be “gold” at all times, while other people want it to be “money” at all times, while some aren’t sure, and will make up their mind after they’ve played for awhile. That flexibility has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that people will “play” with $LD as if it’s free (it ain’t… not really), token-like stuff, and do things, and add to the overall economic-ness of the platform. One disadvantage is that lots of those activities, all grouped together, may *look* like similar economic activity in more robust economies… but are in fact just people “playing at buying stuff,” at least as far as they are concerned.

    I very much enjoy the thought experiment, “Could you make SL without its own currency?” and the corollary, “Could you make SL without any internal economic features at all?” With the addenda, “Would either of these be better?” IE, more profitable for Linden, better for the community, more long-lived, more likely to generate a wider variety of content, etc.

    I have no idea. And, again (obviously) Onder is explicitly looking for comparisons to SL. So they have to be able to do “SLy” things in any other world. Like Raph, I think #2 and #3 are more important than #1.

  13. “I am indeed working at Areae out of love for the world. I could make more money doing something else, frankly.”

    But you’ll be making *some* money out of it, you hope?
    Wanting to make some money isn’t the same as chasing for the most money possible. Some people are probably happy that they can cover their costs (perhaps making a small profit) while doing something they enjoy. Whether that’s socialising as a club employee, managing a land/real estate business, or making stuff. People who enjoy what they’re doing, could make more money possibly by doing something else, but who would look for that same opportunity in another virtual world.

    I do like that I can create and get paid for it in SL, but to be honest, my main criterion for a replacement VW is that I’d want the same level of control over my avatar appearance as I do in SL. Picking from half a dozen stereotypes is so dull. After that comes the ability to create what I want, otherwise there isn’t much point besides raw socialising.

    Also- guitars: yes, Onder Skall is specifically asking about a new guitar, not a trombone.

  14. This looks like a list of symptoms to me. What is the cause that makes people think these particular symptoms need to emerge from the product?

    RMT becomes important when many enough hardcore users of the product hopes to find a better means to make money than they currently do.

    Without RMT my best guess says SL would have a hard time finding critical mass of hardcore users, altho there might be a few interesting types of cultures that still would be hardcore users of SL without it. – Furries maybe?

    I heard this morning that the swedish church is opening a church in SL and I couldnt help but giggle at such special news. It makes me think that it has to be really expensive for the swedish church to recruit new followers in meatspace. Or its really cheap to buy things in SL… The swedish church claims that “they want to be where the people are, and thats online” (not a direct quote but something along those line translated to some attempt at english). If that was true they would be making guilds in WoW, but no one will make any money from running the guild of the swedish church, while someone probably sold the idea of developing church space in SL as there is a market there and some sales people have a tendency to push crap on suckers if they can.

    Those who spend money on SL property seem to hope they are buying some magic future value. Generally it appears to be clueless people who expect their SL investment to cash out or gain value over time. In reality it seems more likely that the value of any digital asset asymtotically approach zero over time. The real value is the enjoyment of the people who use the thing.

    Supporting RMT is for sales people a system import, kindof similar to how Fifa 2007 is a system import for sports or soccer people. RMT is a very interesting system to play with, its difficult to actually practice real world economics elsewhere in such a free form as you can when making a living through the VW / eBay circus.

    Maybe you can even go as far as claiming that these three points are the tree official game systems of SL. As a player you can probably focus your gaming experience towards playing the RMT game, the IP game or the persistence game. Not very far from how an mmorpg player can play the crafting game, the levelling game or the raid game. Most players dabble in all but lean more towards one or the other.

    An interesting aspect on these parts of a VW is that neither of the mentioned features will be involved with a new users first 5 minutes of experience. The 5 critical minutes that converts a trialist to a user fails to show core functionality during the trial, for both SL and the mmorpg.

    As the radio reporter who mentioned the news about the Swedish church said this morning, she got bored after 2 minutes of trying to figure out what this very hip SL thing really is.

  15. Yeah, I would’ve taken Onder to task on #1, too, except, as he points out, he’s considering these three items to be metrics of SL-likeness — not necessarily a recipe for making future games of SL’s ilk. Though, given that, I’m surprised he didn’t add:

    4.) There must be a graphical client.

    …since persistent, player-modifiable text games have been around forever (though very few of them have any substantial RMT market to speak of).

  16. […] Warcraft) is to be the ultimate MMORPG. Oh, and the nobody-knows-what-this-is extremely-hiped areae isn’t going to have persistence, which is a big no-no for me (even if I usually agree with his vision on VW’s.Last but not least […]

  17. Raph wrote:

    Kami, I think there are lots of people making real world livings from worlds without RMT, and without official cash-in/cash-out (those two things are different; one happens with the world, the other happens in parallel to the world). So I wouldn’t limit ourselves to cash-in/cash-out when discussing the subject.

    Raph, a free market in the virtual world is simply not practical without at least some system integration to the real-world economy. As Andy said, many things are available for less than US$1.00; I sell my simpler gadgets for L$250, a good price for 50 or 100 lines of code, but even that ~US$1.00 is only barely practical for Paypal. Cheaper items like t-shirts or bottles of beer (decorative but socially valuable props) can’t be run by microtransactions on Paypal. Yet people would like to be able to sell those things.

    The alternative to an official, integrated RMT, is to have a black market RMT. You will always have RMT, because you can’t stop us. Better to embrace it, and make people happy, than to fight them and make them resent you.

    It is of course possible for developers to make money from virtual worlds even if they don’t have an internal economy or in-world private property, but it is not possible for the vast majority of people to easily and casually make a bit of money from their creativity without it. How do you get singers in your nightclubs and let them take tips without RMT? How do you let people create and sell paintings and sculptures and weird gadgets without RMT? I am not in the least interested in a centrally-controlled artistic cathedral; I like a vast bazaar of creative amateurs, with everyone able to make what they like, so I can choose the stuff I like, and present my work for others.

    Hmm, wow. I would not at all call it facile. I would say that deeply and firmly I believe money is an enabler. Most people choose money as a goal down the tree, I think, because lots of other goals take precedence over money. People earn money for things like subsistence, for education for their kids, for their hobbies, whatever. Money as a goal in and of itself is a relatively rare choice, in the population as a whole, I believe. YMMV.
    I am indeed working at Areae out of love for the world. I could make more money doing something else, frankly.

    So you are giving up all profit from Areae, and donating it to a Center for Metaversal Studies? Using it to house homeless avatars?

    Perhaps you really are not motivated by money, but this is a vanishingly rare lack-of-motivation. Usually, the only people who tell you that money isn’t important are either incredibly poor and without any skills or talents (“I bet those grapes are sour anyway”); or con artists and preachers and “motivational speakers” who want to take your money (“Jayzus needs Cadillacs!”). You’re not either, and while I criticize some of your decisions, you are not without skills… So that’s quite unusual, and kinda weird. You’re not paying a lot of attention to what people say and do, if you don’t think money as a motivation is ubiquitous.

    Money has been a really big deal for the vast majority of humans for the 5000 years or so since average human wealth exceeded the “am I going to starve to death this week?” level. Money gives you something wonderful: choices. Money is freedom. You don’t just have whatever you can grow or make for yourself, but can trade for the interesting things other people grow or make. The power and magic of shopping, in real life or Second Life, never fails to entertain me, and keeps me going to work. I certainly do not write financial database webapps for fun; I do it because they pay me extremely well, and this lets me buy shiny new toys. While I make stuff in SL for fun, I would work considerably less hard (and enjoy it less) if I wasn’t paid for it. Making something is fun. Making something and getting paid for it is AWESOME.

    In any case, the people who are in Second Life tend to be rather more mercenary than average. Despite the capability of living entirely for free in SL, almost nobody does, because capitalists have more fun, and make the world more fun for others.

    If I liked persistence, user-generated content, and property rights, I maybe would be doing something that had better support for persistence, user-generated content, and property rights. These are hardly virtues exclusive to one platform.

    Well, that’s an interesting claim. Because as Onder’s list and analysis shows, those virtues are exclusive to one platform. Only Second Life so far meets the requirements of being Second Life. There.com is pretty close, but it’s hideously ugly, making products there is really slow, because they have to be approved, there’s no adult content, and there’s no legal RMT, so it’s a pain in the ass to get any money.

    Look, I am not trying to minimize the fact that lots of folks do indeed make money in SL, an enjoy doing so. More power to ‘em. I specifically said it was a red herring for metaverse worlds because SL is not the only possble model for the metaverse.

    And if that was ever the claim, you’d have a point there. But Onder’s not only never said that it was for every possible virtual world, he in fact has repeated at length that it’s about alternatives to Second Life, for Second Life residents, who want, you know, Second Life (or something indistinguishable from it). Gosh, it’s almost as if Second Life residents like the features of Second Life!

    When every SL resident here repeats that they like money and RMT… Maybe you should take us at our word. Doesn’t mean you have to make Area exactly like SL. Nobody’s asking you to. You do lose out on the “alternative places for Second Life residents” market, but we already have SL, so that’s a poor market to enter, anyway.

  18. Prok wrote:

    RMT *is* what people want.

    RMT is what SOME people want. Not very many, to judge by SL’s user stats. WoW and other actual games are different – there what people want is stuff. They can get that stuff (illegally under the games’ ToS) via RMT.

    But they don’t want the RMT for itself, they just want the stuff.

  19. You might want to read those user stats again, Rich; it’s currently over 1.7M active (last 60 days) users, and still growing at a rapid rate.

    What exactly do you think people, however many there are, do with money in SL? Just roll around in it? No, we buy stuff. I mostly buy original artwork and Japanese furniture for my office, some nice clothes, and spend a lot tipping live musicians and DJs. I also cash out to pay my tier and make some money on the side; I might be willing to pay for Second Life, but I don’t have to, because it pays me.

    And who do you think is engaging in the other side of the WoW RMT? Other rich first-world players who simply have too much Gold burning a hole in their pockets? No, a lot of them are people in third-world countries doing it for a living. They kill monsters to get some high-level loot that people want (cornering the market if possible), auction it for as much Gold as possible, then sell it to other people for US$ so they can eat. The gold-sellers sure do want the RMT in and of itself. Their customers tend to be people who have money but insufficient free time to do the endless level grinding necessary to get stuff without RMT, i.e., rich first-worlders. Without RMT, they’re not playing, because only children have the spare time to do well in WoW without it. Without RMT, those third-world goldsellers go back to a textile mill, or a field, or maybe starve to death, rather than playing videogames for a living. RMT makes a hell of a lot bigger difference to their lives than it does to yours.

  20. […] aktuelle und sehr umfassende Liste aller künstlichen Welten zusammengestellt. Wirklich aller? Nun, Raphael Koster hat da noch ein paar (wenige) Ergänzungen und […]

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