Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Twinity: the end of London

When exploring Twinity Singapore for the first time, I wandered far enough from the city center to get to the point where the city, quite literally, stopped. Metaversum hadn't gotten around to building those remote parts of Singapore. I was looking at the seams of the city, so to speak! Today the same happened, but this time in London.

Somewhere between Picadilly Circus and Knightsbridge, near Green Park, the city ends abruptly. I was on my way to Hyde Park and Kensington, but it seems those areas haven't been built yet.

By the way, as I Tweeted before: from my admittedly anecdotal evidence, I'd say Twinity London is busier than Singapore, and perhaps Berlin as well.

More snapshots at my Koinup page.

My RL job in Eve terms

Yargok at Wherever I may Roam asks: 'how would your RL job be described in Eve terms'? Here's my attempt!

The aging yellow-and-blue public transportation shuttle drops me off at one of the regional traffic hubs. Even though this is isn't exactly known as the business heart of the area, this is where our headquarters are located. I am, after all, working at a financial institution of modest origins, founded by farmers, many years ago. When the fancy city banks wouldn't lift a finger to help them, these hardworking folks decided to help themselves: they created their own bank, much to the amusement of the city bankers. How the times have changed! When, recently, the aforementioned fancy city banks needed trillions of bailout ISK from any and all corp, alliance or empire that would try and rescue them, the modest farmers' bank didn't need any help at all. We're solid and we're going strong.

Before I dock up at my desk, I grab myself a quick coffee. Black, extra strong with just a little bit of sugar: that's my morning fuel. After logging on I check the vital signs of the transaction system I'm maintaining, usually even before I scan the incoming comms channels for stuff I should respond to.
All those traders, farmers and miners, selling and buying, attempting to make a few ISK: they can't operate without someone handling the ISK flow. And that's where I am, right on top of one of the main cash transport systems this bank has. Hundreds of thousands, millions, even billions of ISK change hands - daily - under our watchful eyes.

Not that I am a moneyman. On the contrary, I'm really bad at complicated constructions, small print, insurance clauses, tax forms and such afflictions of modern mankind. No, I'm one of the tech guys who keeps the wheels of this system turning. I have been for several years; I am, by now, one of the senior and most experienced team members. And the pay is pretty good, even in these times. What's not to like?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Twinity: London seesighting

Once, when visiting London with my parents, my mother mentioned she would like to do 'one of those seesighting tours'. We've been teasing her with it ever since!

Today, I planned on doing another guided 'seesighting' tour through London; this time one through Twinity's virtual London. This virtual rendering of the English capital has been open to the public for a few days now, but I haven't yet had the time to really check it out, and I thought I could use this tour to make up for that. Unfortunately, the preparations took a bit too long. Apparently, many people are still having issues with voice and sound, and they kept trying to fix it while I ran out of time, so I had to drop out. Hopefully another time..

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Eve Online: Arraron gate

Here I am, waiting at the Arraron stargate in Chantrousse, enjoying the view of the ringed planet below. After the Dominion expansion, Eve is looking better than ever. See my Koinup page for more snapshots!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eve Online: Dominion planet

One of my first snapshot of the Dominion expansion on the main Eve grid, Trinity.This one was taken on a laptop with a lower end GPU, but I still like it! Visually, the main changes of the Dominion expansion are the star fields and the planets. Here, my Minmatar destroyer flies past an earthlike planet.

More of my Dominion snapshots can be found at Koinup.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eve Online: weekend billionaire

Today marks a special occassion: for the first time, my wallet contains more than one billion ISK. I'm a regular weekend billionaire, me! Of course I know there are traders, miners and such who make much more, but for a casual mission runner, it's not bad. Furthermore, it's more than the average Eve pilot has, according to the Q2 quarterly Economic Newsletter, which said the average Eve pilot has roughly something like 300 to 450 million ISK in cash.

Of course, now that I have this much ISK, I need to consider my options. Buying new ships? Rigs? Skills?

Speaking of which: I am now over 16 million skillpoints, as I completed Armor Compensation Explosive level 5 today. It was the last armor compensation skill I needed, I have all of them up to level 5 now. It seems I'm done learning the basic armor skills, as the certification system awarded me the Elite Armor Tanking certificate. Next up: shield skills! Currently working on shield management level 5, but that will take another 11 days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eve Online: A look at Dominion

After seeing the Dominion trailer at CK's, I thought I'd take a look at it myself. You can already get a preview on Eve Online's test environment, codenamed 'Singularity', even though the Dominion expansion is still a month away. Getting online was easy, using these excellent instructions by Cyleus Taestar, and so (after a bit of tinkering with directories, files, shortcuts and a 479 MB upgrade) I found myself flying through New Eden Dominion style. I must say I'm impressed by some of the art work on the planets and moons! Behold:

Some of the moons look very natural, almost like a reworked picture of our own moon.

Of course there's also the Gas Giants. We have those planets too, in our own solar system, and they often look a bit bland, as pictures of Saturn and Neptune show. New Eden's gas giants are true to nature in this regard, but that makes them a bit less attractive to see as well. Our own Jupiter is more colorful, and to my taste the New Eden gaseous planets that I have seen (only a few!) could have had a bit more 'Jupiter' in them.

By the way: all planets revolve naturally and on some of them I spotted thunderstorms.

New Eden's background skies, often consisting of nebulae and stars, also seemed to have undergone an upgrade but not as dramatic as the planets and moons.

Of course Dominion is more than just this artwork update, but so far I like what I've seen. I will definitely spend more time on Singularity in the coming weeks, if only to explore the New Eden we'll all get to see when Dominion is released.

-update- Added more snapshots to my Koinup Eve Online group.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sinterklaas has arrived

Sinterklaas, the supposedly Spanish bishop Saint Nicholas dearly loved by every Dutch child, has arrived in the port of Schiedam earlier today, with his steamboat full of gifts for all wellbehaved children. He is of course accompanied by his trusted helpers, the Zwarte Pieten! In the coming weeks, Sinterklaas (often called 'Sint') and his helpers will spread presents and candy throughout The Netherlands. Sint rides his white horse over the roofs and houses, while his helpers deliver the good stuff: kids put their shoes by the chimney, and Zwarte Piet is supposed to climb down and put candy or small presents in them. Often kids will leave something nice for Sinterklaas' horse in return: a bit of water and a carrot or a sugar lump for instance.

On the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas Evening is celebrated, with giving larger presents (both to kids and grownups), seasonal candy (chocolate letters!) and such. Often the extended family is involved, and a typical feature of this evening is, that the grownups write silly poems to go with the gifts. First you read the poem, in which someone usually sets you straight, teases you or mildy vents some frustrations; only after that you are allowed to open the present. Soon after December 5th, Sint leaves the country only to return mid November next year, when the whole ritual begins anew.

This children's feast is a real national tradition and has been celebrated in The Netherlands for hundreds of years. It (more or less) marks the start of the winter and to a lesser extend the christmas season over here. Our 'Sinterklaas' may also have been a source of inspiration for the American Santa Claus!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

BlogHUD: an SL history book

The very first post on this blog, dated july 2nd 2007, is about me trying out BlogHUD, Koz Farina's blogging tool from within SL. I have been using it ever since, on and off. Looking back at my own BlogHUD archive, I wondered how many snapshots and blog entries there are at BlogHUD, and so I went to find the very first post. It took some effort, but as I write this, the oldest surviving post is on page 2731. It is 174 weeks, 2 days and 22 hours old!

Given that BlogHUD currently has 2731 archive pages, and that there are ten entries per page on them, there should be over 27.000 entries in Koz Farina's database. That is an astounding collection of chronologically ordered text and images in one place. It's a tremendous timeline! Browsing through it, familiar names and places drift by, some of them long gone, others still active. It's like a history book of Second Life, one I'm glad to be part of. I'll make sure to keep contributing, too!

SL Residential

Last night I was standing on a tower in Lutestring, looking in the direction of Timandra and Promissa and wondered how the view would be if I cranked up all my graphics settings to the max. After I did that, I waited for a few minutes for the view to fully rez, and here's the result:

These are generally residential sims, but the great variety in Second Life shows here as well. Towers, houses, water, mountains, beaches, clubs, a pirate ship, offices: it's all there. Too bad there's a 512 meter view range limit!

I'm going to do this again from another PC with a more powerful graphics card, see if the results get better.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The new rentals

Yesterday, Tropical Beach Rentals' Zena and Ronon prepared my new rentals in Lutestring. It's a nice bay, and so we decided to call it 'Lute Harbour'. I'm quite happy with the way they turned out! Hopefully tenants will like them too; occupancy is important, after all.

Speaking of which: my rentals are still doing relatively well. A month ago, we saw a serious drop in occupancy, but it seems to have been an incident and not a trend, as occupancy rates quickly rebounded to their usual, higher levels. Financially speaking this means I'm earning, but not much, just the tier with a few dollars margin. With Lute Harbour however, I have gone up in tier, and it will take a while before it's all rented, so it remains to be seen whether the coming months will be profitable at all. But, of course, that's the business risk I'll have to accept!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Through the gates of time

I still remember it clearly. I was a teenager, sitting on the couch at home watching TV: a report from Berlin, where, much to my amazement, people were breaking through the infamous Berlin wall. Confused border guards, people hacking away at the wall with large hammers, a tremendous outpour of joy and tears. People hugging and crying, the Brandenburer Tor. Mass parties, freedom! I may have been young then, but I knew I was watching history unfold itself before my eyes. I had been behind the Iron Curtain one time and it frightened me; but now it was gone.

Today I'm looking back at the Berlin Wall, in Twinity Berlin. Throughout Twinity Berlin, there are gates through which you can step back in time, and enter the Berlin that still has a wall, where stern looking officers stand guard under flags with communist symbols. Now you're in Berlin 2009, the next moment you're back in 1989.. The gates are created of appropriately grim concrete, as you can see.

Here I am, standing near checkpoint Charlie, 2009:

A few steps ahead, and suddenly..

I am very much impressed with what Metaversum has done here. Some of the images are familiar, and being born during the cold war, they still evoke emotions, even though I'm not German. Do yourself a favor, install Twinity and pay a visit to Twinity Berlin, even if it's only to take a look at the Wall - in a way you'll never be able to in real life. I have uploaded some pictures here at Koinup.

Apart from the whole Berlin Wall 20 years anniversary thing, this is a fantastic way of presenting history. Imagine stepping through a small gate somewhere in London, and ending up at exactly the same spot, but in Medieval times? Or a gate in Singapore, which brings you to the city as it was in World War II? What a great way to show and teach history! Athens in the time of Pericles; the Forum Romanum in Rome in the first century AD; or even Amsterdam during the Dutch Golden Age. Let's hope Metaversum gets to do some of these. What city or history would you like to see recreated?

Friday, November 6, 2009

New project: Lute Harbour

I caught up with Zena Silverstar and Ronon Carver of Tropical Beach Rentals, while they were preparing our new rental project in Lutestring: Lute Harbour. They were clearly afk, but sitting nicely on a poseball, so I took the opportunity to take a team picture :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nebraska and OpenSim

Back when I started this blog, my main focus in the area of virtual worlds was business usage. IBM was experimenting with Second Life and as an IBM business partner, my then employer asked me to keep an eye on what IBM was doing. Over the years my focus has shifted a bit, but the business usage of virtual worlds is still interesting stuff and there are still plenty people believing in it. Linden Labs, anyway, still does: in a few days, they will launch their 'SL behind the firewall' offering Nebraska.

"Mark Kingdon, CEO of Linden Lab, will unveil “Nebraska”, a stand-alone solution based on the technology that runs the popular Second Life virtual world. “Nebraska” is the much-anticipated behind-the-firewall solution which will allow enterprise to host their own virtual world environments within their organizations."

Kindon will unveil Nebraska at a Metanomics conference which promises to be one of the most interesting events of the year.

I'm sure I'm not the first one to talk about OpenSim vs Nebraska, but here's a few thougts. From an OpenSim point of view, Nebraska is a validation of it's existence: yes, there is a need and market for a standalone simulator. At the same time, Nebraska might be a threat to a part of OpenSim's marketshare, as companies might be sensitive to the fact that Nebraska is a corporate offering from an established company with a formal support organisation behind it, and not just something built by a bunch of hobbyists. Shortsighted? Perhaps, but this has been mentioned to me at least twice when talking about OpenSim!

From a technical point of view I'm interested in the security aspects of it. Does it require a separate directory server or can it use an existing LDAP server? Or MS Active Directory? Does it use encrypted network connections?

Interoperability is also an issue. Can I create a grid of Nebraska sims, and can I join that to OpenSim as well? How is content shared between Nebraska sims? Perhaps these issues are covered elsewhere already - I've been too busy with rl stuff to really read up on Nebraska!

Anyway, as an owner of an OpenSim, I'd like to test Nebraska as well, but I'm not sure we'll get the chance..

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Twinity: London

After Berlin and more recently Singapore, Twinity is about to grow again: the first snapshots of Twinity's virtual rendering of London have appeared on Facebook. From the accompanying press release I gather that London isn't finished yet, as Metaversum is looking for creative people to set up shop in virtual London.

That request kind of surprised me. Twinity aims to be a mirror world: a virtual world that mimicks the real world as closely as possible. Yet, Metaversum is looking for people to create new shops, businesses, art galleries and the like in their virtual London, and apparently these will be entirely new instead of mirrored from the real world. I wonder if this means Metaversum is changing their philosophy in this regard.

I'm really looking forward to visiting London in Twinity. I have never been in the real Berlin or Singapore, so I can't compare the Twinity experience with the real thing. I have however visited the real London, so this is the first time I'll visit a Twinity city I am somewhat familiar with in real life too.

Enter the wormhole?

Things are about to change! Our corp is making plans to anchor a player owned station in a nice and suitable class II wormhole we recently located. Of course we'll have to invest a bit, but the return on investment is said to be very good, as all sorts of interesting and profitable 0.0 minerals can be mined there.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this move. I've been running missions in Verge Vendor for months now, and I'm still enjoying myself. The missions aren't that hard anymore; I can usually salvage and chat with corp members while my drones do most of the hard work. A bit of casual play, nice and relaxing! And yet, while I still enjoy it, it's becoming a bit too predictive and perhaps even tedious. And, those ninja salvagers are becoming a pest in the systems I usually operate; why provide these lazy bastards with more opportunities to salvage my wrecks? Perhaps I really do need a change of scenery and action!

But there are a few drawbacks. I've been flying a largely T2 fitted armor tanking Dominix battleship for a while and I like it, especially for it's huge drone space. However, if we move into the wormhole, I probably won't be able to bring the Domi; it's mass would probably collapse the entry to the wormhole right behind me. So what ship to bring instead? I don't know yet.

Partly that's also because I'm not sure what I'll be doing in the wormhole. My corp mates are mostly miners, going after the precious ores, but I'm not one of them. Of course the miners would need some protection in the lawless wormhole space, so perhaps I could patrol the area to protect my corp mates, but that doesn't look like a casual player task to me. Sleeper hunting could be nice, but to be effective I'd have to invest in some scanning skills. Uncertainties abound!

I really have no idea where I'll be in a few weeks and what I'll be doing, but it sure looks like the quiet mission running days are almost over. And perhaps that's a good thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

On top of Singapore

I used to be able to fly through Twinity, but when I didn't visit Twinity for a while, I forgot how. As it's an undocumented key combination, I couldn't find it anymore; I had to keep both feet on the floor. Luckily, after a tipoff from RC at the Twinity Monitor, I am now able to fly again, and here I am, enjoying the view over Singapore from the roof of Park Hotel Orchard, at Orchard Road!

Used like this, you can view a city like you'll never be able - or willing - to in real life.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mixed news from the rentals front

For years now we’ve been hearing bad news about the economy, but at the same time, my Second Life rentals have been doing fine. Each month, the rentals (some of them visible in this snapshot to the right) pay for the tier fee, and usually there’s a small surplus of a few US Dollars. Over the past year or so, this surplus slowly grew to a buffer large enough to pay for two months tier. When I got to that point, I decided to cash in those US Dollars, as I needed them elsewhere. In hindsight however, this may not have been such a good idea.

Yesterday I received a report from my land manager Zena Silverstar and her team at Tropical Beach Rentals, with some less than stellar news: the occupancy rates of some of the rentals suddenly and unexpectedly dropped considerably, at an unprecedented rate, over the past few weeks. A development we hadn’t experienced before! Tenants come and go all the time, and occupancy rates always vary a bit, but generally they stay well within a certain (profitable) bandwith and we didn't expect that to change so suddenly.

It took a while before a possible explanation was found: the occupancy drop occurred right after Zindra, the new SL 'adult' mainland, was opened. Could it be that people are moving off the regular mainland to Zindra as a permanent place to live? When asked, former long time tenants mentioned all kinds of small reasons to end their stay with us, but none of them mentioned the new adult continent ; perhaps they didn’t want to admit to moving there.

In the mean time however, occupancy has recovered a bit as rentals vacated by long term tenants are being occupied again by newcomers, and as far as I can tell my rentals are still profitable, albeit with a smaller than usual margin. Tropical Beach Rentals also expanded their staff, with support for tenants now available across a larger time frame of the day. Perhaps that helps too.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Walking across this submerged bridge will make my suit wet. But the water doesn't look too cold..

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Anonymously Confidential

Even though this blog post starts in Eve Online, it's also applicable to Second Life, Twinity and other environments. It's about the relative safety of being anonymous online.

I'm one of those Eve Online pilots who's trying to participate in corporate and alliance chat. Talking to corp mates and alliance friends adds a valuable social dimension to the game, and unless I'm busy with the mission or task at hand, I'm available for a bit of idle chat.

But it doesn't always have to be just a bit of chat. At times, I have ended up in quite personal and sometimes emotional conversations, usually about people experiencing all kinds of difficulty at home. Alcoholism, parental abuse, broken families, a bitter divorce, legal struggles with (usually) ex wives refusing a father to see his kids, financial issues - it's all there. And it's surprisingly close to the surface; sometimes it takes just one or two questions before someone pours their heart out. I've been, at times, taken aback by the painful stories, by the hurt that's hiding behind the screen names!

In an environment like Eve Online, it's not that difficult to hide your real life identity. This relative anonimity, coupled with a feeling of trust amongst corporation mates, will from time to time lead to this kind of confidential conversations. And though the circumstances may differ, I've also had encounters like these in Second Life.

I have said it before: these human interactions adds a value to MMO style games which I appreciate a lot. It would be a cold affair without it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

OpenSim: building bridges

A while ago I loaded a second island; my eleven year old niece Emma built this beautiful bridge between them. Must have been hard to position the prims!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eve Online: does CCP love griefers?

CCP, the creators of Eve Online, publish a Quarterly Economic Newsletter (QEN) in which they provide a lot of data concerning Eve's economy. In the QEN for Q2 2009, on page 13, we find this interesting tidbit:

"..However, the majority of EVE players are located in hisec space, or 70% of the total number of characters. Thus, most ISK is located in hisec. The least amount of ISK is located in lowsec space, where only 13% of EVE characters reside."

This segment of the QEN discusses the distribution of characters and ISK (Eve's in game currency) throughout Eve's single shard universe. For those of you unfamiliar with Eve, here's a quick primer on security in Eve Online's New Eden. This universe is divided in three areas, each with a different security policy. Pilots in high security space (highsec or hisec) are protected by the (quite effective) in game NPC police force called Concord, which provides the most protection on areas with security level 1.0, but a little less in 0.9, and so forth to 0.5 where a pilot is least protected. Pilots in lowsec (security levels 0.4 to 0.1) should not count on any protection; it is essentially a deserted wasteland with the occasional hornets' nest of pirates. Nullsec (0.0) is altogether different; player run alliances own these areas and they dictate who's safe or not.

Back to the QEN: it says, in short, that most of the characters - 70% - and ISK are located in high security space. This probably also means that highsec is, for CCP, the most valuable area in Eve Online in terms of paying customers. I know that '70% of the characters' doesn't directly translate to '70% of the paying customer base', but alt characters and multiple accounts are as common in highsec as they are in nullsec. At any rate, it seems that highsec pilots are instrumental in funding CCP and Eve Online. From my admittedly anecdotal experience, I think most of these paying customers are no hardcore PVP players or pirates, but peaceful miners and mission runners, carebears and newbies.

Yet the gameplay of Eve Online doesn't do these people many favours. Rather, it's the other way around. Especially newer pilots, mining or running PVE missions in their n00b ships, often fall prey to more experienced griefer players who know enough about the rules to trick the unexperieced into an unfair fight which the newbie is certain to lose. Carebear corporations, newbie corps, miners and such are a regular and easy prey for pirate corps who regularly - and often for the sheer fun of bashing weaker players - declare war on them. There's nothing you can do about such a wardec; the gameplay allows any corp to declare war (wardec) any other, as long as the wardeccing corp pays the necessary fees. For the wardecced corps, if you're not an experienced PVP corps, it often means either don't play EVE until the war is over ('dock and turtle') or run the risk of losing your ship and your expensive implants. Wars can last weeks; recently while I was on holiday, many of my corp mates lost almost a months' worth of playing time due to a series of wardecs.

I understand that this is part of the game. This is New Eden, it's a harsh environment, but still I don't understand why CCP continues to keep it this way. I have known a lot of trial accounts who chose not to become paying customers, and I know of (formerly!) paying accounts who refuse to ever set foot in Eve again after being harassed, griefed or wardecced one too many times. After all, why should I pay 15 dollars a month, only to be forced to dock and turtle almost the entire month, or to allow some griefer jerk to blow me to pieces? Not my idea of fun, really. When I just started out in Eve, I almost quit over such an incident, and if I hadn't found a good corp at that moment, I would certainly have quit indeed.

CCP loses money in cancelled subscriptions or lack of trial account retention, due to the fact that they allow pirates and griefers to harass (especially) less experienced players and corps in highsec. Yet it also seems that highsec is the region with the largest population of paying customers! These miners, pve mission runners and their corps, they just hang in there, and when they quit, their numbers get replenished with new players time and time again, despite the (CCP blessed) efforts to have them harassed, wardecced and griefed out of New Eden. They are many, but they could have been more, if CCP had wanted them to be; if CCP had given them a bit more protection.

I'm obviously not advocating a radical overhaul of Eve's gameplay. But, some added protection (in for instance the 0.8 to 1.0 regions of highsec, or in the first months of being a pilot) for certain categories of players against can baiters, flippers, griefers, or some recourse for corps against serial wardeccing pirate corps could be beneficial to player retention and thus to CCP's bottom line and Eve's long term prospects.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Twinity: Unfinished business

Yesterday I decided I wanted to see the Singapore harbour in Twinity, so I walked from the city center towards the straits. Apparently not many people make it to the edge of the city yet, as my exploration even warranted some attention from Metaversum. Tonight I wondered: what if I went even further away from Singapore's city center? Would I eventually encounter a border or an edge, or would the world simply cease to exist at a certain point? And so I went on for a while - and there it was, the edge of the Twinity world!

This really is the place where the unfinished seams of Singapore become visible, and the visual effects are quite interesting.

But perhaps the most beautiful sight was this unfinished freeway, extending over the Singapore straits, in the dark blue glow of the night sky with the gentle waves of the straits below it.

The rest of tonight's snapshots can be found at koinup, as usual.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twinity: Singapore

Finally, I am able to visit Twinity again. The latest ATI patches seem to have fixed issues I had; CPU usage is now workable, even though Twinity still uses a lot of resources. I took the opportunity to take a walk through Singapore to the port near Raffles Avenue, where I cooled my tired feet in the harbour water..

Even though Singapore is not finished yet, it's nice to be able to visit a new city in Twinity.

More Twinity visuals can be found at Koinup!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are you prepared?

Many of Eve Online's pilots enjoy doing stuff together. Mining, missions or operations: it's often done with corp mates, alliance members or friends, which makes it a lot more enjoyable. Yesterday, an ad hoc team of four Alien Ship Builders did a couple of level 4 missions: Angel Extravaganza and Mordus Headhunters. Given the huge amounts of damage (dps) we could inflict and absorb (tank), neither of these missions proved to be much of a problem.

Yet, at one point during Mordus Headhunters I ran into trouble. I drew much of the aggro of the second pockets, meaning I had dozens of enemy ships firing at me at point blank range. My setup wasn't really prepared for those amounts of dps as I had only one armor repair unit fitted, and after a while I had to warp out to repair my ship. On the snapshot below, which you can click for a larger view, my shields are half gone, but my armor is still intact:

The reason I had left so ill prepared: I was running a relatively easy level3 mission solo, when we decided to run the level4's together. Without changing my fittings I jumped in, when in hindsight I should have adapted to the new, more demanding circumstances!

In the end, nothing was lost; the three others were more than capable to handle the incoming fire thrown at them. We completed the missions and cashed the rewards; in total, with the level3 and a few sales combined, I earned almost 30 million ISK yesterday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Questions on CCP's new 'Dust 514' console game

Today brought us the news that CCP, the creators of Eve Online, will bring a new console only MMO to the market, called 'Dust 514'. The funny thing is: Dust 514 is situated on the planets of the very same EVE Online universe, New Eden, we already know! Both EVE Online's space bound pilots and Dust 514's planet dwelling fighters will play a role in the story that unfolds in New Eden. According to CCP, this is "one universe, one war", and they hope the Eve Online and Dust 514 communities will merge together over time. After reading a few news reports I have a few quick questions and remarks about Dust 514.

First off, Dust 514 is an FPS, meaning the players will be walking avatars - something still missing from Eve Online. Called 'ambulation' or 'walking in stations' we have been waiting for this for quite some time, but so far this hasn't materialised. Could Dust 514 be the precursor to ambulation? If Eve and Dust 514 players are ever to meet in game, both need a real avatar. Besides, the Dust 514 snapshot below - provided by CCP - shows a command pit, floating in space above the planet, not built on it. This is clearly ambulation, but of course it could be only for Dust 514 players.

Will an EVE pilot be able to participate in fights on the planets? Could EVE spaceships affect battles by bombing enemy Dust 514 players or by providing logistical services to his own Dust 514 mercs? Could an EVE pilot 'beam down' to pick up a gun and join the fight on the planet? And if he survives, could he then take his Dust 514 buddies back up to the station for a drink at the bar? Again, without ambulation this is impossible, but there's certainly a very interesting perspective for future expansions. Although, given that Dust 514 is a console game, I don't know whether it's technically feasible for CCP to provide such a mixed environment within the current implementation of New Eden.

Second: the changes to sovereignty in 0.0 (nullsec) space. Currently, an alliance can claim sovereignty over regions of 0.0 space by placing and maintaining player owned space stations (POS'es) there. In the future, Dust 514 players get to play a role in this mechanism too, as owning stations isn't going to be enough to maintain sovereignty. You'll need Dust 514 mercenaries on the ground, on the planets, to conquer those for you as well. This may have significant impact on the balances of power and the politics of New Eden. I wonder how the big space holding 0.0 alliances think about this sudden change to the playing field.

And the existing EVE pilots? If you're a highsec PVE player or miner, it doesn't look like your daily game experience will change much, as the sov changes only affect nullsec. Also, with Dust 514, CCP is aiming for a different audience: the existing pilots can stay in space, CCP wants new FPS players for Dust 514 combat! IF CCP succeeds, the number of gamers active within New Eden will continue to grow (or grow even harder), which is a good thing for CCP and hence for all of us who like to spend time in New Eden.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Opensim: two islands

Today I created a second island at my OpenSim location:

It's not that spectacular; it's just one of the default islands available for download in the Second Life knowledge base. But it's good enough for my purposes, here. I think I'll ask the kids to turn this into a park or tropical island, instead of an ordinary residential area. I wonder if they are up to it!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OpenSim amazement

The new OpenSim server I created last week, has seen a lot of action in the past few days. My kids and a few nieces living nearby, are busy building annd furnishing houses. They have discovered how to work with textures, too! At first they noticed that screenshots could be saved to inventory, and they started using them as textures. After that I showed my daughter how to upload pictures found on the internet or local hard drive, and now they are creating tv's, laptops and stuff like that. They are learning fast, and I am, frankly, quite amazed at some of their work.

This nice bar is built by my eight year old niece:

My almost-ten-years-old daughter framed a tv in her new house - but also some popcorn to go with a movie:

And this is perhaps the most promising build, a beach house, still under development. This one is made by my fourteen year old niece, who's very much into interior design, and I'm quite eager to see what she's going to do with this nice place!

More pictures are available at my Koinup stream.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

OpenSim up and running

After trying again and again to get OpenSim running on CentOS 5 64bits, and persistently failing at it, I finally surrendered and installed in on Windows XP. I had an old Dell PC standing idly in a corner; downloading OpenSim and installing it was a breeze. Configuring MySQL wasn't much of an issue either; only a network issue and some tricky configurations in OpenSim.ini gave me some headaches. In the end, I got it up and running in a few hours - not bad. The kids are going to be happy tomorrow!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Skill training completed

One of the advantages of Eve Online's skill training system, is that training continues even if you're offline, for instance when you're on holiday. Of course you'll have to start training a skill that takes long enough, but there's plenty of those. I had several skills I could train to level 5 (the highest skill level) and that would take 22 days; longer than my holiday was! After careful deliberation, I choose to train Drone Interfacing level 5, giving me 20% extra drone damage. A translation for you non EVE playing readers: in space, I can use up to five drones that will inflict damage on the targets I direct them to. This means a lot of firepower, and many enemies rightfully fear the damage a swarm of drones can do, especially if their owners are well trained - as I am now. So, today, upon returning to Eve Online, I was quite happy to see the notification: "Skill training completed. Sered Woollahra has finished learning Drone Interfacing V." Twentytwo days of training, but it's worth every day of it!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Engineering efforts

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of virtual worlds is the technology side. I'm a systems administrator myself, responsible for maintaining and optimizing an important internet application, and as such, I can appreciate the engineering efforts of my colleagues at Linden Labs, CCP et cetera. It's not an easy task to keep all those residents and pilots lag free and happy..

Linden Labs has long struggled with Second Life's performance. Over the years, there have been many improvements: as I am writing this, there are over 77.000 SL residents online, which is roughly about three times the number of concurrent residents usually seen in late 2006. And in those days, SL would crash if the number of active residents got near 30.000!

But today, it's CCP that I want to talk about. Eve Online (as Second Life, btw) is a single shard world, meaning all pilots inhabit the same instance of the virtual universe that is Eve Online. And some of solar systems put quite a strain on the servers! Take, for instance, Jita, the major trade hub of Eve Online, which is sometimes populated by 1000 pilots or more. Until recently, having that many pilots in local (in any one system) would mean intolerable lag, horrible performance and all the fun associated with it. Recently, however, CCP released a patch that drastically improved on that situation: bugs were fixed, code was refactored and a database index was added. It is now estimated that Jita can serve up to 1400 or perhaps even 1500 pilots. A considerable improvement!

CCP has published quite a detailed account of this effort on it's dev blog here. As an engineer, I really appreciate the level of detail they're willing to provide. If you're really into engineering efforts, you should read this one: debugging jita live is for real men, where CCP Atlas details how a critical bug was fixed on the Jita server - while the system was online. Quite an effort, and a good read for anyone involved in high availability internet application!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Immersiveness in the browser?

Last week, I watched the Gaikai demo featured on Massively and Slashdot. I came away quite impressed: it looked realistic, didn't make over the top claims and the speed of loading and playing MMO games like Eve Online and WoW looked decent as well. I immediately requested a beta signup, as did many others I suspect!

There is however one issue with Gaikai, that that is immersiveness. Some MMO games or virtual world environments are intended to be immersive: the intention is to immerse all your senses in the game or world you're visiting, creating an intense experience. That's why Twinity, Second Life and Eve Online for instance are best played in full screen mode: nothing of the host computer or operating system is visible on screen, to distract from the environment. From the demo, it isn't clear whether Gaikai can deliver that; I'm actually pretty sure they don't. This is not an issue for most games I suspect, but it should have a negative impact on the immersiveness of virtual worlds, as you can see in the snapshot below.

Still, if the price is right, I would sign up for the service. The ability to access my favorite virtual worlds and games from every PC that has Flash installed, is certainly appealing. Perhaps not as a primary means for real gameplay, but to do a bit of trade, to finalise a deal, to check in on in game communications, to add a skill to my Eve Online skillqueue, Gaikai may still be very useful.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Twinity: a first look at Singapore

Today I got an invite to have a look at the first beta build of virtual Singapore, as being built in Twinity. As I wasn't required or even asked to sign an NDA, I'm going to post this snapshot:

Granted, it's not that special, but it was dark there! Singapore is six hours ahead of us and so it's the middle of the night there now, even in Twinity. Hopefully I'll be able to take a daylight look too, soon!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Twinity: two sides of the mirror

Twinity has been in public beta for quite some time now; I've been a member for over a year. It started with standalone rooms, tied to a geographical location but without a real sense of world. That changed when virtual Berlin came: we were finally able to walk outside! With the arrival of virtual Berlin, Twinity's mirror world philosophy became a reality, be it at a limited scale. Obviously there's more to come: Singapore is in the works, hopefully to be launched later this year. Earlier there was talk about London, too, but I think we're not going to hear much about that until after the Singapore launch. It seems logical to finish that one first before taking on the next big project!

I don't have access to the Twinity subscriber database, but I have a feeling that Twinity's audience is still mainly based in Germany. 'Man spricht English', of course, but many Twinizens talk German between them. Adding Singapore to the mix might change this: the expected influx of visitors from Asia might tip the scales from a mainly German speaking to a more internationally oriented population. This too, obviously, presents opportunities for growth; it might also make Twinity an even more diverse and interesting mirror than it is today.

Two sides of the mirror
The mirror world vision which is slowly materialising in Twinity offers possibilities for real world businesses, tourism and such to present themselves to a virtual audience. And they do; the list of Twinity partners is growing. I can't judge whether the growth is fast enough or not, but it's is certainly there.

But the mirror vision also implies limits. Twinity has to resemble the real world as closely as possible, leaving little room for creativity in shaping or changing the world. Twinity's designers (the German company Metaversum) nor citizens ('Twinizens') can't just go ahead and randomly build houses or toy with the landscape, as is possible in Second Life. Clothing and interior designing allow for some creativity, and to be honest, some Twinizens have created beautiful spaces. But all in all, Twinity is, in this regard, more limited than SL citizens are used to. For me that's not much of an issue as I wasn't an active artist or designer anyway, but for some it is.

Who's providing the entertainment?
It also, and perhaps more significantly, means that Twinizens need to be entertained, much more so than in Second Life, where residents can easily organise their own concerts and events. This puts and additional burden on Metaversum; more than in Second Life or other game environments, amusement and entertainment has to be provided (or facilitated) by them, the world's owners. Exploring Berlin is nice for a start, but after a few sessions you probably have seen the best parts, and Twinizens might stop logging in, if that's really all there is! Looking at the list of events that have been organized recently, I think Metaversum understands this all too well. There have been movie premieres, literaty events, live music, parties, contests, games.. Metaversum is putting a lot of effort in this area. But if they didn't, I'm not sure Twinity would survive another year.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

IBM goes 3D - once again

Much has been said on this blog about IBM and it's involvement in virtual worlds, most notably (but not exclusively) Second Life. Yet I somehow completely missed this announcement about Sametime 3D. Sametime is IBM Lotus' instant messaging and unified communications software, and Sametime 3D is a virtual world addition to the existing package.

Via this IBM Lotus Sametime blog announcement I found this youtube clip, which shows Sametime 3D. I haven't found confirmation yet, but it looks like Sametime 3D is an implementation of OpenSim! In itself that's not such a big surprise, given that IBM has been involved in OpenSim - unofficially for the most part - for a long time.

Sametime 3D doesn't look too fancy, it's just OpenSim. But, I don't think this has to be an issue, as business use has other requirements than recreational use.

From what I've seen in the youtube clip, it's quite easy to initiate a new 3D meeting from the Lotus Sametime client, but it doesn't show how the meeting itself is started. It's obvious that the regular Second Life client is used to facilitate the meeting, so I assume you need to have that installed separately, but I can't confirm that at the moment. It could be that IBM has simply integrated a lightweight SL client in the Sametime software, but that seems unlikely; I would have expected to see some sort of IBM branding in the virtual world client, but the window just says 'Second Life'. So, is a separate Second Life client started as soon as you enter the Sametime 3D meeting? Do you have to login or does it use your Sametime credentials? What if you have SL installed, already? These things I am curious about, but details are scarce. More information is welcome!

Sametime 3D comes with a few prepared rooms: a boardroom, a collaboration space and a theatre/auditorium, and also features some business ready tools like a flipchart that can be used for note taking; the contents can be exported in "a word processor compatible format" as the video says. All in all I'd say it looks useful, and I would definitely like to give it a try once.

Linden Labs offers a standalone Second Life simulator behind the firewall, an effort that (as far as I know) is still in beta but also included IBM participation. This "SL behind the firewall" is, as far as I know, really just that: a standalone SL environment. Sametime 3D is different: the 3D part is a business oriented addition to a larger set of collaboration tools. I wonder what approach will work best in the real world! Frankly, I assume IBM Lotus Sametime 3D will find easier inroads in the corporate world, as it doesn't have the negative connotations that Second Life has for some, and because it's 'just' an addition to an existing package. It could be implemented without much fanfare or discussion, as a part of a regular upgrade cycle. Too bad we don't run Sametime at my employer!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Looking for reinforcements

My corp, Alien Ship Builders, is growing quite nicely these days. When I first joined ASB (temporarily), there were usually a few pilots online; say about ten or a dozen. Nowadays however, it's often double that and then some. Most pilots are based in Europe, but we also have players from the US and other parts of the planet. Some members are barely out of trial; others have been in space since 2003, when EVE went in beta. We have miners but also mission runners, and we have aspirations in PVP too.

And yet, it's not enough. As a corporation, we're having plans to grow and diversify, not only in numbers but also in experience, sources of income and skills! To make this possible, we are looking for new members. Check this post by our corp director, Jastuu, out for more info.

See you in our corp channel, perhaps..

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Last week, one of my favorite agents set me up with a courier mission to a lowsec system. Usually I don't do those, but I had an implantless clone and a cheap frigate at that station, so I thought.. why not! I accepted the mission and flew through several lowsec systems in Essence to my destination. After completing my business there I decided to, finally, pay a visit to 0.0 (nullsec); it was only a few jumps away, and I figured I was way overdue to check that area out anyway.

Jumping from Orvolle to PF-346 (Syndicate) and then to FP-MLJ was quite uneventful, to be honest; few people in local, all quiet at the jumpgates - apart from a few wrecks here and there. At X-BV98 there where a few NPC rats posting at the jumpgate, but as my frigate didn't have any significant firepower I ignored those; I pressed on to Poitot, where I warped to the next stargate. When the warp engine cut, I found myself in a shiny blue bubble.. uh oh. So this is how a warp bubble looks! With me unable to get away, someone opened fire, and within a few seconds my tiny Amarr frigate buckled under the blows of a 200mm cannon. Total destruction came fast! As my pod emerged from the wreckage I tried to slip away, but no no avail. Suddenly, after another couple of seconds, I was back at the University of Caille station in Bourynes, the station I was born, over a year ago..

I talked a bit with the guy who shot me, and he offered me some cordial advice, which I'm passing along to all you pilots like me, inexperienced in the ways of nullsec: never warp straight to a jumpgate, when in 0.0 or even lowsec. Because if you do fly directly towards it, your angle and direction of approach is predictable and you are more likely to end up in a warp bubble - and quite possibly in a fresh clone, half a galaxy away!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How the mighty have fallen!

For those of you that don't play Eve Online, a short primer on territory and sovereignity in New Eden, Eve Online's virtual universe. New Eden is a single shard world, meaning all pilots live in the same, single instance of it. It's divided in three areas of space, indicated by their security level: from 1.0 to 0.5 is secure space, with 1.0 being the safest; this is where new players typically enter space. This secure area is also known as 'empire space'. The second area is 0.4 - 0.1; these are lower security or 'low sec' systems, where law enforcement is almost gone (0.4) to virtually nonexistant (0.1); it's a hornets' nest of pirates. The third area is 0.0 or 'null sec'. These are lawless regions, where alliances reign.

Empire and low sec space belong to the different empires emerging from New Eden's lore: Gallente Federation, Minmatar Republic and the Amarr and Caldari empires which are all non player (npc) empires. Nullsec however is different. A player alliance, if powerful enough, can actually own systems in nullsec; and if you hold enough (or strategically important) systems in a region, you can call it your own. Some regions however are more profitable than others; they contain more rare ores to be mined, more opportunities for moon mining or more npc enemies to kill. Hence, alliances are continuously struggling over systems and regions, fighting to gain or break sovereignity. The neighbour's grass is always greener!

And this is where the big alliances come to their own. Over the past few years, a large scale war has been fought between Band of Brothers, recently renamed to KenZoKu and it's allies on one side, and GoonSwarm and the Northern Alliance on the other side. It's been an epic struggle, a back and forth of spying and betrayal, large scale fleet battles involving hundreds of pilots, strategic manoeuvering; it's been a grind of destruction, fire and mayhem. And it looks like it might be over.

KenZoKu, once New Eden's most powerful alliance with thousands of active members, has yielded their last 0.0 holdout to the combined forces of GoonSwarm and it's Northern Coalition allies, after being thorougly decimated over the past few weeks. Compare for instance this map of 2007 which prominently shows Band of Brothers (KenZoKu's original name) with this recent one; at time of writing, there's no BoB or KenZoKu to be found, anywhere. The mightiest, perhaps most smug of all, fallen! Will it recover? Who knows.. Eve's politics and alliance warfare make for some pretty interesting history, and with this great conflict coming to an end, it's going to be even more so in the coming weeks. Will KenZoKu regroup and return to 0.0? Will GoonSwarm and it's Northern Alliance remain intact without a big adversary as KenZoKu to fight? We'll see in the coming months!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Twinity: Rocking the metaverse

shot0021, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

The audience gathers for Rocking the Metaverse in Twinity Berlin. Dizzy Banjo is already playing, and the people around seem to have a lot of fun.

Twinity: group moderation

Koinup, the snapshot orientated social network for virtual worlds, is a participant in the Rocking the Metaverse tour, which sees virtual worlds artists perform in several virtual worlds environments. Now on Koinup, the Twinity group is administered by me. Today I received a message from Pier, one of Koinup's cofounders, asking me to keep an eye on the Twinity group; given the publicity, he expected new signups for the group and probably quite a bit of spam. I didn't see that coming, but he was right and I have already had to remove a few works that clearly didn't belong there! They were sometimes pretty and really nice to look at - but they had nothing to do with Twinity, and hence they had to be removed. Now I hope these people don't take it personally, but Pier was right: this is a group about Twinity, and it should stay that way. No offence intended..

Friday, June 12, 2009

Newbie bashing

Eve Online has a notorious reputation as one hard game to master and a harsh environment to survive in. Tonight one of my corp members experienced that firsthand. He's a few weeks old, and worked hard to be able to buy his first real mining barge. At his first mining trip with it, he gets tricked by an older character, this guy:

For non EVE Online inhabitants, here's a short primer on killing in space. Normally, you can't just fire upon any and all ships in high security (empire) space; you'd be killed on the spot by Concord, the in game police. This does however not apply if someone steals something from you; in that case you have killrights! You are free to destroy a pilot's ship and pod, for a certain amount of time, after that pilot steals from you; Concord will not harm you.

So here's our newbie miner, happily mining the asteroids, when all over sudden this guy pictured above attacks him and destroys his ship and pod. Without Concord intervention! How's that possible? Well, that's the trick part.. I don't know what happened, but our unsuspecting n00b was somehow tricked into taking something from Dark Drifter (a character from 2007), thus giving him killrights. And Dark did not hesitate to use them, unfortunately.

From a gameplay point of view, our n00b is out of luck. He was played, tricked, made a honest mistake - any of these will do - but he has to suffer the loss. Yet, given Dark Drifter's negative security standings, I suspect this is an older character who likes to grief n00bs. Again, from a gameplay point of view there's not much you can do about that, but it's appaling behaviour nonetheless, akin to a teenager bashing the kiddies in kindergarten.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day +65

Today marks the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of occupied Europe. The monumental sacrifice and achievements of that day should not be forgotten. I've been on the infamous Dog Green sector of Omaha beach, and while walking on the sand, I remembered the famous scenes of The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan. It had quite an impact on me: so this is the place where all those young Americans died.. In honor of those men, and all those other soldiers who gave their life for freedom here's a fitting Second Life snapshot.

Twinity: new women

Earlier this week, Twinity launched a new patch release which contained a makeover for the female avatar. Generally speaking I like what they've done to the Twinity women; the results are pleasing. My wife has an avatar in Twinity, and we modeled her to look like a real woman, not like a virtual barbie as often encountered in Second Life. Here's some snapshots of her new avatar shape, wearing outfits by Supershape and Wundervoll, where these snapshots were taken:

There's one minor nitpick, and that's the shape of the breasts: if you make them bigger, they do definitely not look natural anymore.. on the other hand, that's true in real life too, isn't it?