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?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Second Life and Eve Online: community differences

When, in 2006, I first started in Second Life there was already a thriving community of entrepeneurs, bloggers, artists, creative souls and poseurs active on the internet. Apart from the built in postcard functionality, snapshot tools like bloghud.com made it even easier to share your SL impressions directly - text and visuals - with any audience interested. Given Second Life's nature, as a social world without a defined gameplay, there was a lot to blog about. "Your world, your imagination": many people let their creativity run free, doing wildy different and interesting things with this new blanco world that was given to them. They changed it thorougly, shaping new societies and communities, houses and ever different landscapes, organising meetings, concerts and breakthrough conferences (see the attached snapshot), and all this stuff just begged to be blogged and photographed! And so we did, and still do. At Flickr, one SL group alone has almost 10.000 members and over 285.000 snapshots! More recently, Koinup has become one of the most interesting places to find and share visuals, and there too Second Life is booming.

Eve Online, on the other hand, has long lagged in the realm of blogging. CrazyKinux recently celebrated the fact that there seem to be over 500 Eve Online blogs, but even he admitted that there might be a few inactives here and there, so the real number of active EVE blogs might be a bit lower. A couple of hundred blogs - not that impressive. There's an Eve Online group on Flickr: it has 96 members and under 3000 snapshots at the time of writing. There is only one guy posting Eve stuff on Koinup, that that's me! Given Eve Online's often stunning visuals and single shard open design, I find that quite amazing. Even though there are good Eve Online blogs, why are there so few?

There are huge differences in the EVE Online and Second Life and their respective communities, and I think these explain the differences in blogging behaviour.

The first and in my opinion biggest difference, is in the communities that inhabit Second Life and New Eden. Many Eve players are (hardcore) gamers, out there in space to achieve their goals. They are focused, and spend a lot of time in game. They may bitch and moan about CCP and rival alliances in forums, but for most of them, that's about it. Second Life on the other hand attracts a wholly different audience, many of them innovative, extravert and creative, craving an audience for their works and ideas. Blogging and publishing their work is, to them, an integral, perhaps even necessary part of their virtual world experience: what's your creativity worth if you can't share?

Second, there is, at first glance, just not that much to blog about in Eve Online. Many of the missions have been done thousands of times, and there's nothing new to tell about them, even if they are fun to do. Same for mining, industry, hauling.. it's ok if you're into it, but not really blogworthy in most cases. Pirates and PvP types have new stories to tell, and they do; also, new expansions are always an interesting blog topic. But that's about it, really. Yet there should be a lot of interesting tales to tell about Eve Online! As a big, single shard sandbox universe, it has the environment suited for bloggable events to happen. Take, for instance, this war report of 2007 and the current writings of The Mitanni. War and strategy, long term operations on a grand scale, involving thousands of players forming alliances and armies better organised and trained perhaps than many a third world country army - it's there and it's waiting to be written about. This, and more, and there are signs of life! Several in the Eve Online community strive to get the number of bloggers up: other than the already mentioned CrazyKinux, there's the new blogging services podlogs and gamescribe. The first one is squarely aimed at EVE, the second one also caters to other games. Let's hope these new services bring the number of interesting and regularly updated Eve Online blogs a bit up. And if you're still reading: join Koinup, it's free, and post some of those stunning visuals there too..

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kassigainen stargate

Beautiful, how the planet casts a shadow on the ring. A bigger snapshot is at my Koinup account.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Eve Online - the places I've been

Eve Online's New Eden is a vast universe, with over 5000 mapped and known solar systems, and over 2000 new uncharted systems accesible by wormholes only. Unlike other virtual worlds like Second Life, geography is a real factor in New Eden, something I've spoken about before from an economical point of view, and I have also mentioned Jeran Tek's trek across all 5000+ mapped systems. Last week, Kirith Kodachi launched a new EVE meme: the places I've been, which is more or less the same theme, so I'm happy to comply with his request to show this:

As you can see, I've mostly been in Gallente highsec, empire regions of space: Essence, Verge Vendor, Sinq Laison, Everyshore for instance. Incidentally I visit Genesis and I have been to Amarr and Caldari regions as well, such as Tash-Murkon, Kador and The Citadel. So far not a very adventurous list perhaps; I still have a lot of exploring to do, but I'd like to do that once I got this covert ops stuff down - in a few weeks. I don't have to worry about getting bored anytime soon!