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    Posted August 15, 2010 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Stories from Second Life

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    The Return of Victoriana


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     HibiscusH is an iReporter who shares stories within the virtual world of Second Life.
    - nsaidi, CNN iReport producer

    A few weeks ago I received a note from LittleBlackDuck Lindsay, the creator and owner of The Nation of Victoriana. As was recorded in iReports written by Janey Bracken, Kiko Hunniton and myself, the Mayor decided to close down Victoriana at the end of March after encountering great difficulties maintaining the sims following an update by Linden Lab which left him unable to modify objects on his properties. Linden Lab was unresponsive to his requests for help, which meant that he could no longer manage the sims properly and sadly they were closed. It was a great loss to Second Life and to those who lived in Victoriana, including me. I had a small art gallery and home there. Therefore I read the Mayor’s note with interest and was happy to discover that the Nation of Victoriana has a new home in a virtual world called InWorldz (IW).

    I logged into IW with great eagerness and some trepidation. I did not look forward to re-learning how to move, communicate and even dress my avatar. But InWorldz is instantly familiar to anyone who has been to Second Life as the interface is very similar. The first time I logged on, July 31st, I was immediately greeted by a helpful avatar who welcomed me, offered assistance and took me to a nearby Freebie store so that I could begin to personalize my avatar. When you create your avatar you are free to choose whatever name you wish so I chose the same name I use in Second Life, Hibiscus Hastings. The avatar you are “born” with is generic and not particularly attractive so heading to the freebie store on arrival is a good way to get started and the creators of InWorldz were wise to have the entry point set up this way.

    After visiting the freebie store and improving my avatar somewhat I teleported to the Victoriana Harbour sim, one of the nine sims that currently make up the Nation of Victoriana. This was where my old gallery and home had been in SL. As the sim began to appear, I looked around with a mixture of emotions. The last time I stood in that spot was when Mayor Lindsay had been taking the sim down. And here it all was again, back from the dead, as it were. It was very, very eerie. There was my beloved gallery, empty, as the last time I had seen it, but standing before my eyes. The whole sim was quiet, the shops and homes uninhabited, but there they were, all around me. It was like a ghost town, one I had never expected to see. Surreal, dreamlike, hallucinatory.

    I contacted the Mayor and had a chat with him. It was a great pleasure to see him again, so active and happy. I went on to find a few other people, mostly people I had met in SL. I have now re-opened my old gallery. Recently I spoke with the Mayor for this report and he very kindly answered my questions about his decision to choose IW as the new home for Victoriana, as well as comment on the progress that has been made so far.

    When asked why he had chosen IW to be the new home of Victoriana he said “Of all the OpenSim grids I visited, only a handful had an economy. That was important to me as Victoriana attracted a lot of creative individuals who sold their wares (some amazing things!) so without an economy I didn't see a grid being able to attract a lot of serious talent.... InWorldz also has a lot of features that work which other grids are still developing... much of search works (including classifieds etc), groups work, offline messaging works, and reading the forums I soon realised the grid has dedicated coders who are working on improving the code and the experience. They seemed really in-tune with the community, answering questions and asking for people's opinions. That was quite a nice change coming from the Linden grid where they usually implemented something new, then asked what people thought of it.”

    I then asked how the Mayor felt IW would work for individuals like me, those who are not great builders or particularly technically savvy, but who have some experience in virtual worlds and particularly Second Life. Mayor Lindsay replied “First and foremost it's the same interface everyone who's used SL is used to... You walk using the same controls, you communicate in the same way, building, shopping and being social are all the same... so there's no need to learn how to do something new. That's a big advantage I believe. For the average user, prices are significantly cheaper. Sim ownership is less expensive here than in SL, and sims hold more prims. This equates to cheaper rent and more prims for merchants... which translates to less-expensive things for the end consumer. Many merchants are selling their things at prices that equate to "half price" compared to SL... and in many cases merchants are even going a step further and offering increased discounts (or even free copies) of items people have bought from them in SL.”

    We went on to discuss how the Mayor sees the future of IW. “I think the future is very positive. When I bought my first sims for Victoriana just on a month ago there were less than 300 sims. A month later and I think they're about to hit 400 any day. Also, when I signed up 2 months ago there were about 7000 registered users and now there (are) almost 11000. I see on average 100-150 people logged in at any time of the day and again that number seems to be growing. Also, in the short time I've been here I've seen them roll out a number of fixes and improvements, focusing on bug fixes as well as feature additions... so it's nice to see them actualy work on bugs and not just pretend they don't exist.”

    Mayor Lindsay added “I also believe competition is a wonderful thing. It drives innovation, drives competitive pricing structures and generally that always means the end-user wins. InWorldz and other opensim grids give current users of SL a genuine "option" now; they aren't tied to the one choice. This both means Opensim grids need to improve and innovate to compete with Linden, and Linden themselves can no longer coast and rely on their reputation and lack of competition.”

    So how did I find InWorldz compared to Second Life? As I have mentioned, it is extremely easy for citizens of Second Life to adapt to InWorldz. As well, there is an InWorldz currency, I’s, and at the moment $1 US buys about $500 I’s. I’s can be bought through PayPal, and it is possible to move money from SL to IW through ATM’s, although I have not done this yet. Uploads to InWorldz are free, which is great for merchants (SL by comparison charges L$10 per upload), and so far the prim restrictions are less. For example, in my InWorldz shop I can use about 400 prims, whereas before I had a 250 prim allowance. A region (Private Isle) costs about US$75 a month, with 35,000 prims. There are also cheaper mainland regions, which cost US$60 a month.

    On the other hand, InWorldz can be laggy, avatar physics are not quite there yet (my legs tend to fold up or go horizontal when I am walking), teleporting can be difficult, crashes happen and sometimes it is not possible to log in.

    But these are early days yet. InWorldz has been around for approximately a year and a half. In comparison to Second Life it is tiny. There are approximately 10, 500 users total, with about 100 online at a time. In Second Life there are over 50,000 users logged on most of the time. I feel a bit like a pioneer, which is exciting for the most part as well as occasionally frustrating.

    At the end of our conversation the Mayor said “I'd ...love to extend a warm welcome to everyone reading and let them know they're always welcome to visit our little nation, and also take the time to thank the Founders of the InWorldz grid for all their help and support in recreating my dream. They've been great ;)”

    It is lovely seeing the Nation of Victoriana up and running again, and it will be extremely interesting to observe, participate in and report on the development of InWorldz.

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