Sunday, October 29, 2006

Open Comments

At the request of a commentor on this little blog, I am opening up the comments on this site to anonymous posters. I generally kept it closed due to spam -- my other blogs get tonnes of spam comments all the time and these days, a lot of spam even gets by Akismet filters. So we'll see how it goes, but if I get a tonne of spam on this one I'll probably switch back. Yes not everyone has a blogger id to post comments with, but no offense -- I'd rather not have spam than allow anonymous posters.

I am all for anonymity on the net. So if you really want to post something here if I close up the comments to registered users only; use the Tor proxy and take 10 seconds to fill out the registration form. If you're not quite that paranoid about anonymity; then just fill out the form. At least then if you decide to have a blogger blog, there'll be an account waiting for you.

It's a hassle for some, I know -- I blame spam.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Future of the Internet is not Secondlife

I might get a lot of flames for this but it's probably true. Secondlife isn't the promised-land of some post-human immersive reality. It isn't going to become the replacement for the Internet. There are many reasons, but I'm going to examine just one --

The Croquet Project.

The 1.0 SDK was released not to long ago to the development community. It is hoped that developers from around the world will start contributing to the project and speed up its development. It comes under an MIT license making contributing a valiant and probably worthwhile endeavour. I recently downloaded it to give it a test-drive and start seeing what it was all about.

The interface to Croquet is still very crude, but is still usable enough to get started. Those familiar with Secondlife will also find that the avatars are lacking in some of the functionality they are used to -- but will soon notice after some experimentation that they are not limited to the bipedal human form. However, despite the shortcomings (it's still a beta afterall) one might be quick to notice how advanced it really is even in these early stages.

It's scenes like these in the demo that made me do a double-take. Already Croquet is capable of importing objects from 3D modeling software such as Blender. Scripters will have a hay-day with Croquet -- the entire system is built on Squeak; a derivative of Smalltalk. The best part is that scripters with the right permissions can even re-write or modify the system code that the world is running on without restarting the server or recompiling. My favorite part so far however is probably the most important feature of all -- hyperlinks.

"Worlds," in Croquet are individual entities. They are self-contained like a box. You can run one on your local machine and mess with the source code, import objects, and experiment away. If you have a network of computers, you can a world on each one and network them together. This is where Croquet gets really fun -- you can create "portals" to other worlds. They look like something out of a sci-fi movie: like windows with another world on the other side. The other world is of course rendered in real-time and you can even manipulate objects through the window (assuming you have the appropriate permissions of course). It's really an eye-catcher... and stunning since some of the latest games are only beginning to start using this and Croquet is already implementing it in a networked P2P system. So these portals are just like 3D hyperlinks to other worlds.

What is really going to make Croquet the real deal when it comes to the future of the Internet is that it's basically an operating system. With an embedded virtual machine, it can run on its own hardware or on top of any operating system. It can interface with applications on the host machine and users can share those applications collaboratively even if that application wasn't programmed to do so. You can already pull up a mozilla browser or an x-terminal in a Croquet window and share it in 3D. You can stream any media and some developers have already integrated VOIP clients. The single biggest reason why Croquet will become the future operating system is that the users can run and modify the code that the worlds are built on and they can integrate their own applications.

Try doing that with a proprietary system like Secondlife.

The Internet is open. Not closed. Croquet, IMO, is the future.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

In a Glass Box

The latest project from Millions of Us has Versu Richilieu stuck in a small room in New York for 72 hours. The idea is that she will replicate her surroundings during this time in Second Life. It's a bit of a performance piece to show off the new Intel hardware.

If you want to know more about it, Rocket Boom did a great job covering it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Long Tail

I had the pleasure of attending Chris Anderson's inaugral appearance in Second Life this afternoon. The interview was conducted by none-other than Hamlet Au (formerly Hamlet Linden) who was sharp and progressed with a natural course of questioning. Chris gave great answers and was very amicable. Overall I found it to be thought-provoking and quite impressive.

However, the long-tail didn't end at the event. I raised the idea of a fan-made game to the Cave Story community recently. The discussion I found, had much to do with the long-tail in media: the democratization of tools for the production of video games, like music and movies, is becoming more accessible to everyone on the Internet. Sites like YouTube allow people to upload their own media and much of this media reflects the media we as people in this media-centered age consume. The pattern follows the long tail into niches where fan-made media is generally consumed. Star Wars spawned fan-made films to continue the story and expand the universe... it appears to me that people are accepting and integrating the media they consume into a personal mythos.

IMO, it's only natural that games will be much the same way.

However, acceptance of the idea within the Cave Story community has been quite poor. While some people have been supportive with ideas on how it could be done, others are far more derogatory. It seems to have incited "holier than thou" reactions from more than just a few individuals. They believe that a fan-game is un-original and therefore not acceptable... or something. I honestly don't understand it.

The question still remains: how are or how should derivative works be handled in the video games universe? Would you get sued for creating your own version of Metroid? Could you commercially distribute a game you made with cameos of characters from other games? For fans who wish there was a sequel despite the author never intending to make one -- if they had permission, does it matter who made the game? This happens in commercial sequels all the time. Why not fan-made sequels or prequels?

I'm curious. Sue me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Warren Ellis in Second Life

Mini-update here but I needed to express my glee when I discovered just now that Warren Ellis, one of my favorite writers who penned the most excellent, Transmetropolitan is a resident in Second Life... and he blogged about it!

Here's hoping I find an excuse to get a chance to meet him, even if only in avatar form for a few minutes.

Writing for New World Notes

My first article for New World Notes is almost ready after much deliberation and fighting with my perfectionism. It's been quite the experience and one I hope to repeat more frequently, though with more timely articles. It's admittedly been a few weeks since I sent in my proposition to Hamlet... I hope he's not disappointed.

I really look forward to seeing my article on NWN. I've been reading NWN for a few years now so it's kind of neat that I'm actually submitting a story that will be on it. Though I can't find the story in the archives, I have appeared on occasion in the annals of NWN history. I swear.

Anyway, for all of you dying to know -- I'm covering the emergent communities surfacing in Second Life. In particular, I'm examining a slice of developments in Nexus Prime where groups have surfaced that role play within its walls and geographically identify with the landmark the city has become.

Sounds juicy? Wait till you read the interviews! Ownership politics and mythos oh my!