Open-Source Virtual Worlds or Second Life?
I got a great response to this recent post about virtual worlds and MMOGs the other day, so here's another on the topic.
This article on Wired today reads like copy straight out of Peter Ludlow's presentation at the State of Play 2 conference. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are essentially a first step toward the creation of an open-source metaverse, or virtual world (VW). At the moment, no popular MMOGs are really proper open-source worlds. The Wired article is a discussion of why Ludlow advocates the creation of true wiki-style open-source MMOGs. Ludlow thinks that the Terms Of Service in most MMOGs are too harsh - they abridge speech and give the corporate owner too much control over the players (and in the case of Second Life [wikipedia entry], the objects or content players build in the virtual world).
There are already several such open-source VW projects going on, including - The Open Source Metaverse Project (OSMP), the Croquet Project, and MUPPETS (Multi-User Programming Pedagogy for Enhancing Traditional Study). The creator of MUPPETS says about their virtual world:
"It's like a virtual street and a virtual desert," said Phelps. "You're basically given a plot of land ... and you can do with it what you will, and you can build objects that will interact with anyone else's objects in the world." Students taking part in the project have built player vs. player games and three-dimensional structures that could be used as settings for gaming. "...It's more about research and giving someone space to create good content than about binding people to a specific game or a specific story like in EverQuest."In the longrun, as Ludlow says, the ultimate realization of a metaverse type virtual reality through these projects would require the stitching of all the virtual worlds together along with thousands of people building objects and content in them.
Frankly, these open-source projects sound quite a bit like the MMOG Second Life, which I discussed briefly here. Second Life is a virtual world where players can get on cheaply and can build their own objects into the world using scripts. You can download the SL program for free and then you pay only $10 to access the world. One of the coolest ideas the Linden Lab folks, who make SL, have had, was to try and encourage the creation of content in the world by granting players intellectual property rights in those products and in their characters. It's very cool. Ludlow's problem with it is that it is still run by a company, so players can't ever have 100% control over the world. Oh well, Second Life is the closest thing to a metaverse I've seen yet.
All of the State of Play 2 conference can be viewed here, for Ludlow's talk on the open-source metaverse topic check out the second half of this video. There he asked why gamers would build objects and content in a virtual world such as Second Life, where the Terms of Service are such that the players and their works could be thrown out at any time and for any reason, when they could be building in open-source virtual worlds where there is no governing body that can exercise control over speech or content. Ludlow is now a bit of an MMOG activist because was kicked out of The Sims MMOG for rabble rousing in the real world with a blog he kept called The Alphaville Herald, he is now more involved with Second Life (here is his Second Life Herald) and the open-source virtual worlds mentioned above.
Here's the Wired article: Wired News: Gamers Eye Open Virtual Worlds. (Wired also has this article today about the new MMOG "World of Warcraft," if you're interested.)