OpenLife- My First Look Into A New World

The change in policy regarding the open sims has caused a huge stir of controversy and resentment among the Second Life residents. However, I’m not going to be talking about that in this post. There is nothing more I can add to the conversation that isn’t already being repeated on every other blog and forum post out there. Instead, I want to look ahead. And I want to discuss something else that has been causing a lot of buzz in the blog community- OpenLife.

Now and then, I used to wonder to myself. What would happen if Second Life disappeared? Or what if they closed it to the general public, and only made it available to big businesses and corporations. If logging into SL was no longer an option, where would people go? I imagined there would be a fragmentation of the SL community. Some people would probably end up at places like Google’s Lively, or even turn to gaming platforms like World of Warcraft. Regardless, things wouldn’t quite be the same. I think a lot of us found ourselves a lot closer to that possibility than we expected last weekend. And so, some people set out in search of a new alternative.

I had never heard of OpenLife before, and didn’t know such a place was even out there. And although hundreds of residents were signing up over there, I was hearing little to no feedback about WHAT it actually was, or what to expect. All I knew was that it apparently looked like SL.. only it was mostly empty, unsettled. There was very little content over there. This actually fascinated me- I couldn’t stop wondering what it would look like if I logged in. Would the landscape just look like a vast desert or island, with no plants, buildings, or anything else? Would there be other people there, aimlessly milling about? Or would I log into a completely abandoned region with not a soul in sight. The more I thought about this, the more curious I was to see for myself. Not ony that, but if scores of SL residents are going to end up migrating over to that alternate world, I wanted to be one of the first pioneers. I wanted to see it while there WAS nothing there.. so I can see that new world grow and evolve into what Second Life is, today. For those who haven’t been around- imagine going back in time to when Linden Labs first opened SL to the public. What did it look like in those first few months? I wanted to experience that.

When I got home from work last night, I went to the OpenLife website and registered my avatar. Even this process was interesting to me, because many times in the past I’ve seen the question come up- if you could go back and change your avatar name, would you? A know a lot of us don’t like the last name we ended up picking, me being one of them. But we were limited to whatever was on that automatically generated list when we signed up for Second Life. I’m one of those people who always wished I could change. With OpenLife, there IS no list of last names. You really can pick your own. So now I was finally faced with that choice. Do I pick a new name? After a couple minutes of consideration, I went ahead and signed up as Nika Dreamscape, after all. Having thought about it, I decided that I’ve done so much in Second Life, that I have a lot invested in that name, whether I like it or not.

I installed the OpenLife viewer, and anxiously tried to log in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the Connecting To Region screen. I’ve heard of this being a problem for other people. After trying several regions and eventually resetting my home location, I was able to log in JUST as I was about to give up and go to bed. As I watched the login complete, I couldn’t wait to see what that very first glimpse of OpenLife would be. It felt exactly like the very first time I logged into SL. That breathless anticipation, and overwhelming curiosity. Have you ever wished you could go back and experience your first hour of being a newbie.. and be able to really document that process. I think most of us simply fumbled around for the first few weeks.. not really knowing about the blogging community, or even how to take a snapshot. Now I was finally able to relive that moment, and this time be able to take the time to really experience it.

I rezzed in at the bottom of an ocean, with nothing in sight around me. I took a moment to look around, wondering what was above the surface of the water. Would I see land and people? Or would it just be more ocean, stretching in all directions. As anxious as I was to see, the photographer in me wanted to make sure to document each critical moment. I took the first picture of the very first view I had of OpenLife.

Something that I’ve noticed when reading the other blogs and plurk posts about those venturing to OpenLife, is that they can’t seem to remake their shapes and hit up the freebie area for better clothing and skins fast enough. Some of them have been asking about how they can import their inventories to the OpenLife grid. I am the complete opposite. The LAST thing I want to do is rush through the growing pains of being a ‘newbie’. Someone asked me one time, if I could go back to being a newbie, what would I do differently. My answer was that I would graciously decline all the inventory offers of free clothing and skins. I never got a chance to fumble around in that awkward stage, or to really know what it was like to find my own way. People are so generous and helpful when they encounter newbies, and its really nice of them. But I wish I could have had longer in that awful default skin and ridiculous newbie walk. Within hours of logging into SL, I had hundreds of items in my inventory, even before I knew how to open them. Now that I’m on OpenLife, I really can start fresh. I don’t understand why everyone is in such a huge rush to copy what may have taken months or years to achieve in SL. There’s plenty of time. Right now I’m at square one, and in no hurry to change that.

After taking a look at my current surroundings, I flew up to see what was above the surface. At first I saw little to nothing. Sky and ocean.. a few tiny bumps of land peeking above the water. For a moment I was a little worried that this is all there was.. that there wouldn’t even be any land to walk on.

My mini map was closed by default, so I opened it up and saw that there was some land nearby. Turning around, I flew to the nearby stretch of mainland. The region I was in was a public sandbox, and there were already various builds scattered about. A few green dots on the map showed that the area was quiet, but I wasn’t alone. For the most part though, this was almost exactly how I pictured it. Very few people, and lots of open space. This is what I was HOPING for. Because as I said, I want to be there to see things change and grow. I did see some large buildings in the distance that resembled office buildings or maybe high rise apartments. I also saw a couple of signs that said something about a freebie area. I think probably if I clicked on one of them, I could have teleported to an orientation/freebie area. But not yet.. I didn’t want to start getting bogged down with freebies and items already. I enjoyed the fact that my inventory was empty and that I had nothing but the default clothes on my back.

I started walking at first, then took to the sky. I wanted to find some of the nearby dots on the map and see if the other people were from Second Life, also. I wanted to see if I could find anyone I knew. I passed one person who was busy building, and didn’t recognize the name. In the distance, I saw another figure floating in the air so I flew over to get a closer look. I found someone afk, looking like he was sleeping as he hovered there. Again, I didn’t recognize the name so I moved on without bothering him.

At one point I paused and opened the world map, curious to see if the rest of the world looked as barren as this, or if there were larger populations of people elsewhere. It was pretty much as I expected. Still lots of empty space, and almost no dots to be seen. I also noticed that the land seemed to be more connected here, and not split up into as many individual islands. I really like the fact that you can walk across most of the grid, without having to teleport. Especially since I heard that the teleport system isn’t working well, and was causing people to crash. I’m not sure if this section of the map shows most of the OpenLife grid, or if it was only one small portion. I don’t remember trying to zoom out, so I still am not sure just how big their world is, compared to ours. Something else I noticed was that for some reason, I started off with $10,000 of their currency. From what I’ve heard, there isn’t anything yet to buy in OpenLife. I don’t know how much truth there is to that.. if OL is mostly one giant sandbox, or if there actually are shops and businesses that just haven’t been found yet.

As I flew further inland, I saw more and more builds and signs that people lived nearby. I saw a familiar treehouse that is popular on the Second Life grid. I wanted to take some time and look closer, but it was late and I wanted to keep moving and see as much as possible. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a moment to look inside to see if there was any furniture or if the house was empty. Next time I come across a residential or commercial structure, I want to make a point of finding out. There has to be SOME content in world. If people have taken the time to build houses, surely they aren’t just sitting empty. And if there is furniture and buildings, are they being sold somewhere or are they just being built for fun?

Once again, I noticed another dot on the map some distance away. I started flying in that direction, hoping to catch up with them and see if it was anyone I knew. They were flying away from me, but they were so far ahead that I wasn’t sure if they were avoiding me or just on their way somewhere. I continued to follow, and saw that we were approaching what looked like a metropolis, compared to everything else I had seen so far. It looked really interesting, and I was still hoping to catch up with the elusive resident I was following. Still, I managed to grab a picture of the view as I kept trying to catch up.

As I crossed that open stretch of water and entered the next region, something interesting happened. My avatar just stopped, in mid flight. I tried landing, but was unable to. It was like I was stuck- standing in mid air as if there was something solid beneath me, but nothing was there. I kept hitting the down arrow, trying to get to the ground. My avatar would descend a half meter or so. Pause.. then lower a bit more at a time. It was something similar to lag, but not quite. Stranger still, something appeared around me. It looked sort of like a black cone, with an opening in the side. It appeared to have rezzed just above me, then lowered until it was around my avatar. According to the map, the person I had been following was nearby, but not quite in view. I suspected that my strange frozen state and the black object around me was a form of griefing, which actually would not surprise me. I don’t know how the residents of OpenLife feel about the huge increase of traffic to their world, but I wouldn’t blame them if they felt defensive or like they were being invaded. I quickly went into edit mode on the object to see if it belonged to the person. The owner and creator were both listed under a name like “OpenLife Explorer”, or something along those lines. I had a feeling that whatever it was, it was generated by the game itself and not by the person. I wish I had gotten a picture of whatever it was. But I was so busy trying to get to the ground that I didn’t think of it before it disappeared on its own, maybe 20 seconds later. Once it was gone, I gently lowered to the ground.

By the mini map, I could tell that the person was now very close. Hovering somewhere just above me, maybe 10 meters away. Turning in that direction, I could just make him out through the trees. I tried walking, but was still having that same issue. I’d move in place.. but it wasn’t lag. After a few seconds, I’d move forward a few steps and then was stuck again. I struggled for a minute or so, then finally gave up and asked, “Are you doing something to me?”

“Not yet”, he replied. That made me laugh, and suddenly I was able to move again. I stepped out from under the trees and over to where I could see him better. His name was Pyotr Wolf, and he was standing in the air up above me. Mostly gray, and in what I think is probably the default male shape since he looked just like the sleeping guy I had passed earlier.

I explained the strange frozen state I had been in, and he said that the sim crossings are handled differently there than they are on SL. He then asked me if I was one of the wave of new people coming over from Second Life. I said that yes, I was one of the bloggers. He mentioned that Prokofy had already been over there, kicking up a fuss. I laughed, and assured him that we don’t all bite, and that they will probably find most of us to be curious and optimistic about their world. He was very welcoming, and told me that the region we were in was called Terrafirma, and it was one of the oldest on the grid. That would explain how built up it was.

We chatted for a couple of minutes, and I would have liked to have talked to him longer. But I noticed then that I had gotten booted, because none of my chats were going through and he wasn’t saying anything, either. I was still able to move, although I couldn’t walk. So I took the moment to snap one final picture, before disconnecting for the night.

I am extremely excited about this new place, and I can’t wait to start exploring it in more depth. I’m not sure what is going to happen with OpenLife. Right now its free, but I don’t know if their servers can handle the increase in volume as more and more people begin to migrate over. I have absolutely no intention of leaving Second Life. But I have every intention of exploring OpenLife, seeing what it has to offer, and spending plenty of time there.

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~ by Nika Dreamscape on October 31, 2008.

2 Responses to “OpenLife- My First Look Into A New World”

  1. Excellent review, writeup, photos, etc – very well documented, thank you! I can only hope my first experience in OpenLife goes equally well! Whenever I get around to trying it out, I mean.

    So far, the pricing fees for owning land are quite tempting! 😉

  2. Thank you for giving some insight into OL. Someone told me about it today, and I’m very excited about exploring it. I might even like to buy some land and develop it…

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