Monday, August 27, 2018

A Jailbreak In Archeage

By Bixyl Shuftan

A few years ago, Nydia Tungsten wrote about the multiplayer online game of Archeage. The game had a few features that got her attention, such as a playable race of feline people, a crafting system that was more detailed than other MMOs she had seen, and a court system where those whom harass other players can be put on a trial by jury of other players. While this probably reduces the overall level of misbehavior, probably, it's also the way players become pirates, which is a topic in itself. As for those sentenced by the jury, they're sent to prison. 

For Firran (the feline race) and Harani players who misbehave, they're sent to the Solis prison, "times can vary from as little as two minutes to as long as several days." They also get a "debuff" that removes their ability to fight or get on a mount. There are a few things to do there, such as break crates to get the black and white striped jail clothes, do prison quests to reduce their time, or escape.

A few days ago, Umbra Gardenvale told me, "Someone did a foolish thing. (She) got curious if they could fly over the wallls of the Solis Prison, nd got slapped with the prisioners debuff. And now (she) has to wait for the debuff to expire before she can leave." That someone was Jasmine Dawn, whom Umbra snapped a picture of her in prison clothes. "'What happens to Jazz when she's out exploring ArcheAge'," she commented to me.

Jasmine went on to describe her predicament, "Umbra stands outside the gates laughing his butt off while I run around assaulting prisoners looking for a tower key. ...I still managed to get the tower key, twice, ... That lets you inside." And once in, "you get 'freedom wings,' it's a bedsheet with four ropes ... a parachute." What one is supposed to do to escape is, "you sail your butt off the top of the tower, splash down in the ocean and swim your fuzzy butt to Austera." But Umbra told that's not quite what happened with Jasmine, "by 'Sail' she means 'fall in a semi controlled manner' ...Damn near killed yourself jumping out a tower window." Jasmine responded, "(I) sailed the hell out before the debuff hit me again. At least the trusty, dusty ground was there to catch me. I made it to the water, told Umbra he was on his own and i swam for Austera. Freeedom!!!!!"

Jasmine has been up to other adventures in Archeage, such as dungeon crawls and getting a fishing boat. But the jailbreak is something that stands out as nowhere else has she been in that sort of situation.

Source: Archeage Gamepedia

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Copybotted Avatar From Second Life Discovered on OpenSim World

By Bixyl Shuftan

(with help from Nydia Tungsten)

With the collapse of InWorldz, there's been increased focus on the Opensim worlds lately. Most residents of Second Life have been okay with, if not happy about, other virtual worlds. But a few have expressed some caution. Among the worries the skeptics of the smaller OpenSim worlds have is that of copybotting. At least one content creator told me he would have nothing to do with InWorldz as he considered it a copybot haven. This was not true as InWorldz's staff and residents alike would take action against copiers. But what about other places? As often as someone's items up for sale in Second Life get copied and sold as someone else's, is this problem even worse in the smaller grids?

The problem came to light to me when my friend Nydia Tungsten came to me after a trip to the Tranquility OpenSim grid. There, she found a surprise. She showed me a picture of a mesh furry fox avatar being given out at a store that looked just like the recent Jomo mesh avatars which have been available in Second Life for some months. The display claimed they were copyrighted and from the Sacrarium Grid. Other pictures she handed me showed the mesh avatar at different angles. The name she gave me of the place was "Golden River Furry Paradise."

Nydia eventually ran into someone she was told to instant message, Jadore Dior. Jadore told Nydia the group had been in trouble before, saying "we had ban them 'cause we (got a) notice they were Grid copying." Nydia had hoped I could get on Tranquility to talk to her more. But unfortunately, that OpenSim world would be out of my reach. I would have only the information she gave me to work with.

The owner of Jomo was xiaoduo Abbot. I would contact him and let him know about the copybotting. He double checked with me to make sure this wasn't some place in Second Life. He then thanked me for the alert.

As it turns out, the Sacrarium Grid that the copybotters claimed to be from was the subject of a HyperGrid Business article in which the virtual world had taken action against both copybotters and ageplayers. Some of these people had been previously banned from other grids. "Bad actors hop between grids," the newsletter stated. So on the question of do OpenSim worlds try to protect content rights, the answer is yes. What happens next with these Jomo copybotters? Time will tell.

Pictures from Nydia Tungsten
Source: HyperGrid Business

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, August 6, 2018

News and Commentary: Sansar, One Year Later

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was a little more than a year ago that Linden Lab officially opened Sansar, it's "next-generation virtual world which had been in development for over three years, experienced a number of delays, and was the subject of no shortage of speculation by Second Life's residents. My initial impression was that while interesting it's best feature was it's, potential for improvement. Others had a firm thumbs down to the point it couldn't be mentioned in the Second Life Friends Facebook group.

Since then, there have been some improvements to Sansar. Last month, the Lab allowed content creators to sell custom avatars on Sansar's Marketplace. And less than two days later some appeared. As of the writing of this article, there were a total of 43 avatars either available for free or up for sale (some better than others). Among those you can get for free now is the "Draxacoon." The Lab also expanded the number of areas, or "experiences" that residents could have from three to twenty.

There are some visually stunning locations in Sansar. One of the more recent ones is the "Roddenberry Nexus," which according to Inara Pey was launched in August 1. Done by Linden Lab in cooperation with Roddenberry Entertainment, which is run by Eugene Roddenberry, the son of the man who created "Star Trek." Giving it a look, I found it offers more interactivity than previous Sansarbuilds I've seen with a lift that can move you between levels and buttons that when pressed will play recordings, such as one describing the transporter visual effects or the Star Trek Animated Series.

There was also another cooperative build done by the Lab with the help of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Among the most interesting stories I've seen was a video by Draxtor Despress, showing a number of people holding a "Hoverderby" game. These people weren't just looking at Sansar, but interacting.

But there's still plenty to complain about Sansar. Sansar is also a more restrictive place than Second Life. It was widely expected from the begining there would be more restrictions on adult content than Second Life. While I read somewhere at least one builder tinkered with such builds, the most recent set of content guidelines have pretty much stated "no nudity and sex."

Content featuring sexually explicit content and activities, such as pornography, sexual acts, nudity and sexual services, including solicitation and offers for such content, are prohibited.

The Lab does say, "However, in limited educational or scientific contexts, we may make exceptions to these policies in our sole discretion." One example might be the piece of nude artwork Ryan Schultz saw at the Smithsonian art exhibition. But this wasn't the only problem Schultz saw. Even mentioning the names "Sansar," Linden Lab," or "Second Life," on a build could get you in trouble.

Any content or Sansar store listings that contain any references to Linden Lab, Sansar, Second Life, or any other Linden Lab-related terminology that may imply a relationship with, sponsorship, endorsement, or employment by Linden Lab is prohibited. 

So even making a "Sansar" t-shirt would get you a takedown notice from the Lab. And it's not just inworld content as in January, Schultz was asked to remove some pictures, and there appeared to be a problem with the name he was using for his blog at the time, "Sansar Newsblog." Hassling a major source of news about a virtual world you want to get word out about, especially a friendly voice, (and a big source of information for this article) isn't exactly the best of business tactics. And then there's the following line.

Do not upload Content that promotes or could be construed as primarily intended to evade limitations on Prohibited Content.

This line of the Terms of Service certainly leaves a lot to interpretation. Considering the Lab's past behavior, some content creators might decide not to take chances with a certain idea and instead make and sell it on another virtual world. In addition to the lack of a fashion market, this is probably one reason why Sansar has attracted little attention from more than a few bloggers. Though Schultz would say this was a common case of most newer virtual worlds.

For those frustrated by the long time it can take details to rezz in Second Life sims, Sansar can be just as bad or even worse. And there are apparently some problems with buying Sansar dollars in bulk using the "bundle" option.

And of course, while Sansar looks good, it still lacks the interactivity of Second Life and OpsnSim worlds. As it's been stated before, it's like comparing a theme park to a residential area, a nice place to visit, but not one you can virtually live. The examples I've stated are Sansar at it's best. The majority of other "experiences" aren't as good.

For these reasons, the userbase of Sansar remains tiny compared to Second Life. In April, the Newser reported the next-generation virtual world was averaging less than fifty users a day. Schultz went further, saying that the average was never higher than twenty. In fact, the graph he gave showed it was sometimes less than ten per day. For now, it seems stuck at a tiny userbase.

So why has Linden Lab persisted in sticking with Sansar? The question has been raised on whether the Lab has a "cultural shift" away from it's established virtual world to this unpopular newcomer, numbers remained small. Yes, it's normal for a company to want to show off it's latest product. But why leave out it's tried and true moneymaker? Perhaps with the stories about cyber-affairs, incidents like the "flying penis attack" on live TV, being banned from the "Twitch" streaming service due to some of it's sims allowing explicit content, maybe the Lab is feeling it can't really mention Second Life much to a mainstream audience. Another possible reason, with the talk about "safe spaces" at colleges where controversial speech is prohibited, perhaps the Lab is wondering if the next generation is looking less for the ability to express oneself and more about security from what might offend them.

As for the possibility of Linden Lab closing down Second Life anything soon to force it's population to Sansar: not a chance. Near the start of it's development before it even had a name, Will Burns once commented if Linden Lab made such a move, about a third would move onto the new grid, a third to smaller virtual worlds, and a third would give up on virtual worlds altogether. Today, I'd have to say if Linden Lab made such a suicidal move, in my opinion less than five percent would be inclined to move on to Sansar as their primary virtual world. While Linden Lab might survive thanks to it's Blocksworld income, it would be a much smaller company. Of the rest of Second Life's residents, it's my guess about three-fifths would move on to the various smaller virtual worlds, perhaps some moving between two or three to continue to meet up with friends. And the rest would likely give up on anything more than a passing interest in virtual worlds. Even for those who moved, they would most likely not spend as much money. It's one thing to invest money in virtual land and property if you believe the grid will be around for years. But if you're not sure how things will be six months down the road, you may not be so eager to put down that money.

In any event, Sansar is very much a work in progress compared to Second Life, and even the more established Opensim worlds. It still needs at least a year, probably longer, before it can truly stand on it's own. For those who insist Linden Lab should get rid of it, such as one person I talked to who called it "the Edsel of virtual worlds," keep in mind the Edsel was in production for three years before it's makers finally gave up on it. Most likely, it will take longer than that before the Lab decides it's efforts are best spent elsewhere.

Sources: Ryan Schultz (formerly the Sansar Newsblog), Modem World, Sansar , Draxtor Despres,  

Bixyl Shuftan