This week Harvey and I visited InWorldz for the first time and despite the poetic allusion of this post’s title – no, we did not meet our deaths – far from it. The voyage was swift and not without incident, but we survived nevertheless, and returned back to familiar ground, safe and keen to tell the tales of our adventures.
InWorldz saw its first login in February, 2009, which paved the way to an official opening just over a month later. Nearly five years since then, it claims over 87,839 registered users with about 200 (-ish) concurrent users today (at the time of writing this post on October 31). When I count the number of concurrent users in Second Life at the same time (28,817), one could reasonably say InWorldz hasn’t really yet taken off.
Still, InWorldz has received a lot more attention among Second Life residents recently, probably due to recent Linden Lab TOS controversies, and perhaps more chronically as a consequence of more benign forms and interpretations of neglect on the part of Linden Lab to Second Life. My purpose in this post is neither to provide a tutorial on how to get into InWorldz, to become embroiled in the outcomes from recent changes to its TOS, or to interpret the meanings of the communications exchanged by Linden Lab and those who may be considering looking west, as it were, to pastures where the grass might be greener. I just want to give you a balanced view of our experiences there.
In many ways, and no doubt influenced by the perspective gained from over 6 years in Second Life, InWorldz reminds me a little of the early attempts to colonise North America by the British.
Some went to get rich. Some went to escape what they considered persecution for their beliefs. Some were even born there. Most suffered terribly from all sorts of life threatening challenges. Yet, against all odds, a few survived to form what was to become most powerful nation in the world for nearly a century.
I’m intrigued by InWorldz for several reasons. As a builder and significant contributor to tier costs, I’m very attracted by the fact that the annual first year running cost of owning a region in Inworldz is 14 times less than the same prim allotment in Second Life.
A private island in InWorldz costs $975 in the first year ($75 set-up and $75/month), and $900 every year thereafter. The same private island in Second Life costs $4600 in the first year ($1000 set-up and $300/month), and $3600 every year after that. When you consider that you are getting three times the prim allotment (45K vs 15K) with an InWorldz private island, the first-year region in Second Life costs 14.2 times what it does in InWorldz, and 12 times more every year you own it. This should be enough of a delta for any one that rents or owns land in Second Life to take note of.
There are of course drawbacks. Like in early colonial America, there are very few supplies on hand and those that exist tend to be of lower quality (although I understand it’s getting rapidly better). You can’t take everything you own from the old world with you (unless you created it yourself), so it feels a bit like you’ve only got a small chest of stuff to use as clothing and shelter, and that you are more or less starting from scratch in a foreign country that just happens to speak a similar language. Personally speaking, the low concurrency numbers suggest a significant potential for loneliness and desolation. Commercially, the lower number of residents represents a much smaller market for anything you’ve got to sell.
On the other hand, people living in small towns tend to know and relate to their neighbours more than those who live in huge cities, so concurrency might not be as important as the numbers suggest. Also, given the fact that many creators and builders in SL do what they do for recreational purposes anyway (with few but significant exceptions), how big of a market does one really need? Given that running costs (land and free uploads) are so much lower; fewer sales would be necessary to break-even. There is also much, much less competition for whatever you might offer, so you’d imagine there’d be a surplus of opportunity and untapped niches, discoverable with the benefit of hindsight provided by one’s Second Life’s experiences.
Like the early colonists, there also seems to be a different spirit developing in InWorldz to the one I’ve observed in Second Life. Greeters (avatars, not machines) greet you when you first arrive. They’re welcoming, helpful and polite. The system automatically adds you to a “New Resident” group, which instantly provides you with an opportunity to relate to other newbies in the same boat as you. Members with varying degrees of experience inworld tend to be helpful and keen to welcome newcomers, which differs dramatically to the experience of most new residents when they first enter Second Life. Many residents and newbies I encountered said that people just tend to be friendlier in InWorldz than they are in Second Life – whether that’s accurate or not, I can’t be sure.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the ease in using the official InWorldz viewer (beta) which looks and feels just like earlier versions of Second Life viewers did. I found my frame rate tended to be better regardless of where I visited. They’ve even got mesh now. And, as a photographer, I was pleased to see that Phototools is also available, with all the bells and whistles to which I’ve become accustomed.
Despite the many pleasant surprises, we returned to Second Life later that night inbued with a palpable sense of relief and calm. We were home again, more comfortable in my own skins, surrounded by people that are important to us, and all of the beautiful things we like. We were weary travellers returning from a short vacation to a less developed country – happy for the experience, but glad to be home.
I have to say that despite my initial reservations, InWorldz has an air of promise that neither of us can deny. While I have no plans to leave Second Life, I’ll be visiting InWorldz more in the future, and I’ll be sending postcards.