Monday, 23 November 2009

Leaving Opensim

Below is the text of the post I made to the OpenSim core-devs about my decision to leave the OpenSim project.

I have decided to leave the Opensim project. You will probably not even notice if I leave, as not being a programmer my only inputs were the writing of the step-by-step tutorials, the drafts of the OpenSim User Manual on the Forge, and helping out in the IRC channels, for newcomers. You may find my reasons for leaving Opensim interesting though (and please do not construe any of my reasons as an attack on anyone).

1. The Platform
I raised this several times in the past in IRC, and made posts on my blog about the product lifecycle of the platform. I believe that the platforms underpinning both Second Life and Opensim are quite long in the tooth now, and I questioned how much product lifecycle there was left, particularly given that Opensim is now nearing 3 years of development, is still in Alpha, and if the current release of 0.6.7 is any indicator, then still only around two thirds into the development cycle. With the (inevitable) coming of much superior platforms, such as Blue Mars (as a virtual world); and Unity, for browser-based Virtual Worlds; and now UDK (for creating sandboxes, standalones, and open grids), then I fear that Opensim has missed the boat as far as the remaining lifecycle of the platform is concerned. When you show people what is possible with these engines (for example this avatar editor for the forthcoming APB (using the Unreal Engine):  or this city  (using the CryEngine), then neither SL nor Opensim stands comparison.

2. Lack of Support for Currency in Opensim
I felt the impact of this when I first made the switch from SL to Opensim. I had a thriving RP sim in SL (over 50 people, mainly female) and they all agreed to follow me over to my Opensim and the OSGrid. However, within a month they had all left, citing the same reasons, the lack of places to shop to buy the quality stuff they wanted (skins, hair, clothes etc), as a quality appearance, and the fun of shopping is what all the females placed high on their requirements from a Virtual World. They drifted back to Second Life, and the guys followed them. I have always believed that the lack of support for currency in the core was a mistake, but that is just my opinion.

3. Marketing
I have also raised this issue several times, and blogged about it. It is far from clear just who an eventually released Opensim is actually aimed at. I think that any company that is interested in a firewalled corporate solution to collaboration and prototyping will already be looking at the Enterprise solution that is currently available from Second Life; that any indie group that is thinking of running a themed grid will need an economy to stay viable; and any individual who is looking for a private sandbox solution for their SL work will need full compatibility (which is not the case with the OS version of LSL diverging from the SL LSL). So, just who is the platform aimed at? I was also very disappointed in the view of one of the core devs who said that 'marketing is a null concept for us'.

I am currently designing and creating cities for Blue Mars, and involved in a team for proving the UDK as a platform for the design and creation of sandboxed or standalone Virtual Worlds (as opposed to purely games), and with so much documentation available for these mature engines (particularly for the UDK, Blue Mars lags behind somewhat in that department, but are working to put that right), I am achieving the productivity I want, building the worlds that I want, with stable crash-free platforms.

However, I do wish the Opensim team the very best in their endeavours, and I sincerely hope their goals are eventually achieved.

If anyone would like to take over the main Opensim Tutorials pages and the Additional Tutorials (they will need some updating following several changes) then I am more than willing to pass the posts over, and of course the Opensim User Manual is there in the Forge for anyone to develop further.

Best Regards and Good Luck