Saturday, 23 January 2010

Meta7: Interview and Preview

Continuing my tour of Virtual Worlds based on the OpenSim platform and derivatives, and that have an in-world currency and an economic system in place, I had the pleasure to meet up with an old acquaintance from my early OpenSim days, Sacha Magne, who (unknown to me) had started his own grid and who is known there as Laurent Meta, when on duty.

Unlike some OpenSim-based Virtual Worlds that come and go, Meta7 has a real company behind it, Magne Metaverse Research, LLC (MMR) which was founded in 2008 by Laurent (Meta).

Meta7, formerly known as K-Grid (see this blog article for the story on the change of name), has a professional-looking website, at From the site you can Register a new account and set up your avatar name. There is no restriction on the lastname, as in Second Life, where you can only select from a list of available lastnames. In Meta7 you can have what you like.

Meta7 uses its own viewer, a customised version of the popular Emerald Viewer, which allows it to implement some very cool new features, such as LightShare (more on this later).

The website also has a forum, a wiki, and a link to the Meta7 IRC channel, which is also available inworld, and automatically connected when arriving at Help Island, allowing staff to greet newcomers and assist them.

There is a Support Center to help with any bugs a resident may encounter, and there will soon be a Support Chat facility available for premium members.

Meta7 is not officially open for business yet, they wish to get the platform fully stable and feature rich before throwing their doors open, however they are open right now for preview, so I took the opportunity of going inworld and speaking to two of the proprietors, Laurent Meta and  George Meta.

Interview with the Proprietors of Meta7
Q. Tell me something about the history of Meta7
Laurent Meta: I was looking to any alternative and found opensim, I had some freetime and gave opensim a hand. I made some small contributions and started testing that on my own PC. Then I asked friends to help me test things and discovered I needed to use a more powerfull system, so I rented a server for that and started a small development grid of just 2 or 3 regions. That was 2 years ago.

At that time, I had several sims in SL and was sad that I would not to be able to preserve them, so I decided to let other people backup / create their sims on my little grid, and it started slowly growing. During that time, we organised some events, like "The Milk and Cookies show", a radioshow in SL, but ported to our little grid, it was a good way to test it.

With time, the grid started to grow and eventually reached a size where I needed to make some decisions about stopping, or moving forward. I was alone to do all this at that time, but a few friends helped me and we took the road to Meta7.
Q. What are your goals and aims for Meta7?
George Meta: I think one of the things that continue to worry new residents of virtual worlds is sustainability. Can a Grid or virtual world continue to function on a day to day to basis and well as fund investments into their technology? We are fully sustainable now and stagger our growth responsibily.

Laurent Meta: we invested a lot of real money to buy our servers, to put them in a datacenter. It's not a few hundreds dollars a year. We also aim not to follow others either, we much prefer to lead.

Q. Meta7 is based on the Opensim platform. Are you happy with this choice of platform?
Laurent Meta: Opensim is the only working platform, with its qualities and its faults. We have a team of four developers working hard on that platform to customise it.

George Meta: We utilize our team in a way that is most effective to maintain stability for our residents. Voice is not currently enabled here but we will look at implementing that feature when the timing is right for us.

Laurent Meta: We don't follow SL, we innovate. This region is using our latest inovation, LightShare, as an example. This feature has been requested in SL for years, but we accomplished it.  Unlike 99% of the independent grids, we are really doing things. The first physical vehicle in opensim was coded by us. Our team has got some physics specialists, some well-known developers too, all of that make us unique.

LightShare in action

[Rock: In SL you can customise all your sky and sea with those wonderful Windlight effects from the Environment Editor. However, only you see the changes you have made, everyone else does not. Wouldn't it be super cool if you could share your settings with everyone else who visits your region? Well folks, that is precisely what LightShare does! You can then do other cool stuff with this facility, such as slipping into a red haze when you get wounded in a fight, or even fading to grey or even black as your character dies. A very powerful feature]

Q. What is your stance on content theft, copybots, etc?
Laurent Meta: We have strict policies on that.

George Meta: We are a legal LLC in the USA with our own legal team who are constantly assisting us in clarifying DMCA laws within virtual worlds. Because of our ongoing communication with our attorneys and residents we are able to protect designers and our residents equally and fairly.

Q. I see you have your own viewer for Meta7. Will other viewers work, for example the Hippo Viewer?
Laurent Meta: All viewers work, but with some restriction. Only ours will allow Lightshare to work, for example. The source is availible for other viewers but we won't customised them.

George Meta: Our viewer is based on the Emerald viewer, but with modifications and special improvements made by our development team.

Q. What avatar choices are available to a new resident?
Laurent Meta: We will have premade avatars availble during account creation, with a choice of Male/female/furs.

George Meta: There are a male and female avatars currently available at Help Island for users to get started with until the premade avatar system is available during account creation.

Q. Meta7 has its own currency, the M$. Is this currency convertible out, as well as in?
Laurent Meta: Yes the currency is tradable. However, you can transfer $L here but you cannot do the opposite, it's against LL's TOS. We prefer paying back with PayPal, it's legal and risk-free.

George Meta: Our own currency system here was beta tested for a long time to ensure there would be no failures.

Q. How many Regions does Meta7 currently have? How many residents?
George Meta: There are 1369 residents and just under 180 regions, however what's more impressive is our recurring percentage. Most of our users continue to login every 30 days. In our case, people come in, stay and come back again, that model helps build confidence in our project.

Q. Who are the Proprietors of Meta7? Are their RL identities a secret?
Laurent Meta: Our IDs are not secret, MMR is a registered corporation.

George Meta: Legally speaking , there are two names on the corporation paperwork, however our entire team are our proprietors, with Trademarks and a legal team. We are fully identifiable and stand behind our project. Our selves and our corporation are fully accountable

Q. How many staff does Meta7 have, apart from the Proprietors? What are the hours of operation?
George Meta: We have a staff of 6 people who work full time on the project as well as some outside developers. We can be reached nearly 24 hours a day for live help thru our IRC help portal and ticketing system.

Laurent Meta: and most of our residents are in the help channel too.

George Meta: We will be rolling out live phone support in the future as well , as soon as the details are finalized.

Q. Is Meta7 funded solely by the proprietors, or do you have external sources of funding?
Laurent Meta: Our financial assets are solid, we invested more than US$30K on this project

George Meta: Financing is a non issue. We have very balanced books and continue to operate our grid in a responsible fiscal manner

Rock Vacirca: It is not so much the start-up costs I was referring to, it is the on-going costs. Do you think land sales and tier will cover your on-going costs, or will the proprietors have to supplement that, or will you look to external sourcs of revenue, advertising, for example?

George Meta: We aren't officially open yet, but we will allow the grid to grow at its own pace. We are fully confident our method of execution will allow the grid to achieve full fiscal balancing with land and tier.

Q. What specific features do you see that sets Meta7 apart from other opensim-based grids?
George Meta: Developing a stable platform is priority over profitability.

Laurent Meta: Keeping our innovative spririt, LightShare, near full vehicle implementations, efficient physics engine, and our little bomb ;)

Rock Vacirca: ??

Laurent Meta: A really new script engine. We have two developers working on it. We also have sitting on prims, ground sitting and sitting on complex linksets. These are unique to our grid.

George Meta: There are alot of opensim-based grids, each one with a different way of handling themselves. We continue to innovate and listen to our residents and offer them outstanding customer service and options as we continue to grow. I think one of our biggest features is stability and long term goals that do not rely on income alone to produce. We follow legal and corporate guidelines to boost consumer confidence.

Rock Vacirca: and IRC?

George Meta: IRC is one communication tool we effectively manage to communicate, another will be the launch of Metaverse Radio this spring. a Grid wide radio station that covers grid events, news, resident run podcasts, shows, and streaming radio. The community spirit is strong here.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to tell me that I have not already asked?
Laurent Meta: We are having a big live concert on the 30th January.

George Meta: Help Island Public will be welcoming some excellent live music performers starting at 8pm UTC and continuing until 1am UTC. These are well known Second Life performers who see the value in expanding their fanbase into a new virtual world.

Many thanks guys, and good luck with your project. I look forward to the official opening.