Saturday, 30 January 2010

New World Grid

After visiting InWorldz and Meta7 I though I might make a habit of calling in on a new grid once a week from now on, and reporting on what I find.

This week, the wanderer arrived at the New World Grid (NWG).

The first thing that struck me when I visited their website was that the site is bilingual, English and French.

NWG is owned by the non-profit organisation, Virtus Association, and the general theme of the grid is artistic and educational. The Virtual University of Edinburgh , VUE, has a region here.

 During registration you can choose your avatar's first and last names, and select from one of five pre-made male avatars, or one of six pre-made female avatars. The Hippo viewer is the recommended download, but as I have Hippo already I checked its Grid list and the New World Grid was there.

NWG has no in-world economy, but has terrific freebies available. All the signs and notecards in the Welcome area were bilingual, and had lots of help available. On the day of my visit, 30th January 2010, NWG had 349 regions, 5409 registered accounts, and 630 unique logins over the last 30 days (as reported on the Hippo screen).

The News of the Day was an announcement that they were working on introducing Voice, Hypergrid, and Groups functionality.

When it comes to land in NWG you basically have three choices:
  • You can join your own OpenSim regions or grid to the NWG, free of charge.
  • You can buy or rent land on the Mainland or centrally hosted Islands, for a fee and tier, but at around 25% of SL prices.
  • As much land as you need, centrally hosted, free, if the project fits within the charitable aims of Virtus, i.e. artistic or educational.
While roaming around NWG I came across Christi Maeterlinck, a retired psychologist, working on a major retirement project, a full reconstruction of the Mount Grace priory in North Yorkshire, covering 4 regions.

However, Christi had a real problem. He explained it thus:
The default avatar size, which most people have never calibrated against the grid, makes them used to having an oversized shape, and that, coupled with the camera distance behind the avatars head, means that its actually very difficult to walk round a realistically reproduced dwelling.

I could see what he Christi meant. Rooms in SL are typically 10m x 10m, which is wholely unrealistic. He had a height measuring device there, and when I tried it on it told me that my height was 2.22m or 7ft 3in tall!

Now, for a virtul architect like Christi this posed many problems. He was trying to build an actual replica of Mount Grace, scaled correctly. But when he invited me to see inside a monk's cell I couldn't get in. I was just way too tall. And  it was near impossible to look around inside, due to the camera distance behind the avatar.

Of course, Christi could employ fixes, such as making the walls around doorways phantom, so that tall avatars could walk through, and advising all who come to visit to switch to mouselook (first person) mode, so they could view the inside of small rooms. However, to Christi, this is compromising the whole experience, as he wants normally sized avatars to experience the environment and space (or lack of it) that the monks endured.

He asked if it was possible for the grids (and I think he meant by implication, the developers of OpenSim) to provide a standard Ruth height of 5 foot 9 instead of 6 foot 5, or whatever it is.

This could be somewhat problematic, as avatar heights have been oversized for so long now, both in Second Life and in OpenSim-based grids. Buildings, clothes and animations have been  created to suit these heights, and many buildings and clothes have been ported from Second Life to the OpenSim-based grids, that it is now too late to introduce a new standard.

I would be interested in hearing other's views on this.