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In recent months, I have taken quite some time to explore a number of VWs gaining some prominence in the blogsphere, namely Inworldz and Avination. In both, I have travelled the grids widely, spent RL money (I believe in making at least some sort of investment to form a full opinion), talked to many people, spoken to owners where possible, attended meetings, listened to plans for the future, and also read and researched what I can to separate the truth from the bullshit.

This morning I read a piece on Chestnut Rau’s blog, Second Life of my Dreams and then read the ensuing huffing and puffing this generated on Twitter. You can read Chestnut’s piece yourself and form your own opinion.

I’ve also read much on Avination, most of which has zero truth to it and seems to revolve around the same false information generated by the crotchety old nest of vipers over at SLU. I’ll let you find that yourself and also form your own opinion.

I prefer to experience a virtual world myself as fully as I can, to form my own opinion based upon my experience. I also appreciate that my experience could be very different from someone else. I believe I have exceptional hardware to experience these environments, my rig is as follows:

CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 CPU 960 @ 3.20GHz (3238.57 MHz)
Memory: 6143 MB
OS Version: Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit (Build 7600)
Graphics Card Vendor: NVIDIA Corporation
Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 580/PCI/SSE2

Windows Graphics Driver Version: 8.17.0012.6309
OpenGL Version: 4.1.0

Because of where I live, I run an adsl 2 connection, I set my bandwidth high, and I have graphics enabled to the max, with both anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing enabled. This information is to give you the background as to what equipment I have, and to realise that my hardware is more than sufficient to immerse in each world, both at the same time.

ARRIVAL IN WORLD

Inworldz has a strong focus on greeters and mentors, to the point of saturation. It is nice to be greeted and asked if you need assistance, however I don’t think it is necessary to be asked the same question by a choir. This is likely just over enthusiasm. Assistance does vary, depending on whether there is someone there to impress. You will arrive on a bridge with an alien-like avatar and be directed over the bridge to a store carrying a range of freebie items to make your avatar more human or furry looking as you desire. These free items are donated by various people – some creators, some store owners, some store owners no longer in Inworldz. For a while there was also a stock of items stolen from SL, however these seem to be gone now. Quality of free items is fairly basic. You will not find designer items here. The arrival zone is script free, which panics people at times, thereby making the clickable signs non functioning, unless you know your way around or have on the spot guidance. A sandbox can be found for unpacking.

Battle of the Virtual Worlds?

Inworldz Default avatar

Avination tries to provide guidance on arrival, however this is not always the result. You will arrive in a quadrangle area, surrounded by stores where you can make purchases. These stores are reresentative of product available across the grid. You arrival avatar is quite human, indeed you will have a small choice of presentation when you are making your account. Because this avatar is much more developed, there is not such a need for basic free goods on arrival. There also seems to be a policy of not turning this world into a freebie based economy (or lack of) as this has been a major gripe on a number of SL forums. Indeed, the offering of free items is restricted and policed and outlined in a specific policy. Scripts are enabled, however there is no rezzing or building. A sandbox is easily found in search to unpack goods.

Battle of the Virtual Worlds?

Avination default female #1

Battle of the Virtual Worlds?

Avination default female #2

MENTORING

Inworldz seems to have imported the mentor system wholesale from SL, indeed many of the names are the same as the now defunct SL mentor group. Available to varying degrees on arrival. A few months ago, a European arrival area was being developed, mostly for german and dutch speakers, however I am not sure of the progress of this.

Avination has a guide system in place for new arrivals, however this varies depending upon time of day. As your avatar is fully fitted upon arrival, the help need is not so dire. Ample signage in the welcome area directs you to in world assistance. There is a german welcome area under construction.

VIEWERS

Inworldz offers its own in house developed viewer, in addition to Imprudence and a number others – these two I think are still the most popular.

Avination offers its own in house developed viewer. I believe Imprudence works well, however not many others do.

IMPORTING ITEMS

Inworldz recommends that you use the same viewer for exporting from SL that you use to import to Inworldz, and that makes sense. Imprudence seems to be the best bet. There is no charge for uploads

Avination makes the same recommendation, however I believe has tighter criteria to meet to ensure that theft is not assisted in any way. Imprudence seems to be the best bet here too. For either world, you can purchase Second Inventory, making the process much smoother. A creator can apply for Creation Credits, which will allow import free of charge

CURRENCY

Inworldz
allows you to purchase currency from their website via Paypal. This is delivered in world to your avatar

Avination allows you to purchase currency through Careminster via Paypal. This is delivered to your avatar in world.


SCRIPTS


Inworldz
will be rolling out its scripting engine, Phlox, soon. Hopefully this will have a huge impact on functionality

Avination has a scripting engine

PHYSICS

Inworldz announced last year that Nvidia PhysX had been selected to be rolled out in Inworldz, however this has not happened as yet. In my opinion, the lack of physics has had a crippling effect on the growth of Inworldz, and should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Avination has a physics engine in place, allowing your in world experience to be greatly enhanced. For me, this is a make or break issue, but this is my preference.

CONTENT PROTECTION

Inworldz doesn’t seem to have a specific written policy that I can find, however I am quite happy to be corrected on this. Inworldz is a DMCA agent.

Avination says that protection of creators IP rights is vital to any virtual world, and has a number of processes in place to do this. These are outlined here and are well worth your reading

PRICING OF LAND

Inworldz rates are: $75 set up and $75 US per month, prim limit of between 35,000 and 45,000 for islands. More detail here

Avination has no set up costs, and monthly fees of $60 US per month. Prim limit is 15,000. There is no need for mega prims. More detail here and here

SEARCH

Inworldz
search facility is at the moment limited to classifieds and people

Avination search facility covers classifieds, events, showcase, people, land sales, places, groups.

VOICE

Inworldz does not have voice chat enabled, and will not have in the forseeable future

Avination has fully functioning voice capability

LAG AND SIM CROSS

Inworldz lag issues have improved significantly over the past 6 months or so, however there is still major bouncing and rubber banding, falling through floors and ground, and major lag when visiting a sim that has taken advantage of their prim limit of 30-45k, used them all and placed different textures on each. Sim crossing is hicuppy, but this is a bugbear in all worlds, SL included

Avination has little lag in my experience, no rubber banding, no falling through floors, and no lag due to over textured sims. The effect of physics and scripting engines have contributed to this


EXPERIENCE

Inworldz offers exploring, shopping, creating, music (both live and DJ), role play, hanging out and chatting, and more along these lines.

Avination offers exploration, shopping, building/creating, music (the owner does a regular DJ gig), roleplay using CCS system, and more. For me, this is greatly enhanced with the physics engine.

POTENTIAL

Both of these worlds certainly have potential, but that is dependent upon quite a number of things. Both claim that they have a community, and the people who stay are those that fit into that community. This is fine, however it stifles the growth of more communities and does nothing to encourage diversity. ‘Fit with us or go’ is not awfully encouraging. Having said that, I do see a huge variety of community groups on both grids, so perhaps its a case of ‘do as I do, not as I say’.

Inworldz has been around for a couple of years, developing at a slow and steady pace. Avination has been here for 8 months, and has experienced an explosive growth in that time. Both want and need people from creative, commercial, artistic, roleplaying and educational groups to move in and find their home. However I have serious doubts as to how a world can develop without physics. I also find the lack of in world voice in Inworldz to be terribly short sighted; because we are such a social species we crave communication in many forms, not just typed chat. Those people who have physical issues with typing will not be encouraged in this world, as it simply will not be possible to voice chat. Again, to me this is a vital issue which I find terribly disappointing with the stand Inworldz has taken.

Many creators have taken the canny approach of setting up in both worlds, each a ‘branch’ of their SL business. Both worlds have a dire need for high quality product, especially hair, shoes, and modern funky clothing, all for both male and female. Both worlds have little choice in high quality skins, the choice now being limited fairly much to template skins slightly tweaked – hand drawn skins would be an excellent addition (Pulse offers hand drawn skins in Inworldz). Each world offers incentives to creators to make the move and expand. Avination offers a range of measures to back up their policy on IP protection and content theft (see above for link). Both worlds offer lively forums where member participation is highly encouraged. Both worlds offer visible owners that are very approachable. Both worlds are at the moment a haven for disgruntled SLers, so are seen as competing for SL numbers – this is foolish and need not be the case, as each world has good reason to stand on its own as a good alternative. Neither world is governed by a Board of Directors as SL is, both are owned by individuals. Both worlds crave feedback on performance to allow them to make improvements.

Will either of these worlds be around in 5 years time? I don’t know, but then I don’t know if SL will either. I am convinced however, that both worlds have been created by dedicated people, who work back breaking hours to better their creations. At the end of the day, the only real way to determine if either or any of these two worlds are for you, is to go there and experience them.

I do encourage you, whether you are a creator, roleplayer, educationalist, artist, user, blogger – go and see for yourself that virtual worlds are much bigger than SL. Each of these worlds have much to offer, and an exciting atmosphere of the great ventures that they are.

Avination website – go here for lots of information, and also to make your account and buy currency, viewer download, land, aprticipate in forums etc

Inworldz website – go here for account creation, viewer download, forums, etc

And most importantly, enjoy your adventures!

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