What Adam Frisby Has Learned From Working on OpenSim

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Adam Frisby

Adam Frisby, a co-founder of OpenSim and the Chief Product Officer of Sine Wave Entertainment (the creators of the virtual world Sinespace), has written a very insightful article for the Hypergrid Business website.

Titled What I learned about virtual worlds by helping found OpenSim, Adam talks at length about some of the lessons he learned from building virtual worlds over the past 12 years, particularly his experience with OpenSim:

For a while, there were some big names adopting the project in droves. Nearly every major tech company had some involvement — or at least one employee contributing — to OpenSim at some point. IBM had an entire team of OpenSim developers and was running internal conferences using the project. During my involvement, the OpenSim software was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. In the years since, it’s found its way into many surprising places, from NASA to university courses.

It’s gratifying to see OpenSim still soldiering on 12 years later, in great part through the efforts of the educators who’ve embraced it, and through worlds like OSGrid, which maintains a small but dedicated user community, along with a host of other enterprises, projects and grids using the software.

And while OpenSim didn’t become the breakout success we hoped it would, I learned a lot from it, about building virtual world platforms — and what they need.

He stresses the importance of not reinventing the wheel:

Virtual worlds shouldn’t reinvent the wheel

This is true of Second Life and OpenSim, and numerous other virtual worlds and MMOs — attempting to build key features and functionality by creating them from scratch, when better options already exist.

At the time, the list of free or cheap 3D engines could be counted on one hand — Torque, Ogre3D, Irrlicht, etc. But today, we have dozens of fantastic high-end options, including Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard, CryEngine, and Unigine. If you were willing to shell out real cash, Unreal, CryEngine, id Tech and others have been available throughout.

Building your own graphics engine from scratch, however, is a dumb idea. It’s an insanely complex bit of software. Throw in a few thousand graphics cards and chips, various drivers, and you’ve got the recipe for a monumental headache on compatibility and support, let alone trying to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in 3D features. Trying to build your own is just going to result in you wasting a ton of talent reinventing the wheel.

Sinespace is built on top of the Unity engine, which allows it to leverage the usage of such cool, Unity-based tools such as Archimatix. Contrast this with Linden Lab’s Sansar, where Linden Lab has decided to develop their own engine. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches (for example, Sinespace has to scramble to fix bugs introduced by regular Unity updates, something that Linden Lab doesn’t need to worry about as much, since they control everything in-house).

Adam also talks about the importance of addressing non-Windows and mobile users:

Virtual worlds must be accessible — immediately

Even among gamers, the percentage of people willing to downland and install a client, then endure a time-consuming, multi-step login process, is vanishingly small. For the same reason, web and mobile access matter too. We know from our own efforts that if you want someone to download or install something, half of the people who sign up, won’t.

Today’s consumers don’t use desktops either – the web today is mobile, and I find myself using my phone more and more, switching only to my desktop to get work done. You need to be where the users are – and that, in my opinion, means friction- free and device-agnostic experiences.

I note that Sinespace is now available not only on the desktop (with versions for Windows, MacOS, and LINUX), but also for users in VR headsets (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality). They’re also currently testing viewers for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Sinespace even has a viewer that runs completely within a web browser (I’ve tested it and it works fairly well). And they are working on a client for OpenVR viewers for both Windows and Mac, too! I would have to say that, at this point, Sinespace is ahead of the competition in terms of mobile device and multiple platform support. They’ve got all the bases covered!

Offering lots of options for people to access your virtual world (particularly those which don’t involve downloading a client) gives you an advantage in an increasingly crowded market of metaverse products. And if you don’t believe that mobile-accessible virtual worlds are important, you really do need to check out both IMVU and Avakin Life. Both are very popular with children and teenagers, most of whom are on smartphones—and these children and teenagers are future adult consumers! Companies need to be paying attention to this segment of the market.

This is a very good article about virtual worlds from an industry veteran who is doing some innovative things in virtual worlds. I’d encourage you to go over to Hypergrid Business and read it in full!

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An UploadVR Journalist Covers Sinespace

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David Jagneaux of the UploadVR website has written a very complimentary article about Sinespace and how it might become “the Second Life of VR”:

We recently got the chance to talk with Adam Frisby, co-founder and Chief Product Officer for Sinespace, about their VR app and the name that it’s made for itself. The UK-based company quietly launched in 2017 and has since gone on to be immediately generate revenue for not only the company itself, but for users as well. He’s describing Sinespace as a “virtual world platform built for developers” and it shows.

They’re currently sitting at approximately 10,000 monthly active users across all Unity-enabled devices (that means PC, Mac, Linux, browsers, and viewing capabilities on mobile) with about 10% of those users being in VR, primarily Rift and Vive. Sinespace is mostly a third-person experience, but if you’re in VR, the view shifts to first-person.

That isn’t a lot of VR users right now, but it still puts them just below VRChat and Rec Room in terms of sheer reach and size. Considering they’ve barely made a peep in North America and aren’t even on Steam yet, that’s pretty impressive.

That figure of “10,000 monthly active users” sounds suspiciously high (maybe that’s the figure for the total number of Sinespace accounts created so far?).

David writes how Sinespace, like Second Life before it, is focusing on how creators can earn money from their work:

All of the content you see inside of Sinespace is more than likely created by a user. On top of that, all of that content that developers spend hours making isn’t locked to just Sinespace. It can be used in engines like Unreal and Unity as well — they don’t force people to sign any exclusivity agreements or rights waivers to the content. They’ve just got a straight-forward 70/30 split on all revenue with 70% going to creators and only 30% going to Sinespace, the company also makes money by selling in-game currency (Gold) to users. But the real meat of it all is the internal user-to-user economy.

Currently there are over 2,500 virtual goods for sale that range from clothing and animations for characters all the way up to vehicles and entire buildings. This is how Second Life started cultivating its economy and Sinespace is following a similar path. According to company representatives, the top creators are already earning hundreds of dollars per month in sales and that’s expected to continue growing as the user base expands.

2,500 is still smaller than the over 12,000 items already listed for sale in the Sansar Store, but it’s still impressive for a newer virtual world platform. (High Fidelity has nowhere near that number of items for sale in its High Fidelity Marketplace, as far as I can tell.)

It’s a good article and I would encourage you to go over to the UploadVR website and read it. The article also talks about the avatar facial driver software I had blogged about earlier, which I still think is a really cool feature!

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UPDATE 12:20 p.m.: Adam Frisby has gotten right back to me about the accuracy of the 10,000 monthly active users figure, saying:

Hey the user count is actually accurate — it’s the 30 days to June 15th… It’s been growing all year.

…[A] lot of that is just first time visitors (we get a lot of them); but the core user group is growing as well.

Sinespace to Integrate Archimatix Building Tool

Earlier I had speculated about the possibility of Sinespace using a Unity development tool called ProBuilder. It turns out things are much further along than that! Adam Frisby told me today in the official Sinespace Discord channel:

Unity bought it [ProBuilder] and released it for free, it’s part of the Unity editor, but we are looking into an in-client integration as well

But that’s not the only Unity tool that Sinespace is looking to integrate with its virtual world platform. Take a look at this very impressive promotional video for a tool called Archimatix (it’s a Vimeo link which I cannot embed in this blog). Adam says that models you upload to the world using Archimatix will be editable by end-users inside the client.

Now, check out these clips of Adam using Archimatix within Sinespace!

 

 

 

Apparently, this feature is expected for the April release of Sinespace! Things are definitely getting interesting in Sinespace.

Sinespace Is a Social VR Space/Virtual World to Watch

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You know, Sinespace is really starting to grow on me.

I’m starting to think that Adam Frisby was smart to build his virtual world on top of the Unity game engine, because he can leverage off all the development work that has taken place on that platform. For example, he already has great in-world vehicle physics for things like dune buggies and race cars.

And Adam can take advantage of all those cool Unity building tools. Of course, there’s a lot of work to integrate such tools with Sinespace, but the payoffs could be big. In the official Sansar Discord channel, creator Agustine shared with me a promotional video of a Unity building tool called ProBuilder. It reminds me of the Second Life in-world build tools, but on steroids!

Pretty impressive! Can you imagine having the ability to build so easily in a virtual world? And can you imagine how popular Sinespace could be if they could integrate such a tool? The Second Life crowd would be all over it!

And you can already build some truly beautiful experiences within Sinespace. I’ve already blogged about a few. Take a look at these pictures I took of the Sinespace region I am currently in. Trees swaying gently in the breeze, grassy rolling hills… it makes me want to explore!

And Agustine told me about a new enticement to explore: gifts! Hidden away in some of the Sinespace regions are gift boxes like the one in the picture above. Find them and click on them, and you win a small amount of in-game currency! I’m not going to tell you in which region I found this particular gift; come to Sinespace and explore for yourself 😉

Gifts in Sinespace 8 Apr 2018

And there are some very nice touches to Sinespace, like the built-in Snapshot tool, which I have already talked about, which are fun and easy to use.

Now, Sinespace is not perfect. For example, I still cannot get the new VR client to work with my Oculus Rift setup, even after several attempts (other people have been luckier than me). And, annoyingly, now when I launch the new Sinespace client in desktop (non-VR) mode, it also loads SteamVR and Oculus Home automatically, which means I have to work around the rather annoying SteamVR “Headset not tracking” pop-up window. But this is a minor complaint, and one that I’m sure will be fixed in time.

The fact is, Sinespace should be getting a lot more press attention than it has been to date. Yesterday I was talking with Andrew, the producer of my upcoming show Metaverse Newscast (hopefully launching later this year), and we agree: Sinespace is one of the “Big Four” where some of the most interesting developments are happening in the metaverse (the other three are High Fidelity, Sansar, and VRChat).

Strawberry and Drax Tour Sinespace

Very early this morning my time, Strawberry Singh and Draxtor Despres paid a visit to Adam Frisby in Sinespace. I wasn’t there (still sleeping), but Strawberry did a livestream of the event:

Among the many Sinespace regions they visited was one which I had profiled earlier on the RyanSchultz.com blog, Sudin.

Another region they all visited was Race Meet – Winter Mountain, a wintertime raceway where they drove dune buggies which Adam created. The vehicle physics in Sinespace are quite good!

It’s a great video and I learned a few things about the Sinespace user interface I didn’t know before. Looks like they had a lot of fun too! They were chatting in Skype while they were in-world (there’s no voice chat in Sinespace yet).

Here’s a list of Sinespace regions they visited, according to Adam:

UPDATE March 6th: It turns out that Sinespace does have voice chat, but some regions have that ability turned off, which is why they used Skype in the livestream.

Sinespace Pick of the Day: Sudin

I am expanding my “Pick of the Day” to cover other virtual worlds. Today’s Pick of the Day is from Sinespace, it’s a sci-fi urban region called Sudin, created by Adam Frisby. Much like Sansar’s 2077 experience by C3rb3rus, it reminds me of the movie Blade Runner. There’s a suitably ominous, pulsating, futuristic soundtrack.

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Sudin 1 24 Feb 2018

To explore Sinespace, you can download the client software here. Once installed, click on the Explore tab at the bottom of the screen, search for “Sudin” in the search box up top, and select it from the search results. Here’s the Sinespace Explore page for Sudin.