Open Source alternatives for a 3D world
My friend Alex B. Whillas recently came up with an interesting idea when we went to the Transmediale festival in Berlin and were taking part in a very interesting public discussion about 2nd Life: while Second Life is the topic of interest at the moment it should be accompanied by an Open Source pendant. If one would choose the game platform Quake as a basis, we would achieve a couple of advantages at once. The most important were:
- a high performance by using a highly developed 3D engine
- accessing a large community that is already used to dealing with the Quake navigation
Both arguments are striking. But before discussing them let me first come back to the precondition of the idea: having an OS alternative to Second Life. LindenLabs went OpenSource in the meantime - a fact that is astonishingly fewly discussed in the community (for a discussion in German see this posting). This is now about two months ago and I consider it the invention of a new quality within the OpenSource discussion: while OpenLaszlo for example went OS the very moment the leading competitor, Macromedia/Adobe, atacked them and threatened to ruin their business model, it is now the market leader itself who hedges his bets by contributing a technological platform to the community. On the other hand: the code they make publically available is only the Second Life Client - not the server.
Nevertheless this steales the original idea’s thunder a little.
An Open Source Server alternative would still be desirable and is worth a discussion. While Second Life is now being taken in by commercial interests (which is not all bad - this is necessary to provide a sustainable business model, also as a proof of concept for competitors!) a Quake alternative would probably reinvent fun a little. And a different type of community. Other tribes. And competition is always a good driver for invention.
Games as a precursor for a 3D community
Moreover, the Second Life navigation is way not that intuitive as the Quake navigation is. And there are millions of users out there who are pretty familiar with how jump and run works in this environment. And the engine has already had several years of testing and development. So it is not astonishing, that Alex got pretty much feedback on that posting.
As someone who implemented a 3D world for my diploma in architecture in 1998 I have been wondering why VRML has made so few impact on the web ever since. It seemed such an avantgarde technology to “go 3D” using a public standard. Obviously it took the world a couple of computer games to feel comfartable in 3D dungeons - and finally move within them naturally. Insofar computer games prepared the path of Second Life - and this whole kind of dungeons, that are not made for gaming purposes - anyway. So the honor is due to these pioneers in a way.
I think the problem with VRML was manyfold: First, it was way too early. “Normal users” hardly existed at that time - normal in a sense of my mother in law, who is older than 60 and does a roaring trade business on ebay - and were usually already overburdened with HTML navigation. Today it is hard to imagine that all of us had to get used to it once. Then the Cosmo VRML plugin became part of the standard installation of Netscape - too early as well. So they did not make it part of the standard installation for the next release. And then there were technology inherent problems. For a tag language - which is suposed to be readable by humans - it is a bit tricky if you have to transform your coordinates to vectors. The effect was that VRML was mainly used by software like 3D exports of CAD in architecture. They used VRML rather frequently, they just did it in a way nobody realized he was using VRML.
Unfortunately I gave up tracing the 3D development on the web after a while and I was now surprised to read that it has finally found a dignified follower in X3D. So let’s just follow up that matter - it is worth it! And credits to Alex for posting!