Thursday, June 5, 2008

Review - OpenSim, realxtend and Wonderland

After my last post you all might have notice that I really got interested in 3D Virtual Worlds.

I couldn’t resist and I downloaded OpenSource and try to build it on my Linux server, in my first attempt I failed miserably (the pain) got millions of errors (ok I exaggerated hehehe), staid awake all night trying to compile the god damn thing, it was 6pm next day and still didn’t slept, I had to stop before I could hurt myself, so decided to continue a few days later.

Before I tried again with the Linux server I decided to try it on my home computer, but with a already build distro, it worked, and got a chance to see it running. I still thought it was worth the try on Linux.

After building mono and nant from source I try with and outdated build that was ready to run, well I installed and tested, it worked, so there was hope =P

Ok I got a big flat terrain under water an a av, couldn’t build anything and couldn’t model terrain, but….. I could log and fly around, that was enough satisfying for me in that moment.

So yeah, not for the real hard part, compile the thing from source….. amazingly it didn’t throw any errors this time and bingo, I could log and build and stuff. Did a little configuration changes and done

I have it working at the moment, while still testing, I have modeled an island, put some stuff in it, uploaded some textures and created some users for a bunch of friends to try it out. Had a few crashes yes, but nothing serious, I can’t ask much from an alpha version. Still you can do pretty much most of the stuff you do in normal Secondlife but still needs some work.

Ok that was for OpenSim, now lets move to its variant, realxtend.

Realxtend was build from OpenSim code and it offers really cool features, one of my favorite was that you can do custome avatars, and you can import content from external tools like Maya, 3dmax and Blender. It has its own client, and you need to use it to connect to that server, you can’t use normal SL client like OpenSim.

Well I downloaded windows version and gave it a look, indeed, I could see new stuff in it, did a few changes and my avatar was a mushroom with it own animation, no more humanoid avatar limitations.

Well it was great yeah, now…. first, you can only find binaries for windows, but if you want to build that from sources on Linux….its hell, no matter what I did the darn thing won’t stop throwing me errors and more errors, I even dig in the code and nope to frustrating and just gave up. Another thing, unlike OpenSim, you can only use MSSQL as database, and doesn’t support MySQL, my choice on database.

I searched for help on google but for that project project is really vague, OpenSim is way more supported. I prefer waiting till it’s more stable and more linux friendly too.

I plan to stay with OpenSim for now. Ok it runs great on Windows, you can host a little world on your home pc and invite a few friends and intact there, like you will do with open canvas or pchat.

But for if you want to support more users and use it for something more serious, I prefer Linux, Im not using a crappy windows server to host that, it would be blasphemy XD

Ok and finally, there’s the Java approach, I recently been investigating about those kind of technologies and found out that Java has been developing a really cool opensource platform for building this kind of stuff, the name is Darkstar – Wonderland, I will explain.

DarkStar is the base platform, and its used to build the server stuff you need for a 3D world, Wonderland is build on top of that, and offers the client side.

Sun has already a demo showing what this tools can do, its called MPK20 and is virtual demo like second life, but much simpler, you can’t build inworld, you have to build and import stuff from Maya or Blender, the avatars are ugly compared with SL version, and move robotic too, this will be from the user view, the world is ugly.

But seeing it from a programmers side this is heaven, this platform is really really robust, you don’t have to build a lot of stuff from scratch, just do a little coding and focus more on the actual game than the infrastructure to make it work.

The problem I see of OpenSim is that, its dependent in some way to the SecondLife client and can only do so much the client can do, but most important, since Linden Lab won’t release their server source code any time now, most of the stuff the server uses is somewhat guessed looking on the SL client code, and most of the stuff has to be done from scratch, this slows development a little since there are building a standard and not focusing on adding new features.

With DarkStar and Wonderland most of the stuff is already done and works, so you can build your stuff above that with minimal concerns, and finally to my personal opinion, Java is more cross platform friendly that .NET, like Java better, also Java seems more opensource friendly than Micro$oft.

So to all this, one, I’m going to continue playing with OpenSim for a while, and also give it a shot with DarkStar-Wonderland, I just discovered that there’s already a nice tool for modeling MokeyWorld3D it would be cool integrating that with Wonderland and make something with it, we will see.

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