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March 01, 2007

Solipsis [via iDC]


A Massively Shared Virtual World

Solipsis is a pure peer-to-peer system for a massively shared virtual world. There are no central servers at all: it only relies on end-users' machines. Solipsis is a public virtual territory. The world is initially empty and only users will fill it by creating and running entities. No pre-existing cities, inhabitants nor scenario to respect... Solipsis is open-source, so everybody can enhance the protocols and the algorithms. Moreover, the system architecture clearly separates the different tasks, so that peer-to-peer hackers as well as multimedia geeks can find a good place to have fun here! Current versions of Solipsis give the opportunity to act as pionneers in a pre-cambrian world. You only have a 2D representation of the virtual world and some basic tools devoted to communications and interactions. But it just works, so, come on and enjoy!

Continued from [iDC] Second Life and activism"

Ana Valdez wrote:

I have been reviewing computer games for the largest Swedish newspaper (400.000 copies every day) since 1984, when the computers were Atari, Commodore Amiga, Sinclair, Amstrad. At that time there were some small European companies trying to make themselves a spot, Infogrames, Cocktail Soft, Mindgames, Tati, it was France, Spain, Germany and Sweden who created some small companies. (I am explicitely taking out Japan because Japan is making games for console, Nintendo, etc, but was never a big player in the PC gamesmarket.)

Today the market is almost 100 procent owned by American companies who have bought the European companies. It's one Arabic company in Syria, Akkad media, who makes Under Ashes and Under Siege, the two only Arabic made and Arabic produced computer games.

In Sweden we have only one company, Mindark, producing the online world Project Enthropia, where the players can earn wages in real money, a big changing in the online worlds economy. And the company who makes Battlefield 1942 is Swedish but it produces it's games for the American market and makes games for Warner Brothers and others.

The computer games has evolved in the same way than the film movies, started with some young enthusiastic people making games in the cellars and garages (Myst was produced in a garage, Tetris by a lonely Russian mathematician who didn't earn revenue at all from Tetris, etc) to the big productions of today, where huge studios and hundreds of artists and programmers make the widespread games.

We don't have "indy games" yet, we should.

ps: online worlds, War of Worldcraft, Ultima Online, Everquest, Second Life, are all produced and developed in the US. In Corea Lineage, the highly popular online world, is produced and developed by Corean and American engineers.

Simon Gwendal wrote:

About the initial comment of Ana Valdes (the lack of freedom in current virtual worlds), I think that it emphasizes the little introduction to Virtual Worlds I wrote last year: http://p2pfoundation.net/Introduction

The book of Peter Ludlow give other examples of dictatorial decisions in virtual worlds.

As said in this introduction, the "free and distributed" alternatives to Second Life exist but they haven't succeeded in creating a "buzz" and, without community of players, a virtual world has few interest... We can only hope that people will eventually "understand" that the life proposed by Linden Lab in Second Life does not deserve any contribution because the power is not distributed. I personaly advocate for the Solipsis project (in France), which is now officially granted by the national research agency (from 09/2006 to 09/2008) --> http://solipsis.netofpeers.net

-- Gwendal

Joshua Levy wrote:

Thanks all for your insightful and thankfully skeptical takes on Second Life! While SL should never be intended to replace real life (some people actually criticize it for try to do so) people are finding that it offers us empathic experiences previously only found when people occupy the same physical space.

Scott Kildall hit on what I've been trying to articulate for a while -- that SL "offers re-spatialization of activity and a feeling of presentness... unique experiences that make people laugh and form deeper bonds -- this is where Second Life can excel." This ability to help people have deeper experiences that mimic physical closeness gives us the opportunity to connect in unforeseen ways. The first time I went into SL I had an experience that I think others of have had -- I couldn't stop laughing. I wanted a new shirt and asked the first avatar I found to help me find one, and she did. The naturalness of the interaction, the embodied nature of it, the seeming closeness -- it all felt so weird.

In response to Trebor's question about "inconvenient youth" and whether or not this fantasy world can "fertilize politics" in the real world, Brian Holmes reminds us that art in general often creates fantasies that enable us to "suss out all the connections to or disjunctions from the rest of lived experience." Fantasies have always served a purpose as spaces in which we can look out real life from a distance, or model life as we'd like to live it.

Andreas Schiffler points out the frustrating reality of it all -- SL requires so much bandwidth and CPU as to make it completely impractical for the kind of daylong use we associate with IM. He says that "if we are looking at it as a medium to disseminate information, the shortcomings outweigh the benefits," but I wonder if we aren't misguided to think of it as a "medium to disseminate information," which suggests a mass medium; many users already understand the true value of SL is in the quality of interactions it enables among small groups, not in its ability (or inability) to help people spread a message far and wide.

I've noticed that whenever I try to tell someone about my work in SL their thoughts quickly turn to money. "People are making money there, aren't they?" they always ask. Steven Shaviro extends this capitalistic obsession to networked media and the explosion of "user-generated content." "I fear that the call or incitement to participate, to get involved, to be creative, largely means that we are being asked to be entrepreneurs of ourselves, and thus work ever harder to facilitate our own exploitation." That's assuming that entrepreneurship equals exploitation, of course...

A few people brought up the fact that SL environments are often simulacra of real-world environments. Many of our computer interfaces also suffer from this lack of transcending their origins; it's struck me as strange that, for example, among the tools in Final Cut Pro are a "razor" and "reels." As Josephine Dorado points out, the real fun happens when real life imitates SL. I agree; like Josephine, I too want to fly and wear high-heel boots all the time! (Maybe not all the time...)

But Charlie Gere gets to the point; let's quote him a bit here:

"It would seem to me obvious that trying to make some sense of and find ways of mitigating the violence and unjustice in the complex world and culture we already necessarily inhabit, not least bodily, is far more pressing and considerably more worth defending than any supposed capacity to 'design and inhabit our on worlds and construct our own culture'. This seems to me to be at best a license for mass solipsism and at worse something like the kind of thinking that undergirds much totalitarianism, as well as an evasion of our responsibilities to the world as we find it."

Patrick Lichty is interested in the phenomenology of SL, as am I: the unique experience you get in SL that, while possibly solipsistic, gives us the chance to experience our world from a distance. But take Gere's critique that the real world contains problems far more pressing and dangerous than anything that could be happening in SL. Is there a place for this kind of mass solipsism -- can it connect it us to the pressing issues of our time -- or by laboring over building an island with orcas and moose living in the same space, or worrying about what shirt our avatar is wearing, or bombing a Reebok store and vandalizing John Edwards' SL space, are we evading our responsibility to fix a seriously broken world?

-Josh Levy

Posted by jo at March 1, 2007 04:54 PM