Each year students ask me where they can find virtual land for large builds for their VR projects; and each year I recommend they download and install OpenSim on their personal computers, to run either standalone or connected to a public grid such as MyOpenGrid. Although not difficult to do, this has added an overhead that many students have shied away from.
Recently I discovered Kitely, an OpenSim-based virtual world hosting service whose beta release was first announced around a year ago. (How come I missed it at that time?) Setting up an account and creating your world is swift and easy; and it should take no more than 5 minutes before you are in-world and ready to build. You can either start with an empty region and build from scratch or–and this is a huge bonus–upload a pre-made world in an OAR (OpenSim Archive) file. (Incidentally, you can also export the OAR file of your own region.) Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of sites from which you can download OAR files:
Using the import/export feature of Imprudence (or the much older Meerkat) viewer, you can copy into your Kitely world any content you’ve created in Second Life or in any other OpenSim grid.
Other than the advantages listed later in this post, Kitely has some interesting features that potentially give it an edge both over Second Life and over other OpenSim grids (actually, two forms of currency, Kitely Credits and Minutes):
- In-world currency. Has its own proprietary currency, the Kitely Credit (KC). If you’re a business operating in Kitely, you additionally have the choice of charging admission to your region.
- Pricing structure. Created “with the vision of enabling people to use virtual worlds as an on-demand utility“, Kitely pricing is–unlike Second Life and grids such as InWorldz–per usage rather than strictly per region. The default Free Plan gives you 120 minutes usage per month for no cost, while even the Platinum Plan, at $100, works out far cheaper than Second Life and most other grids, giving you an unlimited number of Minutes per month, 5000 KC per month, and 100 free worlds.
This raises an interesting dilemma: suppose I am in-world but visiting someone else’s region–don’t the Minutes I use up there equate to paying to visit the region? Kitely has anticipated this:
Normally, visitors to your worlds are charged Minutes out of their personal accounts, and you pay nothing. However, if you wish, you can enable other users to visit your worlds for free by covering this charge yourself. To do so, Edit the world, switch to the Access tab and set the price for the group of people you would like to subsidize to Free. When you do so, the selected group of visitors will pay nothing to visit that virtual world: instead, 1 KC per visitor will be deducted from your balance each minute that they remain in that world.
‘Billing System Finally In Place’
Overall, Kitely is quite visionary and a near-perfect choice for those looking for a good alternative to Second Life without the hassle of having to install and maintain an OpenSim server oneself or the cost of owning a region in grids such as InWorldz. Below I summarise what, off the top of my head, spring to mind as some of the advantages and downsides of using Kitely:
- A basic account plan gives you an OpenSim region at absolutely no cost.
- Ease of set-up; cloud hosting with nothing to download except the browser plugin. Create an account directly with registration on the Kitely web site, or via Twitter or Facebook Connect in just a few seconds. One button then launches a Second Life-compatible viewer. (Note that if you have more than one viewer installed on your computer, it assumes that the most recently installed is your default viewer. And if that is not your viewer of choice–my own preferred OpenSim viewer is Imprudence, for example–you will need to edit the configuration file as per the instructions published here.)
- In setting up your world you have the choice either of an empty region or of uploading a pre-made OAR file.
- Uploading is free; and hence importing content–including textures, audio, and animations–created elsewhere.
- The ‘Free Plan’ account gives you a ceiling of just 120 minutes per month access to your region
- No HyperGrid connection to other grids
To conclude, a word to my students: Kitely represents a great alternative to those of you nervous about installing your own OpenSim regions, as well as for those of you who might wish to maintain your worlds beyond the duration of the taught course. But be aware of the fact that the free account gives you only 120 minutes per month, not enough time for you to create your models for the assessment of this course.
References and readings
The OpenSimulator Archive (OAR) function