Linden Lab announced several changes to Openspace sims in Second Life causing a bit of an uproar in the Second Life community. Unlike many people I think that these changes are for the best. The changes in the new policy can help land owners, and recreate larger mainland communities. Before I delve into my thoughts of these changes, lets revisit what exactly is a Openspace sim.
What are Openspace Sims
Openspace Sims were introduced by Linden Lab in September 2006 as areas designated for ‘light use’. Initially I assumed these sims would be used to as a way to connect a community of sims together or provide additional scenery (such as a beach or a forest) without having to utilize much of their main sims resources.
The ‘light use’ designation for these sims made sense. 1 Openspace sim used 1/4 of a CPU core; a quad core server, the sort of servers Linden Lab uses, supports 16 Openspace sims. Comparing Openspace sims to regular sims, 1 Openspace sim is a 1/4 of a regular sim, as each one which was tethered to a CPU Core (thus 4 regular sims on a quad core server.)
What occurred in the marketplace
Estate owners had different plans as to utilize Openspace sims and used them as rental spaces, homes, and stores. In the past I’ve been offered rental space on a Openspace sim, but I’ve always felt I was being hoodwinked. The premise of more land and prims on a server that was a 1/4 of a sim at the same cost of a regular sim never made any sense to me. While there are some benefits (such as cost and privacy), they never outweighed the stability of residing on a regular sim. This with Linden Lab lack of performance support on Openspace sims solidified my view. As stated on the Second Life Support Center:
It is therefore important to understand what these regions are. They are provided for light use only, not for building, living in, renting as homes or use for events. As a stretch of open water for boating or a scenic wooded area they are fine, but we do not advise more serious use than this and will not respond to performance issues reported should you not use them in this way.
However, from a business standpoint Openspace sims became an easy way to offset a rise in costs to Class 5 servers when they were introduced. I’m sure there were also abuses (as hinted through Jack’s blog post); I can imagine someone being ripped off thinking they were renting a regular sim but received an Openspace sim.
Why the new policy is a good thing
Jack Linden mentioned some of the ramifications of excessive Openspace sim use:
The overuse of Openspaces has also put additional strain on some of our network and database infrastructure at a much higher ratio than is reflected in the current pricing. So higher traffic to and from the servers along with heavier demands on the asset server, both of which impact the overall experience people have inworld.
While a budding business person may benefit from having a store on an Openspace sim, the customer does not if they are suffering from poor simulator performance. Think about it, a store with vendors, items, textures causes some server load, multiplied by the amount of avatars on the sim and this load increases. Include the load of scripts in the store, and the textures, objects and scripts an avatar is wearing at any given time; a sim has to help process a lot of these things. All of this occurs on a system a fourth of the processing power of a regular sim. If a great deal of load is created by all of these factors on a regular sim; it is further worsened on an Openspace sim. This causes major performance issues, a server that begins to buckle, and a upset customer who has had a horrible shopping experience in your store.
The same could be said for homeowners. A single home on an Openspace sim could be great for someone who wants privacy and great scenery. However the home, plus the scripts in the home could provide a horrible experience.
Openspace sims being used for homeowners, and stores is a bad thing; it hurts those whom rent regular sims and those on the mainland. The rise in Openspace sims creates less of a push for mainland and regular sim rentals forcing business people to change their business model for cheaper Openspace spaces or forcing people out of the rental market because they are unable to compete.
Many people liked Openspace sims for their estate level privacy tools, but there are still many privacy issues yet to be addressed on the mainland. If more people are not on mainland sims, privacy issue gets tucked underneath other issues.
There is also the comment that the mainland is “ugly” and chaotic. If more people are not on the mainland then the issues that plague it are never brought to the forefront.
If the same sort of community building that was poured into Openspace sims can occur on the mainland there would be more powerful communities, such as Luskwood or Indigo. The problems that plague mainland could be brought even further to the forefront and there could be full mainland sims with a community of stores, or rentals.
Some people will be hurt however
There are some people who do suffer from the rise of the Openspace costs. I believe most of this suffering will be mitigated elsewhere. While there will be challenges, I don’t think communities are going to disappear due to these changes.
I generally do not subscribe to the fanatic doom and gloom responses that changes in these policies evoke. Changes in these polices force estate owners and land renters to revisit their business practices. In the long term this may be beneficial to the Second Life community as a while.