The Virtually Live Events Project

This is a guest post from Surreal Numbers on how the Openlife grid has played host to numerous musical events. It’s one of many examples of how OpenSim and related grids are continuing to grow in popularity and maturity.

Thanks to Shai Khalifa for the heads-up on the project initially, and for a historical take on Openlife you can also view our original 2008 profile of the Openlife grid here.


I’d like to thank Lowell Cremorne and The Metaverse Journal for taking an interest in the Virtually Live Events Project and publishing this article.

Purpose and Initiation

User-created virtual reality is the most flexible and powerful tool for sharing information and imagination. Upon entering a space made with 3D modelling primitives and scripts, a visitor can take a journey far richer than that offered by other sharing technologies including blogs, photographs, and audio-video streams. At the same time, community development using virtual reality can have a significantly different life-cycle as compared to the use of other social media.

Social development and technical capabilities are closely entwined in virtual worlds. For example, without a functioning script engine, reliable login servers, and robust sim physics, it is not reasonable to plan and host events. By late-2009, The Openlife Grid had reached levels of stability, scalability, and security appropriate for hosting events reliably. The Virtually Live Events Project (VLE) was started on 05 September 2009 with a solicitation for an “International Live Music Events Developer” committed to consistency, innovation, excellence, and sustainability. Goals were set for number of monthly events, expected audience size, an international distribution of performers representing all continents, and integration with the grid’s business community. The quantity and quality of the responses were overwhelming. They were invariably professional and, most strikingly, reflected a strong spirit of generosity.

The solicitation was focused on finding a single person capable of initiating and maintaining the project so I had not anticipated that the majority of feedback suggested that I form a project team and manage it. As I came to learn, a team was easily justified by the extensive list of tasks that needed to be addressed. But I was reluctant to manage. I’m a mathematical scientist, not a musician, and I felt unqualified to understand music event hosting much less how to build a sustainable arts program.

Eventually, I recognized two things. First, I have a strong interest in hearing music from everywhere. My father had been a Grammy-nominated recording engineer for RCA Records and worked with outstanding musicians and singers from around the world. In addition, I’m a product of the South Bronx, which has a rich fusion of multinational music that simply will not allow one’s body and mind to sit still. Second, professionally, I have a lot of experience planning and hosting conferences as well as managing international research project teams. It seems to be an odd combination of characteristics on which to base the decision to manage but now, a year and a half into VLE, they seem even more applicable.

Challenges and Team

The challenges for the project are to:
1. host music events consistently;
2. innovate to keep performances and venues fresh;
3. work towards a standard of excellence; and
4. sustain and grow the project into the future.

To meet these challenges the team, which has evolved over eighteen months, was initially Debbie Trilling, Adec Alexandria, Shai Khalifa, Digital Dreambuilder (Digi), Pantaiputih Korobase (Pants), and me. At present, it includes Shai, Digi, Cheops Forlife, and me as well as a consulting group with Caro Axelbrad, Grimley Graves, and Pants.

Debbie Trilling and Adec Alexandria (both UK) helped establish a strong footing for the project as well as provided me with the best possible mentoring for managing it. Debbie’s artistic work is well-known in Second Life. She sets a very high standard for quality and was always quick to point out what would not work, what would work, and why. Adec has experience hosting events, is a keen photographer with a great design sense, and an excellent builder who can quickly bring prim form to the vision in his mind’s eye. Debbie and Adec eventually resigned because of other personal and professional obligations but their influences still underpin Virtually Live Events.

Shai Khalifa (Australia) has a degree in arts management, was a professional musician, and has extensive experience managing virtual music events. She has been invaluable for vetting, contacting, and booking performers. Her role is especially challenging since she is literally the artist’s first contact with VLE and she has the professionalism to address whatever questions, comments, or observations arise. In addition, her experiences have provided sound insight into how the performance program should be structured and how it will evolve.

Digital Dreambuilder (Native of Ireland living in Finland) is innovative, a skilled builder and scripter, and an amateur musician with experience planning and hosting virtual events. He’s also professionally involved with virtual education and training, which has implications for the future of VLE. He has a well-grounded sense of setting goals, the capabilities for meeting them, insights for avoiding pitfalls, and the creativity for crafting fallback plans in the case of disaster. He’s built and animated almost all of the exceptionally detailed musical instruments used by performers on Virtually Live.

Pantaiputih Korobase (Germany) was an early member of the project team selected for his insightful nature, exceptionally big heart, people skills, and diamond in the rough building skills (nowadays, he’s well-cut and polished). His role has been recast as a consultant in order to accommodate his personal wishes.

Cheops Forlife (France) was added to the team after Debbie and Adec left. She is unfailingly cheerful, positive, and creative. Once new performers are booked, she brings them inworld and prepares their avatars for the performances. This is no small task since there are psychological, sociological, and technical factors involved. However, she is exceptionally well-suited to the effort given her training in psychology and professional background managing non-profit programs.

Caro Axelbrad (Spain) and Grimley Graves (US) serve as consultants to VLE. Caro custom builds skins, shapes, hair, and clothing for the performers when needed. Both she and Grims have been longtime supporters of the project and, along with Pants, share their creative ideas for helping VLE grow and evolve over time.

I help the team meet the project challenges. I especially enjoy designing and building our default and themed venues.

Although not a member of the project team or consulting group, Logger Sewell deserves recognition for donating the stream used by Virtually Live. His action was an early example of the generosity the project enjoys.

Performances and Venues

VLE performances and venues have been well-documented on the project blog as well as Twitter where performers are announced and event photos are posted. Over the last eighteen months, VLE has held themed events (seasonal parties, wear your green dots, pool, beach, and valentine’s aftermath, among others) and rebuilt the project region, Virtually Live, many times to accommodate the themes as well as new concepts for the entire venue.

Performers have responded enthusiastically. It is really important to the VLE team that the performers have the best possible experience whenever they visit Openlife and this is reflected in their feedback both to the team and the event guests. Time and again, performers have commented on how much they enjoyed the entire process of coming inworld and performing. While musicians and singers had previously crossed from one grid to another to perform, the VLE project broke new ground by establishing an innovative mentoring model to make their transition to Openlife simple and fun. One broad reaching effect of the VLE model is that it has provided a methodology that performers use to explore the potential of other virtual worlds, which increases their reach and audience base.

The performers, moreover, invariably notice both the unusual artistic venues on Virtually Live and the chatty appreciative crowds that attend. The Virtually Live region is devoted exclusively to the arts and the builds are among the most distinctive and beautiful performance venues in any virtual world. In turn, performers all want to come back and have spread the word to other performers throughout the metaverse, who have either already performed on Virtually Live or will be booked in the future.

The most important thing the team wanted for the audience was simply a relaxing fun time that everyone could count on happening regularly. Again, the response has been overwhelmingly posiitive and the best part of this has been the social development. Friending occurs frequently during each event and connections are made or strengthened. New residents of the grid are treated to a warm and helpful greeting in an enjoyable atmosphere, which reinforces the reputation of the community.

In addition to the many blog photos from events, Caro and Pants have each made videos of some VLE performances; a few links are:

Openlife 3rd Birthday and Halloween Party by Caro

Idella Quandry “Fields of Gold” by Caro

Yellow Pool Party by Pants

The Future

Recent updates to Openlife’s infrastructure have brought further improvements in scalability and features, which, in turn, can be used to enhance and expand the social environment of the grid. For example, for several events, VLE has made use of scene-flip, a unique to Openlife feature that, with the touch of a button, flips the entire region to an alternate scene. Having a full-sized blank region with 45,000 prims to use for a themed event has led to some beautiful scenes that required a lot of people to build. The Openlife 3rd Birthday and Halloween Party video illustrates the use of flip-scene. While the default venue remained secure in Slot 1 of Virtually Live, an entirely different scene was built for the party in Slot 2, including themed terraform and builds.

Virtually Live Events, notably, has been a valuable source of performance and stability data for Sakai Openlife, 3DX Openlife founder and owner. These data have been helpful for identifying technical problems and solutions that lead to grid improvements enjoyed by all residents.

While the emphasis to date has been on music, VLE intends to increase its scope to include theatre, art exhibitions, and arts education venues. Virtually Live Events wants to thank all performers and guests for their support over the last eighteen months and looks forward to where technical capabilities and social development take the project in the future.

Openlife dumps Second Life viewer support

I haven’t logged into Openlife for a few weeks, so I was unaware that support for the standard Second Life viewer has ceased. The proprietary viewer is now standard fare.


Release 1.6.2 is the current build, and the Mac version runs like a dream for me. I’d argue its performance is zippier than the Second Life browser though it’s not without its own ability to crash. The Openlife web portal has also had some welcome further improvements.

As stated previously, this is a grid with momentum.

Migration to Openlife: one story

Aussie Second Life resident, Shai Khalifa, has posted an interesting piece on our discussion forums.

As Shai writes, she had been a Second Life resident since September 2006. Technical problems, the lowering of sim pricing and the Openspaces issue led to her making a full migration to Openlife.


Shai goes on to put the case for Openlife having a greater sense of community, something that can be expected given Openlife’s current size. She also agrees that Openlife is a long way off providing the range of services that Second Life does, but is excited about progress to date and the new possibilities on the horizon.

You can read Shai’s piece in full here and discuss the issue further as well. My view is fairly similar to Shai’s in that Openlife has a very different vibe to Second Life – primarily due to its stage of development. This is something that’s appealed to a number of people, as have a number of other alternative grids. The real challenge for the alternative grids is maintaining infrastructure and momentum – only then will Linden Lab start looking over their shoulder regularly.

Just for interest, Openlife is certainly growing judging by the world map:


As always, we’ll keep a close watch on Openlife, one of the many grids popping up. If you’re running a grid that’s developing a community, let us know.

Openlife sees benefit of Linden Lab price rise

The past 48 hours have been fascinating to observe. Since the announcement by Linden Lab of price rises for OpenSpaces sims in Second Life, there have been protests, petitions and the odd paragraph of doom-saying. It’s been one of the larger resident backlashes since the gambling and banking bans, and some are voting with their feet already.

Bettina Tizzy has reported on a not insignificant influx of new registrations to the Openlife grid, run by aussie Steve Sima (profile here). The number is more than 800 since the announcement, taking the resident count above the thirty-two thousand mark. (Update: Steve Sima states that more than 2000 have now registered since the Linden Lab announcement)

That’s small change compared to Second Life but it’s a nice base from which to grow – something we discussed back in September. It’s a grid not as developed as Second life but that gap continues to close. The challenge for Openlife will increase if the spike in new user registrations continues – as Linden Lab only know too well, concurrency and scalability are big hurdles to jump. To that end, a development office in Taiwan is in the process of being set up, so it appears Openlife is a grid on the move.

Openlife: the momentum builds

Openlife resident Macphisto Angelus has posted an excellent summary of a recent meeting for Openlife residents. There were a couple of notable announcements out of the meeting.

First, there’s the partnership with realXtend and its promise for a graphically rich world. Second, a range of browser options are on the way, including a Mac version (Mac users can only use Openlife via the Second Life browser at present). Third, some fascinating avatar enhancements are on the way, leveraging off the realXtend platform.

Since we first dropped in on Openlife in February it’s been evolving steadily. If you’re wanting to dip your toe in the waters of an alternate grid, now might be a good time and why not support the Australia-based Openlife?

Interview – Nathan Organ (AUGrid)

Back in February this year we interviewed Steve Sima, founder of the Openlife grid. Since then another Australian has set up a grid based on the Open Simulator architecture. This one is called AUGrid and has been set up by Norgan Torok (RL: Nathan Organ) and we caught up with him for an interview this week.

Lowell: Can you tell me a little about your background and how you got into virtual

Norgan: I discovered Second Life around a year ago, after resisting for a while I finally logged in and started exploring. I found it fascinating but had to look into this “game”and work out just what it was about. After realising quickly just how great and diverse the culture and people in
there were I had to explore more. As with most things i encounter I looked deeper and deeper into it. Until the interoperability announcement I considered SL a closed system. The interop test showed me the light into OpenSim and its great possibilities.

Lowell: What was the impetus for you setting up AUGrid?

Norgan: Two things inspired me to do AUGrid. Firstly, the interoperability of OpenSim and Second Life opening up that user base to a wider world of virtual worlds. There was concern that Linden Lab would make Second Life a closed world for a while there. Secondly, my own work supporting 1000 hours for autistic kids and my work with EnGeneIC who develop novel cancer treatments, and my
yearning to help support these admirable causes. AUGrid is focused on providing exposure and services to these causes as well as the education sector.

Lowell: Are you personally hosting the grid or working in conjunction with

Norgan: For the moment i am personally paying for co-located servers, with a view to reselling regions servers to help bring money back into the project. Reactiongrid have been helping with supply of cost effective servers to run the grid on. My training and experience in network design and operation helps me manage the topology of the grid servers and plan for growth. We also get support form various developers and sub-communities within the OpenSim project and in return I share my knowledge and experience in networking and my work in OpenSim with the community at large. AUGrid has also set up its own dedicated PayPal account to more easily manage any donations or funds coming in. With
these funds I hope to bring in extra resources to help expand the project and donate services to schools and charities.

Lowell: How far along the development path is AUGrid?

Norgan: AUGrid follows the core development path of OpenSim. I have been busy
talking with the core development teams and some people from Microsoft who have been helping AUGrid along with feedback, advice and techniques. This project and many others on OpenSim are a 2-way development structure where the users and various groups contribute to each other and the common code. This is how I am able to setup AUGrid confident in the fact that the OpenSim community is there to help as am I to help them. As I mentioned before I try to keep the
code quite new, which can bring in new bugs and cause some down time but also pick up the improvements as they are developed.

Lowell: Compared to say Second Life, what would a new resident see on your
grid? Is it a similar experience at this stage?

Norgan: The experience is quiet similar to Second life for general navigation and user experience, in fact you use the SL viewer in many cases to log into AUGrid. There are also other viewers with extra features like building higher height and megaprims allowed. The LLFunctions script
implementations are two-thirds the way through with new ones being added every day, so the scripting and building environment is similar also. The real difference is the flexibility on the server side. For example, we can play with gravity and I have setup an experimental sim that has moon gravity; but really that’s just the start. With some projects using RL integration of robots and information fed in from hardware and external databases, the possibilities are almost endless. This is
the real power of the OpenSim platform – using a modulated approach to the code design, you can create and integrate your own modules on the server. An example of some of AUGrid’s technology is the data center that monitors RL servers in real time. It actually pointed out a problem with one of my DNS servers which I was able to investigate and correct as a direct result of seeing the server in-world.

Lowell: What have been some of the biggest challenges to date with the grid’s

Norgan: Biggest hurdle is the code management and avoiding downtime. Rapid development code is always a task to handle but for the most part the core systems are very stable. We try to explain and notify of any bugs and issues as they asrise and why there was any downtime to help the
users understand how the system works and just how quickly things can change.

Lowell: What are you plans for AUGrid in the coming 6-12 months?

Norgan: To expand the grid onto more servers, which is why we have started taking donations, and allow a more powerful grid for better in-world experiences. The topology of
AUGrid is designed in such a way that it can be easily scaled up and this has been done because i have grand visions for AUGrid. Aside from the obvious expansion of the grid the biggest thing will be to provide free or low cost regions to educational and medical projects, allowing them a powerful platform on which to teach and learn. Ideally, the grid will pay for itself and allow donations of regions to schools and charities.

We have started toying with the idea of medical and education hubs and once we acquire more servers i will be setting these up so when users visit in-world they may more easily get to those areas and projects they are interested in.

Lowell: What differentiating factor do you believe you have over other grids, including Australian ones like Openlife?

Norgan: The differing factor is AUGrid’s primary focus on real life support of charities and good causes and it’s non-profit business model. As well as a true aussie flavour while travelling around the grid with many and varied parts of aussie culture on show. Triple X Industries sim is
a great example with an Aussie pub and amazing aussie shop fronts and areas. This is one of the big helpers to establishing AUGrid’s content – I don’t know what I’d do without him. We also have an accurate representation of Brisbane’s Southbank with much more coming along.

Lowell: For people wanting to check out AUGrid, how do they best do that?

Norgan: Thanks to TheCritic we have an SL Launcher that can be downloaded from a
link on It works for Windows, Linux and Mac and allows the user to quite easily launch their existing SL Viewer to connect to AUgrid, among others. There is also a Hippo Viewer made for OpenSim that with a quick shortcut modification can be used on AUGrid allowing the extra features like higher build height limits and larger prim sizes.

Interview – Sakai Openlife (Openlife founder)

As we reported earlier this week, Openlife is a promising new alternative grid to Second Life. Its founder, Sakai Openlife (RL: Steve Sima) is based in Brisbane and we caught up with him via Openlife’s Live Chat for a discussion on everything Openlife.


Lowell: Sakai – Openlife came out of the blue for me but it’s obviously been a labour of love for you – can you give a potted history of how Openlife came to be?

Sakai: Sure, we kicked things off approximately four months ago and clearly had to do a lot of work to understand a workable solid method to approach it. Number one has always been and will be the Users. So with this in mind it has been quite a colourful ride trying to foster the community together and maintain the best user experience we can with the code available.

Lowell: what made you start this huge undertaking?

Sakai: Well, I’ve had a passion for 3D interactive platforms for ages and my background is IT infrastructure. So to provide a solid platform being feature rich and extensive for different uses is most certainly up my alley. After following the OpenSimulator project for a while I took the decision to make the plunge and start treading the water with the OpenSim Application Platform – Second Life had some big drawbacks for me.

Lowell: I’m assuming you’ve used Second Life extensively prior to this project? What was it about Second Life in particular that you wanted to improve on?

Sakai: Some towards content creation and development of content and some towards the user experience. Second Life itself I see has been hugely popular with its social interaction and it’s a great environment to see this in action. They have been pioneers in this area for years but to have an open source platform where as a company you could develop very feature rich immersive environments and provide them to users is something that Second Life falls short on in my opinion, but the potential for this to happen with the Openlife Grid & OpenSimulator Codebase is very much a possibility.

Lowell: What areas do you specifically see Openlife having advantages in?

Sakai: One thing we are keen to see in the near future is the ability to content create and develop a region on your local environment ie. home PC or workplace network then export that entirely to a published region existing in the Openlife Grid.

Lowell: So, fully offline region-wide content creation?

Sakai: Correct, exciting isn’t it. This can bring in the quality of in-world environments to a whole new level.

Lowell: I can see that would get a lot of people excited – is that option close?

Sakai: Yes it is close, currently we can take the terrain and prims created. Clearly there are other things to bring over such as textures, scripts etc.

Lowell: So for the sake of the potential new user – is Openlife in beta at present or a fully functioning option?

Sakai: No it is not a fully functioning option at the moment. We work closely with, and implement the Opensimulator source code which in itself is only recently version 0.5. However, community interaction and involvement in the Openlife Grid is important as the code moves forward.

Lowell: So is there a roadmap and/or timeline for OpenSimulator and subsequently a fully functional Openlife?

Sakai: With the source code being a community project ‘exact’ timelines can be difficult to adhere to. However, the OpenlifeGrid is at the tip of releasing the Foundation Resident Event, enabling Openlife users to have their own region in-world. The other side of this is that it will help full-time developers to work on the code on a professional level. Naturally, this work is in conjunction with the OpenSimulator effort and is released back to the community.

Lowell: So in regard to Openlife specifically – how many are involved in its development?

Sakai: We currently have two people including myself, but receive invaluable contributions from the Openlife community, making the Openlife Grid very much a community effort.


Lowell: And can you tell me a little about yourself? You’re based in Brisbane?

Sakai: Yes, sunny (but raining a lot lately) Brisvegas. I have a strong history of IT, and a passion for pioneering new technologies.

LLowell: Do you run your own business or are you from the academic side of the IT fence?

Sakai: I do run my own company. But it should be mentioned in regard to the Openlife Grid that there is some university involvement and it’s very much welcomed.

Lowell: Are you able to discuss which universities are involved?

Sakai: Hmm, good Question. I think it may be best that we give them the opportunity to express any involvement through the site, and their own sites.

Lowell: On interoperability – Linden Lab’s release of the SL code has helped get things where they are today but do you have any ongoing communication with Linden Lab in regard to your work?

Sakai: Personally I have only recently had some conversations with Linden Labs at a Finland event in relation to the Openlife Grid. But we are not ‘Anti-Linden’

Lowell: And were they receptive to the work you’re doing?

Sakai: Yes, I believe Linden labs has been fairly receptive of the Openlife Grid and also the OpenSimulator Project. There are even Lindens in the Openlife Grid as

Lowell: So what are your plans over the coming weeks? I’m assuming more sleep isn’t part of it.

Sakai: Wow, sleep I almost forgot that thing. Since we started we have steadily grown to around 6000 users as at a week ago. I’ve been working on this new website which is still being implemented (but online) with the aim to foster and grow the community. But in the weekend past we saw the number of users jump to (as of a few hours ago) 10,000 users.

Lowell: So as of now, what can a new user do in Openlife?

Sakai: Hmm… really it’s a very free environment limited only by the features of the current code level. But there are the natural ones similar to Second Life -meeting new people, making friends, getting involved with Openlife Communities. Building your own creations, and as of tommorrow owning your own regions.

Lowell: So people can log in now and intereact as they would in SL?

Sakai: Correct. You can login with the existing Second Life viewer and interact very much the same as Second Life, with the only limitations being the features that exist in the current code level.

Lowell: Ahhh ok, that was my next question. So there’s no need to download a different viewer?

Sakai: A different viewer is not necessary just a change to the shortcut or you can use a little program on our website to redirect your viewer to the Openlife grid. However, on an exciting note, an alternative viewer will be available very soon. That is in development by the RealXtend team.

Lowell: So if you had to sum up in a sentence or two why people should sign up to the Openlife community, what would you say?

Sakai: Wow, it’s really hard to sum up so short with such a wide community involved. Joining the Openlife Grid community is a chance to be involved in a pioneering new platform where your suggestions and ideas are very welcome, your feedback is important, and your participation is valued. Currently we are playing catch up to the number of new users, however since you can decide your own name, if you are a current SL user it’s a good idea to at least register to follow the news and secure your Second Life name in the Openlife Grid.

Lowell: Most people will want some key aspect to convince them to make the effort to experiment with a new platform – do you see superior community support as that key aspect?

Sakai: Absolutely – a lot of work has been going into the new site, to bring communities together including blogs for community regions, live online chat rooms for when you can’t be in world (like at work – ooops!). Foundation Residents have regions in-world and they also recieve a blog for their region to help bring the users together. Whilst blogs are not everything, there are also ‘Community Regions’ in-world. These are free to participate in and are provided free to the community.

Lowell: Is Openlife looking for venture capital in the future?

Sakai: The Openlife Grid is new territory and clearly funding would accelerate the efforts, however it must be noted we would not take on funding at the expense of the user or the future goals of the Openlifegrid. So in short it’s welcome if the funding can match the desires of the community.

Lowell: Do you have a proposed pricing structure for users when Openlife is fully functional?

Sakai: At this time we do not. It is important to note there are key differentiators between the way the Openlife works and Second Life. Linden Lab provides all the land (servers) and so has a monopoly on land (resources) to an effect.


Lowell in Openlife for the first time

Lowell: Whereas people can supply their own servers in Openlife?

Sakai: Openlife is moving towards a ‘provider’ path where ISPs and Web Hosts would also be able to provide resources. So as a user or company, having your own presence or land in-world could be purchased from many providers, reducing the cost and keeping it affordable for all.

Lowell: I’m assuming users could purchase land from you if they don’t want to provide their own server?

Sakai: Currently we don’t support external user connections, as we have stability and security to be concerned with in order to bring the best user experience.
The Foundation Resident is the first opportunity for Openlife residents to own a region in-world.

Lowell: So to clarify – people will eventually be able to host their own region or buy a region from Openlife

Sakai: Eventually that is one of the aims. But it will be gradual process as the code develops. The Foundation Resident is only a limited release of regions. They have no ‘purchase’ price, only a monthly fee. When we reach the limit of the Foundation Resident regions we will evaluate the next steps.

Lowell: Well I think that pretty well sums it up Sakai – thanks for taking the time.

For instructions on connecting to Openlife using your Second Life viewer, go here.

Openlife – Second Life’s open source competitor

Openlife is the first fourth alternative Second Life grid to open up for widespread access.

It’s still a work in progress but one that’s well worth exploring, something I’ll be doing in coming days and weeks. 


Openlife’s creator, Sakai Openlife, is based in Australia and we’ve made contact with him for an interview – stay tuned for further details.

Thanks to Tateru Nino at Massively and SL Universe for the heads-up. 

Update: A further thanks to Tateru Nino for pointing out that Openlife is actually the fourth alternative grid – there’s also Central Grid, OS Grid and Deep Grid.

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