Saturday, January 26, 2008

AfterLife: Thousand users at a event

afterlifeYesterday at Orange's Geekend, Metaversatility's Frank Bogomil(RL: John Plevyak) for the first time publicly talked about AfterLife, a project he has been working on that will make it possible to have single sim events with hundreds or thousands of users. One of the limiting factors of events in Second Life is that the only relative small group can attend a event. In the current system anything above 40 avatars is very laggy, and the there is cap of 100 avatars max. If you want to do anything large you have to shard, and open up a lot of mirror sims. Which brings confusions like, in which sim the artists or speakers are really interacting with the audience. AfterLife intends to improve upon that.

Frank Bogomil:
The idea is simple: insert a proxy between the client and the server. The proxy intercepts communication with the LL servers and talks to the afterlife server. There are 2 types of afterlife users: representatives and ghosts.
So, let's say you have a concert and you want 1000s in attendance, you set up and island and you grant only a few "representatives" the right to view the concert. Those send all the events they receive to the AfterLife server then the ghosts login. They use the proxy which logs them into at whatever location they happen to be at, but they SEE the event... and all the other ghosts on the same server. They can still Chat normally... local chat is handled by afterlife, global by secondlife. The ghosts add no overhead to the island, the proxy is a very simple bit of code which uses SLProxy from libsl. You use your regular client... you run the afterlife proxy and it spawns the Second Life viewer, connecting to the proxy is just double-clicking on the afterlife icon.
There are still bottlenecks in this design though, a main one is that the Second Life client can't render 1000s of avatars well or at all. One possibility could be using low rez avatars for the ghost, similar to Snowcrash's low rez avatars. Or as Stephane Zugzwang suggested, the ghost don't need to have visual manifestation at all.
Frank Bogimil admits that the viewer is still going to suffer and that they will allow multiple servers so the load can be partitioned, creating independent groups of ghosts. This will still breaks things up, be will at least be a step towards a more massive experience.

How well this is going to work, will have to be seen. Will the immersion and the experience be better or worse then it is for "representatives" avatars. I could imagine the Afterlife server could be a lot more fun and hectic then the actual Second Life sim. But even in something as simple as a chat channel there is a limit on how many people can chat before it just becomes to busy for most people to follow. A truly massive event might be just a spectators game who can chat with their friends and move a camera around in 3D environment.

AfterLife is currently in alpha testing, updates will be posted on Metaversatility's blog or you can email:


  1. That is what the people at metaversatility are telling me. They have never lied to me. :P

  2. It's pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. John Plevyak is a genius.

    We have it in internal alpha testing now, will be working through the kinks and getting to beta soon.

  3. This is one of the things BotSL started developing for the SL Shakespeare Company. Another possibility was to just run an OpenSim (coded efficient enough to directly support large crowds) for live theatre, but that would be expecting the AWG/etc. to work out connecting all grids together to the main one (and inventory/asset issues as well).