I just had lunch with Randal Leeb-du Toit, CEO of Yoick, and John Wolpert, executive producer of Outback Online, a 3D virtual world that Yoick is working on.
Who said cool stuff has to come from Silicon Valley? Not these guys (main developer is in Austin, Texas, and most of the team’s management is in Australia). They are building another virtual world, similar in many ways to Second Life from Linden Labs.
Anyway, why does the world need another Second Life-style thing?
Well, here’s some reasons that Outback Online gave me:
1) The quality of graphics on Second Life aren’t good enough to do lots of things.
2) The scalability of Second Life isn’t good enough to hold really large events (only about 100 people can fit into a single island, in Outback Online they claim they can get 10,000).
3) Second Life is too restrictive globally for kids and families (in Second Life it’s OK to have virtual sex almost anywhere and only 18-year-olds are allowed into the main world and adults aren’t allowed to work with kids in the teen grid). Outback Online says they’ll have much better granularity of age controls and parental controls and community controls. If they can control the flying penises, that’ll be a big driver for many of us who want to play online with our kids.
4) They see that by focusing on Windows only at first they can push the edge of graphics (and, they are working on an Xbox version too that’ll bring lots of people into this world). It’s among the world’s most graphically intensive C# applications.
5) Instead of hosting everything on centrally-located servers they are using P2P to get more people onto islands and bring better graphical performance.
Their world is under development and is way behind Second Life in lots of aspects (these worlds are built by their inhabitants, so an empty world looks pretty dull) but I saw some brilliant things here that are worth watching. An alpha starts this summer (you can sign up to get early access on the Outback Online Website) with beta coming later this year.