(This blog is soon to be converted from the InWorldz tech blog to the general InWorldz blog. As such, we’ve chosen to post this general grid news here)
2014 will bring some exciting changes to the InWorldz platform that will improve upon the performance, reliability and features of the virtual world that many of you call home. I’d like to take a bit of time to go over our current development work list and then dig a bit deeper into upcoming features for this year.
We’ll start with large projects currently being worked on or tested. They mostly deal with performance, management, and reliability.
Large projects with completion in the short term
Maestro – Grid Management
(code is 95% complete, beta testing starts within a week)
Mike Chase, Tranquillity Dexler
Maestro is the name of our new region and platform management backend. Our old backend named Zookeeper has done a very good job at allowing us to perform easy updates, configuration changes, and execute parallel commands upon the entire grid whenever we needed to. However, this backend was developed over time based on constantly changing requirements and really needed a complete overhaul.
Enter Maestro, a rewritten grid management system. Maestro will allow us to go well beyond the capabilities of Zookeeper and provide you with faster deployments, better region monitoring, and high availability. Maestro will allow us to collect and keep more detailed information on the performance of regions, and provide more powerful statistical and fault analysis. Developers will be able to easily and remotely look into the inner workings of a running region all the way down to threads and call stacks for powerful debugging. This means bugs that pop up only once in a blue moon, or only when there are 60+ real avatars on a loaded region will be easier to identify and fix.
Maestro has better task management, and access to a more intelligent deployment database. Region deployments will be more intelligent and fully automated to provide a quick response and “best choice” for placement on hardware when someone would like to make a new purchase. Maestro deployment software is aware of the average resource consumption for the given product and will use this data to assess options and provide top performance.
Better task management means that when someone schedules a region restart it will not conflict or override system events like automated rollout restarts or automated region backups. This will ensure better consistency and less problems that arise due to conflicting instructions given to a region at critical points.
With all these features, we have decided that region takedowns will still be a manual process as there are many reasons why someone may be late with a payment here or there. The InWorldz team doesn’t believe in automating and removing the human side from what can be a sensitive and upsetting event. However, temporary takedowns will be easier for support, so if there has been a payment mistake your region will be started back up more quickly.
InWorldz Viewer 2.x – Pushing to be the default download
McCabe Maxsted (Adric)
There are a few bugs remaining in the InWorldz v2 viewer (mainly crashers) that are preventing it from becoming the default download when someone creates a new account on InWorldz. We expect within the first quarter of 2014, those crashers will be resolved and the v2 viewer will be the default starting viewer for new avatars. This will better enable all new users to see and utilize mesh functionality.
Scenic region partner rezzing
(100% complete, in testing)
InWorldz scenic regions are an affordable and attractive choice for land owners that would like to add surrounding land to their existing regions. These regions are meant for light use land and waterways. As part of that goal, InWorldz restricted scenic regions so that they could not be split up and rented out which would cause the servers hosting them to be overloaded and cause poor performance to many other customers on the server. We also prevented anyone but the region owner from creating (rezzing) permanent objects on scenic land.
This restriction has been loosened a bit in our development branch to allow region owners and their partners to rez objects on the region. We hope this change can make them more enjoyable while preserving their original intent and high performance levels.
InWorldz “Project Stratus” hybrid asset system
(80% complete, in development)
We have created a high performance addition to our asset storage systems that is designed around a hybrid solution utilizing Rackspace Cloud Files in conjunction with our current WHIP asset system to provide better fault tolerance, better recovery in case of failure and cheaper per-gigabyte storage for the company. This will allow InWorldz to continue to scale out in a cost effective manner and provide residents with better fault tolerance now and into the future.
Smaller, but no less significant changes coming in the short term:
- Physics accelerated llCastRay is now available on the beta grid (Matt)
- llSetKeyframedMotion in development (Matt)
- Fixes and improvements for many physics functions including llMoveToTarget/region crossing and physical object grab and drag. (Balpien Hammerer)
- Many fixes for vehicle functions including boat hulls seemingly scraping/bottoming out even in deep channels. (Balpien Hammerer)
- Vehicle fixes in progress to make more SL vehicle scripts behave closer to how they work in SL. (Balpien Hammerer)
On that last bullet point, I’d like to make a comment. Please, if you notice a problem with vehicle support or anything else on InWorldz that isn’t behaving properly, take the time to check for and/or file a mantis report ( http://inworldz.com/mantis ). There were a few SL airplane scripts that weren’t behaving properly, but because everyone assumed we were working on vehicle fixes, no one reported specific bugs, and we had no idea there were any remaining problems with common scripts. After the issues were reported, they’ve been investigated and a few of them fixed already in under 24 hours.
Up and coming projects for 2014
Large planned projects –
InWorldz InShape – open beta testing and launch
The holiday season, problems with google groups, and grid work that needed to be completed held up InShape ( http://www.inworldz.com/inshape/ ) over the holidays. I am pleased to say that I have my backlog just about caught up and will be resuming InShape testing in an open beta format sometime in Q1, 2014. We had a lot of positive feedback from people that really love this project and I even used it to run the ACS Relay for Life track live in 2013! Once the open beta has completed, and we have the rest of the bugs worked out, we will begin our weekly workout sessions and will invite residents to use the InShape technology to invent their own exercise machines and routines.
Project Thoosa Phase 2 & 3
(estimate Q2-3 2014)
Tranquillity Dexler, others as needed
Project Thoosa phase 2 will change the storage and loading mechanism for all region data. Utilizing high throughput services, InWorldz enhancements, and efficient data formats, we expect region restart times to drop by an order of magnitude. Phase 2 will also remove single points of failure from the InWorldz backend stack and utilize highly available storage systems to place and retrieve region data.
Project Thoosa phase 3 remains a hush hush project, but combined with phase 1, and 2, and a few other InWorldz projects, it will push the boundaries and offer services that have never before been seen in virtual worlds.
Full analysis and debugging for region crossing and teleport issues due to client side interaction
(estimate Q1 2014)
We won’t quit until we crack this one all the way open. With the vast majority of server to server issues fixed for teleports, avatar, and vehicle crossing, we have come to the point where we’re looking closely and debugging the interaction between the viewer and the servers during crossing failures. Jim has stepped up to go the full gamut on this one and we will not quit until we fully understand all the failure modes (including internet issues) and do our best to mitigate, mask, or fix crossing problems. We are pissed, and we are not going to take it anymore. Crossing issues that arise from viewer/server interactions will be beat to a pulp.
Website makeover and support work
(estimate Q3/4 2014)
Kingpin (Web team)
The InWorldz website will be revamped to provide more functionality, easier registration, and will come with a brand new look. The backend code will be reworked to provide more efficient development and updates.
Noteworthy projects in 2014 with deadlines not yet set:
- Export permission implementation
- Inter-region communications enhancements and fixes
- Object name registry
Business Development projects
Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come
(All of 2014, but especially starting Q3)
The entire InWorldz team and YOU!
InWorldz will be devoting a large amount of resources to promotion this year. We feel that the world needs to know more about virtual worlds and virtual environments and how they can really add to the fun and quality of life. We want to attract new residents who may not have any idea about virtual worlds, and that may need some extra help before they finally “get it”. We want them to explore InWorldz and get a taste for compelling virtual world environments.
In conjunction with promotion, InWorldz will be focusing on retention through several formats. Starting with an overhaul of the registration process, getting information on what the user is interested in and guiding them directly to that point, whether it’s creating, socializing, or RP’ing. We’ll be working with active communities to provide a compelling area that targets the user’s end experience and gets them started in whatever they want to explore.
Along with InWorldz backed advertising campaigns and retention plans, we want people to read all about what types of things you’re working on in InWorldz, and what you enjoy doing here. Through your blogs and social media, you offer people an important window into the workings of a virtual world. You will help us to answer the whys and the hows for people that might be curious but don’t fully understand the concept.
InWorldz NEEDS you to write, to blog, to shoot video, and to share with the world what it means to be a resident here. We need you to show them the possibilities of the platform, and how it helps you to make some of your dreams come true. As a resident, your words and demonstration will be compelling. They will believe what you have to say more easily than they will believe us.
Thank you everyone. Have a great 2014 and see you InWorldz!