Faster Startup for Worlds with Many Assets

We updated our system today with various performance improvements, compatibility upgrades and requested features. The following updates may enhance your user experience:

Faster Startup for Worlds with Many Assets

We improved OpenSim to allow worlds with many assets to start faster. One of the things OpenSim does when a world starts is to update the world’s map image. Usually this is very fast (less than a second). However, it can take much longer for worlds that include many assets. We’ve seen delays of 20-100 seconds for complex worlds such as Xhyra’s Place, Chakryn Forest and Universal Campus.

We fixed this by moving the updating of the map image out of the main flow and into a separate thread. This means it no longer affects the time it takes the world to start. Thus, the startup time is reduced by up to 100 seconds!

LinkedIn Button

We added a button that allows you to share the Kitely homepage, or an individual world, with your LinkedIn contacts. This means that you can now easily spread the word about your Kitely worlds to four major social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Improved Internet Explorer 9 Support

We now support Internet Explorer 9 natively. We did support IE9 previously, but this was done by setting it to use IE8 compatibility mode. Now we run in native IE9 mode.

Improved Support for Non-English Names

We updated Kitely today to address several recently discovered issues. While most of them were backend-related, we also fixed two user-visible problems:

Improved Support for Non-English Names

We automatically create avatars based on users’ names in Facebook. This is not always straightforward because Facebook allows names that contain non-English characters, but OpenSim does not. To bridge this gap, we convert such names into the closest possible English approximation.

This process was not as robust as it could have been, but now we’ve improved it significantly. Users who haven’t been able to login to virtual worlds previously, because their names contain non-English characters (including characters with accents), should find that they can now login successfully.

Improved “Enter World” Reliability

There was a problem that was encountered by a few users, where clicking “Enter World” didn’t succeed in logging in to the world at first. Clicking “Enter World” a second time did work. This problem occurred mainly with large and complicated worlds, and it has now been fixed. It should now be possible to log into all worlds on the first try.

Backend and OpenSim Improvements

We’ve updated Kitely today. Most of the updates are on the backend, e.g. to improve stability and create some of the infrastructure that we’ll need in order to implement billing. We’ve also added some user requested features and made some improvements to OpenSim:

Faster script loading

We’ve added script caching. When a region starts, OpenSim normally compiles all of the scripts used in the region. If the region has many scripts then this can take a long time. To make this process faster, we now save the compiled scripts and reuse them whenever the region is started. This can produce significant improvements! For example, one script-heavy world (containing about 900 scripts, 500 of which are unique) takes 10:42 minutes to compile the scripts initially. But from then on, each time the world starts it takes only 2:46 minutes to load the scripts. It should be noted that the world becomes usable even before the scripts are all ready. These timings only indicate when all of the scripts become ready, but people can enter and start using the world even before the first one is compiled.

Exported OAR files include creator information

When we export a world, we now include additional creator information. Previously, only the Creator UUID was saved. Now we also save the creator’s name. So if you export your world, and someone else imports it, you will still be listed as the creator of the objects in the world and the asset permissions you set will be retained.

Direct URL for downloading Kitely Plugin

We’ve added a permanent URL that can be used to download the latest version of Kitely Plugin: https://www.kitely.com/file?type=plugin. Most users don’t need to use this URL, because the World Page automatically downloads the plugin. However, in some cases it’s useful to have a direct URL, so we made it available.

Updated Signup Bonuses

During the beta period we give free Kitely Credits to new users. We used to give a different amount of KC to users depending on the number of Facebook friends they had: 50 KC if they had at least 20 Facebook friends, and just 10 KC if they didn’t. We had chosen these amounts in order to prevent people from abusing our system to get a lot of free Kitely Credits using throwaway Facebook accounts.

However, this policy prevented many honest people from trying out Kitely, and now that we’re topping off peoples’  accounts to 1000 KC each week it doesn’t even serve its intended purpose anymore.

Therefore we’ve decided to increase the number of free Kitely Credits that we give to new users to 200 KC regardless of the number of Facebook friends they have.

We’ve also updated the World Manager bonus to 400 KC, so that new users who create a world can get a total of 600 KC to play with without needing to contact us or wait for the weekly KC top-off.

Kitely Plugin 1.2.0 and Export World

We’ve made many updates and added two of the most commonly requested features: the ability to select which virtual world viewer to use, and exporting worlds to OAR files! Read on for the details.

Choose which virtual world viewer to use

We’ve updated Kitely Plugin to version 1.2.0. You can now choose which virtual world viewer will be launched when you click “Enter World” in a world page. Normally, the default viewer is launched; that is usually the last viewer that was installed. However, it is now possible to override this setting by entering the full path to the viewer in the file kitely-config.txt.

For details, see How can I choose which virtual world viewer to use? in our support site.

This feature is currently intended for advanced users, as they are the only ones likely to have more than one viewer installed. In the future we will make this feature accessible using a GUI instead of requiring you to edit a file manually.

Digitally signed plugin

The Windows version of Kitely Plugin is now digitally signed. This provides peace of mind when downloading the plugin. In addition, some anti-virus programs wouldn’t allow you to install the plugin because it didn’t have a digital signature (we’re looking at you, Norton AntiVirus). That should no longer be a problem.

Safari on Mac OS X

Kitely Plugin now supports the Safari browser on Mac OS X so you’ll be able to use your Mac’s default browser with Kitely.

Get notified when a newer version of the plugin is available

We’ve added notifications to the World Page so that you’ll know when a newer version of the plugin is available even if you missed our blog announcements and Tweets.

Export World

We’ve given you the ability to export worlds. Exporting a world creates an OAR file (OpenSim Archive) that contains the complete state of the world. You can download this file to your computer for backup.

To export a world, click on the “Export” link that appears next to its name in the My Worlds tab in your account. This can take a while (up to 15 minutes for large worlds) and you’ll be notified once the OAR file is ready.

Exporting and copying worlds can require a lot of server resources for a significant amount of time. We’ve therefore decided to set the price for both these actions to 10 KC.

Better World Descriptions

In Kitely, virtual worlds have a name and a description. The description used to be limited to simple text, but we’ve received numerous requests to allow richer descriptions. This is now possible! World descriptions can now include hyperlinks, images, separators and various text formatting options. You can easily take advantage of these options using the rich text editor in the New World and Edit World dialogs.

Today’s update also upgrades our system to the recently released OpenSim 0.7.1.1.

Even More Free Kitely Credits

In the last few weeks we’ve been topping-off every account that has less than 500 KC up to 500 KC (see More Free Kitely Credits). However, we’ve noticed that some popular worlds are still running out of KC between top-offs. We’ve therefore decided to increase the weekly top-off of all Kitely users’ balances to 1000 KC, so that the popular worlds can remain active throughout the week.

We want to make sure that your Kitely worlds are available to you when you need them. If you run out of Kitely Credits between top-offs then please let us know and we’ll give you some more.

OpenSim 0.7.1 and More

Hi everyone,

We’ve updated our servers today with various backend stability improvements and made some changes that should help improve your user experience as well. Here’s what’s new:

OpenSim 0.7.1

Kitely is now using the release version of OpenSim 0.7.1. This version includes many bug fixes and features, such as Shared Media (a.k.a. Media on a Prim). For more information, see the OpenSim release notes.

Please note that in order to take advantage of Shared Media you’ll need a V2 viewer.

Email Required

We’re now asking for peoples’ email addresses when they open a Kitely account. If you already have a Kitely account, then the next time you login you’ll be asked to allow us to access the email address that you entered in your Facebook account.

The reason for this change is that we need a reliable way to be able to contact you. For example, there might be a problem with your account; or someone might have lodged a copyright-infringement complaint about some content that is associated with your account. Previously, we had intended to rely on Facebook Messages for contacting people, but we’ve found that this solution isn’t good enough, for several reasons. First, some people have disabled the ability to contact them via Facebook Messages. Second, if we need to contact multiple people then using Facebook Messages is extremely slow; emails work much better. Third, having your email address will enable us to communicate with you even if you can’t access Facebook for some reason. And finally, we intend to support additional signup methods in the near future (besides Facebook), so some people won’t even have a Facebook account at all.

We will only use this email address in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. We will not use it to send spam, or share your email with a third party without your consent.

World Templates

We currently offer two stock worlds that can be used as a starting point when creating a new world. We’ve made small changes to these worlds.

First, we replaced the “Empty Island” world with a world called “Empty Land”, which is a 256m x 256m square of flat terrain located just above sea-level. This is more useful as a starting point than the island, which was quite small.

Second, both of our world templates (“Empty Land” and “Virtual Collaboration Environment”) now have the sun fixed at the noon position. We’ve made this change to make these worlds more friendly to people who aren’t familiar with changing light conditions. We’ve been told that when new users enter a world, and see that everything is dark, they can sometimes become frustrated with the user experience.

Since this environment setting (“Fixed Sun”) can be changed, you can easily modify it if you wish.

Imprudence 1.3.2

We’ve updated the default viewer that we provide to people who don’t already have a viewer installed to the latest stable version of Imprudence (version 1.3.2).

More Free Kitely Credits

We’ve noticed that some of our users have used up all of their Kitely Credits and therefore can’t enter their worlds. Since we haven’t implemented a system to purchase credits yet, these users can’t use Kitely anymore. Therefore, we’ve decided that during the beta we will top-off every account that has less than 500 KC up to 500 KC. We will do this at the beginning of every week. The first top-off was yesterday.

Terms of Service

Our Terms of Service are finally up on our website. We’ve been listening to how people in the virtual worlds community would like to be able to use Kitely, and it has taken us this long to get a legal document created that allows the flexibility people have been asking for. We hope you will approve.

This is how we addressed the most frequent requests made by the community:

You are allowed to create an account using either your own identity or a pseudonym. This means that if you prefer interacting with people using your avatar’s identity, Kitely’s terms now officially allow you to do so.

Children under the age of 13 are allowed to create a Kitely account if they have parental or legal custodian supervision.  This means that if you are a teacher, our terms enable you to give classes inside Kitely to your underage students once you’ve gotten their parents’ consent. You are not required to involve Kitely in the process.

Mature content is allowed in any world, as long as the World Manager takes proactive measures to ensure that no underage users can access that world. This means that if you wish to engage in adult activities our terms permit you to do so behind closed (virtual) doors. One caveat is that we will not accept any kind of activity and/or content that involves anything that can be construed as pedophile behavior anywhere on our servers. Such activities are illegal in many countries, even when only adults are involved, and we don’t want Kitely to be associated with them.

Please note that our terms do not free you from complying with terms set by other service providers that you use in conjunction with Kitely (e.g.  Facebook). This is currently a problem because Facebook prohibits creating profiles for pseudonyms and for children under 13, whereas Kitely does allow them. We will be adding additional login options such as LinkedIn and Twitter in the coming months to give you more flexibility.

We tried to maximize your freedom as much as possible, while retaining a few restrictions as advised by our lawyers. Please let us know what you think of the result.