August 3, 2018
by Yichard Muni, elf bard
This is my official statement about the closing of Inworldz, as a user and social group leader.
The closing of Inworldz was a catastrophe for its residents. It also impacted the very object of this site. See here what happened (Record kept here). Yet it is definitively not the end of our activities, right on the contrary it could even be a better deal.
This catastrophe resulted from a synergy of several serious faults. For long we were feeling of something wrong, but we were taught only four days before.
The four last days were an horror, each rescuing what he could from his broken life, making his inventory appear in the sims, to do OAR files and perhaps restore our world. And people to pile all their possessions loose, in tears and desperate, frantically trying to save memories and contacts with their friends or lovers. The sandboxes showed a pile of random objects, trees, boats, furniture, houses, fountains flowing for nothing, portals continuing to tell welcoming words without any more purpose. All this of a great beauty: all what was in private sims that people do not usually show. It was the saddest scene I ever saw in the virtual: pieces of broken dream, made visible by our wonderful technology.
There were very few warning signs. We started by not receiving payments from Inworldz, via Paypal. One of mine was stuck on July 21st. Then, on July 23, Beth Reischl (Elenia Llewellyn in Inworldz), the only one of the three founders still in place, announced that the hosting company, Rackspace, would shut down the servers on the 27th, by lack of payments. All our inventories would be lost, because it was impossible to save them in such a short time.
For a moment, hope resurfaced to be able to pay Rackspace with a GoFundMe: 16,000 dollars were raised in 24 hours! However the disappointment came quickly: GoFundMe would not send this money before the 1st and the 15th of August. Then followed a delirium of accusations of Beth Reischl mounting a scam.
Anyway, Inworldz is now closed, and the inventories definitely lost. The precious OAR files are in the hands of Beth Reischl, who finds herself alone to recreate Inworldz.
After an interesting start, the situation of Inworldz deteriorated insidiously.
The beginnings of Inworldz
When Inworldz was created in 2009, it represented a highly anticipated alternative to Second Life, its bugs, its exorbitant prices, and its contempt of users. Anger had been at its peak in late 2008, when they chased the poorest residents. 20% of the residents left... but they accounted for 90% of the social activity. This is the proportion in which participation in my «Shedrupling» meetings fell.
In response, several important groups migrated to Inworldz.
Then ... this movement dried up, without explanation. People were even returning to Second Life!! Apparently, paying hundreds of dollars a month for a hobby was finally not a problem for them.
We received a lot of attacks from some supporters of Open Sims, especially from «hypergrid Business» led by Maria Trombly (Maria Korolov on the Internet).
Price dumping has been practiced (often unaware) by some creators of Open Sims «grids»: it is enough to create an Internet server to think we are a «business manager». The apparently free system allowed to set very low prices for «sims». It is just to forget that managing a virtual world requires a lot of time and energy, while it does not pay for the grocer. So many of these attempts disappeared after two or three years. But others were keeping to come constantly, also lured by their total ignorance of the operation of a company.
Another insidious form of denigration has come through the media, or by various propaganda and manipulations, such as making a difference between «virtual reality» and «virtual worlds»: promoting 3D helmets while stifling what they are supposed to show .
Under the enlightened guidance of David Daeschler (Tranquility Dexler in Inworldz), physics, mesh, and rigged mesh appeared. This new simulator then distinguished itself under the name of Halcyon (on Github). Inworldz gradually became technically the best, and its reputation has grown.
Despite these qualities, potential new users continued to sulk Inworldz, and to prefer more expensive alternatives.
However, it soon became apparent that the forum were not moderated, including from several notorious trolls. Worse, rage crisis from the founders became the way to impose standards and decisions. Several important contributors left the community because of such disputes. We even saw climate deniers speeches or fox-news style, all in stark contrast with the nice and smat community inside Inworldz.
from 2016 to 2018
The departure of founder David Daeschler (Tranquility Dexler in Inworldz), then the relocation of Beth Reischl to Panama, began to fuel doubts and speculations.
Believing in the future of Inworldz was more and more becoming an exercise in positive thinking.
However, there has been, in recent months, a surge of beauty and attendance. Especially, my Elf Dream Meetings were finally beginning to attract some regulars. The situation seemed rather a new birth. Until Beth Reischl posted the above annoucement.
Of course, I do not have access to pure truth, and we will probably never know it. But I think it could be summed up by saying that multiple faults were needed to allow the unthinkable to happen. Likely, Beth Reischl's intransigence would have finally triggered a retaliation from Paypal, or the later engaged in a political action hostile to Inworldz. In any case, we have objective facts accusing both: Beth says she let the situation fester in secret for two months, while Paypal does not reply to my support requests.
Added August 30: An attempt to rebuild is in progress, under a different name: islandz.
However I do not give much for it: all the inventories are lost, many creators asked that their work be removed from the OAR files, and many residents will have found other hosting solutions before Inworldz is reborn from its ashes. The famous OAR files could even be mortgaged. But especially the name is discredited, many team members withdrew, and only remains the person at the origin of the disputes and mismanagement. And this person is not the kind to consider other opinions or give up any power.
Not to mention the dreadful karma of whoever reduced years of work to nothing, destroying the most beautiful virtual world ever and its warm community, where several real marriages were conducted and celebrated.
Fifteen years later, nobody has understood anything yet: it is the simple tools of Second Life: communication, groups, building, etc. which allowed its massive appropriation by common people, non-experts. Still, even today, only simulators derived from Second Life offer these features.
Of this family, Halcyon is without context the best (in 2018). In more, it is open source (on Github). However, there is still considerable work on it:
-Solving the problem of immutable assets, which produces an exponential swelling of the stored data.
-Remove (finally) the Internet UDP protocol, and replace it with TCP (in progress).
-Allow easy installation on a server, by non-specialists.
-Accounting with the numerous proposals I made at the beginning of Open Sims (and that of course nobody read)
-The most important of these proposals is that a copyrighted object is hosted by its own simulator. Thus it can perform hypergrid jumps in an insecure world, without this world having access to the copyrighted elements.
-Another important proposition is that we each have our personal hosting for our inventory, in order to avoid seeing everything destroyed by the defect of a society.
-Interpolators, terrain editing and mesh tools, etc.
-Have their own viewer, instead of running after Second Life.
-Which would finally allow for a fast and modern 3D rendering, instead of a lagging old jalopy.
Modified August 30: Well, now, despite the shock and the loss of the main application, there still is a team who develops, uses and promotes Halcyon. But there is a clear need for energy, and wise leadership.
Unless this is finally the opportunity to restart everything on a healthy and modern basis, without having to compromise with Second Life. Follow up here.
My trains in Inworldz (vidéos: Winter Fest 2014, Winter gala 2015, Fall Fest 2017, Elf Village 2017) were a leisure activity, but I let it take more and more space, because it indirectly served my spiritual purposes. Indeed these trains were very successful, and I sold a surprising number of them (especially the lovely 250mm tracks for Dinkies). They owed me a repute of a builder of beautiful and smart things. I was surprised that my fame extended even beyond Inwordz. In fact, I can state without false modesty that I have never seen trains of this quality in virtual worlds of this family. To have better, you have to be in video games dedicated to trains.
Gortax Robots served a more obscure purpose: to compensate for the absence of interpolators in the LSL scripting language, to animate complex objects. I succeeded, with the script GX-MOTOR, which animates the robot visible in this video. However the whole affair turned to a nightmare, with a huge complicated script which revealed the decline of my working capacity with age (Retirement is at 60 for a reason). While 17 years ago a similar realization with VRML interpolators only took me a single day! In Unity, the Lerp function even allows to make nonlinear interpolators, with a single line of code. However, this is only the reiteration of a situation that I had already experienced in the cult of which I was the victim: when we devote (more or less unconsciously) the majority of our efforts to compensate for the shortcoming of an organization, instead of directly useful activities, it is that there is a big hidden vice in this organization. Lesson learned the hard way, I shall not again involve in advertising any solution for virtual worlds or another.
I not yet decided what will become of these activities. If this is possible, my former customers will receive free copies of their lost trains. Lesson taken, I shall no longer try to compensate for the shortcoming of a world.
These activities directly served my purposes: to share a vision of a better world, through meetings, stories, and wonderful objects (Lysaer, the Elven constructions visible in this video). As for the trains, my stories were loved. But it is only in the end that I started to gather a few people in the Elf Dream meetings.
The destruction of Inworldz occurred precisely when I finally had the means to pay a «sim» (unit of ground), to build an elven village there. I had already started working on the landscape, looking a bit like Bora Bora, just smaller.
But the Elf Dream will not be so easily stopped. Elves are persistent. I will also continue the stories, although I do not know yet where or when (see the main page). For the marvelous Elven houses, the problem is the lack of protection of intellectual property in Second Life and Open Sims: I do not want to find them simply retextured elsewhere for different purposes.
(Amithaba sand mandala, Wesak 2018, Mahatare Buddhist centre, Singapore)
Updated 1 month ago This makes around August 8. The original declaration was July 23, 2018.
«Over the course of the last 10 years, I have met some amazing people in the metaverse space. Creative, honest, intelligent, caring and wonderful people. Those of you who know me, you pretty much know who you are, the list is too long to post here.
«During that amount of time, we've done some amazing work to bring the absolute best results to InWorldz. Were all of them perfect? No. But I've yet to find any software that is ever actually perfect.
«I know a lot of our residents are wondering what is going on, cashouts have been frozen for 2 weeks, support has been spotty and a host of other things. So this is probably the hardest post I've ever written about the state of InWorldz currently. I'll start with the history so everyone knows what has been going on, and I've always been as honest as possible with everyone, so bear with me please.
«In middle May, we took a loan from LoanBuilders, a subsidiary of PayPal. What made this so attractive to me, is the fact it was the same company I'd done business with for years under PayPal's Working Capital loans. It's how we've managed in past to cover some development costs, moving David from Buffalo to San Antonio, etc. Common business practice. Under the Working Capital loans though, it was never a revolving credit, just a loan that was there until it was paid off, then you could re-apply after it was finished being paid off. So when they notified me that they had become a subsidiary of PayPal and could offer the revolving credit, I was very happy.
«That happiness took a huge turn. The first payment was scheduled at the end of May. I received notice from them that it was NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds). I checked our bank account, the monies had not even attempted to be taken and the monies were definitely there. I emailed them and let them know something was wrong as they had not hit our bank account. They asked me for a voided check, to which I responded on May 30, I did not have access to since they are up in storage. I asked them if I could provide a different form of proof of account, namely a PDF of our routing / account number provided to me by Chase, our business bank. No response. As I traveled, they left me a voicemail as I was not taking international calls. When I returned, I discovered that they had put UCC Liens against both our Regions and our Cashout Accounts through PayPal. The liens means no payments out, no transfers, nothing. I called them and asked them how we get this taken care of. I might mention at this point, that instead of saying, yeah ok we made a mistake and yeah you got no email back from us on May 30 or May 31, the representative was very combative in blaming me for the entire mix up. She tells me to pay up the past due balance, and it might take a week or two to get the UCC's, but all should be ok. I authorized the amount. I call her the next day to ask when we can get the UCC liens removed, she tells me, well now we need to see you make 2 more payments and it will still take at least another week beyond that (3 weeks in total). I ask the obvious, ok how would you like me to do that when you have all the funds tied up behind the UCC's? She says, that's not our issue you have to figure it out. I canceled that transaction.
«I called them the following Monday, obviously they were not happy with my decision. We spoke with a different representative, and we worked out a deal for a partial and then the next week, plus the Stop payment I had put on to be removed. I called a few days later, I was told that now I had to negotiate the UCC liens and what was being held, and they would absolutely want the past due balance. I agreed and even said, take the next payment as well. The next day, I'm informed they want 100% of both accounts, plus the following payment. This was last Friday. My response to that ridiculous offer was succinct: If you are determined to shut down my business, then I shall use the last tool at my disposal to protect my customers. This is essentially what it boiled down to with me. I was told I was not willing to work with them, I was told that it was all my fault for not answering their voicemail. I was told that it takes 30 days from last date of contact to file a UCC, well last date of contact was May 30, and June 21 was the date of the UCCs. I pointed out all of the hypocrisy and my last words to the gentleman whom I spoke with was very simple: Had you simply answered my email on May 30, none of this would have happened.
«At this point, what all of this means is very simple: Without payment from the funds sitting in the UCC liens, RackSpace will be shutting our servers down. I've extended our servers out until Friday, July 27. I can not process cashouts, no payments may be sent out. For that, I'm truly sorry. The only thing I can do at this point, is the last power I have left under PayPal: to honor all disputes of monies paid to InWorldz during this timeframe. We will start the refunding process tomorrow morning, and go through as much as we can until PayPal shuts us out of the accounts. In meantime, each and every single customer can dispute the monies paid to us, and PayPal will honor all disputes on behalf of the buyer if there is no response from the merchant. It takes a bit longer, they have to give merchants 15 days to respond, however, if they've yanked our access, it may go faster. So whether you've purchased I'z or paid for your regions, please dispute them if you don't see the refunds coming throughout this week.
«I will be pulling down all OAR files for every region on the servers over the next day or so and matching them up with our customers. If you need a copy, and you email me after the servers go down sometime this coming weekend, please do so at email@example.com.
«Every person can download their Inventory, but realize, it will not work on any grid other than InWorldz. You can do this via your login page on InWorldz, Inventory Backup. It will make a request to our Inventory Servers to provide you with that file. If someone manages to make the Backups work on their grid, you can get your inventory there.
«I know many of you will be angry over this, my heart was broken Friday afternoon, and I know many of you will have harsh words for this decision. Do know, I tried my hardest to avoid this outcome. For 10 years, InWorldz has been my bread and butter, and now I no longer have that. It's raised my children, it's seen many of us come together in real life, it's facilitated a community I never thought possible. I've seen so much goodness pour through this community for those who needed help and I've seen the worst of what can happen when group negative think takes over. I've seen the best of creativity brought to life, and I've seen the absolute horrid side of cheapness and fraud and greed. I've watched a community that has gone through inclusion and seclusion. Through all of this though, I know many friends have been made, contacts made from around the world, loves found (and some lost), heartache over loss of community members, outpouring of charity for various causes, and even for personal members who had no hope previously. I've watched those with social challenges blossom and grow and find inner talents they never knew they had. And now, I hope and wish that each and every one of you finds a way to continue your path, to continue to create, to love, to grow and to be the absolute best you can be.
«So as an addendum as the day has worn on, many of you are not happy over this, and want to do whatever you can to save the grid. I'm down for that! So what I did was set up a GoFundMe that will update your tiers and if we raise the amount needed, the grid will be ok and we'll set up new payment methods. They will not include PayPal. If you want to keep your home, please visit us at: https://www.gofundme.com/inworldz-in-trouble And let's make this happen! I can't stand the idea of going down without a fight, but now it's on our users! YOU!»
Information added: The GoFundme was a huge success, rising $15 000 in only one day. This tells how Inworldz users supported their world. However there was a last obstacle: the money could be delivered only 15 days after, so that it could not be used to pay Rackspace in time. Inworldz was officially closed on Friday 27, and all inventories lost. The GoFundMe and OARs will go to restart a new company and a new world: islandz. I shall probably be active here, but will not again put all my eggs in the same basket.