Who it is developed by
Kitely is an Israeli based commercial provider of OpenSim regions. The public beta version was launched in 2011 and they now have hosting in more than 3,000 regions (as of January 2013). Kitely claim they are now “the leading provider of affordable high-performance OpenSim hosting solutions”, despite the fact that Second life has been established for over ten years so has many more community members.
What functionality it provides
Joining costs nothing as each account includes one free virtual world and building your own world is quite a simple process. Kitely’s OpenSim technology lets you visit virtual worlds designed by others (useful for getting some great ideas) or create your own world “in just minutes” according to the site. I feel it does have very user-friendly administration tools so is ideal for beginners as well as those used to virtual worlds.
Anyone over the age of 13 can log into Kitely and immediately start using their service. They support maturity ratings: General, Moderate (age 13+), and Adult (age 18+). Worlds can be made public, or kept private for just you and the people you choose. Each world has a webpage which describes it so that a user can see what it is about before entering. Once in a world, they can use their avatar to explore the world using the arrow keys.
How well it runs
The virtual world architecture Kitely uses is standard OpenSim running in a ROBUST configuration plus their own proprietary cloud-based systems and an Advanced Megaregions system.They claim that the combination of these improvements means that “your user experience while using Kitely will be much better than what you can get with other OpenSim service providers.” The servers used are Amazon’s Large EC2 Instances with 7.5 GB of memory running 64-bit Linux. Kitely’s supported virtual world sizes are: 1 Region, 4 Regions (2 x 2), 9 Regions (3 x 3), and 16 Regions (4 x 4). Each region is equal to 65,536 square meters, or about 16 acres. Each Kitely world can hold up to 100,000 prims.
How it is used
To access Kitely services you can log in using your Facebook or Twitter account or create a new Kitely account. For people concerned about possible privacy issues, I think keeping it separate from Facebook or Twitter is best. You can get extra credits to enable you to do more building, etc., if you do have your account linked to Facebook, but you can choose which Facebook or Twitter users will be able to visit each of your virtual worlds.
You pay for the time spent in the virtual world using ‘minutes’ subtracted from your account. With the free plan, you get 120 free minutes but those can soon be used up so there are also payment options for those who need more.
Your world can be viewed using any OpenSIM viewer, the most popular of which are Imprudence, Firestorm, and Hippo. I chose Imprudence as it was pre-installed on my school laptop.
Once you have spent time creating your world, you are advised to protect it. This is done using a backup process that helps you create into industry-standard OpenSim Archive (OAR) files. These OAR files can be run outside of Kitely, for example on your own computer or on another OpenSim hosting service. A good service Kitely offer it that they protect your content by preventing other people from exporting or backing up items you have created unless you choose to allow it.
Kitely state that their virtual worlds have been used for training, education, collaboration, simulations, art exhibitions, machinima creation, theatrical performances, role playing, information centers, book promotions, 3D design, and entertainment activities.
What your impressions of it are
In my personal opinion, I didn’t find Kitely to be that different to Second Life (except, of course, the lack of any content and people). Because I was using a familiar viewer, it just looked and felt as though I was in a very empty area in the Second Life world.
I don’t think Kitely is a platform I will be using very much at the moment, due to my very limited knowledge of building, but I am hoping that the skills I am learning from this class will enable me to start creating within my world.