Flying high in Kitely

Kitely, the “on-demand” grid service recently added Twitter and e-mail sign-up / log-in capabilities to its existing Facebook option. This has opened the service to far more potential users, many of whom were put-off by the Facebook-only approach that was put in place during initial start-up – and I was one of them. However, with the new options available, I decided to drop in to Kitely and take a look around.

For those not in the know, Kitely is a cloud-based VW that utilises an on-demand service operated through Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services. Essentially, if a “world” (analogous to an SL region) is not in use it is stored away rather than running constantly on a server, but can be instantly enabled when someone wishes to access it. This frees Kitely from having to operate complex infrastructure on a 24/7 basis, and allows them to offer a product that is markedly different to other grid-based offerings, as demonstrated by their payment plan – all levels of which provide at least one world / region to every user…

Payment Options

Payment plans (click to enlarge)

The payment options are a mix of fixed monthly plans and what is essentially pay-as-you-go. In this, it very much resembles the types of tariff options offered by cellphone / mobile phone operators.

By default, every new user on Kitely gets a free account. This gives them 2 hours a month access and a “world” (region) of their own if they wish to create one. With this option, additional time in-world is gained through the purchase of Kitely Credits (KCs), which can be brought via PayPal in packs starting at $5 for 1,000. KCs can then be used at the rate of 1 KC per minute of in-world time so a $5 pack can give you an additional 16 hours in-world per month.

The payment plans start from $5 a month. This gives you 20 hours of in-world time, two worlds to use and 300 Kitely Credits a month. The latter can be used to pay for additional in-world time over the allotted 20 hours at the rate of 1 KC per minute (if not used elsewhere), giving you a potential total of 25 hours of in-world time (20+(300/60=)5).

World owners can also define who pays when you visit their worlds – you or them. By default it is you – but to encourage visitors, some worlds are set so that time spent visiting is deducted from the world owner’s KC balance, leaving the balances of any visitors unchanged (so it’s essentially “free” access to the world). Users can also “earn” free time through encouraging those new to Kitely to sign-up and visit their world for 5 minutes or more prior to visiting anywhere else. For every new user who does this, the world owner gains 200 minutes of in-world time.

Finally, as well as the default world available with each payment option, you can also purchase as many additional worlds as you require at the rate of 1 KC per day for each world you require.

Sign-Up

Three options for sign-up to Kitely are available: Facebook, Twitter and E-mail. All three require a valid e-mail address for account validation purposes. The sign-up process is essentially the same for all three: you define your preferred avatar name and gender, provide your e-mail address & accept the Kitely ToS (available to read from the bottom of the website). If you use either Facebook or Twitter, then your credentials from these are used to verify you when logging-in to the system. If you are using the E-mail option, you’ll need to use the e-mail address you supply and password when logging-in.

There are a few points of note with the sign-up / log-in process:

  • If you have both a Twitter and Facebook account, you can have them linked, allowing you an either / or option to log-in to Kitely – useful if either Facebook or Twitter has a major hiccup
  • If you log-in using Facebook, you’ll see your Facebook Friends and Facebook Groups; when you log-in via Twitter, you’ll see Twitter Followers and Twitter Lists
  • The mechanism you use for logging-in may also impact your ability to access Kitely worlds. This won’t be a problem when accessing public worlds (see below), but may affect your ability if attempting to access a specific world. for example: if a world owner has set their world to be accessed by people on their Facebook Friends list, and you are one of those people, but log-in via Twitter, you won’t be able to access that particular world until you re-log to Kitely via your Facebook credentials
  • As you can only use one e-mail address per account, if you wish to sign-up an Alt at any stage, you’ll have to use an additional e-mail address.

Once you’ve completed the sign-up form and verification process, you can log-in to Kitely. This displays a pop-up advising you on what you can do next – create your own world, visit other worlds or buy Kitely Credits. Clearing this drops you into your My Worlds page, which provides summary information on your account and the world(s) you have created.

My Words summary page, as seen by a new account holder

Accessing Worlds: the Kitely Plug-in and Viewer Selection

Accessing a world within Kitely requires two steps:

  • Logging into the Kitely website
  • Logging-in to the required world via the world’s web page

However, the very first time you attempt to enter a world, there are two additional steps you must take: downloading and installing the Kitely plug-in.

You’ll be asked to do this the very first time you click on the ENTER WORLD button from within the Kitely website (see below) – after that, logging-in to a Kitely world from the website is seamless. The plug-in itself takes less than a minute to download on any decent connection, and around the same time to install. It performs a two-fold function:

  • It launches your Viewer of choice  / default Viewer (providing a Viewer is installed)
  • It automatically completes the username and password fields in the Viewer, allowing you to access your selected world without having to log-in manually through the Viewer

By default, the Viewer selected is the last Viewer installed on your computer. However, it is possible to change this if necessary by following some straightforward instructions.

This is actually a very clean and efficient means of logging-in to Kitely, and gives the appearance that everything is being run directly from the website; but it does assume that everyone coming to Kitely has prior exposure to grid-based VWs and has at least one Viewer installed on their computer. Users new to VWs and without a Viewer will find themselves stuck at the ENTERING WORLDS prompt, quite possibly with no idea as to what has gone wrong.

Note, 16th March: As per Ilan’s comment ion this article, the plug-in should in fact prompt for a Viewer download should no Viewer be detected. The current Viewer is Imprudence, but this may change to Firestorm in the future. 

I understand from Ilan Torchner, Kitely’s CEO, that the plug-in is due to be re-written. Whether this will enable it to also install a Viewer (such as the ubiquitous Hippo or similar) as a default is unclear. However, it would appear to be a prudent capability to add as the service increases its user base and increases public awareness of its existence.

Creating Your Own World

Clicking the NEW WORLD button on your MY WORLDS page displays a two-tab pop-up. The first tab allows you to supply the desired name for your world together with any descriptive text (which can be formatted and include images and URLs to websites, etc.) you wish to supply. You can also chose to have the land delivered “empty” (flat default terrain) or with a collaborative environment that includes a number of prefab buildings, or you can opt to upload your own OAR file, if you have previously saved one from another grid.

The second tab of New World enables you to set up who actually pays for their time visiting your world – your visitors or you in terms of minutes / KCs deducted from accounts (default is your visitors), and to set-up access lists of allowed visitors. Once you have satisfied yourself with your initial set-up, click the CREATE button, and the world will be generated and added to your MY WORLDS list.

To enter your new world, click on the world name in MY WORLDS. This will display the world page, which includes a large ENTER WORLD button. Clicking this will launch your browser and automatically log you in to your world (duly noting the plug-in installation described above).

My Kitely world page for my (first?) Kitely world…

Entering Your World

Once logged-in via the Viewer of your choice, you’ll have a default male / female avatar in a default outfit there seem to be a number of avatar option for each gender; a friend who logged-in to also take a look at Kitely arrived with a very different default outfit to the one my avatar was wearing.

If you haven’t used an OAR file to define your world, you’ll have a familiar flat, grass / sand 65K+ square metres to play with and – wait for it – 100,000 prims. You also have full region / estate tools access, allowing you to import terrain files, adjust terrain levels and appearance, etc.

Mesh import on Kitely

Building and terraforming in Kitely is the same as for SL  / OpenSim, and sculpts / mesh are supported. I tested both of the latter using my own sculpt maps generated for Fallingwater and by temporarily uploading a familiar mesh demo model from SL for the latter (right).

XML imports are supported through a suitable Viewer such as Imprudence, allowing you to import content you have created elsewhere and have been able to save locally. There are currently no upload costs to Kitely (including no charges for mesh), making the upload / import of content and your own sculpt maps, textures, etc., easy on the pocket.

8 thoughts on “Flying high in Kitely

  1. Hi Inara,

    First, please let me say it was a pleasure meeting you inworld on Kitely 🙂

    Once Kitely Plugin is installed it checks to see if it can find any SL or TPV viewer on your computer (it currently does so by looking to see if there is a SLURL handler defined and if that viewer is actually found where it is supposedly installed). Unfortunately, this method isn’t very robust so as a first step we enabled people to switch viewers by manually configuring a text file. As you stated, we’ll be rolling out a new plugin system soon (in 1-2 weeks) which will offer the following benefits:
    – It will support many viewers which don’t currently work with our plugin, such as Phoenix and Firestorm.
    – It will detect all the supported viewers installed on your machine (as long as they are installed in the default installer-recommended directories) and allow you to choose between them using a setting in your Kitely account’s Settings page.
    – It will enable make installing the plugin optional and enable direct viewer logins so people on unsupported operating systems (e.g. Linux, iOS, Android) will be able to access Kitely as well.

    Please note that Kitely Plugin turns the Enter World button into an “Install Virtual World Viewer” button when it doesn’t find any viewer. Pressing the button when it’s in this state currently sends the user an operating-system appropriate installer for Imprudence 1.3.2 (on Windows and OS X). We’re considering to replace this with Firestorm once our new plugin supports it.

    Billing automatically stops once the server detects your viewer has crashed or was disconnected. This happens immediately when you close your viewer intentionally and should happen within 1 minute when it disconnects for some other reason. You can therefore remain confident that you aren’t charged for time it takes you to figure out you have been disconnected.

    We’ll be upgrading to OpenSim 0.7.3 within a few weeks which should help speed up terraforming and should hopefully help eliminate the script-related bug you encountered as well. If that doesn’t solve this problem we’ll dig down and fix that bug ourselves.

    Initial support for teleporting between worlds will be added in a few weeks (shortly after we roll out the new plugin system). This should enable you to move between active worlds without leaving the viewer. Support for automatically launching worlds that aren’t currently active when you teleport into them will come later (for the time being you’ll still need to press the Enter World button for worlds to be activated when they are offline).

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    1. Ilan,

      Thank you for dropping-by in-world and saying hi. Think the place has progressed a little since your initial visit, and probably looks better than it did then, while waiting for textures and stuff :).

      Thanks for the clarification, re the plugin. My comments were based on results we experienced in trying to get things up-and-running on a computer without a Viewer, and sadly no prompt to install a Viewer was received – thanks for pointing out what should be there, I’ll do a quick edit to the piece to clarify.

      The manual config of the plugin works well (and if I can follow the instructions, then it’s a safe bet anyone can 🙂 ). II found it extremely useful in being able to swap back and forth when needing to upload my .XML files. Looking forward to the upgraded plug-in to.

      On the disconnect issue, it wasn’t so much whether billing continues beyond the disconnect period, it was more a case of “Grrr! I’ve got to do that again!”, sometimes two or three times, rather than getting on with other things (plus wondering if there is something wrong with my ISP connection that is causing some of the disconnects).

      Looking forward to seeing the upgrades; I personally didn’t have an issue with using the world pages to move around. As mentioned in the article, it was a good way of learning about places to visit; some users have gone to incredible lengths to showcase their work through the pages. Nevertheless, people will want the convenience of teleporting directly, so that will be a big plus as it is rolled out.

      One thing I didn’t mention – being too conscious of article length – was the history page; very useful for both keeping track of KC use, in-world time and (particularly) who has been visiting your own world(s).

      Hopefully, will see you in-world again soon!

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      1. Hi Inara,

        It’s unfortunate you didn’t add another page to mention the History page 🙂 it is one of our differentiators and very useful for people who wish to keep track of who visits their worlds. We’ve even seen educators use it for keeping track of inworld class attendance 🙂

        Once we enable using Kitely Credits as inworld currency, your KC-related transactions will be added to the History page. We also plan to release an API so people will be able to keep track of their own custom events. The end goal for this page is to include advanced tools for analyzing how your worlds are used (a kind of Google analytics for virtual worlds).

        I understand your frustration with the scripts-related bug. It is annoying and we intend to hunt it down and eliminate it soon. The fact that it still exists is not due to lack of caring on our part, simply due to us needing to prioritize what we work on first. Once enough people upgrade to premium plans we’ll be able to hire additional developers to help us accelerate our rate of improvement.

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        1. Ilan,

          Problem with trying to cover a world is trying to do so in a reasonable word-count without it reaching a point where it becomes “tl;dr” for people – and God knows I can talk all four legs off a donkey and persuade it to go for a walk afterwards as it is! 🙂

          Rest assured, I’ll be following-up on this initial article with future look-ins and updates, so will be able to report on enhancements and redress omissions.

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