Well, this is exciting! A tip from the inimitable Moo Money at yesterday’s Machinima Talk event led me to Opensimulator.org, which appears to be a fairly successful attempt to build an open-source, publically-runnable Second Life server.
As we mention in the book, having the ability to run an SL server locally will make a huge difference in terms of its usability for Machinima creation. (For those who haven’t heard, we find Second Life interesting and potentially great for Machinima, but it does have a LOT of problems as a Machinima platform right now.)
Being able to run Second Life as a local service on your own hardware will substantially change the SL Machinima game. It’ll take network latency out of the equation, mean that you won’t have to pay for land on which to shoot, give you total control of your environment, theoretically allow you to run computer-controlled avatars - basically give you all the advantages of both Second Life and a LAN-based game, combined.
OpenSimulator doesn’t seem to be there yet - it’s still in alpha testing, and the site says “Some stuff works, a lot doesn’t” - but there’s clearly a lot of development going on, and there are publically-accessible servers running. Something to keep an eye on.