Comparing Minecraft to Second Life is a difficult task, especially when you consider exactly how different these two virtual world engines are. Each has its own appeal, yet they are constantly compared to each other to new users.
Second Life is a massive virtual world made up of islands and regions, each tied to a different server but crossable within the same client and login. In Second Life, players can walk around virtual malls and clubs, attend events, build and maintain homes, fly around the heavens, visit 3D recreations of historic sites including the Titanic, and play in a band. Second Life’s open coding platform and 3D modeling environment allows users to create virtually any object in its own 3D environment. Sculpted objects created in third-party modeling programs like Povray and Blender can be imported into Second Life in the form of custom object shapes, which can be applied by way of a multi-colored texture. The currency of Second Life — referred to as Linden Dollars — is directly transferable with real-world currency from a variety of different countries. Because of this, some creative users have built profitable businesses within the virtual world that are directly responsible for paying their real-world bills. While it’s more difficult to create a profitable business now that the platform has aged and population is dwindling, it remains one of the driving forces behind the platform.
Minecraft is a world built on blocks, with each server existing as an island unto itself. There is no centralized virtual world the entire community shares, though there are more than a few larger multiplayer servers that act as such. Everything built in Minecraft has to meet a certain set of stringent requirements, with the basic building block being… a block. In Minecraft, you can discover caves and other formations just by digging. In order to build things, you need to have a specific set of materials that can be mined, gathered, and forged together to create something new. If you want to gather a specific resource, you’ll need the right tool.
In Second Life, you can own a specific property and set permissions that allow or disallow others to enter, build, or alter the landscape. Minecraft is considerably more open, where virtually everyone shares the same giant world within a given multiplayer server. Everything is free in Minecraft, as long as you can mine it. Some servers and hosts give you unlimited resources so that mining isn’t even required. In Second Life, you just need to create or purchase the materials you want from other players through virtual purchases made with Linden Dollars.
Second Life allows you a viable way to open up a store and sell your creations to others. Minecraft does not, since most unique creations are stationary and couldn’t be transported without breaking them down and moving them to another space. Virtually everything created from textures to clothing in Minecraft is available free to the community while Second Life thrives on an active commerce system where free items are traded, but commercial items tend to be of greater quality and detail.
Minecraft has a single player mode, while Second Life does not. If you want to load your own single-user environment in Second Life, you’ll need to go through one of the open derivatives of Second Life, which are based on an outdated version of the engine.
If Second Life is an MMO like World of Warcraft, Minecraft would be Neverwinter Nights. While they both allow you to wield swords and slash at enemies aplenty, they are very different types of gaming environments.
Each game is extremely popular in its own right, but one caters to smaller communities within a larger player base while the other is built around a single, giant, persistent world. Comparing Second Life to Minecraft makes sense only when you speak about an open virtual world where you have the ability to build things. Beyond that, they’re worlds apart. At least for now, it appears that Minecraft is capturing more attention.
CC licensed Flickr photo by Laurence Simon