Category Archives: Second Life Development

Sony Obstructs Second Life Innovation – Again!


On Thursday, April 2nd, OnLive announced that SL GO would come to an end. Ars Technica implies that the sellout of patents was due to OnLive’s model of streaming did not catch on sufficiently. Perhaps Second Life was the exception. Something very similar to this happened in 2010 when an early attempt to stream Second Life via Gaikai (a Japanese streaming games service) ended when the service was bought by Sony. Gaikai is still in business as a Subsidiary of Sony Entertainment, so perhaps there is hope that SL Go can find a home there. I must admit though that the thought of partnering, even in a limited way with Sony would be worrisome; their deep pockets could swallow LL/SL in a blink and they have not shown much concern over the impact of their acquisitions on the people who use the products they aquire.

“Danger ahead, kupo! Do you still want to go on, kupo”

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What Does Second Life Need?


Inara Pey recently posted an article explaining that the new world Linden Lab is developing (lets call it Linden World 2.0 or LW2 for now) is not being made to replace Second Life. This article and the discussion that followed got me wondering, what does Second Life need to do to compete with it’s younger sister?
Before we start, lets agree to keep things realistic. Cheaper is not going to happen, at least not in the short term. SL’s income stream to LL is supporting the development of LW2. They are not about to jeopardize that. Perhaps, once LW2 is self sufficient it can “pay back” to SL in some way.
Some things that do seem possible to me include:
Avatar 2; The Lindens started down this road with their mesh starter avatars, they should continue. Avatar 2 needs more adjustments than Avatar 1, the new adjustments could simply be grayed out for adjusting Avatar 1. Most people I have talked to agree that the bone structure and accompanying rigging needs tweaking (at least). They would probably require a whole new skin format in place of the 3 part one used by Avatar 1.
Scripting; I am not a scripter but every scripter I know maintains a library of work-arounds. Perhaps it is time to take a look at them with an eye to treating them as areas to correct/expand llsl or as bugs.
Content Creation; Mesh is all the rage in SL, and for good reason. It opens a whole new world of possibilities. What we need is an intuitive method of building mesh for SL. This probably can’t be done in world, think of the additional server load! Blender is a nightmare of counterintuitive operations. What would be best would be for LL to create/adopt/outright buy a platform specialized for SL. I would envision an application that would open a sandbox and an avatar (my own?). Easy to use controls that build on the prim construction techniques I already know with the added ability to push and stretch into organic shapes. Easy save for import into SL with the LI known in advance.
Social Networking; More and more often timely information from LL comes via Twitter. As someone who’s RL does not use social networking this drives me nuts! It should be possible for LL to develop a Twitter-like pseudonymous, avatar friendly communication network and use that.
What do you think? I am sure there are ideas I have not thought of, dreams of features that would amaze me. I look forward to your input.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clark

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The Spirit of Second Life


Second Life Past:
Do you remember: Telehubs? — Rubberbanding? — When selecting Help in the viewer menu would access an actual Linden, who would then come to you in world and help? — Swarming penis attacks (green with a Santa hat at Christmas time)? — Weekly grid wide shutdowns so they could “bang on things”? — 88,000 users on line? — Your avatar stuck with her head between her legs and hair & shoes in her ass? — A large bump in users right after Christmas as people got their new computers up and running?

Second Life Present:
We’ve come a long way since those early days but there are still problems to solve:
The Avatar, or should I say avatars. With 3 classes of avatar to choose from (Basic, Linden Mesh and resident creator Mesh) I don’t know how newbies cope. It would help if LL finished their mesh avatar so it is fully adjustable, including all head adjustments and with at least as much facial animation as the default avatar.
Mesh Clothing. What can I say, the present situation sucks! Once you find an item you like it usually will not fit YOUR shape, or your avatar class/type. Shoes often require special mesh feet, which then will not blend with your skin. I could go on and on, it is extremely frustrating. In fairness, the clothes look great once you find something that fits.

Second Life Future:
Oz Linden has been doing a good job of overseeing SL development. He knows the problems and maintains good lines of communication with the resident community. My only concern is that there is a tendency to become enamored of the latest toys and ideas. Oculus Rift and it’s ilk are toys for the privileged and adventurous few. I still doubt that experience tools will have much of an impact on most people’s daily second life.


2015 will bring our first glimpses of a new virtual world from LL “in the spirit of Second Life”. Given that SL pushed the boundaries of what was possible back in 2003, I wonder if today’s Lindens still have that same courage. I remember that few people could run SL flat out, it was clunky, we bought new computers and got better Internet connections, it was only gradually that the world became truly comfortable to live in.
My expectation is that without the sword of reverse compatibility hanging over their heads, the present avatar and clothing problems will be a thing of the past. But will they have the courage to bring us something like this? or perhaps some kind of facial sync like Philip is developing at High Fidelity?
One concern I have is regarding land. Will there be someplace like the Mainland, where we can “own” land (without setup fees!), paying our tier in US$ directly to LL vs. L$ to a landlord who could change his mind at any time . While some people put the Mainland down, those of us who live there find it’s haphazard anarchic community more interesting than the carefully controlled uniformity of private islands.

2015 should be another interesting year for Second Life, I look forward to the adventure.

“It’s a bit like The Matrix . We provide the land, and the community builds the actual world, which gives everyone a huge sense of being pioneers in a great experiment.” Philip Rosedale

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Second Life’s Future As The Next Generation Comes Of Age


On July 17th Ebbe said:

We already know about quite a few things that Second Life could do better, and there’s already conversations we’re obviously having about how a next generation product could be a leap forward. But it’s quite a ways in the future.

And note we don’t refer to it as “SL” explicitly call it something more nebulous, like “next generation virtual world” because it’s still to be determined how different or similar it is. As if we use something like “SL 2.0″ or as someone suggested, “SL 3.0″, then you already right already make a lot of assumptions of what it should be or should not be, and we don’t necessarily want to constrain ourselves to Second Life as a model for what a next generation virtual world should be.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a tremendous amount of good things in Second Life, so when we discuss the next generation, we describe it as being in the spirit of Second Life, which is a bit vague and definitely people interpret it in a lot of different ways, but it could be many, many, many years before what really works for people in Second Life is something they could replicate and achieve in this next generation product.

Ultimately, I hope to make the next generation product so good that people would prefer to use it over Second Life, but we’re not necessarily going to constrain what the next product could be or force it to be something that is necessarily too similar to Second Life. And how similar or different it will be, I think will reveal itself over time.
Ebbe Linden/Altberg at the Education in SL Q&A, July 17,2014 (Inara Pey’s transcription)

Now that some time has passed and people have had time to think things through, it is worth taking a look at what future we can anticipate for Second Life.
The “next generation virtual world” Linden Lab is working on is “quite a ways in the future” and “it could be many, many, many years before what really works for people in Second Life is something they could replicate and achieve in this next generation product”. In short, don’t panic, most likely it will be a very long time indeed before you will even want to move your entire second life to the new platform!
The Lindens have had a long time to reflect on the failures of other virtual worlds and have no intention of falling into the same traps. Since the early days of SL the world of social networking has not only changed technologically, peoples attitudes about their on-line presence has changed too. Creating a new virtual world is a daunting task, even once the platform is finished, migration from Second Life will be arduous. Creators will be reluctant to move until there are enough residents to make it worthwhile. Residents will be reluctant to move until they see content they want available.
It is possible, perhaps likely, that the first iteration of the new grid will have very non-SL rules. LL must attract the Facebook / MySpace people, and they are very uncomfortable with anonymity. A grid like this would also be more attractive to businesses and educators. Chances are, even if you are able to have a fantasy life there, your profile will always link back to your RL identity.
There is no reason why the “in the spirit of Second Life” grid could not be completely separate, the same platform with the necessary tweaks and settings to make it like Second Life. The two grids could even share a marketplace and use the same currency.
In the meanwhile SL will continue to develop under Oz’s guiding hand. When he can appropriate code or ideas from the Next Generation team, he will. The smaller but more dedicated to SL team gathered around him seems very open to resident suggestions (although they can’t do everything).
Myself, I will probably dip my toes into the new world at the first opportunity. It seems unlikely I will be ready to move there for many years yet to come.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln

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An Early Birthday Present


Today is the actual (well, generally accepted) anniversary of Second Life’s opening. You really should spend some time at the party, just open the map and search for SL11B, TP into any of the regions. Lag seems lower this year than in the past. I can not pick one exhibit over another, best you just wander around, get lost and cam everywhere!

But that is not what I came here to write about.

Last Friday Ebbe dropped into the Open Development user group meeting and rolled an open can of worms onto the floor. Linden Lab is, and has been for well over a year, working on a new and improved virtual world! Now before you panic, this is not the end of SL, the grid we all know and love will go on for the foreseeable future. Development and improvements will continue, although with a smaller team at the Lab.

I see this as akin to a new Operating System on your computer. There are limits to what the Lab can do on a twelve year old platform. Back in 2003 when SL opened it’s doors to the world you were probably running Windows XP or earlier (or Mac OS 9.2 / OS X 10.2). Things have changed and every time we upgrade some of the things we loved about the old system were lost.

Ebbe made it clear that while there will be an effort made to allow the transfer of content, he will not allow that to get in the way of making the best virtual world they can. While I agree with that in principal, I believe as much transfer as possible is key to enticing us away from the SL inventories we have invested heavily in. That transfer must be at the user level, not the content creator level and I think he understands that. In order to accomplish that there will need to be some kind of interaction between asset servers for the 2 platforms (which goes a long way toward understanding the latest TOS changes, although they are still overly generalized).

It is likely to be over a year before we get an opportunity to take a look at this new endeavor but I look forward to a steady stream of teasers and discussion. That discussion is essential since LL still does not really “get” SL like the residents do.

As for me, I look forward to the new world ([SL2] ?) and the drama of the discussion between now and rollout. I will wait and see before I move all of my second life to a new grid.

Danger ahead, kupo! Do you still want to go on, kupo?”

Update: To follow the progress of this I suggest Jo Yardley’s blog http://joyardley.wordpress.com/tag/sl2/

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A Meeting with the Big Cheese


I attended this week’s Server/Sim/Scripting user group meeting today. Oz, Simon and Kelly Linden were there for the entire meeting. Ebbe Linden arrived about half way through and stayed for nearly half an hour after the meeting closed, fielding general questions, suggestions and comments.
Probably the most significant announcement was that the server code for Group Ban will be grid wide after the RC sims roll tomorrow. There is a Linden viewer with the appropriate code available at the Alternative Viewer Downloads page. You will need this viewer to use the group ban features but your actions will be in force no matter what viewer anyone else is using, even if you change viewers after taking the action.
There was a discussion about problems when terraforming land with pathfinding enabled.
[12:18] Shug Maitland (shug.maitland): so if we do a significant amount of terraforming we should restart the region before continuing with whatever we are building?
[12:19] Mona (mona.eberhardt): Not exactly, Shug.
[12:20] Mona (mona.eberhardt): If you do a significant amount of terraforming, it’s advisable that you do NOT rebake the navmesh before you’re done. And when you’ve rebaked, do a region restart. Because, if you rebake repeatedly, you’ll eat up the memory that can be allocated and you won’t be able to rez a thing.
I am not sure I fully understand all of that since I do not use pathfinding, but you should look into it if it pertains to your work.
From Ebbe:
[13:06] Ebbe Linden: Experience tools are getting closer…Simon may know better how close….we just did a big test of them earlier today…but I’m not sure when they’ll be ready for prime time…soon I hope…
[13:07] Simon Linden: It’s getting closer but I’m not familiar with the plans on making them available for others
[13:07] Bagheera: yes please, what are experience tools?
[13:08] Simon Linden: They’re a set of functions and permissions that lets someone build a more immersive experience. So things can happen that won’t nag you with permissions — you opt-into the experience, for example, and a few regions later it can still animate you without re-asking all the time.

[13:11] Shug Maitland (shug.maitland): re. new avatars; can we expect more sliders to work in time
[13:11] Ebbe Linden: Shug? Sliders work now….
[13:11] Shug Maitland (shug.maitland): not all of them
[13:12] Ebbe Linden: face?
[13:12] jira.phoenixviewer.com (whirly.fizzle): Well not all of them. You can’t for example mod your face with the sliders like you can with a classic avatar
[13:12] Shug Maitland (shug.maitland): yeah
[13:13] Ebbe Linden: Yep, face is not doing anything with the new avatars…bummer…we’re looking at that to see if we can get eyes and mouths cranking again…
[13:13] Nal (nalates.urriah): That would make lots of people happy
[13:13] Shug Maitland (shug.maitland): that’s good news, the face mods are probably the most important for individualizing your av.
[13:14] Shug Maitland (shug.maitland): and I should point out, face customization is one thing SL was way ahead of everyone else on in the beginning.
[13:16] Ebbe Linden: I agree face is critical and having a stone face like my current avatar is not cool…a couple of steps forward and a step backwards…

It was very encouraging to see Ebbe interacting with those there. Is it possible that the us vs. them divide is getting smaller and the ivory tower is, if not crumbling, getting more accessible?


ps. I took some editorial liberties with the clips from transcript, consolidating thoughts and correcting spelling for example.

“Some of the best lessons are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom of the future.” Dale Turner

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Some perspective on The Force


By now you are all aware of last week’s login crisis. A little perspective is in order.

Week to week overlays of SL concurrency (users on-line) gives a good visual of the scale of the event:

SL population graph 21 May 14 week to week

As you can see a similar event happened three weeks before, although for the most part we did not notice it. This is the type of disturbance you are likely to see any time the Lindens are working on the Second Life back end. They usually have the situation under control. The problem on the 20th was, if not unique, very unusual. I will take these bumps along the road any day in preference to the old “Shut down the whole grid while we bang on things” method.

http://etitsup.com/slstats/ is my go to site for up to an minute (well, 5 minute) view of the health of the SL grid (The Force). When things are going smoothly the sine wave of SL population is remarkably consistant.

http://status.secondlifegrid.net/ is the official word from the lab, it understandably lags a bit and does not inform of every little hiccup. I go there for advanced warning and explanation of ongoing events.

The fact that LL is actively working on the networks and back-end systems that make SL work is very encouraging. We may not see the improvement with each and every improvement they make, taken together they can not help but improve our experience.

“Some of the best lessons are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom of the future.” Dale Turner

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Welcome Ebbe Linden , an open letter to the CEO


We are glad to have you aboard! It is encouraging to see that you have a little experience in our world. If you would allow me to presume to make some suggestions:

1- Take a long walk on the Mainland, a good place to start is in Emmelia. To your west is Route 2, the long way around the outside edge of Heterocera (lots of interesting seaside builds, but a long walk). To the north is Route 3, a shorter walk around the outer edge of the mountains. I suggest the Mainland because you will get a truer impression of SL from a resident perspective. Some of what you see will look crude, much will be assembled from purchased parts, but in all cases this is an expression of someone’s second life. Also worth noting, on the Mainland we are mostly tier-paying premium accounts, we typically do not pay rent to a middleman. Consider as you walk why we are here; one way of looking at it is wish fulfillment, the person in a cramped apartment owns a castle, the person who works in a cubicle farm fulfilling someone else’s wishes creates content with their own vision, the frustrated but talented businessperson operates a store, etc. At the end of your walk, no matter which route you choose you will find the SL Railroad, which is an adventure of another color 🙂

2- Consider please that the very name Ebbe Linden extends to you a huge privilege. Newbies today do not get the opportunity to have a last name. As a result we see the kind of strained names seen in gaming environments instead of the more community friendly first/last name those of us “of a certain age” consider normal. As anticipated when this policy first rolled out, there is still an us-and-them division that sometimes shows itself. SLers are very tolerant, we learn to be quickly, but who wants to be “tolerated” because of the accident of when they were born.

3- Communication — you are probably tired of hearing this by now, but it needs attention and only you can force the issue. In my previous post I suggested email be better used. This would best be accomplished if it was an attractive headline and a picture type thing that lead to a monthly LL magazine. If professionally done this would be just the thing to project a positive image both to those active now and to those who are inactive. Google would also direct the curious to current and well presented information.

3a- Social media — all well and good for discussion, chat and rumor but please keep the post at the official blog ahead of the gossip. Get that message out to the whole team too (although it has not been an issue lately).

4- Technology; the last round of improvements was quite ambitious, it will probably take 1 ½ to 2 years to fully complete so pace things a bit. There is no rush to start something new just for the sake of it. We, the customers, have always said we would rather have things working well than the confusion of too many new features at once.

We are on your side Ebbe, don’t forget to tap into our skills and experience, there are some things we are just better at than LL.

Illegitimi non carborundum

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Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the Wackadoodles!


 

The blogs are full of the news that Rod Humble has “moved on” from Second Life. I first saw it at New World Notes.

Remain calm. Take a deep breath. We have been through this before. Don’t believe the rumors, the sky in not falling!

Linden lab will eventually let us know what is happening and what their plans are.

“Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war” William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

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Best of Second Life, 2013


The development which has had the greatest impact on my Second Life this year was actually introduced in 2012!

Mesh finally came into it’s own the second half of 2013 and the difference has been dramatic! For the first time I bought a house rather than making it myself from prims. The level of detail and complexity of shapes simply could not have been made from prims and the land impact (LI) is several times lower than any crude prim equivalent, even using convex hull!

The real surprise came when I furnished it. Even loaded with mesh furnishings, knick-knacks and houseplants and fully landscaped it barely tips 1000LI! This effect is accelerating as creators get better at making more complex yet efficient stuff. I recently saw a cupboard, fully loaded with dishes of various shapes and sizes with a LI of 1. Smaller individual item are showing up in marketplace quickly now (any bets we are seeing homework from students in graphic design?).

The only down side I can see is that some people with lesser graphics cards have difficulty, often lagging even with very low draw distances. Only the inevitable march of hardware obsolescence will fix this.

I miss making most of my own stuff (Blender totally befuddles me), but that happened with the introduction of sculpties, mesh just takes it to the next level. The quality and low LI of what I can buy compensates my ego though.

I look forward to this trend continuing into 2014. It could get exciting.

 

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clark

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