Changes Coming to Second Life – 2010

In the last week of December several bloggers wrote their predictions for Second Life in 2010. Others were writing their insights. From what I am reading and see happening there are some interesting things I think will happen in 2010.

Two of the changes will have a significant impact on those of us making content in SL. I expect mesh imports to come to SL in the first half of 2010 and be the biggest impact on SL. There are lots of reasons for why this will change how we make and sell content in SL and possibly change the social fabric of SL.

With the ability to import meshes we will see a flood of new content. The meshes from Blue Mars, Entropia, RealXtend and other games where 3D models are used will become usable in SL. Web sites with free 3D models will be raided and they will be sold in SL. More importantly, professional companies and artists that make 3D models with high end tools like 3DMax and Maya will likely begin making high quality content for SL. This means whole new levels of competition for manufacturers in SL.

This will open up new styles of furniture and buildings. Clothes will change as the new meshes are used to make attachments. Further down the time line will come a new type of clothing. I’m not sure the new style will make it in during 2010. The new style will be like the clothes in Blue Mars. Think of a guy’s sport coat. Currently the ‘decals’ that we call clothes, make a guy look effeminate as the coat does note drape but clings to the guy’s waist. The new style will use a mesh that works with the AV. The AV will wear a jacket that will automatically work with the AV and will drape rather than cling. Those that can use Blender, 3DMax or Maya will have an advantage in the new competition.

This could also have an impact on the SL economy. Professional content developers will likely take their money out of SL. That would mean more of us have to bring money in or watch the economy shrink. Money flowing in and out of Linden Lab helps the Lab as they get a cut. For residents, it may help with cheaper products. There are so many unknowns it’s not clearly predictable. But it could well move us toward SL residents being more consumer than producer.

Second change…

Another important change will be the linking of the Second Life Grid with other grids. Most SL residents know they can use their SL viewers to visit In-Worldz, Open Life, OSGrid and a number of grids compatible with SL. The recent release of an Enterprise version of the SL servers will mean more private grids. SL residents can visit them and residents of other grids can visit SL. The big step in this is content protection. Because of new standards coming out we will be able to wear our SL hair when visiting other grids. Those with clothes and attachments from other grids can wear theirs in SL. This may bring some new customers into SL. I suspect it is more likely to allow the more populous SL crowd to disperse through the rest of the grids.

I am sure many believe the grid connectivity will help the OSGrids. If it were just a matter of free and open to anyone connection then I would think so too. But, it is unlikely to be free or open to everyone. It is a trivial task for any server operator to copy any skin, clothes and attachments one wears. Linden Lab can’t let just anyone connect. They have spoken of ‘gold’ connectors… whoever they are. That doesn’t sound all that open, which is probably a good thing. I am certain that anonymity will not be an option for any grid operator wanting to connect to the SL grid. Also, I think there will likely be a cost for connecting. But, what Linden Lab is going to do to protect content is unknown. So, it would be surprising if they did not severely restrict access to the SL grid.

While it may seem a trivial change, the changing of how the viewer handles SLURL’s, LM’s and URL’s along with how they work should make it easier to travel between grids and from region to region in SL. I’m not sure I understand, but it seems they will use IP addresses like the Internet does.

Other changes…

There are lots of other new things rumored to be coming to Second Life in 2010.

New commands in the scripting language will make some tasks easier.

Rumors are the AV’s may be upgraded 2010, an actual mesh change. Plus new attachment points. Some 3rd party viewers have them now. Changes in skin layers will make tattoos and makeup easier to put on.

Dynamic shadows should come to the main viewer. I am unsure how that will affect most residents. They do put a load on your computer and slow things down. There will most certainly be an option so one can turn off shadows for good performance. The real complication comes for manufactures. Currently good textures have shadows baked in. When shadows are rendered by the viewer pre-baked shadows will look odd. Clothes shading will get tricky. Pre-made shadows for trees will look odd as the sun shadow moves over the shadow the tree maker adds. If you have not seen dynamic shadows yet, read my post on: New KirstenLee (215) Viewer Out – Review

A new SL viewer should come out soon with the ‘new and improved interface’. We’ll have to see how that works out. The new user experience should change… again. With 10,000 new users signing up each day and something like 90+% never coming back after the first hour, the Lindens have to do something.

2010 will see many changes and some are calling it SL-2. I doubt residents will find it that different. But new visitors are likely to enjoy it more. We’ll see.

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