#SecondLife Directions

It is hard to know what anyone is thinking when they don’t tell you. One tries to figure it out by watching actions and pondering statements made. In the case of Linden Lab, we have lots of people analyzing what is known about the Lab. Recently we have seen the Alpha release of Pathfinding and the acquisition of Little TextPeople. So, speculation swirls around those new items.

Crystal Ball Speculation

When Hamlet at New World Notes posted on the acquisition of Little TextPeople Rod Humble,  Linden Lab CEO, commented:

Hey Hamlet. Just by way of clarification this team is working on product 3. 

I first started to talking to them December (although I have known them personally for longer). 

When we chatted about IF/Adventure a few months ago it was in relation to product 2, which is also still in production, not this product 🙂 

Hopefully things will become less opaque in the near future but yes this team is working on a separate product (one of several we have in development). 

Sorry for the cloak & dagger stuff, shouldnt last to much longer. 

Posted by: Rodvik Linden | Friday, February 17, 2012 at 08:32 PM

Hamlet follows up with some speculation based on the comment in: Rod Humble Drops Hints About Linden’s New Projects. Hamlet’s speculation is rational and suggests some directions the Lab may have taken.

I couldn’t see how Little TextPeople, a text based gaming company, could add to any creative game made by a visually oriented development company. As I learned more about Little TextPeople I am thinking the company and its past games are of less importance than the company’s people with Artificial Intelligence (AI) experience.

Pathfinding is a form of AI. That it is as fast as it is I find amazing. That it makes developing in SL much easier could be a big boost to Second Life’s popularity. I now suspect more game AI is coming.

Developing games is something many of us are playing with. I come from the Myst community where Myst Online: Uru Live (MOUL) was a gaming phenomenon. Cyan Worlds, the developer, never got the mix right and the game never became massively popular before it ran out of money. But, like other games it gained core fans. Many of its players have become some level of game makers. Of the 600+ fans that are active in Second Life some majority portion of them are making things in SL. A few are rebuilding Myst game ages in Second Life and OSGrid.

Many of the Myst fans wanted more of Myst and were willing to build the ‘more’ of need be. But, building for MOUL is no easy task. One first has to learn 3D modeling and texturing. Then one has to learn how to use the Plasma game development system, which only works from 3DS Max version 7 or 8 (open source is fixing that). That is a steep learning curve and requires some money for 3DS. So, some MOUL fans use the Unreal Engine, some Plazma, and some are in Second Life or OpenSim.

If you have played with the Unreal Engine, you know you can develop the game in it and export your game to PC’s, Mac’s, tablets, and Smart Phones. This export is becoming more common for development programs. To model your game you still need to understand 3D modeling. Hamlet has realized that Linden Lab may be looking to circumvent that high learning curve part of the process.

As Hamlet suggests the Lab may be developing tools rather than games. The tools would probably let you build a game using Second Life style building, prims, to avoid having to learn 3D mesh modeling and texturing.

I expect that as the Lab develops tools we will see the Lab using Second Life users, creators building in Second Life, as a test Lab for polishing user interfaces, processes, features, and API’s.

I do not see the new tools and applications as a threat to Second Life. I can’t imagine a company risking the cash cow they have on any new unproven game. I can understand building a new Second Life Lite that people can use to play at building, meaning one could do something creative while waiting at the airport, doctor’s office, eating lunch, or whenever they have a few minutes. I suppose that building stuff could be set up in a game like environment like Minecraft.

I can also see it being something they can share with others as Second Life is. Some type of Facebook like group building where only your friends can access the build/game you are making. Groups could have club houses rather than Circles.

The idea may have self run simulators hosted at some reasonable cost as is possible in OSGrid. This could effectively remove the griefer problem. Someone bugs you, lock them out. It’s your build. It effectively removes the Lab from having to mount a police force.

Second Life would survive as it would be the market place for buying and selling stuff to use both in Second Life and my imagined Second Life Lite. Many of us build in OpenSim and move things to Second Life for sale. It’s a faster cheaper process than building in Second Life. But, one can’t easily or safely sell in OpenSim, IMO.

I see possible directions, but it is all speculation for now.

3 thoughts on “#SecondLife Directions

  1. I see it like thus:

    Linden Lab would not threaten its own cash cow for so long as it is the cash cow. That being said, the development of new products that have nothing to do with the flagship product of Second Life is a clear indication they are building things which will appeal to an audience that Second Life does not – being the casual gamer with slightly more complexity. This, in itself is not a direct threat, but still remains as a long term threat because the demographic the new products are targeting are a much wider range than Second Life, and so are targeting the very idea that a much larger user base on the new products will develop into the new cash cow to supersede Second Life and eventually erode the importance of the current flagship product offering.

    From my point of view, it stands to reason that the expansion into other products is an executive based decision to find a product to increase revenue streams, and ultimate create a transitory phase into a new line of services and products since Second Life is seen as a niche audience. I would imagine Rodvik is charged with increasing the revenue streams and thus income of the company, and he’s not likely to do that with just Second Life, or even with Second Life as a product offering. Whenever a company sees their flagship as reaching the pinnacle of what they can get it to be, they immediately start looking for the replacement flagship while supporting the current flagship as not to spook the current cash cow in the process.

    Take this as you will – over the next few years, the shear number of people in the target demographic for the new products will outnumber by far the demographic niche of Second Life, and thus will become the new cash cow. It’s the long term planning approach.

    • That is reasonable Will. Your presupposition appears to be the ‘other’ products would be successful. If one or more are. your scenario is probably the one that will be in play.

      Having followed Cyan Worlds, makers of Myst, I am well aware that their having made the most popular game prior to the SIM’s did not lead them on to block buster follow ups. Until the Lindens know they have a sure thing, I feel they will maintain a high interest in SL.

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