With coming presence of Second Life™ on Steam™ gaming several possibilities open up. Probably just as many questions come up too. It is too early to know how Valve™ and Linden Lab™ are going implement the union. But, people in general are interested in what Value is doing and thinking.
An article I came across this morning is: Can Valve Go Beyond Gimmicks With Its Gaming Goggles And Wearable Computing? The opening paragraph is what caught my interest.
Virtual reality and the quest for the perfect controller are the stuff of science fiction, but in reality traditional controllers work perfectly well for gaming. Much more exciting than wearable computing is the possibility of a Steam Box.
A good virtual reality controller for Second Life would be great. Has this been in the works for awhile? Is this some part of plan? I suppose it could be… or not.
What Valve is working on is interesting enough to have made it onto a story in the New York Times: Game Maker Without a Rule Book.
We can go lots of directions with the news from American Times and the New York Times. One of the interesting points made by NYT is: But what really makes Valve stand out is its foresight on technology.
So… does this new technology include an easy to use virtual world creation tool? May be one named Second Life? It is way too early to say. How the user controls for Valves VR controls interface with SL will probably make the difference between success or fail.
Erik Kain writing for American Times does not see things as all so rosey for the VR controls. He makes some good points. Considering what he thinks as valid, the importance of the new VR user interface is not as important as the likely new Steam Box, which would be completion for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. If this works out, Second Life could get an influx of Xbox and Playstation like gamers.
In addition NYT points out: On Monday, the company will begin a public test of a new television-friendly interface, Big Picture, for buying Steam games and playing them on computers in the living room.
I wonder how popular this TV interface is going to be. And how well will it work for someone coming into Second Life? It is hard to know, but it will get SL exposure in places where that has not previously been possible.
Whether adding Steam players, those interested in VR, and couch potatoes watching flat panels is a good thing or not is debatable. Getting new signups has never been a big problem for Linden Lab’s Second Life. Player retention remains the problem. Whether these players will be more likely to stay in Second Life is an unknown, but I see no reason to see them any differently than those signing up every day for the past years. But, may be…
None of the articles deal with what VR may do to adult content in Second Life. Is Xcite! looking at what they can do with Steam and VR toys?
It is hard to know what is going on in people’s minds. It would be interesting to know how successful their line of USB controlled RL toys are. One has to wonder how VR would affect the adult content side of SL. Isaac Asimov in his series of Robot stories explores via his character Elijah Baley a world where all sex is via Virtual Reality (It’s a whodunit story). The Bruce Willis movie Surrogates provides a visual take on what VR could evolve to.
The only thing we kow about thie
Store & Market Place
One of the questions that has come up is how the Valve Store and the SL Market Place will work. Will SL creative types be able to market in the Valve Store? Probably. But, I’m not sure how that will work. It would be nice to have a store that actually worked. How long has it been since we heard anything from that part of the company?
I can speculate several wonderful, in my mind, scenarios for a better SL store. But, I doubt we will see much store integration.
It may be a boon to those building mesh objects, buildings, furniture, vehicles and such. Those models can be used in various other games. So, those models could go into several games. Of course the Valve Store is RL hand-on products. Some enterprising person will probably start making T-Shirts like Insilico or NoR for RL and possibly even some Linden Bears, who knows?
The SL MP is virtual goods. That brings up the question of whether Value will handle tangible goods and the Lab will handle virtual goods. Is there some type of planned team effort in progress?
It is too soon to speculate. But, there are some interesting possibilities raising their heads. There are some scary possibilities coming up to. From the NYT article:
SOME game executives say it’s ironic that such concerns come from Valve, which has become a gatekeeper with Steam. Last year, the company had a dust-up with Electronic Arts over Steam’s policy of taking a cut of all revenue generated from a game, like the sale of virtual goods, even after a player has bought the game. As a result, E.A. is not selling a number of its latest games through Steam.
Presumably the Lab is aware of the problem and some agreement has been reached.
Valve as a Company
The NYT article gets into the nature of Valve as a company. Their management structure is not the typical corporate structure. It is worth reading the NYT article just to get a sense of a new SL partner.
Valve is not a total golden child. They are developing for Desktop/Laptop in an era when much of the market is attempting to move to mobile and other thin devices. I am not sure advanced gaming like Skyrim, WoW, or SL will ever leave the desktop heavy metal computing. There is no clue as to how the market will shape up in the years to come.
We do know things get smaller and gain power/ability each year… if not every month. There is some question as to whether the energy use and/or battery tech for mobile devices is developing as quickly as we need to support a heavier computing load.
There is also the question of whether bandwidth in the US is keeping up with demand. Phone, movies, data, games, and other tasks are loading up the network. Data limits have been common on most mobile connection services. Those unlimited data plans often have a gotcha in their somewhere.
So, mobile may never fill the dream that many have for it. It is sort of a Facebook thing. You know everyone told businesses they needed a presence on Facebook. I kept asking why. I never shop on Facebook. I may click an ad but I do that on any number of sites. Of the probably hundreds of clicks I’ve made over the last couple of years, I would bet no more than 3 or 4 were on FB. We may see something similar with mobile devices becoming more of a quick entertainment thing and business tool. Immersive gaming and other serious play may stay on Desktops and Laptops. Only time is going to tell.
So, Valve may be a long term winner… or they could lose out. In the short term I think Second Life is going to get a bump.