Second Life Assumptions

I am seeing a huge number of miss quotes of Ebbe comments and what I’ll call hallucinations about Ebbe’s Friday comments about a new Second Life.

Star Fall - Twilights Edge - 2014

Star Fall – Twilights Edge – 2014

Resource Allocation

I’ve heard in several places that MOST of the Lab’s resources were to be directed at creating a new Second Life type virtual world. Ebbe said the MAJORITY of resources. That could be anything from 99% to 51%. So, when you hear some say MOST, salt the rest of what they say too.

I suspect that for this year and until SL 2.0 is running there will be something like a 30/70 or 40/60 split in resources. Remember. SL 1.0 is the cash cow. Cutting off its life blood (man power) and allowing it to fall behind the technology curve could collapse the company if SL 2.0 is not the hoped for success. While they plan for it to be wonderful, they can’t know that it will be accepted. A smart manager would protect the company by hedging. Thus the Lab started diversifying. I suspect Ebbe is doing that hedging thing with SL. But, I can only base that on his choice of words. 

There are numerous statements that Oz Linden is in charge of a SMALL team that will improve SL 1.0. But, it is a small team in comparison to what they have had for the last couple of years. So, does that mean half the size? We don’t know. The Lindens aren’t saying.

If 100+ software engineers were the size for the past couple of years would a small team by comparison be 50? If it is, consider that 50 is still bigger than a number of game development companies. The point here is not to be jumping to conclusions.

Third Party Viewers

There is also a conclusion that since what I call SL 2.0 will start out 100% propriety there will be no third party viewers. But, that presupposes there will be viewers. There may not be any viewers. We simply do not know.

We do know that having to download a viewer has been considered a major obstacle to Second Life’s acceptance.  So, they may  find a way to avoid having a viewer. Unity and Unreal are coming up with ways to have high quality images in the basic Internet browsers. I would say there is a reasonable argument to be made both for having a viewer and having no viewer.

Content Transfer

This is a significant unknown. There is also a lot of confusion, ambiguity, and misunderstanding in what many are saying. But, Ebbe did tell us that compatibility is not a requirement that is going to be allowed to hold back making a BETTER virtual world.

There are several problems with SL 1.0 that we know people are unhappy with.  A big one is AVATARS. So, the chances of our system clothes (shirts, skins, pants, etc.) being directly transferable are slim.

On the other hand, since content creators are king, there may be an easy way for them to convert creations to the newer format. We know that every modeling system in use and most conceived use mesh, UV Maps, and textures. The hardware is optimized for that. Even HyFy is expected to use that paradigm for nearby objects and then their system will start converting things to voxels as levels of detail decrease. So, it is reasonable to assume the same will be true of SL 2.0.

We can reasonably assume the new avatar will be a better model, it will have a better mesh layout, it will have better weighting, the skeleton is likely to be better and more flexible, and animations will improve how it moves and increase the parts we can animate.

Consider what Cloud Party and Blues Mars were doing. Those are the most recent endeavors to build a virtual world with the newest tech. What new tech is out there that can be used right now… that you did not see in those two? Have you looked for voxel modeling programs? The largest number of people are modeling with mesh. That suggests that systems like a SL 2.0 or HyFy will be finding ways to convert mesh to voxels and not making users learn a new modeling style. I am expecting Sl 2.0 to continue to use mesh.

Google new 3D modeling technology. What I see is a large number of programs that turn what we see in the RL world around us to data that can be made into mesh objects for use in existing computer systems. But, there are new interesting replacements for mesh. But, will a SL 2.0 try to make that jump and use them? Probably not, that is HyFy territory.

I suspect most of a new SL will be the support code. Ebbe’s mentioned reduced hardware requirements and more efficient programming suggests to me much of the change will be in infrastructure changes. I don’t see anything that suggests they will try to use voxels or other new tech. But, may be. I just hear Ebbe says better, not revolutionary.

Ebbe repeatedly says better, not different.

Uncertainty

The announcement of a new SL 2.0 being in development brings uncertainly. But, is this uncertainty any different than the announcement of Blue Mars or Cloud Party? We had a number of people that moved to those worlds. How much of an imapact did they have on SL? Was their time in those worlds wasted? That is probably a matter of opinion. But, their creations in those worlds is for most purposes useless.

No matter what anyone says the announcement points out and brings home we do not know what is to come. That is uncertainty or at least focuses us on uncertainty that has always been there. Uncertainty is the death of businesses in a free market. We will find out first hand why that is true.

  • Will you stop spending money in SL?
  • Will you spend less money in SL?
  • Does the idea of SL 2.0 make a difference to your plans for spending?

For myself, it makes little difference. I am still going to be trying to figure out how to make render efficient mesh clothes and mesh furniture and texture them well. And I plan to enjoy SL while I learn.

But, if I were renting a region and paying for it with sales… I would be uncertain of what you guys are going to do and thus uncertain of what I would do. I certainly would not be expanding my business until I could decide based on events. This is much like what we see happening in real life in the U.S.

Until the uncertainty can be removed, SL is likely to have some problems. Over the next couple of months we will see what happens with region leasing. More or less or no change in trend?

If it starts to decrease and we see people dropping regions we can assume the majority of the movers and shakers are tightening their belts. If it stabilizes, we can assume people are riding out. If it starts to grow, we can assume people see an investment in SL as being an investment toward having a customer base in SL 2.0. Think: if True Hair is good here (SL 1.0) then it will be good in SL 2.0 and you’ll buy it if you see it there.

We have no way to know what the majority of people will decide. Until we do, we can’t know which way to jump. Since I don’t have a large cash flow in SL or expense, I don’t have to jump. So, I can ride it out.

Osborne – if you go back in history you’ll find a computer company named Osborne Computer Corporation. It was successful, going gang busters. They had lots of orders for the existing model. So many they had a hard time filling them. Just as all the newly built machines came in to be shipped out, they announced a new model to be released at some future date. Everyone called up and canceled their orders. The company could not sell the warehouse full of the current model. They went bankrupt. There is a lesson in here.

Activism

There are those like Jessica Lyon, Firestorm Viewer Team, that are asking people to do something. See her post: Second Life Needs You!  She wants you to come up with the feature that will make SL 1.0 (I think she means 1.0 because she refers to Oz) bigger and better… like we haven’t been doing that? Well, whatever. If you have ideas, help her out.

There is another crowd of people that are just negative. Their venomous opinions are not founded on anything. Their speculations and claims ignore what we know and what reliable people in the Lab have said. But, I see the negative thinking spreading. Avoid being influenced by ignorance and negativism.

Hope

We can only hope that Ebbe has not pulled off an Osborne style blunder. I think things are different enough that it won’t be a similar case. If Ebbe can get this new world up and running in 2015, the year the Oculus style headsets will probably go retail, he may have the newest virtual world for those wanting to play with VR.

If he can pull it off, SL 2.0 may explode. Linden Lab is certainly well positioned. Ebbe seems genuinely interested in the SL users and seems to like talking with us. He certainly seems to understand who the users are. I suspect he will take good care of the customer base. While we hear often that Content Creators are King, Ebbe is not a content creator and is thus well aware of the general consumers needs. You won’t hear that part of his comments quoted. But, he has talked about it and gather he isn’t forgetting the ‘consumer’ type users.

So, I am hopeful that significant parts of what we have will in some way transfer to SL 2.0. Ebbe won’t allow compatibility to hold 2.0 back. But, I believe he is going to take care of the majority of users as best he can. It will be interesting to see how well he balances things and what we can and cannot transfer to SL 2.0.

21 thoughts on “Second Life Assumptions

  1. Worth pointing out as well, on the point of resource allocation, that Linden Lab is (or has already) hired 40-50 new people for SL 2.0 according to the Next Web article http://thenextweb.com/dd/2014/06/24/linden-labs-building-new-second-life-scratch-woo-new-users/

    40-50 new people isn’t insignificant considering that would’ve been a double digit percentage of total employees even before the 2010 layoffs. That lends to any size comparisons, and means SL2’s employee numbers aren’t all or even mostly subtractions from Oz’s remaining team.

  2. Excellent points Nalates. The ‘run around, the sky is falling’ brigade are out in force again just as they were after the end of resident surnames, Viewer 2, content creator ToS changes etc. Really Ebbe is just giving us a heads up that LL plan to make a better version of SL that will appeal to the vast majority of current SL users and more – sounds good to me.

    One thing that I did notice was Ebbe’s reluctance to answer if the graphics engine will be bought in or in-house. This I see as very positive and suggests they are talking to the likes of Crytek or Unity about a possible tie-in, which I really hope happens.

    • Yes the brigade is out…

      It would be amazing to have the graphics done by Unreal, Cry, Unity… I have concerns about how that might work with user created content. Blue Mars did try to limit the quality of content and that just didn’t work. So, I’m curious as to what the Lindens are thinking in this regard.

  3. Hi Nalates!

    I’m not a content creator, but a scripter. The RL IT person in me completely understands why SL1.0, after 11 years and huge technology changes, needs to upgrade. I think the Mac webkit fiasco really highlighted the need to ‘rebuild from the ground up.’ They simply can’t keep band-aid’ing an old system.

    That being said, I’m not all that impressed with mesh yet. The thousands of dollars I’ve spent in SL have been for items that probably won’t transfer to SL2.0. And I know I am not alone in this. So the question becomes, am I willing to pour thousands of dollars into a new platform to buy the same things again? (Wow, this reminds me of Sims, Sims2, Sims3, etc). And what about those wonderful designers who are no longer with us – their designs will be lost forever. And so far, every mesh clothing item I have purchased has a ‘system clothing’ component – even if it is just the alpha. So how does that work if system clothing won’t transfer – we just buy all of our clothes all over again? And gosh – I hope we are not stuck with mesh avatars. They are simply ugly.

    I am hoping that, at the very least, SL2.0 will have building tools for us non-builders. Assuming that everyone will be using Blender, Maya, etc. to create content will reduce the productivity to a few people. So I hope the Lab is taking that into consideration and not just directing SL2.0 to the content creators but to the casual builders as well. SL2.0 should be just as easy to use as SL1.0.

    Wow – lots of questions right now. And, I’m an Apple user, so I completely understand about forced upgrades. 😉 . But I have tons of questions about the new SL. And if I have tons of questions, I know others, as they find out about this, will too. So I am hopeful and am very happy that both systems will run in parallel. I am very interested to see what the Lab comes up with. At the very least, building SL from scratch and removing obsolete code, should make for a very stable system. I very much look forward to that!

    Thank you for delivering the news on this. I found out about SL2.0 through this blog.

    • Raven, you are thinking and I have similar concerns.
      As to not being impressed with mesh, in the clothing area, I am not impressed either. In the buildings and furniture areas… I have seen some impressive things. I’m playing with making a sofa. In prim my LI cost would be in the high 20’s or low 30’s. I’ve gotten it down to an LI of 4 and it looks better than anything I could make with prims.

      I too doubt much in the way of clothing will transfer. I do think what I have in Blender I will be able to bring to SL 2.0.

      I believe there will be building tools so that Blender, etc. are not mandatory to build. But, that is just my belief.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Lol…wow Nalates. When I heard about Ebbe’s surprising announcement of SL2 and how far off it was and messages that content compatibility was not their top priority in order to encourage embracing new technology without legacy restrictions….. the first thing that came to me is exactly the famous business case you described.

    I right away thpught of the OSBORNE blunder.

    Ebbe’s move to me smells very much like Osborne.

    We can all only assume predict guess how LL’s cash cow customers in SL will respond. Only time will be the accurate answer.

    • I think whether it is an Osborne Blunder or not will depend on how he follows up. There are similarities and differences. The discussion in the SL Forum is promising. Ebbe also makes some good points.

  5. \We can reasonably assume the new avatar will be a better model…\
    Not if the ‘new’ avatars they gave us are any indication… they showed a distinct lack of care/checking and have basic faults any avatar maker in SL would be ashamed of.

    • As Ezra pointed out, they have hired a number of people. I suspect there are some people that can do some exceptional work with avatars and their appearance setup.

  6. For me I don’t care wether SL2.0 is better than SL1.0, just as long as it’s better than facebook world and HyFy. SL 1.0 will only decline if it’s current users give up on it, and I only imagine that happening if the time is right. In future users won’t just have SL 2.0 to tempt them away from SL1.0. I find some of the hysteria around this announcement bonkers, it’s exciting news and we should all be backing the Lab as they get in the race to for the next big virtual world. SL won’t disappear, even active worlds still exists. 🙂 keep calm and carry on.

    • Worth mentioning yahoo acquired Cloud Party brains. There may be some plan for yet another VW there.

      • Yeah, they have pretty much gone silent. But, I too suspect they are working hard on their VW.

  7. Well said!

    It’s good to have some reasoned, straight talking from someone who was actually at the meeting when Ebbe broke the news. Sadly, 99% of what’s making the rounds at the moment is either pure conjecture – dressed up as fact – or complete vitriol. A good time to find somewhere quiet inworld and ignore the clamour, i think!
    s. x

  8. You hit the nail on the head — the problem is indeed the potential Osborne and related effects of jumping the gun with this announcement, as well as doing so before having critical information available. In this climate of uncertainty, SOME people are not going to continue investing in some forms of content.

    What it means for me as a merchant contemplating running (and paying for) parallel businesses for months or years on end, when I barely have time to handle the one I have now — well, it does dim the pleasure of contemplating the shiny new world.

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  11. There is one strange reaction I keep seeing pop up over and over: \Will I be able to use INSERT THIRD PARTY VIEWER NAME HERE??????\

    Let me pull a random well known game out of the hat… Halo it is. Try connecting to a Halo 3 deathmatch using the Halo 1 client. Now, everyone knows how dumb of an idea that is, but for some reason they can’t seem to wrap their head around it when it’s a virtual world. You can’t connect to the Everquest Landmark servers with the EQ1 client either.

    But as was alluded to before, this is an 11 year old world. It’s held together with duct tape and happy thoughts, and the duct tape is starting to peel in spots. Having a shiny new world waiting for you before this one reaches the point that it literally can’t be fixed anymore is a sound business plan, and there’s already other companies looking to be that new world. I’d frankly be more worried if Ebbe took the helm and couldn’t see the state of affairs realistically.

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