Designing Worlds in Second Life had an opportunity to interview with Ebbe Altberg, the Linden Lab CEO. It has been promoted for a day or two now. Today the video of the interview was released. You can see the video on SLArtist.com.
This is an interesting video interview. Ebbe’s excitement with SL1 and 2 comes through. He gives us information about SL1 and SL2 and where they are going. I’ll warn you that what he says can be interrupted several ways. His implications are not always clear. So, what you are reading here is what I heard and how I took his meaning. That doesn’t mean it is correct. I think it is, but…
Elrik and Saffia ask some good questions. But, there were times I was yelling at the screen, ‘Ask him…’ But, it is a good interview and worth the 90 minutes to listen.
3:15 – Asked what were his pleasant and unpleasant experiences in SL1 Ebbe answered… The unpleasant one was about how far disconnected from community and customers the Lab and Lindens had become. Shocking is Ebbe’s description. One of his first actions was to reverse company policy that Lindens not be in world.
I think we have seen considerable change in communication since Ebbe took over. There are still the ‘no nothings’ that complain. But, now more of us know they are out of line.
Hi most pleasant experience is finding the creative people working for the Lab. When he first starte their energy was low, but that was just starting out. The energy level in the office is much higher.
6:15 – What has wowed him in world is not places so much as it is the communities and creative collaborations. Plus variety and diversity. Ebbe finds interactions with people a lot of fun. That SL is all user generated content is a big wow for Ebbe. He hopes to make the visual in SL2 more of a wow.
8:40 – Elrik and Saffia get to the New User Experience – English and Japanese groups that support new users are finding new users are having problems with the new mesh avatars. Learning how to customize them, change clothes, is confusing.
Customizing a mesh avatar is a complex problem for new users. Ebbe says the Lab is working on it. But, they are working on the dead face mesh heads. So, they may add the ability to animate faces in fitted-mesh heads. This will be lip movement, eye blinks, expression, and may more.
While Ebbe demonstrates some level of aware of the problem of what clothes to buy for which avatar body, I don’t get that he REALLY understands the problem. Technically, yes he understands. But, there is no visceral connection. How often does he shop and dress his avatar? Nor do I get that they are working on solving the CONFUSION the mesh bodies create. So, I’m not sure we will see a change.
The reason we are not seeing an effort to remove the confusion is future avatars are going to be mesh avatars. The Lab seems to expect us to change over. Regardless of what people do, this where avatar things are going for now.
We see Slink and other mesh body makers taking more market and more avatars wearing mesh bodies. For now the big hold up is the expressionless faces of mesh heads. So, the Lindens apparently see that as the problem and thus have people working on that problem. We will likely see that solution applied in SL1 and SL2.
Ebbe didn’t have a list of what avatar things are being fixed, other than the dead face issue.
I think he made it clear the Lindens see this time as a transition time where we change from classic avatars to mesh avatars.
There are things that hold me back. My new skin by YS&YS still does not have a Slink body applier, just for feet and hands. Also, my Xcite! genitals work with the classic body. Xcite! doesn’t announce new products until they are ready to release them. So, I have no clue when that may change. But, I might be able to make things work with a Slink body.
Also, 98% of my clothes are for the classic body. I have very few new clothes that have appliers. So, this may be a much longer transition than the Lindens are expecting. I think this is another case of their lack of knowledge about how we use the SL product misleading them and messing up priorities.
Ebbe did make it clear they are looking at lots of new tech to handle facial expressions. For now they won’t be adding camera controlled facial expressions. That is a feature farther out. Ebbe thinks until more 3D cameras are available it won’t work that well. Too few people will have the cameras to control expressions. So, some other means of controlling expressions will be used.
Ebbe mentions that one company has a sound to face movement coordination process. But, it is not yet running real time nor is it all that popular. This sound-tech for mouth animation would work with Oculus, which is a problem for camera controlled facial expressions when one wares an Oculus.
Oculus is looking at tracking eye movement. There are lots of uses for knowing where a person is looking. But, that tech not ready for LL yet… or much of anything. Having a camera inside the Oculus… that is getting complex.
15:15 – Saffia sked several time throughout the interview about using user group testing of features. Ebbe says they do that with viewers… basically the Project Viewer thing.
But, Saffia was thinking more about New Experience Island type testing. Oh yeah… Ebbe says they are doing A-B testing for such islands. But, they have not found the magic island setup or system yet. The Lab is also developing new user welcome experiences with some user groups. The Lab has committed to sending traffic to those groups. They will be doing A-B testing and I think supplying data to the group on how well they are doing at retaining players. A cooperative effort may find the magic key.
Personally, I think the plans Ebbe later outlines for SL2 are more likely to produce a good result. The Lab has tried user group owned and operated welcome areas before. They gave up on them because they were not producing the retention everyone wanted. I remember when help groups were shut down. The news was players using them had worse retention rates than people that were just dumped at random into the world. That was an interesting stat.
For SL2 they are developing toward user created experiences and will thus bypass a uniform path for all new users. So, the concept of a single entry door for SL will vanish. The Lab will provide retention data to experience owners. They will let designers compare their experience retention to other experiences, designs, methods, and retention rates. With solid objective data flowing back to the designers, it may be possible to find the magic combination.
SL2 is being designed for community portals for experience owners to allow them to design and market for their audience/demographic. The Lab can’t prepare marketing for the huge variety of communities in SL nor even understand what all of them are about. I know I live next to Mama Chin’s and I’ve had some interesting discussions with some of the patrons. I can’t quite get my head around people that describe their selves as Sissy Boy Fags… and they aren’t being rude. It is just the term for what they use to describe their persuasion. I would pick a less crude name, but they are free to use whatever works for them. I don’t quite understand, but so far most have been interesting and friendly fun.
I can imagine that dealing with all the diverse people and interests in Second Life would be overwhelming. They certainly are not equipped to write advertising copy that would appeal to all these groups. Nor are they likely to be able to well target community specific groups with their advertising. So, it is, in m opinion, smart to farm this effort out to the communities and groups that are interested in and understand their preferences.
By giving these groups a way to bring people directly into their experience they give the groups a way to reap the benefits of their efforts. Their advertising will promote there group and bring people to it. As it is now a group’s effort gets people to SL and then the person has to walk a maze to find the group, often failing. So, there is little incentive to do much promotion until after a person is in SL.