I started this series with:
- Second Life: Educational Community Update 2015 March
- Second Life: Next Generation Platform Update 2015.
- Second Life: Next Generation Platform Update-II 2015
- Second Life: Next Generation Platform Update-III 2015
- Second Life: Next Generation Platform Update-IV 2015
This sixth article in the series is about what I gleaned about the types of users the Lindens see using their new product from the speech at VWBRE 2015 that touched on the coming Next Generation Platform (NGP).
Who They Will Support
Ebbe is thinking they’re supporting three categories of people.
One category of users is professional high-end artists. Now that could be artsy artists (think Bryn Oh) or 3D modeling artists (think Slink). This is a group of people that are likely to have high end modeling tools and possibly work in the game design field.
Another category of users is the hobbyists (think most of the people selling in the marketplace). This group of people are likely using Blender.
A third group is what he calls customizers. That last one was new to me.
He thinks of a customizer as being a person that decorates with furniture rather than making the furniture. These are the people that place things to furnish a home or building and wear things. For virtual world merchants these are the customers. This category makes up the majority of users currently in Second Life. They do not use a modeling program.
This customizers category of people needs layout or placement tools built into the viewer. Ebbe tells they are looking to improve on the tools we have in viewers now. Expect really good layout tools to be built into the viewer. Or… at least hope for them.
One of the tools that users have wanted for some time we call alignment tools. We have alignment tools in the Build Panel of most third party viewers. However, we have never gotten them in the standard SL Viewer. The reason the Lab has given is the tools behave inconsistently with some objects. The Lindens believe that would be too confusing to include in the SL Viewer.
Presumably the NGP viewer and server side build system will have objects with an improved bounding box that will allow more consistent alignment of objects inside the virtual world. It has been a problem in Second Life.
Since the alignment problem touches so many of the virtual worlds users, the Lab will find a solution.
From other things said by Ebbe, I have the impression professionals and hobbyists will get more ‘design’ consideration than customizers in the area of creation. I expect they will have beeter support in NGP than they do in SL.
I also think customizers will get more user face and building layout tools design attention. Ebbe’s goal Is to make all things better.
Because the lab has decided to start out with proprietary viewers we won’t see third-party add-ons for some time. That means we’ll have to start out in New World with whatever tools lab thinks are most important. And for now, as far as the viewer is concerned, that appears to be import and layout tools. I assume alignment is going to be a big part of layout.
In SL we are used to third party developers being able to push the Lab by adding features to their viewers and showing how popular the features are. Often the Lindens just can’t recognize the value of a feature or gauge it’s popularity.
In NGP that won’t be possible. The NGP viewer is closed source, proprietary. I expect it to remain that way well into 2016. Ebbe definitely gives the impression that the viewer will at some point become open source or at least have the ability for third parties to add plug-ins. With Oz Linden being a Lab employee I think chances of the viewer going open source are pretty good. But again, this is a point I’m not betting on.
Thinking about plug-ins, I have doubts as to whether they will take that route as a primary path for user added features. They planned for users to add plug-ins to the existing viewer in the area of Media On A Prim (MOAP). It didn’t happen. I can’t say what the Lindens may have learned from that experience or even how they view it. But, it was not successful. From other experiences with user acceptance we know the Lab has give significant weight to our behavior over our words. So, I don’t look for plug-ins to be a big priority for NGP Viewer development.
I am not putting money on whether they will push toward full open source or go for plug-ins. But, I am confident we will get one or the other. And I think open source has a bit of an edge.
The Lab is not big enough to do everything at once. So, while they want to support the three target categories they have to start somewhere. I think it obvious the priority is professionals and then hobbyists. Following that will be the customizers. I think there will be considerable overlap in all the categories. So, the priorities may not even be apparent to the users.
Alpha and beta users are likely to be professionals and hobbyists. The customizers tools could be developed during alpha and customizers would find then there when they come in.
My point is this prioritizing of categories isn’t favoritism but design and implementation practicality.