This new mental disease (dis-ease) being encountered by Second Life™ users is the topic of Drax Radio Hour Episode #81. I hyphenated the word disease to convey a shifted meaning form the usual meaning of the word. Drax, Jo, and guests discuss the anxieties they have and hear others voicing. There are some anxieties that I too have. I’ll look at one of them in this article and take on some others later.
In Second Life we have one world… sort of… think about it. To frame this idea think of Cloud Party. Every ‘region’ was an island that floated in space. You could not walk to a new region. You teleported between regions (servers). Teleporting kinda of being a log out and in process.
In SL we have mainland and a few other continents along with a load of privately owned islands. On a continent we can walk from region to region. But, we cannot walk to islands that aren’t adjacent regions. To those islands we must teleport, which is what those in Cloud Party and Blue Mars did. Will that be the way Project Sansar will work?
What we know about Project Sansar is the comment that Sansar will be more like WordPress… or the less understood analogy, like an Apache web server. The meaning being it will be a platform that people can use to build ‘experiences’ just like we build blogs and web sites. Blogs and web sites are separated things. They fragment users. Some follow Huffington post, which selectively reports news and happenings – no trump coverage, and some follow FNC, which selectively reports news and happenings too. Fragmentation. You can follow Drudge and get an idea what both are ignoring, but Drudge too selectively reports and has its own followers. More fragmentation.
Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO, has said Sansar will be different and the idea of a mainland is going to be different. We aren’t exactly clear on what that means. Pete Linden, SL Marketing guy, has said there will be no direct analog to SL’s mainland in Sansar. But, what does this mean?
Will Sansar be more like OpenSim’s Hypergrid? Some think so. Will Sansar be like Cloud Party, a collection of islands? There are those that think that is most likely. But, what about everyone having land and it being cheaper? I have new people stumbling through my house from a near by new-guy land hub. Will that happen in Sansar?
We do know that a big lag and complexity problem in SL is moving from region to region. The lag when walking across a region boundary has been steadily reducing, but it is still a problem. Most games avoid the problem. Will the Lab decide to avoid the problem in Sansar? We don’t know.
So, why would this Cloud Party like separation be a problem? I refer people to the study on player/user Longevity in Second Life. The TL:DR of the study is the most significant contributor to player retention is positive interaction between players. If we fragment the world, much as the Hypergrid is, the probability of people staying goes down simply because people will be spread out and separated thus having less interaction. In OpenSim’s spread out Hypergrid a day with 200 to 300 concurrent users in a grid is a busy day for the grid.
In SL, as it is now, the minimum concurrent users is about 29,000.
So, this looks to be a very real problem. But, think about blogs. There are 74 million sites using WordPress. That doesn’t mean 74 million people visit my blog. Some blogs get almost no visitors and others get millions. In April 2014 there were 958 million web sites using Apache web servers. There are over a trillion searches per day on just Google. Try to turn that into the number of people visiting web sites.
For the authors of WordPress and Apache, the number of users they have could be considered a success. I suspect this is what Linden Lab is going for.
I’ve long thought our regions should be open to search engines. If Sansar can accomplish that, then a portion of those trillion searches per day will lead into Sansar. If that happens, can they get visitors in with some simple browser plugin? I think: eventually. Look at Google 3D now. I expect something similar for VR.
Big business uses web sites and many have blogs… many businesses are blogs, think Drudge Reports™. So, if the Lab can provide a simple VR platform we can be sure big business will be jumping in. Will the businesses be able to make it work? ‘Work’ means they find a way to reach more eyes to effectively and measurably improve sales to a point where the improvement pays for the effort. We don’t know if they can do that. But, we can be certain they will try.
So, there are possibilities. But, the possibilities for the Lab and for users fall in different areas. While WordPress can succeed, that doesn’t mean every blog will. Enough do that the demand for WordPress continues to grow. The development platform Unreal can be considered successful by several measures of success. But, not all games made with Unreal succeed.
Nothing is really significantly different than what we have now, when it comes to merchants being successful. But, the possibilities for great success will increase. Think of IMVU and SL being web applications where people gather. They are competitors and with VR competition will increase. Just as more people use WordPress so my blog gets more competition. But, as the number of people that can visit Sansar and find their way into Sansar increases I can stand more competition and get by with a smaller share of the market.
We have roughly one million people a day logging into SL with 30,000 to 60,000 online at any given time. If 1% of those are people that can find your content (10,000), what happens when some portion of those trillion searches per day end up seeing your content? One percent of a trillion is 10 billion…
Fragmentation may not be the problem people fear.
The challenge is going to be can the creators in Sansar, you and me, make experiences that will bring people back? Can we succeed?