[UPDATED] The year 2011 was a year of change for Second Life, mass purge at the Lab, a shift in focus of what Second Life might be and a new CEO to lead it in that focus.
2012 was the first full year of that focus and it brought with it from my perspective two major areas where the Lab concentrated efforts.
One was improvement to overall performance and we had heard this before. This time was different though as the lab’s codenamed Shinning project laid down the foundations for whats to come in 2013. Avatar Skin Baking, Reworked Cache, interest listing and HTTP Libraries all part if LL’s attempt to better performance.
Second area was adding more tools for creating better interactive experiences. Originally touted as Games tools which emphasised Lindens Labs shift in where Second Life should be heading in a post M Linden regime. Pathfinder arrived along with Temp Attach Objects which i have found quite useful in some of my creations but feel these experience tools that where announced end of 2011 have yet to be fully released by the Lab and exploited by SL’s content creators before we see any major impacts in Second Life.
As we head into 2013 there are some thing’s I’m excited about and look forward to getting my hands on. In this Second Age of Second Life things are still in early stages and the best has still yet to come.
1. Second Life will finally get the ‘Experience Permissions System.
I bang on and on to my friends about this feature. Promised as part of the Experienced Creator Tools this system allows creators to create a KEY that requests permission to animate, teleport, or attach object to. You assign the key to an experience or game so once someone accepts the requests anything in that experience or game will have permissions to give you a gun, wand, eat you or zap you. This would stream line the process of interacting in Second Life to the point of revolutionising the SL Experience.
2. Mocap becomes affordable for all.
This isn’t really a feature coming to Second Life, rather a third party technology that could arrive and be adapted to use with SL. Mocap or ‘Motion Capture’ is a technology used to map and record a persons movements digitally giving smooth natural animations. Currently good Mocap is only available to film productions or AAA game developers. That could change in 2013 as one company suggests it maybe about to release a Mocap solution for gamers and indie developers for low cost. This will certainly allow SL content creators to make very smooth detailed animations for avatars but might also lead the way eventually to Avatars that mimic your movement in real time. (I’m sure this has already been attempted with Knnect hack jobs)
3. Skeletal Animations.
At the moment to animate my goblins i must ether use a prim puppeteer or Alpha animate which turns one object invisible while making another object visible, kinda like stop-go motion. Neither of these gives a fluid smooth animation like you would see in games. With the introduction of Mesh we have had the ability to RIG the mesh with a skeleton which when worn moves with our avatars animations. It seems a simple enough idea then to allow us the ability to Rig an object and have it’s skeleton animate from a file placed inside. Well turns out Linden Lab might be considering this for the future, wether this will be in 2013 no one knows but the Lab. Skeletal animations combined with Pathfinding would mean Bad guys and NPC’s to rival gaming platforms.
4. Content Creators will have to help newbs and 3DsoftwareShy residents bridge the gap between building with prims and understanding mesh.
It’s like the learning curve has huge potholes in it. The Lab can’t be expected to teach everyone how to 3D Model. Currently you can learn to make efficient Prim objects and in that sense SL is no more different to Patterns. But once you have become experienced in Prims, you have to throw all that experience away if you want to make more professional complex mesh objects. There are tools already out there that kinda bridge that gap like Mesh Studio and i would imagine that more tutorials and tools from content creators will appear to help SL Users bridge the divide between creating Prim objects and Mesh Objects.
5. Linden Lab will release an SL iOs app.
I said last year LL would bring out an app but did not specify it being SL related. I’m kinda hoping LL brings out a native iOS app that allows me to get notifications in the notification centre and check my SL feed and browse marketplace. It felt like this is what LL where moving towards when shifting profiles and messaging to be web based and adding direct delivery that does not need you to be logged in to collect purchases. Perhaps with Avatar Baking shifted to server side instead of Viewer side having your avatar displayed in a mobile device might be more possible?
6. Groups will be overhauled.
Another HOPE. Groups are important to SL’s community and currently only offer the ability to chat and send notifications (that mostly get lost). My hope is that Groups will be tied in with SLprofile Feeds with options for people to post on a dedicated Groups profile, tagging snapshots and posts to a group making groups much more useful. A bit like that Avatars United web service, i wonder where that went?
7. There will be a 64bit viewer and macs will get similar performance to Windows users.
In the last 3 years i’ve had the best of the best with regards to mac hardware and SL performance while good enough to do some awesome things, never seemed capable of displaying whats considered the top end of graphical detail in SL. In the end all the viewer does is render and project. We build a model and import to Second Life and its up to the viewer to cast the object in light and shadows. No matter what Mac i get, the viewer always seems to break its back when trying to display shadows and light on it. The Graphics Card is powerful enough, MacOS is robust enough…. but the viewer… well it’s a bit old.
That might change in 2013 as Linden Lab finally make the switch from Carbon to Cocoa framework. You see Carbon is an old form of development on a mac which has since been replaced by Cocoa a much more efficient way of doing things. Think of it as switching from Sculpty Prims to Mesh. Because the Mac Viewer is developed with Carbon it can’t have things like support for 64bit or OPenGL higher than 2.1…. bummer… Now that the Lab has started changing the mac viewer to Cocoa the possibility of support for OpenGL 3.2 as well as finally becoming a 64bit app is higher. Wether that would bring a welcomed noticeable difference to the rendering of higher settings on a mac… only the nerds can say :-p
8. [UPDATE] Content creators will battle each other to create Avatar 2.0
I thought of this during a discussion on my SLfeed. The Mesh Deformer thats being created to make clothing fit avatars better also could lead to the creation of Mesh Avatars that will deform to every slider the current Avatar 1.0 model does. This means we will be able to make Avatars that replace the current avatar mesh and wear clothes that fit and stretch with them.
9. and finally …. Second Life will be released on STEAM.
And it will confuse EVERYONE. Lots of new articles will appear discussing their surprise Second Life still exists while showing 2006 snapshots of avatars in jacuzzis and flying prim cocks. Linden Lab will have no marketing campaign to suggest otherwise.
What ever happens, i have plenty i want to do and lots of friends to share it with. And as long as LL dont hike the price of tier, all should be fun and games in 2013.