Short break to think about Second Life related things

As a creator in Second Life there is still no end to finding new things to do. There is always something new to build, something new to learn, challenges to complete. This is my type of game, building something from nothing and exploring whats been done before then mixing it with something new. 

Apart from what people have seen from me over the past few months from the Behemoth at SL10B, New clothes, experiments with starships, Burn2 Fairies and the recent Horror experience of THE WELL, I’m also outside of Second Life following developments in games I’ve backed on Kickstarter and exploring the possibilities of Oculus rift.

These developments are interesting because they are giving me insight into how the traditional ways of making gaming worlds is done. From stuff like 3d modelling, the game mechanics and the tricks and illusions used to fool the players into being immersed.

I was alpha testing one game this week. Took a team of developers nearly 2 years to create this alpha which consisted of one player character, one type of enemy AI and one Level design half the size of an SL region, and apart from the Enemy Ai’s smooth animations i thought users in Second Life could replicate all this in as little as a month. The more i learn of both the gaming industry and of the Second Life platforms abilities the more i realise how powerful yet under performing Second Life is.

I think of it like this. If you have a team of talented workers, as a manager it’s your job to organise them and give them the right tools in order to get the best out of them. Better for them, and better for you, better for the company. With Second Life Linden Lab has nurtured and created a whole team of content creators and if they are anything like me, they probably feel a bit trapped. I know tonnes about the SL platform and how to use it, knowledge which while some can be used elsewhere, most is only useful for the Second Life platform. Yet these are skills that can create an environment in a couple of days that other platform developers seem to take months. Madpea seems to knock out new environments every couple of months. Ok SL creators don’t have to programme the groundwork of the platform, but in many cases nor does UNITY3D developers since Unity also has it’s own content marketplace and templates.

Speculate all you want about why they changed the TOS and bought Desura, Linden Lab never live up to my expectations, but then again nor does Apple most of the time. Sometimes i feel Linden Lab are scared to do anything new or innovative or else risk backlash from its users. It’s a horrible fact that while Phillip Rosendale once said Second Life was  ‘infinitely scalable’, he was not thinking about the clog up of user purchased content that demands that it for ever be usable even at the detriment of second life itself. So clogged up is the grid with legacy content that the innovation cogs risk rusting to a standstill. Or is this idea bollox and the fear is actually of complexity where new and legacy content co-exist and the problem simply stems from organisation and presentation of this content. Perhaps a new platform like high fidelity is the inevitable answer to this.

Sometimes you have to sympathise with Linden Lab. The current team have inherited a platform that needs to be more simplified to use, but where the users themselves make everything more complicated.

As a content creator i’d have no issue with LL replacing the 10 year old default avatar with  a new Avatar default mesh with enhanced rigging, rag doll physics and all the mod cons you find in modern game engines. I’d simply start creating and exploring whats possible with renewed enthusiasm. But i’d imagine the rest of the grid, the many consumers who built up an inventory of stuff using hard earned credits would be sick with shock that in one fail swoop their content was unusable.

So what can they do? Add new with the old. Why is this a problem? because it makes things more complicated. More complicated because new users won’t know if what they are buying is compatible with old or new avatars? because Linden Lab may have to implement better ways for users to differentiate between compatible content in order to keep things more simple? Things are already very complicated in terms of avatar accessories, there is no guarantee the mesh clothes you get will fit your space ship avatar or dog. Any decent clothing designer in SL knows its a matter of good service to offer demos. Maybe this good business practice can extend to new default avatar models.

Regardless of the mysteries around where Second Life may or may not be shifting, i do have to sit back and remember that the vast majority of SL users don’t care about that. The way the Destination guide can bring a tonne of people to a place tells me that users are always looking for new places to explore and share experiences. The SLfeed reminds me of this also. It’s not just about the building and pushing SL to its limits. What many use SL for is actually so simple and SL has offered the same thing for 10 years and thats a shared space to experience with friends. Its really odd that no other platform does it as good.

6 thoughts on “Short break to think about Second Life related things

  1. what i get a kick out of all the time [and I think Jo does too] is when a new Kickstarter comes online with an Oculus experience such as

    – a virtual nightclub
    – a virtual casino
    – a virtual cruise-ship

    WHERE HAVE THESE PEOPLE BEEN?

    It is fascinating to observe the weird and difficult relationship between SL and gamers/game developers: I was at the IndiCade thing in LA couple years ago where everyone was super nice and when they asked me what I do and I start talking about SL I did not get the usual eye-rolling but simply a blank stare. When probed why they seem to not have SL on their radar most replied they did NOT EVEN KNOW YOU COULD MAKE CONTENT IN SL!!! Now think about this for a sec: these are computer people, developers, gamers. It is NOT that they said SL is a crappy engine for games – they DID NOT KNOW you could do anything other than shopping and chatting!!!!

  2. addendum: I remember watching Rod Humble’s keynote at UC Santa Cruz on YouTube and the gamedev student introduced him and stumbled when she had to describe what Linden Lab does [where he was newly appointed back then]. To me this again shows a very old problem = the inability to easily classify something as all encompassing as SL. It is so many things to so many people. Just like RL: for some it means sitting on their butts making money off derivatives and some golfing on the weekends, for others it means sitting on their butts in their mom’s basement 🙂

  3. I’ve got to the point where most people I mention Second Life to have never heard or it or managed to forget all the media hype from 2006, the same sorts of people who used to roll their eyes or snigger when it was mentioned. The old is new again!

  4. For SL to be new in the eyes of the media, it would need to do something NEW and REVOLUTIONARY, even though SL is still quite revolutionary. Since the hype bubble burst SL has only been playing catch up with the rest of the social network lead tech world. If Second Life branched off to offer singular game engine service that used Sl created content, would be that be a big enough revolution? This discussion warrants a blog post of its own lol

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