Humble’s reasons for joining the company are enlightening – he’d actually forgotten about the platform and had been thinking of developing something along the same lines when the opportunity to join Linden Research popped-up. A nice example of serendipity in action.
Since joining Linden Research, Humble’s focus has been on the platform’s usability, which the article describes as being “far from perfect” – something many users would doubtless regard as an understatement. While there is still a good way to go in making things “better”, only the churlish would refuse to accept there haven’t been improvements in a number of areas, and that Linden Lab is working to get some deep-rooted issues – stability, performance, region crossings, even (dare I say it) the official Viewer – properly addressed.
There are also some comments that are liable to have users cringing in some quarters. Humble’s comments on gaming mechanics in particular may well offer little comfort to some as to the future of the platform. While SL may not itself be a game, it is a perfectly valid platform upon which users can develop games of their own if they so wish. Indeed, one might argue many have been doing precisely that almost since the platform entered open beta 10 years ago. That LL are now making the capabilities to do so easier to use is demonstration that the company is working meet user demands and provide more effective means by which the platform can be leveraged by users themselves.
As well as wanting to get issues around SL’s usability sorted out, Humble reveals that one of his overall goals would be to expand LL’s portfolio of products – to put the “Lab” back into “Linden Lab”. Reading this, one is tempted to wonder if this desire formed a part of his pitch for the CEO position, and was thus one of the reasons he was hired. Thirteen years with just a single product is a remarkable achievement for any company – but it is also a precarious position to hold.
In terms of the acquisition of LittleTextPeople, it appears to be something of a natural symbiosis more than a straight buy-out: Humble / LL were working in a particular direction and at the end of last year it became apparent that Short and Evans were working towards the same destination. Thus, the acquisition was to their mutual advantage. It’s also interesting to note that the Humble / Short / Evans relationship is a lot deeper than the EA Games link between Humble and Evans many of pointed to when news of the acquisition broke.
As to the product itself, little is said in detail, but what is mentioned helps frame the product more clearly. It will be primarily text-based with 2D graphics. It will be a story form, but deal with social interactions – how people treat each other and what say to one another. Most intriguingly of all however, is that it appears the product will be capable of supporting user-generated content. “Although it will launch with some very, very well crafted content, the overall plan – just like all Linden lab products – is to democratise the actual creation process. Other people will be able to make things on that platform. That’s really the business we’re in: building platforms that allow people to express themselves in different ways.” Humble informs Games Industry when mentioning the product.
Of the other two products currently being developed at the Lab, even less is said other than the intimation they will also support user-generated content – although Humble did hint this would be the case when the development of new products was first announced at SLCC-2011. However, this is the first time we’ve had it directly confirmed that three products are currently in the pipeline. Again, Humble has only previously hinted at this in a comment on New World Notes, wherein he made reference to the LTP project being “Product 3”, and there being a “Product 2” under way at the Lab as well – although at the time, some did speculate as to whether “Product 1” was perhaps Second Life.
The interview isn’t going to satisfy everyone within the SL community, but for my part, I found it a worth-while read, not so much the for the titbits of information that emerge about the upcoming new products, but because it again shines a light on Rod Humble’s thought processes and some of his strategic thinking where both the company and SL are concerned. Given the company has been pretty quiet when it comes to talking to the community as a whole on such things, it’s refreshing to gain this kind of near-candid insight, and actually does help restore one’s faith that, overall, SL is in a safe pair of hands right now – a perception that has been slipping a little of late.
Obviously, the new tools being rolled-out / developed for SL and the new products themselves aren’t going to lift LL out of the perceived mire, and it fair to stay the company is facing further clouds on the horizon – particularly around the stormy issue of tier. But taken as a whole, this is a positive piece and carries with it the promise that we may well be hearing a lot more from LL as whole in the coming months – and that in itself will be refreshing.
Don’t just take my word for it – go read the article, and don’t miss the side-bar piece as well.
With thanks to Daniel Voyager for the pointer.