Spooky! Will Wright joins the LL Board

(A semi-lighthearted look at the arrival of the newest member of Linden Lab’s Board)

Last week’s Phoenix Hour had something of a cryptic start, allowing for the fact this is the season of Halloween. As the show opened, Phaylen drew attention to the fact she was wearing a green gem over her head.

The “Simified” Phaylen Fairchild

“D’you seen the little green thing above my head? It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, for Halloween; so this year I thought I’d do something extra special and spectacular and arrive on stage as something we’ve all come to love  – a Sim!”

The mystery apparently deepened when Jessica cryptically commented:

“It’s actually interesting that you have The Sims theme. I have this feeling that we might be seeing more of The Sims theme in the future…”

Now, I admit I’ve never played The Sims; I’m genuinely not into computer games per se. However, I am aware (Google is still sometimes my friend) that a green gem is very much associated with that game.

What’s more, I’d venture to say that The Sims isn’t somthing people would size upon as a theme for a Halloween costume. Well, not in my household and neighbourhood at least; around here it’s more sheet-over-the head, Dracula, witches and zombies – but then, this is  rural England…!

The Sims Logo (TM & C EA Games)

Of course, the comments were more than likely made in complete innocence and sans any deeper meaning than referencing the season itself (by Phaylen) and perhaps concern over the yet-to-be-released new UI (from Jessica).

Howeverm the comments did prove to be remarkably prescient, because it now appears that at some point (possibly during the last week*), and entirely on the Q.T., none other than Will Wright joined the Board of Linden Lab.

Will Wright is, of course, the man originally behind the massively-successful The Sims – hence the precient nature of Phaylen’s and Jessica’s comments.

The Sims, as we all know, is also a game that is very dear to the heart of one Rod Humble, who worked on both The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, as well as serving as EA Games’ Executive Vice President and Head of The Sims Label.

Will Wright speaking at the Games Developer’s Conference in 2010

Just how involved Wright will be in Linden Lab’s development and direction is far from clear, as Tateru Nino notes in commenting on his arrival.

The Board as a whole has been very quiet since mid-2010, in marked contrast to the past, where they appeared to be far more vocal in matters relating to Second Life, with Bill Gurley making statements as regards the platform in 2009, and most famously, Mitch Kapor for his 2008 SL8B address, which could best be summed as an attempt at a, “So long and thanks for all the fish,” kind-of farewell to the user community as efforts were made to push SL aggressively towards becoming a “business application”.

Of course, a quiet Board doesn’t mean an uninvolved Board, so it will be interesting to read precisely what Tateru can ease out of LL by way of comments on Wright’s arrival and possible contribution / involvement in the company’s development.

Certainly, Wright and Humble have much in common. Humble, as we know, is very focused on “creative spaces”, and Wright has always been fascinated by what he dubbed “possibility spaces”; and Hamlet Au notes that Wright himself sees MMOs very much as environments that should encourage user creativity – which could be taken as a very positive sign for Second Life.

Quite when he joined the Board is unclear – there was no Press Release or other form of announcement, possibly by mutual agreement that this should be the case; something that is not actually as unusual as one might expect in these matters.

Was there a hint at all anywhere that this was happening / about to happen? Did it in fact occur after The Phoenix Hour was broadcast on the 18th? If either is the case (and to return to a more lighthearted frame again) then given the season, there is only one way to respond to Phaylen’s and Jessica’s opening comments in the show in light of what has happened…


In the meantime, and more seriously, welcome to the wacky world of Second Life and Linden Lab, Mr. Wright!

*Thanks to Ciaran for his observation that Will Wright may have joined LL in August and we all missed it!

Firestorm shifts gear

firestorm-logoI reported on the last Phoenix Hour update recently, in which Jessica made it clear that where new releases of Firestorm are concerned, the team is pretty much waiting on Linden Lab and fixes to the OpenGL issues (for which the team are also providing assistance).

At the time of that broadcast, LL were saying that it could be another couple of weeks before suitable fixes are in place and ready to roll. However, since that time, progress has been made, although there still issues to be resolved. Among these is an issue with Mac systems using nVidia, which can experience black screens when running SL.

While there is still no date for merging the revised code into the main Viewer code, the progress, together with the fact that it has been a little quiet over on the Phoenix blog has prompted Jessica to drop a line or two on what is going on.

In the post, Jessica discusses the OpenGL issue, before going on to state:

“As of yesterday Firestorm development shifted into release mode. This means we are now focused on fixing the significant remaining bugs, polishing up any unfinished features that have been in progress and we’ve started an intense QA program. If all goes well, the next release of Firestorm will be the big one!”

Of course, such an admission is bound to bring cries of when, as Jessica acknowledges. However, she will only say:

“Unfortunately it seems every time we announce a date.. something goes wrong to jinx it, so I won’t go down that path, but I will say.. VERY SOON!”

This is pretty positive news, as the release promises to be pretty amazing, featuring, among a long list of things:

  • Spell checker
  • AO updates
  • Inventory “jump” fix and improved inventory load times
  • Mouselook zoom
  • Notecard text search
  • Chat bar auto-hide
  • More V1-style functionality in the Phoenix mode
  • Radar-in-a-floater
  • Right-click -> reload texture
  • Mesh uploads!

Commenting on the promised mesh-rendering version of Phoenix, Jessica indicated this will be following a couple of weeks behind the Firestorm release.

I’ll be aiming to bring a review of the release as soon as possible after it hits the download page!