It’s an interesting read, which is bound to draw wide-ranging feedback, positive and negative. Leaving aside the look back over the Viewer, mesh (which I’ve already commented upon) and 2011 in general, here are some thoughts on Rodvik’s outline for 2012.
The tools developed in the creation of Linden Realms roll-out to the community
Undoubtedly a good move – there are a lot of content creators who have been fairly bouncing up and down at the thought of being able to use these tools, and their potential to revolutionise aspects of the SL experience in very dynamic ways is huge. Obviously, there are also certain risks that have to be managed as well – a auto-teleport feature and an auto-attaching HUD capability could easily be put to the wrong use if not properly safeguarded.
Tiggs Linden, one of the major brains behind Linden Realms was well aware of the issues even before Linden Realms was launched, and commented that he’d been working to lock-down the teleport aspect pretty tight. So Linden Lab certainly aren’t walking into this blind. Even so, its welcoming to hear Rodvik also raise this issue, as he states, “To prevent abuse of these tools, we will introduce a “creators” program in which verified members will be given access to these very powerful capabilities.” Precisely what form the program will take is unclear. Certainly, one expects it to be somewhat more robust than the mesh upload status process.
“Pathfinding” to be a major focus of 2012
Keeping to the creativity front, Rodvik also confirmed that 2012 will se the roll-out of advanced tools that will incorporate the updated AI capabilities he spoke about earlier in the year. Again, some may see this as window-dressing, but the fact is, it is a capability that many in SL have been requesting for a very long time – so it could be said that the provision of such tools (some of which may be based on capabilities already within the SL software, as Tateru speculated a while back).
As a part of this process, Q1 has been earmarked from the roll-out of “pathfinding” tools “That will allow objects to intelligently navigate around the world while avoiding obstacles,” as Rodvik describes them. Again, given the unfortunate situation that occurred earlier this year wherein automated vehicles started running amok across the Mainland, these capabilities are also likely to find beneficial use among creators and coders.
Server-side performance a priority
There is also the promise that server-side performance and bug-fixing will remain a high priority in Q1 of 2012. We’ve already seen massive effort to install critical OS updates across the grid, and moves to improve overall stability and performance. Some of these have, ironically, caused SL to get rather bumpity while work has been carried out, and caused angst and annoyance at times. However, if all goes according to plan, then as Rodvik says, things should be much improved as time goes on.
One hopes that the longer-term work into things like region crossings forms a part of the overall push on performance. As Ciaran Laval points out, this is a big task, but hopefully we’ll see more information appear in the blogs as progress is made.
No tier increases in 2012
Tucked away in the middle of the piece is this nugget, which is going to please many. Particularly as Rodvik outright refused to comment on tier at SLCC 2011, despite several questions on the subject being asked during his presentation, gave rise to concerns that increases may well be on the way.
The flipside to this of course is that many will argue that tier actually needs to be coming down. In the longer term, this may well prove to be the case. However, there is a fine balance to be struck, at least as far as Linden Lab is concerned simply because so much of their revenue is currently linked to tier. However, if the promised tools Rodvik mentions in passing do result in increase traffic flow to in-world stores and destinations, and landowners do in fact see an increase in their own revenues as a result, it’s entirely possible than the calls for a lowering of tier may actually be reduced.
New Premium features and content
This, like the comment on tools for landowners and store owners is a little nebulous, but it suggests that LL are possibly looking beyond the idea of periodic gifts for Premium members and towards something more substantial. Certainly the terms “features” and “content” are interesting. The provision of additional capabilities for Premium members that moves away from the concept of gifts and towards things that clearly and obviously enhance their SL experience (and I’m not just talking sandboxes here) would be a welcome move and one that is liable to increase the overall value of Premium membership in a more positive and beneficial manner than is currently the case – and I’m speaking as a premium member. As such, I’m looking forward with interest as to what LL has planned in this area.
New products on the way
The final paragraph of the blog is the one that is liable to create some of the strongest reaction, good and bad.
That LL were to work on and launch new products beyond Second Life was first announced by Rodvik himself at SLCC-2011. I gave some speculation on this after the convention, which while not particularly deep, did draw comment back from Rodvik.
Details still aren’t clear on what the products will be – although there has been a lot of speculation as to what these might be, some of which met with some chortles coming out of Battery Street, as those who spend time on the SLU forums are aware!
Some are bound to see this as a good thing, others bad. Indeed, Hamlet Au has already gained a very mixed bag of feedback at the news. Like I did a few months back, Hamlet sees the development of these tools as helping offset LL’s reliance on tier for its revenue – although that’s not to say I agree with the rest of his analysis. As such, diversification could be very good for the company and for Second Life, provided things are properly ring-fenced within the company as a whole (i.e., so that SL doesn’t become a means of subsidising new revenue streams at the cost of its own growth).
Second Life isn’t a game!
Alongside the comments on new products hitting the market and users, the other aspect of Rodvik’s post that I can’t help feel will have some shivering in horror, is all the talk of gaming mechanisms, tools and even Rodvik’s comment that they, “Will make the polished creation of full MMORPG’s or people/animal simulators within Second Life easier and of high quality.”
In fact I can almost hear the oft-repeated cry of “But Second Life ISN’T a game!” from afar…
Well, true, Second life isn’t a game; it’s a platform that is capable of being put to a multitude of uses – one of which is gaming. As such, it is right and proper that LL should take the gaming environment into their consideration, particularly if it can be done in a way that a) doesn’t impact on the many other ways in which the platform is used; b) it drives more traffic into the platform, encourages growth and opens new in-world economic options. Indeed, in this respect, I find myself in agreement with much of Ciaran Laval’s thoughts on gaming opportunities.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be one or the other – which is sometimes how I feel things are painted when I hear the “it isn’t a game” complaints. Second Life is a broad canvas. Linden Lab are right to use as many colours as they have on their palette with which to paint it.
All-in-all, the blog post makes interesting and overall positive reading. One would like to hear more on the practical details – but hopefully these will come in detailed blog posts as things like roll-out dates draw closer and ideas and more fully thrashed out at LL. Again, it leaves me feeling, on the whole, pretty positive towards the next twelve months. Obviously, there are still issues that go unmentioned I’d personally like to see addressed (such as more communications such as this blog post) – but for now I’ll leave it as Rodvik does, and wish him and everyone else at the Lab a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!