LL’s new products aren’t the end of Second Life

It’s been interesting to watch reactions toLinden Lab’s recent announcement on the forthcoming launch of two of their new products – Creatorverse and Patterns.

While many have responded positively to the announcement, it is fair to say that some have not, categorising LL’s diversification as a sign that either the company given up on Second Life, or that the company can now only develop products or continue to develop SL rather than doing both. I find both attitudes completely unfathomable, although in the case of the latter, not entirely new. When it comes to even trivial, easy-to-make changes that are essentially crowd pleasers, there can often be a response from commentators who feel that company is only doing so at the expense of working on more serious matters – as if LL can only do one or the other.

Patterns: some see LL’s move to diversify as a sign the company has “given up” on SL (image courtesy of Linden Research Inc.)

They’re Still Working On It

The view that LL are developing new products because they’ve “given up” on Second life is one I find curious because in the 13 months following Rod Humble announcing the company would be diversifying, Linden Lab has clearly shown that it actually is continuing to develop and enhance SL – and what’s more, the work is taking place alongside the development of their new products. Since the beginning of 2012 alone we’ve seen LL:

  • Making what they refer to as being one of the largest investments in hardware and infrastructure for SL to date (which came on top of a major hardware investment in 2011)
  • Investing heavily in manpower, time and effort to bring greater and broader capabilities to Second Life, including:
    • Pathfinding
    • Materials processing – which should revolutionise how SL looks compared to modern games
    • A new HTTP library capability aimed at eliminating many of the major issues we’ve long complained about, with texture load times and large group loading / management fixes being the first two to rolling-off the development line
    • Advanced creation tools which will (permissions allowing) help enhance SL in a wide variety of ways
    • Re-working interest lists and object rezzing to develop a faster, more logical way in which objects are rezzed around us when we teleport in-world
    • Providing a new avatar baking process to eliminate bake fail
    • Developing multi-threading region crossing to help eliminate sim boundary issues
  • Purchasing a Havok sub-licence arrangement which, despite worries over TPVs and connectivity, could in the future yield significant improvements to SL through the provisioning of dedicated Havok libraries accessed by the viewer
  • Pro-actively working to find a new audience for SL through the forthcoming link-up with Steam
  • Working to nail down long-standing issues within the viewer – memory leaks and so on – in order to make the whole SL experience less prone to bumps, thumps and outright crashes
  • Seeking to improve their customer support, and working towards providing better assistance for TPV users where it is logical for them to do so.
Materials processing: enhancing Second Life

True, we may not necessarily like the way the company is developing the platform (pathfinding being the current bug-a-boo). There are also decisions the company has made and is making which may confound us or seem counter-intuitive; I’m still very much frustrated at their willingness to even engage in an ongoing one way dialogue towards users, for example. While such moves and decisions may well cause us concern and / or regret, they don’t actually point to the company as having “given up” on SL; and we shouldn’t confuse the two issues.

It’s Not Time Taken from SL

When it comes to the actual development of the new products themselves, there appears to be a misconception among some that LL has only been able to do so by taking time and resources away from Second Life. Yet, outside of senior management, this would hardly appear to be the case. For a start, and since mid-2011, Linden Lab has been recruiting very specialist skills aimed specifically at developing new products separate from SL itself. Secondly, we need to remember that in the case of at least two of the three new products we know about, the creative resources have (at least in part) come from outside of SL. Dio is being developed by Richard Evans and Emily Short, both formerly LittleTextPeople, a company acquired by LL and who have had little if anything to do with SL; while Patterns is being produced in partnership with games developers Free Range Software.

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