Rod Humble reveals some of his thinking behind LL’s new products

Kill Screen carries an interesting article on Second Life and Linden Lab’s direction under the leadership of Rod Humble. Provocatively entitled, Can Rod Humble resurrect Second Life? the piece examines Humble’s role as LL’s CEO and in particular his strategy in driving the company towards diversification.

A relaxed Humble with a memory of the past…

The latter has tended to divide people engaged in or observing SL, with some seeing it as a sign that LL have somehow “given up” on Second Life or are using it simply as a financial lever with which to churn out new products, and others taking a more moderate view of things. I’ve argued myself on a couple of occasions that diversification could actually be both beneficial towards SL in the longer term, and really doesn’t measure up in any way to LL having “given up” on SL. However, Humble’s view adds an interesting dimension to the discussion, as it is clear his thoughts possibly reach far beyond matters of “direct” user retention. The article notes in particular that:

One initial challenge, however, is its own core product. Building an object in Second Life isn’t easy. There are tutorials and message boards, but for someone who wants to pop in and simply make something quickly, Second Life is intimidating. In fact, that was part of the barrier to the community’s growth. Despite all its fanfare and media coverage, actually getting started was a hindrance to casual users. “Second Life is a highly complex 3D space. It’s a high learning curve,” Humble notes. “A steep climb but rewarding and deep.”

As we’re aware, bridging that gap is hard. There have been numerous attempts to help new users across it, from in-depth solutions such as the old Orientation, Discovery and Help Islands, through to the infamous “first hour” experience of Mark Kingdon’s day (which grew to encompass the “first five hours” when it wasn’t working out as planned) to the highly minimalistic (and questionable) Destination Islands seen more recently. Efforts have also included privately run welcome areas through to experimental orientation areas to something of a return to the more traditional approach.

Part of the problem here is that everyone tends to have an opinion on how it should be done. Many focus on the technical aspects, some on the social aspects, and well may have common foundations, then often build out in various different directions. This makes drawing a consensus as to what works actually quite difficult – as the Lab has learned.

However, in launching the new apps – particularly Creatorverse and Patterns – Humble sees things differently; that by breaking down the creative process into easily understandable concepts and ideas that allow the user to develop a more intuitive understanding of the creative process – and perhaps then move on to more involved creative environments. As the Kill Screen article also comments:

The Linden apps strategy hopes to bridge the gap between the tactile joys of painting and the more guided pleasures of digital makers. More importantly, Humble’s ultimate goal is digital literacy. As he struggled as an amateur, he found that his appreciation of the masters was heightened. The jazzy rhythms of Kandinsky took on new life as he was able to speak the painter’s language. Humble hopes that games like Creatorverse will foster a greater appreciation of the creative process behind designing digital goods. “The hope is that the more people make things, the more they have a richer language to express criticism.”

Rod Humble: Creatorverse and Patterns – opening doors to greater user creativity

Whether this will lead people from the likes of Creatorverse to Second Life is questionable; but where Patterns is concerned, there is something of a path where this may happen; both it and Second Life are somewhat grounded in similar concepts, something a number of commentators – myself included – have noted. Obviously for it to be effective, there needs to be some pointing of the finger towards the doorway from either Patterns to Second Life, which is currently far from being evidenced; but then Patterns is also a long way from prime-time as well.

Perhaps more telling from an SL standpoint is a direct quote from Humble:

“I like rebelling against the tyranny of structured forms,” Humble says. Sims creator Will Wright’s approach to “software as toys” was an inspiration to Humble while the latter was at EA. The constraints that game designers typically place on their players are anathema to the more open-ended creative process that Humble sees as the future of play. “Instead of being told you need to do these tasks to proceed to the next air lock of fun, why not open those doors and give you the ability to fly around?”

This not only encapsulates the broader aims of the likes of Creatorverse and Patterns in reaching new audiences and (maybe) enticing them towards Second Life, it more particularly seems to point to why Linden Lab has, on the one hand, been pushing out new tools and capabilities on their users while on the other, seeming to step back from “direct” involvement within SL. That is, the company is simply trying to present users new and old with as wide a palette of tools and capabilities as possible (mesh, pathfinding, the still-to-be-completed advanced creation tools, the upcoming materials processing capabilities, etc.) they can use create and explore the 3D spaces offered by SL without feeling constrained by the constant presence of the company looking over their shoulder.

The Garden – a subtle use of Teleport Agent, an element of the advanced creation capabilities in SL, which is used ion the puzzle HUD

Doubtless there will be disagreements with this view and with Humble’s comments in general; however they do make interesting reading. For me, and despite all the problems which are looming on the horizon where SL is concerned, I can’t help but come away from it with a feeling that (again) neither Humble nor LL have given up on their core platform.

With thanks to Daniel Voyager for the Twitter pointer.

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Creatorverse now on Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD

Update February 19th, 2014: As linden Lab have discontinued Creatorverse, links to the application have been removed from this post.

On Wednesday the 14th November, Linden Lab slipped out the news that Creatorverse, their 2D creation / sharing application recently released for the Apple iPad is now available for the Amazon Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD.

The apparently low-key announcement was made via a press release, which appears on the Company’s website, and which reads:

SAN FRANCISCO – November  , 2012 – Linden Lab®, the makers of shared creative spaces including Second Life® and PatternsTM, today announced that CreatorverseTM is now available on Amazon for Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD.

Creatorverse is a two-dimensional shared creative space, a digital canvas on which you can build unique creations, set them in motion, and share them with the world to enjoy and remix. You become an inventor as you draw, stretch, shape, and color your creations, and then add joints, forces, motors, teleporters, and inputs that change how your inventions come to life on the screen. You can save your inventions locally or share them to the cloud for other users to enjoy and remix into their own unique creations.

“It’s been gratifying to see the positive response to Creatorverse since we first launched it, like Kotaku calling it one of the coolest things you can do with an iPad,” said Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab. “Already, iPad users have made and shared some incredible and fun things with Creatorverse, from games to interactive art, and we’re excited to now bring the app to the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD. Very soon, we’ll also be releasing Creatorverse for the iPhone and Android so that even more people can enjoy this shared creative space.”

Creatorverse for Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD is available now for $4.99 on Amazon at  http://www.amazon.com/Linden-Lab-Creatorverse/dp/B00A439RGG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352913683&sr=8-1&keywords=creatorverse

Creatorverse is also available for iPad and is available from the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/creatorverse/id563088306?mt=8 .

Creatorverse – now available for the Kindle tablets from Amazon

Versions of the application for the iPhone and Android platform are reported as “coming soon”.

Unhinged

I have no idea how I missed this. I’d not seen or received any notification in advance, managed to miss any word of it looking around other blogs and had no idea there was even a call for bloggers. I’m not blaming anyone other than myself for not keeping eyes better peeled and ears more firmly to the ground and catching word in advance.

Unhinged – subtitled A Festival for Eku’s Head is a special, month-long series of events aimed at raising money to assist SL resident Eku Zhong, as organiser Nephilaine Protagonist explains in the Unhinged blog:

Her struggles started with MS. Then they found thyroid cancer, and through poor treatment it turned into bone cancer.  Over the last seven years, literally countless surgeries, radiation therapies, bone replacements and marrow transplants later, the stress of repeated surgeries has left her skull fragile and yet more surgery is needed.

The area where her zygotic arch meets the temporal bone is severely compromised.

Literally there is a risk that her zygotic arch could lift off the temporal arch and push the temporal bone into her brain. Actions as simple as chewing hard food or yawning the wrong way could cause this.

There is hope. Another surgery could correct this issue, but it requires the purchase of a prosthesis to replace the damaged bone. This is where myself and a group of people who love her dearly come in, and you as well should you choose to help out.

From November 15th through December 15th, we will be running a festival in SL- a festival to celebrate Eku’s titanium spirit. The event is called Unhinged. It will be a great big gacha fair with a skull theme, lots of DJs and super fun party time, in honor of this spirited and sweet person who is such an inspiration.

75% of the proceeds from gacha plays will go to the Eku’s New Bone fund, to help offset the substantial out-of-pocket cost for this prosthetic. We have a great group of vendors and entertainers lined up, but there is room for lots more, and every contribution helps!

A small part of the vendor area for Unhinged on Port Seraphine, leading around to the stage area

The even is taking place on two regions, with a large, open-area vendor area on Port Seraphine, with content creators who are supporting the event displaying their wares – some of which have been exclusively for Unhinged. The vendor area is simple, low-lag and highly effective for an event of this sort. It leads up to the party / stage area, which is just “over the border” in the region of WaterWorks and is very much in keeping with the overall theme for the event, as it features a large skull in which DJs are artists perform.

Unhinged stage

Unhinged kicked-off on the 15th November, and will run through until the 15th December. Events are planned throughout the month, with music and dancing taking place at the stage area, and people are encouraged to pop along, have fun, perhaps buy an item or two and help show love and support for Eku. Skull-topped donation boxes are readily available, or for those who prefer, there is also an Indiegogo fundraiser page as well.

The opening event may have taken place, but entertainment is always available at the stage area, where Unhinged hosts are waiting to welcome people, and there is plenty of time to browse the stores, grab some exclusives and help in the cause – so why not take a little time out of your day and pop all? It really is worthwhile – in every sense of the word.

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