Desura and Linden Lab: through the founder’s eyes

Update: Linden Lab sold Desura to Bad Juju Games on November 5th, 2014.

I came across a short interview conducted by the Linux-focused Root Gamer with Desura founder Scott Reismanis held shortly after the news broke that the Lab had acquired the digital distribution service, but which seems to have gone unnoticed elsewhere.

Since the announcement of the acquisition, there has been considerable interest in whether it means Desura / LL will compete more directly with others in the same marketplace – notably Steam. In a recent interview with Gamasutra’s Kris Ligman, which I also covered here, Rod Humble had a few pokes at this himself (although some of his comments on competition would appear to have a much wider context which includes Second Life). Reismanis sees the “competition” element of the acquisition in terms of providing Desura with much-needed additional ability to pro-actively attract games developers, rather than having to react to overtures from games developers, commenting:

Scott Reismanis
Scott Reismanis

At the moment we are largely dependent on developers reaching out to us about getting published – that’s what our small team had time to do. With Linden Lab help we will expand our team working with the game developers helping us target and bring more on board.

In reading both Reismanis’ and Humble’s comments around the acquisition, it would appear that both are very much of the same mind in how they regard the Lab’s initial relationship with Desura and in terms of future plans.

Both, for example, couch the Lab’s role as initially being more supportive than directive; providing additional muscle in key areas to assist the Desura team to carry on with their business in a more structured and focused manner, rather than the Lab charging in and absorbing everything and trying to reinvent the wheel. In this, the approach appears to be more of a partnership more than an outright acquisition and, given the marketplace is new to Linden Lab, not an unwise move.

Not that this means there won’t be any visible changes. Work is already underway to overhaul (or at least update) the Desura client in order to make the Lab’s involvement more apparent. Exactly what form this will take isn’t clear at present, but the work is seen as priority, although dependent upon Desura (or the Lab?) bringing in new staff.

Desura and the Lab: proceeding more as a partnership? (image courtesy of Root Gamer)
Desura and the Lab: proceeding more as a partnership? (image courtesy of Root Gamer)

The interview also hints that both Humble and Reismanis share the same grand ambitions for the future of a service – and that the ambitions may have been there prior to the acquisition (and by extension, might have been one of the reasons the Lab was attracted to Desura).

Commenting on the Desura blog about the acquisition following the formal announcement, Reismanis give additional insight as to what he believes this means for developers and customer using the service:

To date Desura has been built and run by a dedicated small team – and it’s grown to the point where we list over 1,000 games and have served over 1,000,000 customers. We are very passionate about the developers and community we represent, and I want to assure you now this policy isn’t changing.

With Linden Lab’s support, we plan on expanding our team and providing you with more co-ordinated coverage, sales, marketing efforts, reporting, and assistance from us. We want to solve challenges like discoverability and giving your customers’ choice, and we look forward to doing so. We are going to continue to polish and innovate so Desura stands out and does its most important job better: getting your game into customers’ hands.

So far reaction to the acquisition from within the Desura community appears to be mostly positive, with those responding to the news wishing Reismanis and his team good luck, although there are obviously some questions about what it means in practice for game developers in terms of publishing, DRM, etc., – all of which are liable to only become clearer once the initial dust has settled and both the Desura team and the Lab have worked out priorities and directions and have settled into working together over long distances.

It’ll be interesting to see how this develops over time, starting with the roll-out of the new Desura client, and whether the approach does develop along lines of a partnership rather than a buy-out, and if so, for how long.

Related Links

SL projects update week 32 (2): server releases, SSA, Oculus Rift

Server Deployments Week 32

As always, please refer to the week’s forum deployment thread for news, updates and feedback.

Second Life Server (SLS Main) Channel

There was no update to the Main channel in week 32. This is primarily because the SSA project is not being further deployed during week 32, and BlueSteel was not updated in week 31 (other than to be brought up to a par with the Main channel), so there is nothing from the RC channels to promote to the Main channel.

Release Candidate Channels – Wednesday August 7th

Magnum and LeTigre remained SSA enabled, and without any further updates.

BlueSteel received a new server maintenance package comprising:

  • A new feature which will see regions block rezzing and entering during the final 60-seconds before a shutdown / restart (see notes below)
  • Code to help fix an exploit whereby a scripted object can surreptitiously obtain permissions from an unsuspecting avatar, allowing the object owner to later use the object against the avatar in s griefing attack (e.g. by tracking camera movements in a deform attack, and so on – see publicly viewable JIRA VWR-13228 and the notes below)
  • A fix for “llListen in linked objects is listening at root instead of linked object local position *after re-rezzing the linkset*.” (non-public JIRA BUG-3291)
  • Fixes for further simulator crash modes.

I covered the region restart capability and the code to help with the animation exploit in part 1 of this week’s report, and refer you to that if you need any more details.

Server Deployments Heads-up for Week 33

Details are still to be finalised, but at present it looks as there will be another light week of deployments in week 33 (week commencing Monday August 12th).

  • The server maintenance package currently on BlueSteel looks set to be promoted to the Main channel on Tuesday August 13th
  • There will likely be a new server maintenance package on BlueSteel, which Simon Linden describes as not having much exciting in it other than a “fix for a performance problem that can occur in very specific situations where you have to have neighbour regions, avatars over on those regions and such, but that will hopefully just be a silent improvement.”
  • SSA will most likely not be enabled elsewhere on the grid (see below).

SL Viewer Updates

The Materials project viewer received an update on Thursday August 8th with the release of version (download & release notes). Otherwise things remain pretty much as they were with part 1 of this report.

Server-side Appearance

There is unlikely to be any further SSA enabling in week 33 (week commencing Monday August 12th). This is because the baking servers themselves will be getting an update, and the Lab wants to see how that goes. Commenting on the update at the Server Beta meeting on Thursday August 8th, Simon Linden said it will be carried out “behind the scenes” with no actual downtime for the SSA service.

Oculus Rift

There has been considerable interest in the state-of-play with this project ever since Rod Humble indicated in an interview with Eric Johnson of All Things D that a viewer supporting the headset might be surfacing in “late summer”. Obviously, the retail version of the headset has yet to ship – and may still be a while before doing so – but the SDK kits are available at $300, and people are purchasing them, so it is not unreasonable to assume the Lab may well have a project viewer with Oculus Rift support available ahead of the consumer version of the product being launched.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift – artist’s impression

Commenting on the status of the current work with OR at the Lab during the Server Beta meeting, Simon Linden said:

I tried it out on the code in development and it’s pretty cool. It still needs work and there’s no estimates when it will go out, but we’ll have a project viewer at some point. It requires very careful building in SL, however, as it really needs high frame rate … We’re still getting the basics going … some simple things like a menu, UI buttons and clicking in-world are tough to get right in the Rift.

So it is still likely to be a while before any project viewer sees the light of day.

Related Links