Could the Lab use Amazon AppStream to “replace” SL Go?

Sl Go proved itself very popular among SL users running low-end hardware
SL Go proved itself very popular among SL users running low-end hardware

On Thursday, April 2nd, it was announced that SL Go, the streaming service for accessing SL  provided by OnLive, is to shut-down on April 30th alongside OnLive’s other consumer services. The reason for this is because OnLive has sold the IP and patents associated with the services to Sony Computer Entertainment.

Since the news broke, there have been numerous calls made for Sony to maintain SL Go as a service, including  an on-line petition. However, as painful as it is, all such calls and petitions to  Sony are unlikely to succeed, as I explained in a recent blog post.

In that article, I also considered whether or not the Lab might invest time and effort in offering something that might fill the void. At the time, I thought the answer to this would most likely be “no”, as the Lab seem to have enough on its plate already with Second Life and its next generation platform.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that the Lab should endeavour to offer some kind of “SL Go replacement”.

One potential means by which they might do so could be via Amazon AppStream.

Obviously, there are issues involved in providing such a service beyond the physical provisioning. Anything which requires some form of external hosting is going to incur costs, for example. However, the flip side to this is it’s fair to say the SL Go has demonstrated that if users believe they are getting a beneficial service, they are willing to pay for it, providing the price is not prohibitively high.

Certainly, there are a wide range of potential benefits to be had from such an endeavour, particularly if implemented through something like Amazon AppStream:

  • It offers an easily scaled means by which the Lab could provide an “SL streaming service” to users on low-end hardware and those on mobile devices – something long demanded by SL users
  • It could provide the means by which SL could be accessed through web browsers – again, a long-desired means of attracting new users to the platform who might otherwise be put off by having to download and install the viewer
  • It obviously means that those SL users on low-end systems can enjoy the full graphical richness of SL in the manner LL would like to see all users experience it
  • It could help those preferring to run older operating systems – such as Windows XP – to continue accessing SL even after they might otherwise be unable to even install the viewer
  • It might even help the Lab map and test options which might be beneficial for their nascent next generation platform.

While developing such a service might not necessarily be easy, the Lab isn’t entirely without any experience in this area. As I and many others have pointed out, in 2010 they did experimenting with streaming the viewer, using the Japanese company Gaikai (coincidentally purchased by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2012), which delivered the viewer to web browsers, as shown in the video below. If there is anything remaining of this work at the Lab, it might possible to put it to work through something like Amazon AppStream.

That said, there is a lot for the Lab to consider in attempting to fill the forthcoming void that will be left by SL Go. And while I would not be at all surprised to learn they are already doing so, they might still require some encouragement to take things beyond just considering options. Something which might encourage them, or at least demonstrate to them that there really could be a worthwhile demand for such a service, could be for users to politely speak up.

One way to do this might be to add your name to the existing petition – I would hope someone at the Lab is keeping an eye on it.

Another could well be to leave a positive and polite comment on the subject following this article, as (and all ego aside) I do know eyes at the Lab pass over this blog (just as they do many others).

There is no guarantee that Lab will move to provide some kind of “SL Go replacement”, but on the other hand, as someone once said, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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UNIA to launch on April 20th: MadPea asks,”are you ready?”

MadPea launch poster
MadPea launch poster (courtesy of MadPea)

It all started as a Dream.

In November 2012 I wrote the first draft of the plan. UNIA would be groundbreaking. UNIA would be our first fully interactive and immersive adventure with 1st person shooter elements. UNIA would be delivered in stages pushing the limitations of Second Life and showing game designers what is possible to do in this virtual world.

In January 2015 I was wondering if I had tried to bite off more than one could chew.

Thus Kiana Writer, head of MadPea Productions frankly opened a blog post in February 2015. In it, she outlined some of the trials an tribulations that she and the MadPea team have encountered in trying to bring UNIA, an immersive games that is huge in scope.

The downs have been many – but so has the overall up; so much so that the launch date has been set – UNIA opens its doors to Second Life residents on Monday April 20th.

Are you awake? Are you in a nightmare? What awaits you in and beyond the farm?
Are you awake? Are you in a nightmare? What awaits you in and beyond the farm? (image courtesy of MadPea Productions)

To prepare for the launch, and over on MadPea’s brand new blog (make sure you update any bookmarks if you haven’t already), Kiana provides a prologue to the main story. It’s written from the perspective of a main character – Emily – who, having departed a wedding, awakes to find herself strangely dressed, feeling physically, in a barn somewhere with a dead body …

“You must come with me right now!” someone yells and when I look into the direction of the voice I notice a rope ladder dropping down right in front of me. “Drop that hand and climb up, you must hurry!” the voice continues. For some reason I do as I’m told and take a last look at the body on the floor before putting my bare foot on the ladder and starting to climb.

At the top I face a tall, heavyset black man in his 40s, all dressed in military gear. I haven’t said a word to him and it seems as if I don’t have to. He knows what I’m going through.

…And thus the player is launched into a world that is both nightmare and terrifyingly real, and with a secret lying at its heart…

A year ago, I was one of a number of people privileged to be taken on a personal tour of the UNIA sets and puzzles within UNIA, with Kiana and another of the MadPea talents, RAG Randt. What I saw back then was mind-bogglingly good, and the team have since had almost a year to improve, tweak, update and enhance. Thus, I have little doubt that UNIA is going to live up to expectations in its depth of immersion, its content, and it engagement with players.

Dark secrets await discovery within the strange world of UNIA
Dark secrets await discovery within the strange world of UNIA (image courtesy of MadPea)

As a part of the run-up to the launch, MadPea are running a special challenge, which is introduced thus:

We’re getting closer and closer to release, and as that time draws near, what are you up to? How are you passing the time? Are you preparing, buffing up your muscles, working out your brains? Are you eating a lot of pastries? Are you snoozin’ all day to rest up for your marathon play session?

On offer is the chance to receive the UNIA Gold Package when the adventure opens on April 20th. This includes the game HUD, triple shield, uniform (generously donated by Damien Fate from FATEplay) in three colours, and a gold lock pick for a pistol.

To be in with a chance to be awarded the Package, all you have to do is:

  • Take a photo of yourself in-world as you wait for UNIA arrive, using the notes above as possible guidelines).
  • Add the snapshot to a note card entitled “Preparing for UNIA! – [Your Avatar Name]” – please make sure you give you avatar full legacy name – not your display name
  • Include a brief description of your snapshot in the note card – no more than 144 characters!

Send the completed card to RaffiGirl Koffenbaum in-world. Favourites from those received will be posted on the MadPea blog on alternate days, like this one. Refer to the challenge blog post for the criteria the MadPea team are looking for in submissions in order to select their favourite, who will be awarded the Gold Pass.

Will Grandma help or hinder as you make your way towards UNIA's startling secret ...? (image courtesy of MadPea)
Will Grandma help or hinder as you make your way towards UNIA’s startling secret …? (image courtesy of MadPea)

You can also get ready for UNIA by helping the MadPea team and Draxtor Despres film a brand new promotional trailer for the game.

If you’re willing to have video footage of your physical self included in the new promo video, and are lucky enough to be selected, you could also be rewarded with the UNIA Gold Package. See the MadPea video promo blog post for more information on what’s required.

Finally, you can also get yourself ready by watching  the current trailer for UNIA, and by keeping an eye on the new MadPea blog for upcoming news and information on the game.

“UNIA has been a game more than two years in the making,” Kiana confided in me as we talked about the upcoming launch. “And one thing we’re aware of is because of that, some of the locations might seem a little dated in setting. Cornfields, for example seem to be everywhere in Second Life today, when two years ago, you could count the number in SL on the fingers of one hand! 😀 .”

Well, cornfields may have multiplied in SL since the start of 2013, but there is still only one UNIA. As such, I don’t think Kiana has anything to worry about on that score; from April 20th, people are going to be too immersed in the story and game play to think about the number of fields or any kind they’ve seen in Second Life!

SL project updates week 15/1: server, viewer, HTTP Inventory reminder

... and don't miss out on the merfolk's beach, complete with pier and fun fair!
Don#t forget you can plunge into learning about SL’s extensive merfolk and undersea community this week, thanks to the folk at Fanci’s Deep and the Safe Waters Foundation. There’s undersea tours, dances, dolphin rides, shopping opportunities, freebies and a whole lot more. You can even visit the mer beach and fun fair (above)! To find out more, read the blog post on the event, which runs through until April 11th

Server Deployments Week 15

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread in the forums for the latest information and updates.

  • On Tuesday, April 7th the Main (SLS) channel will receive the server maintenance update previously deployed to the three RC channels. This is primarily focused on trying to prevent  inventory loss issues, and sees UDP inventory messaging deprecated (see HTTP Inventory, below, for more important information)
  • On Wednesday, April 8th all three RC channels should receive a new server maintenance package comprising:
    • A fix for a server crash when rezzing an object
    • A minor change for CDN configuration
    • Adjusted internal server configuration.

SL Viewer Updates

A new release candidate viewer was released towards the end of last week. The HeatWave viewer, version 3.7.27.300424. This is essentially the maintenance RC viewer with an additional URI parser fix to prevent a viewer crash bug, but has retained a project name to differentiate the two RCs from one another.

 HTTP Inventory

With the Tuesday deployment (noted above), the main grid now only supports HTTP Inventory fetching. This means you must have the HTTP Inventory option enabled in the viewer (it can be found under the Develop(er) menu).

Should you disable it for any reason, you will encounter two issues:

  • Your avatar will not render, but will remain a cloud
  • Should you refresh your inventory for any reason (clear cache), your viewer will never complete the process of inventory fetching.

Unfortunately, and coincidentally, the Main channel deployment on Tuesday, April 7th came at a time when asset server / inventory issues were being experienced across the grid, and inventory database maintenance was carried out as a result.

Note that from Tuesday, April 6th, you must ensure HTTP Inventory is enabled in the Develop menu (sometimes called the Developer menu in TPVs) in order to help avoid inventory and / or avatar rendering problems
Note that from Tuesday, April 6th, you must ensure HTTP Inventory is enabled in the Develop menu (sometimes called the Developer menu in TPVs) in order to help avoid inventory and / or avatar rendering problems

These issues and the maintenance may have masked any problems some people may have been having purely as a result of HTTP Inventory being disabled in their viewer.

Therefore, if you are encountering problems with your avatar remaining a cloud, or your inventory failing to load, please try the following steps to see if they resolve your situation:

  1. Make sure you have the Develop(er) menu enabled in your menu bar at the top of the viewer. Press CTRL-ALT-Q if you cannot see it.
  2. Click on Develop(er) to list the menu options.
  3. Make sure there is a tick in front of the HTTP Inventory option.
  4. If HTTP Inventory does not have a tick in front of it, then it is disabled. Click on it to enable it (and display the tick).
  5. Closed the Develop menu and re-log.
  6. Hopefully, following your re-log, your avatar will render / your inventory load properly.

UDP Inventory Messaging Deprecated

The reason for this is that the Lab has now deprecated the “old” method of inventory messaging (referred to as UDP messaging). However, if you disable the HTTP Inventory option in your viewer, the viewer will still attempt to use the “old” method, and thus you’ll have problems.

There are plans in hand for the Lab to remove the HTTP Inventory option from the viewer, and some TPVs may opt to remove it ahead of any update from the Lab. Until that time, it is essential you keep the option enabled to assist with the smooth functioning of your inventory.

Experience Keys / Tools

Not a lot to report on this project. Simon Linden has been working on the Key Value (KVP) database store used by Experiences. This work appears to be related to the Lab working to ensure the when deployed Experience Keys / Tools can be properly scaled to meet the anticipated demand for them. Commenting in general terms on the work, Oz Linden said during the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, April 7th, “if we are as successful as we’d like to be with Experiences being adopted, it would run into problems. So we’re trying to solve them before we get to that point.”