2019: sixteen years for Second Life and twenty for Linden Lab

Courtesy of Linden Lab

We’re all familiar with the Second Life Birthday (or more correctly, anniversary, given Second Life is technically older than the celebrated date), marking the month and date on which the platform opened its doors to the public – June 23rd, 2003.

In 2018, we celebrated the platform’s 15th anniversary – a remarkable milestone given the speed at which software and hardware and platforms themselves can rise to prominence before fading away, replaced by the Next Big Thing.

However, as Linden Lab noted in a March 14th blog post, this year’s anniversary marks another special year:

Sixteen years ago, on June 23rd, 2003, Second Life launched to the public. Though it feels like just yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time, this year we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go retro and embrace the “Sweet Sixteen” theme for our big party. Sock hops, bowling alleys, and late nights at the diner were a quintessential part of many teenagers lives back in the 1950s, but the 1950s were also a time of political and social change. The world was shocked by the iconic ‘Elvis pelvis,’ and poodle and pencil skirts changed the fashion world forever. Rebellion became the titillating pastime among all that soda shoppe sweetness. It was an era that – like Second Life – rocked and rolled! So, this summer we’re throwing a 1950s themed SL16B with a TON of fun events and happenings. Here is a brief run-down of just a few.

– Linden Lab official blog post

This year the official celebration period will run from Thursday, June 20th, 2019 through to Tuesday, July 8th, 2019, and to mark it the Lab is promising an array of activities, including:

  • The SL16B Shopping Event: scheduled to run throughout the shopping period, this multi-region shopping event is now accepting applications from merchants. Those wishing to participate should ensure they have applied by June 1st, 2019.
  • The SL16B Music Fest:  popular during recent SLB events, the Music Fest will be returning for 2019, and details on how performers can apply will be forthcoming soon.

There will also be the grand community celebration, plus from the Lab the return of the Swaginator and gifts and parties.

Linden Lab Also Turns Twenty

Courtesy of Linden Lab

2019 also marks anther significant anniversary, one that is also worth noting and I would hope (assuming plans aren’t already in-hand) it will also form a part of the SL16B celebrations: the 20th anniversary of the founding of Linden Lab itself.

Linden Research – to give the company its formal name, although it does business under the name of Linden Lab – was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale, the company’s first CEO and former Chief Technology Officer of  Real Networks. The company’s original focus was on the development of a immersive virtual reality system comprising both hardware and software known as “The Rig” (which, rumour would have it, still lies in boxes at the Lab’s head offices in San Francisco.

However, unable to develop a commercially viable version of The Rig, Linden Lab turned to software application, producing LindenWorld, the precursor of Second Life.

Initially developed by Andrew Linden, one of the first employees at the Lab (and who would remain with the company until opting to re-join Philip Rosedale and work on the fledgling High Fidelity). LindenWorld wasn’t open to the public, and was more a game than social environment, with a focus on guns and the avatars were made out of prims and carried the name (appropriately enough, of Primitars.

Then in 2001, during a meeting with investors, that Rosedale and his team noticed those at the meeting were particularly responsive to the collaborative, creative potential of the nascent Second Life.

Thus, the objective, game-like focus of the platform’s development shifted towards a more community-drive, social environment, focused on user-created content, and thus Second Life as we  know it today was “born”. On March 13th, 2002, Steller Sunshine became the first public resident of Second Life, and the platform’s public beta commenced in October of that year. Then in June 2003, Linden Lab released Second Life to the world at large.

The first Second Life trailer

So … here’s an early “happy Birthday” to Linden Lab itself. While we may not always agree with the company or its decisions, the fact remains that without the Lab, many of us might never have entered user-collaborative, immersive social digital environments. So I hope that SL16B will mark the company’s birthday as much as it marks SL’s anniversary.

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The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand piano in Second Life

The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand in two of its finishes

In September 2018, I wrote about the Culprit Sonata Bento Piano created by Eku Zhong and Yure4u Sosa (see The Culprit Sonata Bento piano in Second Life). At that time, I noted that Eko and Yure4u were working on a baby grand edition, and on March 13th, 2019 they graciously sent me a copy.

As I noted in that piece, as a pianist, I have a leaning towards the grand (concert or baby), as I appreciate the more rounded richness of its note. As having one in the physical world is impractical (although I do have a Yamaha N1), so I enjoy having them in-world, and have been looking forward to the opportunity to try this particular baby grand and seeing how the Bento animations work with such an instrument.

The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand

Unlike the upright variant, the Culprit Baby Grand is supplied in one size, and follows the accepted shape of a grand, with a sweeping case built around a horizontal plate and pin block / action. In this, the Culprit Baby Ground might appear little different to other grand pianos in SL. However, it is fair to say that it is the play mechanism in this piano that is one of the aspects that sets it apart from others, even without the Bento play capability.

Where others might in part reproduce the mechanism – some strings,  the plate and sound board – or offer a texture of a grand’s “innards”, the Culprit Baby Grand goes much further. A peek under the raised lid reveals the cast iron plate with soundboard below – and a beautiful pin block and hammer set, with strings neatly positioned, presenting one of the best facsimiles of a grand I’ve yet witnessed.

Play-wise the Culprit Baby Grand is similar in nature to the Sonata upright: sit at the piano and you’ll be placed in an “idle” pose – and moving your arms as if conducting – or perhaps warming-up in readiness to play. While mentioning this pose, note that as playing the piano can result in your avatar’s eyes rolling up into the head and flicking back to this option – available from the Muted option (see below) before standing will avoid this. Sitting will also display the piano’s menu, which has the following options:

  • Texture: allows the piano body and the stool’s cushion to be textured to suit your preferences.
  • Muted: presents a total of 12 different playing styles without any associated music – so you can set a style in keeping with the music you’re listening to out world, or on your parcel stream.
  • Songs: offers 54 solo pieces to play, all public domain, representing a good cross-reference of music.
  • Duets: offers 11 duet pieces of public domain music to be enjoyed with a friend of partner playing with you.
The Culprit Sonata Baby Grand – mechanism detail

The menu also includes options to adjust the seated position on the stool, and to swap positions when playing duets, all of which makes for a pretty comprehensive set-up.

Selecting a piece of music from the Songs or Duets menus will display sheet music on the piano and move your avatar into a matching playing animation. It is here where the Bento element comes in. If you have Bento hands and watch yourself play (note that non-Bento users can still play the piano, it will just be minus the finger movements). The animations appear to be those used in the Culprit Sonata Upright, so just like that piano, they are fluid and natural, if with a slightly dramatic flair in a couple of styles  – although even the fact this is a grand, they are perhaps more in keeping with playing classic pieces than might be the case with the upright version.

Bento hand movements  are available in the three playing options built-in to the Culprit Sonata Baby Grand. Note the thumb-led glissando (filmed on the Sonata)

For those who like their in-world pianos to autoplay without being physically seated at it, the Culprit Baby Grand is perhaps not an ideal choice, simply because it does require and avatar to be seated (you can set rights to control who can). But then, this is a piano that is all about the Bento playing actions. On a personal note, I found the Culprit Baby Grand a little larger than I was expecting; the width of the piano means the reaching the extremes of the keyboard is a stretch for an avatar proportioned close to a physical world build, like mine. However, this is a minor point when compared to the “interior” modelling of the piano, its music selection and playing animations mean, all of which make it an ideal addition to any home – and it is now the preferred piano at Isla Pey, replacing the slightly smaller Lisp Persimmon grand.

With a total LI of 11, the Culprit Baby Grand will début at the Boardwalk shopping event from March 15th, 2019, at a price of L$995. It will be generally available, including via the Culprit store, from April 15th.