A further look at Tilia and their new client, Upland

via Linden Lab / Tilia

In preparing my piece on Tilia Pay and the changes coming to US dollar transactions related to Second Life (see: Tilia Pay to handle all Second Life USD-related transactions), I had the opportunity to take a look at the updated website for Tilia Inc., Linden Lab’s wholly owned subsidiary.

For those who may not be familiar with it, Tilia Inc, was established by Linden Lab in 2014, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, including Second Life and Sansar. And now, as shown within the updated Tilia website, it is to provide its services to its first client not to have a direct link to Linden Lab, the property trading game Upland.

For those unfamiliar with Upland (I was until I looked them up), available via browsers and on Android and iOS, it is a trading game in which players buy, develop, sell and / or trade virtual properties that are based on real-world addresses.

The Upland… mascot(?)

Currently focused on the city of San Francisco, Upland is built on the EOS blockchain protocol. It entered a closed beta in June 2019, which ran through until the end of that year. During that period, the company added their own virtual currency – UPX – in August of that year, which users could collect as a reward and in return for collecting properties.

At the start of 2020, the game entered an open beta available to any wishing to play it, and added the ability for users to purchase UPX using selected cryptocurrencies.

The partnership with Tilia means that from later in 2020, Upland will be adding the ability for users to trade their virtual properties (and, I understand, goods associated with those properties) for fiat money (this is, US dollar values), through the Upland marketplace and to cash-out those US dollars, with Tilia Pay being the mechanism by which they do so.

In add the use of fiat money is seen as providing a further layer of value to the game, as Upland’s co-founder Dirk Lueth explained to VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi in an article that went to press while I was drafting this piece:

By using fiat currency, Upland can stay in compliance with money transmission regulations in the U.S. And in this way, players can actually own the digital goods and properties they buy in Upland … If the game ever shuts down, the players will theoretically be able to take their property and move it elsewhere, in contrast to other games where players don’t really own the objects that they build or trade.

It is Tilia’s ability to provide services fully in compliance with U.S. regulatory requirements, including anti-money laundering, sanctions monitoring, and fraud prevention that could well make it a popular potential partner among companies offering their users to buy / sell virtual goods, as it provides said companies with the ability for their users (and themselves ) to profit in real terms from such virtual transactions.

I’d actually first speculated on the potential for Tilia being used by companies other than the Lab itself back in November 2015. It was was a subject I returned to again in July 2019, again referencing comments made to me in 2015 by the Lab’s former Director of Global Communications, Peter Gray:

Peter’s [2015] statement struck me as interesting in that its structure seemed to suggest that supporting Second Life and Sansar (then still “Project Sansar”) was part of, but also separate to, the overall goal of presenting Tilia as an entity focused on providing a robust payments and compliance system for operating (and managing) virtual economies to third parties.

– This blog, July 2019

More recently, Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg made it clear we would be seeing a growing client list for Tilia at a couple of public events, include the 2020 VWBPE Above The Book session in commenting about Sansar’s future, he also referenced Tilia.

We’re partners with them [Wookey Project Corp] because they’re using Tilia for payments / payouts just like Second Life is doing, and Tilia will have more and more customers over time. We have several of them lined up to be integrated to get those payment services.

– Ebbe Altberg, March 2020

As such, it will be interesting to see who else opts to leverage Tilia / Tilia Pay in support of their platform / game / product in the coming months / year.

In terms of Tilia itself, the website offers a view of the management team – perhaps the first since Vick Forcella helped me with digging into the early days of the company as a Linden Lab subsidiary in November 2015.  Back then, Tilia’s management team was pretty broad, encompassing multiple members of the Lab’s management team, and a small board of three.

Today, the management team is down to three people – Aston Waldman (the Lab’s CFO), Emily Stonehouse (the Lab’s Chief Compliance Officer) and Ray Johnson (the Lab’s VP of Engineering). Aston Waldman is also a member of Tilia’s board, alongside of Kelly Conway (Linden Lab’s former General Council), and fintech compliance and product leader Ben Duranske (the only “non-Linden”, so to speak).

The Tilia Management team and board. Top: Aston Waldman (Tilia CEO and board member as well as Linden Lab’s CFO); Emily Stonehouse (Chief Compliance Officer at Tilia Inc and LL); Ray Johnson (VP Engineering for LL and Tilia) – the management team. Bottom: board members Kelly Conway and Ben Duranske

Also included on the site are a couple of press articles that cover the threat of money laundering through on-line games, helping to further explain the value of services such as those provided by Tilia, and both of which make for interesting reading.

I’ll continue to report on Tilia as news becomes available.

Related Links

Wandering the Woods of Whimsy in Second Life

The Woods of Whimsy, May 2020 – click any image for full size

Gilfalma Ashbourne recently invited us to visit her recently opened Mainland parcel, Woods of Whimsy. Within it, she has created a garden setting with something of a Middle Earth setting that stirs in one or two other influences to create a space of natural beauty ripe for exploration and photography.

The Woods of Whimsy, a Tolkien inspired land, mixes virtual gardening with a love of magic and the divine. Here paths meander through waterfalls, threading ancient ruins with a verdant splendour.

– Woods of Whimsy description

Woods of Whimsy, May 2020

Bordered by water on two sides and high cliffs on the other two, this is a place that blends the space between these borders to create an environment that is richly evocative. Fronting the high cliffs, the parcel’s uplands step gently down to the lowlands then in turn eases into a cypress-laden swampland that is fed by a stream that also tumbles from the uplands. To the east, the boundary to the parcel is marked by a river-like body of water which, together with a curtain of trees. makes for a natural border between the woods and the neighbouring region.

Sitting within the lowlands and nestled between stream and river, are the ruins of a church, an overgrown graveyard beside it. Forming the parcel’s landing point, the ruins don’t immediately feel particularly Tolkien-esque – but first looks can be deceptive when taken as a part of the whole.

Woods of Whimsy, May 2020

Beyond the walls of this ruin, a number of grassy paths run outwards through the trees, one to a riverside conservatory, another passing along the curtain of trees and river border to reach an ancient rotunda by way of a camp site. The third points the way towards the inland corner of the parcel, and it is here that things become more Middle-Earth in nature.

This last path itself further splits in to three a short walk from the old church, the rightmost arm of which climbs by way of slope and stair to reach arches and gardens that might be taken for outlying areas of Rivendell.

Woods of Whimsy, May 2020

Rich in statues (one of which is very Entish in nature)  and the remnants of statues, the climb gives the setting a feeling of great age, so much so, that the presence of these gardens and structures perfectly enfolds the old church and the gazebos below, making them very much a part of the landscape; even the Roman temple located at the end of a further branching of the path sits within the elvish nature of the climb.

Waterfalls tumble from numerous points in the cliffs, filling pools. These are again fully in keeping with the elvish feel to the region  – the elvish love of water being well established in Tolkien’s lore.  Follow two of the upper reaches of the paths climbing and winding over the highlands, and it is possible to find your way down to one of the most iconic elements of Middle Earth, and the starting point for his published tales: a hole in the ground, one dressed entirely in keeping with the opening of The Hobbit.

Woods of Whimsy, May 2020

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hold, and that means comfort.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1937

This is not the only hole in the ground within the parcel; another of the ground-level paths offers a route to where a tunnel leads into the roots of the high cliffs, and a realm that brings forth a more dwarfish feel to the setting – one that at its entrance has an echo of Middle Earth: a cobweb and a spider.

Woods of Whimsy, May 2020

True, it’s not a spider to match those found in Mirkwood, but it’s hard not to see it and think of that part of Bilbo Baggins’ journey to the lonely Mountain. Connected by these tunnels are a number of chambers, one of which in particular carries a motif from another modern fantasy epic: G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

All of this barely scratches the surface of all that is to be found within the Woods of Whimsy with its places to sit, blending of themes, multiplicity of paths and trails that give the parcel a sense of size beyond its boundaries – and the feeling that somewhere, perhaps, up in the hills and among the cliffs there just might be a path leading down into Rivendell proper. Most definitely a much-see destination for all virtual travellers.

Woods of Whimsy, May 2020

SLurl Details

2020 Content Creation User Group week #21 summary

Dya’s Scent of the Caribbean, April 2020 – blog post

The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, May 21st 2020 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

SL Viewer

The CEF Special viewer has been withdrawn from downloads, pending the release of a more rounded CEF RC viewer containing broader support for more options for streaming into SL + more codecs.

The FMOD Studio RC viewer updated to version 6.4.3.542486 on May 19th.

The remainder of the current official viewer pipelines are as follows:

  • Current Release viewer version 6.4.2.541639, dated May 11th, promoted May 19th, formerly the Camera Presets RC viewer – see my Camera Presets tutorial.
  • Release channel cohorts:
  • Project viewers:
    • Mesh uploader project viewer, version 6.4.2.541645, issued May 15th.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, December 9th, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.532999, November 22nd, 2019.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17th, 2019. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16th, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The exact streaming services that will be supported by the next CEF update have yet to be confirmed.
  • The Love Me Render viewer is still being re-worked as a result of being “clobbered” by the EEP updates (presumably during the merge process). It is hoped this will be back on track soon.
  • The first viewer to be built entirely using the new build process using a recent version of Xcode (OS X) or Visual Studio 2017 (Windows) is still waiting to see the light of day.

Graphics / ALM / Code paths

  • The previous CCUG meeting raised the topic of possibly removing the ability to disable the viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM).
  • Vir emphasised that the idea is just a point of discussion, and not indicative of any decision having been made.

Graphics support is a whole lot of different possible code paths, which means there are tons and tons of options, [so] you can slice it and dice it lots and lots of different ways which makes it into a maintenance and update nightmare. So the more we can streamline it and say stuff works in particular ways, makes it easier to keep it working and to fix things when they go wrong. So, we don’t have any immediate plans to change Advanced Lighting, it’s just something we raised to gauge what usage patterns there might be.

– Vir Linden

Jelly Dolls / Avatar Rendering

  • Vir’s idea to render jelly dolled avatars as basic human form, sans attachments, is apparently proving more complicated a move than at first thought.
  • He’s not entirely surprised by this, considering all that an avatar made include: animations, shape deformations, etc.
  • Animations can particularly problematic when they are being used to deform the skeleton into a non-human form, and the system wants to render the avatar in a human form.
    • Allowing the animations to run means allowing them to deform the avatar shape.
    • Turning the animations off means leaving the avatar shape in a human form but stuck in the T-pose position.
  • The solution to the above issue would appear to be setting a stand animation that runs locally (i.e. in any viewer that is set to render the avatar as a jelly doll). However, this can require additional adjustments to be rendered correctly in a viewer.
  • Further local animations may be required to cover situation when a jellied avatar uses things like default sits, adding further complexity to the work.

In brief

  • There has been at least one report of the EEP viewer causing periodic freezes as if the texture cache being purged. While EEP should not have altered how the texture cache works, and as no bug reports have been filed on the issue as yet, LL ask that those have similar issues regularly / semi-regularly report them.
  • Some have noticed that EEP has altered how specularity is rendered where materials have been used. This is a known issue LL are investigating, as per BUG-228781 and BUG-228581.
  • The idea of an inventory tagging system was raised (e.g. to easy inventory sorting / searching, etc). Sort form answer: while there are benefits for some form of limited tagging, there are no plans to implement anything in the foreseeable future.
  • The question was asked on why Twitch allows VR Chat streaming but not Second Life. Short form answer: because that is what Twitch has decided (at least at present).
  • Next meeting: Thursday, June 4th, 13:00 SLT.