2020 Content Creation User Group week #28 summary

Wision, May 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, July 2nd 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.

This meeting featured a lot of general chat on possible features and / or performance improvements that might (or “should”) be made to SL, comparisons in the pros and cons of incremental changes over “radical” changes (e.g. the former can be turned around more quickly, but can be finite in pact; the latter can dramatically change/ improve SL, but on a time frame that means that when they are delivered, they’re not what users are looking for / they don’t actually deliver what had been anticipated), etc.

SL Viewer

Currently, the official viewers remain unchanged from the start of the week:

  • Current Release viewer version 6.4.3.543157, dated June 11, promoted June 23, formerly the CEF RC viewer – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
  • Project viewers:
    • Custom Key Mappings project viewer, version 6.4.5.544079, June 30.
    • Mesh uploader project viewer, version 6.4.4.543141, June 11.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.532999, November 22, 2019.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17, 2019. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The Tools Update RC viewer is on track to be promoted to de facto release status, possibly on Friday, July 17th, or more likely week #29 (commencing Monday, July 20th).
  • The Love Me Render viewer is still seeing additional EEP fixes added to it, as well as some other issues that are being looked into.
    • The upcoming version of the LMR viewer will include a fix for the EEP specularity issue (see BUG-228781 and BUG-228581).
    • BUG-229079 “[EEP] Density multiplier does not allow full range of settings to be saved/loaded”, requires adjustments to be made to both the viewer and the simulator code.
    • BUG-229031 “[EEP] Water has a large performance hit on EEP” has been accepted, an analysis has yet to be completed.

ARCTan

Project Summary

An attempt to re-evaluate object and avatar rendering costs to make them more reflective of the actual impact of rendering either in the viewer. The overall aim is to try to correct some inherent negative incentives for creating optimised content (e.g. with regards to generating LOD models with mesh), and to update the calculations to reflect current resource constraints, rather than basing them on outdated constraints (e.g. graphics systems, network capabilities, etc).

As of January 2020 ARCTan has effectively been split:

  • Viewer-side changes, primarily focused on revising the Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC) calculations and providing additional viewer UI so that people can better visibility and control to seeing complexity.
  • Work on providing in-world object rendering costs (LOD models, etc.) which might affect Land Impact will be handled as a later tranche of project work, after the avatar work.
  • The belief is that “good” avatar ARC values can likely be used as a computational base for these rendering calculations.

Current Status

  • It’s still not clear in the Jelly Doll updates will appear in an ARCTan project viewer or within a project viewer of their own. These are more generic Jelly Dolls that improve their rendering.
  • It might be preferable for the Jelly Doll updates to move to their own project viewer, as ARCTan is awaiting a Bake Service update, which is in turn held up due to the on-going cloud uplift work.
  • There was a scare that the ARCTan updates might cause a performance hit – although this might be down to a system configuration issue and is still being investigated.

In Brief

  • There is some background work going on to update the Second Life systems requirement page. Not so much because SL’s requirement have changed, but simply to bring them more in-line with modern systems.
  • The data the Lab does gather on client systems indicate that a lot of users are based on laptops using on-board graphics and “a lot on older systems”.
  • Next meeting: Thursday, August 20th, 2020.

Linden Lab’s acquisition: sundry thoughts & speculation

via lawdonut.co.uk

It’s been a week since the news broken that Linden Lab is in the process of being acquired by new owners (see Linden Lab announces it is to be acquired, July 9th, 2020). Since then there has been a lot of  ranging from the entirely positive to the inevitable “we’re doomed! / the sky is falling!”

Some have raised concerns that neither J. Randall Waterfield nor Brad Oberwager have experience with running games companies. However, having hands-on experience in running the type of company in which you’re investing isn’t actually a prerequisite for funding / representing / guiding it. Rather, what’s important is having the ability to understand the company, appreciate its value proposition and being able to contribute to its continued growth; and both Mr. Oberwager and Mr. Waterfield appear to have these abilities. In particular, J. Randall Waterfield, as CEO of the Waterfield Group, comes from an environment where long-term investment in companies to ensure their growth is very much the raison d’etre.

Waterfield buys and builds well-run American businesses.
We prefer basic businesses with a few years of proven, conservative growth. We avoid companies that are growing too fast. We believe slow and steady makes the race… We strive to be a good partner to existing management, are passive with regards to general managerial issues, and work hard to help our CEOs and their families’ realize their vision.
Waterfield’s investment timeframe is forever. We work to grow book value at a reasonable pace with no exit in mind.

– from the About / Investment Criteria page of Waterfield

Now, to be clear, it’s not the Waterfield Group that is investing in Linden Research, but rather a venture between Mr. Waterfield and Mr. Oberwager; but given Mr. Waterfield’s pedigree with long-term investment, is hard not to see him taking the same approach in his other ventures.

Nor should the fact that Mr. Oberwager has sold off three of the businesses he’s built be seen as a negative. Building a company from the ground up is a different matter to investing in an established, profitable entity, and selling the former in order to repeat the cycle isn’t automatically indicative of a intent to buy-in to an existing company simply to sell it on without a longer-term commitment.

Which is not to say a buy-out like this isn’t without risk; with the best will in the world on the part of incoming investors to a company, things don’t always go as planned or turn out as hoped – but planning for failure isn’t generally how investors set about acquiring profitable companies.

A further point to remember is that acquiring a company isn’t something that happens overnight; it can actually take multiple months or even years to progress from an initial decision to sell, through reaching an agreement in principal, to that final closure.

Due Diligence means investors are rarely unaware of the business they are about to invest in

One big part of this process is due diligence, a process designed to make potential investors precisely aware of what they are getting themselves into – things that might alter the deal, such as revealing unwanted risks or unwelcome financial exposure that they might wish to see properly mitigated prior to proceeding further. This means that incoming investors are rarely coming into a company flying blind or are suddenly going to find themselves facing an unwelcome wake-up call that might leave them re-evaluating their desire to retain the company.

On a more interesting – to me at least – level is that given the length of time an acquisition can take – even if measured over months, rather than years – is how closely the decision to sell Sansar might have been tied to the decision to offer Linden Research up for acquisition.

Simply put and despite the effort already put into Sansar, it still has a long way to go before it is likely to establish a sold income-generating business model, and therefore represents a significant revenue sink hole of unknown depth. As such, it would make sense for the Lab to divest itself of Sansar prior to putting itself up for acquisition; doing to removes the uncertainty around that platform whilst leaving the company with a demonstratively profitable product (Second Life) and a second that is just starting to show its potential (Tilia Inc.). Depending on the time frames of the two events, the sale of Sansar might even have been a pre-requisite put in place by the new investors to limit potential risk raised through the due diligence process.

Following the acquisition announcement, there were questions asked through the forums, etc., on why would a profitable company be put up for sale, and statements (such as can be seen in comments on this blog) that you “don’t sell a profitable company”.

Well the fact is that profitable private companies are routinely sold for a variety of reasons, and none of them are “bad” or “negative”. For example, and leaving aside the point that the fact a company is profitable obviously makes it more attractive, a sale can be because the current owners wish to exit the company entirely to pursue other opportunities; or they may simply want reduce their overall holdings in the company as part of a general change in lifestyle, whilst leaving the company with the ability to continue operating successfully (and in the case of the latter, still have their experience / expertise available, should it be needed).

I’m not about to try to second guess what reasoning is at work in the case of Linden Research, but  I am curious as to the shape of the board once the acquisition has been finalised. Will it be just the two new investors (which seems likely), or will one or two of the remaining board remain?

Obviously, how things pan out will only become clear over time, but overall (and such is my nature as a “glass half full” person) I lean towards the feeling that the coming change for Linden Research will prove to be positive.