June 2021 will see Second Life officially “come of age” as it were, as the platform celebrates it’s 18th anniversary of opening to public access.
Eighteen is generally acknowledged as the age of shedding minority status and of (if only in a legal sense in) reaching adulthood, as such this year’s Second Life Birthday (SLB) celebrations will likely acknowledge this in some way or ways – although we’ll have to wait to find out exactly how.
SL18B will run from Thursday, June 17th through until Thursday, July 1st, and Linden Lab officially opened exhibitor applications on Friday, March 19th. The theme for this year’s celebrations is simply given as “Hidden Worlds”, with the Lab noting:
Your exhibit does not need to stay in theme. If you are inspired by the thought of the hidden worlds around you, show us! Or, share your Second Life passions with us. Your interests. Your communities. Your worlds! Every year we celebrate because of you, the amazing and creative Residents, who have chosen to call Second Life home. What has drawn you into this world and what keeps you here? This year at the eighteenth annual Second Life Birthday, show us what fuels your Second Life and inspires you. Let’s go exploring!
Those who are interested in exhibiting at SL18B are asked to read, complete and submit the official exhibitor application form, which includes this year’s Exhibitor Rules. Note that the closing date for applications is Friday, May 28th.
A reminder that performers interested in participating in this year’s SLB music Fest, which will form the opener to the SL18B celebrations and take place between Thursday June 17th and Saturday June 19th inclusive, can still apply to be considered.
The Lab is seeking at least a dozen performers, both veteran Second Life musicians and those new to the scene, to provide the music for the festival, and full details on requirements / policies can be found in the Music Fest application form. But if you do plan to apply, remember, applications will close on Sunday, March 28th!
The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, March 18th 2021 at 13:00 SLT, and Pantera’s video recording of the TPV Developer’s meeting of Friday, March 19th, a copy of which is embedded at the end of this article.
Copy / Paste viewer, version 184.108.40.2063365, dated December 9, 2019.
Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 220.127.116.112999, dated November 22, 2019.
360 Snapshot project viewer, version 18.104.22.1689111, dated July 16, 2019.
The Simple Cache viewer is being updated and will re-enter circulation as a new RC viewer. Depending on the outcome of further testing this man or may not be the next viewer promoted to release status.
The other RC viewer with the potential to be promoted is the Key Mappings Viewer.
LMR 5 has encountered some additional crash issues centred on Intel GPU drivers, and so is unlikely to be in line for promotion at present.
The graphic team is addressing bugs relating to lighting underwater and to the Moon haze. This work, together with the LMR 5 issues mean Euclid Linden’s work to separate out UI rendering from scene rendering is currently on hold.
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 between viewer renderings 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. This will be followed in the future by 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.
This project has reached a point where consideration needs to be given to how performance controls that can leverage the avatar-related ARCTan data can be implemented. However, this work is waiting on Steeltoe Linden.
There was more general discussion on improved avatar scaling – uniform / proportional scaling, etc. However, as has been pointed out in the past, the general design of the avatar skeleton, coupled with the morphing capabilities (sliders) do not make uniform scaling easy to implement.
One of the calls for making such scaling possible is to allow users scale down their avatars so that regions feel much “bigger” and thus can present larger settings. However, this view ignores the fact that there are other practical constraints on the region and the underpinning simulator that mean just because avatars are smaller, “more” can be packed into a given space.
The majority of the meeting was general spitballing on options for revising the avatar per above, requests to implement Marvelous Designer, providing morph targets, and so on. However, none of the chat related to projects the Lab are currently working on or plan to implement in the foreseeable future.
The TPV Developer meeting amounted to some 6 minutes of discussion, ergo no timestamps to the video.
This blog has been in its current iteration “Living in a Modemworld” for nigh-on 12 years, and during some PC housecleaning related to it, I surprised myself by realising that in that time I’ve actually visited and written about 968 unique public locations in Second Life as a part of my Exploring Second Life Series, for a total of 1,334 articles (given I’ve visited certain places more than once).
Many of these articles relate to private regions that can remain for years as a time, undergoing seasonal changes and complete re-dressing, encouraging multiple re-visits. Others are more temporal, perhaps lasting only a modest handful of months at most. Some, however, endure, marking the passing of the years with smaller scale changes that allow them to retain their core looks and setting.
One of the latter is Micky Woodget’s Sheepville, a place I originally visited way back in 2013. It’s relocated since then, but I’m pleased to say that a visit Caitlyn and I made to it earlier in their year reveals it has not lost any of its unique charm, nor its curious mixing of eras.
The landing point is located in the village of Sheepville, a place that feels as if it stands at the confluence of strands of time. In looks, it resembles a small English village that has witnessed the passage of the centuries. The buildings are distinctively Tudor in style (although referred to as medieval). Nothing unusual in this, to be sure. However the local populace are presented in clothing that in places seems to be rooted in medieval times and in others has a distinctly Victorian lean. Meanwhile, the local pubs appear to brace a modern era, with their respective outdoor seating and the promise of fish and chips at a very modern price.
Thus, wandering around the village’s cobbled square, rich in the colour of spring / summer flowers, it is possible to feel as if you’re moving between historical periods simply by stepping into our out of a shop or building, as if the generations of history here have all become entwined in a single period instant of time. Is this the result of a natural phenomena, or the mischievous intervention of the leprechaun-like characters in St. Patrick’s green who are dotted around the setting? That’s up to you to decide – but the fact is, this mix of periods as subtle and works, giving the village an added layer of charm.
Just beyond the village is a small lake where canoes can be taken out on the water – one of a number of activities available in the region for people to enjoy. Both it and the village are overlooked by a large Norman / Tudor castle sitting atop the highlands to the north-east. This offers a clear destination for explorers, and has an interesting amount to see within, complete with a hint of Arthurian legend, as well as clear references to the Tudor era.
Paths and tracks run outwards from the village, offering routes around the region and up to the castle. These pass by outlying houses and cabins, as least one of which appears to be a private home, and the others may be available for rent (the use to be the case with Sheepville in the past, although we found no evidence it still is). So do be aware of the potential for trespass where these are furnished.
One of the charms about Sheepville is that while it makes use of mesh, it has about it a nostalgic feel of being “classic” Second Life. This is in part due the presence of the prim-style puppets that inhabit the village and the design of various elements used to dress the setting, such as the log benches found throughout, some of which retain the use of pose balls (with other poseballs scattered around the region). All of this further assists the sensation that Sheepville is a place genuinely caught in time.
In the eight years since my original visit to Sheepville, the setting has changed in a gentle manner that allows it to retain its core looks. It offers a gentle place to explore, complete with its own little quirks within a rural, semi-pastoral setting. In this it is remains an engaging place to visit.
On Thursday, March 18th, 2021 Patch Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product Operations and a member of the company’s management team, attended the 2021 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference in the first of three special events featuring representative from Linden Lab.
The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session, which is embedded at the end of this article. Time stamps to the video are also provided to the relevant points in the video for those who wish to listen to specific comments.
This is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.
In places, information that is supplementary to Patch’s comments is provided in square braces (i.e. [ and ]) are used in the body text below to indicate where this is the case.
Brad Oberwager is particularly active, and has the avatar name Oberwolf Linden and is described as “a lot of fun” to be around and to work with. [He is both on the board and serves as Executive Chairman on the management team.]
As Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager’s aim is to see Second life set as the “largest and best” virtual world, and has a genuine love for the platform.
Both J. Randal Waterfield and Raj Date (particularly) appear to lean more towards the Tilia Pay side of things, with Brad Oberwager more “in the middle”. However, this doesn’t mean there is a dichotomy. Tilia is a key component of Second Life (it runs the entire Linden Dollar eosystem), and Tilia’s own success and growth will benefit SL.
[Tilia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Research (Linden Lab). It’s board comprises two members of the Linden Research Board: Brad Oberwager and Raj Date), together with Aston Waldman, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Linden Lab. The management team comprises: members of the the Lab’s management team: Aston Waldman, David Kim, Ray Johnson, Emily Stonehouse and Brett Attwood.]
The two entities enjoy a symbiotic relationship: Tilia is owned by Linden Research with Linden Research also a primary customer. However, day-to-day operations are carried out by two separate teams.
[48:48-49:59] The new owners are bringing a tremendous new energy to Linden Lab, and are “super enthusiastic” about growing Second Life, including its educational use. What gets to be invested in the platform will only benefit everyone.
The key question Brad Oberwager asks and prompts people to ask is, “How will it benefit the residents, and how will it benefit Second Life?”
SL Short-Term and Longer Term
Priorities for the Second Life Team in the Next 12 Months
Immediate priority is to increase the Second Life active user base. This is very much being driven as a goal by Brad Oberwager, and includes:
“Drilling down into” the new user experience.
Refactoring the on-boarding process and orientation islands.
The work will include viewer-side changes that are intended to “smooth out a lot of the bumps in the road”.
The will will be built on two years of active study and A/B testing to try to determine what the on-boarding path should look like, together with learning from users returning to Second life as a a result of the SARS-CoV-2 impact.
It is hoped this work will both help LL improve user retention and also feed through to the community gateways, particularly with regards to the upcoming changes which will be made to the viewer.
No specifics provided, but the viewer changes are described as:
Easier to find information.
There is also the need to complete the work of transitioning to AWS – fixing the current issues directly related to the move and also on-going work to properly leverage the AWS environment for the benefit of the platform.
[29:24-30:00] This work includes a lot of under-the-hood simulator performance improvements that will be continuing throughout the year.
The company would like to at least double the active user population over the next 3-5 years.
This is seen as a realistic goal in light of the shift in emphasis seen within business, education, etc., from purely physical world interactions towards more digitally-based interactions / hybrid opportunities that mix various formats [e.g. digital + virtual + remote working / learning].
AWS offers the potential for regions to be geographically located around the world, potentially bringing them closer to their core audience.
This could allow educational regions, for example, to be hosted much closer to the schools / colleges / students they serve, making them more responsive.
This approach could potentially start to be used towards the end of 2021.
Further out, geolocating regions could potentially offer the ability for the Lab to offer white label grids to specific customers / groups.
[24:00-28:25] White label grids present the opportunity for the Lab to better meet specific client requests to remove features and capabilities from the viewer – and also take features an capabilities required for a specific environment and potentially make them available across the entire Second Life product.
Two examples of the latter already exists: the new extended chat range feature available to region owners, and the Chrome Embedded Framework updates that allow video to be streamed into Second Life, as originally demonstrated in the Adult Swim streaming of episodes from The Shivering Truth in May 2020.
The pandemic, particularly as a result of attempts to leverage the platform for education, business and similar use by organisations and groups, reinforced the fact that the new user experience needs to the overhauled.
It has also underlined the fact that people’s usage habits have changed.
The Land Team in particular has learned a lot about business, etc., needs of clients – the team deals directly with such requests as they come in to the Lab, and so have been dealing first-hand with understanding client requirements, determining the best for of assistance (e.g. providing one of the Lab’s turn-key solutions or brokering contact between the client and a solution provider who can meet their requirements.
Nothing on the roadmap related to pricing; land costs should remain untouched through the rest of the year.
There is the potential for AWS to allow the Lab to develop new region products; this is something that may start to be looked at 12-24 months hence.
AWS might also allow for on-demand spin-up of regions, initially building on the idea of Homestead holders being able to take a temporary upgrade to a Full region to run a specific event, then downsizing back to a Homestead.
There is no Lab-based group specifically tasked with investigation competitive platforms, but staff tend to try them out through their own interest.
Attention is paid to how other platforms adopt newer technologies and the challenges encountered in such adoptions.
There is still no real, direct competitor to Second Life in terms of size, flexibility of use, or in having an in-built content creation tool set.
LL don’t regard users as beta testers per se. However, major new features do require trialling / testing, which can involve selected users / tried at scale to determine feasibility / performance, etc. Sometimes the result is a capability has to be withdrawn as it is not performant enough (e.g. the VR headset viewer) and / or negatively impacts the user experience.