Linden Lab’s new Vice President of Engineering, Mojo Linden (aka Andrew Kertesz) dropped into the Third party Viewer Developer meeting on Friday, September 17th, both to say a few words and field some questions. These notes offer a summary of his comments, together with some audio extracts.
When reading / listening to the following please note:
- The bullet points within the topics are designed to help provide context to the audio.
- Unlike my usual approach, I have not attempted to group comments by topic per se, but have ordered things as they were discussed through the TPVD meeting, so that the notes and audio extracts here do parallel the video recording of the TPV meeting, which is embedded at the end of this piece.
- The audio extracts have been edited to remove pauses, repetitions, etc., and to remove break-in comments from others at the meeting. However, in doing this, every attempt has been made to maintain the actual context and meaning of Mojo’s comments.
- Mojo started his career at Microsoft, spending over 16 years working on a variety of products and services: Visual Studio, the DirectX API, XBox development (technology and game development). This also saw him help establish the Forza Motorsport Studio and work on a lot of the major Microsoft games like Halo.
- Joined a former CTO for XBox at IGT (International Game Technology), a company producing slot machines, where he worked in a highly regulated software environment.
- Moved on to Double Down, another gambling / gaming group, where he worked on mobile apps.
- Thereafter moved to Level Ex, a company specialising in making games specifically aimed helping doctors face the chellenges of modern medical practice.
- Developed a significant interest in virtual worlds and virtual spaces, which led him to join Linden Lab.
On performance and General Improvements
Following his comments about working on DirectX APIs, Mojo was asked if enhancing the viewer’s rendering capabilities would be a focus for him in terms of determining projects at the Lab, and also responding to comments about the value of working to fix issues and properly polish features and capabilities, rather than trying to push “big” new features.
- As he was unclear on all the the Lab’s preferences regarding mentioning specific projects and times lines, was understandably cautious about talking in detail about specific projects.
- Having had exposure to graphics APIs has an interest in improving rendering in Second Life.
- However, has a broader interest in improving overall performance, which he sees as much a part of the platform’s feature set as any new features.
- Agrees with the view that many users would prefer to see fixes and improvements to current capabilities rather than a massive push for new shiny features, and notes that the Lab is looking to “delight” its user community.
- Acknowledges the point-of-view that functionality isn’t always delivered in a manner users were expecting it to work and that capabilities can be delivered / added, but then fail to receive the degree of polish that would make them more fully usable.
- Indicated that LL have been discussing different lighting models – and in doing so mentioned he has been made fully aware of the expectation among many users that whatever is introduced does not “break” existing content, etc.
- Recognises that SL has a lot of users with a deep understanding of the platform, and is already thinking on ways that could be leveraged to help expand the platform and give practical improvements.
- In this latter regard, he realises that TPVs have done a lot of work in the area of performance for themselves, and is keen to explore how this work can be better leveraged.
About Avatars, Complexity and Performance
- Recognises that unbounded avatars with high complexity are not good for performance.
- Questioned whether it is better to throw controls and options at users for them to deal with performance issues they hit, or whether it would be better for the viewer to deal with matters more inherently, based on the user’s system.
- An example of this might be the viewer being able to more intuitive handle very complex avatars though automated imposter, etc., based on the capabilities of the system being used to run the viewer, etc.
- During the discussion, Vir gave a brief recap on project ARCTan (the work to realign complexity calculations, starting with avatars), and Mojo questioned whether the user community is offering potential solutions (Beq Janus and Elizabeth Jarvinen (polysail) have been looking extensively at the question of avatar meshes – see my CCUG / TVPD meeting notes for more on this).
- Is aware of the issues of avatar customisation, and is open to hearing back from those who directly face the issues new users have with their avatar looks, etc., on what might be done to improve things.
(My apologies for the sound balance in the extract below – the recording software went slightly wonky during the mid-point of recording the meeting, and attempts to re-balance after the fact didn’t exactly work…)
On Making Changes and Bringing New Users to the Platform
- (Alexa Linden pointed out that Mojo has been through the avatar selection / customisation and experiencing its pinch-points, and since joining the Lab has been spending time in-world exploring.)
- In terms of changes and improvements, Mojo is very aware that users can be resistant to change, particularly around things like the UI, where muscle memory plays a big role and people are simply unwilling to learn how to do things differently.
- Alexa noted that Lindens are not immune to this, and the push-to-talk change in the current RC viewer has resulted in much internal grumbling about having to change behaviour.
- He is very aware that the viewer has to address (broadly speaking at least) two different audiences: those who simply want to come aboard Second Life and grip to grips with the basics, and those who are more experienced in using the platform and want to carry out more advanced activities.
- In this, he (again) recognises the value of TPVs and the commitment of the user base as a whole to Second Life and its growth, and so is interested in exploring opportunities for his own engagement with assorted parties via meetings and other possible forums of exchange / engagement. As such, he intends to drop into things like the TPVD meetings as often as he can – particularly if there is specific news to announce.
For completeness, here’s the video of the TPVD Developer meeting with Mojo’s input: