On Thursday, March 31st, 2022 Patch Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product Operations and a member of the company’s management team, attended the 2022 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.
- Timestamps are included to allow a direct jump to a subject / comment.
On the Passing of Ebbe Altberg and the CEO Position
- Still very much missed by the team.
- Brad Oberwager noted the dynamic between Grumpity Linden (VP of Product), Brett Linden (VP of Marketing), Patch and now Mojo Linden (VP of Engineering), and decided to work with them as a management team, rather than bringing in a new VP.
Philip Rosedale’s Role
- Philip Rosedale’s role is purely advisory. He is not at the Lab full time, but he is a resource the management team can call on when broader strategies are being discussed.
- The management team maintain the day-to-day management and development of Second Life.
On Tilia and Its Role
- Grown out of the need to properly regulate money handling and the operation of a virtual currency, Tilia has grown into a product set in its own right.
- It still plays a central role with Second Life in terms of handling fiat money and transferring Linden Dollars to fiat money amounts.
- However, it is a separate entity, and specialises in all regulatory and compliance matters in dealing with fiat money transactions. As such it free the SL management team to focus on Second Life and its services for users.
Product Development Path and the AWS Architecture
- A lot of under-the-hood work to optimise the use of AWS hardware and infrastructure – simulator performance improvements.
- General improvements:
- Starting work of new “event” regions capable of running with 100-150 avatars within them, with a hoped-for target of 200.
- These regions have had some testing at various shopping events, and work is continuing to test and compare these environments.
- Seen as offering a route to true auditorium-style events as well as supporting shopping style events.
- Things like cost and additional features for this product have yet to be determined, so these regions are not generally available at this time.
- There are still issues to be resolved. For example, tests revealed that if a region took more than around 175 avatars, the memory use within the simulator / server the region was on would start to exponentially rise with each additional avatar.
- These regions might possibly be available to support RFL events.
- [Video 47:46-48:22] Once available, these “event” regions will be offered to educators at the current educational discount.
- [Video 49:40-51:21] These new “event” regions will not see any increase in either region size or in Land Capacity limits. Should Land Capacity ever change, it will be globally scaled for products.
- A lot of the work in leveraging AWS and developing the new “event” region product have both led to the discovery of additional areas where work needs to be carried out, and this is an ongoing process.
- The breadth of product offerings provided by AWS are constantly being analysed to see if they might be leveraged for use by Second Life.
- However, some of this might be limited, or required more engineering work. For example, text-to-speech / real-time translation are options AWS can provide, but leveraging them would require extensive viewer-side engineering to leverage what are essentially server-based tools.
- [Video: 44:21-47:21] Two major efforts at the moment are geared at growing the user base. These comprise:
- A further redesign of the new user on-boarding process and new user experience, part of which can be seen with the revamp of the welcome islands launched in 2021.
- A review of the avatar system / avatars supplied by LL for new users.
- For those who use the RegAPI, these changes will, it is hoped, “revolutionise” bringing users in SL.
- These are both part and parcel of an overall drive to increase the Second Life user base over the next few years (Patch’s personal target being to double the number of active avatars in-world).
- A benefit here of being on AWS is that Second Life is now entirely “elastic” and can group as required.
- Mobile / lightweight strategies are still very much part of the work that is on-going at the Lab.
- The dedicated Mobile offering (initially iOS) is still very much a focus.
- A streaming option is also being considered – but streaming is very much a moving target in terms of technology and capabilities, so this is very much a longer-term project. However:
- It potentially offers a higher-fidelity experience with graphics, etc.
- It is in active development and experimentation.
- Costs will be a factor, however, and such a service is unlikely to be something that would be folded-in to, say, some Premium subscription, simply because stream costs are so variable in terms of data load, etc.
- [Video 42:59-44:20] It is hoped that in offering a mobile solution, LL will be able to increase SL’s exposure to audiences and help grow the user base.
- Front-line support has been increased by 4 people.
- A new scripted support bot has been deployed that utilises AI to tackle support questions, rather than operating programmatically.
- Can understand plain English questions and leverages the Knowledge Base.
- Can carry out basic support functions, such as restarting a region on receipt of a recognised request.
- Also includes (or will include as the capability is being developed) to help with things like filing Abuse Reports.
- New support options are being introduced (notably as a part of Premium Plus, but no specifics).
- [Video: 39:24-42:57] On Meta and virtual spaces: Meta has put a huge spotlight on the metaverse business. Feels that at the end of the day, Meta will be just one of a number of virtual worlds / environments, and that others like Second Life can benefit out of the “all boats rise” adage.
- Some passing mention of Premium Plus but no real specifics worth noting.