Lab divests itself of Desura

LL logoIn a press release made on Wednesday, November 5th, Linden Lab announced the sale of Desura, the on-line digital distribution service which they acquired under Rod Humble’s leadership in July 2013.

Desura has been sold to Bad Juju Games, the Indie Game and Middleware Tools Developer for the Mobile, Console and PC Gaming markets, and based in Aliso Viejo, California. In the brief press release, the Lab state:

As has just been announced, Bad Juju Games has acquired Desura from Linden Lab.

Bad Juju has taken over all day-to-day support, maintenance, and ongoing enhancements to the Desura website and service platform. The Bad Juju team will be reaching out directly to developers with games on Desura and are happy to respond to any questions they may have.

Transitioning Desura to a new owner is great for Linden Lab and our customers, as it allows us to further enhance our focus on creating the ambitious next-generation virtual world, while continuing to improve Second Life and growing Blocksworld.

Desura is a fantastic platform for game developers and players, and we look forward to seeing it continue to evolve and grow, now as part of Bad Juju Games.

Desura: just 16 months in the Lab's portfolio
Desura: just 16 months in the Lab’s portfolio

A press release from Bad Juju themselves indicates that negotiations over the future of Desura have been underway for some months:

Indie Game and Middleware Tools Developer Bad Juju Games®, today announced that it has officially acquired Desura™, a comprehensive digital distribution service for PC, Mac and Linux gamers from its former owner and operator Linden Lab®. The move comes after several months of coordinated planning by the companies to ensure uninterrupted operation of the Desura service as well as a comprehensive roadmap of new features that will significantly benefit both its users and game developers during the upcoming months and beyond.

It is unclear what the sale of Desura may mean for Scott Reismanis, if indeed it means anything at all. Reismanis, who founded the digital distribution service, and who joined Linden Lab as “Director of Digital” not long after the acquisition. With his experience in empowering creators to benefit from their digital content, Mr. Reismanis may already be involved in the development of the company’s “next generation” virtual worlds platform.

While this may sound a little like 20/20 hindsight, I confess to being unsurprised by the sale of Deura; I’ve actually been expecting news of this kind for the past couple of months, and particularly since the Designing Worlds interview with Ebbe Altberg. During that programme, Mr. Altberg referred to the Lab being in a process of cleaning up their product portfolio (some 3 minutes into the show), with the use of the present tense suggesting to me that the process was still going on, rather than him simply referring to the company’s removal of Versu, Creatoverse and dio from their portfolio. Given the statements of support that have been repeatedly given about Blocksworld, the comment in the DW show seemed to indicate something would be happening to Desura and / or Patterns.

To be totally honest, at the time I felt it more likely that Desura would be let-go than Patterns, as the latter at least seemed to fit with the Lab’s sandbox creativity philosophy, while Desura always seemed more of an awkward fit, and something more likely to generate a decent return if offered for sale. Of course, as it turned out, Patterns went first.

Confirmation also seemed to come when an enquiry on an unrelated matter led to a response from the Lab that all remaining advertising including Desura, would be removed from their remaining web properties ( and The reference to Desura chiming as odd, given it was ostensibly a Lab product.

I was broadly supportive of the Lab’s attempts to diversify their product portfolio, even iff the effort always did seem half-hearted. Companies with all their eggs in one basket tend to by very vulnerable to any number of circumstances not always of their own making – although equally, they can also sit very comfortably in a niche and enjoy a long life. Even with Blocksworld still on the books – and another repeated statement that the company will be standing beside that product – it now seems that for better or worse, the Lab has opted to keep only their golden egg, Second Life, and focus on perhaps producing another they can nurture alongside it.

LL seek to model Desura open-source client after SL viewer model

Desura's former Terms of Service included language similar to that found in LL's ToSUpdate: Linden Lab sold Desura to Bad Juju Games on November 5th, 2014.

In 2011, Desura announced that their client-side software would be released under the GNU GPL v3, allowing it to be developed and enhanced by the open-source community, with the server-side of the service remaining proprietary. The code itself was released on January 21st, 2012 under the project title Desurium.

A small community formed around the project, focusing on the development of the Linux client, with release candidates appearing from November 2012 through until around May 2013 (RC 0.8.0 RC10 for Linux 32 and 64-bit). Since then, things have been relatively quiet, no doubt in part because of Desura being acquired by Linden Lab in July 2013, although commits have continued to the project’s repository on Github.

Now that looks like it may be changing.

On September 24th, Oz Linden published a statement of intent on the Desurium community pages outlining how the Lab proposes to carry the Desurium project forward.


Essentially, the Lab will be continuing the project, but under a structure that mirrors the current arrangements for open-source development of the Second Life viewer. Part of this is a proposal to change the licensing for the client from the General Public Licence v3 to LGPL version 2.1, which is currently used with the SL viewer. The company is also proposing introducing a Contribution Agreement “substantially similar” to the Contribution Agreement used with the Second Life Viewer.

The Lab believes the licence change will “help to clarify that game developers can incorporate Desura client technology in their products however those products are licensed, and remove the need to drive software design in order to insulate non-open source games from the viral aspects of the GPL.” It is noted that all work submitted to the project prior to the licence change will remain under the GPL v3 licence, and the change, once implemented, will only apply to the project and contributions from that point forward.

Rather than seeking to make an arbitrary change to the licence, the Lab is looking to do so collaboratively, with the announcement noting:

Changing the license will require that we initiate discussions with past contributors. If some contributors are uncomfortable with this new structure, we may need to evaluate the impact that could have and whether we may need to make any adjustments. Contributors should each expect to hear from us soon.

The announcement also highlights that the Lab wishes to see client development move forward on the Windows and Mac platforms as well. It also carries strong indicators of their commitment to Desura, noting that they are in the process of recruiting additional personnel to undertake Desura / Desurium related work in terms of client development and project management, with a strong emphasis on coordination between development work undertaken in-house and development work undertaken by open-source developers.

Response to the announcement has been muted but favourable from the Desurim community.

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Lab announces IndieCade nominees and official selections Desura distribution

LL logoOn Wednesday October 2nd Linden Lab announced it would be offering all nominees and official selections at the IndeCade International Festival of Independent Games, “an agreement for global distribution, without any listing fees, via Desura, a leading digital distribution service for independent games.”

The offer is open to all developers of games aimed at the PC, Mac or Linux platforms nominated / selected for the event, which is due to be held in Los Angeles on October 5th and 6th. In addition, all qualifying nominees and official selections opting to take up the offer “will also automatically be a part of Desura’s new partner program and will be supported with promotional advertising, courtesy of Linden Lab.”

An estimated 21 of the 36 nominees in this year’s IndieCade festival qualify for the offer.

The announcement came via an official press release, posted to both the Lab’s corporate website and on the Desura website. The press release reads in part:

SAN FRANCISCO – October 2, 2013 – Linden Lab® and IndieCade have announced a special prize for the IndieCade 2013 Festival, held October 5-6 in Los Angeles: for the first time, all nominated and official selection PC/Mac/Linux games will be offered an agreement for global distribution, without any listing fees, via Desura, a leading digital distribution service for independent games.

Additionally, IndieCade nominees and official selections that choose to take advantage of the distribution offer will also automatically be a part of Desura’s new partner program and will be supported with promotional advertising, courtesy of Linden Lab.

Desura has a large catalogue of successful commercial games as well as free titles. IndieCade-nominated free games are eligible for this offer and will be also extended the opportunity to participate in a forthcoming promotional initiative.

“We’re a proud supporter of IndieCade and its mission,” said Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab. “Celebrating and supporting independent developers is a goal Desura shares with IndieCade, and we’re happy to be able to award distribution and promotion to all nominated and official selection games at this year’s event.”

Desura puts the best games, mods, and downloadable content from developers at gamers’ fingertips, ready to buy and play. The free Desura application can serve and patch games, mods, and add-ons directly for customers around the world. Developers and publishers can share news, images, videos, and other content through their profiles, while every member of the Desura community can post comments, submit reviews, and upload screenshots from their own playing experiences. Desura also demystifies user-made mods and add-ons for games by making them as easy to find and install or update as professional titles.

indiecadeIndieCade is an international juried festival of independent games, and is often referred to as “the video game industry’s Sundance Festival”. At IndieCade, independent video game developers are selected to screen and promote their work at the annual IndieCade festival and showcase events.

The link-up between Linden Lab and IndieCade would appear to be a logical step, given that the Lab has recently acquired the Desura digital distribution platform, which has been a sponsor of the event, and that Will Wright serves on both the Board of Directors of Linden Lab and on IndieCade’s Board of Advisors.

The move is clearly aimed at strengthening Desura’s market status and positioning as a front-runner in the global distribution of independent games and mods. It also potentially raises Linden Lab’s profile among independent game developers.

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ToS Changes: The “Desura connection” and a personal perspective

Upset over LL’s re-wording to their Terms of Service continues, with high-profile reports of some content creators of long standing opting to withdraw their content from SL, and another third-party content supplier forbidding the use of their items within Second Life.

Elsewhere, people are starting to point to a “Desura connection”, with Nalates Urriah speculating that the re-wording might be in connection with the Lab wishing to provide the means for SL content creators to sell content through Desura.

A possible “Desura connection” was actually first mooted in passing by Kuurus in a September 15th comment on this blog, after I obtained a statement on the ToS changes from the Lab. Kurrus’ comment in turn prompted me to take another look at Desura’s former Terms of Use (replaced at the end of August by LL’s ToS, but still available via  things like the wayback machine), to see how that handled third-party content. What was interesting here was that the wording in the Desura ToU bears remarkable similarity to that of the revised LL ToS, as I commented upon at the time. Specifically, Section 2 of the old Desura ToU stated:

You expressly authorise and permit Desura to exercise and to authorise others to exercise all of the rights comprised in copyright and all other intellectual property rights which subsist in the Content and you irrevocably consent to all such exercises. Desura is not required to compensate you or any other person in any manner for any such exercise or authorisation. In particular, Desura may use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise communicate, and publicly display and perform the Content and other works which are based on them (including by way of adaptation or derivative works) in any form, anywhere, with or without attribution to you, whether or not such use would otherwise be a breach of any person’s moral rights, and without any notice or compensation to you of any kind.

Desura's former Terms of Service included language similar to that found in LL's ToS
Desura’s former Terms of Service included language similar to that found in LL’s ToS

While the phrase “sell / resell” is notably absent from the above, the overall assignment of rights to Desura of any and all work uploaded to the Desura website (including forum comments, etc.), is actually very similar to those the Lab set-out in their revised ToS. Note in particular that Desura can reproduce and redistribute (aka give away and / or sell)  in any form, anywhere – a phrase which strongly echoes, LL’s own ToS statement that they can use content “for any purpose whatsoever”.

This clearly doesn’t negate concerns over the ToS changes or put anything to rights, nor am I suggesting it does. Rather, it suggests that the rewording of the ToS is a direct consequence of trying to merge two disparate terms of service / use, which has resulted in a clause which perhaps should have been more thoroughly considered in terms of implications rather than as an exercise in re-wording.

Following-on from my initial contact with the Lab about the ToS changes which elicited their original statement on the matter, and as a result of looking into the Desura ToU, I again wrote to the Lab on September 17th in an attempt to obtain further feedback from them on the matter. At the time this article went to press, I had yet to receive any reply.

Is the ToS Change Related to Making SL Content Available on Desura?

Determining what the Lab may or may not do isn’t easy. The company tends to hold its cards close to its chest on matter of future planning and directions. However, there are several points to consider when looking at the whole SL content / Desura angle.

For example, unless there are plans to curtail the Marketplace completely, one has to question whether such a move would actually be seen as worthwhile to merchants. The Marketplace may have its flaws, warts and issues, but at least it is directed at the audience most likely to purchase the goods on offer. As such, the effort in opening Desura to the sale SL content may not actually reap real benefit in terms of SL content creators actually using it.

Which is also not to say it shouldn’t perhaps be tried, if it doesn’t take-up too much effort. And who knows? In time, the Lab may well be looking towards moving away from a market environment which only allows content to be sold into one platform, and to one that allows them to potentially offer merchants the means to reach multiple grids. Again, not that this will happen overnight, were it to turn out to be a part of the Lab’s thinking.

Certainly, both Humble and Scott Reismanis, Desura’s founder, appear to share some grand ambitions for Desura’s future. I recently drew attention to quote from Humble on this, in an interview he gave to Gamasutra:

[We want] to make it the most open, developer- and user-friendly distribution service for all kinds of digital goods, starting out with games and mods and going from there. For us it’s a natural step… We’re about user-to-user transactions and empowering people’s creativity.

[my emphasis]

Scott Reismanis (Desura) and Rod Humble have expressed similar ambitions to grow Desura
Scott Reismanis (Desura) and Rod Humble have expressed similar ambitions to grow the platform

Continue reading “ToS Changes: The “Desura connection” and a personal perspective”

Second Life viewer arrives on Desura

Update: Linden Lab sold Desura to Bad Juju Games on November 5th, 2014.

Alongside other quiet moves on the Lab’s part, such as Patterns appearing on Desura, then Versu getting some new titles, it seems Second Life has now also appeared on the Lab’s recently acquired digital distribution service.

Given the move to add Patterns to Desura, the arrival of Second Life isn’t that surprising. It’s more than likely been anticipated by most SL users since Desura was acquired in July.

Second Life on Desura
Second Life on Desura

The SL Desura page features the last promo video to have been produced / commissioned by the Lab (September 2012), which focuses strongly on the gameplay elements within the platform while touching on other aspects such as socialising and building. It’s not the strongest way to promote SL in some respects, given some of the images tend to play into stereotypes (the long zooms into bustlines, for example, suggestive of teenage oogling), but hey, SL is supposed to have seen a shift in demographics…

What is interesting about SL’s arrival on Desura is that it appears to have caused more people who use the service to wake up to the fact that it has been acquired by the Lab (announcements of the acquisition were somewhat muted elsewhere on the website at the time). Reactions to both the arrival of Second Life and the acquisition, visible in the comments on the SL page, have been mixed but swaying towards the negative.

Out of interest, I tried the download / install process using the Desura desktop service. It was fast, using a “local” mirrored site in the Netherlands, and handled both the download and initial installation of the viewer in a single pass.

Installing the SL viewer via Desura

The release version of the viewer is called Second Life Release Desura, and installs into a folder (under Windows at least) by that name. Interestingly, the viewer is built of a 3.6.5 code base, not the current 3.6.4. Once installed, the viewer fired-up – and had an oopsie with the media webkit failing.

webkitGiven SL has only recently arrived on Desura, I was a little surprised when clearing the error message left the screen displaying a mandatory update warning; perhaps this was to fix the webkit issue. I let the update complete, and the viewer restart … and was again confronted with the webkit failure message. As this doesn’t occur with any version of the viewer obtained directly from LL, I can only assume it is a problem within the Desura offering. Closing-down the viewer and restarting clears the message but even so, assuming others get the same warning, I can’t help but think it’s not the most confidence-building thing to see after a first-time install. Similarly, it’s a shame that the link on the update pop-up which supposedly offers more information (i.e. release notes) goes to a blank wiki page.

Once I had shut down and restarted, the viewer ran through the usual CREATE ACCOUNT / CONTINUE options. Out of curiosity, I created a throwaway account and logged-in to the new “Social Island” arrival points which are being tested, and landed on a stack of people’s heads – so it would appear a fair few are trying SL out (although not necessarily via Desura, admittedly). I didn’t go further than this, as I intend to take another look at the “new” new user islands in the future and perhaps update on my original report.

All-in-all, not a surprising move, although equally, one not without some rough edges which might cause irritation if seen by many. Whether this move is the final nail in the coffin of the Steam link-up (prematurely) announced almost a year ago remains to be seen.

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Patterns: now on Desura & the Lab teams with Alienware again

Patterns on Desura
Patterns on Desura

Update: Linden Lab sold Desura to Bad Juju Games on November 5th, 2014.

Update, October 9th, 2014: Linden Lab announced that development work on Patterns has been discontinued.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Desura for a while, mainly to see if any rebranding commences. In doing so, I came across the fact that Patterns is now available on the Lab’s latest acquisition.

Whether the Lab heard my speculation on the subject of Patterns and Desura or not I’ve no idea* , but Patterns appeared on Desura  at the start of August, just after I last poked at the digital distribution service. It arrived with a “special offer” of an additional 25% off the purchase price (so 75% off rather than the “usual” 50% for the Genesis version). This offer ended on Monday 5th August, and the price is now back to the 50% off the “Alpha” price.

Response from the Desura community has so far been small but positive, with most ratings sitting at 8-10 (out of 10). The Desura web page includes a Vimeo version of the Lab’s last video promo for Patterns, which appeared back in early July. This is actually quite stylish and something of a departure for the Lab video-wise (as have their Blocksworld promo videos – have they hired in a new team for marketing, or are the Boldai team having an additional impact? :P).

Patterns Competition

Patterns-compWhile I may not have received notification of Pattern’s arrival on Desura, I did receive an e-mail notifying me of Patterns-based competition the Lab is running in conjunction with Dell / Alienware.

The competition appears to have launched on August 12th, and is linked to via the Patterns website, Patterns on Desura and Patterns on Steam. On offer to the winner is an Alienware X51 gaming desktop.

Entrants to the competition are required to design and construct a unique alien landscape within Patterns using the in-game shapes and abilities offered in the game and then upload a screen shot of the build to the Alienware competition web page before September 15th, 2013.

An Alienware Arena account is required to enter the competition, and as has ben the case in the past, the competition is only open to legal residents of the United States (other than Rhode Island and US Territories), and entrants must be 13 years of age or older. The winner will be selected through a split between public voting (open to Alienware Arena members) and “Expert Judging”, and based on a combined score from both. Judging criteria will be on the originality / creativity within a build and relevance to Alienware / Dell.

Further details on the competition can be found on the Alienware Arena Patterns Competition page, as can the Contest Rules.

Continue reading “Patterns: now on Desura & the Lab teams with Alienware again”