On Sunday, December 21st, The Firestorm Team held a short-notice meeting which focused on Firestorm and SL Go. The special guest for the event was Dennis Harper, OnLive’s Product Manager for SL Go, who provided commentary on the background to SL Go and OnLive, and addressed audience questions.
Chakat Northspring was on-hand to record proceedings. As usual, the video is embedded here, and a transcript of the Q&A session is provided. However, in the interests of brevity, the first part of the meeting is provided a summary format, rather than a full transcript. Time stamps are provided for key topic areas, and for the Q&A session, for those who would like to listen to any point of interest within the video. Note that dates mentioned in the initial conversation reference 2012 and 2013, in actual fact, these should be 2013 and 2014, as reflected in the text.
A Summary of the initial Conversation
This initial conversation on SL Go, OnLive and the relationship with Firestorm lasted some 35 minutes, and is summarised here. Some questions were asked during the discussion on topics such as privacy and payment options. For ease of reference these have been moved to the Q&A section and placed with other questions on the same topic. Time stamps are provided to the relevant part of the video (below).
How Firestorm Got Involved with OnLive SL Go
[0: 03:57] The OnLive / Linden Lab partnership came about as a result of OnLive’s Lead Investor (and at the time, Chairman), Gary Lauder, indicating he believed SL would be a good match for OnLive and then initiating contact with Rod Humble at the Lab in May 2013 (see my article on the launch of SL Go)
- [0:0515] Initial closed beta testing commenced in October 2013, while Dennis Harper joined in November 2013, charged with getting the product published and launched. The occurred in March 2014, using the SL viewer, offering to Mac and PC systems and Android tablets
- [0:05:25] The initial metered pricing plan wasn’t popular with users. However, OnLive launched with it as they really didn’t know what to expect. Their service costs money to provide (servers, data centres, network, support), and SL users are a very different type of user compared to games users, spending up to 10 times longer active on the platform compared to someone playing a game. Metered payments were seen as a means of balancing use against cost
- [0:06:48] As the reaction to metered payments was bad, OnLive revisited things and in April changed the pricing model to one of unlimited use of the service for US $9.95 (UK £6.95) a month – and the service started gaining traction, Then in October, the service launched on the iPad
- [0:07:25] OnLive had always been aware of Firestorm and its large market share of the SL user base, and it was felt that offering Firestorm through SL Go would be a good way to bring the OnLive experience to a wider audience
- [0: 08:24] Jessica Lyon was initially unsure of the, but was convinced when Dennis pointed-out that a large take-up of SL Go was among users on low-end computer systems, who were finding the service gave them renewed access to the platform, complete with a rich graphical experience. As many Firestorm users on such low-end systems complain that each new update of the viewer is pushing them further and further out of SL, she felt that having Firestorm on SL Go could include them once more
SL Go is a Service
[0:12:59] The launch of Firestorm on SL Go drew some negative feedback from Firestorm users (and from elsewhere). However, it is important for people to remember:
- SL Go isn’t intended to be another viewer offering like a TPV. It is a service intended to meet very specific goals:
- To provide people who are on older, lower-specification systems with a rich, immersive Second Life experience comparable to that enjoyed by someone using a much more capable computer
- To provide those who wish to have the same rich, graphic SL experience as supplied by the viewer when accessing SL from their Android Tablet or iPad
- [0: 12:25] Dennis Harper is the first to admit that the service isn’t for everyone, but for those who might have a need for it, it is available on a 7-day free trial basis, so people have nothing to lose in giving it a go.
SL Go and the Firestorm Take-up
[0:13:40] Dennis describes the take-up of SL Go following the addition of Firestorm as “scary” and being like “the hockey stick term” in the way that there was gradual take-up up until the Firestorm launch, which saw a large substantial increase in initial adoption, as Firestorm users gave SL Go a try under the 7-day free trial offer. He also notes that there is an affiliate programme available for those wishing to refer people to the service via blogs, websites, etc., and earn money via referrals to the service.
[0: 15:32] There was an initial issue with the system as a result of the way the texture cache was being handled.
- The SL viewer uses a default 512 Mb cache, which users rarely adjust. Originally, on exiting the SL Go service, an entire user’s cache, together with their settings would be copied to a secure, encrypted store. Then, the next time the user logged-in to SL Go, the cache and their settings would be copied to the server they were assigned for their SL session, a process that didn’t take long
- Firestorm, by default uses a 2Gb cache, and users often set it larger. This made the copy process a lot more protracted, with the result that if a Firestorm user opted to restart the viewer by logging out (which ends their SL Go session), on immediately relogging, they’d get an error
- To avoid this, users now get a 2 Gb cache, which is automatically flushed at the end of each session, leaving only their inventory files and settings to be copied back to and from the secure store.