|On Friday, March 10th, 2023, Linden Lab streamed a special session of Lab Gab featuring the Office of Second Life: Grumpity Linden, Mojo Linden and Patch Linden.
The session was built around announcements and updates relating to various initiatives and product developments. Note that the following is not a direct transcript of the entire session, but is intended to record the key points discussed.
For ease of reference, timestamps are provided to the relative points within the video where specific topics are discussed, allowing readers who prefer to listen to the comment directly to be able to do so.
|Table of Contents
A Little Background
Grumpity Linden: heads up Second Life Product team, where she has overseen a shift to growth, a stronger, more balanced economy, movement towards better community cohesion, and an overall forward-looking approach. She originally started at LL whilst working for The Product Engine, and was involved in the development of Viewer 2 (as designed by 80/20 Studio), prior to joining LL full-time in 2014. As the Vice President of Product, she is responsible for coordinating the various teams involved in bringing features and updates to Second Life, liaising with legal, financial and compliance to ensure features and capabilities meet any specific requirements in those areas, and so on; work which can involve looking at specifics within various elements of the overall SL product, such as UI design and layout, etc.
Mojo Linden: joined the Lab in 2021 at the Vice President of Engineering, filling the shoes worn for so long by Oz Linden. A 20-year veteran of the gaming industry, he has been responsible for launching numerous games across multiple genres and platforms, and has a strong understanding of platforms, architectures, and product development and technical capabilities. In his role at the Lab, he has shown enormous openness and candour in seeking to increase the platform’s functionality and performance, and in pushing to expand SL’s capabilities.
Patch Linden: originally a Second Life resident and business owner who joined the platform in 2004, and became a Linden in September 2007. He worked across a number of teams within the company – notably within the support and product spheres, and is responsible for developing the Land Operations team, and more recently setting-up the company’s support office in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 2019, he has been Vice President, Product Operations.
Second Life Mobile
[Video 0:00-4:42 and 6:36-7:57]
- Built upon Unity.
- Core development of this product began in October 2022, with the aim of gaining as high a fidelity of experience on mobile as is possible.
- Works on all platforms – Android, iOS, tablets, ‘phones.
- The product is still very much in development, with the focus having been on graphics fidelity, including full avatar rendering.
- There is some way to go before the product is ready for release – work at the moment is on smoothing out some of the rendering edge cases before moving on to adding further functionality.
- Initial release is planned for late 2023 with limited functionality, which will then be iterated upon to add more and more functionality and capabilities.
Land Pricing and Fees
- See: Infrastructure Investment Update: Buy/Sell Fee Change and Land Pricing Effective Mar 6, 2023 – official blog post.
- Grumpity re-iterated the drive (initiated by the late Ebbe Altberg, not long after he joined LL as CEO in 2014) to lower the cost of virtual land in SL – as had long been called for by SL residents – whilst also offsetting the lower land tiers through increases in fees elsewhere within the platform.
- The fee increases – as noted in the official blog post – also relate to increased costs LL has faced, thanks to the general economic situation.
- The fact that the option for paying for land using L$ (restricted to Premium Plus subscribers and limited to one region only at the time of writing) is higher than the USD fee for the same is explained as being a combination of the facts that the L$ to USD exchange rate, the fact that LL have to do the lifting of conversion from L$ to LSD through the LindeX, and as such must participate in the SL economy.
- It was also noted that paying in L$ means subscribers avoid being charged VAT / state sales tax / similar.
Bots and Policies
- Most likely raised in relation to ongoing concerns about the amount of data being gathered by the BonnieBot system (which has done much to raise the visibility of bots (aka Scripted Agents) in general), and which has also seen some heavy-handed forum moderation on the part of LL. So details can be found threads – see Has anyone else noticed the B[xxxx] accounts? Sorry. This is not OK. B bots profile scraping and Questions for the Lindens.
- Whilst the BonnieBot website has take steps away from publishing information which might be regarded as being within Second Life under the expectation it is private (a point that Linden Lab seemingly missed in their initial responses to forum thread postings), the Lab has recognised the need for clearer / better policies and has promised to provide them.
- These new policies have gone through the necessary compliance and legal reviews within Linden Lab, and will hopefully be published in week #11 (commencing Monday, March 13th, 2023).
- In addition, a new set of estate / region controls are being developed to enable estate / region holders to better control the use of Scripted Agents within their land. These will be deployed “soon” – hopefully within weeks of this session being aired.
PBR – Physically Based Rendering and Graphics
- (Note: this topic is also covered within my Content Creation User Group meeting summaries.)
- In brief: PBR essentially models the flow of light within computer graphics in a manner which mimics light reflections on surfaces in the physical world.
- It represents a significant technical step forward in graphical rendering for SL (in the order of 10 years).
- The core of this work is to support a new approach to material maps / surfaces either directly on products development for SL by content creators or which can be used on suitable objects within Second Life, which give they sense of physical world lighting and reflection.
- In particular, it draws on the Khronos glTF 2.0 specification, and allows creators to more readily use a range of tools supporting that standard (including Blender) and also contents libraries, etc., in support of their work.
- Also included in the PBR work is reflection probes – which in simple terms enable light sources to generate reflections of an in-world scene on suitable surfaces (i.e. those using the materials system).
- None of this work does not necessarily mean users need higher specification computers in order to view it; however, reflection probes can impact system performance, so the viewer will include an option to enable / disable these if they prove to be a performance hit for people.
- Demos of the PBR work, including an imported Sponza scene, can be found on the following regions on Aditi (the Beta grid): Materials1; Materials Adult and Rumpus Room 1 through 4.
- The PBR viewer itself – required to see the content on Aditi, is (at the time of writing) still in the Project Viewer stage (so not ready for use as a primary viewer!) and is available through the Alternate Viewers page.
- The next stage of the project is to provide support on Agni (the main grid) and promote the viewer to Release Candidate status, both for more widespread testing, but there is no set time frame for this to happen.
- This work does not mean LL are investing in a new graphics engine – this work, and the recent performance improvements work has been on updating and enhancing the existing graphics engine to better support users and what might be regarded as recognised graphics standards.
Mirrors in SL
- The PBR work takes SL some way towards provisioning real-time planar (that is, flat) mirrors.
- Once the initial PBR work has been deployed, LL plans to start work on offering planar mirrors in some capacity.
- Further details on this can be found in my 2023 week 7: SL CCUG and TPVD meeting summaries: Mirrors! article.
- While the graphics rendering engine is not being changed, per the above notes, the graphics API will be changing.
- As OpenGL is going increasingly old (and has been deprecated by Apple), plans are in hand to move the Graphics API to Vulkan (and MoltenVK for Mac).
- This switch will further enhance SL’s graphics capabilities, and work on the switch-over should commence later in 2023.
- (Note: Updates on the progress of the Inventory work can generally be found in my TPV Developer meeting summaries.)
- Work is in progress to provide updates to Inventory management, some of which are designed to help with avatar customisation.
- The first part of this is to provide an “Inventory thumbnails” capability – offering a thumbnail image of items in Inventory.
- Alongside of this will be a single folder Inventory view.
- These are not seen as major gamer changers, but rather quality of life improvements for new and existing users.
- LL is still working on integration the Catznip Emoji code contribution to all emojis in chat and IMs.
- A project viewer for this should be available in “weeks”.
- The current stop-gap for Linux is running the Windows viewer through Wine or Proton.
- The need to provide direct Linux support is recognised, but updating the tools to make this possible is not on the roadmap for 2023.
SL and VR
- VR still requires a consistent 60 fps left eye / right eye), and for many; the feeling at LL is that SL is not there yet even with all the recent performance improvements.
- Various initiatives – adoption of Vulkan, the Puppetry Project – should help improve things further, and LL might reconsider VR headset support in 2024.
- Marketplace Search was updated with significant changes to ElasticSearch (the underpinning Second Life and Marketplace Search) – see: We’re Improving Marketplace Search.
- This was a large update (lifting the search engine from version 2.3 to 8.4, and did involve some issues on deployment, which are being addressed – see: Updates to Marketplace Search.
- Further fixes and improvements to the update will be deployed in due course, the first of which will be Boolean searches.
- A fix for Featured Lists not updating correctly is also due to be deployed “soon”.
New User Experience (NUX) Mesh Avatar
- First previewed at SL19B in 2022 – see: SL19B MTL – the Moles (new starter avatars + Linden Homes).
- The avatars are now regarded as completed, and work is currently focused on developing clothing and accessories for them.
- That said, the project has taken longer to develop than had been anticipated.
- There will be a dev kit for creators wishing to support the NUX Avatars. This will be launched ahead of the release of the new avatars.
- The entire system is intended to be “PBR ready” in that PBR materials may not be included in the clothing and accessories released by the Lab, but the items will be capable of supporting the use of PBR materials on them.
Linden Homes Update
- A full update will be coming soon.
- The first range of Premium Plus Linden Homes is nearing completion.
- Updates and expansions to the current Premium Linden Homes – like the Victorian – are being prepared.
Second Life User Group Meetings
- There are numerous user group meetings held throughout each month.
- The SL Wiki has a full list of all current user group meetings.
- Meetings and their dates and times are also recorded on the SL events calendar.
- I also produce summaries on the following meetings:
- Server User Group – weekly.
- Web User Group – monthly.
- Content Creation User Group – every other week.
- Puppetry User Group (Aditi) – alternates with the Content Creation meetings).
- TPV Developer meetings.
Everyone is pretty much having fun with the SL Mobile project, and hopes were expressed that a “blooper” reel could be made available. It was also indicated that news on the theme for the 20th Second Life Anniversary event (SL20B) will be made available in due course.