Obfuscating clarity

SL is in turmoil. The recent draconian accouncement of a 66% hike in OpenSpace tier rates has lead to widespread outcry – and even a rise in the number of established residents departing SL.

Finally sensing they’d not so much shot themselves in the foot as they had blown it off at the knee, Linden Lab threw Jack Linden back into the breach to try and bring “clarity” to the matter and give reassurance.

However, while the news that LL are actually “listening” to customer concerns (quotes intentional), one cannot help but view Jack’s blog announcement as little more than an attempt at “obfuscating clarity”.

In his post, Jack points to the original “intended use” for these sims, as quoted on the Knowledge Base: “It is therefore important to understand what these regions are. They are provided for light use only, not for building, living in, renting as homes or use for events.”

On the surface, this sounds like a “case proven, m’lud” statement….until one actually examines the facts around OS sims and how LL promoted them earlier this year.

OpenSpace sims are not a new product. They’ve been around for years, frequently referred to as “void” sims. Among other things, they:

  • Carried a prim limit of 1875 prims
  • Had virtually no other resources
  • Could only be brought in sets of four (e.g. one entire CPU load)
  • HAD to be physically connected to a FULL sim owned by the purchaser

In other words, they were ONLY good for use as landscape or water “extensions” to existing full sims (as they had to be physically connected to a full sim & only had sufficient resources to be used as such), and any major performance issues in terms of core usage could be easily managed, as all four voids would reside on the same CPU.

And it all worked very well. Then LL decided to up the ante. Not only did they drop the purchase price of void sims (while very SLIGHTLY increasing the tier) they:

  • Doubled the prim count to 3750
  • Gave OS sims the same resources as full sims (active script loads, agent loads, etc.)
  • Unbundled the requirement to buy OS sims in “packs” of four, allowing them to be bought as single items
  • Removed the restriction that OS sims must be physically connected to an existing full sim.

Of these points, perhaps the most important is the last one. Why, if these sims were to be used simply for landscape or water extensions, did LL allow them to be placed anywhere on the grid? By doing so, LL tacitly opened the door to so-called OS sim “abuse”. After all, who is going own region X, then buy half-a-dozen Openspace sims and then have them placed in regions A, B, C, where they don’t have a full sim presence, and then simply use them as open water or simple landscapes? The logic isn’t there.

Similarly, unbundling OS sims to allow single sales doesn’t sit with the “landscape or water” philosophy Jack Linden keeps pointing to in defence of the price hikes. Unbundling means it is no longer possible to readily identify other OS sim operating on the one core…thus, tracking issues that result from other people’s “abuse” of the system becomes much, much harder.

And again, if these sims were truly only intended for “landscape or water” – why doubt the prim count? 1875 is still a LOT of Linden trees and plants. And why furnish them with the same resource levels as full sim if they are not to be used for events?

Further, any idea that the doubling of the prim count would not send a message to people that it was OK to build on these newer OS sims is – quite simply – poppycock; so Jack’s claim that LL “didn’t expect” the counts to be used is utter nonsense. Even the most cursory glance at SL reveals we’re all prim-hungry; this being the case, doubling the prim count on OS sims as good as sent out a message that it is “OK to build”.

In saying all this, I’ll not even mention the number of OS sims LL themselves built-out – and which are all now hastily being converted to full sims because some of us have been “unkind” enough to point-out LL’s duplicity in their message. Again, if OS sims were “never” supposed to be used for anything other than “light” use – why did LL themselves build places like Space Base in Mos Ainsley (until earlier this week, an OS sim supporting a 3000+ prim build and touted for sci-fi based roleplay – thus encouraging higher agents counts & so contributing to the “abuse” Jack Linden is claiming is the fault of Estate owners)?

Thus, while the news that LL are “listening” to residents, as stated by Jack in the blog posting mentioned at the top of this item, is welcome, it really is time for Jack to stop all obfustication on the matter, especially when he claims he is trying to “clarify” matters. It’s time to stop hiding behind an out-of-date Knowledge Base entry and face facts and:

  • Address the questions raised by customers on the matter – particularly those questions related to points (1) through (4) listed above.
  • Explain why, given Jack himself states performance issues relating to OS sims have been on the rise over several months, did LL not seek to act sooner and engage with Estate owners on this rising trend, rather than simply slapping down a notice of intent to massively increase OS tiers & implement draconian restrictions in their use (no ownership transfer, no grandfathering, etc., which don’t actually address technical issues)
  • Similarly, indicate how a tier hike of extraordinary levels (financial response) is supposed to alleviate what is allegedly a technical issue.

And before you shout – it’s not simply a matter of raising prices to provide increased maintenance. For a start, LL vastly overprice their full private sims – $1000 USD + $295 a month per CPU is an astronomical hosting fee.

Perhaps most importantly, Jack should address the point (repeatedly) raised by Anne O’Toole, who points out that if there is a technical issue of the kind Jack originally indicated that is related to OS sims, it may well actually be indicative of LL’s own, far wider, errors in programming, as suggested in this JIRA. In it, thanks to the work of Wayfinder Wishbringer and Balpien Hammerer we find that texture loading – mentioned by Jack as being one of the central reasons for hiking OS tier – isn’t actually caused by OS sim “abuses”, but is rather a factor of the most recent Viewer releases.

Certainly, as it stands, “listening” is not enough. LL need to do an awful lot to restore customer faith following this debacle. That they have not yet committed to hold-off on the tier hike while the entire situation is properly, and consultatively thought-through with Estate owners and a truly equitable solution is found, is a sign that they may be hearing….but they are not listening.

Linden Lab’s blatant clawback

Earlier in 2008, Linden Lab overhauled their system of “void” (water) sims, each with 1875 prims to create what they called “OpenSpace” sims – low-cost sims with 3750 prims, operating at 4 to a server (rather than the usual 1 sim per server).

At the time these were shamelessly promoted by LL as a means for land owners to “make money”. They were also stunningly successful – in fact, it now seems, too successful.

Under the guise of a series of weak-kneed excuses, Linden Lab has issued a notification of massive hikes in the cost of OpenSpace sims – hikes that see the monthly tier raise by some 66% from January 2009. At the same time, they are restricting all opportunities to transfer OpenSpace sims between users (one of the very planks they used in their campaign to get land owners to buy OpenSpace sims in the first place).

One of the issues LL cite for this unprecedented clawback is “sim over-use”, alleging that the OpenSpace sims were intended to be “open spaces” and not overly developed. Well, lets look at one of the chief abusers of this “light use” so-called “policy” for OpenSpace sims.

“Space Base” is a place where (quote): “Several researchers are stationed at this remote outpost, hoping to uncover the secrets of an alien world.” It is a build totalling some 3113 prims on a sim. It is a place developed for sci-fi roleplay, where people are encouraged to go. It is a place owned by…Linden Lab and it is a place located on Mos Ainsley – an OpenSpace sim….

Then there is the glorious new LL realm of “Nautilus” – now we’ve all seen the login page notices extolling us all to go and explore and even LIVE in Nautilus. Well.. guess what….yup, you’re WAY ahead of me…

Nautilus has no fewer than 22 OpenSpace sims, the majority averaging around 50% total prim usage….

Can anyone say “double standards”?

So… who exactly is “abusing” the OpenSpace sim “rules” in these two cases…..?

But back to the salient point. Whether you own an OpenSpace sim or rent land on an OpenSpace sim or not is irrelevant – this kind of arbitrary action on the part of Linden Lab, coming at a time of HUGE economic downturn globally & coupled with (again) falling standards of service within SL (witness the increasing grid-wide lag), is nothing short of cynical money-grabbing, and could set yet another very negative trend off in LL / Customer relations.

A JIRA has been started to let LL FORMALLY know the depth of feeling with regards to this propsal. I urge all of you to go along to it and vote – and to do so whether or not you are an OpenSpace owner / user.

To vote:

Log-in to the JIRA system using the link at the top right of the page & using your SL user name and password.

Go to the leftmost column of the JIRA page and scroll down to the VOTE FOR IT link.

Thanks for your support!


Since the above was posted – surprise, surprise, Mos Ainsley was taken down by LL for several hours. When it returned, it had been upgraded to a full sim. And just in case you doubt Mos Ainsley was an OpenSpace, here’s a picture – note the total prim count for the sim on the right of the image – 3750 not 15,000….