Rod Humble hints at more virtual worlds in LL’s future

On October 14th, and thanks to Lelani Carver, I commented on an article in VentureBeat’s Gamebeat in which Rod Humble discusses LL’s new products and mentions Second Life (see Rod Humble talks-up new products, creativity and Second Life).

In my piece, I included a quote from him which appeared in the article:

“We are still investing in 3D virtual worlds,” he said. “But shared creative spaces is what we do. There is an opportunity to embrace the new way of developing things. A lot of this could be done inside Second Life. But you get more creativity in the hands of more people by building on new platforms”

Rod Humble: “Yes, the plural is deliberate”

At the time I was writing, Humble’s initial wording caught my eye: “We are still investing in 3D virtual worlds” (note the plural). I thought it an odd turn of phrase; why not simply, “We are still investing in Second Life”? In the end, I dismissed the various thoughts floating around my head and assumed the quote was either misinterpreted by the interviewer or that Humble was simply using a broad term by which to define Second Life without using the name itself.

However, it would appear the quote was accurate and intentional. Dropping a comment after my article (which you can read in full here), Rod himself had this to say on the matter:

My comment about also investing in virtual worlds is correct. As you know I don’t like to detail things until we are close to something actionable, but we absolutely are investing in the large virtual world space which I think will make Second Life users, business owners and developers very happy…. but its a ways off :).

In replying to my response to his comment, he went on to add:

Welcome! Yes the plural is deliberate :)

Now this is undoubtedly going to open the doors to speculation (why on Earth do you think I’m pushing this article front-and-centre 🙂 ). For my part, I find the comment “I think will make Second Life users, business owners and developers very happy….” possibly telling. After all, business owners and developers are by definition Second Life users – so why distinguish them somewhat apart from “Second Life users”?

Also of interest is the use of the phrase “the large virtual world space”, which is also open to a lot of speculation.

As Rod points out, it is going to be some while before anything further can officially be said. However, it is obviously fair to say that he wouldn’t have gone even this far without having a reasonable level of confidence that whatever is in the pipeline is going to come to pass.

So what do you think? Do you think he’s referring to the “SL 2.0” some have been writing about / wishing for? Is it “SL+” – perhaps with additional features such as larger regions? A whole new generation of virtual world solutions, perhaps cloud-based? Or something else entirely?

And if you decide to reply, please remember what else Rod said in his original comment: “Our commitment to Second Life remains key and central to our company.”

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Rod Humble reveals more on LL’s upcoming new products

Talking to Giant Bomb, Rod Humble has revealed more about the Lab’s upcoming new products, all of which appear set for launch in October.

We already know about Patterns, which is already available in its Genesis Release, and which has had something of a positive response among those in the gaming community who have tried it.

Patterns: generally positive reception to initial Genesis Release

We also know that Creatorverse will also be appearing shortly, and will initially be aimed at the iPad (but is currently still awaiting Apple’s approval), although it appears it will eventually be available for the PC and Mac as well going by comments in the article. The description of a demonstration of Creatorverse given by Humble is somewhat amusing:

Humble loaded up the app, which starts with a white screen. First, he drew a box, colored it in and tried to convince me it was a car. He made a better argument when two circles were underneath it, but when he clicked “play,” everything fell apart. By tapping the left side of the screen and pulling up his toolbox, Humble added joints that merged the “wheels” with the “car,” and gave the wheels a movement ability. Finally, he added a squiggly green line beneath everything, and clicked play again. The car roared to life…and then quickly fell off, tumbling into oblivion.

Probably not the intended result, but it does raise a smile. However, the really interesting part of the news about Creatorverse is in the paragraph which follows:

Each creation can be uploaded into the cloud, and both played and edited by anybody. The goal is to bring some Second Life sensibilities to Creatorverse eventually, too, such as giving users the ability to charge for them. (That can’t happen on iOS, though.) One of the more ambitious toys created by pre-release users was a pinball machine.

So not only would shared creative spaces appear to be a concept being carried forward from SL into their new endeavours by LL, but also the opportunity for users to monetize their creations…

Creatorverse: shared creative space and monetization? (copyright Linden Lab)

Of the remaining two products up for launch, one is Dio, which has been known about in essence, if not in content for a while. It is described as a “room creator, in which players can do everything from construct a choose-your-own adventure to develop an interactive wedding album.” This had been thought to be a product arising from the acquisition of Little Text People earlier this year. However, the fruits of that collaboration would appear to be in the fourth product in the lie-up.

Dio: to appear in October as well

This fourth product is to be called Versu, and is described as a storytelling toolset, in which players assign characters a set of motivations. The characters react to the actions of the player based on these motivations, and the story is procedurally generated. The first release is aimed at murder mystery and romance stories.

The timing of the launches so close to one another is intentional, with Humble hoping that the close proximity of the launches to one another will change people’s perception of Linden Lab, and encourage those who wrote it off as “just the Second Life company” to come back and have another look.

Hopefully, if successful, this may encourage people to take a look at Second Life as well…

With thanks to Laetizia Coronet

Dear Rod Humble…

Dear Rod Humble,

It is now some ten months since I last wrote to your company regarding its apparent inability to keep customers informed as to issues and problems impacting the service it provides. And while it may appear presumptuous of me to do so, I feel compelled to now write to you directly.

In that missive, I made mention of the fact that once upon a time, whenever there were problems, or when maintenance – planned or otherwise – was about to commence, Linden Lab would push out an in-world notice. As I said at the time:

It was informative; it was helpful; it was reassuring to know you guys were out there, keeping an eye on things and letting us know what was going on. It gave us a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside. In short, it was communicative.

And then one day it stopped, leaving us with no option but to find out about Things Going Wrong or that planned maintenance had started by experiencing it the hard way: through teleports failing or transactions going astray or No Copy items poofing into the ether, never to be seen again.

I’m not alone in feeling the in-world notifications need to be re-instated, and I drew your attention to this fact at the time of my initial letter:

At the same time we have seen what amounts to something of an erosion in the use of the Grid Status page. Once, matters pertaining to the grid were displayed directly on the Viewer splash screen, up in the top right corner with other useful information. For some reason never really clarified, they were removed. I commented on this to you directly about this on a couple of occasions, specifically with regards to the “new” log-in splash screen introduced around the time of SLCC2011. While your initial response was non-committal…

…You did seem to respond more positively when I raised the issue later in 2011:

Yet here we sit, almost a year on from my original letter and our exchanges, and nothing has changed. This fact was brought sharply into focus by the outage which occurred on the 26th April 2012, and the terse explanation that was eventually given for it happening.

The matter appears to have been the result of “unscheduled maintenance” – although the subsequent explanation released on the 27th suggests that the risk of it causing problems may have been anticipated. To me, the use of the term “Triggered a bug” – rather than say, “Resulted in a bug” – suggests there was a known issue / risk here, even before the maintenance commenced. Was this perhaps the cause for the maintenance in the first place? But I digress into speculation. Whether or not the potential for issues arising from the work was anticipated ahead of time, the fact remains that even as unscheduled maintenance, there was an opportunity to inform users of what was about to happen ahead of time.

Indeed, can you not see how much better it would have been if there had been an in-world broadcast that the work was about to commence? While such a broadcast would not have prevented the subsequent outage, it would have given fair warning to those already in-world and encouraged them to proceed with care, rather than people suddenly and unceremoniously booted out of SL and bewildered as to why. Of course, you did provide the log-in warning for people attempting to log back in to SL – but really, that was pretty much akin to saying to someone, “This may hurt,” after you’ve suddenly kicked them in the shin.

It is hard to fathom why Linden Lab appears determined not to re-implement such warnings – and I can only take it as a determination on your part, given that a) it’s almost a year since the idea was mooted both personally with you and with the likes of Viale Linden and despite the positive feedback, nothing further has happened; and – more particularly and relevantly – b) it appears that the JIRA (VWR-20081) from Marianne McCann remains unassigned. Further, given the lack of feedback following Oz’s comment from May 2011, it would appear that “support and ops” simply weren’t interested enough in the idea to warrant any such feedback; which in itself could be seen to speak volumes.

There can’t be any technical issues as to why in-world notices cannot be re-implemented; after all, they are used to give warning during the weekly server roll-outs. This being the case, one can only assume that in-world notices are not used is down to a complete lack of interest / concern on the Lab’s part, and the same holds true for providing links to the Grid Status page on the Viewer’s splash screen.

I know that from our direct exchanges that you feel you have, as CEO, been far more communicative than your predecessors at Linden Lab – and I’m not about to deny the fact that you have. But reaching out on Twitter or Plurk  – as welcome as it is – is no substitute for ensuring your company is fully and properly engaged in the process of communicating with its users through the channels that are most likely to reach the majority of said users.

To be more succinct: when it comes to keeping people informed of matters of import that may impact the Second Life platform, the most appropriate place for Linden Lab to communicate with its users is through the platform – Viewer and website. Everything else should be seen as a secondary or back-up means of getting the word out.

So again, why oh why do you, as a company, refuse to accept this?

No-one expects Linden Lab to handle everything perfectly; there will always been times when the unpredictable and/or the unexpected happens. There will be times with the best will in the world, the sky falls in or SL simply blows a raspberry at everyone and disappears up its own left nostril. We don’t expect you to be superhuman in your efforts to communicate.

But we do ask that the company communicates, and does so through the channels most likely to reach the majority of your users. When it comes to notifying us of the need for grid maintenance – whether it is scheduled or not – or in informing us of issues that may impact our use of the platform, then the channel most likely to reach the majority of your users is in-world notifications. As such, it’s hard not to interpret the ongoing refusal to make any attempt to do so as anything less than a cavalier disregard as to how users might be affected by either the need for immediate maintenance or by known issues.

And frankly, we deserve better than that.

Yours sincerely,

Inara Pey.

Happy Rezday, Rodvik!

I covered Rod Humble’s first year at Linden Lab last month – counting his time from the announcement of his appointment as CEO.

However, he didn’t “officially” log-in to Second Life as Rodvik Linden until the 11th January 2011 (although from his comments, he was busy exploring with an alt prior to that date).

To this end, just a quick note to say, “Happy Rezday, Rodvik! May you enjoy many more!”

Rodvik at an early public outing, with Pete Linden (left)
Rodvik at SL8B – and in a cunning disguise (l), with a hanger-on(!)

2011: a Humble year

Second Life’s New Leader: Rod Humble Becomes CEO of Linden Lab

MMO and Gaming Industry Visionary to Bring New Life to Second Life

SAN FRANCISCO — December 23, 2010Linden Lab®, creator of 3D virtual world Second Life®, today announced that Rod Humble has become the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Humble joins Linden Lab from Electronic Arts, where he was Executive Vice President for its EA Play label.

Humble’s 20-year career in the game development industry has included work on more than 200 games. In his most recent position at Electronic Arts, Humble headed the EA Play label, which includes the best-selling PC game franchise of all time, The Sims. In 2009, he was ranked #2 on the annual list of the Hot 100 Game Developers from gaming publication Edge. Prior to his work at Electronic Arts, Humble served as Vice President of Product Development at Sony Online Entertainment for the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), EverQuest.

LL CEO Rod Humble

Thus broke the news, on December 23rd 2010, that Linden Lab had a new CEO. Now, I’ll admit, and with all due respect to Mr. Humble – Rodvik, as we all now know him – but I’m not a games player (or wasn’t, until my retired father got himself a Wii, which has become the centrepiece of get-togethers at his place…but I digress). No, I had no more familiarity with The Sims than I had with George Clooney; sure, both were / are big names in their respective worlds, but the closest I’d been to either was passing a DVD box on a store shelf…

So the name “Rod Humble”, to me, meant little when the announcement was made, and I really had no idea how to respond to the news, so decided to wait. Some were a tad impatient for him to say something (although he wasn’t actually due to officially start at LL until mid-January), and some even commented that his silence didn’t bode well. I didn’t share this view and saw a number of reasons why Rod Humble was taking the right course in keeping quiet – as did Tateru Nino, in a thought-provoking piece.

When he did finally blog (just under a week after starting), his first post was a combination of the uplifting and the cautious – which again, I personally felt was the right way to go, and boded well for the future.

Since then, we’ve seen highs and we’ve seen lows – but I’ll nail my colours to the mast and say I believe the former outweigh the latter. On the whole, a lot of confidence has been restored in the user community – one only has to look at the overall favourable reaction to Rodvik’s appointment the more people heard him talk about SL, and to the reaction of SLCC attendees and those who watched the streams from the convention. Yes, there is still a long way to go, and cock-ups do happen, as we saw both with the code breakages around the middle of the year and the Marketplace mess-ups. But – the Viewer has been improved, mesh has arrived after years of waiting and hoping for many; we have Linden staff spending time in-world, re-discovering the complexities of the platform and developing new tool sets that will be released to the community, and so on.

It would be easy to nit-pick over the issues and downsides that remain, but I’m not going to that. One year ago today, it was announced that Rod Humble was appointed as CEO on Linden Lab, and since then, it’s been an interesting ride – and was we can see from his very appropriate post today, we’re in for more interesting times in 2012, which are bound to bring their own share of rewards and grumbles.

All I am going to say at this point – while aware that he didn’t officially occupy the hot seat at Battery Street until mid-January 2011 – is this: happy anniversary, Rodvik, and here’s to the next 12 months. Looking forward to further engagement between Lab and users, and experiencing the tools and pathfinding elements on which you blog…

…Just one question for you, if you please: at SLCC 2012. You said your goal for your first year at LL as being to be able to give every family member within Linden Lab a Second Life account, for them to be able to send the account to any “intelligent or above average intelligence computer user” for them to be able to use it to get into Second Life, use it and be grateful.

How has that worked out? Goal met? Very curious to know! :).

Last names back in January?

Dec 13 22:45: post updated with new information at the end.

Well…here’s interesting – and with thanks to Daniel Voyager, who is ever-vigilant on so many fronts, for picking-up on it and relaying the news.

It seems that the campaign to see a return of the last name option has gained traction in Linden Lab. As pointed out by Daniel, Rodvik commented on the last name situation via his web profile feed, thus:

This is excellent news – not only do last names seem set to return, Rodvik has gone so far as to indicate a planned implementation of early in the new year (albeit with the caveat of “hopefully”) – see update at the end.

This revelation is excellent news and demonstrates that in some areas, LL are still quietly listening and taking things on-board – so kudos to them.

What is especially interesting in Rodvik’s post is the comments on identity – these would seem to suggest that the new last name facility might be free-format (rather than selecting from a proscribed list that changes periodically, as with the “old” last name system), or that it might include an option for people to use their real name as their avatar name on signing up. If this is the case, then Rodvik’s comments on identity make perfect sense – people need to understand that providing their real life name as their avatar name is not a requirement of SL, or those that do need to understand the possible implications of doing so.

So – last names are set to return – good news indeed!

Update: 22:45 BST, 13 Dec

As this news has been spreading, Rodvik has made a further post on the subject:

Just to be clear Jan is when we will be giving a timeline/ plans on what we will be doing 🙂 Expect Q1 2012 for it actually to be done.

So the actual change will be later in Q1 2012 (quite possibly mid-to-later Q1, I suspect, given Rodvik’s clarified caveat).