next-gen virtual world by LL

VWBPE logoYesterday, at VWBPE’s Second Life auditorium, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg (Ebbe Linden in-world) gave the opening keynote. The auditorium was packed – at various points, there were up to 170 people in-world with their avatars. Mal Burns recorded the speech and uploaded it to his YouTube channel so that it can be watched even by those who were unable to attend. As had happened last year, Gentle Heron was hard at work transcribing Mr. Altberg’s speech, and there was an interesting Q&A afterwards, with people from the audience having a chance to ask questions directly; I must give Mr. Altberg kudos for handling this task with great aplomb, and for his relaxed, approachable attitude towards the users who came to the venue to listen to him and ask about things they were interested in, w.r.t. Second Life and the next-generation virtual world platform that Linden Lab is developing.

Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab's CEO.

Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s CEO.

Below, I’m giving some of the main points that attracted my interest during Mr. Altberg’s speech – both from the main speech and the Q&A:

Education:

  • More than 300 organisations are benefitting from discounts for educators and non-profits;
  • The combined capabilities of 3D graphics, simulation, etc. that virtual worlds provide are a strong element for improving learning and and teaching;
  • Educators have shared many success stories;
  • There is no intention on behalf of Linden Lab to increase prices or remove the discount;
  • On the contrary, LL seeks to make usage of SL for educational purposes more affordable.

It becomes clear that LL realise that the decision made during Mark Kingdon’s tenure to remove the educator and non-profit discount was a mistake, and that, if they want to maintain a leading position in the virtual world market for educators and non-profits, they must never repeat it.

Second Life:

  • LL are looking to improve the new user experience, including what Mr. Altberg referred to as “entry points”;
  • “SL is not going anywhere”;
  • LL understands that it needs to continue working hard on Second Life if it wants to maintain a market leader position. References to technical improvements that are currently being worked on by the Lab were made, such as:
    • Chat reliability;
    • Performance and stability fixes;
    • SLurl optimisation;
    • Avatar-related improvements;
  • Regarding the oft-discussed issue of tier, Mr. Altberg mentioned that LL charge for tier, but the “tax” they get from transactions (such as marketplace sales) is minimal – if they were to reduce “property tax” (tier), they’d have to increase “sales tax”;
  • During 2014, LL paid out over 60 billion US dollars to people using SL for their commercial presence;
  • They are looking to make cashing out faster for customers in “good standing”;
  • LL is keen to keep money laundering completely out of its system;
  • Regarding mentor programmes, Mr. Altberg’s position was that the Lab is not considering reviving them, because many mentors had their own agendas, and this caused serious problems.

Next-generation virtual world platform

  • Internally, it is called “Next Generation Platform”, not SL 2.0, and it is highly unlikely that SL 2.0 will be adopted as a commercial name for it;
  • Progress on its development is going well;
  • Over thirty developers are working on it;
  • They want to surpass SL’s 1.1 million active user ceiling and have considered the reasons SL maxed out at that point;
  • Mobile support is something the Lab wants to provide from the outset;
  • They want to provide better scalability: Whereas in SL an event can fall apart when more than 30 avatars are in the region, the Lab seeks to provide the ability for users to host events for tens of thousands of participants;
  • LSL will not be used in the next-generation platform: Instead, C# is the language of choice, thus making it easier for existing programmers to work on the new platform;
  • In the beginning, they will invite people who are adept at using Autodesk’s 3D application Maya, which was chosen as an internal tool for initial content creation for its power;
  • As the next-generation platform becomes ready to launch, more tools (like Blender) will be supported;
  • The entry age limit will be lowered to 13 years, as “there is no legal difference between 13 and 16”;
  • New avatars will be used;
  • There are plans to support multiple identities under one account (like the master account proposal), diminishing the need for alts;
  • It also seems that the Lab is planning to make SL a subset of the next-generation platform rather than ditch it: “I think of SL as a portion of the next gen platform. SL could be created on top of the platform we are creating. Less world, more platform”;
  • Land will be much larger;
  • Voice and 3D audio will be available;
  • Physics for vehicles will be much more sophisticated, and the Lab is currently working with a third-party that will provide the engine.

In all, it was an extremely informative and useful speech, which confirms the Lab’s commitment to building upon the experience it has gained from developing and providing Second Life, does away with the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) concerning the future of SL once the next-generation platform is released, and also shows that the new platform will be a great improvement over SL.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-Lp

Blizzard Entertainment logoIn a recent blog post, Ciaran Laval wrote about Blizzard’s cancellation of its extremely ambitious project Titan, and opined that it could affect the fate of the new virtual world platform that Linden Lab is working on. What makes the cancellation of this project important is that it’s been in the works for about seven years now, and what makes it seem relevant to Linden Lab’s actions and product portfolio management is that Blizzard and Linden Lab both have MMOs as their main source of income, and that Titan was touted as the “next big thing”.

In comments to Polygon, Blizzard co-founder and CEO Mark Mohaime and Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s senior vice president of story and franchise development, offer partially useful insights into their decision to axe this big-budget project. Note that I say “partially”, because at least some of the real reasons will remain for a considerable amount of time with the people involved. Truth be told, it’s rare for any company to cancel without very serious reasons a large project it’s been working on for years.

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Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab's CEO.

Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s CEO.

As I’ve already reported, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg (in-world name: Ebbe Linden) dropped by at the TPV developer meeting this Friday (June 20, 2014) and mentioned that the Lab is working on a new, next-generation virtual world.

Please note that TPV meetings are held in a combination of voice and real-time text chat. Besides the next-generation virtual world news, important developments for Second Life itself were discussed, and this prolonged the meeting greatly – two full hours.

Important updates were provided by Oz Linden, Jessica Lyon (of the Firestorm Team), Dolphin Linden and others. To listen to Ebbe Linden, skip to 0:51:19 (51’19”) in the video. For the latest reactions to the next-gen viewer news, skip to 1:39:00 (1hr 39′). You can watch the video after the break:

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ebbe-altbergAs I wrote yesterday, Latif Khalifa reported on the SL Universe forums that Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg confirmed in an “oh, by the way” manner during the TPV developer meeting of Friday 20th that the Lab is working on a new, next-generation virtual world. The story was reported by Ciaran Laval, and Inara Pey blogged on it in far greater detail (complete with an excerpt of her audio recording of the meeting) – and I hope her reports might help (to whatever extent) do away with the FUD that started circulating shortly after Latif made his post on the SLU forums. In the meantime, the story was picked up by various blogs and commentary platforms of varying reliability and credibility.

What will follow will be the details I gathered from the initial posts, from Inara’s post, and from Ebbe Altberg’s replies on  the forum and on Twitter, and also I’m going to give my own thoughts on the matter.

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