Friday, December 31, 2010

…on a High Note

Yes, I know I had a flurry of blog activity after my sojourn in the Real World and that trickled away to nothing. It wasn't that I wasn't spending time in Second Life—au contraire, I've actually been in world more than "usual" catching up with clients' scripting requests and updates, working on a commission or two, getting very frustrated building something that was just supposed to be a simple prank, and (don't ask) setting loose grubs and slugs on my floating island.

Out and about in the world…or just fleeing the grubs at home

But a few things have happened that I still think are worth mentioning, so here are some quick items:

Rod Humble Steps In as Linden Lab CEO

Following October's second departure of Second Life founder Philip Rosedale from the CEO position, Linden Lab announced they have brought Rod Humble on as the company's new chief executive. Humble comes to Linden Lab with a long career in the computer gaming and virtual world industry: he was one of the executives in charge of Sony's Everquest—arguably the first successful 3D virtual world, although it takes the form of a fantasy MMORPG with sword-swingers, monsters, and spells. More recently, Humble has been in charge of Electronic Arts' EA Play game label and its tentpole franchise The Sims.

Linden Lab announced the appointment right before the Christmas holiday, so overall reaction seems to have been rather muted since many folks are engrossed in end-of-year holiday madness. I'm not a gamer, so the name "Rod Humble" means exactly nothing to me: although I've heard of Everquest and The Sims, I've never thought they were all that interesting and never even considered playing them. I am somewhat heartened that Humble would seem to have a strong background in virtual worlds and how flesh-and-blood people interact with them; however, I have no idea how he'll adapt from top-down controlled businesses based subscription models to a world (and virtual economy) that's largely user-created. I hope Mr. Humble rises to the challenge and succeeds in lowering accessibility barriers to Second Life without making a bunch of us second-class citizens.

One thing that was interesting about the announcement of Humble moving into the CEO chair was that, excluding restructuring and "non-cash stock compensation" expense, Linden Lab has earned over $75 million each of the last three years. I don't know of that includes 2010 and the recent downsizing, but it is a sign the company may not be running on fumes.

Gracie has a blog!

Gracie Kendal's quest to get portraits of 1,000 Second Life avatars continues, and you can follow her progress on her blog dedicated to the project. And, yes, loading the blog is a metric whump of bandwidth from all the high-rez images on the pages. Just be patient!

It's not too late to participate in the project: last I heard, Gracie was getting near the 700-avatar mark.

Second Life in a Browser

While I was away from SL, Linden Lab apparently rolled out a proof-of-concept version of Second Life dubbed Project Skylight that works in modern Web browsers. Contrary to the course I thought the Lab would pursue with a browser-based gateway to SL (using still-baking WebGL technology as a lightweight way to handle OpenGL), Linden Lab's test involved using a cloud-based graphics rendering service to, essentially, access SL and generate graphics on a remote computer and send the results back to the user's browser. Its more like streaming video on the fly than accessing a 3D world—but if it's fast enough and responsive enough, there's no reason that couldn't work, right?

Well, maybe. Cloud-based rendering services are notorious for requiring substantial amounts of bandwidth, but a few businesses have taken off with the model, including the OnLive gaming service that purports to enable subscribers to play high-end PC games on low-end PC hardware…so long as they have the bandwidth to pull down the pixels in real time.

The Project Skylight beta appears to be closed now, and it was pretty limited: selected people could only get in using guest accounts (access was not open to all), rather than their existing Second Life accounts, and usage was limited to one hour (during which typical use seemed to consume about a gigabyte of bandwidth).

Linden Lab seemed pretty clear that Project Skylight was an experiment they may (or may not) pursue. I'm dubious cloud-rendering technology will be an effective way to bring Second Life into a browser—it seems to be Linden Lab should view a browser-based gateway as a means to lower barriers to entry to SL, rather than create new ones—but I'll be curious how (or if) the project sees the light of day.

Have a Good 2011

As I'm writing this, it's coming up on 3PM SLT on December 31st, 2010. In-world, some of SL's best live music performers are putting on New Year's Eve shows, the trivia peeps are doing trivia every hour on the hour as midnight swings around the globe, and the mood seems to be…upbeat? Hopeful? Fun? I suppose that's really all anyone can ask of a virtual world.

So: more of that in 2011, please. And a big thanks to everyone in SL who helped make 2010 worthwhile. You know who you are.

1 comment:

Comments are moderated. You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>. If you'd like to contact me privately, use a blog comment and say you don't want it published.