Ars Technica’s Samuel Axon Returns To Second Life and Finds Plenty Of Life

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Samuel Axon over at Ars Technica has returned to Second Life and published a very good article on the hopes, fears, past and future of Second Life, Sansar and much more.

What makes this article so good is that Samuel has experience of Second Life, knows all about the past hype but in a very refreshing manner he points out that Second Life is still very much around, even if users have some concerns about Linden Lab’s focus on Sansar :

Believe it or not, the platform today enjoys a healthy community. Not only does it still exist, but if you ask Second Life’s creators, the platform may be thriving. Ask its users, on the other hand, and the picture gets a bit hazier.

The article covers an interesting aspect of Second Life, how the area of commerce has in many ways followed physical world patterns, with the online Marketplace thriving in many areas whilst inworld commerce struggles with its virtual bricks and mortar version in other areas.

The article also mentions the growth of virtual pets as a product, with Fennux creator Daemon Blackflag talking about how people breed virtual pets and sell them.

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The article features quotes from Second Life merchants, residents and Linden Lab employees, which all adds up to a very good overview of the platform from people who know about the platform, this is a refreshing change from a lot of Second Life articles.

Karsten Rutledge of Greedy Greedy fame talks about how the hype of past years such as 2007 was always a load of nonsense, but we also get a view of how technology developments can hamper the ambitions of platforms, when Second Life was full in its hype cycle Social Media wasn’t the thriving platform it is today.

Peter Gray, Linden Lab’s Senior Director of Communications (AKA Gray of the Lab from San Francisco) touches upon these developments :

Gray even ventured a theory for why the original narrative didn’t pan out. “I think it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of those experiments were done before people were very familiar with social media,” he said. “In short, if people were to approach creating virtual experiences for those types of things now, whether it be a marketing outreach or that kind of thing, I think they might take a different approach to do it.”

This is worth bearing mind as Linden Lab’s Sansar finds its feet, the development of Virtual Reality and other technologies could completely change the direction Sansar takes, this is true of technological developments throughout history.

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Content creator Iki Akari talks about the changing direction of Second Life, with exploration not what it once was and how the change in focus on inworld sales means attending events rather than just selling from an inworld store. This means extra work for content creators to raise brand awareness because these days events can very well be the crucial means of promotion a content creator needs whereas many virtual moons ago advertising and people just exploring raised awareness. The days of several satellite stores seem to be long over to me.

A Second Life resident known as Myf also offers an interesting perspective in a few areas. Myf talks of how content creation has changed, that the onset of Mesh has meant that old prim building techniques can now look dated and this can discourage those who want to create because those builds don’t look as impressive as Mesh creations.

I have sympathy with Myf’s view because creating your own build was very empowering in the early years of Second Life. That’s not to say that I disprove of developments such as Mesh building.

Myf also raises concerns about Sansar being a threat to Second Life in terms of resources, because if Sansar fails it may well mean that Second Life goes down with it.

I don’t quite share Myf’s concerns in this area, but I won’t dismiss them out of hand, there is a danger of Linden Lab putting too many eggs in the Sansar basket but Linden Lab’s VP of Product, Bjorn Laurin, suggests that there’s little danger of that happening.

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The article states :

Laurin insists Sansar is not intended as an eventual replacement for Second Life. “I’m actually in charge of the roadmaps here and I have no plans,” he said. “As long as I can plan, I’m planning years ahead for anything to happen; it’s going to be two platforms—two great platforms.”

This aligns more with my view of the future of Second Life and Sansar, two products, with different use cases that can both thrive. The article also asks the question that many have asked, why not just add VR capabilities to Second Life? Bjorn Laurin provides the answer there :

So why didn’t Linden Lab just add VR to Second Life? According to Laurin, it’s impossible. He says that VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive require the software to run at 90 frames per second. “That is not something that is possible in Second Life. I’ve tried it so many times. I’ve spent a lot of resources on it to get it to work, but I can’t get it to work on those headsets,” he says. “You get a framerate that doesn’t work—way, way below what it should be. That’s one of the things why we started working on Sansar.”

Whereas I’m sure many people would like Linden Lab to focus on just Second Life, the truth is that as a company they need to have other products and other options if they are to survive long term. Technology changes and in many cases at a rapid pace, there’s no time to stand still.

Yet we can also see with developments such as Animesh, that Second Life isn’t standing still. Linden Lab recently blogged; Join the Project Animesh Beta – New Support for Animating Mesh Objects :

Animesh is a new Second Life feature that will allow independent objects to use rigged mesh and animations, just as you see today with mesh avatars. This means that you can now have wild animals, pets, vehicles, scenery features and other objects that play animations!

Animesh is currently in beta but the development exemplifies that Linden Lab are still very much committed to progress of the Second Life platform as well as developing Sansar.

Back to Samuel Axon’s Ars Technica article, it’s a really good read and if you have the time I definitely encourage you to read it but I do have one bone of contention :

As a regular user a decade ago, I remember wandering aimlessly across Second Life’s endless landscape, experiencing choppy framerates as new wonders popped up at the edge of the draw distance. What would I find? A spa with a random assortment of socializing strangers? A ballroom dancing competition? A political rally? A medieval forest full of in-character, roleplaying wizards?

The wizards are very much still there! They may be a bit more shy these days and harder to find, but I can assure you, they are still around in Second Life!

One Reply to “Ars Technica’s Samuel Axon Returns To Second Life and Finds Plenty Of Life”

  1. Myf says in the original ars TECHNICA article, “There is always a danger with projects of this scope that if and when they fail, they can take down their owners with them. I do worry that Sansar’s failure could kill Second Life.” After trying out Sansar and noting large gap been what is hyped about it and what is actually there I am even more concerned it will drag Linden Lab (LL) down. SL will suffer from LL’s desperate attempts to try to save Sansar.

    Naturally management at LL says thing like “As long as I can plan, I’m planning years ahead for anything to happen; it’s going to be two platforms—two great platforms.” But after more than a decade of hearing what LL says about SL I know that is just more wishful thinking hype. What will happen in five years when there is one failed platform and another failing one.

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