Friday, May 3, 2013

Is it Time to Rethink Everything?

Even before The Lab experimented with Second Life in a Web browser, I've been a proponent of finding a means to let Our World be experienced without the need for a dedicated browser even suggesting more than once that Google buy Linden Lab to accomplish this goal. Of course, now the search giant now has Cloud Party (see here) so do they really need SL?

Second Life might need Google, though, or some other benefactor that thinks differently than The Lab does now, as evidenced by the video above ... the beautiful world of Epic's Citadel now runs in a browser using HTML5. It is a world far more detailed that SL yet runs in a browser (not to mention it was on tablets, albeit in dedicated apps, long before this as I wrote about here) whereas the world we know and love still needs specialty software and at least a laptop computer. In technology terms, Second Life is practically an antique. It is time to rethink the need for a viewer.

Which also means it is time to rethink the whole back end, the Second Life server system. Citadel and other games are driven by the Unreal Engine (official site), a wholly different technology than what drives Our World. Any potential transition could would be painful as all builds in-world would likely need to be re-created to accommodate new technologies (from Unreal or not), but after a fashion the dramatic changes in graphics needs and implementations have already started.

Basic prims and some sculpty windows in a failed project. I found a mesh building that was much nicer and had a much lower Prim Equivalent (PE) than what I could build.
When everyone could build with basic prims, everyone built things. When sculpties came along, everyday builders began to depend on professionals to create some high-quality goods or builder's kits that required no more skills than one already had with which people could create what they wanted. Now that we have mesh, the best in-world objects are actually created out-of-world by people with experience, talent, and specialty tools. Experience can be earned and talent can be nurtured, but the cost of the best tools and the learning curve of free tools (i.e., Blender) scare off many who wish to learn. A whole generation of Second Life Residents is growing used to no longer creating but simply purchasing and placing, be it furniture in a Linden Home or complete setups on their own land. A good example is my brother, CC Columbo. He's a very good builder but has been filling his land with mesh items, even replacing good quality sculpties where he can to save PE and improve his experience.

CC documented his latest acquisition, a detailed 1PE mesh bookcase on his My SL feed here and discussed his upgrade strategy in subsequent posts. His Redgrave mesh jeans are amazing, BTW. And check out his cabin in Nangrim (the door is unlocked).
Clearly, Second Life is on the cusp of becoming a service- consumer society rather than a production society. Going away are the times dominated by citizen-builders and rising are the times of citizen-consumers relying on a small but talented cadre of providers. It is time to rethink everything?

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