Saturday, August 21, 2010

37 of 52 - Art and Arms race?

Finally back in SL - and trying to keep up with my blog, barely managing this weeks post ... I remember an old quarrel as to whether Sunday or Monday is the first day of the week. Since it suits me I am going to define that Sunday is the last day; that way I managed a post this week too!

The Emerald Viewer has taken the login page one step further. Instead of just showing a picture of some unknown beautiful place, there is a link that will bring you there when you log in - so simple and yet so powerful - that's a feature the lab should work on! But perhaps they just don't want to let the Emerald people head the development. Some more thoughts on that later.

Today the link took me to a place called Springfield Gardens. It's a beautiful garden with a gallery! Connie Arida had some nice works on display there, including a 1973 quote on the need for secondary worlds:

"Man needs a 'second' world, a world of humanity created meaning, a new reality that he can live, dramatize, nourish himself in. 'Illusion' means creative play at its highest level."

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (1973)
Really thought provoking!

The garden and the surrounding beaches are very well done - if you like the sea you will love the way the violent waves hits the rocks. It's a homestead; the owners welcome you to explore her art and her home. It's just such a prime example of what can be done with such a sim - it's just so sad that a homestead is just a bit too pricy for most people not aiming to make money in SL.

So what's up with the lab these days? SL enterprise is gone; educators are flocking to opensim grids, and viewer 2 gets more and more decimals: currently it's 2.1.1, but I'm still a grey cloud when I try to log in.. sigh...

The announcement of the new Display Name feature in SL made me suddenly think about the arms race between the US and the former Soviet Union during Reagan's presidentship. The tactic was to force the soviet to spend so much money on the military that the rest of the country would suffer so much that the government eventually would fail.

Now, the features Linden Lab has made lately (apart from the appalling viewer 2 GUI that is) does force the Opensim community to work on catching up with SL instead of introducing goodies for themselves. HTML-on-a-prim, the tattoo layer, new media interface and soon display names means that the lindens are again positioning themselves at the head of the race, using their sheer marked size to regain some control of the direction that virtual worlds will go.

Even after laying off the main developer, the lab claims that mesh import will come. Somehow I feel that this will be implemented slightly different than the Opensim modrex module, again forcing the OS community to redesign. Oh well. History has shown that server side, open software has prevailed. Opensim will be for virtual worlds what Apache is for the web server marked, and its success or failure will mostly depend on weather or not these kinds of immerse
environments will really be commonplace.

But back to viewer development: There is one single crucial difference between the efforts of Linden Lab and all the other viewers: Where all the rest focuses on features that are aimed solely at making a better product for the current users, LL focuses on expanding their marked. If the viewer 2.0 GUI gives them 2 new customers they don't care if they loose one. So they try to find a direction where they think these 2 new customers are. The danger in such a strategy is of course that you risk loosing the one you had and not gaining any new ones. The statistics don't show any huge growth of SL, and whenever I'm in-world using Emerald, it seems that about half of the people around me has ditched LL's viewer (for those that have not tried it, Emerald shows you what kind of viewers other people are using).

This is clearly a race. The Emerald people have introduced features like new attachment points only visible to other Emerald users that gives them a richer experience of SL than the official viewer. Now, LL is not going to stand and watch while an external group takes that kind of control over their product. My fear is that if viewer 2.0 adoption is still less than 10 percent at the end of the year, meaning they will have failed in the viewer competition, the lab will be tempted to use the TOS to clamp down on thrid-party viewer development further.

Seems there are interesting times ahead of us, to say the least. I am happy though that with Philip back on the helm, the lab is again focused on the consumer marked. I just hope they will keep focusing on the creative consumers, keeping it a world made by us, for us, and not going the Playstation Home route where everything is slick and smooth and thoroughly commercialised. Walking around there just makes me sad, because in contrast it so lifeless compared to both SL and the OS grids. No, I want worlds where Connie Arida and everyone else that finds joy in creating and showing off can do so even if there are no money in it for the entertainment industry. Luckily, it seems Opensim will make sure this will happen. It's up to the lab to decide if they want to be a part of it still:-)


Emerald Wynn said...

I've always been loyal to the LL viewer; although I admit, since V2 I've been crashing at least five times a day. For the first time I'm considering caving and finally trying the Emerald viewer. Every time I read something like this, it just sounds cooler and cooler.

Plus, then maybe I can relate to the 30 percent of "blog readers" who end up on my blog because they're searching for Emerald viewer info. :D

Cristopher Lefavre said...

The feature list is certainly awsome. One thing I like is the possibility to get rid of the black screen while waiting to TP. Instead, Emerald is just freezing your position, you can continue to IM while waiting for the destination region to respond. Then you are transported rather like a blink.

But even so, your blog is still way more fun :-)

Cristopher Lefavre said...

In light of recent events, I have to add that I don't unconditionally recomment the Emerald viewer. My main point is that this and other viewers are developed more in line with end-user wishes than LL's are. Lets hope the Emerald team grow up sometime:-)