Survival of the Fittest: Will Second Life Be A Success?

Some gaming companies like to tell their gamers how many programmers and creative art designers they have to do produce content. Again, this shows the level of commitment the company shows into designing new content and “recreating the game afresh”. While most reviewers are appalled at the ugly, chaotic state of affairs on SL – absolutely random design, with varying degrees of “quality” – the truth is, LL-created content has decreased from 90% or so after Beta finished, to – what? – 1%? 0.1%? Just to give you an idea, “Linden textures” are about 36 MBytes (you download them with the software). The current texture & data database is over 100 GBytes in size. So, 0.3% is Linden content? 🙂 And, as the grid expands, Linden content will be less and less. So how can you measure the success of SL based on how much new content Linden Lab produces? In terms of SL, the less they produce, the more it comes from creative and talented people – the residents. So the media can’t handle this paradigm shift very well…

What do the media and the reviewers “compare” then? It’s easy: they compare frame rates and degree of realism on rendering the virtual world. Since the technology behind SL is so different – it has to be, for a fully dynamic world with collaborative building – I feel it’s unfair to compare “apples” with “oranges”. One open-source 3D game I played for a while, featuring Python programming for all its objects (you can script whole universes with AIs if you wished), fully allowing everybody to upload “objects” created with their 3D tools, often featured 80 fps (!) using OpenGL (either under Windows, Mac OS X or Linux). Ok, sustained rate was perhaps much lower, perhaps 40-50 🙂 Compare that to the average 10 fps in SL. Yeah, you guessed it – this game is not a dynamically changing multi-player environment 🙂 The team behind it are still figuring how to get the multi-player part working well, and sure thing, no collaborative working or changing the world dynamically by uploading textures in real time. No, Second Life® is truly unique on that approach, and the net result is: bad reviews because the frame rate is low!

Slightly changing the subject, and trying to “define” success in another way besides getting a table of features and checking off what does not apply to SL, another fascinating insight by Philip “Linden” Rosedale which I found on the interview he gave to the The Second Life Herald is that he believes that Second Life® will have around one million users in three years. This is a very optimistic view. Why does he think that so many people will join? Well, his theory is that SL is a collaborative creative environment where you have more freedoms than in RL, and, in a way, you can accelerate the time scale in SL to do rapid prototyping – not only on computer-related stuff (like games or so), but on a social scale. This means that SL society, after a few months, attained a level of stability which usually takes several years in RL (just think about all those countries emerging as new democracies with new societies from beyond the Iron Curtain, 15 years ago – they’re now free, and after 15 years, their own societies aren’t stable yet…).

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