Unity3D + Facebook = Second Life?

Of course this was my April Fool’s post for 2011 🙂 — Gwyn

Not happy with merely releasing the “dumbed down” version of Second Life, which allows new residents to hide most of the complexities of the SL 2.X viewer, here is the shape of the future to come: thanks to Tipodean’s BuiltBuy.me implementation of a Second Life-compatible Unity3D viewer which runs on the Web, you can now join neatly everything together: Second Life, Unity3D, and Facebook, all integrated and working smoothly with each other:

Of course this technology is at its early stages: avatar shape and clothing are randomly selected and inventory is missing (not unlike the “Basic” version of the SL viewer, where you can change how your avatar looks, but not do much more than that). I couldn’t figure out how to teleport, but it’s supposed to be possible. Tipodean’s Unity3D implementation has its own ideas of how water and sky should be rendered. Gestures are minimally implemented, and not everything loads properly; but you can certainly recognise that you’re “inside” Second Life, and certainly it’s as easy as loading a Web page (or, rather, any other Facebook applet).

But it’s the integration with Facebook that is awesome. You can click on in-world items and avatars and “like” them, and they will promptly appear on your timeline (and on all your friends who have also subscribed to the SL-on-Facebook applet), with SLURLs to where you “liked” things, and a small, neat snapshot of the parcel of where you did the “like”. IM and group chat appear as Facebook chat; and, obviously enough, your friends list in SL gets sync’ed with your Facebook friends (yes, Facebook will search among your friends to see if any of them are on SL as well). If your friends share the same nickname in Facebook and Second Life (so many do!), the integration is perfectly seamless: you can be on Facebook chatting with a friend using the (regular) SL viewer and another one with the Web-embedded viewer, and all will appear as “regular” Facebook chats for you — but normal SL chat for someone using the SL viewer. Inventory transfers don’t work yet, or at least not fully; landmarks can be shared (they’re SLURLs, after all) and apparently you can also send your friends “info” pages from Facebook which get automagically converted into SL notecards. Apparently the same can happen with pictures in your “Photo Book” — if you’re logging in from Facebook, these will be shown as images from your Facebook photo album; but if you’re using the regular SL viewer afterwards, all of them will be shown as textures in a new “Photo Book” folder, ready to use. Very neat!

Allegedly, classifieds inside SL will appear as regular Facebook ads if you’re on the SL page; and the search from there will actually retrieve the same results as the in-world (SL 2.X) search, but just be formatted according to Facebook’s design style, so they actually “look” like regular Facebook ads. I didn’t try this out — always wary of too early software versions, I didn’t dare to log in with my “main” account, just with my alt, who has no active classified ads, so I didn’t manage to test this out fully. Thanks to Facebook’s profiling engine, however, the neat thing is that Facebook “remembers” that you’ve added the SL-on-Facebook application, and even if you’re not logged in to SL, the ads you get will actually come from SL’s classifieds! Not always, but sometimes — merchants will definitely love this feature!

And speaking of merchants… have you noticed the new Facebook add-ons on SL Marketplace? Well, they will also work with the SL-on-Facebook viewer. So, when you do a review on SL Marketplace, it will go to your Facebook profile, too, and your Facebook friends that also have added the SL viewer on Facebook will be able to see those reviews popping up on their timelines — with ready-to-click SLURLs which you can immediately navigate to using the Web-based viewer. I admit it feels a bit uncanny, but, like everything, it just takes some getting used to.

So now you know: if friends, colleagues, or clients ask you why you’re still sticking with SL, when Unity3D is a far better engine, and everybody’s using Facebook anyway, your answer can be that nowadays everything is integrated together. It’s not an either/or option any longer: you can spend all your time on Facebook and just casually drop in-world at a click of a button (that Unity3D viewer is really fast to launch, although, of course, object and texture download take some time… worse than SL’s “native” viewer, IMHO) if you wish to do a quick visit of a location or do some 3D, in-world shopping. But in the mean time, you can continue to be in touch with all your SL friends, chat with them, exchange information, shop online on SL Marketplace, share pictures, links, locations… and all of that simultaneously appearing on your Facebook timeline.

For the privacy-conscious, just remember that, like on all Facebook applications, you can turn the privacy settings on and limit the amount of data you’re actually sharing. It’s as safe as, well, playing Farmville. But it’s just so much more fun!

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