2012 – Not So Dark

Of course mesh isn’t perfect yet; of course there is a lot of work to be done until it becomes flawless; of course there is a lot of tinkering to be done with Qarl ex-Linden’s mesh deformer, which finally will get at least mesh dresses to fit avatars. But the technology is reaching maturity fast. And this means that yet another constraint on creativity will be lifted, with the result that at least builders will be happy. This is a bit like betting on the ancient formula “if they build it, people will come” — which we all know to be flawed — but nevertheless it’s better than the alternative: being stuck with a 3D environment which looks ten years out of date. No more.

The second thing is this strange push towards “gamification”, or, put into other words, “back to the roots”. When SL was announced, even before the public Beta, it was claimed to be a platform for 3D game designers which would be easy to use, simple to develop, and flexible enough, for both amateurs and professionals. After a few years that whole concept was just laughed at, and people just continue to do what they wanted to do in SL. Nevertheless, the RPG crowd never gave up on SL — the temptation to design your own RPG “just like you always wanted it” was way too high. Games always popped up in the headlines, from the ancient days of SLingo and casino games to chicken breeding using old machines. I miss the old machines. Somehow, the game design spirit in SL never died, even though the platform was hardly appropriate for that.

Strangely, though, the LL board opted to hire an expert in conceptual game design for their CEO, and ask Will Wright to be part of the board. This has consequences. I’m still very, very skeptical about how SL can compete as a “game platform” (compared to, say, Unity 3D) but the truth is that it’s already as close as one can possibly get to an “ideal” multi-user, user-content-generated, generalistic game platform. It’s just, uh, twenty years ahead of time — or behind, depending on your perspective — and the big question is how long LL can keep SL running until it really catches up as a gaming platform.

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