Full steam ahead for new horizons!

Marooned in Tibet Every now and then, Linden Lab manages to surprise us in a positive way. After the big “splash” of Project Shining, promising all kinds of miracles — and yes, at least the HTTP Project Viewer is a small miracle in terms of texture downloading speed — we now heard the latest announcement: that Second Life® would be available on Valve’s Steam, announced on the same day that normal, specular and diffuse maps will be re-used from the code on the Exodus Viewer and implemented on the Second Life Viewer.

It’s been some busy days at Linden Lab. But interestingly enough, we’re seeing a quite different way of leadership, and this is truly encouraging (even if does not lead to immediate results!).

You might remember that we all speculated what Rod Humble, with his background in games, would do with Linden Lab and Second Life. While the immediate “gamification of Second Life” — a heresy to most veteran residents! — was a hypothesis, the rest was not very clear. We all know that Second Life is not really a “game development platform”. Not only the renderer is not up to modern engines, but programming fast action games is tremendously difficult (when not outright impossible); region space is outrageously expensive; and avatar limits prevent large-scale battles to be fought in the same region. Even if all these problems were theoretically solved, lag, the Eternal Beast of the Apocalypse, would be so overwhelming to make any “game” a ridiculous pretense (just imagine that SL’s engine would have been replaced by CryEngine 3 overnight, a thousand avatars could be on the same region, there were no memory limits on running scripts and no artificial delays on them, and whole regions would cost less U$9.95/month).

In spite of all that, what Rod and his team found out is that there are, indeed, people doing exactly those kinds of games in Second Life.

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