One possible future

As with all new year traditions, there are plenty of predictions regarding the upcoming year. Whether or not they come to fruition, the job market is actually looking up. So that will definitely play a role in how the year unfolds. And this will be especially so in virtual worlds.

Prokofy Neva has some interesting predictions. I pretty much agree with all but #7, and to quote, “The Lindens will not only make an application for the i-Phone, which is “where it’s at”, they will get into the Augmented Reality business.” While I can see the lab trying to do that, I don’t see them as being successful.

Interestingly, or perhaps not so, people are all a twitter about augmented reality and the possibility of SL being acquired. If the latter occurs, say bye-bye to second life as you knew it.

Prokofy Neva opines they’ll be bought out in phases, with IBM the likely candidate, and the lab becoming content creators. Eddie Haskell listed a number of potential candidates including IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Facebook, and Google. And James Au seems to think that Microsoft is a possible candidate due to their Project Natal.

I personally see Microsoft as an unlikely candidate “because” of their Project Natal. After all, graphics-wise and interactive-wise, Project Natal is heads above second life. Google is a maybe, primarily because of the Silicon Valley connection. I don’t see Sony hopping aboard for the same reasons I don’t see Microsoft hopping aboard. And facebook already has their social games that are not only lightweight but highly adaptable.

And that leaves IBM. I am still somewhat skeptical, but if IBM were to purchase SL, I would expect them to dismantle it and create it anew as an education platform and corp offering. Possibly, even open sourcing the server code to augment their opensim project. And then show-casing a “new and improved” second life with a different fee schedule, content rules, etc.

Now, if they don’t sell, I could see them continuing their ramp up attempt to make SL look more attractive to the general public, and thereby more marketable for something like an IPO. Though, honestly, at the rate they’re going, I do think they missed the IPO boat. Timing is, after all, everything.

Then again, since our economy is starting on the upslope, all of that could change. However, as more and more people return to work, there will certainly be a decline in concurrent users. Not just for places like SL, but across the metaverse. And herein lies the key or danger (take your pick) to SL’s longevity.

As people return to work and have more spending money, they’ll be picking up computers that can support systems, such as Blue Mars. They will also be more demanding and less forgiving. As for SL? They really need to figure out what they truly want to be when they grow up. Either that, or continue the path they’ve been on over the past year. A path that clearly shows ambivalence as well as one that involves alienating their core user base.

As for other predictions?

I highly doubt the lab will have mesh fully functional by the end of the year. Simply because such would not only require a major server overhaul, but they’d really have to junk the client as well. Though, I suspect they’ll simply add more crap code on top of what they already have. Sorry, I’ve read their client code folks. And it’s full of redundancies, multiple levels of unnecessary and complex inheritance, and tons of circular calls. Furthermore, their inventory system is (and has been) a train wreck waiting to happen.

So, in this sense, I agree with Haskell that they’ll do something about inventory limits. However, that something will be a huge undertaking and likely fail. That is, unless they get seirous about addressing their database issues. All of these together will ultimately create a barrier for integrating mesh.

There is also the issue of scalabiity (or lack thereof, on the lab’s part). And extensibility, interoperabiity, and portability, for that matter. And, of course, all of the other “ilities” that go into making a truly successful enterprise product. In the case of SL, they can only add so many layers of “touch up paint” before the whole thing crumbles into a smoldering mass of dust. That, or they and their followers (this writer included), will continue to limp along until something better comes along.

And no. Blue Mars isn’t that something better. Apples and oranges. Literally.

Speaking of Blue Mars. As I stated earlier. Blue Mars is not now, nor ever will be, second life. Again, its a completely different animal altogether. Even though some in the metaverse have already pigeonholed it as a potential SL replacement.

Ain’t gonna happen folks. As much as I personally love Blue Mars (or rather, CryEngine, which is smoking hot!). Blue Mars is a VR platform as opposed to a virtual world. So, the question of its success (or failure) will largely depend upon whether people will be able to think outside of the SL box.

In other words, are they going to try to simply replicate what they have in SL? Or will they actually mine the platform for the richness it brings to the virtuality? Ever wondered what it would be like to have lived in the late 1800s or early 1900s western town? Well, at least one city developer is creating just such a beast. I’m toying with a dragon-scape myself.

Either way. Afaics, the key to success will not be shops laden with wall vendors, where people just go to grab and split. Rather, visiting the country store for supplies, and the black smith in the case of the wild wild west. Perhaps even running into Billy the Kid and ending up in a gunfight with him. Or maybe taming a mustang!

In other words, the richness will not be role play with scripted animation attachments that contort your avie’s body, whose face has no expression whatsoever. We’re talking about true immersion here. Story telling immersion. The kind that can keep people engaged and captivated. Think Avatar the movie, and you might get an idea of what I consider to be a Blue Mars potential. And quite naturally, gaming engines are where its at.

Speaking of which, if the Blue Mars folk are smart, what they’ll do to shake off the SL-think pigeonhole is to take a ride on the Avatar movie tails. Because not only are the graphics in that movie stunning, but the technology behind the movie is what true VR is all about.

To sum it up.

SL seems to have not only lost their vision, or rather, maybe they have a vision but it seems to be all over the place. And this will hurt them in the long run. (You really need to be big enough to have your hands in many pots, SL.) Needless to say, their noticeable flailing reminds me of one major company that was actually considered a big blue contender. A company who engaged in just such a dance. The final days were not pretty. Then again that company had over a hundred thousand employees. So, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, applies here.

As far as Blue Mars goes? Even though they announced their official beta, they’re still very much in the alpha stage, and have clearly not thought through some basic mechanisms. This is going to hurt them, though, I doubt it will crush them. Yet. However, if they continue to skate down the SL slope in response to SLer’s demands that they implement SL-like functionality, they may as well call it a day and throw in the towel.

Otherwise put, one possible future… Second life will flutter and Blue Mars will just skate by.

6 Comments

  1. Comments@SLAnnOtoole   |  Saturday, 02 January 2010 at 08:12

    Ogre on iphone is already happening. Sirikata is on ogre. Look who is behind sirikata. Look for sirikata to become rather relevant in 2010. But none of the main SL bloggers appear to be following the sirikata project.

  2. Comments@AngelaTalamasca   |  Saturday, 02 January 2010 at 08:34

    I can see it being used for lightweight apps, for devices such as i-phone. The collada decision is a good one as well.

  3. CommentsJared   |  Saturday, 02 January 2010 at 08:34

    Very very interesting read! Project Natal seems like a good choice for people who have no time to got to the gym and will certainly be a fun way to exercise. Project Natal is console based and reminds me of Sony Home's console VR, so that puts those two corps on a tug of war!

    However, what those two platforms are missing is the ability to allow user created content, so platforms such as BM and SL and others that allow user created content will have a large creative user base which not only consist of budding 3d artists but also Proffesional 2d/3d artists! This is once of the reasons why SL is so popular, its simply a virtual learning environment at the tips of your hands, all tools are built inworld. Many many projects are trying to follow the footsteps of Linden but I believe SL will remain the top dog on virtual learning experience. No doubt but SL may remain the Educators choice for teaching and learning.

    What I do like about Blue Mars platform is that the CryEngine they have is capable of supporting all gaming platforms including PC and consoles, so just imagine it took you 3 years to build your Dragon Fantasy City and later down the road not just people on PCs can visit but also people with consoles will be able to visit your city! As you can see, BM platform tech is capable to engage students in Professional game development, Education, and Entertainment… a whole different beast and certainly NOT SL…

  4. CommentsAnn Otoole   |  Saturday, 02 January 2010 at 08:12

    […] Commented on One possible future / Virtuality Hacks Blog http://tinyurl.com/ya7kdcr […]

  5. CommentsWildWestGames   |  Saturday, 02 January 2010 at 08:36

    […] RT @AngelaTalamasca: Commented on One possible future / Virtuality Hacks Blog http://tinyurl.com/ya3ge77 […]

  6. Commentsphotography blog   |  Sunday, 03 January 2010 at 16:13

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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