Sunday, 16 December 2012

Second Life: Upgrade or leave, your call...

The title of this post is a quote from The Tigress's Second Den by Tonya Souther, Firestorm developer who, in a plain talking arrogant tone, tells us where to go if we don't upgrade to the new V3 based viewers when Linden Labs rolls out code for the upcoming server side baking changes which will leave V1 viewers seeing gray avatars or clouds. She dismisses any chance that the V1 viewers can be upgraded and confirms Phoenix definitely won't be upgraded anyway.

For some Second Life folks, the more fanatical and geekish perhaps, this is good news and Toyya has certainly fueled their reaction with her views. However, Siana Gearz, developer of Singularity viewer, is on record saying there is no problem, quote "For Singularity codebase, it just keeps getting simpler, not harder to keep up." and another TPV developer, Latif Khalifa adds, "All of the LL's plans she outlines are correct, but there is nothing stopping developers of Cool VL Viewer or Singularity to adopt those changes. At this point much of their code is V3 anyway so merging in those changes is no more difficult than merging then into Firestorm. V1 viewers will as long as there are people willing to keep them up to date, and not a minute sooner, no matter what protocol changes Linden Lab introduces.". He also said "Tonya comes with a prediction of doom for V1 viewers on regular basis. She's been wrong every single time including this." in comments here form last July.

Personally, I am not a great fan of Firestorm/Phoenix anyway. I have always found these viewers to be bloated and suffer memory problems the longer I have them open. I personally prefer Singularity and Imprudence or, of the V3 based viewers only Teapot is light enough for me. But, it's horses for courses really. What one person wants from a viewer is different from another. I would only say to this that Second Life will never pull in more users with complex viewers like this. I think the current decline of Second Life has as much to do with the increasing viewer complexity as with the excessive costs and the current direction Rod Humble is taking it in. It can't help when a viewer developers tells residents to upgrade or leave either.

Perhaps that's why so many have left and of the 10k+ daily signup's only a tiny fraction stay. Second Life has become a geek's paradise with a bewildering array of complicated viewers the new comers can't understand. Minecraft is far simpler and far more successful so there is something to be said for the lowest common denominator when it comes to getting the masses on board.
Teapot V3 viewer for Opensim worlds which are built on open source with more options and choices, less cost and no over baring corporate dictatorship.

Second Life has proved incapable of serving a mass audience. V1 viewers handled more people in the past than V2/3 viewers do now and there were a lot more happy people willing to pay Linden Lab's high charges. The grid is declining steadily (over 2600 regions so far this year) and the traffic is dropping too. Sadly, the excessive charges, the  geekish attitudes of the Lindens and a very vocal bunch of viewer fanatics is, IMHO, causing the decline of Second Life.

I think the vast majority of residents don't give a hoot for all the tinkering when in the past what they had worked well enough for their needs. It's been a roller coaster ride of upgrades and disruption these past few years for the loyal users to endure and all that is promised is more of the same. And all the stuff people bought in the past is likely to become obsolete into the bargain. However, it is unfortunate that a Tonya Souther takes such a blatant attitude and is so sketchy with the truth because it doesn't instill much confidence the Firestorm team have a strong commitment to Opensim in spite of a commitment they recently made. Other viewer developers, like the Singularity team appear far more committed and that's the good news.


  1. I'm not at all sketchy with the truth, and I defy you to point out one place I've told anything resembling a falsehood.

    As for commitments to OpenSim, we are completley committed to remaining compatible with OpenSim for the long haul. We will do nothing to Firestorm to break OpenSim compatibility. Yes, that will mean keeping code around even after it's not useful in Second Life. We knew we'd be doing that going in, and we're happy with the idea.

  2. The fact other TPV developers say they can upgrade V1 viewers and you say they can't be or it's too difficult to keep up with. That is being sketchy with the truth when, if the other devs are to be believed (and I do believe them) then you are making it out to be more of a problem than it is and warning residents to Upgrade or leave is only there to drive home the point. But, hey, Second Life is not a small geekdom. It has many users with varying wealth status. Many are out of work on hard times or on benefits and disabled even yet you appear to have no time of sympathy. Your views came over very clear; Upgrade or get the hell out!

    Well, I don't think everyone can afford to upgrade as quick as you would like so more complex viewers can be brought on stream. Blue Mars had a big viewer download and another big download for every region. BM has been a total failure and yet it was graphically high end. Minecraft is hugely successful because it is not high end and even Rod Humble is attempting to tap into the Minecraft audience with the trivial Patterns game in the hope Second Life can gain some of their people. But I think they are wasting their time on that. The Second Life viewers are just too complicated for noobs. Hell, there are parts of the viewer I still don't understand after six years in Second Life and I had a false start at the beginning even and nearly never bothered after the first try. But I did try again a year later and finally got my head round the viewer and how to exist in Second Life. Once I got there I was glad I made the effort but, sadly, a lot wont ever get past the gate.

  3. I have commented on this elsewhere, but wanted to here as well. Nearly every graphical viewer for second life is moving towards the v3 code. This is the guts of the viewer that tells things how to render and work correctly in World. LL is pushing these changes forward to help modernize Second Life from a visual and functional standpoint. Whether you agree these changes are needed or not doesnt matter they are coming and will continue to come. Many of these changes involve changing the way the core of Second Life works and it will be easier to move those forward when working with the more modern v3 code base. The quote in this article seems to indicate that both Singularity and Cool VL have made the move to v3 for much of the code. That means that in effect people using those viewers ARE using v3 viewers.

    All of that said, it has NOTHING to do with the presented user interface. Much of Firestorm can have v1 style UI elements. Obviously Cool VL and Singularity do as well. There is a huge difference between saying I use a v1 viewer and saying I use a viewer with a v1 user interface.

    All of this said, I have switched 3 new people back off of Firestorm or Singularity this week. New people often get new viewers thrust upon them. I have found that in many cases it is the LL viewer that is the most simple to use. For the very reasons people love the TPVs, they offer all of the extra features, the LL viewer is often the best to learn Second Life on. This is not the always the case, but it is not correct to say that the newer viewers are more complex. It is also not fair to say that one TPV or another is easier. It is always dependent on the person using SL, ALWAYS. Software always offers more functions than any one person can use. Look to Windows and Microsoft Word as examples of this. It does not mean that the software is bad.

  4. Thank you Sean

    I did say on Google+ I was inclined to accept your argument and here you have repeated it clearly and in a reasoned tone which I am grateful for. If Toyna had troubled to explain the state of the viewer code as you have done without the impending Doom nonsense if people don't upgrade to Firestorm or another V3 viewer then I would not have been so critical. What she said is correct but she was wrong to say V1 viewers will be dead once the Lab rolls out the upcoming changes. This prompted me to say she was sketchy with the truth but I stopped short of calling her a liar (I didn't even consider her to be a liar!). However, she locked onto this to launch a personal attack claiming I was calling her a liar which was just her way avoiding the real issue in hand as far as I could tell. In fact I was quite taken back by the attitudes on G+ in general - yourself excluded - which struck me as a bullying and belittling tactic to silence any support for V1 viewers.


  5. "All of that said, it has NOTHING to do with the presented user interface. Much of Firestorm can have v1 style UI elements. Obviously Cool VL and Singularity do as well. There is a huge difference between saying I use a v1 viewer and saying I use a viewer with a v1 user interface."

    Have to wonder how much debate about V3 viewers would have been avoided had LL and some TPV's simply put the new engine in and left the UI mostly alone. It is the revamped UI that most people find to be the objectionable, at least those who were initially brought up on the V1 ui. The FS/Phoenix hybrid was a step in the direction but i feel that they could have gone a little further and like Singularity and Cool viewer, offered the ability to change the top menu bar into the older style format with File, Edit, View etc.. That would have been great and thereby removed the last legitimate objection to the V3 viewer.

    I realize it is a given that 3d world or game is going to require better and better hardware to keep up. When i was playing FPS style games i spent substantially more in hardware upgrades in an effort to stay competitive then I have ever had to spend on hardware for S/L Opensim. In fact the only upgrade i have made specifically for it was an outlay of $100 video card a few weeks ago that allows me to see everything at Ultra with shadows. Pretty cheap considering the time i have spent at this "hobby" :)

    1. I agree with you there, Arielle. I think most of the objections were about the UI but, personally, I didn't like the way they chose to handle search and profiles. As for hardware, well, I have a new laptop as well as on older desktop running Windows XP. All it ever got was a video card upgrade and some more ram and that I use that machine still for all my work in both SL and OS. It's just too reliable! As for the laptop, it's not yet a year old and I get more viewer crashes with Firestorm, in SL that is, than I do when I login with Singularity on the XP box.

      I am a firm believer if it isn't broke then don't try to fix it and I think that advancing for the sake of advancing don't help me when I just want to get on with the work I do and my user experience. This is what I mean about the problem for noobs. It must be so bewildering for them to get started. Cloud Party and some of the other virtual worlds are much easier.

      Second Life is not easy and, because Opensim is tied to the SL viewer protocols it is not easy either. And we can go on wondering why so many people try both and never return.

  6. We are upgrading from Second Life to Kitely for pretty much the same reasons you stated in your blog post.

    Its actually sad Second Life is going going away, as they could achieve so much more if they just ran the company in a different way.

  7. Hi Candle

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I think LL is driven by a bunch of geek's who don't have their finger on the user pulse, or at least, the mandarins that run the show don't. I think the bosses only look at the profit margin or what the margin could be if they copied other game makers. SL probably lost any claim to being "Your World, Your Imagination" a long time ago.

    Let's face it, Like God, LL put this platform in place and said go forth and do your thing but, unlike God, LL wasn't content to leave well alone but rather like the devil they sneaked back to squeeze as much out of the orange they could and the result is a bit mashed up.

  8. The Firestorm team take a lot of crap, when they deserve nothing but our thanks. They've as much as admitted that they have neither the resources nor the desire to continue working on two platforms. We really have to respect that, as they aren't exactly getting rich off their hard work. They may be in a technological dead end with Phoenix that other viewers do not have to contend with.
    There have been a lot of changes, but the basic features and stability have always been improving, and while you do need a NEWER computer for decent results, I often find that the biggest complainers are trying to use 3 to 5 year old laptops. This is just not a realistic expectation on their parts.

  9. Hi David

    I'm not knocking the Firestorm team as a whole. One person, Toyna Souther prompted this debate by telling people to upgrade or leave - that is like, leave Second Life and all what they own and have made and the money value they spent over the years. Now, that is her view and not a view expressed by the Firestorm team officially, even if the view is shared privately.

    It is all very well to progress and leave people behind technologically but all viewer developers have a duty, in my view, to consider the slower or less well off users. Second Life is not a game. SL is a social/economic environment where people are being encouraged to spend a lot of money. I consider it wrong to describe a product having certain uses for which people are asked to spend money and then change the technology so rapidly they lose the value of the product or lose it altogether. In other words I am talking about the danger of falling into the charge of "bate and switch". But, to be fair I think that would depend just how quickly things change.

    Personally, I take the view Linden Lab could have started a new grid for the V3 viewers to include mesh and all the new tools like Pathfinder. I think they would have come in for a lot less criticism and hostility from users had they done so. Old Second Life could have been left accessible by V1 viewer technology and allowed to phase out in it's own time while the newer V3 grid could go with the advanced code and build a new user base of old and new members.

    People using Opensim technology accept it's alpha state because it has never been offered as anything but a test platform. Second Life has been a commercial platform for years and people joining it are not lead to think any different which, in itself, begs a responsible attitude from the developers which I frankly don't think exists on Linden Lab's part. I can't speak for the TPV developers but clearly some give a great deal of consideration to the users which is why we still have V1 viewers even if some of them are partly V3 anyway now. Moreover, the fact the hosting grid Virtual Reality has announced they will fork Phoenix clearly demonstrates there is a demand for it even if the Firestorm team have had enough and want to move on.