Thursday 6 October 2011

Second Life: Residents Vote For Realistic Mesh!

Mesh has been a long time coming to Second Life and now it has finally arrived it has proved to be incomplete and it has not exactly grabbed the interest of the majority of residents as the "must have" new feature. For reasons perhaps to do with upload price, entry requirements and higher than expected prim cost, not to mention incompleteness, it has kind of fallen as flat as a pancake in the laps of the residents. On the flip side of the mesh coin is yet another oddity that brings into question the motives and thinking at Linden Labs yet again. The more vocal residents of SL are often accused of resisting progress and yet we now read of an example where residents are actually clubbing together to pay a bounty to Karl Stiefvater, better known as Qarl Linden from his days at the Lab, to develop a parametric deformer, which will cause mesh clothing to fit the avatar shape and move with it more realistically.

Typically, Linden Lab's response to the question of producing a parametric deformer has been one of muted interest. They would like to implement one but it's a maybe, one day, if ever kind of response. In frustration residents have taken the matter in hand and turned to Stiefvater to give them something they actually want while the Lab coldly continues on it's merry way. Rod Hubbles promised the rest of 2011 would see the Lab tackle the serious problem of lag which has reached the point of rendering Second Life sims virtually unusable for many but rather than coming out in support of the resident's initiative he has shown he is just as blinkered as his bosses, preferring to make big noises about introducing server-side bot technology and throwing out a little spin about SL growth.

Why hasn't Rob given encouragement to the residents by making a statement in support of the their initiative?

Well, Linden Labs doesn't exactly have a reputation for listening to its residents and it comes to something when some 1800 users have declared their wish to see a parametric deformer developed and even put their money on it when it would have cost very little for the Lab to do it. It's not like they aren't in good profit given the high cost of Second Life services - profitability that was partly achieved by sacking one third of their staff last year I might add.

Stiefvater was, of course, a victim of the Lab's cost cutting when he got sacked so its ironic that the residents are now turning to him to develop this feature for them  and, given that he was instrumental in bringing many new tools and ideas to Second Life, including sculpties (he also had a hand in creating digital effects for the Matrix movies and 300), it strikes me as foolhardy in the extreme to let this brilliant talent go. We know there is politics involved - there always is with LL - but Qarl did take the view while at the Lab that he should work on things the residents were asking for, and voting for. With this initiative they will surly vote with their money too and Qarl is right there with them to take on the task. But, whatever, it is clear Linden Labs will never really bow to resident pressure no matter how much they say they listen. They have got their own plans and that's the bottom line.

Thankfully, Open sim is not governed by corporate greed and this feature will undoubtedly benefit the open Metaverse as well and could even lead to more content creators abandoning Second Life in order to work in a less restricted environment at a fraction of the cost. Residents organizing fund raising to get features they want strikes me as a form of true democracy where people vote with money. So, while Linden Labs may look down on this kind of initiative as threatening their business there are many others that see it as a positive step towards greater freedom in virtual worlds. Linden Labs bosses are not ignorant but they do have tunnel vision and the money to go where they want to go. The only question is how many will be left travelling with them?

 Link to Maxwell Graf for more on Resident's initiative here