VWBPE 2021

VWBPE 2021: Patch Linden – the board, Second Life, and more


VWBPE 2021: Patch Linden – the board, Second Life, and more

VWBPE 2021

On Thursday, March 18th, 2021 Patch Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product Operations and a member of the company’s management team, attended the 2021 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference in the first of three special events featuring representative from Linden Lab.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session, which is embedded at the end of this article. Time stamps to the video are also provided to the relevant points in the video for those who wish to listen to specific comments.


  • This is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.
  • In places, information that is supplementary to Patch’s comments is provided in square braces (i.e. [ and ]) are used in the body text below to indicate where this is the case.

Linden Lab’s New Board

[Video: 4:04-10:55]

[For additional information on the new board members, please also see: Meet Linden Lab’s new board of directors (January 9th, 2021) and Linden Lab’s board of directors: snippets of news (February 4th, 2021).]

Linden Lab’s board of directors (l to r): Brad Oberwager, J. Randall Waterfield and Raj Date
  • New ownership team is a “joy to work with”.
  • Brad Oberwager is particularly active, and has the avatar name Oberwolf Linden  and is described as “a lot of fun” to be around and to work with. [He is both on the board and serves as Executive Chairman on the management team.]
Brad Oberwager has joined the Lab’s management team as Executive Chairman, and his long-time colleague, Cammy Bergren serving as Chief of Staff
  • As Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager’s aim is to see Second life set as the “largest and best” virtual world,  and has a genuine love for the platform.
  • Both J. Randal Waterfield and Raj Date (particularly) appear to lean more towards the Tilia Pay side of things, with Brad Oberwager more “in the middle”. However, this doesn’t mean there is a dichotomy. Tilia is a key component of Second Life (it runs the entire Linden Dollar eosystem), and Tilia’s own success and growth will benefit SL.
    • [Tilia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Research (Linden Lab). It’s board comprises two members of the Linden Research Board: Brad Oberwager and Raj Date), together with Aston Waldman, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Linden Lab. The management team comprises: members of the the Lab’s management team: Aston Waldman, David Kim, Ray Johnson, Emily Stonehouse and Brett Attwood.]
    • The two entities enjoy a symbiotic relationship: Tilia is owned by Linden Research with Linden Research also a primary customer. However, day-to-day operations are carried out by two separate  teams.
  • [48:48-49:59] The new owners are bringing a tremendous new energy to Linden Lab, and are “super enthusiastic” about growing Second Life, including its educational use. What gets to be invested in the platform will only benefit everyone.
    • The key question Brad Oberwager asks and prompts people to ask is, “How will it benefit the residents, and how will it benefit Second Life?”

SL Short-Term and Longer Term

Priorities for the Second Life Team in the Next 12 Months

[Video: 10:57-16:02]

  • Immediate priority is to increase the Second Life active user base. This is very much being driven as a goal by Brad Oberwager, and includes:
    • “Drilling down into” the new user experience.
    • Refactoring the on-boarding process and orientation islands.
    • The work will include viewer-side changes that are intended to “smooth out a lot of the bumps in the road”.
    • The will will be built on two years of active study and A/B testing to try to determine what the on-boarding path should look like, together with learning from users returning to Second life as a a result of the SARS-CoV-2 impact.
    • It is hoped this work will both help LL improve user retention and also feed through to the community gateways, particularly with regards to the upcoming changes which will be made to the viewer.
    • No specifics provided, but the viewer changes are described as:
      • “New UIs”
      • Refreshed looks.
      • Easier to find information.
  • There is also the need to complete the work of transitioning to AWS – fixing the current issues directly related to the move and also on-going work to properly leverage the AWS environment for the benefit of the platform.
    • [29:24-30:00] This work includes a  lot of under-the-hood simulator performance improvements that will be continuing throughout the year.

Second Life in Five Years Time

[Video: 16:04-19:33]

  • The company would like to at least double the active user population over the next 3-5 years.
  • This is seen as a realistic goal in light of the shift in emphasis seen within business, education, etc., from purely physical world interactions towards more digitally-based interactions / hybrid opportunities that mix various formats [e.g. digital + virtual + remote working / learning].
  • AWS offers the potential for regions to be geographically located around the world, potentially bringing them closer to their core audience.
    • This could allow educational regions, for example, to be hosted much closer to the schools / colleges / students they serve, making them more responsive.
    • This approach could potentially start to be used towards the end of 2021.
  • Further out, geolocating regions could potentially offer the ability for the Lab to offer white label grids to specific customers / groups.
  • [24:00-28:25] White label grids present the opportunity for the Lab to better meet specific client requests to remove features and capabilities from the viewer – and also take features an capabilities required for a specific environment and potentially make them available across the entire Second Life product.
    • Two examples of the latter already exists: the new extended chat range feature available to region owners, and the Chrome Embedded Framework updates that allow video to be streamed into Second Life, as originally demonstrated in the Adult Swim streaming of episodes from The Shivering Truth in May 2020.

What Lessons has LL Learned due to the Pandemic?

[Video: 20:31-24:00]

  • The pandemic, particularly as a result of attempts to leverage the platform for education, business and similar use by organisations and groups, reinforced the fact that the new user experience needs to the overhauled.
  • It has also underlined the fact that people’s usage habits have changed.
  • The Land Team in particular has learned a lot about business, etc., needs of clients – the team deals directly with such requests as they come in to the Lab, and so have been dealing first-hand with understanding client requirements, determining the best for of assistance (e.g. providing one of the Lab’s turn-key solutions or brokering contact between the client and a solution provider who can meet their requirements.

Pricing and Options

[Video: 30:27-34:17]

  • Nothing on the roadmap related to pricing; land costs should remain untouched through the rest of the year.
  • There is the potential for AWS to allow the Lab to develop new region products; this is something that may start to be looked at 12-24 months hence.
  • AWS might also allow for on-demand spin-up of regions, initially building on the idea of Homestead holders being able to take a temporary upgrade to a Full region to run a specific event, then downsizing back to a Homestead.

Competition and Experimentation

[Video: 34:39-45:58]

  • Competition helps drive innovation.
  • There is no Lab-based group specifically tasked with investigation competitive platforms, but staff tend to try them out through their own interest.
  • Attention is paid to how other platforms adopt newer technologies and the challenges encountered in such adoptions.
  • There is still no real, direct competitor to Second Life in terms of size, flexibility of use, or in having an in-built content creation tool set.
  • LL don’t regard users as beta testers per se. However, major new features do require trialling / testing, which can involve selected users / tried at scale to determine feasibility / performance, etc. Sometimes the result is a capability has to be withdrawn as it is not performant enough (e.g. the VR headset viewer) and / or negatively impacts the user experience.

Oz Linden’s Departure

[Video: 46:09-46:56]

  • Oz was a fabulous colleague to work with. His retirement leaves a “gaping chasm” at the Lab.
Have a Great Week from all of us at Zoha Islands and Fruit Islands


Can Second Life Ever Grow Again?

A Veteran Game Designer Has Some Very Good Insights

Alexia Mandeville social vr designer Second Life

Pictured: Alexia in High Fidelity (as a cloud)

Rather than write yet again about what went wrong with Second Life way back when, I recently asked veteran game designer Alexia Mandeville what could go still go right.

She’s in a very good position to offer her perspective: An SL user herself back in the day, she’s now a designer at Niantic (creator of Pokémon GO, the massive AR-based virtual world), and a designer on the early iteration of Horizon, Facebook’s social VR world. Even more pertinent, she was also a UX designer at High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale’s follow-up virtual world to Second Life. She sees a shared corporate culture to that startup and SL developer Linden Lab, which has hampered consumer adoption of both their virtual worlds:

“[A]cquisition was never a strength at these places,” as she puts it. “You need a strong aesthetic style (Minecraft/Roblox/Fortnite) and the ability to communicate your use case articulately to attract mainstream people.”

So what are her recommendations to Linden Lab, to grow the Second Life user-base when so many previous attempts by the company have failed?

Ms. Mandeville makes four key suggestions:

Brand revamp

“I was part of the World of Warcraft crowd during the height of SL, and my crew of friends didn’t use SL because we perceived it as a place for people to have sex.

“Today you can’t check out the Second Life website without logging in. As a new user, I would want to know what it’s about before I commit to giving out my info.

“I think some of the messaging leaning into connections could be paired with some of the building and economy aspect of SL to move away from the perception that so many people still have about SL just being about sex.

“This perception was only validated when we would talk features at High Fidelity, and we’d be discussing pose balls and jiggle physics with some of the engineers who came from Linden Lab.”

Make building more accessible

“Two years ago I was in SL looking to do some building and was completely overwhelmed with the tooling. A [veteran SLer] was showing me around the tools, too. So it’s not like I didn’t have help. There needs to be some scaffolding there, start with a few tools, onboard a creator as they become more advanced.”

She acknowledges the bifurcation challenge, where SL’s prim-based system has largely been abandoned for offline mesh rendering — but thinks there’s a better way of marrying them:

“Obviously you can’t take that external import system away at this point in the product, but I believe it to be a big issue for aesthetic cohesiveness which brings it back full circle to acquisition of new users because your product LOOKS good.

“I guess a solution for improving it as it currently stands in SL would be to make sure all the materials have a similar visual aesthetic for both tools. Get all the creators on some sort of even playing field, or find another way to even out your aesthetic. That was one of my biggest issues as a creator in High Fidelity. Getting everything to look similar whenever I imported materials from Maya. I think that can go a long way to lift the style and make it more appealing.”


“SL is old, of course the rendering system could probably use a revamp. If you go take a look at it, it just feels blah, drab, sad.

“Even the website has drab colors. I have no perception of who Linden is actually marketing to by looking at this site. There aren’t any creator spotlights or event highlights, like you might see in Horizon or in Fortnite.”

After telling me that, she did eventually find event listings by digging around the official forum — which sort of proves her next point:

Highlight community events

“I follow IMVU and Fortnite and Roblox, and I’ve seen events for each of these things in my social media and in the news. Makes me wonder if SL is really taking advantage of social media, or the community is confined to the website and forums.”

Some might point out that Second Life does in fact have a large official presence on Facebook, but to her point, it’s very inwardly direct, seemingly speaking only to the existing user base. It’s similar to Second Life’s official YouTube channel, which also suffers from insularity — it’s why a YouTuber can draw far more views from her own Second Life videos, which are directed to general interest gamers, instead of just the existing user base.

“I really want to see one of these virtual worlds become really huge again,” Alexia tells me. “I think the one that last resonated with me was Minecraft. I don’t really want to have to put a headset on and I want things to just be simple to hang with my friends and meet new people.”

Or to put it another way, make Second Life fast, easy, and fun — which is something the company promised to do in 2010 after having to make a major round of layoffs. The fact that this never happened suggests they have not been listening to designers like Ms. Mandeville — or as she suggests, that Linden Lab’s corporate culture is simply not designed around that goal.

Have A Great Week From All Of Us at Zoha Islands Fruit Islands/Eden

Where Did Linden Lab Go Wrong With Second Life?

Where Did Linden Lab Go Wrong With Second Life? (Comment of the Week)

Pictured: Official 2009 commercial for Second Life which very briefly shows the in-world creation tools in the background only once — and doesn’t mention them at all in the captions

Reader “Pulsar” posted a comment last week that touches on one of Silicon Valley’s greatest mysteries that fascinates me to this day: How did Second Life, which received massive mainstream media coverage from 2006-2008, even showing up in several popular TV shows and movies, still steadfastly refuse to grow much beyond its existing user base of some 600,000? Pulsar’s answer:


Second Life official ad YouTube 2009

[Second Life] was originally meant to render simple cartoonish avatars and basic but tweakable primitives with which you could create anything.

But was that bad? A game doesn’t need an awesome graphic to become popular and can be fun even if made just by cubes (you know, Minecraft).

However, then Linden Lab took a different path and targeted a different kind of people. They hammered new features into SL (sculpt, mesh…), [but] they failed at turning SL into a conference tool. They pleased the niche who uses SL as a doll-dressing game or as a porn simulator, who is happy to see every detailed bit up to skin pores. So SL has became prettier, but the added complexity distanced the crowd who enjoys construction sandbox games.

Coincidentally, it was May 2009 when Minecraft has been released and later took off; SL had started its decline around that time.

It almost feel like Linden Lab missed a train by following those marketing ideas, instead of focusing on the construction game… and they missed it again in 2017 with Sansar, that among many other issues, it started serious a bit like a VR museum experience; while the most successful VR social game so far, VRChat, [has] a weird, funny, anime crowd – and although someone found a few more serious uses for it later, VRChat remains a crazy, colorful anime crowd.

Roblox, it’s worth noting, also launched in 2006 at the peak of Second Life’s media hype, and look what happened there.

You can see what Pulsar means by “SL as a doll-dressing game” in the official ad for Second Life above, which scarce mentions or even depicts the user-creation tools. I think this focus contributed to a negative feedback loop, since it put Second Life in implicit competition with The Sims and social games popular on Facebook at the time — both of which were much easier to install and play than SL. Whereas if SL was marketed as a sandbox construction game with the chance to make real money — basically the approach Roblox took — we would have attracted a more tech-savvy consumer who’d be more patient with the world’s daunting user interface and hardware requirements.

Then again, marketing is only part of the problem. More later. (But seeing as they’ve basically been writing about this since 2009, I bet you already knew that.)

Comment lightly tweaked for clarity. 

Have a great week from all of us at Zoha Islands Fruit Islands/Eden

Cache What Is It and What Does It Do?

Good Monday Folks

I was thinking what better time to share viewer Cache tips and tricks for firestorm these pertain to the SL viewer as well please check Second Life Viewers wiki page for that info. February is a great time to spring clean your system as well as sl viewer and Inventory.


In SL-relevant lay terms, the cache is a time-saving device. When you need to see a texture in SL or get something from your inventory, it happens more quickly if the item is already cached than if you need to download that asset from the SL servers. If you wander into an area with a lot of textures you don’t already have cached, it’ll take some time for your computer to capture them all and store them in your cache. Under normal circumstances, you want to leave those textures there (that is, don’t clear cache) so that the next time you’re in that location, you don’t have to wait for everything to download again — it’ll already be available to you on your hard drive. Same with inventory. When your inventory cache is full and not experiencing any issues, then when you log in to SL, all your inventory will be right there. If it’s been cleared, then you have to wait for everything to get fetched from the SL servers again before you can see it and use it. For a more technical explanation, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cache.

It is commonly believed that clearing cache can help with a multitude of issues, but really it’s only helpful for a handful. We do not recommend clearing cache unless you are having an issue that cannot be solved by other means.

We get asked a lot about what to set cache size to; the simple answer is to set it to the maximum possible in the viewer, as long as you have room on your hard drive. In Firestorm, the cache size can be increased to 9,984 MB. We do have a way to allow you to have a larger cache, but it requires extra hardware and software. If you are interested please see Squid Proxy Cache

Be picky about why and when you clear your cache. Clearing cache doesn’t fix everything. In fact, it doesn’t fix nearly as many problems as many people seem to think. And doing it when it’s unnecessary has its drawbacks, including slower initial rez times and excess bandwidth being pulled, which can create sim lag. “Clear your cache” is something we’ll recommend ONLY if the problem appears to be cache-related: that is, pertaining to textures or, once in a while, inventory. A full cache is almost always better than an empty one. Here is a basic “DO” list:

When NOT to clear your cache

Don’t clear cache as a matter of routine maintenance. If there isn’t something actually wrong with your cache, then this does nothing beneficial.

Don’t clear it for problems unrelated to the cache. For example, it won’t help for:

  • teleport issues
  • asset upload issues
  • movement or communication problems
  • most kinds of lag
  • most kinds of crashes
  • a vast majority of bake fails
  • any problems concerning music, video or voice.

There are some exceptions (e.g., crashes related to textures), but in many cases, other causes are more likely, and clearing cache doesn’t have to be the first measure. The list above is by no means exhaustive; its purpose is to provide an idea of how many common issues are unrelated (or only occasionally related) to cache.

When to clear your cache

  • When many textures appear as distorted rainbows or psychedelic colors, you may choose to clear your texture cache.
  • When your inventory is not loading fully, you may choose to clear your inventory cache.
  • A cache clear may be part of performing a clean install of the viewer.

Note that often, only part of your cache needs to be cleared. While you can clear your full cache by clicking the button in Preferences, it is not hard to perform the needed part of the cache clear manually. You can find your cache folder by going to Preferences and then Network & Files → Directories. Click the “Open” button alongside the path to your cache files location. In there you’ll see some files ending with .inv.gz – these are your inventory cache files – and a folder containing your texture cache. More information is here for Firestorm.

Have a great week from all of us at Zoha Islands and Fruit Islands/Eden

Love Made in Second Life: AvatarLove

This week we are taking a look at the innovative niche of maternity roleplaying in Second Life.

For those who are curious, the Family Roleplaying section of the Destination Guide is a great place to start exploring options for your potential virtual family. Babies of all skin tones and ethnicities can be found at inworld adoption agencies, and vendors can help you find a bundle of joy that looks like you or even a combination of you and your partner. Once your love bug has arrived, feel free to go all out with tiny clothing and accessories! Chat away the new parent jitters with others at various family-themed regions.


Carrie Tatsu has been one of the leading contributors to inworld maternity products for several years, with her first product line, Zooby Babies. This week her new product line, AvatarLove, is releasing the Love Momma: the first avatar capable of a live birth in Second Life. The body is streamlined to make it easier to use for Residents, with only one mesh layer. One of the key features is a HUD for both parents that aids in the baby’s growth and provides a mood meter for her partner. The partner and/or friends can do sweet things to boost the pregnant avatar’s mood or help her feel more comfortable. The layers of interactivity that have been woven into the creation of the Love Momma culminate in a meaningful shared experience. 

“I don’t want to say real and not real, I’ll say physical and virtual, because everything is real,” says Carrie.


The roleplaying of relationships that Residents find in Second Life can mean many different things to people. Carrie points out that people often “reveal more about themselves in a virtual space than they necessarily reveal about themselves in real life,” and says that she creates these products to provide a segway into a unique type of emotional intimacy. 

“Communicating with each other is the ultimate connection,” she says.

Just as we often say it takes a village to raise a child, it took over a year for Carrie and her extraordinary team to bring this latest model to life. Piscine Mackenzie is one of the Lead Developers, and Brias Stardust is the Senior 3D Artist. Other 3D and texture artists that contributed are chobii Resident, ming lu, NODNOL Jameson, Astralia Resident, blaiseowl Resident, Aurore Clarity, benjaminlucas Resident, Katarzyncia Resident, Hoshi Kimono. She would also like to thank YouTuber/Blogger Mousy “The Ultimate Clout Chaser” and Customer Service and Product Testers Anne Whimsy, cindy kiyori, RoseSilverShadow Resident, and lilymai1 Resident.

The real life couple you see in today’s video illustrating the live birth is Ayambi, a contributing 3D artist and owner of Lovies Maternity Clinic, and Lord Ra.

Carrie invites other creators to play around with the mesh kit on Blender, and join the AvatarLove Group (secondlife:///app/group/fce15a14-4747-977d-e06d-65fc502547b7/about).

Video Production Credits:
Draxtor Despres

Have A Great Week From all of us at Zoha Islands and Fruit Islands/Eden


Second Life Co-Founder Cory Ondrejka: Responds

How Mesh Devalued Prims in Second Life & Made It a “Consumer World”

Works by the artist known as AM Radio in Second Life’s pre-mesh age

Philip Rosedale’s open challenge to name another metaverse with dynamic, collaborative content creation evoked this response from reader Vivienne Schell:

I think that Second Life’s initial success was tied to in-world, collaborative content creation offering in-world tools. Leaving the Prim (do it by yourself) path and quitting further development on that field caused much of the decline SL went through after Sculpties and later Mesh became predominant.

The virtual sandbox has turned into a consumer world mostly, where many people pay money to a few people for creating some kind of “multiple social frameworks”, but much of the original thrill which keeps Minecraft big (and made SL big) is gone. As a result Second Life has turned into a self-centered universe, where the latest mesh head or the latest body or the latest whatever shiny has become the most important issue for a core of die-hard users. That may be enough for a certain amount of people to log in, but it isn’t — by far — enough to attract a broader audience.

Which sad to say, seems sadly true. Echoing that thought on Twitter is this from Jeff Berg, once best known as AM Radio, Second Life’s most famed artist:

AM Radio prims second life

“I have never seen a content creation tool accessible to so many stripped away so quickly in favor of complex external tools. Second Life shot its own democratized native content creation tool while declaring no one else has done it.” And yes, people can still create with prims in SL, but they soon fell out of favor: “The common devaluation ‘But it’s prims’ said it all the moment mesh arrived.”

Seems to me that you can have a virtual world with mesh, or a virtual world with prims/voxels — but not both in the same world. Now that Second Life has moved entirely to the cloud, I wonder how hard it would be to create a spin-off product that’s effectively an entire sandbox, with no mesh allowed. Market it the right way to kids and creative adults (call it “Second Sandbox”, let’s say), I suspect we’d see much of the old magic return.


Cory Ondrejka:

Adding Mesh to SL Was a Mistake

Fortnite creative Second Life AM Radio chairs

Last week’s post on how bringing mesh to Second Life was a mistake inspired this comment from Cory Ondrejka, a Second Life co-founder and first CTO for the company:

“Yup. Even among founders this wasn’t always clearly understood. Universal tools, available within the experience, differentiated SL from most everything before or since. Including later stage SL, Sansar, etc. Construction tools are insufficient, by the way, you need interaction and behavior, too.”

Cory, by the way, was the one who gave an early demo of Second Life when it was still prim-based to Epic Games and well you know the rest of the story from Fortnite. Jeff “AM Radio” Berg, an undisputed master of prim-based creation, also expanded on his thoughts there from the original post, and dismissed in-world mesh tools as an equivalent alternative:

Fortnite creative Second Life AM Radio train

“I know about the in world meshing. The complex nurbs-based modeling with considered texture optimization and baked effects will always be a step ahead. Minecraft proved high fidelity is commodified in a world that doesn’t need to push  past 4K and the kids don’t care if their AAA game is from 2017 as long as the gameplay still rocks. Prims were somewhere between Minecraft and AAA. It worked, and then it didn’t. Am I saying it’s not worthwhile to create and be an artist, of course not, as per usual being an artist is not a lucrative lifestyle without a champion of the likes of Bettina Tizzy et al.

“There’s more to being an artist than the media you’re using. As I said in the Polygon article, ‘Avoid showcasing a particular technological capability,’ Berg says, ‘but instead, build experiences that remind us how human we are and have always been.’”

As for the images in this post, while they look AM Radio’s Second Life creations, they were actually recreated in Fortnite by his son — using Fortnite’s universal building tools, available within the Fortnite experience.

Have a great week from all of us at Zoha Islands and Fruit Islands/Eden