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.
All true, but 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 it’s own democratized native content creation tool while declaring no one else has done it.
“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.
Adding Mesh to SL Was a Mistake
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:
“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.