A Brave New World!

“I feel like we’re in a very good place,” Altberg says. “We are the most experienced when it comes to this stuff. We’re bullish; we’re investing; and all the things that are happening around us with Oculus and the market getting excited about these things again [are] great for us. It’ll make it easier for us to attract talent.”

Now that the big news has broken, and some of the hubbub has died down a bit, more information is beginning to be leaked about the new virtual world platform that Linden Labs is developing.

Based on the information in the interview with Oz Linden and Pete Linden last week, Second Life is not going away. Indeed, Linden Labs is working on a new virtual world, but it will be a additional virtual world focused more on virtual reality, not a replacement to Second Life. They reassured anxious residents that Linden Labs is still putting time and effort into the continued development of Second Life, and that even though the team working on SL is smaller, it is no less focused on fixing what isn’t working and developing and improving the current platform.

According to an article appearing on the website Engadget, the new platform will be more focused on virtual reality in a social networking platform. Basically, this new platform will be Second Life on steroids.

According to the article on Engadget, Linden Labs’s CEO Ebbe Altberg’s vision for this new platform includes making it compatible with just about every device its users could possibly own. “How do people interact with the world from their phone, from their pad, from their PC and from their Oculus? All of that we’re solving from the ground up with this new code base,” Altberg says. “Multi-device from day one.”

Engadget states: “Altberg wants this new platform to be a virtual world that embodies everything Linden Lab got right with Second life, but bigger and more accessible. He also thinks of it as a development platform for new games and virtual reality experiences.”

” ‘It’s a platform,’ Altberg says. ‘In some ways, you could compare it to Unity.’ Altberg wants developers to see both Second Life and its eventual successor as game engines they can build their content on. He tries to paint…a picture: ‘I’m going to build an experience that has virtual capabilities,’ he states. ‘Do I use Second Life? Do I use Unity? Do I use Unreal Engine? Well, if you want to use those [latter two], your technical ability needs to be a lot higher and you have to have a team. In Second Life, you just come in and start building.’ If Linden Lab’s follow-up to Second Life has a good Oculus Rift implementation, he explains, then every experience on that platform can be an Oculus experience. ‘So, the bar of entry for anyone to be able to create an Oculus experience … it’s almost like we have the lowest bar possible,’ he says.” Reference: Engadget

The Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset has been forefront in the news lately, and indeed Second Life has already developed a beta viewer that will accommodate the VR headset. However, users often experience simulator sickness (a form of motion sickness) while using it, which can leave users feeling nauseous, disoriented and uncomfortable. An entire publication on VR Best Practices has been published, and in it are some guidelines for minimum framerates, graphics aliasing and response times, but most of it focuses on creating an experience that feels natural to the user.

“Seemingly simple things, like a player’s walking speed or limitations in camera control, can have a major impact on how uncomfortable a player can feel in a virtual space. The user’s awareness of their own presence in VR is also pretty important. ‘Looking down and having no body is disconcerting,’ the document reads. ‘A full character avatar can do a lot to ground the user in the virtual environment.’ The guide has health warnings too, suggesting that users take 10 to 15 minute breaks for every hour spent in the Oculus Rift and declaring its 3D technology potentially unsafe for children.[credit: Oculus’ Best Practices Explained]

Clearly, Ebbe Alberg’s vision for this new VR world includes attracting as many users as possible — he was talking about Facebook-type numbers — and yet not “dumbing down” the experience and keeping it complex enough so that developers will emigrate away from traditional game-development platforms like Unity and Unreal Engine. He wants the complexity to attract high-end game developers and the gamers that play them, yet make it user friendly enough to attract huge numbers of end users. A bit of hyperbole, perhaps? Since the development of this new platform is in its infancy, it remains to be seen.

At this time, Linden Labs’ stance is that the new virtual reality platform is not going to eclipse Second Life; but rather will be another bright star in the galaxy of Linden Labs’ universe.

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers
ZI Social Media Manager