Linden Lab’s 2012 direction


yesterday gameindustry international published an interesting piece titled Linden Lab: “The Weirder The Better” which is pretty detailed and goes into what Rod Humble is wanting Second Life to become this year. it also includes details about the role that LittleTextPeople will play. my cynical side zoomed in on the tidbit that the two former owners of LittleTextPeople are long time friends of Humble and that one of them worked on The Sims with Humble. that’s really not a big deal and a common thing in corporate America and the important thing is whether the acquisition furthers Linden Lab and adds value

the future of SL could be very interesting and seems more framed as a game than what i see SL as – an open space to be highly creative, socialise, and even develop a business. i don’t think i’m misinterpreting SL being seen as a game because Humble is quoted as:

Linden Lab has been very successful with one innovative product, but I want to stretch the company out again, to make it a really exciting place where people can’t wait to find out about the next unusual title we’re going to release.

next title seems like pretty game-like jargon to me! the way he describes what he wants to see happen in 2012 is very interesting and maybe SL can be both the creative space and a more broadly appealing game as well. there was one quote that i did not really understand that concerned me as far as creative freedom goes: “. . . democratise the actual creation process”. what does that mean? isn’t the current model supportive of that? you can make what you like and if you are an estate owner or a content creator, the market will speak as to the value of your creation – be it landscaping, roads, and waterways in your rental estate or clothes, cars, and animations that you sell

i also found it interesting that Humble said that they have increased new users by 40% and had holiday sign ups of 20,000 a day! from the comments i read on this blog and a few old time SL friends that email me, that seems to be contrary to what’s going on in-world

of course now that LL no longer publishes their metrics, they can spin stuff anyway they like

overall, the article was interesting and the goal of three new products this year seems genuine and also a game changer

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written by Ener Hax

March 16th, 2012 at 8:16 am

11 comments to 'Linden Lab’s 2012 direction'

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  1. […] Ener Hax (And you thought I was cynical! Good perspective from someone who spat up the Kool-Aid) […]

  2. Hi,

    I think you may have misread the bit where he says he wants to “democratise the actual creation process” because I don’t think he is talking about Second Life at all at that point. In a longer quote he says “Although it will launch with some very, very well crafted content, the overall plan – just like all Linden lab products – is to democratise the actual creation process”. The “it” is the story-telling produce that LittleTextPeople have been developing, and I read what he says as implying this will have a similar kind of democratic approach tothe creation process as Second Life has had.

    For me the crucial quote is where he is quoted as saying he wants to “put the ‘lab’ back into Linden Lab”. It seems clear that he intends Linden Labs to have four completely separate products on the market by the start of 2013, and that the others will not be addons to SL but entirely new standalone things. (SL Realms will be an addon but that’s not one of the three new products, is it?).

    Who knows how this will pan out, but it certainly sounds like some new thinking – and I’m interested to see what comes out of it.



    16 Mar 12 at 8:53 am

  3. I second Owen’s take on Rod’s comments re the content-generation process. He’s talking about a wider net than SL – bringing the capability to more game-style activities, commencing with the LTP project (assuming that launches ahead of the still-mysterious “Product 1″ and “Product 2″).

    I’m also drawn by the comment on putting the “Lab” back into “Linden Lab” and still view the development of additional products as a very good thing for Linden Research – and potentially for SL.

    In the case of the former, and assuming these new products find favour among users/gamers in general, then the company opens new sources of revenue and remove their sole reliance on SL. Granted, this will not happen over night, but it’s still a favourable situation to have.

    For SL, again assuming the new products do prove popular, it similarly means the burden of revenue can be lifted in time and – potentially – LL can look to be more flexible around the very thorny issue of tier.

    Given that, at best, the current decline in private regions in SL means that LL have around 2-2.5 years to go before it is estimated LL hit the wall (and assuming the decline does continue), moving away from reliance on tier and a rational adjustment of tier itself are both key to LL’s and SL’s combined survival.

    Inara Pey

    16 Mar 12 at 9:54 am

  4. @Owen. “I think you may have misread the bit where he says he wants to “democratise the actual creation process””.

    Given that the article is somewhat interpretive, and Rod Humble is speaking in a very not-give-to-much-away fashion, I do not think anyone can be accused of mis-reading anything.

    Lets have a look at the actual paragraph: “Although it will launch with some very, very well crafted content, the overall plan – just like all Linden lab products – is to democratise the actual creation process. Other people will be able to make things on that platform. That’s really the business we’re in: building platforms that allow people to express themselves in different ways.”

    So one of the ways I read this is they are thinking of placing sandboxed regions within secondlife. Category M (for mobile) residents, the ones that have the new LL product(an app) on their iPhone, can view the Category 2 Regions only.

    Category F (for FaceBook) will have an in-FaceBook framed browser viewer.

    See, when it comes to apps, you just cannot have the 18-and-over waffle and all the LL TOS bull-pucky. App buyers won’t tolerate it for one second.

    Breen Whitman

    16 Mar 12 at 1:34 pm

  5. thanks Owen! that’s what i get for being french-canadian! i knew i was misinterpreting it but wasn’t sure how to understand it =)

    4 products eh? he mentioned pathfinding for SL but you see LittleTextPeople as being a separate product and not some part of SL?

    dang Inara, 2.5 years if LL continues the same pattern as the last year? holy crap! of course the dream thing would be to have a hit like The Sims or Farmville! i’d like that for myself as well! =D

    well Breen, as usual, you cut through the BS! Humble really did not state much except for the obvious – he used terminology that hints at upcoming success without providing any meat to it. yes, The Sims was hugely successful and he and his buddies were somewhat responsible for that but that only speaks to their past and expertise – whether they can repeat that, or mold SL to become a part of such a success, is to be seen

    Ener Hax

    16 Mar 12 at 1:54 pm

  6. Linden Realms has shown a couple of things, I think.

    1: The Grid technology could let Linden labs produce a dedicated game space, with a cross-over possible between SL and the New Game.

    2: Linden Labs need to work on their communication with new players.

    There’s a few ideas that I have had which don’t seem practical for legacy reasons. For instance, the dedicated Game Space could use larger regions, giving fewer sim crossings. But I’m led to believe that the sim server design is messy: the region size drove a lot of coding assumptions. The terrain mesh can be stored using an 8-bit coordinate system, and extracting the data can make assumptions allowing faster access.

    And if they have to get their act together on communications, that will hardly hurt.

    Wolf Baginski

    17 Mar 12 at 10:24 am

  7. nail on the head Wolf! communications! it’s also easy to look at a game like Farmville and think they could make something similar, but there are nuances that make it succeed and another game fail – of course that’s why they have Rod Humble, presumably so he can make another title as successful as The Sims

    Ener Hax

    18 Mar 12 at 5:45 pm

  8. @Breen @Ener

    Humble publicly stated as far back as SLCC-2011 that the new products are completely *unrelated* to Second Life in any way. Even at that early stage it was pretty clear that they would not provide access to SL (he dismissed reports of “SL on a Tablet” as soon as they surfaced), and took time to visit my blog to make this point plain.

    He’s also made it clear elsewhere (comments passed on NWN, for example) in which he cited that the LittleTextPeople acquisition is evolving into “product 3″ in their new product line – which we now know to be a something of an interactive novel. He also indicated the “product 2″ was of a similar ilk, and still in development; it is unclear what happened / is happening to “product 1″ – which most certainly isn’t pathfinding, which is a set of tools for SL, not a product.

    Again, “new products” means LL is diversifying its product base.

    In most companies with a single offering to the market, this is seen as a good thing to do and strengthens their potential in terms of inward investment. While the same happen where LL are concerned – well, that’s the $64,000 question. Only time will tell.

    In this @Wolf hits the nail on the head – as I’ve often said myself – LL’s biggest failing in many respects is that of open, direct, and consistent communication with users. If they cannot manage that with new products, and develop a far-reaching PR / ad campaign, then they are going to have problems.

    As to why Humble isn’t saying much – that’s not LL BS – that’s actually pretty typical as a whole. Right now, it’s still early days (they didn’t acquire LPT until the start of the year!). Expect to see more as proposed launch dates draw closer.

    Inara Pey

    12 Apr 12 at 12:17 pm

  9. nice explanation Inara, thank you =)

    we’ll see, like you said, about what does get rolled out. i think it may be ambitious to have new offerings this year since they’ve been promising to improve lag, border crossings, and search for a few years now! =p

    communication has always been lacking and too bad they just did not let Torley go nuts with that instead of whatever his current position is. Torley is a huge part of what got me so hooked with SL and my “signature” parasol is a direct rip off from his Mary Poppins outfit he had in 2007

    *holds breath for proposed lunch dates*

    oh, launch not lunch *exhales* =D

    Ener Hax

    13 Apr 12 at 5:33 pm

  10. @Ener

    Here’s another misconception that is doing the rounds: that LL can “either” work on SL *or* work on other things – which you allude to by saying it might be ambitious for them to work on new products and deal with SL issues.

    The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Indeed, they use different skill sets – and a look at the Linden Research careers pages for the last few months will show that the company is:

    * Still seeking to hire people with skills directly related to SL

    * Separately seeking to hire people with mobile technology skills.

    So there is absolutely no reason for one to come at the expense of the other. Providing LL’s internal mechanisms are up to it (and there is a big question mark there, based on their past track record of project management), there is no reason why the company cannot continue to enhance SL alongside the development and release of new products – which is precisely what is happening (hence the acquisition of LTP).

    Longer term, it would be interesting to see the skills and experience of Emily Short and Richard Evans applied directly to SL itself, particularly where pathfinding / NPCs are concerned. However that really is a wish-list thing right now – and were it to happen, it would have to be done in such a way that LL isn’t seen to be impinging upon users’ creativity.

    As to communications LL are rather poor, agreed (I’m constantly banging the drum about this on my own blog!), but in this instance the apparent “lack of substance” that some perceive in the Games Industry interview isn’t down to any weakness on LL’s part – it really is a case of natural caution.

    Nevertheless, one would hope that when the launch of the news product(s) rolls around, LL will have the sense to put the promotional work in the has of a company that knows what it is doing, as I really don’t think they are up to handling matters themselves.

    Inara Pey

    14 Apr 12 at 11:52 am

  11. True, but if you keep making the same promise for 6 years in a row, then I have little faith that they will now deliver on that promise and deliver new products.

    At the end of the day I don’t care what LL does and it’s simply banter on my part. I have done SL in a very big way and it is a part of me as a virtual world person but just as speculation now

    Ener Hax

    14 Apr 12 at 12:22 pm

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