Monday, 29 October 2012

SecondLife & OpenSim Don't Need Client-side Havok Physics!

According to Firestorm TPV developers you don't need the new generation of viewers with client-side Havok physics to access Second Life or OpenSim grids. In comments on an Hypergrid Business post authored by Maria Korolov, a Firestorm team member, Lette Ponnier answered me when I asked why the viewer could not use different modes to switch between Havok and standard configuration in order to keep the grid manager and enable the viewer to be used for OpenSim grids as before. My point was they would not have to develop two viewers as they said they would in order to comply with Linden Lab's new rules on TPV's. Mode switching would simply change the configuration to switch off the Havok code and all neatly wrapped in a single viewer. Lette Ponnier replied, saying...

"The other point I wanted to clarify concerned Gaga's comments here:

    The OpenSim version of Firestorm WILL be able to connect to Second Life. Users will only need to use both if they want to use tools that require Havok while they're in SL. These will include things like pathfinding capabilities and improvements to rigged mesh upload. If they don't need those, then they will be able to install only the OpenSim version of Firestorm and use it to connect to both Second Life and their other grids. Due to Havok's licensing policies, it is not possible to have both Havok and OpenSim accessibility within the same build. Trust me, the team would have MUCH preferred to do it that way. It wouldn't just be easier on users, it would be easier on the entire team.

        Just to be a lil' more accurate, I should have written *full* pathfinding capabilities above. The current and OpenSim versions of Firestorm have most of them, but there are a few that will need Havok, like viewing navmesh.

        - Lette, of the Phoenix Firestorm Project support team."

Gaga visits Firestorm/Phoenix office in OSgrid which was kindly donated by Walter Balazic of Littlefield regions.

So there you have it, the new viewers are meant for handling Havok and therefore the new video games and tools which is a completely new development and has little or nothing to do with the virtual world of Second Life as we have known it. Indeed, it is probable that most residents will never play the games anyway so will never need client-side Havok. The people who will be most interested, of course, will be low budget and garage video game developers who are looking to make money on their creations. Second Life tools are relatively easy to learn and there is a wealth of content to call on for building, props, vehicles and avatar clothing so getting a game from concept to the market wont take a massive team or too long to achieve. But, with Linden Labs promising to list games on the Steam video games site it would appear they intend to allow content, ie. the video games, to be marketed under their own label and downloadable via Steam which begs the question; what will the owners of Steam be getting out of it?

Well, it is clear enough now where Linden Labs is headed and they will be sure to monetize their new tools and probably even rake a percentage off the sales revenue too. Users are already modifying games in Steam using Garry's Mod application and selling their own mockups which yields a whapping 75% for Steam and 25% for the Modder - as they are known. One assumes then the creators of SL video games will gain even less if Linden Lab wants a cut too and Steam still takes their huge rake. Anyway, be that as it may, the real problem for us dedicated to preserving our virtual worlds is how much more damage will be done to Second Life in the process and will they get their new projected revenue stream into the big numbers before they run out of money and SL sales totally collapse. Well, it is a strong possibility for already traffic numbers are falling and sims are closing at the average rate of a 100 a week now so the outlook is not exactly good.

It does all seem rather incredible though that no matter how many people voice their love of Second Life as it is or was and urge Linden Lab to leave it be and just fix the bugs and lag they are intent on surging ahead at any price and taking the old platform with them. One wonders just how much of SL will still be around in two or three years from now or maybe LL are just quietly letting to old cash cow die as they strive to get out of the virtual worlds business and into the lucrative video games market.

Yeah But, Nooo But!

Rod Humble seems relatively unfazed by the decline of Second Life and recently hinted at something big for their virtual worlds on the horizon so are we looking at a case of great expectations or a smoke screen to reassure those residents thinking of packing their bags? Well, perhaps it's not a smoke screen for I have heard a few things on the grape vine that intrigue me. Rod has made a few noises about "investing in virtual worlds" which has lead to some loose speculation that he could be planning a new pricing model possibly using cloud technology and there was mention of expanded regions which has to be borrowed from Opensim and AuroraSim. Anyway, the jury is still out I guess but whatever Rod does he had better get a move on and do something to stop the increasing rate of decline for the gate has been left open and the sheep are already bolting!

Humble's Bundle

Others have already blogged heavily about the new video games from LL but for the sake of readers that don't know anything about them I will wiz briefly through them. Yes! the good news is that Rod Humble has finally started to show us what he has been keeping up his sleeve since he joined Linden Lab and that includes three new "Virtual Spaces" games (as Rod choose to call his new brand of Metaverse) including a Minecraft clone with physics no less and some kind of authoring game. The titles are Paterns which is the Minecraft look-alike and is in early development. Next up is Creatorverse, which is destined to release on iPad. This one is a 2D sandbox game in which players create shapes that are brought to life with physics. The idea behind Creatoverse is that whatever you make, mazes, puzzles, etc, can be uploaded to a cloud and downloaded by others to edited or play as they are found. Third up is Dio, which is a room creator where players can construct an adventure or develop an interactive wedding album perhaps. Finally, there is Versu which has been developed by the LittleTextPeople studio that was bought up by Linden Lab earlier this year. Interactive fiction author, Emily Short and The Sims AI designer, Richard Evans are the people behind Versu which is basically a set of storytelling tools where players assign motivations to characters. These characters then respond to players actions. If murder mystery, tales of romance and dating games are your cup of tea then this will surely be one for you.