This evening I’m writing from a street-side bistro in 2019 Los Angeles, Blade Runner version. When I saw that Hera (zee9) had rebuilt and enhanced the Blade Runner build, I just had to throw on my cyber gear and have a look. For more, see Inra Pey’s write up.
For now, I’m restless and I need food, and the street 😛 Later I’ll see if I can find my way up to Tyrell’s private suite. That guy knew how to live!
Friday, Lab Gab returned with Strawberry Linden hosting Grumpity, Mojo, and Patch Linden. They discussed a lot of information in 30 quick minutes. This is my quick-ish summary of the talk.
Second Life Mobile
We start right of with a bang. Grumpity, Mojo, and Patch give us a peek at the state of the Second Life viewer for Android and iOS. This open for the Lab Gab episode is actually a stand-alone video itself: Second Life Mobile – First Look.
There has been talk about a mobile viewer for some time. There’s been no secret that work has been going on and that a mobile viewer is a thing to be desired. Grumpity noted that this is hardly the first attempt at such a thing. However, a quick look at the video will show that things are looking very good now for a near full fidelity SL experience on mobile devices. This is exciting!
In its current form, there’s a lot missing from the mobile viewer. It has a minimal user interface. The development philosophy has been to start with “the hardest things first”: rendering avatars and beautiful world views. Full rendering of avatars (attachments and behaviours) and rich 3D environments is the goal and it looks like they’re achieving that.
The mobile viewer is built on Unity which provides easy portability to Android and iOS platforms.
The examples, including Kaleidoscope with all it’s flying monarch butterflies, look super on the mobile viewer.
Patch gave an update on what’s next for the mobile viewer, more updates in the coming months… “Mobile is coming soon™ to Second Life”.
The Lab Gab episode proper begins at 6:38. After introductions, Strawberry starts the questions for the rest of the Lindens.
SL: Mojo, do you have a mobile update for us?
ML: The team is super excited about SL Mobile. Development started in October last year. They’ve been working in Unity which offers quick portability to Android and iOS.
He recalls that they were very unsure if they could meet the quality targets they set for SL Mobile. There are lots of complexities in rendering avatars and rich environments. The goal is to provide a mobile window into the rich experience of SL. Just my take, but the examples shown in the video make it look like an attainable goal.
SL: Is there a release timeline for mobile?
ML: Beta in last half or ’23. The beta will allow users to explore locations, change outfits, hangout and chat. More features to come in later releasees.
SL: Asks about Grumpity not being her usual stick figure. It turns out that her stick figure avatar is not friendly to SL Mobile just yet. So, for the time being, she has adopted a human avatar, which has already sprouted a stick figure tail.
New Pricing Structure
Changes to pricing structures comprise the next topic at 9:00. These changes were announced on Monday the 6th and include changes to land pricing as well as L$ transaction fees.
SL: Grumpity, can you talk about that a bit more?
GL: There has been a general, long-term effort to reduce the price of land. This is hard because both the lab’s and residents’ businesses are built on land. This time, there has been a trade-off: land prices are down, but L$ transaction fees are up.
Full regions are $20/month less. Fees to buy and sell L$ have gone up “a bit.”
The changes are in place and they are currently watching the markets to make sure everything stays stable.
SL: There’s also a new option to pay for private regions with L$, which is more expensive than paying with USD for both buyers and sellers of L$. Was that intentional?
PL: Yes. It’s a bit of a convenience fee since Linden Lab are taking on the lift of moving the money in and out of the L$ exchange. (PL later notes that since L$ payments are not made in fiat currency, this is non-VATable.)
Bot activity, and concerns about it are up next at 12:05.
SL: There is some concern about bot activity. Can you please let the viewers know what we’re working on to address those concerns.
PL: A new bot policy is in the works. It has been reviewed by legal and compliance teams. Expected to roll out next week.
GL: Product changes will put more control into estate owners with regard to scripted agents. Coming “Soon”, probably within weeks.
OK, not a lot of actual information there. No doubt things will become clearer when the updated policy drops in the next week or so.
Physics Based Rendering
Next is a topic that has been, deservedly in my opinion, getting a lot of attention lately, physics based rendering (PBR). This discussion starts at 13:04.
SL: Mojo, can you tell us what that is and is there an ETA for it?
ML: One of the more exciting developments, PBR brings more realistic lighting to SL. It moves the technology forward about ten years over what’s in the viewers now.
PBR support will allow content creators to use physics based rendering to define materials and have them rendered in SL. Also coming, reflection probes and more complex lighting. Light from a window can illuminate a room’s interior.
Much more detail on this topic can be found in the recent Second Life University video.
There is a project viewer out now and a demo area on the beta grid.
It will not be released until they’re sure it won’t break anything, probably another three months.
SL: Will users need higher end computers?
ML: Reflection probes are expensive and might cause problems, so turning off reflections might be a thing for some users. In general though, much optimization work has gone with the PBR project and there should be no need for users to have to upgrade to higher end systems in order to use PBR.
ML: PBR and reflection probes takes us 3/4ths of the way there. Proper mirrors will come later.
SL: Does this mean we’re changing the graphics engine?
ML: No. The desktop viewer uses a custom graphics engine. Underneath, the graphics API used will move from OpenGL to Vulcan. Vulcan offers better support for more modern features in graphics cards. We may see something on this later this year perhaps.
Updates for Inventory
Changes to the viewer’s inventory tools are next up at 18:00.
SL: Can you talk about updates for inventories?
GL: One of the current projects is inventory thumbnails. The idea is to help not just with inventory management but with avatar customization.
Also adding a single folder inventory view. Not a game changer, but an important step.
Updates to the Viewer
At 19:15 Grumpity comments on some other viewer updates on the way, particularly, support for emoji.
SL: You also have updates to the viewer. Can you talk about that?
GL: From Catznip, there is an emoji viewer. The job now is making sure there are no lingering problems. (Introducing Unicode has a reputation for breaking things.) A project viewer should be available within weeks.
Second Life VR
The well-worn topic of Second Life support for virtual reality arose at 19:55.
SL: Are there any plans for making Second Life VR ready?
ML: There’s been talk. It will probably not happen this year. The frame rate must be really good to render two eye views at 50 fps or better. Some of the other work going on will support later work on VR, but not likely to get a lot of focus until next year.
SL Linux Viewer
Linux users will want to tune in at 20:48 where Strawberry asks about an official Linden viewer for Linux.
ML: The viewer will run on WINE and Proton. That has been sort of the internal solution. There are no current investments in an official Linux viewer. Not in the plans for this year. Someday.
A big, sensitive topic comes up at 21:32, changes to the marketplace. I think we’ve all noticed some of this.
SL: Let’s talk about marketplace. There are a lot of changes happening there. Can you go into details about that?
GL: The marketplace search engine (ElasticSearch) has been upgraded from 2.3 to 8.4. Tiny little jump there. Given the huge number of listings in MP, this was quite a job. The team have been getting a lot of feedback on the changes and they are taking it in and making adjustments.
The first round of post-update changes removed the 50 page cap on results and made queries work a bit more like they used to with search terms ANDed by default instead of ORed. Use of advanced search features, such as double-quoted terms, will revert to the advanced search behavior.
Featured listings were not being listed properly and a fix is on the way for that.
Inworld Office Hours
At 24:52 Strawberry asks about Lindens holding inworld office hours.
SL: A lot of residents ask if Lindens hold inworld office hours.
GL: Of course! (Notes that SL maintains a calendar of such things.) Many user groups. See links in description of the video. There’s one for the user groups page and one for the public calendar too.
At 25:48, Patch provides an update on the New User eXperience avatars.
SL: NUX avatars?
PL: New user experience avatars. The project is moving along. The avatars are done. A full line of clothing, attachments, “and all sorts of goodies” are being rolled out with the project. The idea is to make the initial SL experience better, easier, more fun.
The overall project is taking longer than initially anticipated. More updates should be coming soon.
There will be a dev kit. This will be released earlier than the avatars.
The avatars will be PBR ready.
Linden Homes come up at 27:30.
SL: Can you give us an update on Linden Homes?
PL: There will be more information about Linden Homes coming out soon. Premium Plus Linden homes are nearing completion.
Some exciting expansions and additions to existing themes are on their way… Soon™
And finally, SLB. It’s coming! 28:10
SL: This is our 20th year. We’ll be celebrating in June. Do you have any announcements about that?
PL: It’s really, really big. He does not want to spoil the theme just yet.
So there you have it. A great big dump of information in just 30 minutes. Now I’m off to poke around Tyrell Corporation’s offices and see if I can find my way up to the penthouse.