Fit for Purpose?

There is an increasing debate about SL’s fitness for purpose in today’s interconnected world. Many mobile connections are made to SL these days. I grew up in an age when computers that could reliably connect to the internet were large, heavy, unwieldy things that sat on a desk and created frustration and heat in almost equal portions. Now a small, light, hand-held unit can do as much if not more while connected to the internet, without shackling its user to a desk.

SecondLife is not something that hand-held units render well, and the wire-free internet does not transmit its data reliably to such units. So one may ask: “Is SL fit for the Wi-Fi age?” The answer is almost certainly NO.

To get the density of data downloaded reliably one needs a wired connection, partly because of the bandwidth achievable thus and partly because of the inherent pulsed nature of Wi-Fi connection. My connection is about as good as one can get these days, a fibre-optic cable connection and a modem/router that handles http reasonably well. Also in order to render my SecondLife in the detail I like I have a fairly powerful computer and graphics processor. That said it is not perfect and there are days when “SL seems to hate me”, not rendering things and not creating objects that I know are attached to my avatar. Some errors are due to the Linden Lab hardware, which is far from perfect, some is down to the internet just playing up somewhere between the UK and the West Coast of the USA, and some is down to the code in the modified browser, aka viewer, that I use to connect to SecondLife. If any of these links are not working well, a problem will arise.

This is why, I suggest, that some experienced gamers find SecondLife so “clunky”. The content streaming down the net to their device is far from optimised, as is most gaming content and it simply does not play so nicely or smoothly on their device.

To achieve game-quality streaming on lighter, les powerful units, SecondLife would need to be far more regimented and standardised and that would, to a large extent, go counter to the wishes of most users of the programme. So Linden Lab is in a bit of a cleft stick: does it make SL simpler so that it WILL run on hand-held devices, or does it maintain its complexity and customisability (if that actually IS a word) and simply require its users to obtain the necessary hardware and software to run it?

My vote would be to maintain the complexity and user-created diversity of SL, for all its limitations in hardware: I could not live my virtual life in a simpler “game” and I do not want to do that. Linden Lab are trying to help make the diverse and non-optimised SL more accessible by taking some of the load off the user’s hardware, but in the limit we have to do our bit by making sure that our hard- and soft-ware is adequate. It depends on how much value we put on our SecondLives – for some the cost is just too high and that is a value-judgement we all must make eventually. I know which decision I make every time.

~ by Ayesha Askham-Ezvalt on July 30, 2013.

6 Responses to “Fit for Purpose?”

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  2. The fact is that Linden lab honestly didn’t know what to do with it’s success and had no concerted direction to move in, which really was consistent (if you think about it) with it’s Every Man is an Island of Development culture. It was more concerned – at that time – with how to scale and find new ways to work doing what it was already doing rather than looking to the future about what it wanted to do and be.

  3. So, here we are after a decade. We have a virtual world with a few million users and few bots (but probably lots of forum spammers). The company behind it is financially solid and earns 50% more than the ever-so-popular WordPress owners, which runs a fifth of all websites in the world. The codebase developed by the few dozens of LL programmers is huge compared to other popular products. However, as “small” as this virtual world seems to be, it actually generates half the annual income for the content developers that the most popular Facebook game developer ever makes, out of a population that is… well, perhaps a thousand times bigger, but certainly a few hundreds of times larger for sure. While obviously we all know that Second Life is fading… the shrinkage seems to little affect overall content sales, so, from the perspective of business and overall success of the whole concept, it’s hard to rationally claim that Second Life is anything but a huge success after a decade of existence.

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