Platforms and Technologies Panel at VW07

The pre-lunch panel at VW07 was on “platforms and technologies,” moderated by Jerry Paffendorf of the Electric Sheep Company. Unfortunately, I chose to sit upstairs by the coffee, which apparently inspired most of the audience to chat to each other throughout the panel.

Pretty much the most interesting bit of this came at the very end, from Joe Miller, vp for platform and technology development at Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world of Second Life:

• We’ll be open-sourcing the back end so sims can run anywhere on any machine whether trusted by us or not.
• We’ll be delivering assets in a totally different method that won’t be such a burden on the simulators.
• Very soon we’ll be updating simulators to support multiple versions so that we don’t have to update the entire Grid at once.
• We’ll be using open protocols.
• SL cannot truly succeed as long as one company controls the Grid.

Joe also had a slide showing that SL is going to migrate straight to Havok 4. Eventually.

And now, back to our panel.

Panelists:
Corey Bridges of Multiverse
John Bates of Entropia Universe
Joe Miller of Linden Lab
Rick Giolito of Triology Studios

Jerry points out there are a lot of different kinds of virtual worlds, but we don’t live in a world in which they’re integrated yet.

The panelists first described their worlds and how they work, which I’ll spare you for the most part.

Corey: [The most interesting thing Corey said was that worlds built on the Multiverse platform could be connected to each other in a variety of ways.]

Multiverse founded by a group of pre-IPO Netscape guys. So we are platform makers. We’re at the very start of the mainstream of virtual worlds. MMO game segment is a $4 billion a year industry right now, should be over $10 billion by 2009. [Incorrectly describes World of Warcraft as having 8 million subscribers.] Application of VWs is much wider than just games.

Multiverse has a world-building technology platform available to anyone for doanloading from our site. Especailly interested in enabling independent developers to create new stuff in this medium. Business model is anoyne can download the tech and build a world-class VW. They can have as many users as they like and they never pay us a dime until they start charging consumers, when they pay us a revenue share of 10 percent. Enterprises can arrange for enterprise licensing situations if they like.

Multiverse is such a blank canvas, you can do whatever you want, just a little nightclub, or an entire world where you create all the parameters for what the experience is like.

We have a universal browser for worlds. You install the Multiverse client to access any virtual world that’s been built on the Multiverse platform. You’re always just one click away from any world built on the platform, it’s a de facto network of VWs. Worlds can be standalone worlds like World of Warcraft. We’ve also got some customers making competitors to Second Life where you have user-generated content with in-world tools. You could have these worlds connect or not connect, your choice. Some customers are letting users bring profile data, assest, avatars, economic data from one world to another. [This was interesting, I didn’t realize that was happening in Multiverse.]

Rick, president of Trilogy: [Shows slides.] Trilogy is a group of 20 devs (formerly of EA). Two business areas: traditional next-gen gaming for PS3, Xbox360, Wii, PC. And world simulations, aka virtual worlds: bringing gameplay sensibilities ot traditionally community and social interaction-based worlds. Trilogy is currently working on VWs for a major Hollywood company. [These are the guys building out virtual Pimp My Ride.] MTV are working with us, we’re using the There.com technology. What could be better than Pimp My Ride for a 17-24 year old guy. When we first looked at There.com we were just blown away. Started in December, launching in April.

Most platforms right now:
Pipelines are developed by engineers for engineers.
A lack of easy graphical user interfaces.
Pipelines that need more developer-based testing and debugging.
The “wouldn’t it be cool if” development mentality.

…whereas pipelines need to be easier to use and feature more live debugging, need to feature quick prototyping. I’m working on that with Makena [the company behind There.com] to help make this happen. Need to minimize recompiling. Need end-users-based tools for dev teams and for the consumers, it’s really important for them to have good tools so they can create good content so that they don’t create crappy content that diminishes your world.

Jerry asks about demographics, are gamemakers turning toward virtual spaces? A: I don’t know of other people who have made such a radical shift. To me it feels like pre-PS1, where we were excited about 3D. But I think you’ll see more especially because of media companies like MTV who want experiences that feel professionally, seamlessly done experiences longterm, you’ll see other big media companies following their lead. They’re going to want it to look like their offline media, they’re not going to want it to look like user-generated content. It’s important, in my opinion, you have to maintain the integrity of the experience over time. If you allow people to do anything you want and have no rules, some will do good stuff, some will do crap. At the end of the day, your consumer has to wade through all that stuff to find the nuggets of goodness. It can diminish your world over time. Remember, my background is in consumer products, not like others who have been doing this longer. Our sensibilty is in creating finished, polished product.

John Bates from Entropia Universe: Shows a year-old video created by a user shot in Fraps. Entropia Universe: you’re a colonist going to Entropia colonising a new world, that’s the storyline. [The video really pushes the “opportunities to profit” idea and the fact that you can transfer profits in and out of the world.]

600,000 registered users. Currency is pegged PED10 to one $1, that’s backed by MindArk [company behind Entropia]. Platform is built from ground up to support commerce. Last year we ran $360 million through the universe.

A lot of the things you’ve heard are coming from other panelists are here in Entropia, like real cash economy, galleries where you can sell art, or pay more to have that art in the real world.

We are much more locked down in user-generated contente thatn SL, but that gives us the capability to have more secure commerce, there’s no CopyBots and things like that.

Debit card you can get to withdraw from ATM? That’s correct. [I’d thought that had been cancelled.] Or use direct bank transfers. One thing that makes people comfortable with investing in Entropia, it’s very easy to get money in and out. [Mentions Jon Jacobs purchase of the $100,000 space station, but doesn’t mention that Jacobs worked for Entropia at the time. Though see comments for more.]

Joe Miller of Linden Lab: I’m actually going to talk about technology and platforms. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the background of SL. Would like to emphasize 3 key elements:
• community, far more about the people than the tech
• user-created content
• marketplace

This notion of creating a permanent presence on the 3D Internet deserves more attention. In Web 1.0 we’re really talking about the democratization of access. Web 2.0 is democratization of collaboration or participations. Where we’re headed with the 3D Internet is the democratization of co-creation or collaborative co-creation. [I don’t necessarily agree. I think it’s more about presence than only creation.]

Relationship between employees and employers is changing. Less focus on enterprise than endeavor. People being asked to behave as entrepreneurs in the organization.

In SL, it’s just like first life, but you can fly. SL is not a game. It’s unbounded space rather than living in the designer’s imagination. It’s about communities rather than NPCs. Collaborative creativity is really the killer app.

SL now 210 square miles. Over 35 terabytes of user-created conent. Many more events than we can track in a day. 520,000 unique items sold or traded per month. 15 million concurreny scripts are running at any given time. Who’s using it: 43 percent female. About even in terms of hours of use. 33 y.o. average age. 60 pct of active user base from outside North America. 8,300 simulators running.

Where we’re headed:

Very soon we’ll be updating simulators to support multiple versions so that we don’t have to update the entire Grid at once.
Delivering assets in deiffernet method
We’ll be open-sourcing the back end so sims can run anywhere on any machine whether trusted by us or not.
We’ll be using open protocols.

SL cannot truly succeed as long as one company controls the Grid.

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  • Comments (17)
  1. We’ll be open-sourcing the back end so sims can run anywhere on any machine whether trusted by us or not.

    Okay. So we’re back to this position. Last quote I recall clearly sounded as if LL may not actually open source the server (unless they’re getting tricky on us by using the words “back end”). Meanwhile, forgive me – and most everyone else – if Havok 4 sounds like a pipe dream.

    [This was interesting, I didn’t realize that was happening in Multiverse.]

    Yeah. Multiverse’s system is pretty compelling. It does, however, need that Firefly property to launch in order to kick-start things; I spend some time reading the forums and it’s just not quite at the point it needs to be to take off, imo.

    I’m working on that with Makena [the company behind There.com] to help make this happen.

    Having worked with the There engine, I can only say that such is effort is desperately needed. I sincerely wish them good luck as it’s to everyone’s benefit to have a strong competitive landscape.

    [Mentions Jon Jacobs purchase of the $100,000 space station, but doesn’t mention that Jacobs worked for Entropia at the time.]

    Saying “Jacobs worked” implies that he was a paid employee. Was is definitively shown he was a *real* employee and not just an unpaid evangelist who showed up somewhere representing the company? Would appreciate link to source proving he was actually an employee of Entropia, if you have it. Thanks.

    Nice summary of the panel. Thanks.

  2. “forgive me – and most everyone else – if Havok 4 sounds like a pipe dream”

    No! How can you _say_ such a thing?

    Moving on from the sarcasm, I would say as I always have that open-sourcing the server code will definitely happen eventually, but only at a point when LL is in a secure position to be the premiere consultants and hosters for that platform. It is in their interests to have the SL Protocol established as a virtual world standard rather than let someone else like Multiverse nip in first, but well, they have to get that protocol properly ready. I would assume that this is quite a high priority, which is why we’re seeing all this backend work at the moment.

  3. Recall that I’ve said the same thing – http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1027 .

  4. “[Mentions Jon Jacobs purchase of the $100,000 space station, but doesn’t mention that Jacobs worked for Entropia at the time.]”

    Saying “Jacobs worked” implies that he was a paid employee. Was is definitively shown he was a *real* employee and not just an unpaid evangelist who showed up somewhere representing the company? Would appreciate link to source proving he was actually an employee of Entropia, if you have it. Thanks.

    REPLY:

    I have intimate knowledge of this situation. John Jacobs was never a paid employee, rather, as you suggest, he was an evangalist sent to various trade shows to pass out CD’s etc. MindArk calles them “Ambassadors”. Also, the space station buy was after, maybe a year after, he made appearances on MindArk’s behalf.

    Good writup though!

    King Buzzo
    http://www.rceuniverse.com

  5. @csven: I’m not sure about the “rolling out another platform” idea, I think that would have to happen before open-sourcing or they’d lose control, but yes, “secure virtual host” and consultancy is where they see themselves going I think. Who better to be your guide and host in the multiverse than the people who designed it? LL is sharp and agile enough not to hang onto the “coders, hosts and managers” position for too much longer.

    The social implications, of course, well. I seem to recall there was some good debate on the Herald about that.

  6. Well, that was written quite some time ago, so the specifics of how they would deal with SL’s issues (which they only recently fully acknowledged) may not be entirely on target, but the general thought remains intact. After all, Havok 4 *is* proprietary. Who knows what will actually be open sourced in the end.

  7. What I’d like to know more about is what does Joe Miller mean when he talks about “open protocols”? Is he talking about using existing protocols, or is he talking about creating new protocols for the new metaverse? He has said in the past that they would like SL to become the default 3D platform.

    If they are talking about creating these protocols will the community have input? Will these protocols be decided by the community (as they were with TCP/IP, HTTP and HTML), or will they be decided by LL based on their own commercial interests? If this is the case do we really want a private company using their first mover advantage to dictate the underlying protocols of the coming metaverse?

    I don’t understand the full technicalities of this, so I would appreciate it if you or someone else reading this blog post can clear this issue up for me.

    I have similar concerns with Multiverse. Their model is much more interesting and versatile, and similar to the way the web works now, but to say they want to be the 3D version of Netscape (as they have) seems a bit specious to me, as Netscape operated on open protocols decided on by the Internet community. Are Multiverse planning to use their more attractive model to dominate the market and dictate the future protocols of the coming metaverse?

  8. And when I talk about “community” I mean the whole Internet community, not just the Second Life Community.

  9. On formats and Standards of Web3D:

    Its sorry for me to have to say publically that the only lasting ISO approved web3d protocals and the web3d.org behind them were not invited to this conference….I offered a panel of experts with over as decade of experience in this area. No reply was offered from the conference leadership, maybe next year:)

    My experience has been that in the last decade almost every format created for “web3d” as a closed system has gone into oblivion or into such minor private company usage that i dare say most of the members on these panels could not name them today:)

    Interesting to hear SL plans, but its in the execution that the reality will come from the virtual.I do though applaud LL for consistantly changing its plans and methods…tactically as a developer being asked to use SL for VW projects today it’s been a headache, but strategically the changes have been to the better for the 3d realtime future many of us have spent a career developing.

    sean is right, the larger online community and use of 3d as interface and immersive media does/should and will continue to go far beyond SL or any of the “companies/works in progess” systems being reported on by the panelists..and the GRID (by LL) most likely cannot BE the 3d larger WWW we began to create a decade ago.

    As to the new companies on the block, I for one would like to see more than a field of grass and a running girl or a blog to offer any of my clients a single company solution to using interactive 3d for a medium.:)

    Is this “competition” of companies for PR points any different than Cult vs Pulse…Who?- right, my point made.

    A decade ago this SAME conference was held in San Fran and was SGIs master plan to create a “Second Web”… long before O’rielly trandemarked web2.o:)

    Lessons learned.:) i dont know why its constantly reported that “we”
    all no nothing, this false hubris is usually followed by a 6 digit consulting budget by those who make it… ;)

    Two bubbles and many successes and failures exist around interactive 3d online. I sat in a VR space just two nights ago as Bruce Damer layed out a much more complete experience in web3d than i believe may be presented in ny this week. To all looking at web3d for the first time, i suggest GOOGLE before any paid conference.

    Even Bruce’s 60! page Powerpoint presentation missed many key players and experiences from outside his editing sphere. I cannot be sure since the expereince for me was modified by SL avatarness, but it seemed that the audience of 30 plus in the VR space seemed “critical to listen” to his history lesson, or worse, they were astonished. I would love to hear about the 40 at the actual event. That free history lesson by Bruce should be recorded as a favor to us all:)

    As to the value of experience:

    If anyone thinks that web3d didnt happen before ” because we didnt have broadband then”, well i suggest that they really dont get the way the real world works, and god help us is they are the newly appointed consultants and guides to building virtual worlds to come:)

    thats my two cents.. cheaper than the conference admission.:)

    Best to the web3d developers to come…
    LarryR
    c3

  10. thanks, Buzzo. It’s been a bit tough to find accurate info on that.

  11. np Mark. Keep up the great coverage. I’m enjoying it :)

  12. A bit late in logging my 2p-worth…
    IMHO, it’s good to hear an unambiguous statement about the future of the server software. It’s better OpenSounrce than Licensed… but in either case Linden want their protocols to be the de facto standard for web3.D. The sooner they can get this out there, in the great virtual landgrab for 3D t’internet, the more likely they are that their “standards” will prevail. Wait too long, and one of the new generation of VirtWorlds may snatch the laurels.

    Bring it on! Oh Yeah…

  13. PS: I dunno how Mr Wallace actually manages to keep up with himself. All these posts, which I barely have time to read… plus rampant twittering… and participation in panels? I’ll have some of what he’s on, please.

  14. Nice blog Mark. I was in attendance at the conference and found this panel to be one of my personal favourites. I agree that Joe Miller’s presentation of where SL is headed was the most notable and interesting of them all. I could discuss this at length, but I’ve done this on myn own site and am too lazy LOL! The idea that we’ve lately been hearing and reading about re: SL cannot succeed without open-sourcing and allowing others into the mix, is crucial to the near future of the industry. In a world dominated by power struggles, I always breath a sigh of relief when I hear LindenLab reiterate their main goal: to further advance virtual worlds, rather than their pocketbooks. Sam Miller not only identified ways in which SL can be a springboard for others, but he also very much represented the LindenLab mentality. Bravo!
    Bonnie Randall
    aka Svetlana

    • Prokofy Neva
    • April 1st, 2007

    I’d like the Lindens to come clean on the timetable for this opensourcing of the back end so “sims can run anywhere”.

    Since this will devalue all existing land (servers/sims) sold by Linden Lab, and will wipe out their revenue stream of monthly tier making up 70 percent of their bottom line now, I’d like to hear their business plan for *their own* transition and what the HELL they will use for revenue after they do this.

    I’d like to hear their plan for an orderly transition.

    I’d like for them to decide NOW, TODAY, that they will or will not keep hosting servers on the Mainland themselves.

    I’d like them NOW, TODAY to decide whether all islands will have to be cut loose to be hosted on your own server, or whether they have any plans to remain as a hosting service.

    I’d like to hear how the fee structure will be made for licensing people to host their own. Double tier? Triple tier? A one-time cost? A heavy one-time cost then low monthly maintenance?

    I’d like them to create a transition team that helps residents make the transition.

    I’d like them to identify and work with hosting companies that they themselves will help to absorb their customers suddenly cut loose by the greatest island scammer there ever was, Governor Linden.

    I simply don’t want to wake up in 90 days and have some flunky Linden tell me that I now have to call some asshole tekkie who used to work for them or is their pet, and deal with his snarky attitude as he now charges me 4 times what I used to pay the Lindens in order to host my sims, and then performs absymally, making them look good. I want a plan. I do not want to become dependent on the Lindens’ pets. That’s what is happening in the metaversal development arena, and I want to make sure that open-sourcing means freedom for all of us, not just Linden-groomed hosters who will have all kinds of inside tracks and deals and cuts.

  15. Prok,

    These are all valid concerns, especially for one who invests time, money, and effort into that system.

    But, unless eventually decided by law or internally, none of that is “the duty” of Linden Labs as a private company.Some of us have spent countless hours hoping others would see this information and others by providing evidence and examples of other systems for the 3d web.

    Thus the thread here, attempting to be more focused on the decade old efforts to make a 3d imerssive web more like the current html ” page” based web. A system owned by none, available to many for very little cost, and based on open, “value transfer” formats/protocals and standards.

    Keep demanding!, the message is true and the history of media suggests that eventually a system good enough for your needs will occur. Will it surfice for “everyones” needs for 3D media for every usage imagined, probably not. But it most likely will be “something”…;) something pretty good.

    Many pieces already do exist, and do work for many of your needs, they just may require more effort and searching for than the Linden System today, but that was also the way it was with mass “online” access in 1992, where only AOL seemed to have the closed system of interface and service systems that the mass- and mass oriented media could GROK.

    What occured with the 2d html based www in 1994, may very well occur with the 3D based web. But as many “AOL hyped million dollar” ventures can attest too, much was lost in those investments during that transistion.

    As the song suggests. “second verse, same as the first”…

    For my part today, while I gladly create within the Second Life system. I attempt to move my content and actions, and that of the ones whose money and time i spend by my solicitations, to a clearer understanding of this history and the possible directions of the future since i have come to believe the axum of history often repeating itself.

    larryr cube3

  16. Everybody knows how to play the Standards Game. Few have the real talent or tenacity for it. The liaison announced between Web3D and the Khronos group is more important than other initiatives given the layers Khronos controls. That is a lot more solid stack than focusing on a VR protocol as useful as that might be.

    Something possibly more interesting to look at is the client announced in Perugia this week at the Web2007 conference. Johannes Behr and Yvonne Jung from Fraunhoeffer demoed a mixed reality client for which they are seeking beta testers. The announcement is up at the http://www.web3d.org page. The list of node (a mix of X3D and Avalon) is impressive. Apparently they implemented physics with ODE.

    len

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