Thursday, September 06, 2012

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Why SL's Coming to Steam: To Draw Gamers Who Enjoy "Things Like Garry's Mod", Says Linden CEO Rod Humble

Second Life Steam

Second Life is coming to Steam, as we discussed last month, and yesterday, Linden Lab CEO Rod "Rodvik Linden" Humble stopped by this blog to explain the company's thinking behind the move:

"My hope is that as Steam expands to become more than games a portion of Steam users will enjoy Second Life. As a creativity platform which requires a significant amount of tech savvy to enjoy it seems like a good fit. Things like Garry's Mod are perhaps a good indicator of interest. Anyway if we do enjoy some newbies from Steam I hope you will all make them welcome."

That's a very apt insight: Garry's Mod, in case you didn't know, is a very popular sandbox game platform on Steam using a Valve physics engine. It enables a lot of user-generated content, but I believe Second Life overall has far more functionality, especially for creating standalone games, and monetization options. If marketed at the Garry's existing community (which already has some overlap with the SL userbase), I could see a lot of interesting new projects emerging from Steam's SL users. (More bizarre zombie-fighting FPSes, that's for sure.)

If you're an SLer who has experience with Garry's Mod, in any case, share some compare-and-contrast in Comments.

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Shug Maitland

"As a creativity platform which requires a significant amount of tech savvy to enjoy it seems like a good fit."
Gee, what drew me to and has kept me in SL was the very fact that it took little tech savvy to build in world. Prims and all of the building possibilities they represent are still at the core of Second Life building and they are very easy to learn.

Scarp Godenot

Question: Just exactly does 'coming to Steam' mean? Will there be integrated features in future versions of the browser? Will logins go through a Steam portal? OR does this only mean that the same unchanged sl, be made available to current Steam users through their existing portal?

Are there any changes that will happen for regular SL users. Will they even notice?

Indigo Mertel


Folks, you may find what Valve's CEO Gabe Newell recently said about the future of Steam interesting: http://bit.ly/PZxzy9

Arcadia Codesmith

How do you create stand-alone games using SL? I know some folks have taken their SL games outside the SL platform, but you're essentially recreating it from scratch.

Kadah Coba


I came to SL from Garry's Mod back in 2008, I was what Rodvik is hoping part of the next new user base will be. On GMod I was a developer on many of the most popular addons for it and I helped creation of the newer "Derma" UI in, I think, GMod 11. If I found a bug in something, I emailed Garry; he didn't really like me, I had a habit of hijacking functions in base classes to add things, but shit got done and lols were had.

Comparing GMod to SL is meh. About the only things SL does "better" is persistence and the easy of added new physical objects.

Scripting: This is the first biggest difference, SL's is either crippled nonexistent by comparison. In GMod, I could create a completely new form of game with virtually no limits on what I could do (I've seen 2d recreations of GTA using only in-game tools, not even has a scripted mod), I could then host a server with it and have other join with no other action on their part. But in SL just making a vehicle that has any semblance of realism is a nearly impossible feat, not to mention you will never find any non-empty place lag free enough to actually use it nor have many regions crossing go pain-free.


Physics and lag: Physics in SL are primitive despite likely using a newer version of Havok than Source is. Barely any of the good stuff, not even the cool stuff, just a little the good stuff, is exposed from Havok in to LSL. But that really doesn't matter because without clientside perdiction, the whole thing is far too laggy to be of much use beyond very basic uses.

One thing SL does do much better, a wide variety of penis availability. It sounds completely gay, but it was one of the new user retention factors for me.
I joke, mostly it was my friend who forced me to join, forcing me to stay that pushed me in to long term retention. But that is beginning to break down with the current direction of the lab.

Archangel Mortenwold

Yeah, they hope SOME of Steam's users will flock over to the grid, the small minority of gamers who ant to do more than just play games but create content. That's a losing strategy for growing LL's prospects if ever I saw one.

because really, after looking at the games Steam sells, there's really no reason for hardcore gamers to go to SL. SL doesn't have the tools to import the games Steam users like to play, and and the price of virtual land on the grid is prohibitively expensive to 99% of users, which is why Linden lab's primary source of revenue is steadily drying up.

Sorry, but this deal with Steam just isn't going to bring in hordes of eager gamers.

Archangel Mortenwold

Hit the post button too soon! I wanted to add that what this Steam deal may very well do is drive the already declining number of hardcore gamers in SL (never a large section of users to begin with) over to Steam. If that's what Rod Humble's intention is with this Steam deal, then he'll probably accomplish his goal. But if he really is trying to salvage Second Life by marketing it to gamers, then this is quite probably one of the worst business strategies I've ever seen.

Archangel Mortenwold

Scarp and Arcadia are correct: without substantive benefits for SL users, the deal with Steam is meaningless, and because the costs are so high and the tools for recreating Steam-carried games in SL aren't present, Steam users likely won't flock to SL in appreciable numbers.

Kadah also rightly points out that it is much more difficult to make created objects in SL do things than it is in other virtual environments. It's easier, as Shug stated, to BUILD things using the basic building blocks SL provides. But actually making those created objects do things is beyond a vast majority of SLers, precisely because Linden Lab's scripting methods are over-complicated and difficult to master for all but dedicated programmers.

As much as you want this deal with Steam to work, Hamlet, it won't for the unaddressed problems of discouragingly high land tier prices and lack of adequate tools for making SL into a gamers' paradise. SLers won't see any real benefit to SL being accessible through Steam (if indeed it will be accessible rather than simply a link of some kind to secondlife.com, in which case it's even less of an "accomplishment" than the hype suggests). Gamers won't see any point visiting a grid that doesn't possess the tools to cater to their interests.

foneco zuzu

For once i hope that Steam can lead players for the only thing where Sl is still unbeatable, virtual sex!

Aprilleshepherd

I think the position to take here is to be a "Home" to "Gamers" ("Steamers")... it covers both aspects of Social and Gaming by positioning itself in the middle and offering solid linking opportunities in both directions.

Do you remember rumors of Linden Labs being bought by Microsoft so they could make SL the Home for Xbox Gamers (similar to how Sony PS has Sony Home)? Well, Linden has done it without selling out to Microsoft. They will now have access to a huge pool (40 Million) (4 million concurrent) of 30 something computer (not console) gamers who have money to spend.

Perhaps SL will become the "Home" for Steam users and there are lots of interesting linking opportunities like sitting in your home in SL and sharing a link with your friend to play a certain game...and poof the two of you are transported to the game play direct from Second Life and perhaps back home once the game is over. (SL would likely have to go into some sort of sleep mode).

It really could work the other way around...or at least as a two-way street. SL users will link to and play games in Steam and return to SL for Social, Learning, Shopping and Adult Stuff. Use Steam for what it is meant to be (Games) and SL for what it is meant to be (Social, Creative, Education) -- and create a simple linking system (URL based) between the two.

There will be 2 groups of "Steamers" who will come to SL.
1 - Those who know what SL was and is and a thin band of these will return to look again and perhaps some will stay.
2 - Those who, for whatever reason do not know about SL and a thin band of those will visit and stay.

But, when you have 40 Million (4 Million Concurrent) users like Steam, the 2 thin bands mentioned above can easily translate into 100,000 concurrent new users in SL and this could double the normal 60,000 SL concurrency to 120,000. What effect would 120,000 concurrent users have on the SL economy? Especially ones with a little money to spend!

As for Sex and Adult stuff (something that is generally not available in popular Games) , Linden can deny it all they want, but the revenue from users who participate in all things related to sex, kink or just being super sexy (Shoes/Hair/Clothes) is massive and represents a huge chunk of their revenue and revenue made by content creators and providers.

When Steam comes on line with SL, I think we will see a big boost in concurrent users and those new users will enjoy some of the Adult and Social things they cannot in traditional games...and they will have the money to do it..but to keep them happy and get them to stay, we will have to create an elegant transport system between SL and their games.

Archangel Mortenwold

Linden Lab has done nothing to create or implement the tools necessary to make SL an X-Box-like gaming platform. I don't know why the wishers who desperately want to see a program that wasn't designed to be a gaming platform become just that refuse to accept the obvious.

To make believe that this Steam deal will work, one must make several false assumptions that have no basis in reality.

The first assumption is that any significant portion of users from either SL or Steam was inclined to jump between the two to begin with. I've seen no numbers to show that this assumption is justified.

The second assumption is that either Steam or SL has the software tools needed to appeal to users from the other community. Steam doesn't have nearly the level of creators' tools that SL does, and SL's creators' tools are divided up between the building-block-based and the off-grid-based (advanced sculpt and mesh programs with features that allow created content to be uploaded to SL). The former can work wonders in-world but the drawback is that regions in SL have far fewer prim allowances than competing grids like InWorldz and OSgrid. And in order to make builds do anything, you have to either learn unnecessarily difficult LSL programming code or shell out money to someone who already mastered it. Other programs like Garry's Mod already far surpass Second Life for ease of bringing objects in-world to life, and they have a fraction of the performance lag SL does. So in terms of bringing content creation to Steam, there isn't much hardcore Steam users will find worth doing in SL that isn't already being done elsewhere with far more ease. Likewise, Second Life lacks the software tools necessary to import games like "War of the Immortals" or "World of Warcraft". By the time Linden Lab decides to devote the time and effort to creating and implementing those tools, it will be too late to catch up with other gaming platforms — in fact, it's already years too late.

Another thing one has to assume, again without any basis whatsoever, is that those forty million Steam users have the money to spend on both games offered through Steam and the prohibitively expensive SL, with its $1,000 USD region purchase price and $295 USD a month server maintenance fees. The game developers who sell their wares through Steam and other third party platforms aren't going to throw money away trying to import games to SL, and fans of those games won't invest the funds recreating their favorite titles, until Linden Lab drastically lowers in-world land prices to something reasonable — and Linden Lab has already made clear that it has no intention of ever doing any such thing. I wouldn't be surprised if the Lab was stupid enough to do the exact opposite of what is necessary by raising land tier prices even more, accelerating the already rapid loss of private estate owners. And since those private estate owners are the main source of revenue for Linden Lab as a whole, not just Second Life, maintaining or increasing ridiculously high tier prices is an act of sheer lunacy and can only serve to turn away, not attract, new revenue sources (land buyers).

And then of course there are the severe limitations imposed on content creators through so-called anti-piracy policies that few actually follow and which Linden Lab enforces inconsistently. What game developer is going to risk a lawsuit or a cease-and-desist order when there are licensing deals to be made elsewhere and for a relatively low cost on actual gaming platforms?

Now, the deal with Steam won't kill off SL — at this point only Linden Lab can pull the plug and it looks like they're on their way to achieving just that. But neither will it bring in the numbers Linden Lab hopes it will, and in the end it'll probably end up being another huge waste of time and money that would have been better spent improving grid performance and the overall experience for grid users.

Aprilleshepherd


EA 'sought to acquire Valve for $1 billion'

Valve president Gabe Newell says company would 'disintegrate if acquired'http://www.computerandvideogames.com/367227/ea-sought-to-acquire-valve-for-1-billion/

Medhue

Well, I'll sound off. I think it is funny that any1 wants to compare Gary's Mod to SL. The only thing the 2 platforms have in common is that you can edit things, and import things.

You know, at first I was going to rip on SL, and then I read the other comments. First, as far as I know, Gary's Mod doesn't have near the amount of users. 2nd, you can't compare lag, as Gary's Mod is only streaming a fraction of the information that SL is streaming. Third, if you see lag in SL, you either hang at the wrong places, you wear too much crap, or you have a shitty internet connection. 4th, SL has an economy, which is the most important part. Without that, you just have a platform and a bunch of kids accomplishing nothing at all.

Oh, and SL is a gaming platform. I have no idea where people get this idea that it is not. Yeah, the gaming part has only minor functionality, but the SL platform is in every way, shape and form a gaming platform. The part that makes it difficult to game on, is that the content creators and residents go way overboard with items and make everything inefficiently. Beyond that, it easily functions as a gaming platform, and many, many, many people in SL use it for the games. I sell some and know for a fact.

As far as SL on Steam, who knows. I have Steam on my PC. It is bound to bring in some users to SL. Probably enough to move the bar a little. SL still has the difficulty of the average user not knowing what to do once they get in. This is a big hurdle and LL has done everything to make this even harder.

Residents leaving because SL is on Steam, that's a joke, right? People don't find SL first and then all the rest of the games in the world. They find SL last, and if they stay, then they see something they don't see in the millions of other platforms.

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