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AGC Update

Laura Genender Posted:
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From AGC – Jim Purbrick and Ian Nilkes of Linden Labs Talk

“Second Life is not a game. Second Life is a platform, a metaverse, a virtual world.” I learned this during my interview with Ian Nilkes and Jim Purbrick of Linden Lab during the Austin Gaming Conference, and if anyone can make this claim, it’s Linden.

Second Life started with Philip Rosedale (now CEO of Linden Labs) when he was still in high school. The dream lay untouched for years until, in 1999, Rosedale left his job at Real Networks and started working on Virtual Reality hardware. He soon realized that the hardware wasn’t going to do what he wanted it to do, and switched to software — thus work began on Linden World, the never released predecessor to Second Life.

In the program you could build stuff, run around, interact with the ecosystem, etc. but there still remained the question of what to do with the program. Was it a platform for another game?

Linden Lab decided that it wasn’t a game, but it was a program that could stand on it’s own, and a program that users would enjoy. Alpha started, and the first users started trickling in — and surprising the developers with what they made. The first user, Steller Sunshine, built a cabin and a huge beanstalk stretching into the sky. No one saw that coming!

Linden started putting in avatar features, land ownership, inventories, etc. When the game was released, it was a failure for the first six months due to pricing and limited land ownership. Eventually the company announced a new model: 10$ base cost, plus extra money if you wanted to own land. And then the people came.

One of the largest attractions of Second Life is that everything you create in this world is yours — Linden Lab gives people the intellectual property rights, and encourages the flourishing secondary market. People are able to learn about and practice the talents they never knew they had.

Many of the player creations are entirely unexpected by the developers. For example, no one expected the player-created Darklife, a MMORPG created in Second Life. China Town’s moody graphics and slick sidewalks are gorgeous and unlike anything else in Second Life. Serena, another ambitions player, created AI fish that evolve behavior.

Second Life is still evolving to make more things possible for the players. A recent release last Monday introduced a few new features. The most interesting new feature allows players to attach things to the screen so that only the player can see. Previously, players had a tough time playing poker — since they could all see each other’s cards! This update will allow players to place the cards on the screen instead of in the character’s hands, making sure that the game is played fairly. The update also allows players to select more than one item in the inventory at a time, improves the game’s physics, and adds a new map.

Second Life strives to fulfill it’s name, to allow players access to a second world where the only boundaries are their creativity and skill. People are discovering professions they never thought they would be able to do, not to mention things the developers never thought would be done with their program! As said by Ian Nilkes, “[It is] very interesting to see where this goes next — because we don’t know”

Thank you to Ian and Jim for meeting us at AGC.

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Laura Genender