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  ‘Second Life’ Finally Gets Updated Physics  
Posted 2007-09-30 by Tony Walsh
One of my consistent complaints about Second Life over the last couple of years has been that the virtual world hasn't aged well. Powered by the now-ancient "Havok 1" physics engine since at least 2003, Second Life will at long last be updated to the more current Havok 4 engine, improving the performance, features and capabilities of the virtual world. This is welcome news for veteran Second Life residents like myself, who have been patiently enduring the hand-waving and vague promises of Linden Lab for ages--Havoc 2 was supposed to be rolled out by the end of 2004. That's like an eternity for techies.

According to Linden Lab, Havoc 4-powered Second Life is in public beta-testing. The new engine will obviously improve and speed up physics simulation in the virtual world, but won't help to reduce network lag (slowdown) caused by too many user-created programs or avatars crowding in a single locale. A list of technical changes expected with the new engine, clipped from the Linden blog, are listed below:

Continue reading: ‘Second Life’ Finally Gets Updated Physics
  links for 2007-09-24  
Posted 2007-09-24 by Tony Walsh
  Blocking Eyesores in ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2007-09-14 by Tony Walsh
An independent developer has created a Second Life client with the ability to make eyesores--such as ugly in-world content--disappear. Chris Carella discusses Able Whitman's brilliant "Mute Visibility" feature, available in the "Able Edition SL Viewer," pointing out some brilliant suggestions for additional functionality:
The concept could be extended to visually mute avatars, their attachments and any objects they own. With some changes to the server code you could potentially give Mute Visability options to land owners, who could set parcel wide rules, mitigating common land griefing problems (first suggested by Argent Stonecutter). Kooky Jetaime has an interesting idea around “intelligent” muting. If a threshold of avatars on a parcel visually muted an object it would be visually muted for everyone.
Carella mentions a visual trust network, which is a great way tap into crowdsourcing. I'd add that block lists should be able to be easily shared among avatars, so that avatar A and avatar B can instantly synchronize their views. Some interesting social consequences are bound to emerge from any visual blocking system, but we won't know for sure until something like Mute Visibility is widely adopted.
  ‘Second Life’ Auctions Go ‘FairMarket’  
Posted 2007-09-13 by Tony Walsh
Auctions of virtual land for Second Life will be switched from the in-house system historically used by Linden Lab to FairMarket, an auction platform Linden Lab says is powered by eBay technology. In outsourcing its auctions to a third party, Linden Lab will be able to focus on its core businesses--maintaining the Second Life product and grid platform. The company has been often been criticized by residents of its virtual world for straying towards side-projects instead of shoring up the slowly decaying Second Life experience.

Back in 2005, Linden Lab auctioned off a virtual island via eBay at a buy-out price of $10,000 USD, perhaps as a test to see how eBay auctions would compare with its in-house system. In 2004, Linden Lab set up eBay auctions to sell in-world advertising, and received part of its $8M in funding from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network.
  links for 2007-09-11  
Posted 2007-09-11 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-09-06  
Posted 2007-09-06 by Tony Walsh
  Linden Lab Separates ‘Second Life’ Product From Platform  
Posted 2007-09-05 by Tony Walsh
Yesterday, Linden Lab split Second Life, its virtual world product, from the Second Life Grid, its virtual world platform. The new distinction isn't as subtle as it might seem at first glance--traditionally, the Second Life brand had referred to the entire package, but now Linden Lab has created two distinct packages it can maintain (or sell) somewhat separately. Second Life (the product) could be seen more as an experience than a technology, and therefore could be offered on a variety of platforms, through Linden Lab or a third party. Second Life (the current platform) is, we are lead to believe, destined to be open-sourced, and may eventually be able to be operated by anyone with appropriate resources.

To support the separation of product and platform, Linden Lab launched, a resource for those looking to use the Second Life Grid in professional or academic settings, and the Second Life Global Providers program, aimed at bringing international communities to the Second Life Grid. One step closer to a "3D web?" Depends on whether or not the Second Life Grid becomes an open source standard. Given the age of the 4 year-old platform, I'm not sure there's going to be a rush to adopt the technology.
  links for 2007-08-31  
Posted 2007-08-31 by Tony Walsh
  Was Coke’s ‘Second Life’ Venture Really a Success?  
Posted 2007-08-27 by Tony Walsh
The Electric Sheep Company's Joel Greenberg reports on the results from Coke's "Virtual Thirst" campaign in Second Life as presented by Coke's Mike Donnelly and representatives from campaign co-creator Crayon. The short story is that Coke reportedly feels the campaign, which was a call-out for consumer-generated media, was a success based on the following metrics:
  • 300 blog posts about the contest
  • 33,000 links
  • 150+ photos in Flickr
  • 31,000 Youtube views with 160,000+ comments

Continue reading: Was Coke’s ‘Second Life’ Venture Really a Success?
  A Few Cross-Media Pies I’ve Had A Finger In  
Posted 2007-08-25 by Tony Walsh
I'm not always able to talk about projects I've been involved with, so when I get approval from clients (which, thankfully, is most of the time), I'm not shy about highlighting some of the outstanding initiatives I've worked on:

1) The Fallen Alternate Reality Game (a.k.a. "Ocular Effect"), to which I contributed story writing and game design (for Xenophile Media with Double Twenty Productions), was nominated for an Interactive TV Emmy Award earlier this month. Earlier this year, the project won a SXSW Web Award.

2) Thursday's Fictions In Second Life launched last month, a project by The Physical TV Company I was briefly involved with earlier this year in Tasmania. Gary Hayes of the Project Factory worked with the team after Tas and co-developed quite a wild-looking environment for the virtual world, involving elements of the Thursday's Fictions book and film. Some really creative effects were used for this, and Gary's posted a meditative YouTube walkthrough for your viewing pleasure.

3) Metaversatility has launched its cross-media game for upcoming movie The Nines. The game touches the web, Second Life and will bleed over into physical space as well. I'm happy to have been involved (even if very briefly) during the conception stages as a design consultant. The game has already made a few headlines, most notably at Variety online.

Hopefully I'll get clearance in the next month or so to discuss a few other fun cross-media projects recently-concluded and ongoing.
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