Monday, May 23, 2011

Is Second Life Dead as a Platform?

Samuel Bierwagen thinks so and makes a compelling cases as to why.

the failure of second life

In July of 2005, when I created my account, Second Life was the cool new thing. Moving between regions was kinda wonky, loading textures and objects was slow, and it was pretty ugly when compared to other games of the time; but it was generally assumed that these were teething issues, which would be quickly sorted out as new versions of the software were released.

In the meantime, the hardware and the networks have improved:

The processor's an easy six times faster, there's eight times as much memory, the internet pipe is 12 times wider, and the video card is, well, it's real quick.

and the results in Second Life?

Moving between regions is still kinda wonky, loading textures and objects is slow, and it's still pretty ugly... when compared to games made in 2005. Second Life has gained features, many of them, but it has improved not at all. Its problems are profound and architectural, and won't be solved by any minor patch, but rather, a complete redesign.

Bierwagen concludes,

Second Life as a game concept, sounds good, but was made with no thought of the fact that all the game assets are on the wrong side of a narrow, high-latency bus.

Second Life attempted to emulate Real Life in design. This was laudable, but misguided. Perhaps that's not the right word. Incorrect? Wrong? Colossally wrong?

It's been eight years, now, since Second Life launched. It hasn't come close to living up to its promise. My wild ass guess is that their asset servers will have sustain two hundred megabits a second to the customer in order to make Second Life even vaguely playable.[1] That's for SL's current, not great, graphics, nor a terribly inspiring draw distance, maybe 300 metres.

Not only would this require better internet service than pretty much anybody, outside of South Korea, has; it would take an absolutely massive investment in data centers all around the world. It only takes 40 megabits to stream high quality 1080p video. Sustaining five times that bandwidth, and maintaining consistency across all the caches would be a real trick.

I doubt Second Life will ever do it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

infocyde said...

Found this post while pondering Second Life. I worked in IT for a large university and we experimented with using Second Life for a "virtual university experience" for a while in '05 and '06. Ultimately our experiment was scrapped. In reading the above, especially the bandwidth issues, it is easy to see that Second Life, if it survives at all, will be the domain of the furries and the goreans, not professionals looking for a metaverse. You have to admit though, back in '05 it looked like they just might pull it off. Linden gave us enough of a taste to excite the imagination but not enough tech to be able to follow through with it. There stab is/was admirable though, and they deserve their place as a small footnote in history. What saddens me was they had the right idea and the right time. Now that time is gone. I don't think even as all the tech issues are worked out (and I think they can be even today) that one company will be able to dominate so much as to create the next platform, or the 3D "game" web / metaverse. That time might have come and gone. How cool it would have been though. We will see taste of it, but if it ever comes about, which I'm skeptical, it will be scattered through out private corporate servers and be a hi tech unstandardized hodge podge that won't live up to the dream.

Thanks for posting.


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