I was sick-ish last week, so I decided to use my idle cycles to finally learn Unity3D. I thought I’d share my impressions, given that (a) I’m not a 3D modeler, not even an amateur one, and (b) my only experience with 3D environments has been Second Life / OpenSim. I suspect there are lots of people like me. Being an OpenSim aficionada, and fairly ignorant of everything else (mainly for lack of time), I always felt like I was missing the big picture. Indeed, I was, and I’m glad my cold last week gave me the opportunity to explore a completely different point of this large design space. The picture above shows one of the environments I created. The bottom line, if you don’t care to read more, is this: the Unity3D ecosystem feels like Second Life for grown ups.
Yesterday, Stefan wrote down his thoughts on Linden Lab’s troubles. I loved that post, he’s right on. Let me add to that by stating the importance of the work that many of the laid off Lindens did, and the role of OpenSimulator from here on, at the technological level and beyond.
Things are moving into 3D, including the Web. I’ve been very excited with everything that is going on with WebGL. Sure, WebGL is still not good enough to render very rich scenes like those we find in highly immersive games, especially when the scenes aren’t optimized, such as the case with user-generated 3D content. But I have very little doubt that the needed optimizations will happen, and that soon we will have immersion on the web browser. It’s already happening. People want it, Google wants, it will happen.
So, let’s fast forward to the time when the Web browser can render rich 3D scenes, which, at the rate that the Google people and the Unity3D people are going at it, it probably is only a couple of years away.
The news came yesterday after lunch: major layoffs at Linden Lab, as much as 30% of their employees. Lindens who had been there from early on, respected engineers, all laid off. All of those who had, at some point, been involved in the idea of virtual world interoperability — gone. Then the new vision: Second Life on a browser, accessible to the masses via well-known social networks. Wow. This is what I call a 90-degree course adjustment.
Clearly, I know nothing about the internal situation at Linden Lab. Probably their VC money has dried off, maybe their revenue is not enough to pay so many people. Who knows what’s behind a 30% ‘rightsizing’… But the new vision is an indication that this is not just about balancing the budget sheet; it’s about redefining what Second Life is. LL’s CEO wants it to be more like FarmVille than like World of Warcraft. Too many people have commented on his vision, I’m not going to do it. He’s the head of the company, he should try to make his vision come to life.
What I want to talk about here is what this 90-degree course adjustment entails for OpenSim. I confess yesterday I had that familiar feeling of having reached the point of having to stand and lead. Not me, personally. But the OpenSim project, as a whole. The torch is on us. Let me explain.
Forget the “profile web page” hack we tried… that’s sooooo last month. Now we can truly integrate directly with the built-in search. Here’s the scoop:
Linden Labs included a new search feature in the Windlight release candidate client of Second Life. At first it looked like another closed system, but then DrenBoy Opus discovered that the search page is configurable via an obscure setting. Since Diva Canto and I have been running our SLBrowser search engine for the last 6 months, we’ve been looking for better ways to hook into SL. We turned DrenBoy’s discovery into something useful by creating Open Search for Seocnd Life to augment the Linden Search with some search alternatives. The Open Search page gives you quick access to multiple search pages, including SLBrowser, Linden Labs, OnRez, SLExchange, and Google. The line-up is subject to change, but this is our current offering. You get all the functionality of Linden Labs new search, plus these other great search engines. We believe that search should be open, and that the best way to improve things is for competition… where the users choose the best solution, rather than being forced to go with once choice. If you have the new Release Candidate (see the link above) you can easily configure it for Open Search. Thanks to Bettina Tizzy and DrenBoy Opus for letting us know about this possibility.