Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012: The Year in Review

For Second Life, 2012 had it's triumphs, stumbles, and events that could be considered something of both. From the SL9B, to Premium perks, to Linden Lab policy changes, to "Pathfinding" and "Patterns," there were a number of impacts big and small, for better and for worse.

For Second Life, 2012 might be known as the year Linden Lab began to put a little distance between itself and the residents. Gone were the yearly events of old organized by the Lindens where residents could meet up with them, such as the "Kiss a Linden" at Valentines Day and the official Winterfest and the Linden Snowball Fight. Linden Lab also declined to organize it's official birthday event, instead suggesting the various communities hold their own celebrations. The response from the residents was to organize their own SL9B event, which had a better attendance than the one before. For the Second Life Community Convention, it was a different story. Linden Lab didn't announce until late that they wouldn't contribute a dime, and so the organizers a AvaCon canceled it. Later on, they announced there were plans in the works for a similar convention in 2013, but there would also be "OpenSim and other platforms."

2012 also marked the revealing of two projects of Linden Lab that were completely separate from Second Life. One was Creatorverse, an iPad application. The other was "Patterns," a sandbox virtual world in which both the avatar and the environment were made up of triangles. Critics compared the first to an old crayon game and even those who liked the second felt it had an obvious similarity to the popular "Minecraft." "Patterns" has yet to be released past it's alpha version. 2013 will determine how successful it is. These new projects seemed to mark something of a culture shift in the Lab, from the creators of the Metaverse to "shared creative spaces." But the message to the residents was clear: Second Life would no longer be Linden Lab's sole focus. It was a message some took badly.

Linden Lab continued to offer gifts to Premium subscribers in the form of gifts such as a mesh airplane and a few new areas exclusive to Premium accounts. No one but the Lindens seemed to think they could make a difference in bringing in subscribers. Linden Lab also announced the development of Pathfinding and other "Creator Tools." Direct Delivery appeared in Marketplace to help streamline transactions. The Lab also announced "Project Shinning," an effort to reduce lag in Second Life. The full impact of these will have to wait until 2013, though it looks like the result will be those still using viewer-1 based Viewers, with a few possible exceptions, will have to upgrade to remain in Second Life in 2013.

Linden Labs also made some changes in its policies early this year. In February, they announced changes in its Third-Party Viewer policy. No longer could residents see which viewers others were using, and any further changes to third-party viewers would have to be approved by Linden Lab for use on theirs.  Many residents felt the former was because of the Lindens' embarrassment from the official viewers being less popular than third-party ones. While some could see the later being the desire of the Lab for a standardized virtual experience, many residents worried that this would mean further third-party innovations would stagnate. Shortly afterward, word came there would be no more quarterly economic reports. A move a number felt was a sign of trouble. One policy change that was expected but never came was a return of last names for newer accounts. Rodvik Linden insisted there was no "clean solution" to the matter, but the majority of residents disagreed. After months of increasing optimism following the troubles of 2010, people began having doubts about the Lab's intentions and competence once again.

One move by Linden Lab that got overall approval was making Second Life accessible from Steam, a popular gaming platform known for "Team Fortress" and other games. A majority of residents felt this would mean an influx of more residents, though some worried this would mean the influx of gamers would mean more bored troublemakers interested only in "pwning" and griefing others.

Not all developments came from Linden Lab. From the former Qarl Linden came the mesh deformer, which helped deal with the problem of mesh clothing not always fitting the shape of it's owner. One development of mesh was two new types of avatar: the large Colossus avatar which could be twice to many size the size of a normal avatar and unlike the prim macros could move about naturally, and the Petite avatar, which meant normal looking Tiny-sized human or humanoid avatars such as pixies were now possible. Linden Lab's "Project Shinning" which would render Viewer-1 technology increasingly obsolete had another effect on development. Most Third Party viewers eventually stopped further development on viewers based on the old Viewer 1s. This included Team Phoenix-Firestorm, which made the decision to cease technical support at the end of 2012. Cool VL was the exception, the Viewer 1-based viewer continuing to be updated.

Breedable pets continued to be popular in Second Life. Kittycats got some publicity at the SL9B with their sim sponsorship. But the number one pet continued to be the Amaretto horse. There were some new pets introduced this year, but none came close to replacing the horse as it continued to trot along as the top companion.

Second Life had a few legal issues in 2012. The case between two of it's breedable pet companies,  Ozimals and Amaretto, also known as "Bunneh vs Horsie," reached a summary judgement in November, meaning the case is all but over, which Amaretto declared was a victory for them. In October and November, CBS struck fear in the hearts of Star Trek fans when it sent letters to both Linden Lab and several merchants ordering the latter to remove their Trek items from Marketplace. Would Star Trek sims and role-plays be next? There was some emailing between the Trekkers inworld and CBS, then the media company ceased contact, leaving the question unresolved. Internet bills in the US Congress also created worries inworld, such as SOPA which could very well have meant the end of Second Life, in addition to You Tube and Facebook, if it passed. There was also a proposal to turn over control of the Internet over to a UN Agency, which would  have been bad news for activists in some dictatorships. Fortunately, no such bills and proposals were approved.

Second Life had a number of major events this year. The Second Life Ninth Birthday, which could have been a non-event, turned out to be a bigger celebration than the Lindens came up with the year before. The Relay for Life season was the most successful one in it's history in the Grid, raising over $375,000. Burn2, the biggest art and music event here, enjoyed another well-attended performance with over a hundred artists, singers, and DJs entertaining the masses. Burn2 has proven to be so popular, it's sparked a number of satellite events across the year. The Australian fundraiser "Jammin for Genes" raised thousands to help with genetic diseases.

Unfortunetly, one real life event impacted Second Life in a bad way. Hurricane Sandy proved devastating as it hit the US near New York City, cutting off many residents for days, even weeks. Some are still recovering financially. One real life event that had some impact in Second Life four years ago was the US Presidential election. This year, not so much. While some politically-minded residents got together to discuss their candidate, the reaction of most residents was they wanted little to no discussion of politics, having gotten sick and tired of it.

Sadly the Grid in 2012 had some goodbyes. After over five years, the "Firefly" role-play at the Burnet sim came to a close. A "Star Wars" roleplay sim also closed. The newbie area "The Yard" which offered hundreds of freebie items as well as games shut down after over seven years. The Virtual Museum of Architecture also closed, although the group behind it continues.  Australian residents mourned the passing of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's own sim, ABC Island, when the company refused to renew the tier, marking the end of one of the remaining few real-life business owned sims. But a few places came back from the brink. The Cartoonimals sim with it's whimsical critters was saved when bought by a new owner. And the International Space Museum in the Sci-Lands briefly vanished when the person paying the bills got sick. But the matter was straightened out. Unfortunately, Second Life had no shortage of disappearing sims. Over the past year, the total number of sims has dropped by over eleven percent, sparking worry by many residents.

Second Life also bade farewell to some residents. Kev Sweetwater, a noted personality in Burn2 passed away early this year. Both the Burners and his friends in the Deadwood role-play got together for an inworld memorial service. Later on, Circe Broom, a longtime supporter of the arts in Second Life died after a long period of illness. Hyper Mole, one of Bay City's builders, fell to cancer. In December, blogger Lalo Telling also met his end from cancer.

Outside Second Life, other virtual worlds and some MMOs made news in 2012. Minecraft continued to attract users, including Second Life communities as some made places there. World of Warcraft, the biggest of the multiplayer online games, reversed it's membership slide with the "Mists of Pandaria" expansion. Despite the "Kung-Fu Panda" jokes, gamers overall thought was a better update than the previous one. "Star Wars New Republic" early this year looked like it could be a serious rival for World of Warcraft, then it's numbers stalled. InWorldz held a Relay for Life event, raising about $1500. Eve Online made news sadly due to one of it's gamers getting killed by Islamist terrorists in Benghazi Libya. There was one new kind of virtual world that made an appearance, "Cloud Party," but as it was accessible only through a Facebook account, some privacy-minded computer users passed it by. The zombie craze in real life brought on the MMO "DayZ," in which players not only fight the mindless undead but sometimes each other for scarce resources. One unique multiplayer game sadly met it's end in 2012. "City of Heroes," in which the player took on the role of a comic book superhero, met it's end when the company closed it down to concentrate on it's Fantasy games.

For Second Life Newser, it's been our second complete year in virtual print, and our most productive with over nine hundred articles, press releases, cartoons, and other posts. We've also had two promising writers join us, both with interesting experiences on the Grid to draw upon, whom we're happy to have with us. And of course we have a shiny new office, thanks to our neighbors. The Sunweavers/Angels community, where we have our office at HV Community, has also had their good times and bad, but they do their best to concentrate on the former and welcome new neighbors and friends.

2012 had it's triumphs, tragedies, and frustrations. And we at the Newser did our best to cover them. Now a whole new year arrives, our fourth in covering the news in Second Life, and we look forward to delivering it to you the readers.

Bixyl Shuftan
Editor/Head Reporter
Second Life Newser

1 comment:

  1. Forgot to mention two other real-life events that had tie-ins in Second Life. When the Queen of England had her Jubilie, the London areas celebrated as well. They also held parties in honor of the London Olympics.