Monday, January 4, 2016

2015: The Year in Review

2015 is gone, a year that had it's triumphs, tragedies, and tripfalls. But before we leave it behind, time for a look back.

2015 could be called "The Year of the Linden Screw-Up." Some high profile areas were closed or almost closed by Linden Lab locking out the accounts of the owners, or refusing further customer support despite years of teir payments. The largest build on the Grid, the cruise liner SS Galaxy, the scene of regular events and passengers thanks to an active crew, in April was hit hard by griefers, wrecking the structure of the ship. When contacted, Linden Lab told they would roll back the sims once to correct the damage, but there would be no more. Seeing they could no longer give their customers the relaxing cruise ship experience they once could, the owners of the SS Galaxy made the decision to close the ship after over eight years. Linden Lab would take ownership of the build and reopen it in September with the help of the Department of Public Works. But gone were the events, and no more could one book a cabin. While newer residents could still see the vessel and admire the build, to those who were once there it was basically a museum piece, a reminder of once was.

Linden clumsiness would continue. The owner of the Steelhead Estates, TotalLunar Eclipse, found his account locked up despite years of steady teir payments. As Lunar had a number of real life problems, this pushed him into reluctantly making the decision in September to close the sims. Despite the closure, the community behind the sims held together, and one resident managed to save one of the sims. Another sim owner's account shutdown, that of Flea Bussy, almost led to the closing of the noted Grendel's Children Shopping mall in July. It would take the combined efforts of many of it's fans to get the Lab to unfreeze his account. For Grendel's, it was a far cry from earlier days when Linden Lab offered several Grendel's freebies as a gift pack, and Philip Linden once commented "As goes Grendel's, so goes the Grid."

Trust in Linden Lab by those relying on Third Party currency exchangers was shaken when the Lab announced it was ending the deal they made with them two years earlier, and ordering them to shut down after the end of July. Despite complaints from some overseas that the official Lindex currency exchanger was less than reliable for them, and two petitions to allow the independent exchangers to continue, Linden Lab would not listen. By the first of August, the independents were gone from Second Life, either doing their business in other virtual worlds such as Inworldz, or shut down completely. Among these was Podex, Second Life Newser's longterm sponsor for five years.

Other places would close, or be in danger of closing. Forgotten City, a Steampunk-themed sim praised for it's detail and ingenuity, was shut down. So was the popular "YadNi's Junkyard," which had offered freebie items for thousands of newcomers for over eleven years. Other places retired included the tribute to 8-bit gaming Electrobit City, The Ponyland sim after several months, MIC Island, which was an unusual case as the Lab delayed closing down the sim despite the owner telling them she no longer wanted to keep it up, the Podex Exchange building, and other locations that escaped the attention of the media. One sim that was threatened with closing, the popular Mont Saint Michel, remained up at year's end despite the owner announcing in September that she could no longer keep up the payments.

One thing that was never too far away from the minds of the residents wasn't part of Second Life itself was the development of it's possible successor. Called by the somewhat awkward title of "The Next Generation Virtual World" by Linden Lab, "SL 2.0" by the residents, it was finally given an official name, or rather a temporary one, in May: Project Sansar. The chatter so far has been mainly speculation with the occasional face. Currently in a "Closed Alpha" state of development, the target date for it's full release was pushed back from "sometime in 2016" to "by the end of 2016." So it seems residents have a while before they need to worry about how it's presence will affect Second Life.

One problem that was outside Linden Lab's control was the SL Go service that enabled users to access Second Life through tablets, and enabled slower computers to run it much better. As it was developed by OnLive as part of a partnership with Linden Lab, it was closed in May 2015 following OnLive being bought by Sony. Fortunetly in August, the Bright Canopy Viewer was announced as ready for release. There would be some technical difficulties, but in a few weeks they were resolved.

Despite Linden Lab's problems with customer service, there were some efforts to interact with the residents. There was the "Linden Inworld Meetup" at Basque and the "Meet and Greet" at the SL12B to answer questions and concerns, which led to the monthy "Lab Chat" in December. Besides the Linden snowball fights in February and December, there was another event in which Lindens and residents interacted for fun, the Halloween "Creepy Crawl" in October. They also organized the "Music Fest" as part of the SL12B. Also in time for the SL12B was the "What Second Life Means to Me" video project, in which numerous residents, and a few Lindens, made youtube videos about their experiences in the virtual world. Linden Lab would also introduce it's "Paleoquest" game in July. Last year, Linden Lab had introduced new starter mesh avatars that proved a bit glitchy. The Lab work work more on them, fixing the glitches, and re-introduce them in November. Linden Lab would raise the maximum number of groups for premium accounts from 42 to 60.

Sadly, Second Life would say goodbye to a some of it's residents. In May, Plurker ScarletCSkylac passed away. So did Kat2Kitt, also known as Matt "Cyanotype" Shapoff, known for his work with Pookymedia, who died suddenly at 42. In August, the Creator of the Ivory Tower of Prims, which provided lessons on how build and script to numerous residents over the years, was dead. His passing was soon followed by an inworld memorial service. In September, Salem De White (Selene Spellhunter), best known as part of the Giant Snail Racers, had passed away. Also part of a community of roleplayers, both groups organized a memorial service for her shortly afterwards. The Newser's neighbors, the Sunweavers, also suffered a loss when one of their own, Rhypanthian Abilene, suddenly passed away.

Some happenings in real life were reflected here on the Grid. Leonard Nimoy, following his death in February was honored in ways large and small in Second Life, such as the Star Trek Museum and the Science Fiction Convention, as well as in the Star Trek MMO. When Paris was the scene of Islamofacist terrorist attacks in January and November, residents gathered in the Paris 1900 area at the Eiffel Tower to honor those killed. There was also a Charity event to aid those affected by an earthquake in Nepal.

Other events would take place in Second Life. The Second Life Twelfth Birthday was noted for Linden Lab taking part in the celebrations (though not sponsoring the cost of the sims as they had in the past). The Relay for Life would have another record fudnraising season as hundreds of avatars took part in the various teams. Burn2 would continue as the biggest art and music festival in Second Life. Other noted events included the monthly "Homes For Our Troops" veterans bennefit concerts, the Madpea charity auction which paid for the cost of a countryside school in Africa, and Team Firestorm, the people behind Second Life's most popular viewer, celebrated their fifth anniversary, teaming up with Madpea to open a "Community Gateway" for newcomers to the Grid.

In the gaming world, the online newsletter "Massively," which in the past covered Second Life durring it's heyday, was shut down by order of it's owning company, despite increasing readership over the years. But ut would soon be reborn as "Massively Overpowered."  Among the games that got the attention of the staff and fans of the Newser were "World of Warships," from the makers of the popular "World of Tanks," and "Ark Survival Evolved," a survival game on an island full of dinosaurd and other prehistoric creatures. But other games would see upgrades, such as new mods for Minecraft. The sci-fi MORPG "Wildstar" went from subscription-based to  "Free to Play." One game that had seen better days in terms of popularity was World of Warcraft. With a membership once over twelve million players, had dwindled to 5.5 million by November, and the company announced it would no longer publish the number of active players. One development of interest to some Second Life users was Steam setting up, then taking down, it's modder payment system.

For the Newser, it's been a year of successes and setbacks. The loss of Podex has meant the departure of our loyal longtime sponsor since almost our begining. And some of our team has had to depart due to real life developlents. But the paper reached it's five year anniversary this year. Considering most businesses on the Grid last only months, quite an achievment.

2015 had it's triumphs, tragedies, and pitfalls. And we at the Newser was there to cover them. And now in 2016, we'll be continuing to cover what lies ahead.

*Editors Note* Added Team Firestorm's fifth year milestone and it's Community Gateway with Madpea.


  1. Great review of 2015. It was a busy year for sure with many highs and lows.

    2016 is going to be interesting.