Lab Gab: Strawberry Linden Talks with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg about Sansar and Second Life (and the Winners of the Second Life Name Changes Contest Are Announced!)

Ebbe Altberg and Strawberry Linden

Strawberry Linden has continued on with Lab Gab, a regular talk show on Second Life, hosting solo now that Xiola Linden (a.k.a. Jenn in Sansar) has left Linden Lab. Her guests today were Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, and Grumpity Linden, the Vice President of Product for Second Life, and she did a absolutely wonderful job as host, asking her guests many questions raised by Second Life’s customers.

Strawberry started off the conversation by asking Ebbe to talk about the current status of Sansar. He said (and this is a paraphrase I transcribed directly from the livestream video) that Linden Lab decided that they could no longer sponsor the project financially, so they are looking for a “Plan B”, and are having conversations with interested parties. There is as yet no deal to announce, however. Moving forward, Linden Lab will focus entirely on Second Life and the Tilia online payments business. He hopes that he can be more specific with details of a deal in a couple of weeks or so.


UPDATE 7:49 p.m.: If you are looking for an exact, verbatim transcript of Ebbe’s words (and an audio clip), Inara Pey has what you need. Thanks, Inara!


Ebbe said that in the process of rightsizing, Linden Lab lost a number of staff, but some “heavy-hitters” were transferred from the Sansar project to Second Life. He said Linden Lab is now in a very healthy financial position, but it was sad to let so many good people go, and they were doing everything they could to help them find new jobs. Out of respect for the people who were laid off, the company will not name the people who were let go, although the laid-off staff could let others know if they wanted to, themselves. (And although I did receive a list of the names of Linden Lab staff laid off in the most recent layoffs from a well-placed source, I will not be sharing it.)

Strawberry (bless her heart!) also asked Ebbe about the rumour that Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab’s founding CEO, was coming back to Linden Lab, and Ebbe said that that was not true. He and Philip do keep in touch regularly, though.

The rest of Lab Gab was about Second Life, and the conversation involved VP of Product Grumpity Linden. Work is proceeding on a large endeavour called Project Uplift, which involves moving much of Second Life’s infrastructure from server farms into the cloud (the hosting of sims, etc.), which Linden Lab expects to complete by the end of this year.

Development is underway on a companion mobile app for Second Life (not a 3D viewer) for chat, customer support for merchants, etc. The idea is to provide a tool for SL users to stay connected with their friends even if they are not on a desktop computer. They expect to have an alpha/beta user test at some point in the future, hopefully within a couple of months. The iOS Apple app will be released before the Android app.

Grumpity Linden’s
colourful avatar

The launch of Premium Plus accounts (essentially, super-premium user accounts with even more features and benefits) is “close”, according to Grumpity, but she would not commit to a release date yet. Premium Plus users will pay about US$20 less for the upcoming avatar name change feature than current Premium users. So, you might want to wait for Premium Plus accounts to launch before deciding to change your avatar name.

Grumpity also announced that the cost to transfer a buy-down or grandfathered sim will be cut in half, from US$600 to US$300. There are no other land price change announcements at this time.

Finally, Keira Linden, the Product Manager for the Name Change Project, made a special announcement. Over 2,400 submissions were received for the Second Life Name Changes contest. Eight last names were chosen as the contest winners, instead of just five as they had originally planned. Keira reported the winners here:

  • Conundrum
  • Dismantled
  • Huntsman
  • Littlepaws
  • Nova
  • Ravenhurst
  • Wumpkins
  • Yeetly

All the winners will be emailed, and they will get a free avatar name change when this feature becomes available. (Note that there will be a whole bunch of last names available to choose from at launch, not just these eight.)

There were many other topics discussed that I am not covering here, but you can watch this episode of Lab Gab on YouTube:

Advertisements

Somnium Space Version 2.0: A First Look

Early this morning, I was finally able to stroll around version 2.0 of the blockchain-based social VR platform, Somnium Space. The company has dropped a new, 1-1/2 minute trailer to promote the official launch of version 2.0:

I’m going to break down my first impressions into several sections.

Downloading Version 2.0

You can download the client from Steam or directly from their website. The installation process involves downloading and installing a small launcher program, which then downloads the full client, which is about 3.5GB in size.

As I reported yesterday, I encountered some problems downloading the full client from the Somnium Space servers. The server went down several times yesterday and last night, and had to be reset. Also, I was getting a download speed of only 1 MB per second on average:

I ran Speedtest to check my bandwidth while downloading the client, and as you can see, I had plenty of bandwidth to spare, so the problem lay with their servers, and not with my computer:

Several times the launcher program hung, and had to be restarted. I’m not sure if the problems were because so many people were trying to download the client on the first day, but it was rather annoying. I landed up spending from about noon yesterday until 3:00 a.m. this morning, off and on, trying to download version 2.0 of the client! Let’s hope that these were just opening day technical glitches.

Two Clients: VR and PC

Once completely downloaded, you use the launcher to start the program, which automatically checks for any software updates before taking you to the main screen. There are actually two clients: one VR (3D) and one flatscreen (PC/2D), and they are used for different purposes.

The flatscreen client is used to select your avatar and to build on land you have purchased (like Second Life, there is an extensive array of in-world building tools; see the video at the end of this blogpost).

The VR client is the main Somnium Space client, which you use to navigate the social VR platform. Somnium Space works with any PCVR headset (i.e. a VR headset that requires a higher-end computer with a good graphics card), including Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It also works with Oculus Quest and Oculus Link.

Please note that there will not be a desktop (non-VR) client for Somnium Space until next week at the earliest. The company decided to focus on VR users first. If you don’t have PCVR, then you are out of luck at present.

The Version 2.0 Avatars

One of the biggest changes in version 2.0 of Somnium Space are the avatars, which are now complete, full-body avatars instead of the head-and-shoulders ones in version 2.0.

The starting set of default avatars is stylized and functional, but they are rather blocky-looking, and they are certainly not going to win any beauty contests.

You actually select your avatar using the flatscreen (2D) version of the client, instead of the VR (3D) version:

At present, you cannot change any aspect of these avatars, such as the hairstyle or colour, or the clothing. Artur Sychov, the CEO of Somnium Space, tells me that they are planning to release UnitySDK next week so that people can build their own custom avatars, so I am looking forward to seeing what people create!

A Wonderful Sense of Space

A “drone view” of Somnium Space at night; the glowing green borders indicate the boundaries of virtual land where nobody has built anything yet (picture courtesy of Artur Sychov, Somnium Space)

Somnium Space is among the first social VR platforms where you really do get a sense of the vast scale of the landscape. The platform is designed to be one contiguous landmass, instead of individual worlds. I have been told that there will be charge for teleporting (or perhaps, teleporting after watching an advertisement), to encourage users to walk around. And yes, you can hike all the way into the misty mountains you can see in the horizon!

The in-world camera tool on the user interface tablet isn’t functional yet, but I was able to take a few screenshots using SnagIt while in my Oculus Rift this morning. There is a pleasant central town that boasts a lighthouse, a seaside café, a shopping mall, a bowling alley, and a planetarium, among other attractions.

Dotted here and there on the gently undulating landscape outside this town are the first buildings, including some interesting and innovative constructions. The whole world has a sense of a festival being set up.

While the central town and the landscape remain in 3D, the user-built buildings load in stages as you approach them, in a sensible effort to lessen the load on the client.

Final Thoughts and Impressions

Artur Sychov and his team at Somnium Space are to be commended for pushing the envelope as to what is possible in a blockchain-based social VR platform.

While Decentraland and Cryptovoxels are currently more popular in terms of transaction volume on OpenSea, the former doesn’t support virtual reality at all, and the latter is restricted to voxel-based building. I suspect that once people begin to compare all three platforms feature-for-feature, they will begin to see the benefits of the more realistic-looking, more attractive in-world experience offered by Somnium Space, and they will choose to invest.

Opening-day glitches aside, this is an extremely promising start, and I look forward to seeing how Somnium Space develops over time!


If you want more information about Somnium Space, you can visit their website, or follow them on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join their official Discord server.