Coming right up…

Yesterday i promised you some predictions for what we might expect from sl in the coming year. Unfortunately, i don’t possess a time machine, with which to explore future possibilities, nevertheless i reckon there’s a few things that we can definitely expect, particularly on the technical side, that Linden Lab have already hinted at or are currently in the pipeline. Then there’s the conclusions that we can draw about possible future developments, based on what we already know and extrapolating likely scenarios from that knowledge. However, the fun part of predicting the future is the complete ‘stab in the dark’ wild supposition that it’s not unknown for me to indulge in, and who knows, i might just strike it lucky!

Server side improvements
Here’s one thing we can be certain of; Linden Lab are going to focus an awful lot of energy on removing some aspects of viewer functionality and porting it over to the Lab’s servers. We’ll definitely be seeing more rendering taking place server side than we currently do – this’ll mean less work for our viewers to cope with, but i wouldn’t mind betting that bandwidth requirements will correspondingly go up – great if you’re on a 50meg optical link, but a bit less great if you’re on a string and sellotape connection like me.

So, what’s the positives… well, possibly (no guarantees here), better mesh rendering which, theoretically, should result in better frame rates – but i don’t think we’ll be seeing the sort of frame rates we’ve been used to in the past for a long time to come unfortunately. We should also see faster texture rendering and wholesale changes to the way that inventories are handled that should result in more flexible and manageable inventories. We’ll probably see some interesting new graphics and audio features too… provided our hardware is up to coping with them!

Viewer 1 deprecation
The big question isn’t ‘will it happen?’, but ‘when will it happen?’ It’s going to largely depend on how quickly LL can implement their server side improvements and how long they are prepared to finance V1 architecture support after that. Personally, i’m going to hazard at guess at around 6 months from now and i wouldn’t be at all surprised if V1 support is switched off around May or June, which will almost certainly break V1 viewers beyond repair.

Linden Realms
We’ll be seeing some new scripting technology ported into sl from Linden Realms – Nanny Linden is a bit worried about the potential for griefing though, so only approved residents will be allowed access to these tools. Personally, i think the improvement to the average resident’s sl will be minimal, but the wider issues that will arise as a result are likely to be annoying, not what the user base wants and bad news for performance. If you think that’s an unlikely scenario, then just spend a moment considering mesh!

Bots everywhere
Again, it’s no secret that the Lab are working on simplifying and improveing the facility to create scripted agents, (bots to you and me): Wonderful if you run a city Sim and want crowded streets and constant movement but complete rubbish, if like me, you happen to enjoy being able to explore, photograph and relax in sl without constantly being bothered by the presence of other residents, real or fake. The simple fact is that if i wanted The Sims, i’d go and get myself a copy… looks like i won’t be having any choice in the matter.

The mystery projects
Rodvik has already told us that the Lab is diversifying and will be rolling out new products unrelated to sl. i reckon we’ll see the first of these around about March, with more to come mid-year. As to what they might be; your guess is as good as mine but, for what it’s worth, i’m going to plump for hosting of virtual environments for education and, perhaps inevitably, a game release. My guess for the latter is that it’ll be web-based and multi-player, but subscription based, (and i wouldn’t mind betting it’ll have something to do with vampires!) – i also think it’ll be a complete flop.

Wild supposition and crazy imaginings
Here’s the bit where i make some totally unsubstantiated guesses… who knows? Stranger things have happened!

Closed source code: I think we’re going to see more of this as time goes on, causing problems for third party developers and leaving third party viewers missing some of the functionality of the official Linden viewer. (Version 5, by the end of the year – version 4 will be an unmitigated disaster!). i wouldn’t mind betting that by the end of 2012, the Lab will start licencing some code, at a cost, to developers, the vast majority of whom won’t be able to pay.

Rebel Lindens: Some time next year, a breakaway group of Lindens will set up their own company, create their own viewer and buy up a large swathe of land in sl, declaring independence from LL and create an underground resistance movement of sympathetic residents.

An unholy marriage: We’ve seen a couple already this year… sl and Facebook, perhaps being the most high profile. i just have a dreadful feeling that somewhere along the line, next year, there’ll be a hairbrained scheme to merge sl with an MMORPG and we’ll end up with some awful hybrid Life of Warcraft, or similar… whoopee!

Just perhaps (but it’ll never happen): LL will go through a total paradigm shift and, rather than trying to catch up with existing technology, will seriously consider bringing on board some cutting-edge technology… point cloud data rendering, for example?

The class divide: LL will bring out more aspects of sl that are exclusive to paying premium members; not just sandboxes and homes, but whole Sims and maybe even some enhanced functionality will be denied to non-paying residents, although the vast majority of premium members will be completely unimpressed with what’s being offered.

And finally: Around about October, Rodvik will stop calling us ‘customers’ and start referring to us as users, or maybe even residents. It won’t last long, and before we know it, we’ll be back to customers again.

Of course, i could be completely wrong about everything!

S. x

Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me
David Bowie – Changes 

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