It’s that time again – when we turn the final pages of 2016, chuckling at the no-hope personal ads and pretending we’re not quite yet at the age when we’ll have to start seriously considering the cut prices offers for walk-in baths and stairlifts. Then there’s a final perusal of the too-good-to-refuse Franklin Mint limited edition collectable plate series on the back cover, before consigning the past year to the wastepaper bin of life, and excitedly picking out items of interest from the glossy front cover of 2017…
But, wait just a moment, we’re not quite there yet, because it’s also that time of year that we tend to stop and take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and what our plans might be for the next 12 months.
Over the past few years, this blog has been no exception. With varying degrees of success, I’ve attempted to make my own predictions for the fortunes of SL in the coming year. Sometimes I’ve nailed it with surprising accuracy; that’s not always the case, however, and my predictions for this year, made at the tail end of 2015, were so far off that I’m not even going to go over them a second time. Nostrodamus Haven, I ain’t – at least not on this particular occasion.
So, instead I’ll just broadly review the year that was. It won’t be in any particular chronological, or even logical order; just a random consideration of where we’ve been and how the virtual world has changed – for change it has – and in my experience, it doesn’t matter how great a change has taken place in SL, there are still an overwhelming majority of residents who – it must be said – really should know better, who think that nothing ever improves and that SL is still stuck in a 2006 timewarp and will never better itself.
The fact is that, compared to this time a year ago, SL has progressed in leaps and bounds. We have new avatars with greater flexibility, a Marketplace that is more tailored to user needs, the first of a new generation of community hubs, new Linden-created residential regions and experiences, and – who would have thought it? – increased land impact limits for everyone! In addition to these very obvious changes there are a wealth of technical changes – things like the stripping out of old and redundant code – that have taken place which means that SL should run faster, smoother and better than ever.
There are those who would challenge that last assertion – mainly because SL does not appear to be running smoother faster and better than ever for them. Unfortunately, any technology tends to only be as good as its weakest component, and the same is true of SL. If you live next door to an SL server farm, have a top grade fibre internet connection, and a decent machine used solely for inworld activities and little else, you are going to experience super-duper performance. If however, like me, you live some several thousand miles from the nearest SL server, even with a decent internet connection and high-spec PC, you’re not going to get the best SLexperience. Similarly, if you’re in the position – as are many of my fellow Brits – of having a reasonably decent computer, used for streaming video, a host of other activities, and competing with other family members for bandwidth, on a connection that relies on a bit of old-fashioned telephone wire between the distribution box and final termination… Let’s face it, your SLexperience is going to be average at best, no matter how good the original setup!
I’ve been seeing users talking about getting 60-70fps inworld, whilst for me on a good day, I’m happy to get 10fps – and in a crowded place I know that will drop to 3 or 4 – but even then you won’t find me shaking my fist at the Lindens and complaining about how antiquated SL is, as many of my fellow avatars tend to do – it’s not the Lab’s fault and, in real terms, SL is still better than it ever has been before even for those with less than optimal circumstances.
The Lab have even given us more tools to ensure we get the best experience possible – Avatar Complexity limits, (that’s jelly babies to you and me), are one attempt to put things right. I’m not convinced it’s the right approach, and you know my feelings about that, but for those afflicted by the demon lag, there’s no excuse now for us to wholly place the blame server side.
On the inworld content side, we’ve seen some much-loved sims disappear, (OMG!… SL is dying!), but also – surprisingly – we’ve also seen some of those same sims rise phoenix-like from the ashes to live again. It seems the Lindens, and possibly other benefactors, do understand the value of preserving the SL legacy for the future and are prepared to do something about it. Never expected to see that!
OK, I’ll give it a try – five virtual predictions for 2017, and if I’m wrong, so be it – even the Mayans made mistakes!
- I predicted it for this year, and got it completely wrong, but I still think it’s a possibility: I reckon sometime in the next 12 months, we’ll get an inworld building tool – possibly Java based – allowing the creation of simple mesh objects. Nothing overly complex, but maybe something that’ll replicate the majority of prim creation features, only with lower land impact;
- I’m going to go out on a limb with this one. We won’t see reductions in tier, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole new – easy to understand – system of land ownership and payment. Frankly, you need a degree in pure maths to understand how it works at present, and it’s high time a simpler model was given a go;
- I expect to see a rekindling of collaboration between the Lab and the community. Not just through Community Gateways, but in a more tangible and practical sense – such as when the Lab gave up their servers to host Firestorm downloads when Firestorm’s own resources ran into difficulties. So, at least one, if not more joint ventures that will maybe change the way in which SL approaches at least some of its user base;
- We all expect Sansar to go open beta in the summer – I predict that we’ll see a release version very shortly after, to a blaze of publicity and that we’ll all be shocked at the high level of interest it will generate. However, I’ll add a caveat that the vast majority of Sansarians will not be SL veterans, and will be a whole new demographic for whom our traditional ideas of a virtual world are unappealing. Similarly, I don’t think the advent of Sansar will have any noticeable impact on SL, where it will be pretty much business as usual;
- And, finally, I think we’ll see the formation of a Linden Historical Project – a formal process whereby sims of significant virtual cultural, historical or other important merit that would otherwise face the prospect of closure will be able to apply to the Lab for permanent preservation, along the lines of what we’ve seen in 2016, but with a clear and defined procedure in place. I wouldn’t expect it to be utilised frequently, and I’d expect stringent conditions to be attached, but it’s something that I’d love to see happen.
So there you have it – my, perhaps foolish, attempt to predict the virtual future. Let’s see how wide of the mark it falls!
And, as we reach the dregs of the 2016 vintage, it only remains for me to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, in both the real and virtual worlds, and remember: Even if the Lindens don’t make 2017 a year to remember there’s nothing to stop us from making it special for ourselves… So, go for it!
And so we are told this is the Golden Age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you, be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
U2 – New Year’s Day