There goes the neighborhood: Second Life to join Steam gaming platform

Linden Lab recently announced that Second Life will soon be available on the Steam gaming platform, potentially making it available to the 40 million+  Steam customers.

Not being much of a gamer, I have tried my best to figure out exactly what Steam is.Mostly, I just gave myself a headache.Best I can tell, the Steam network was created by Valve, and they describe it like this:

Steam guarantees instant access to more than 1,800 game titles and connects its 35 million active users to each other—and to us. Through Steam, fans can easily buy, play, share, modify, and build communities around Valve products as well as titles from other independent game studios. Steam is available in 237 countries and 21 different languages.

My first impression was “Facebook for gamers”. You can chat with other members, form groups and, for a price, play a multitude of games. There are hundreds of titles, including some of the most popular games on the market. This is hardcore gaming. Steam also plans to add both creative and productivity software to its lineup

So, how will SL fit into all of this? Well, lets here from some steam members:

“This is dangerous stuff, I’d rather get outta the house and find real friends rather than socializing with 50yr old people acting to be in their 20s.”  – XDeepS

“The biggest surprise to me is that Second Life is still going! Is it not full of douche bags like PlayStation Home?” – Phill Watts

As you can see, they are really excited! It will be interesting to see how many Steam members are going to be willing to actually journey into Second Life. If they do come in, will they stay? Currently, Second Life does not have the graphics or the interface offered by most of the games you will find on Steam.Perhaps this is why LL has announced plans to upgrade the graphics ability very soon.

One interesting thing I noticed was that, although games are rated, there did not seem to be much in the way of age verification. It will be interesting to see what happens when Little Johnny logs in and decides to check out the Sexy Nude Beach sim. Do SL users automatically become Steam members? Can Steam members use a TPV? This venture raises so many questions, and there is, as usual with LL, not much in the way of answers.

Criticism and sarcasm aside, this could, possibly, turn out to be a good thing. I certainly like this direction than the previous attempt to turn SL into some sort of Facebook offshoot. Gamers who are interested in creating games and testing them could find SL quite advantageous. Also, from what I have read, connecting to steam will have no impact on how those of us who are already here login or go about our business. Every venture has risks, but at least LL seems to have a vision for keeping Sl relevant and viable in the years ahead. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Steam at Wikipedia

Steam home page

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Snow Crash, the book that imagined a metaverse, turns twenty years old

In 1992, Neal Stephenson published a book entitled “Snow Crash” that in many ways predicted a virtual world like Second Life. While Stephenson’s ideas for a virtual world were much more dramatic, his terminology and vision shaped the virtual world we know as Second Life.

Terms we use every day, such as “metaverse” or “grid” or even the word “avatar” stem directly from this book. Every time you talk about “rezzing”, thank Mr. Stephenson.

Set in the distant future, the book introduces us to “Hiro Protagonist”. Hiro, a pizza delivery boy for the mafia by day,  is also a hacker/ninja warrior in the virtual world, aka the metaverse. In Stephenson’s metaverse, folks like Hiro log into a three dimensional world using a digital representation of them self,  called an avatar, to navigate through a virtual setting where information and data is stored in buildings instead of a flat webpage. Snowcrash also features a digital atlas called “Earth” that has an amazing resemblance to what is now “Google Earth”

Sound familiar? Second life creator Philip Rosedale acknowledged that some of his ideas for Second Life came from the book. A 2010 broadcast on NPR includes  Rosedale talking about how the book, a gift by his wife, inspired Second Life.

In Snow Crash, Hiro is asked by an ex girlfriend to help figure out how an online virus, called Snow Crash, is causing hackers to die in real life. Along the way, we meet bionic guard dogs that move at the speed of sound, a United States that is broken into corporations, a scateboarding delivery girl named YT (short for “Yours Truly”) and a media evangelist, L. Bob Rife, who has founded a religion (L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology?) that is housed on a floating city that consists of the former USS Enterpise aircraft carrier and 100’s of attached floating rafts and boats.

The book described how a language based on early sumarian can work as “code” for the human brain and what can happen when that code falls in the wrong person’s hands. (Go ahead and laugh, then watch somone “speaking in tougues”.)

I first read the book in 2000 and have read it about five times since. Not only is it my favorite science fiction novel, it would definitely rank high on my list of best books that I have ever read. Time magazine listed Snow Crash in its list of 100 all-time best English-language novel

Having read the book and loved it, I guess it should not have been a surprise to me that when I would eventually stumble up Second Life, I would become immediately fascinated with it.  One of my avatars is based highly on one of the books main characters, YT. All of this came back to me today when I read that Paramount Pictures has announced that it intends to make the book, now 20-years old, into a movie with Joe Cornish (Attack The Block) directing. If you have never read Snow Crash, I urge you to give it a try, espeically if you enjoy Second Life. Meanwhile, you can get a taste of Snow Crash in world at an exhibit sponsored by the University of Texas San Antonio. The exhibit, developed by Igor Ballyhoo in collaboration with Rebeca Bashly, uses a setting from the book as a way to display works by some works by prominent SL artist. The setting is the aircraft carrier owned by the Rife with dozens of attached rafts showing various works of art.

More about Snow Crash here

The UTSA exhibit “Snow Crash”

Dolphin Viewer is making a splash

I wanted to give some praise to a viewer that has recently become my “go to” viewer when logging into Second life. The Dolphin viewer has been a pleasant surprise to me, and quite a few others based on some posts I have been reading.

I know what you are saying.”But Karma, were you not just posting about how the Exodus viewer was ‘making a big splash’? Before that, wasn’t it Kirstin’s viewer?” Well yes. It was. Thanks for noticing. However, Kirstin’s is gone and Exodus development appears to be on hiatus. Fact is, there are a lot of new viewers out there being developed by some really smart people and I like to try them out, so please don’t interrupt me again. Plus it isa great headline. “Big Splash” …”Dolphin”, get it?

Dolphin is V3 based and incorporates some great features into a very sturdy package. My favorite feature is the “machinema toolbar” that takes a lot of great graphic settings and puts them at your fingertips. It is awesome for photography work or filming. The viewer also offers RLV and some great touches to the mapping system. A big selling point on this viewer, and why I tend to always go back to it, is its reliability. As viewer’s go, this thing is a tank. Even with ultra settings, it is hard for me to crash this viewer.

As of this posting, the viewer is considered the second most reliable in Second Life, just behind Firestorm based on crash rate. Combine that with the great graphics and high FPS and you have yourself a winner. There are some other great viewer I will be talking about in the future, but you owe it to yourself to give Dolphin a try.

Try the Dolphin Viewer here