Humble: Second Life Not Dead, Actually Growing

By Jim Rossignol on March 16th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.


Last year, former EA clever-clogs Rod “The Sims” Humble was made King of Second Life, a move which we discussed here. This week he told GamesIndustry that he was as surprised as anyone else about how big it still is: “To be honest, it had fallen off my radar until I got the call offering me the position. And I looked at their numbers: this is a world that has got 1 million people logging in every month, generating well in excess of $75 million a year – it’s extremely profitable – and it was the kind of company and the kind of product that I had been thinking about going away and working on anyway, on my own. It was kind of a perfect fit.” He went on to say that since he took the controls the user-built world has been growing again: “We managed to grow the new users significantly: they bumped up by well in excess of 40 per cent, and over the holiday period we had over 20,000 new people sign up a day. Now, that’s not Facebook numbers, but 20,000 a day…. that’s a lot, right?”

Seems like a lot, yes. Humble says his plans are to add “artificial life” to the world. So that sounds promising.

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54 Comments »

  1. Asmodai_00 says:

    Does this “artificial life” include the two animals in the background that players can have sex with?

    • celozzip says:

      animals huh… i thought people played second life to fuck kids? allegedly.

    • Flappybat says:

      Whys it got such a worse image than 4chan or reddit? 4chan gets casually mentioned in all kinds of articles without mention of how much seedy content it has. reddit also has a ton of porn, they had a massive issue with child porn recently.

      • Apples says:

        Because 4chan and reddit have contributed pretty hugely in their time to the ‘culture’ of the internet, and produced good things along with bad, whereas to my knowledge nothing good or worthwhile has ever come out of Second Life. The only things present there are subpar 3d models, textures and scripts, produced by people who, if they were actually skilled, would probably be using higher-resolution engines or using those skills in their employment rather than selling poor renderings of genitalia to perverts. I think the focus on (virtual) material goods in SL is to its detriment, because while 4chan and reddit encourage showing off purely by creation (and at least on 4chan usually completely anonymous creation, taking away any desire for personal fame), SL can allow you to show off by the pure acquisition of others’ creations and their attachment to your single avatar, and results in a large number of plastic-faced perfect sexdoll people rather than any proper creavity.

        • Gnoupi says:

          “The only things present there are subpar 3d models, textures and scripts, produced by people who, if they were actually skilled, would probably be using higher-resolution engines or using those skills in their employment rather than selling poor renderings of genitalia to perverts.”

          That’s a rather uneducated approach to the question.
          Having seen it, there is an economy in SL, and it is a platform which allows people to create, and sell what they create. You may call it “subpar”, but it’s giving an access to digital creation and selling to people who do not have a professional platform or knowledge to do it in the first place.

          “Higher resolution engines”, sure, you can create something looking better, but to what market?
          In SL, you have a whole market organized to sell what you create, and people can actually make money from it. And I actually mean fashion. Just because you hear mostly about “genitalia” and “perverts”, doesn’t mean it’s what makes the most of SL.

          I have to say that I had the same idea of SL, from the outside. That it’s mostly a place for perverts. It’s only by seeing more carefully, that you realize that while such places exist, you actually have mostly regular communities of people. Clubs, shops, places to visit, big events, concerts, evening lessons, fashion shows, or even fighting arenas. And like I said, a whole economy and creation environment.

          • Apples says:

            “To what market?” Well, there are a huge number of sites selling paid-for 3D content, or you could just go the usual route and get employed. I appreciate there will be some people who prefer to stay self-employed and create SL content, but since it’s actually not that big a market I also think it would be more profitable and satisfying in the long run for most creators to learn widely-used tools/languages (many of which are available for free to individuals – which is why saying it’s “giving an access to digital creation” is flawed because digital creation is now, more than ever, unrestricted anyway) and move on from SL’s fairly rubbish graphical/computational capabilities.

        • Reapy says:

          Second Life is the only place in gaming space that I’ve walked through a 4d cube…which wasn’t as cool as sitting in one room while my friend explored the rest of the cube, walking to the left and appearing on the right, or suddenly walking in upside down from the ceiling along some stairs. It was created quite cleverly too, hovering in the air and tearing itself apart as the active user walked about the place.

          Speaking of AI, another person I saw had constructed an A-Life biome in complete, it would have a rain cycle, bee’s pollinating plants that would grow, different species would grow close to water or not depending where they fell. All in all the sim would take several hours to ‘die’ when it was turned off. Svarga I think it was called.

          Saw a house that was set up as a tour of Schizophrenia, the idea being simulating what it is like for someone with the disease, was quite an interesting experience.

          If you get a chance walk around SL when they do a burning man festivle and look at all the stuff people create, almost every piece in there is pretty interesting and cleverly made using the limit the game has with prims.

          This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of content that isn’t sexual in nature. Just because you can’t read past sensationalist headlines doesn’t mean that everything made in it is a flying dick.

          Look, I largely agree, the tech is dated, and nothing works 100% in it…but you can’t deny it is the first and only platform that has come close to the ‘metaverse’ idea, having a 3d web, where you just stumble around in people’s imaginations in 3d. It felt a lot like the web in its early days.

          The problem really is that the barrier to content creation is too steep for most people. They finally have a preview build that will import regular 3d models rather than need to be built with the prim engine. Scripting never worked 100% of the time, it would randomly fail even though the code was ‘right’. The physics engine is really cool behind it, but is so laggy any kind of vehicle driving/etc just doesn’t work.

          The 3d worlds we play in have moved beyond what is in SL, and despite some clever hacks people have to make it look nice, it just doesn’t flow as well as a mmo.

          Honestly what the game really needed was a way to actually get some performance from the physics engines, updated avatars (which would break EVERYTHING so they never will), better ways for avatars to interact besides poseballs, a larger set of default animations, more middleware for people have access too, eg let people speed tree their property, and in general just more accessible and elaborate content creation tools.

          So right now SL is stuck in the past, and yeah like anywhere, it has its share of fringe groups that are a bit more open round the area, but honestly I still think having a virtual space that is accessible is still a HUGE hole in our technology, and nobody wants to even try to make it work, and SL is the only thing that really is.

          We finally got the world on the web with facebook, when the right tech is there, we’ll probably get the world on something similar to secondlife.

          • Geewhizbatman says:

            What I find chuckle worthy is how Minecraft is seen as the creative playground of sandboxes because some people make some really nifty Lego-ships. When there’s SL where, even as someone who doesn’t play SL, the things people do with it “just for fun” is awe inspiring:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdih2DCLf1E

            http://simbioticbiome.wordpress.com/

            http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2007/04/all_about_my_av_2.html

            http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1023493

            Sooo–Yeah. Duh people use things like this for sexin’ Giantesses with tentacle wings and unicorn junk. Because it’s a world where you can make that possible. Of course sex will be the majority of content just like if you based the internet on the majority of its content you would assume its only use is to see how much flesh you cram into one screen cap.

            Second Life as a playground for people who actually know what they’re doing is impressive. The problem is it isn’t actually a game. The only way to make it a game would be the same way as those other “Create Your -OWN- Game!” games that, for most people, defeat the purpose. Second Life opened the doors to the idea of a customizable Everquest…except now any MMO worth its salt includes customizable elements from clothing, dyes, special avatars to houses and changeable in world landscape. That means Second Life, for the average person, is more work for something they can pay for in most MMO’s.

            It’ll be interesting to see how Rod Humble tries to mold Second Life. I’d love to see them try and push it back into the public eye without ruining its potential for creating wonderful new games. Something along the lines of a game award competition devoted entirely to what people can do with the software would be sweet.

      • Shooop says:

        So what he’s really saying is zoophilia is gaining popularity.

  2. zoombapup says:

    While it probably doesn’t float the boat of many RPS readers, I do hope Rob H actually has a good go at making Second Life more relevent. I’m constantly getting comparisons of my game and the research I work on to Second Life (in that I’m after a social space that is non-combat based and is free-form and user controlled, with AI based life to cap it off). So it’d actually be nice to have a comparison that doesn’t make you feel like the game equivalent of a porn filmmaker.

    I mean SL itself kind of killed off a potential play space that could be quite rich and imaginative. So hopefully Rob will move it more in that direction.

    • eks says:

      There is no need to slander erotic filmmakers by comparing them to “social game” developers.

      • jonfitt says:

        touché, sir or madam.

      • Phantoon says:

        Hohoho, well played.

        Well played indeed.

      • Shooop says:

        I’d shake your hand but…

        Ah forget it. I can’t pull that joke off.

      • zoombapup says:

        See, thats one of the problems. The term “social” has been completely massacre’d by both Second Life and Zynga. So now even talking about “social” has connotations of porn-world and/or monetization+treadmill.

        Social AI is more about simulation of societies. So you can make a game (like the sims, or black and white, or populous) and its a social simulation, but don’t ever use the word “social” or you’re screwed. See how ludicrous that is?

        • Clash says:

          I played Second Life. The true purpose of the game to me was never sex, it was creating science projects that went haywire and took over a Sim. I have such fond memories of my self replicating robot armies. I actually once got attacked by a rogue cell!

          • Phantoon says:

            That sounds far more interesting than Second Life. Are you sure it was the same thing?

  3. Phantoon says:

    It’s also the only MMO I can think of that should be X-rated.

  4. LuciusAxelrod says:

    I’m not surprised that it’s growing, considering how much of the game revolves around penises.

  5. Apples says:

    Second Life is one of the main pieces of evidence for why there cannot ever be a utopia. Given a free space with no hardships or suffering, where anyone can create anything they want with a bit of hard work, and everyone is created equal, it was turned into 90% pedophilic/furry porn. And without any driving force behind the gameplay (because there’s no need to survive, or generate wealth, or anything at all beyond just satisfying weird obsessive interests), everything felt pointless and boring. Good luck to him…

    • Irony says:

      Minecraft is one of the main pieces of evidence for why there cannot ever be a utopia. Given a free space with no hardships or suffering, where anyone can create anything they want with a bit of hard work, and everyone is created equal, it was turned into 90% horrible youtube video fodder. And without any driving force behind the gameplay (because there’s no difficulty to surviving, or need to generate wealth, or anything at all beyond just satisfying weird obsessive interests), everything felt pointless and boring. Good luck to Notch…

      • Apples says:

        Hahaha. Although to be fair Minecraft has much more restriction in the creation it allows, so while I guess you could create a huge blocky rendering of some explicit animal-related image, it doesn’t exactly allow you to live out your perverse dreams in the base game in the same way that SL does. It’s not a completely free space because it was made for manipulating blocks of land – not exactly an inherently corruptible activity – not creating and scripting everything imaginable, and to me that’s the diff.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Ironically enough, you could substitute “Second Life” for “World Wide Web” for an even more universally true statement, yet here you are. Speaking of which, you wouldn’t know where I can get a larger penis?

  6. Cunzy1 1 says:

    I can’t think of anything positive, snarky or witty to say.

    So umm carry on the good work I guess.

  7. Jenks says:

    ralph pls go

  8. Dana says:

    What kind of people “play” this “game” ?

  9. It's not me it's you says:

    Now, the plural of anecdote is not data and all that, but my wife’s SL business (which does not involve pornography, floppy attachable penises or any kind of animals, chaste or otherwise) generates a very comfortable income.

    Feel free to continue bagging it, though!

  10. cpy says:

    I don’t have a life, i don’t need to not have even a second one :)

  11. trjp says:

    Every single one of those players is actually a ‘journalist’ or blogger who’s writing a book on the “digital interface” or “social nexus”.

    No-one actually PLAYS that game – they’re all just writing about each other…

  12. empty_other says:

    75 millions a year, and they can’t bother doing actual improvements on their products?
    The shop is a mess. They will need tags and filters so they can sort stuff by gender/non-human/color/etc..
    The client can barely render without turning every setting to minimum. And it stops responding everytime it loads a texture.. which is every time you move more than 2 meter.
    And even if you use a third party client to fix those problems, you get rubberbanded around like playing CS on 28k modem.. They should probably make movement client-side if server performance is that bad.

    Too bad they dont have any real competition.

  13. Crimsoneer says:

    I like to drop by every couple of months or so, an see if anything cool has been made.

  14. pipman3000 says:

    that blonde woman looks like she’s seen things, horrible things.

  15. elnalter says:

    Second Life is sunk. Been logging into it since 2005, a lot of the problems since then are still around now. It’s a joke. And to the guy who says Second Life is 90% child porn, I haven’t seen a single bit of it there but plenty of it on reddit and 4chan. Now furry and beastiality on the other hand…

  16. wccrawford says:

    I had an early account that had a monthly allowance. They cancelled that feature later.

    Then they got hacked, and reset everyone’s passwords… Except that mine wouldn’t. So my account was locked out. I spent a couple weeks actively trying to fix it, but their phones were always busy, not answering, or going to a message machine that then told me it was full an hung up on me. Every few months, I’d try again with the same result… For about a year and a half.

    As an initial supporter, I refused to give up my good account and just make a new one.

    Eventually, I just gave up altogether. There’s no there I care to do, and it’s just not relevant any more.

  17. drakkheim says:

    Couple of highlights from what I saw when I was in SL a while back.

    - Attended a live concert in an elven lodge by a blues band from Mississippi while they were on tour in Okinawa with real SL$ donations going to Hurricane Katrina relief.

    - Watched the shuttle launch with 100 other people followed by a QA session with an astronaut in a theater surrounded by Saturn 5 rockets

    - Attended an IBM Research Division symposium and lecture series on JSON (back when they were still establishing the standards)

    - Bought a virtual painting that was a photo of a painting that an artist in Brazil had taken in his house and was selling online to pay his bills.

    SL is an odd beast, ugly and clunky, but as a way to connect and interact with people remotely.. it has its moments.

  18. Shooop says:

    So what he’s really saying is zoophilia is gaining popularity.

  19. Jeroen D Stout says:

    Ho, so there is something more passionately hated than pretentious art games.

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