Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Big Story: Man on a mission

Philip Rosedale, aka Philip Linden, says verion 1.4 is just the beginning

These are exciting times for Philip Rosedale, who is better known in the world he created as Philip Linden.

A major upgrade to his on-line world Second Life has recently been released, just days after the virtual reality simulator got a boost in membership through mentions on CNN and Slashdot. At the height of the influx, one new person was signing up for Second Life every minute.

"We've had tremendous growth," Rosedale said. "I don't know how much more it could accelerate."

Over the past half year, Second Life memberships have grown at a steady 30 percent each month - punctuated by sign-on spikes caused by media mentions and events in other virtual worlds.

Unlike competitor There, which recently told its members that it would forsake in-world development in favor of other business opportunities, Rosedale said Second Life is an end of itself.

"We want to see it get bigger," Rosedale said.

Linden Labs, Second Life's parent company, took a giant step in that direction when it released verion 1.4 in mid-June. The update allowed users to create their own animations and stream audio onto their property.

Rosedale is particularly excited about the animations.

"With animations, you can completely become another person," he said. "How you move is how people recognize you."

But Rosedale said he hasn't created many animations of his own. He'd rather buy them.

"Custom animations have really improved Second Life," said Teeny Leviathan, who's been a member since May 2003. "They were a big ticket item we were all waiting for."

Leviathan said she's enjoyed dance animations created by Christiano Midnight.

Looking forward, Leviathan awaits the addition of Havok 2 to Second Life. The new engine will allow builders to create more complex items. For example, it will allow vehicle designers to make machines with more than 31 primitives.

"Right now, I think most of us are eagerly awaiting Havok 2," she said.

The changes may help Rosedale with another of his goals: Make it easier for newcomers to get excited about their new world.

"The amount of time it takes someone to have an eye-opening experience is five to 10 hours," he said. "We need to take that 10 (hours) and make it one # That's a tremendous challenge to overcome."

Leena Khan, who joined Second Life in April 2004, said she relied on the help of others to get her footing in Second Life.

"My avatar looked like a gorilla," she said. TinaStar Dawn eventually helped her out.

Khan suggested that giving newbies goals might ease their way into the virtual world.

"Second Life is wonderful, but people expect it to be a game, not a virtual world where they have to make their own goals," she said. "And there are people I've met that still don't have a goal after playing a month."

Rosedale's goal is to make Second Life a vehicle for other people's imagination.

"The world has always been about people expressing themselves in ways they couldn't before," he said.

Visit the Black Thong Mistresses clubhouse in Epimetheus (8, 8)


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