Because if we’re going to say #SecondLife was never meant to be the Metaverse, we may as well go for broke while we’re at it.
I love revisionist history. It takes a well known fact and reinterprets it in hindsight in order to fit a current situation or belief. Case in point, the assertion that Second Life was never really meant to be a/the Metaverse but from the beginning it always was a games development platform.
Clearly there is evidence of Linden Lab treating it like a game platform from the beginning, but there is a much deeper context being intentionally overlooked here, and that alone is quite disturbing.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that Second Life really was meant to be just a game development platform, and the early evidence of that facet exists along with Cory being a game development veteran. Well, if this were the case, then Cory would also know that if he was developing a game development platform he was building an SDK to an engine in order to license the technology for third parties to utilize.
That is essentially how every other company which looked to offer a game development platform went about it. Unreal Engine, Unity, Crytek, you name it. Instead, Linden Lab built the foundation of an open ended sandbox virtual environment, and gaming happened to be one of many facets that such an environment could be utilized for – though it is pretty obvious that gaming wasn’t the main focus of building Second Life.
Either they were building an amazing foundation for the Metaverse or they’ve spent 9 years making a lackluster games development platform when compared to every other games development platform available.
You’ll have to excuse me for remaining positive about this and choosing to believe that they were making an amazing Metaverse platform and not a lackluster game development platform.
“I’m not building a game. I’m building a new country.”
When the CEO of a company flatly states they aren’t building a game but something vastly different – a new country, it takes quite a lot of creative license to state otherwise. While I won’t go so far as to say that Linden Lab never once stated they were just building a gaming platform to develop on, what I will state is that there is a much deeper context in that scenario. It’s not a black or white situation as some like to suppose.
It’s a little too easy to look back and say “Of course it’s not the Metaverse. It was never meant to be!”. In some sort of revisionism I guess this makes sense, because nobody wants to look like a fool for believing that the plan overall included being a Metaverse and not just a games development platform all along. When the current situation no longer fits, we try to save grace and pivot like it was all just some sort of misunderstanding…
Silly residents, where did you ever get the notion
that Second Life wasn’t a games development platform?
I dunno… maybe we got it from the CEO of Linden Lab? Maybe we got the impression through initial open source efforts which looked to expand into something bigger? Maybe we got that inkling from interoperability discussions that Linden Lab was a part of? maybe we got that inclination through the countless decidedly non-games applications that Second Life was really good for. Hell… maybe we got that notion from the idea that the simple matter of building a Metaverse as your path to a Game Development Platform seems like the longest possible route in much the same way as building a whole country to landscape your front yard seems a bit out of the way.
Something more plausible…
The reason that Linden Lab would state it’s a gaming development platform is much simpler than we might suppose. Essentially it boils down to the fact that your average investor has absolutely no idea what a Metaverse is, they haven’t read Snow Crash (and many of you haven’t either) but they immediately understand the analogy of a video game and the platform by which one can develop said games. One gets you a ton of money, and the other rots in obscurity because you may as well be speaking a dead language.
It’s a very loose analogy, but it still isn’t quite lying in a board room to state that they are investing money into a next generation video game toolkit. So whatever we saw afterward was essentially just keeping up appearances to appease investors who didn’t really grasp the nature of what they were really building. Whenever those investors would inquire further, you just show them all the game aspects of the system that their money helped facilitate.
I remember in the late 1990s talking to corporate entities about this coming virtual environment and Metaverse thing, and I garnered the same blank stares as likely Philip did under the same premise. So how did I, personally, make the analogy to those corporate big wigs who could invest and fund that future? I did what Linden Lab likely did and simply explained it as a game development platform, because they could grasp gaming but not the Metaverse.
So that means they said one thing on the corporate side and were building something very different in practice. I suspect this is apparent by the later reactions in Linden Lab when it became pretty friggin obvious they weren’t trying to build a game platform but looking to sneak into being the Metaverse. That’s not what those investors were told their money was being invested for, and so there came a hissy fit of corporate proportions. You may remember a huge portion of Lindens suddenly not being employed by Linden Lab, right? We may as well state that this was akin to Nikola Tesla convincing J.P. Morgan to fund his wireless telegraph system when in reality the point was to build a wireless electricity system that would be free for all.
When J.P. Morgan found out – he had it shut down.
J.P. Morgan was not amused with Tesla and his “free electricity”
We can look at it as the time when Philip Rosedale was replaced (or stepped down) and Mark Kingdon was put in charge. Starts to make a hell of a lot more sense when we use critical thinking. Mark didn’t seem to really grasp the system itself (Second Life as a product) and ended up focusing on the enterprise solutions. Maybe the future then was still a games development platform, even though they decidedly weren’t focusing on that. There was even a time when Linden Lab was focused on interoperability and standards – however short lived that multi-venue discussion was.
In comes Philip again as the interim CEO while Mark made a lateral demotion. But while the board of directors pondered on how to get their return on investment, the same question likely came up, and they got the same answer -
So when were you going to build that games development platform you promised?
And Philip likely replied the same thing he already had –
“I’m not building a game, I’m building a new country.”
This was pretty much the look on their face
The board of directors then replied –
This again? Seriously? *sighs* Fine. If you aren’t going to build the games development platform you promised us, then we’ll find somebody who will.
Ergo, Philip left again – and who took his place this time? Rodvik Humble, an executive from Electronic Arts who oversaw The Sims franchise and with extensive video game background. Who else was appointed in this time? Kim who had experience with Activision/Blizzard. Who else? Will Wright (SPORE) on the board of directors.
Like all good rumors, there is a tiny bit of truth within it in order to remain plausible. What was touted to the investors in private was likely a games development platform, but what they actually were building before they got shut down was the foundation for The Metaverse.
Now that they have somebody in charge that is more than willing to follow the original statement of “games development platform as subscription service” – Rodvik Humble, et al. we are simply resuming the original statement and repurposing the foundational Metaverse platform as a walled garden and focusing on the gaming elements once again in order to appeal to… gamers.
Was it always supposed to be a gaming development platform? Not at all. It was really close to being the foundation for the entire Metaverse, and they had to make some shit up about it being a game development platform to keep the money coming in from investors.
What we have here is a clear case of that little white lie in the beginning, coming full circle and becoming the truth instead of remaining the lie. What you see today and over the past few years has been that wrestling of a Metaverse Platform (square peg) into the round hole that is the original assertion of game development platform.
Essentially – this is the biggest shame of all, because a "games development platform” is a polite way of saying “Neutered Potential”.
What could have evolved into a spectacular Metaverse instead must now settle for lackluster, underpowered game development platform. At least if you want to make a fair comparison to actual game development platforms available. In this context, Linden Lab likely goofed because where they could have excelled amazingly in the Metaverse domain and dominated the market, they instead chose to go back to the games development platform – by which it doesn’t compare well to actual game development platforms out there.
Now, the reason that I personally say that Second Life wasn’t going to be the Metaverse are different. Not because they never intended to be… no, it’s because I know all too well corporate politics usually forbids the evolution of a Metaverse. Those investors and board of directors always act predictably in the long run.
In the meantime though, it’s still the best for what it is. Even if it’s a zebra attempting to run in the Kentucky Derby. That’s why I choose to stick around in Second Life – because who won’t admit that watching a zebra among thoroughbreds isn’t amusing?