It has been five years since I “rezzed” into Second Life. It’s no coincidence that those years of absence coincided with the arrival of my nearly 5 year old daughter. I took a whirl this weekend to test out how well my GTX 1050 Ti fares against the 14-year-old virtual world’s notoriously punishing environments.
I had to resolve a weird objection by Second Life to the nature of my nVidia driver install. It kept telling me that the driver was out of date. What it really meant is that it doesn’t like how GeForce Experience handles drivers, and it wants you to do a direct install. I have never seen anything like this, and none of the other games on my system had this problem. GFE gets a lot of hate from min-maxing enthusiast gamers, but I haven’t noticed it causing any noticeable problems, and it saves me from doing a lot of slider noodling myself. SL is just nuts.
The driver issue was just one of the many signs of neglect that I saw around Second Life. Popular sims that are promoted by Linden Labs on the Second Life web site are refusing to load. The sound drops out on a regular basis. I’ve seen 3 desktop crashes and one spectacular hard crash within 24 hours. The mesh character models look much better, but they hammer the sims’ throughput and slow loading times dramatically. Most of the background textures still look like hell.
The reason for Linden Labs’ neglect is its new virtual reality project. It’s too busy readying its followup to the decade-old virtual world with something called Sansar – a platform looking to finally, really, no kidding, actually, without a doubt, create Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse. Well, I certainly hope they take my advice.
I’m actually impressed that Second Life is still around and still pulling in a publicly stated 900,000 active users. In its defense, there is really nothing else like it out there. The ripoff OpenSim community is still operating on an ancient implementation of the software; Playstation Home has disappeared; and everything that isn’t a fantasy RPG or a kiddie chat room has pretty much shut down. Second Life can still draw a few dozen people to a sim on good nights, and a lot of the whoring and griefing/trolling that marked its early life has moved on to other platforms. It’s still a pretty freaky place, though, and you shouldn’t let the kids wander around unsupervised.
After watching Second Life’s progression for more than a decade, it’s a shame that the property has been so badly mismanaged and doesn’t enjoy continuing developer love. The last stable release of the official client was in January. Perhaps development will return to the platform once Linden Labs remembers that virtual reality setups are still $500-600 a pop.