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A brief history of void simulators/openspaces

Tateru Nino

The context in which the Second Life issue of the void/openspaces price-rise exists is a rather complex one, going all the way back to 2006. So, in order to get the whole issue in perspective, we've rounded up the history of void simulators, costs and conditions, all the way back to the beginning.

And it is a far more interesting progression of events than you might think. On with the show.

  • Originally what are presently known as void simulators were called quad simulators and were used exclusively by Linden Lab to pad empty areas on the mainland, and to provide crinkly edges on coastlines.
  • In late 2006, Linden Lab packaged existing void simulators into a product, the openspaces product. Sold in adjacent groups of four, each with one-eighth the object capacity of a regular simulator. This product had a setup fee of USD$1250 and USD$195/month. This product apparently didn't really make a big splash at the time. That constituted the Openspaces 1.0 product.
  • Sometime during late 2007, void simulator groups of four became decoupled, no longer clustering together on the same server. Instead, simulators that previously occupied the same server wound up all over the data center, and apparently sometimes in other data centers. This caused major problems with border transfers between simulators, particularly where vehicles were involved (vehicle usage being one of the primary reasons for purchase of a void group). This rendered the border crossings between void simulators even less reliable than those between regular simulators.
  • In March 2008, Linden Lab encouraged increased use of void simulators, selling them individually, making them more affordable, relaxing the requirement for adjacency, and increasing object capacity. Purchasing of void simulators increased, but still remained relatively relaxed. (the Openspaces 2.0 product)
  • Later in March 2008, the performance of void simulators was reportedly impaired by the deployment of Havok 4 physics.
  • In July 2008, Linden Lab froze the supply of new mainland simulators, making void simulators the preferred choice for those wishing larger tracts of land.
  • In August 2008, the performance of void simulators was again apparently negatively impacted by the deployment of Mono for the script engine runtime. By this stage it was becoming clear that the object capacity and script priorities for void simulators were set too high. Some void simulators were unpredictably impairing others, without any pattern that owners could predict or control.

So, by the time of the announcement that Linden Lab was hiking prices by 66.6% on 27 October, it was clear that the openspaces product had clear issues. Issues that none of Linden Lab's newly announced policies addressed. A server running regular simulators generates US$1,180 per month for the Lab. Under the old pricing scheme, a server of void simulators generates US$1,200/mo and under the new scheme will generate US$2,000/mo.

Small wonder that users revolted in response to the news.

Jack Linden, Director of Customer Relations, and head of Linden Lab's Land Team was reported to have said recently that there were some 13,000 void simulators on the Second Life grid (not counting those used as a part of the mainland), though we have been unable to confirm that figure.

That means that the price rise represents an extra US$625,000 for Linden Lab each month (on top of the existing US$975,000 per month currently being charged). It doesn't seem unreasonable to hope that some of that extra money would be allocated to correcting the above issues, but no such plans have been announced.

The matter has come to the attention of mainstream media, and while Linden Lab has issued several responses and statements, none of them appear to have brought any additional clarity to the matter other than to emphasize that more money will be charged for the product as it presently stands.

Some users are collapsing and converting to individual regular simulators. Some are dumping their void simulators. Still others are suggesting that you may as well run your void simulators to the maximum, as you will be charged as if you are anyway. It's early days yet, and everyone seems to be awaiting further developments and announcements.

We are also awaiting those with considerable, and unabashed interest, and it appears there will be an announcement tomorrow from Linden Lab's new CEO, Mark Kingdon. We can only hope that it addresses some of the actual concerns, unlike the previous attempts.

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