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  • Q&A about Saijo closing in SL

    I'll give credit where credit is due. A good part of the inspiration for how Saijo is constructed (at a conceptual level) had to do with the freedom to build something unlike anything easily within our grasp. By this, I don't mean 'build a cyberpunk city', but 'build a 3D city in a multiplayer space that is drag-and-drop simple'. Not being a megacorp gaming studio, this kind of thing was, for the most part, unreachable.

    Some of you may remember that Saijo was a chain of islands (four) in Second Life, and at the beginning of 2009, I closed the last one. This was a decision that took six months of personal back and forth. Reasons to keep it open were authentic and superficial alike. Many people considered it 'home'. Many people roleplayed there and treated it as a very freestyle gaming space. People wrote stories and wove the fabric of the city into their own personal storylines (and that's a core of what Saijo is all about).

    The superficial part was the press coverage, acclaims, TV appearances, mentions in books, and the successful coexistence of real life megacorps and celebrities. I suppose that wasn't all superficial, but combine IT with the power of the community and their personal relationship to it, you can probably see why it was tough.

    The reasons are relatively simple and almost banal in nature. Some are technical, some are ideological.

    1. Performance of the software: I've used SL for almost five years and have seen some changes for the better and the worse-- not necessarily where the changes should be. Even most of the open grid versions of the SL software are still too deeply rooted in that model. For example, the 3D world runs the same physics as many major games, yet performs nothing like it. Regardless of whether or not the SL world at large is a game, there is a certain expectation of how moving around, driving, and existing in 3D *should* be. SL's tech isn't it, and probably won't be for a while.

    2. Proprietary, closed software: I probably swing closer to the ideology of open source and Creative Commons than many traditionalists. Yet, traditionalism runs into problems. The RIAA has been fighting an uphill battle in trying to control digital goods-- something which can be done, but as a negative to a consumer. If someone came to me and said, "I'd like to put Saijo on the XBOX", I would, in a word, be completely hosed. Nothing is exportable *legitimately* nor compatible. Can it be done? Sure, with a lot of hacking and toolkits and things that would otherwise open a can of worms I just don't want to deal with. Virtual worlds have this problem which is as if each website required its own browser to visit. That's no way to build a metaverse. It's a Microsoft-ian move. What is built in SL is trapped there.

    3. SL doesn't make my skills better: I won't for a minute deny that the drag-and-drop interface helped me (and others) get to where we are today. But it ends there. As I dive into the world of standard building tools, I'm lost. Building in SL isn't really rooted in any standard that I can tell, and at the very least, the backend output isn't something I can use elsewhere. So this is related to #2 a little. Honestly, at the end of the day, I don't know even close to what I should about building properly, with optimization in mind (and this is part of what makes SL so laggy-- we AREN'T 3D modelers of any stripe to know how to build *properly* (read: efficiently).

    4. Money, but not because I'm broke: SL costs quite a bit, and those costs can be offset by business activity in SL, but that keeps everything inside and not outside. I was lucky enough to subsidize this project by outside work, but when I look at if I'm spending my money wisely, the answer is no. For the hundreds of dollars per month, per year, I could have easily picked up a couple copies of high-end, industry standard 3D software-- the type that is used in business and entertainment, and exports to all the formats that virtually everything *else* in the world uses.

    5. Cyberpunk is not dead/Marketing against SL's stigma: I'm not a fan of fantasy and sword and sorcery, but damn, if we aren't going to be barraged by it until we die. I think cyberpunk is alive and well-- we are living it more or less-- and I want to get it outside. I also can do a better job with that if I don't have to battle SL stigma. I've spent a considerable amount of time fearing that Saijo would be considered 'an SL thing', which from day one, has never been my intention. Even Sony Home can't escape the SL comparisons and inevitable furry jokes. That's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk cyberpunk. (disclaimer: I've had plenty of TV time and speaking engagements about SL, and it was hard work steering the conversations to normalcy, srsly.)

    6. Force the game industry to change if they aren't already: I used to think it was a noble cause to poke Big Gaming with a stick. Big Gaming = EA pretty much owning everything and if you don't have thousands of people and tens of millions of dollars, YOU CAN'T PLAY. Gaming could learn a lot from virtual worlds (and vice versa). But now that noble cause seems a little less eager as game companies could start to embrace the user and what they do/want to do. And they certainly have the power and resources to do that. I want Saijo to be a model of that, with a genre people think is dead, standing up to them and saying 'it's dead when we SAY it is, megacorp!'

    I think that's about it. It's a ridiculously difficult journey, and I'm faced with doing things I've been too scared or worried about. It's a new year and a lot will change. I hope that those that have supported Saijo in the past continue to do so, and never let those stories die. My goal is not only building up the Big Saijo property, but to contribute as much as I can so that the Community Saijo property (which belongs to everyone) so that it may thrive in ways that no content franchise has ever seen the likes of before. :)

    The Narrator
    Posted 9 years ago

    Thanks for the thoughtful post and for sticking it out with Saijo City across new platforms.

    If you'd like to discuss how one might use those "hundreds of dollars per month" to move forward the ideas of online cities like Saijo, I have an idea or two.

    Posted 9 years ago


    i know this project has really yanked you around and you put your all into it ever since we were discussing the concept oh so many years ago... long before SL was even in early development stages. you've stuck it out and i regret not being around to help in any capacity the past couple years. that's what happens i guess - we get wrapped up in our lives and can't commit to the things we'd like.

    i hope to collaborate on your next endeavor. you know i'm a phone call away (as uncool as the phone is compared to text, twitter, chat or direct neural jack!)


    Posted 9 years ago

    To be clear, grog, and you have been a support (our cyberpunk days lonnnng pre-date whatever the current tech is), but the project isn't shelved at all, just not being realized on that particular platform. I'm working on two separate IP parts, the 'official' one and the 'community' one. I'd much rather work a little harder to get it to mass market platforms like consoles, web, and mobiles. Plenty of work to do. :)

    Whip me up some ECM tech hehe.

    The Narrator
    Posted 9 years ago
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