by Alphaville Herald on 21/06/04 at 4:28 pm
When Philip Rosedale (aka Philip Linden) stopped by Uri’s pad for an interview, little did Uri expect that Phil would be in drag, carrying a rose and a Seburo Compact Exploder automatic weapon. Phil quickly slipped into his Cowboy Roy avatar and the discussion got serious, as the bad boy CEO and bad boy cyber-journalist riffed on how low level mathematical and physical principles affect social formations, on the importance of creative freedom in gameplay and how it can minimize griefing, and on the importance of Intellectual Property Rights in the creation of successful synthetic worlds. Oh and check this: Along the way Phil predicts Second Life will top one million users sometime in 2007. So set your emoticons to and start reading!
Phil shows up in drag with his Seburo Compact Exploder gun.
AVDetector whispers: Making icon for Philip Linden
Urizenus Sklar: ah you came armed. good idea!
Philip Linden: well I guess I don’t really need it. But this is the coolest gun I’ve ever seen. I like the effect of carrying both it and a rose.
Urizenus Sklar: which gun is it?
Philip Linden: It’s a gun built by francis chung…. the Seburo Exploder.
Urizenus Sklar: oh yah, I have that one. I didn’t recognize it.
Philip Linden: I’ve plugged it at the last town hall.
Urizenus Sklar: how does it shoot so fast?
Philip Linden: ah you read my mind.
Philip Linden: The firing rate is so high because it used multiple parallel scripts to shoot.
Urizenus Sklar: aha, nice
Philip Linden: Something that we never really thought about. But of course we are more or less surrounded by things we didn’t think about
Urizenus Sklar: true enough
Urizenus Sklar: erm, the “Slut” poster you are looking at is of historical interest
Philip Linden: yes I will resist the desire to interview you about this place, etc.
Urizenus Sklar: hehe
Philip Linden: So that is a TSO scene… love it.
Urizenus Sklar: That pic marked the birth of the Sims Shadow Government? it was taken when the Sims Sorority House demoed Evangeline’s Hotel Erotica.
Philip Linden: I’ve always thought that the only way to grief in Toontown ?was exactly what you show there… people could line up and spell bad words.
Urizenus Sklar: lol
Philip Linden: I’m still waiting to see that happen. Ha!
Urizenus Sklar: griefing in Toontown is tough.
Urizenus Sklar: Erm, how come you have a female avatar?
Philip Linden: Well almost always I am a male….
Philip Linden: this one [Phil changes avatar] this is the real me. I call this set of clothing ‘cowboy roy’
Urizenus Sklar: LOL, ok, lemme start with some questions about you?
Urizenus Sklar: Before Second Life you were with Real Networks. What was your position in RN?
Philip Linden: I had a company that was acquired… I joined to build RealVideo, I was the “VP Media Systems” and later the CTO.
Urizenus Sklar: What was your company?
Philip Linden: My company made a product called FreeVue… if you look in one of those old internet archives you can find the site… (currently “FreeVue.com” is a porn site… not my old company
Urizenus Sklar: LOL, What did you study in college?
Philip Linden: I studied Physics in college…. went to UCSD in San Diego. Very into physics.
Urizenus Sklar: what kind of physics?
Philip Linden: I didn’t specialize much… I have a BS
Urizenus Sklar: well what kind was most interesting to you?
Philip Linden: Personally I am most into how different physics models do or don’t adequately allow recreation of a viable world. As you can imagine that subject is relevant here. There is a new body of work that looks at digital/computational models for simulating physics… I like that stuff.
Urizenus Sklar: hmmm, you mean low level physical and mathematical principles have to be just so for a stable world to be supported?
Philip Linden: Well I guess more correctly… If they are too simple (e.g. newtonian physics), you won’t get anything with enough complexity to support life. That is quite relevant here. For online worlds in general if you don’t have the right low-level rules, they will be sterile, or will explode into meaningless chaos.
Urizenus Sklar: So the low level rules have to support complexity? but not too much?
Philip Linden: This is very much like some of the low level physics stuff. But on more of a social level here.
Urizenus Sklar: so you aren’t talking about prims and stuff, but about the basic structures supporting social groups?
Philip Linden: No I mean prims and scripting and social rules, taken together as a whole.
Urizenus Sklar: why do prims matter to the social organization that emerges?
Philip Linden: Good question. So let’s talk about griefing.
Urizenus Sklar: good
Philip Linden: I have this theory… I think it will become very important very soon. Here goes…
Philip Linden: You can look at an online world, and ask how much freedom it gives you as a user. Sort of like the rat-in-a-cage analogy… How big is the cage? What is there to do? So when you look at historical online worlds… something like everquest, or even TSO… it seems quite obvious that in them you are far more restricted than in your waking life. There is a LOT less you can do there than in reality.
Urizenus Sklar: true
Philip Linden: So I believe this is a simple test for how basic and abusive and frustrated people will become in these worlds. The answer to the question “how much can I do?” tells us “how mean you will be.”
Urizenus Sklar: you mean the less you can do the meaner you will be?
Philip Linden: YES
Philip Linden: So SL poses a new question… what if the online environment offered you MORE freedoms than the real world, in just about every way. I assert, by comparison to these historical cases, that we might therefore actually behave better in such a place. We might learn faster, interact more deeply, and therefore become better people, at least on some levels. Little has been written about this.
Urizenus Sklar: It’s not a big sample, but I have seen a big change in some of the tso griefers that moved here.
Philip Linden: That’s interesting… how?
Urizenus Sklar: They are all busy making objects and clothes and avatars instead of newbie scam houses, and these were some of the more notorious griefers.
Philip Linden: Yes that’s what I’ve seen too.
Urizenus Sklar: aha, so you’ve been watching them?
Philip Linden: Not specifically TSO, but in general that trend seems to hold up…that there is such a blue sky opportunity for doing stuff, that griefing just doesn’t make it to the top very quickly. It is more fun to do other stuff.
Urizenus Sklar: Ok, let me make a distinction here, between having lots to do, and having the tools to make things to do; it seems like the focus here is on the latter.
Philip Linden: Yes of course.
Urizenus Sklar: and that seems to be important
Philip Linden: I agree.
Urizenus Sklar: you anticipated this?
Philip Linden: I am asserting that this will only occur in an environment in which the freedoms are not a laundry list of experiences, a-la-Disneyland, but instead a fundamental ability to express yourself; these are the real freedoms. I am saying that if you have more freedoms, in an expressive sense, you might have better or at least more complex behavior.
Urizenus Sklar: But very few other games are offering these kinds of freedoms. Why is that?
Philip Linden: Because the tech is very hard, and because that is not their mission. It is our mission.
Urizenus Sklar: Well, I feel bad for Will Wright, because I think that was *his* mission if not EA’s.
Philip Linden: I think so too. He is an amazing and brilliant guy.
Urizenus Sklar: Have you talked to him about this?
Philip Linden: I have had the pleasure of hanging around with him and talking about this stuff, Yep.
Philip Linden: BTW, I don’t argue that SL will not have great conflict and turmoil… but that it will be possibly on a higher complexity level than RL, and therefore deeply interesting and important.
Urizenus Sklar: Do you think we can learn things from RL from observing what happens here? Thinking of SL as a social laboratory?
Philip Linden: Yes. For a couple of reasons. One is that the timescale is compressed here. Things happen faster. So we can use it as a kind of time machine… able to look at what-if scenarios that start from RL, but give results faster than real world. Also, I think that various structures for governance, etc can be tested here quite well. I think it is possible that as SL grows, we will learn better how future societies might best be governed.
Urizenus Sklar: Are people using SL for that purpose? Any private experiments going on?
Philip Linden: Yes, there are experiments of that sort going on. We have had several classes from colleges in SL already.
Urizenus Sklar: There is a psych experiment of some type too no? the sim being used to simulate the way psychotics perceive the world or something.
Philip Linden: Yes there is.
Urizenus Sklar: Is that a medical school running it?
Philip Linden: Yes it is… but let me check with Robin later on whether their sim is public, etc.
Urizenus Sklar: Ok, the institutions that are emerging here… do you think they have a kind of reality? and might they become plausible players in real world politics and social organization?
Philip Linden: I think so, although of course we are still small in absolute numbers. But I think SL already has a much larger voice than would be suggested by it’s smaller populus. Imagine what this will be like at 1M [one million] residents.
Urizenus Sklar: you think there will be that many some day?
Philip Linden: Oh absolutely.
Urizenus Sklar: wanna project when?
Philip Linden: Let me give you a thought about that. When I left RealNetworks, one of the reasons was because broadband was at 5% penetration. SL needs broadband, and so I needed to be assured it would really take over. We (Mitch [Kapor], RN Execs) had observed that once a new method of connecting to the net gets to 5% it is going to take over fairly rapidly. I think SL is a lot like broadband… there are these big barriers… we need faster computers,
Urizenus Sklar: and better graphics cards!
Philip Linden: we need better/more broadband, etc. But I think where we are today with SL suggests a kind of early ‘tipping point’… for many who use SL today, it is obvious that SL in many ways is a deeply compelling and better place to be.
Urizenus Sklar: better than what?
Philip Linden: better than RL for a lot of things.
Urizenus Sklar: such as?
Philip Linden: Collaborative creativity….
Urizenus Sklar: ok
Philip Linden: Self expression. Prototyping in general. etc. So given that, if we have an edge over RL in only a couple areas, doesn’t that suggest an almost certain growth? Selection pressures historically move us toward the most efficient environments… I think SL offers some great efficiencies, and that many people will therefore come here.
Urizenus Sklar: It sounds like you aren’t thinking of SL as a game at all but rather as a platform for different kinds of collaborative projects
Philip Linden: Yes, I think SL is a platform. A kind of substrate. Of course that is why we have done things the way we have.
Urizenus Sklar: Can I get you to predict when SL will hit 1 million users?
Philip Linden: Hmm… OK let me think for a moment?Well a few factors… right now in the US less than half of the internet users have broadband and maybe half of those could use SL. We will not explore, IMO, until this number is >50%. This because once you are over 50%, you will strongly refer SL to friends, because you will know that it is more than likely that they can use SL. So that particular point will get passed within the next 24 months or so…. broadband is at over 40%, and the next wave of PC’s will be 100% able to run SL. So we need to mostly wait out one consumer PC adoption cycle. The next big factor is time and content. Today is takes maybe 10 hours to really ‘get’ what SL is all about. We need that number to be <1HR to go ballistic. I believe that the problem can be solved in two ways… one is that the content is SL simply gets more compelling… and that is already happening and is driven by the residents. The second is we need to make the software better and easier to get into fast. I believe that we can do that is less than one year, and, by-the-way, that the online games will not be able to do it. So OK… let me wrap this into a prediction. I think that SL will continue to grow rapidly over the next year…. but will not enter into consumer mainstream usage. But beyond 24 months, we will have solved the hardware and usage time problems. And we will them see a real ‘tip’ into the consumer market. So, giving us a bit of wiggle room, I’d say that SL will have 1M users in about 3 years. Hows that?
Urizenus Sklar: We are running out of time, but I need to ask you about your EULA and the fact that you give intellectual property rights to the creators of objects in the game…
Philip Linden: OK
Urizenus Sklar: so why did you introduce these property rights and why are the other MMORPG makers afraid to do the same?
Philip Linden: Of course we think they are fundamental rights. We think of SL as like a developing nation, and it has been shown repeatedly in history that the nations which give strong land and IP rights to their citizens grow fastest and are most competitive. BTW, there is a book called ‘The Mystery of Capital’ that really hammers this point home. Other folks haven’t done this for two reasons… One is that they don’t have the deeper mission that we do… to create a new and better world. And the second is that they fear (as large companies) the legal risk that comes with the position. They don’t want to deal with all the challenges. I think the first point is fundamental though… they are simply building entertainment products… and from a simple perspective entertainment is easier to do with lots of control. We are just looking at things from a much larger scale.
Urizenus Sklar: thanks Phil, I’d better let you go, this was golden!
Philip Linden: Thanks very much for the interview.
Philip Linden: OK take care.
Urizenus Sklar: laterz
Philip Linden is offline