In 2008, Philip Linden, at a meeting with significant Second Life content creators in San Franscisco said: “As goes Grendel’s, so goes the Grid.”
Well, as of today, half of Grendel’s has gone – and the reason they are citing is the lack of support that they have received from Linden Lab.
What does that say about the grid?
So what is Grendel’s?
Grendels’ Children is one of the most fascinating places on the grid. They make avatars … and what amazing avatars! They range from robots to lions to dragons to koi carp to trees that turn into walking dryads at a tap on a HUD, exotic animals of enormous beauty, mystical creatures as beautiful and as strange as the imagination can create them – and they are, above all, the most enormous fun.
You can get a taste of it on this Designing Worlds programme where we visited Grendel’s or from this beautiful machinima, The Wizard and Ozimal by Pyewacket Bellman.
There are two key points about Grendel’s. Firstly, they make high quality avatars, complete with excellent HUDSs, at incredibly low cost. I bought a set of ten giant dragonflies in a range of lovely colours, which I can fly around in, stretching and flapping beautiful gossamer wings … for only 25 Lindens. Many of their best-known avatars retail at under 100 Lindens. They are interested in volume, and selling a large number of avatars to a large number of people but, essentially, they never compromise on quality.
The second point is that they have always offered fun. The main store is on Avaria Tor, but there were three other sims: Avaria (the original sim), Avaria Kro and Avaria Sav. These three offered games and places to roam in whatever avatar form you wished. Grendel’s have also offered a range of fascinating games, ranging from the most amazing interstellar grungeboard track (you can see it here in another Pyewacket machinima) to complex games that offered you mysteries to solve and rewards to gain as you explored strange lost temples in the desert or odd rock formations housing unexpected geysers or, indeed, whatever the Grendel’s team decided would be wicked cool and great fun.
And in this way, this brilliant team has been exploring some of the real possibilities for game creation in virtual worlds, while supplying some of the most exciting and original content (and most reasonably priced) on the grid.
And they offer more too – with things like the weekly Show and Tell on Avaria Sav organised by Barney Boomslang and Florenze Kerensky, where some of the greatest creatives in Second Life come and display their most recent creations to be discussed, critiqued and frequently oooohhhed over by their fellows.
But as of today, Avaria Kro and Avaria Sav have been sold. There’s no longer room for the interstellar grungeboard track, so it has been dismantled. The Show and Tells have been moved to Avaria, which will be the new workshop for Grendel’s, but much of the exploration, the gaming, the beauty and the sheer fun has been lost.
And this isn’t for economic reasons – Grendel’s is still on the grid. It is down simply and completely to a failure by Linden Lab to give Grendel’s the support they needed – the support that they hoped went along with the $14,400 they were paying annually for server space.
“I can get spam from Cafe Press, but no answers from Linden Lab,” says Flea Bussy, the leader janitor of Grendel’s (and owner of the Avarian sims) wearily. There is no response to his tickets, and having been told “we’ll call you back” by concierge, there are no replies. “They don’t care.”
After years of patience with Linden Lab, Flea is disappointed in the failure of the Lab to support what is a thriving business in one of the most important areas of the grid – the development of amazing content.
The land sales have gone through swiftly. As Toady Nakamura, Flea’s co-janitor, says wryly, “You wanna sell a sim, the sim brokers will call you right away, they will email you right away. Not like Lindens.”
In the last few month, we have seen Rodvik Linden, active on Twitter, responding personally when problems have arisen – such as the problem when the Elves seemed likely to lose some of their sims because of billing problems (with the Lab struggling to accept European payments, rather than the Elves failing to pay), and there have been other interventions by him as well. But a company like Linden Lab should not be dependent on resolving problems by attracting the CEO’s attention on Twitter.
And, to put it simply, that is usually only a temporary bandaid anyway.
“We took this problem all the way to the CEO,” says Toady, “and it was fixed for 3 days. Then it broke again. We can’t keep going to the top for routine things like ‘we cannot move in our sim’.”
Like many people, the team at Grendel’s have respect for Rod Humble and what he is trying to do.
“I think Mr. Rodvik Linden is great, but I think he has a large pile of Inertial Lindens that will not move underneath him,” says Toady. ” Like old time clipper ships, good captain, shanghai’d crew … ship sinks.”
Is the ship sinking? If Philip Linden was right, back in 2008, then perhaps it is time to check the bulkheads – and make damn sure that the people detailed to watch out for icebergs aren’t sleeping on the job any more.