Of all the places to hear of something close to a complete genocide, Second Life would be one of the last places you’d think it’d happen right? Well, there will soon be a holocaust of unseen proportions of sorts on this side of the gaming realm; Thousands of Second Life pet rabbits and birdies are going to die. Well, ok not exactly die. More like hibernate…. Forever. Still pretty shocking though.
Some Pufflings from the now defunct Ozimals Inc.
The bunnies and birdies are a form of breedable pet in Second Life created by a company called Ozimals. So, like any other collectible or pet, there was a craze for these pets among the many other types of pets available in the game. Ozimals is responsible so far for creating and supporting these particular rabbits and the off-shoot birds called the Pufflings. These pets function like real animals would, as in being able to eat and breed, which allows the reselling of off-spring. There are other types of critters as well and you can get them from a blind box or Dota 2 crate style boxes, granting a chance to get uber rare pets. An economy was built up around these pets including breeders and accessories for the pets. So, one can imagine what a hit this is going to be to the Second Life community, particularly because the Ozimal rabbits and Puffling birds were so popular.
How do you 'kill' a Second Life pet?
The reason for the bunnies and birdies dying or going into an unwakeable hibernative state is because of a cease-and-desist letter that is demanding all use of Ozimals intellectual property. This happens to include the food that helps to keep the rabbits active. If the rabbits are not fed within 72 hours, they will hibernate until they’re fed again. This is sort of like keeping them in a state of suspended animation, in this case forever. Sort of like Captain America in the ice berg but this time there is no Nick Fury to rescue him. Thanks to the Way Back Machine, here is the archived final blog post that explains the shutting down of the Ozimal servers and associated things.
The Pufflings were the first to go though. The birds were tied to the Ozimals servers and when those servers went down, all the Pufflings went inert immediately. So, you can sort of imagine what will happen to the bunnies in 72 hours’ time after their food runs out.
There is some hope however. Shortly before they shut down their servers, Ozimals created somet items with one of them being called an Everlasting Timepiece. The items would both sterilize and make the rabbits not need food; a sort of immortality for the rabbits, leaving them the last of their kind and unable to breed. If you happen to be a Second Life player with an Ozimal bunny, you may still be able to get your hands on the item here.
There is also a gofundme page that is trying to help Malkavyn Eldritch, the person who wrote the final blog post. However, you might want to hang onto to your digital wallet for a moment, there’s more to the story than it seems.
Some Ozimal Rabbits, image credits to Akimeta Ltd
Some of the other designs for the Ozimal Rabbits, image credits to Akimeta Ltd
How could this happen?
The funny thing about Second Life is that it is sometimes a lot closer to real life than anything else. Second Life has a lot of real life businesses that run within the game, with real companies that create products inside Second Life for their players. Ozimals is one of them and theirs is a bit of a sad story. A story that involves a 7 year saga of legal battles, broken promises and unpaid money it seems.
Starting with Ozimals' final blog post. The post contains some bits of the cease-and-desist letter demanding that they shut down and stop using their intellectual property. This is on top of the threat of legal action and that Ozimals no longer has the ability to fight or challenge in court. This left Ozimals with no choice but to begrudgingly comply. On that note, the intellectual property thing actually becomes an important point that we’ll get back to in a short while.
If you read the post you’ll note that there are 2 names there: Edward Distelhurst and Akimeta Ltd. Naturally, it seems that because the post included the names of the people asking for the cease-and-desist, the blog post sort of makes them out to be the bad guys. However, that might not be the case. Here is a public letter from the 2 that helps to shed light on the other side of the story, namely Distelhurst and Akimeta’s side.
Akimeta's side of the story
Akimeta Ltd is a company that was contacted to produce models and textures for the aforementioned rabbits for Ozimals. Akimeta eventually also brought on board Distelhurst for scripting and programming work when Ozimals asked if they knew of any programmers after their own discontinued work with them. For Akimeta, the work started from around mid-2009 and until the end of 2010 with over 700 assets that includes the original bunny sculpts, food items and other accessories, which also included their textures.
According to the licensing agreement between Akimeta and Ozimals, only Ozimals was allowed exclusive use of the assets and that no transfer was to be allowed to anyone without further negotiation. Akimeta retained the rights to the assets while Ozimals was allowed to use the work for the lifetime of the company. What’s happened was that Akimeta learned through Distelhurst that Ozimals had actually dissolved in 2016 and had transferred the assets to one Cameron Holt who is not the same person as the Malkavyn who wrote the blog post. Malkavyn is acknowledged in the letter as one of the co-owners of Ozimals…Was.
Too long; didn’t read, basically Akimeta wants Ozimals to stop using the assets because Ozimals had transferred them to another person without their knowledge and without additional negotiations, which is in breach of their agreement.
Distelhurst's side of the story
Distelhurst’s side is much more interesting and complicated. It should be noted that there are 2 Ozimals entities, the company: Ozimals Inc. and Ozimals “the game”. Distelhurst’s story can be summed up simply as a programmer who did not get paid any of his dues. The whole thing becomes more and more insane as Ozimals had gone through 3 settlements with Distelhurst but each and every time seemed happy to either ignore the settlements, pay bare minimum and even refused outright to do some of the things they had agreed to do. Distelhurst’s story and legal battles last 7 long years since he stopped working with Ozimals in 2010. There was a lot of back and forth fighting between Distelhurst and the Ozimals company in the courts, which invariably helped lead to Ozimals dissolving in 2016. Distelhurst’s tenure as the Ozimals programmer was from 2009 and 2010, about 11 months according to the open letter. Throughout the period, it appears that Ozimals did not disclose to him the amount he was owed and what amount he was paid.
Of interest in the letter is also how Ozimals decided to go after another company called Amaretto Ranch Breedables. Ozimals wanted to sue Amaretto over game rules, which Ozimals wanted to copyright. According to Distelhurst however, you cannot copyright game rules. As Distelhurst mentions in the letter: “for example, there are an infinite (but legitimate) amount of Tetris clones.”
So, the entire sad affair was primarily over money owed to one of the most important parts of any game development team: the programmer. Based on how popular and successful the rabbits were, it perhaps seems weird that they decided not to just pay Distelhurst the amount and be able to continue on as a company. The Ozimals’ owners’ have doomed the company and at the same time, ensured that all the people who have bought their pets from them, suffer as well. In short, you can actually blame the death of all the rabbits and birds back on the Ozimals company that “created” them in the first place. Hopefully in future, if the Second Life community decides to band together, they might just be able to find a way to revive their pets.
Story first reported by Waypoint.