Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Year of Change in My Second Life #SL

Everything changed this in 2010, EVERYTHING, some for the better many for the worst and some had been changing long before 2010 only settle this year. Second Life is pretty much unrecognisable from the place i arrived at in 2005.

This is my take on things we currently have in Second life and how i perceive their impact on me a long time Second Life resident doer.

1. I'll start with Land. The rules were quite simple in the old days. Buy a private island, build creatively on it, rent plots for people to live or rent shopping spaces for people to sell items ect, make your money back. This old system still works for some but for the most part its broken by Market place and Linden Homes.

2. Shops.  It could be argued that it was SLexchange that broke inworld shopping. I used to use it as a means to find items then follow the SLURL to buy it inworld. It's replacement 'MarketPlace' is an 'in your face' and 'powerful tool' making going to inworld shops less inviting. It's the Sainburys of Virtual worlds, we love our local highstreet stores, but we're still going to choose Sainburys mega store out of convenience. In my eyes this means those private islands and shopping malls who rely on inworld shops to replay their high priced monthly tier are struggling.

Before now anyone could set up a shop anywhere. Now you have to work much harder to build a brand and just like real world, virtual shopping malls are dead.

3. Viewer2. 2010 saw the release of Viewer2, the result of almost two years of development and collaboration with some kinda third party design Gurus. What we got was a more complicated skin to a re-written copy of viewer1 with a few more extra features. 

The issue most of my friends have with viewer2 is its Ui. It's true the viewer expects more clicks to do tasks than previously and some of the changes seem less intuitive. But the Ui is no longer the main issue i have with it since im pretty much used to it now. The New issue for me is viewer fragmentation. My friends and many long time SL residents refuse to upgrade o viewer 2, they stick with V.1 or migrate to a third party viewer such as Phoenix or imprudence. Meanwhile Linden Lab continue to slap on new features that can only be experienced via viewer2. a. Shared Media, b.Mesh objects, c. Display names (and possibly in future d.expanded groups, e. integrated Avatar United).

I see this fragmentation of viewing second life as a really horrible problem thats just growing and growing. My Burn2 (burning life) build used shared media video to tell a story. Most of the visitors who i asked said they did not use viewer2 and so did not experience the story. For my Steampunk Roleplay in New Babbage i used Shared media again to tell parts of a story with video, but i added a button for viewer1 people to load external browser windows. This work around can not be done with Mesh objects or Display names, they simply wont be seen by V1 and third party viewers. 

I'm watching the Kokua project where the imprudence team are planing to bring viewer2 features to their thirdparty viewer. But it will be a continuing problem for LindenLab that their awesome new features wont be widely used until the third parties implement them in their viewers.

4. Newbies VS Oldbies. Viewer2 is the wedge that deepened the divide between the New and long time residents of SL. 

Newbs arrive and if they stick around live in a totally new version of SL. They use the destination guide to find games and tasks to complete. They use viewer2 and are oblivious to how it used to be easier to used. They use Market place to buy all their new stuff and get a Lindenhome to live in.

Oldbies live in an old grid, struggling to make ends meet, reminiscing about old times. Oldbies are cursed with the Knowledge that things were easier, quicker, cheaper. They continue to build content for their friends and virtual families and in the hope of selling to Newbs. They see the bits of SL that are old and broken but refuse to see the new and shiny future of viewer2. Oh to be a Newb again.

What happens when a Newbie meets and Oldbie? The older resident teaches the Newb about how SL used to be better, and suggest they use a thridparty viewer as its faster and more stable. And so the corruption begins. But was performance really any better in the old days? Well my videos from this time last year show no change at all from viewer1 to viewer 2 LOL.

5. Communication. This isn't so much something that changed in SL, but more about something that hasn't changed. The rest of the world saw a huge shift in social communication and media and SL saw none of that change. Businesses and services across the globe became connected int he social revolution. Sl just sat behind its virtual wall stagnating. We saw Avatars United get bought by LindenLab, have a surge of user sign ups, then get shut down LOL. 

2010 was the year where group chatting became almost impossible. Even now every tuesday when it comes to making a shout out to the Vortex Club group that my DJ show is about to start, im met with a failed group chat. 

Viewer2 changed the way we receive messages. Some people like it, i personally HATE it. All the group notices arrive and are stored in what i fondly call the Message Trash Bin Box in the bottom right corner. I soon have over 100 unread messages in the Bin Box as it stores group notices, object transfers, private IM's and all manner of notices. When you click on the Bin Box you get a small scrolling list thats hard to read and seems to be in no particular order to me. It's a dread full peace of work and feels like a shoddy afterthought to a feature Linden Lab thinks is not all that important.

I've said it before, communication within SL is far more important that MESH and DISPLAY NAMES and SHADOWS. Residents communicating with each other is what makes SL go round and round and needs a shed load of time and development and THOUGHT put into it. Social communication has proven big because it allows people to connect and share information about their interests and connect to those interests and talk about those interests. Second Life in 2010 ground to a halt communication wise. All those cool groups of communities who have come together through common interest and SL does not give them the resources to communicate those interests and cash in on the potential.

Some say LindenLab are working on this for 2011, im no so sure. I'd love for SL to get twitter style Activity feeds built into the viewer so i can share my SL interests through out the day, sharing places, bought items, created content, live shows, groups ive joined (vote on the jira :-p). Something like that would be SUCH a major ad on to the viewer that we would have heard about it by now. If Linden lab do anything i expect it'll be a basic skin job of avatars united that you can access via the viewers built in web viewer much like the broken search and destination guide. 

6. My Island and my friends. I must have been mad to upgrade my homestead to a full sim, I'm a UK resident with a looming VAT rise, i cant possibly afford a full sim! Well i am, i love the island, i love my friends, and i love creating the stories and adventures for them. Im grateful for my friends who donate and those who live on the island and help pay Lindens high priced tier. The new island has allowed me new areas of exploration in terms of creating experiences in SL and im looking forward to 2011 with many ideas. 

My biggest aims will be finding a balance between making content & experiences in SL and Doing work in real world. Sometimes i feel like im a games developer working all day for a company that charges me for working for them, that just feels wrong, so i have to find a comfortable balance next year so that i don't feel that way.

7. Linden Lab. Those of you who are left, thanx for sticking around, have a merry christmas, i look forward to seeing what happens to us all in 2011 :)

End Rant

1 comment:

Pippi Nordenskiold - my life in SL said...

Thank you for writing informative and I love getting the perspective of an oldbie, being a newbie who has just started using imprudence bec sl2 was driving me insane. I have to say though that the switch was uncomfortable and am still getting used to it! Hope 2011 brings you success and peace (of mind)...Merry Christmas, Pippi nordenskiold xx