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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

EGNOG IS BACK! and handing out FREE Presents to all! #SL


Santa has been Permabanned from Escapades Island because he's way to commercial and a bit creepy. Instead Egnog the Christmas Troll visits every year bringing gifts to those he likes and eating those that he does not like.

Well He's back again and has hidden himself somewhere on the island. The only way you will be able to get a present off the big old Troll is by following the footprints left behind when he first arrived in Rickety Town square. 

Egnog will be staying at Escapades right up until  New Years Day, so you have plenty of time to find him :)


Have a Spiffing Christmas

Using Apples iAd Producer to build #SL Shared Media PrimApps on #SLviewer2

This week Apple released iAd Producer software designed to make building simple, interactive Adverts for iPhone & iPad. It is AWESOME to use, so intuitive that i did not even have to read any instruction PDF's i just got stuck in and built fun iAd Apps.

One of the softwares features is the ability to export as a webapp in safari in order to test quickly your results. It was here i suddenly thought this could be used in SL on a prim via shared media.

Anyone with a bit of a design sense can pic up iAd Producer and build interactive PrimApps allowing people in SL to click through information, adverts, videos ect. Of course what i would love to use it for is to build useful network. Those who have followed my blog know that i made an AWESOME community network destination kiosk, but a bug in either the webkit Linden Lab uses or Viewer2 it self causes the viewer to not recognise double worded SIM names in SLURLs. Read and vote for it to be fixed on the JIRA



I mocked up a quick version of a community network kiosk using iAd Developer in just 15 minutes, but the SLURL bug still persists so all you will see is the potential.

I also created a test Comic book on a prim app which allows you to drag and swipe the pages on a prim. All this is pretty awesome, shame all my friends persist on not using viewer2.



Its getting harder to build content for everyone in Second Life, with the Grid Community fragmented across many different viewers. Whats the point in spending money and time building a world of interactive MESH monsters with shared media enhanced information about them, if nobody i know can see it?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Goonies Adventure - Annon, The Gate

I completely forgot to hold the Goonies Adventure on Friday, so we had it on Saturday instead. This month we visited 'Annon, The Gate'. A wonderfully peaceful and remote set of islands with lush green grass covered rocks.


We made our way up the hill towards what looked like an old monastery.


From there we could see another island with huge castle tower on it. Out to sea we could see a pirate ship anchored so we hopped on a boat found by the water and rowed out to it.


After messing about on the boat we headed to the tower.



The tower was HUGE and us goonies walked higher and higher...




We finally made it to the top but instead of walking back down i rezzed the Goonies Airship. We floated down and zoomed around the tower before heading over to the next sim to explore another small island with a rickety bridge. I think thats when we lost Jacob during the sim crossing, poor boy.



We discovered on the island some sort of lighthouse place.



Tepic discovered a diving bell, and thats where the adventure ended. Was a great place to explore!


Hopefully i wont forget the next Goony Adventure :)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

#SL Social Change

I was busy trying to promote the New Babbage RP mystery Game this weekend when i realised something im sure many of you already have thought of. But if you haven't then please enjoy todays rant.

I posted an introduction to the Black Heart RP along with the video inviting people to come into SL and try it out. The replies on one forum were interesting yet utterly typical.

You know, I joined Second Life specificially because I heard there was a sizable Steampunk community.  I wandered around New Babbage for a about a week and didn't run into a single other person. 
I cast my net wider and encountered only people who wanted me to visit their websites and drive their hits up whilst installing spyware on my machine and a guys who wanted to try out sex pose balls with my female avatar. They didn't care that I was actually male, they just wanted to see their toon boink my toon.

Putting a side the fact that he chose a female avatar,(sounded like he fullfilled the typical SL sterotype pretty well) it highlighted a really HUGE hole in Second Life.

A few weeks ago i ranted about how i thought Pretty shadows, Mesh and display names were pointless compared to a much needed update to SL's social communication structure.

There are many very hardworking devoted creative communities in SL who command vast collections of pricey SIMS. One such community is New Babbage, 1 of a group of Steampunk communities in SL, and at the moment its buzzing with activity from many exciting RP's and autumn events... or is it?

All of the information that gets handed around within the Babbage community comes from its external social website, its there that people learn about future/past events, what people thought about things, and what people have done or plan to do. So is New Babbage the Second Life town Buzzing, or is it the Newbabbage website thats actually buzzing?

Second Life itself has no really effective way to keep it's residents actively engaged with each other about what they do there. I keep hearing that LL are working on it, with the tech they salvaged from Avatars united's corpse but as i foresaw the ripping down of Avatar United, my unhealthy pessimism worries about any Social networking features LL might install. My gut tells me LL will focus any new Social Networking features at Newbs while established SL communities who have built all the kool stuff will be reluctant to leave their external social websites to use an SL integrated gubbins.

It's just interesting when we describe SL as a thriving community when in many cases the community is thriving from outside SL and not seen by outsiders who come into SL looking for them.

END RANT!

[UPDATE] After looking around LL's new advertising section i stumbled on a part focused on Avatars United. A quick google gave me Cold Spliteller's blog post wondering the same as me, Is the picture thumb nail evidence of the new layouts for Second Life social networking. 


I'm interested to see how a revamped avatars united will integrate with the inworld experience if at all. It might just be an outworld web based social network with no interaction with its 3D virtual world counterpart(basically sl branded avatars united) , that would be disappointing.