Thursday, March 31, 2011

Loki's Mum steps in to do MiniMix

As some of you had heard my cousin did not turn up to do the super Minimix for a new segment of my weekly show. Instead my Mum courageously stepped in to pick up the decks and well, you heard.

If you missed the show you can hear an edit of the mix below.

Loki's Mum Mixing it up freestyle!

Since my cousin will not be showing up any time soon and my after my Mum had such a fun time Mixing this week it looks like she will be returning for next weeks show with an all new minimix :-s god help us!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Levelling up in #SL

I looked at splitting the different layers of SL interaction into Levels of skill achievements.

Level 0: Spectator
Characteristics: looks like one of the default avatars. Seems kind of clumsy in their movement. Talks alot
Skills: Basic Viewer prohibits them from doing anything other than walk and talk.
Achieved by: Making a second life account.

Level 1: Newb
Characteristics: Walks around looking for something to do and people to teach them. Can often be found in Avatar edit pose surrounded by rezzed boxes of free stuff.
Skills: Very basic movement. Basic Knowledge of inventory
Achieved by: Changing from Basic viewer to Advanced viewer.

Level 2: Consumer
Characteristics: Drops boxes bought on marketplace all over the place. Can be found hanging out at clubs. Frequently arriving at Destination guide places looking for something to do. 
Skills: Has learnt how to buy Linden dollars and uses marketplace and destination guide to have a good time meeting people. Has better understanding of inventory and has mastered the groups feature joining club groups. Fully capable of conversing with other avatars in an immersive fashion.
Achieved by: Buying Linden Dollars, joining groups and experimenting with the inventory. Also chatting to people.

Level 3: Contributor
Characteristics: Contributes to their virtual space either by creating objects, selling objects, roleplaying, blogging about their space, renting land, or causing drama. 
Skills: Fully immersed in the SL experience to a level anyone below Level 3 can not comprehend. Has mastered at least some basic creative skills for example, scripting, Sculpties, 3D Mesh, texturing, ect.
Achieved by: Finding community and goals that inspire the user to contribute.

Level 4: Cultural Curator
Characteristics: This level is not necessarily achieved by one single person, in most cases a group of people form Cultural Curator status. They have at least 2 years of SL experience and fight to sustain the community which they have grown part of. Talks about almost nothing but Second Life. Is outraged at least once a week by something Linden Lab does. 
Skills: Mastered almost all the Master creative skills. Owned or rented a lot of land. Has a broad understanding of Second Life how it works. Above all has achieved a purpose they could not achieve real world which they will defend until digital death!
Achieved by: Spending over2 years in SL. Owning Land. Being recognised by peers as being someone of influence. mastering some of the Master Creative Skills.

Ok i have no real evidence that this is at all accurate. My point is that there are levels of skill in SL and the gap between Newb and fully immersed contributing resident is vast.

Would it be a smart idea to build places that somehow catered to all these levels though? I don't want to build a place thats dumbed down just for Level 0, but i also don't want to build a place that you need to be a Level 3 to understand and interact. Food for my own thoughts....

Monday, March 28, 2011

#SL is full of hobbyists

So i had a town meeting on my #SL island yesterday to discuss recent activities and future ideas.  I discussed with my friends about the fact we get lots of visitors to the island, but how do we get them to contribute to the tier especially when they are in basic viewer and cant buy. In a way it's a very ANTi business approach and more towards establishing a user base for SL. It' up to us to convince new people to want to first change to advanced mode, and then choose to buy linden dollars, then persuade them to part with those dollars. Quite a task.

How much is that experience?
A few months ago i envisioned a future SL where we could market our inworld builds outside of SL, invite people in and experience something, maybe buy a souvenir, or tip.

If i decided to offer my story creative experience to other plot owners in SL? What is the reality of that? would someone be willing to pay me a fair wage per hour to build them an experience in SL?

Designers don't tend to design for hobbyists and currently SL is full of hobbyists. Hobbyists will not be expecting to pay the sort of costs design and marketing agencies charge. Take the John King experience for instance. Fully original illustrations, scripted objects and fully realised 3D environment. If that was done as a website, how much do you think a client would be charged for it? a couple of grand?

You expect those sorts of prices for marketing projects, not hobbies or charities yet LL charge private landowners as if they are big business brands, i guess a left over from when all the brands left SL.

Marketplace is IMVU
A lot of people send me comments saying they still shop inworld and don't use marketplace but the fact is im still making all my sales on marketplace, and none inworld. Even when we had the huge rush of residents new and old, none of the island plot owners saw any sign of an increase in inworld sales. 

Marketplace IS a separate experience to Second life now. I reckon you could detach it from SL and it would still thrive as it's own thing. Actually i have no idea how well marketplace is doing at the moment. I think there is some possibilities in connecting marketplace back to the inworld, maybe even gaming the marketplace. 

Future Escapades
There is a warm fuzzy feeling around Escapades at the moment. Have had a few more people rent plots and with the influx of visitors there is always something happening. And there is more to come with ideas on charging to experience stories as well as catering for basic viewer newbs. And it does not stop inworld as i want to experiment with reaching outworld to.

It's become a real island of adventure and one you cant experience in one visit.

After reading back what i wrote it occurred to me that the Hobbiest culture of SL is kinda synonymous with the Arts & Crafts culture.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#SLbasicViewer - a perfect view into our world.

I remember posting a response to a blog post last year about making a basic viewer with all the complex rubbish removed, so i was gobsmacked to see LL have gone and done this.

Already there are cries of "NOooOOoOo you are removing the heart and soul of SL". I think it needs to be understood why there HAS to be a basic viewer. There are layers to Second Life once you manage to get through the orientation, find a place to visit, then start making friends. But many do not get that far, they do not find places, they do not experience anything that will hook them and they log off never to be heard again. 

"oh yeh i tried SL once, i could not find anything or anyone and the controls confused me"

Thats the basics that this new low level viewer aims to tackle. It aims to remove the complexity and give the newb the experience in a simple controlled manner. What Linden Lab will hopefully be trying out is what exactly needs to be put in or removed from the basic viewer in order to give a newb the best simple experience. And this is where the SL community will probably be split upon. 

I took the basic viewer for a spin today on my island. I have created some experiences for SL residents and wanted to see how well they performed in this basic viewer. What aspects of the experience is available to the newb on basic viewer and which are not.

1. Money
Basic viewer does not use Linden Dollars, which kinda screws private region owners even further in the butt. The Basic viewer makes it impossible to pay for good experiences. In summery LL charge me high tier, then expect me to offer my creative builds for FREE to basic viewer users. I want more incentives to build engaging free places for newbs to visit in basic viewer!

2. Inventory.
It's good that the inventory has been removed because its a terrible messy system of storing items. But i cant help thinking they do need at least something to allow giving items to wear or use. I'm only saying this because people on the basic viewer cant use my bashing stick to interact with my island.

The complexity of the Inventory is why it's not included so a non complex way of allowing items for basic viewers is needed. The answer may not even lay with an inventory, perhaps simply allowing objects to ask the user to be worn is an answer. User clicks on object, object requests to be attached to user, user accepts, now they have a bashing stick to unlock more things?

Another idea might be a special gifts or collected tab that only allows up to 20 items. Once it is full you can not receive any more items until you either delete or archive items in the collected tab. (archiving would move items into pro viewer inventory).

3. User Interface
This is a UI thing that might just be me. It does not scale well with monitor resolutions. My Monitor is quite small, 1360x768 and the destination guide was cut off. So was the default avatar selection. I could not read any info about places and when i clicked a place thinking i would get more info on it, i ended up teleported there. 

It's more intuitive for me to click the tab button to make the destination guide disappear rather than hunting for a small X in the corner.

There should be a far greater message at login saying "please wait for your world to load"

4. Social sharing.
with all the palaver about Facebook connecting im surprised there is nothing in basic viewer to expand on this. Maybe it was in the cut off Destination guides, or just in the user profiles. I may have missed it.

Final thoughts about basic viewer.
If we will not be allowing newbs to use linden dollars, then we don't really want them hanging around in Basic viewer for long. I want them out of basic viewer and into Pro viewer as quick as possible so they can buy my crap so i can pay off the high tier prices. Thats why features we are used to in the Pro viewer can not be implemented in the basic viewer, we don't want them to have the same experience.The Basic viewer is BASIC, it's an observation only window into our world. The hopeful result being that once they have got used to the intuitive basic controls they have seen enough to interest them into taking the bigger step… using the unintuitive Pro viewer2 :-p

So to be honest i think it works great and with a little consideration from land owners people could see some great things to encourage them to delve further into SL. The only area i feel needs work is the Ui, its very important that destination guide works well. You can see in my video where i instinctively wanted to pull the destination guide window up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who in their right mind would want to develop in #Secondlife #SL

All this experience that i have learnt, all that i can do on this virtual platform, how much is it worth and to who?

Where Facebook allows people to develop apps for its community, we in SL build experiences. Unlike Second life though, Facebooks apps are much easily shared between its community with 'share this' and 'like'. Facebook has good communication and sharing, after all thats what Facebook was built upon.  

Second Life is a platform where 3rd party developers or "residents" can build highly interactive and evolving games & experiences. Why wont second life evolve into the number 1 platform for 3rd party virtual world development? 

Rezzable is one of the bigger names who took Virtual World experiences seriously. They created the grid famous Greenies sim. They left to develop their projects in a space more cost effective and productive. Is that the fait of every resident of Second Life who decides to take development in the platform seriously?

My dreams of making a small revenue from my Experience Developments are crushed by Linden Lab. I want to be an entrepreneur in the new 3D world but i'm hardly encouraged. 

The price of things that wont come.
Price and communication is the two biggest flaws in SL's current state. You might say "oh but what about viewer2!" well its awkward UI and crap communication framework make it part of SL's overall inability to allow users to communicate and immerse into the SL social experience.

High land prices are starting to Kill off entrepreneurs. Where it once worked well, now over time the economic landscape has changed but Linden Lab has not changed its pricing structures to evolve with those changes.

Owning a Region was more like being a caretaker for Linden Lab, coming up with some creative ways make sure LL got their Tier end of the month.
Resident consumers are renting less and less land to live on. Will this effect content creators who build furniture for homes as no one will have land to put it on?

Changing tier prices on its own wont help SL, nor will just fixing communication. Both need to be fixed together in order to maximise Second Lifes growth and development. Lowering Tier could expand land ownership, improve development of engaging experiences. While improved communication will allow users to share and be involved with all thats being built.

This day will come, question is will i still be around to see it :-s. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pirate Party at the John King Tavern with live indie band 'engrama' #SL

So after a month of preparation Escapades held another large event with the awesome band [engrama] playing live again. This time they also streamed live video of their Real World Selves into second life for us to see.

The New John King tavern set a great immersive setting for the band and many commented on how fun it was with almost 50 people packed into the small tavern. With settings low Lag proved not to much of an issue, even when we started a bar fight throwing stools across the room.

Thanks again to [engrama] for playing such an awesome gig, and thanks to everyone who turned up to the show.

If you are a music performer and would like to play at the John King tavern in future, please contact either Loki Eliot or Skyler Pooley in Second Life.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pancake Races and degrading graphics support #SL

So this week being Shrove tuesday i organised the annual New Babbage pancake race which took place on the New Babbage region. Last year it was held on Port Babbage which is notorious for being quite laggy.

Now this is the forth pancake race i have organised and is the 3rd that i have filmed, which gives an interesting opportunity to see how Second Life has progressed in graphics and stability over three years. Well you might have already gleamed from my heading that it's not great.

Windlight was introduced in 2007 and took a long time to be tweeked in order look good. In 2008 i created a video to show New Babbage using windlight to give a smoggy atmosphere. March 2009 i filmed the New Babbage Pancake race for the first time. Using Windlight settings and ramping up my SLviewer1 settings on my brand new Macbook Pro 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB Ram, and a NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with 512mb ram. Framerate was average while motion was smooth using the then new 3dSpacenavigator Mouse.

Move forward a year to 2010 and another Pancake race. This time held in one of New Babbages most laggy regions, Port Babbage. Being a port it is next to water and so reflections are needed and the draw distance needs to be high so i ramp up the graphics option on SLviewer1. The resulting video was ok seeing as there where a lot more avatars attending that year.

Zip forward another year and yet another pancake race. This time im using SLviewer2 and it seems not to support my macbook pros graphics. Since Viewer 2.1 the performance has dropped dramatically due to stuttering jerky rendering. The only way i was going to be able to record this years race was to lower the SL graphics settings, no windlight, no reflective waters, no fog. Yet even with the settings down right down, still the viewer performed worst than last year.

I've voted and commented on countless Jira reports and blogs, created a few youtube videos to show the difference in performance, but i seem to be in my own little world. I hope to get a new Macbook Pro soon as my current one is just over 2 years old, but there is no guarantee that what effects my current Macbook Pro, does not effect the new ones too.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Goonies Adventure - Tableau "lets go to the candy mountain Charlie!" #SL

This month The Goonies gathered en force to set out on another adventure to a random sim. This usually entails me at the last minute checking the destination guide for something new.

Tableau caught my attention on the destination guide as we haven't been to a desert sim before. I was slightly worried there would be nothing but desert. Oh was i wrong.

Quite a large group of us arrived at the awesome desert town of Tableau and there was plenty to see while chasing tumbleweeds. One thing to note is you MUST have the regions music stream playing, it really ads to the bizarreness.

What do kids do when they see a rusty old car?
Stand on it!

Myrtil find Bloodfangs home.

The Goonies make their way down the dusty town street.
Nat looks at me worried that he's being snapped wearing
skin tight trousers again thanks to viewer2.

Suddenly we find a Candy mountain which reminds some of the Goonies
of a certain Unicorn called Charlie "lets go to the candy mountain charlie!"

With our kidneys still intact we headed over to what looked like a
rundown funfair. Nothing like a giant scary face to invite you in.

I wonder if this Bunny came from the same pet shop Kris got his?

After finding a secret hole we all found ourselves in a really awesome
bright glowing dance club.

Yti and Unix somehow caught a nasty spirit of jazz bug.

As the Sun started to set the Goonies ended up at an old
open air theatre where some of the Goons put on special free puppets.

The others watched with puzzled faces as the show went on. Something about
SL uprisings, Linden Lab and the end of M's regime.

So once again the Goony Adventure comes to a close. What I thought might be a bit dull ended up being quite interesting with some nice surprises hidden about the place. Of course a Goony adventure is not a success unless some strangers day is made all the better by our goony presence. We met a couple who thought our massive gang of misfits were adorable and wanted a group photo next to the giant bunny, so MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!