Monday, April 25, 2011

Could Second Life market big franchise interactive experiences ever again? #SL

Im quite lucky in that i've grown up being bombarded by story telling techniques from all sorts of areas. 
I continue to have friends who geek out to film trivia. Friends who pass me skills of spontaneous roleplaying, others inspire a keen interest of old folk tales from before the written word, and i have a friend who's eyes light up at the mention of 'site specific'.

Talk about Second Life and you will no doubt start telling a story of things that you have experienced with friends or strangers, it's possibly Second Life's biggest asset no one can talk about.

SL is rather like the biggest art house on the planet. I've seen countless examples of people entertaining or educating others through virtual performing arts. From showing students the power of immersion via virtual worlds, Live indie bands that reach all around the globe to story telling via basic old fashioned word of mouth and theatres productions.

Then you have roleplaying which is more live action than videogame RPG, where the stories are not set in stone and change on a whim due to the interactions of the performers and the location.

I once thought this would be an area business, brands and marketeers would have gotten into, and in fact they did. Back in the SL hype days there was two instances i remember where Brands came into SL to try 'interactive marketing'.

The First was 'I Am LEGEND'. A movie tie-in created by the Electric Sheep Company in 2007. It was a series of sims depicting the empty streets as seen in the movie with HUDS and stuff to have team battles or something.



The Second was 'CSI:NY' Which was a tie-in with a specific episode of CSI.



Both of these had good ideas to allow residents to interact with the franchise and explore and experience their own individual stories based on 'I am Legend' & 'CSI'. Unfortunately in my opinion they were let down by limitations of the software and complexity of signups. Also due to SL's CLOSED WALL of communicating, no one could talk about their experiences to the greater world, which right now is the honey pot of the current marketing world.

These problems with SL maybe one of the reasons Rezzable left the main grid. Unhappy with LL's lack of enthusiasm in finding a solution, rezzable have started to work on their own solution to first steps on their own grid.

In 2007 Second Life may have shown a new pathway to interactive story telling content, but its expensive, complicated, graphically poor and uncommunicative. Paramount have produced a 3D interactive experience that gives you atmosphere, immersion and clues to what maybe in store from the film SUPER8. It is bundled on the back of the game Portal Two which sold 675,000 copies in one day.



This is a whole area that Second Life could have been leading as a platform for rather than crappy conference meetings. I tend to feel LL totally missed an opportunity there.

What's stopping Paramount or any marketing business using SL to create brand focused interactive trailers or experiences?

I would imagine the same old things…
1) impossibly complicated controls & UI
2) impossibly high hardware specs
3) impossible to communicate natively from SL.
4) expensive dear boy when the softwares broke and no one knows how to experience your content for a day or two.

Things are changing though and i don't think this kind of future cant happen, it's all possible. They are working hard to make SL easy to login to and experience. And i do believe with 3DMesh proper professional game designers will be able to do some wondrous things making SL look as good as some top end games.

Until then for us beta testers, it's like C3PO says "we're made to suffer, it's our lot in life"

Monday, April 18, 2011

#SL Goonies and the Sleeping Serpent

A mysterious chest appeared at the Rickety Town Centre amid all the newbs hunting for Eggmen.

The Goonies gathered to investigate and found a note on the side that gave a clue to where the chest came from

"Dear Goonies, 
       a gift for you, be kind and just DIE!
Sincerely yours,
     The Grand Master"


At this point Mr Doomdale the local debt collector and grumpy old man arrived and started telling the kids to disperse because they were making to much noise and scaring the Newby adult avatars.

Opening the chest the gang found a scroll. With the amount of scrolls the Goonies find on the island, they will soon be able to start up a library. On the Scroll were some words in an ancient language which Tepic being the inquisitive boy he is read out loud to the rest of the group.

"Medrid mor dragoon, difun ow cuscajor"

Suddenly Mr Doomdale started to choke and shake and a large cloud of smoke started to surround the old man. The Goonies watched in terror as Mr Doomdales body changed into a giant serpent dragon thing with wings and immediately started setting fire to the town and newbs.



After the initial panic and several minutes running around the Goonies set forth on a mission to uncover exactly what just happened. First some keene eyed Goonies noticed a symbol on the chest that closely resembled a similar symbol by the old gate in the Fae Forrest.



Soon the whole gang had found their way through the Fae gate into the Seelie Court where they found Dogstar, a strange looking Lesser Fae cooking stew.

After telling the fae creature what had happened to mr Doomdale they were told that they had found an old spell. Mr Doomsdale it would appear was in fact a dragon called Medrid placed under a Glamour Spell and what Tepic had done when he read the scroll out loud was break the glamour spell causing Doomdale to change into his true form, a Dragon Serpent.



The Goonies all face palmed before asking if they could somehow reverse whats happened before the whole of Escapades Island burns. Dogstar stirred his pot of stew before disappearing behind some trees. A few minutes later he emerged with a map.

"The only way you can reverse what you have done is by finding the five wyrd stones. This map will show you where they lay on the island. Once you have found them, you need to place them in a circle somewhere high and lure the serpent to the centre. Then shout the words of this spell "..................." 

The spell has not been written down as Dogstar was particular about such powerful words, saying that this mess is because of people writing down words.

Anyway Goonies split up to search for the stones while others tried to lure the dragon to the mountain top.



Eventually all 5 Wyrd Stones were found and dragged to the mountain top and placed in a circle. The Dragon Serpent appeared setting fire to the surrounding trees but the Goonies stood fast and waited for the dragon to land in the centre of the circle.

Finally with a loud roar the dragon was in place and the Goonies started chanting the magik words..... nothing,... so they chanted again... still nothing. Then as if suffering from chat lag the Wyrd stones lit up and sparkles emanated from them surround the dragon.




The body of the dragon became engulfed in dark smoke and when it cleared Mr Doomdale was a grumpy old man again who promptly scuffled off blaming the kids for a right old mess, much to the relief of the Goonies.



So once again the Goonies dealt with another of the Grand Masters Dastardly Plans, what will he do next?......

All images taken by Nat Merit, check out his Plurk of the event as it unfolded.

If you are interested in Joining the Goonies Adventures, join the Goony Social website and be informed of when the next 'Escapades Event' is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Did you get linked to this Blog post from inside or outside of #SL ? - Why i think concurrency keeps falling

visions of a future SL

Yesterday the Alphaville Herald snuck in before Tateru to post a story that quickly fluttered across the SL related infostream. 

"Second Life user-concurrency falls to lowest levels in two years"

So for the rest of the day my twitter feed was dropping many re-tweets of blog and forum posts on how Linden Lab could reverse the falling concurrency. Some blame the New User Experience as the root of the problem, others blame a lack of incentive or tasks. Others go so far as to blame the entire Linden Lab structure.

I don't believe changing the first user experience is going to help and i don't think adding incentives for people to do anything will help either, why? because the issue i believe is communication within Second Life Platform. 

Tateru points out a coincidence in the timing of a certain open spaces fiasco and the end of "sustained growth" in SL around March 2009. But i'd like to point out some other coincidences of around that time period.

1) People start reporting Group Chat failures .
2) Twitter takes off big time.
3) LL acquire Onrez & Xstreet and start promoting it to EVERYONE. 
4) Facebook Doubles to 500 million users
5) Tumblr takes off big time 

Why i think these are important factors in the dwindling concurrency is to do with how we communicate the SL world. While all these other highspeed ways of communicating to each other are taking off, SL it self starts to fail or just not move with the times in it's ability to communicate. 

Today i have not logged into SL yet to find out what my SL friends are up to, no need as they are telling me on twitter. 

I don't need to venture in world to find out what events are happening or what drama there is, i can find out on Blogger or Tumblr. 

I don't need to login to learn how to make Mesh content, i can just watch Youtube video tutorials or head over to the forums. 

I don't need to log in to search for new clothes or specific objects to put in a new role-play experience, i can just head over to market place.

And before some of you counter this with "well you just arnt using Second Life the way you are supposed to anymore", the way the majority use SL has changed but the way SL works has not and that is whats being reflected in the concurrency. It's changed in my opinion simply because of an inability to communicate in world. Lets take a look at some examples of communication inworld…


1) Nearby Chat
The number ONE form of communicating with strangers in SL. I often find that people around the globe find it easier to text chat than voice.




2) Instant Message 
One of the oldest forms of peer to peer communication, and still going strong in SL. In the RW my usage of IM messengers such as iChat and MSN has dwindled due to Facebook and Twitter. It's only the Old tech guys that seem to still use IM clients which is probably a reason why Linden Labs SLim client never left the beta band. But there is still a market for communicating to your SL friends inworld and as i just pointed out, for me at least Twitter is filling that roll.

3). Group Chat.
Issues started to appear probably before early 2009, two years ago. How important is group chat? i really should not have to explain that. Its frustrating to get any information out about current happening issues, events, help, etc. Group chat maybe the only bit of inworld communication that can not be experienced outside of SL, yet it has not worked properly for over two years!


4) Group Notices.
To me the whole premiss of 'group notifications' has long become old tech and predates some of the more proven and successful ways of sending short informative notices. Most people call it 'Microbloggin' now, and send the same notifications on Twitter or Plurk as a more efficient way to contact people across their many interests in SL, not just one group. Notices used to be the best way to send out events, news, landmarks etc, but since SLviewer2's skin job notices i find often get lost. If you are lucky you will see a notice pop up then disappear quickly, then when you check the little tiny corner box you discover in no particular order 99 notices you didn't know you had. Then you enter a clicky mess to read through them all.

5) Notecards
Many people use notecards to send information with pics and landmarks embedded in them. Thats because of fear that an Instant Message will be 'capped after 25' and you will never receive said IM. It's just another example of how communication in SL is fragmented. I hate receiving notecards, because i have to login to find out wether it's important or not. I prefer to be IM'd because my iphone receives all offline messages and my iPhone is with me almost ALL the time so i can reply if i need to without having to login these days.

6) Voice
I never really use voice so cant really comment on this feature. I don't use it, my friends don't use it. Only people i've seen use it are Newbs at welcome area and Linden Lab staff at meetings.





7) Search
Yes search is an important form of communicating, probably one of the most important. Yet this thing has been neglected also. I pay money for my shop to be listed in search but im almost certain no one has ever found it. I don't even use inworld search anymore because the results are confusing, the interface clunky and detached from everything else. Before i log into SL to go on a Goony Adventure i search the SL website destination guide, or twitter for anything new and interesting. 

8) Events
The events guide is a way to communicate your events to people outside of your immediate circle. This thing has not changed since i first joined over 5 years ago. It should be a really helpful feature but it's kinda stuck in the back next to search and i always forget about it. I often get group chat messages from like minded people looking for an event to go to, (but im never able to reply due to group chat not working properly). The reason for this is simply because they want events that are more targeted to them and their interests.


The SL community is a world wide collection of people with many different interests, and given the right tools they will share and promote each others interests freely and creatively. The decline in concurrency to my eyes is the result in SL's stagnation and neglect in what the rest of the tech world saw as a changing evolving era of communication. 

When Linden Lab bought Avatar United i was excited, i thought maybe finally we would get a reworked base for communicating in SL featuring  microblogging, more functional groups ect. Now either that whole thing has gone dead like Slim did or perhaps it's simply in the works and they are keeping it secret. CEO Rodvik did allude to "long-term initiatives that I think will be truly jaw-dropping" . I can only hope one of these initiatives is a new communication structure that allows SL residents to not only share and communicate between each other Inworld, but also be intergrated with the popular forms of communication outside. I'd like to see the many interests and creativity in Second Life being streamed directly from Inworld out to the rest of the web. There is no simple fix to this, they cant just slap a like button to everything, they have to work harder than we've ever perceived them to work before.

Linden Lab can ad shiny Mesh, slap on a new Ui skin, make the platform less laggy and introduce a basic viewer, all that will improve sign ups. But if Linden Lab does not address the ways its users communicate to each other what they build, visit, role-play and love about SL then concurrency will continue to drop as more and more users spend less time inworld communicating and Sharing. 


Friday, April 01, 2011

Could Mesh bring an end to #SL's exclusive hold on you and your avatar?

People have asked me why i haven't tried other grids yet and the answer has simply been because 'Loki'  and his appearance is locked into the #SL data base. 
It used to also be because all my friends are only in SL, and that all my objects are in SL…. but thats changing wether LL know it or not, Mesh could possibly free us all!

Below are my arguments for staying in Second Life and whats changed to make them no longer valid.

1). All my friends are in SL who i chat with.
The majority of my friends communicate with each other out side SL now via twitter, Plurk and  other more advanced social means. This is already detached from SL.

2). My account is important and i don't want to have to keep signing up to new services each time i enter a new grid. 
Thats soon to change. While reading the buzz surrounding Kitely i saw that it allows you to set up using your Facebook account. I can see me in future using my Twitter account rather than Facebook to login to grids. And since im using twitter to communicate to all my SL friends it's not that big a step.

3). All my content i built is stored on SL server, i cant be bothered to rebuild it all on another grid.
Sculpties gave a clue about where this was heading. All my sculpty builds are stored and can be replicated on another grid. Now here comes Mesh, completely off grid creations that in future you will be able to upload to what ever grid or marketplace available. Is it then a stretch to think it may even become possible to store mesh objects in a cloud storage thats accessible via the viewer as you loginto opens grids?

4). My avatar appearance is tied to the SL grid.
Again Mesh is coming to the rescue. For starters the SL basic avatar mesh is out of date, old and clumsy. Here is a vid of someones practice with making Mesh avatar. Mesh could pave the way for ultra detailed Avatar meshes and once you have a mesh that encapsulates everything you wish for your avatar, it's yours and you can store it on your computer. You will be able to upload it to which ever grid you decide to venture too. It might even end up stored locally within your viewer to be automatically uploaded on login to a grid.

What is interesting is that this pathway is based on what LL are currently doing or done. Makes me wonder if Linden labs plans are enough to stay strong once we've finally gained our Avatars freedom to choose where to go. 

But to be fair this is all probably 2 years down the line, who knows whats going to have changed in the Lab by then. Maybe tier cost will have been reduced by then!?? :-P

#SL Social Mesh

It's easy to get excited about Collada Mesh support
3D wether it be for Second Life & other virtual realms, Apples next gen OSX operating system that will include 3D api's for 3rd party applications, or the birth of social 3D product design, 3D modelling is becoming more casual.

Over the last couple of years ive become more involved with 3D modelling, all because of my Second Life. SL's simple building rules is visually easy to get into and learn compared to other 'Pro' 3D building applications. So why has there not been a standalone 3D application that combines SL's prim based building skills to create proper 3D models? All these extremely skilled builders in SL and there is nothing to apply those skills outside of the platform!

Even I still struggle to make sculpty prims in blender. I would love for a 3D modelling app that would use SL's basic building system and perhaps build upon that system to create good Collada Mesh objects.

Maybe Linden Lab could build this app themselves and sell it. Not only would it harness the 'Arts & Craft' creative power of the SL residents, but it would allow them to expand out beyond of SL. Second Life then becomes the playground for Social 3D modelling which it should already be.

Mesh is still a mess

Every time i look at mesh i think WOW look what people are doing! I admit i tried to make mesh and it did not like me, i dont know wether it was because: 
a) i used wrong modelling program, 
b) i was crap at modelling 
c) the viewer did not work cos its beta 
d) i have a mac 
e) i did not follow correctly the long list of rules needed to make a mesh object. 

I will continue to dabble with Mesh support, dont get me wrong the potential to have animated Ai sprites that move and bounce about is giggidy! But so far the way mesh is implemented seems a mess that is MUCH harder than rezzing and linking prims to instantly create.

here are some examples of mesh i like so far... I like how they ad things we've so far not had in SL.

The Flapping Bird. I dont yet know how its possible to animate a mesh object but would come in handy for Ai monsters.

Not only is this jeep highly detailed but it also appears to move and bounce realistically. I dunno if thats because its mesh or just great script programming.

This just shows that your avatar is no longer confined to the underlaying basic body mesh