Friday, December 30, 2011

Loki's Predictions for #SL 2012

I spent more time in SL this year
than last year
Predictions for SL have started popping up and for the most part they paint a rather pessimistic view.  
I think last year most of my friends and i were tired of the stagnation, but blimey what a year 2011 has been!

So i've decided to list my predictions for SL which will express my optimism that has grown through out 2011.

What ever happens next is built on progress gained from 2011….

1. Content creators will create the biggest and strongest change.
Is it me or are people forgetting that SL is made by US!. When Rodvik first arrived he expressed that Second Life is OUR world and the most interesting part of it is OUR creative energy. If SL is going to grow it'll be in some way down to us creators and what we build. It's up to us to embrace the tools LL have been working on through 2011 and to use them as best we can to create fantastic places, games, experiences, role-play havens or social environments.

2. Market place will become even easier and more efficient.
The new magic-boxless Marketplace is almost here allowing anyone to sell their creations on marketplace directly from their inventory. This will hopefully remove dramas such as crashing before deliveries etc. In world stores will find it difficult, and i saw some very old stores pack it in this year. It's a changing world, the game is changing just like in the real world.

3. More land will be used to host games and experiences to subsidise tier costs.
It was easy to rent out land for people to set up shops. It's not quite that easy to rent out land to set up micro-payment games and experiences. I still do not know exactly how the new gaming tools will be implemented. Will they be new scripting rules, or will they be options available in build edit or land tools? In any case from what Rodvik has blogged the Lab seem to be working on making it easier for you and i to create interactivity in what we make. It'll be up to us weather we use the tools to  charge people for entertainment.

4. SL feed integrated into other SL features.
Currently you can follow people, tag your current location and upload snapshots. It would seem silly to have the SLfeed and not have it tied into the destination guide, or on marketplace. I assumed that LL would simply ad a 'love button' by now. It would also be nice to have a simpler way to 'LOVE' your current location with one click.


5. LL will create a mobile project that allows us to share creative aspects with the mobile world.
Cant really predict what this will be. It's interesting what ever it is. The last new product from the Lab was a gated business orientated conference flop and did not involve the current SL user base. What i hope is that what ever Rodvik and his team unveil in 2012 it will thrive on the freedom of creativity the current SL users spill out.

6. Linden lab will fix notifications.
Ok so this is a HOPE more than a prediction. I hate the viewers notification system, i think its dreadful and has been for the past 2 years. I basically use my email client to store and organise offline notifications because SL Viewer lumps it all together in a tiny corner box and sometimes not at all. It just feels like a broken mess, so I'm hoping LL are working on new ways to present, store and organise notifications from groups, receiving items, offline messages, SLfeeds etc.

7. Destination guide will have to evolve into something more universal and dynamic.
Currently Linden Lab see the destination guide as a way to present places of interest to new users. But anyone can see that it is one of the best ways to find a place to visit no matter how many years you have been in SL. 

If Linden Lab want people to build and submit more games and experiences, then they will need to create ways to better manage visitors. I can't have over 2000 people arriving at my private region without it causing major lag and a terrible experience. The destination guide will have to change somehow or new users from the login screen will be continuously forwarded to places so full of people they will have the worst first experience.


8. Old users will loose out to those who take hold of new features and brave the lag of progress.
Not much i can really ad to that.


Im very excited about 2012. I do not see SL disappearing, i have to many projects on the go, to many friends enjoying their time in SL. If you think SL is not going to survive 2012, maybe you are just not interested anymore and are just predicting the demise of that interest. And from what i have witnessed through my attempts at making games in SL, there are plenty of people who are still exploring what SL has to offer.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Year of Change in My Second Life #SL


This is not predictions for next year but rather a comparative look at what i wrote this time last year.

1. Land. I spoke about how the old system of renting shopping space to help pay for over priced tier was gone thanks to market place and linden homes. 

So what happened during 2011? nothing really, except i have worked really hard to make gaming experiences that bring money back into the land to pay for the tier. Escapades saw a major drop in donations but thanks to the Secret underground base, the Eggmen hunt,  Zombie worm massacre and the Dark Aether Falls game i managed to hit Tier targets.


2. Shops. I said last year that Marketplace killed the in world shopping system, and i still believe that. Specifically affiliate sellers. 

During 2011 i re built my clothing brand and delved head first into Mesh clothing. I've seen record sales and gained a lot of positive feed back regardless of the deformer drama. But i am aware that i am now working with stuff far beyond simple linked prims. The game of creating a shop, selling quality items is a lot harder now.

3. Viewer2. As you can probably guess i basically said it was crap. I also touched on viewer fragmentation as the long time users refuse to use V2.

So has it been fixed? Well viewer 2 is now Viewer 3, or simply called 'Viewer' now. LL took a good look at making things simpler with a basic viewer mode, then integrating that basic idea and allowing a nice customisable UI which i liked.  But fragmentation of the viewer is still as annoying as ever. 

If you make stuff in mesh you have have a disclaimer that it's not viewable on all third party viewers, if i use Shared Media i have to have a disclaimer that its not viewable on all viewers. It leads to such frustration as people blame me for not being able to see the virtual world correctly when it is their decision to stick to out of date viewers.

The probable reason third party viewers are faster might have something to do with them not rendering the whole world.

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

During 2011 i became almost anti-Newb, i started to see them as a pest. While creating games it was near impossible to cater for them and while using destination guide to promote my experiences it was impossible to get away from them. As a result experiences i made slowed to a crawl. 

Oldbies continued to stick to what they know and complain about the changes, never has this been more clear than in 2011. Phoenix viewer finally right at the end of 2011 added mesh support, only for it to be noticeably slower and crash making it a completely pointless viewer. If anything it has convinced many that mesh is evil.

5. Communication. I talked about the group chat FAILs and the horrible notification system.

What changed in 2011? Well they fixed the group chat system which is great, well done for that. They also added the SLfeed which most third party viewer users are oblivious of. Possibly the greatest addition after Mesh the SLfeed allows to say to friends whats been going on, link places, and post pics direct from SL. I did not think i would check out my SL feed as much as i do seeing as i have Facebook and twitter as well, but it really has become a daily need to catch up on what my friends are doing. If you are not on SLfeed then you are BORING.

During the UI facelift the terrible notification system still remains unchanged, all be it is now at the top instead of the bottom. It now shoves SLfeed notifications into it as well to be lost for ever. There is also annoying issues of getting IM's via email and them not appearing once you login.

All in all 2011 saw communication for official SL Viewer improve lots, but the way we receive and display notifications still needs serious makeover.

6. My Island and my friends. i said that 'My biggest aims will be finding a balance between making content & experiences in SL and Doing work in real world.'

Well i could not foresee the problems that would crop up during 2011 but I'm really REALLY grateful for the support i got from my SL friends. A lot of stuff never happened in SL that had been planned but a lot of unplanned stuff did happen and Escapades is still here.

During 2012 i would like to bring the Escapades gang together more as a family and help each other to build Escapades concentrating on what we want the island to be.

I tried roleplaying games on the island, and i tried mini games on the island, made a shop, was placed on destination guide five times. I buried myself in work on SL and failed to make it balance with real world work, so maybe it's time to accept that SL is my work in 2012.

7. Linden Lab. I said i look forward to what those left at LL after the great cull of 2010 come up with in 2011. For me at least it has been a fun year watching the Lab churn out new stuff, trying new ideas. The lab is a lab now, and everything they seem to change keeps changing and improving. The cogs are moving and SL is steaming forward, to where we don't care just as long as it moves! :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

llSay(0,"Roleplaying Games and Trolls and Lag OH MY") #SL


It's that week between christmas when you sit back and relax with left overs and rubbish tv…. 
well thats what it's supposed to be. In stead i have been popping into SL every couple of hours to check on SIM performance and dealing with user questions regarding the Dark Aether Falls game.

The Dark Aether Ends
Lets step back a few weeks first. Early december the Dark Aether Falls role-play was in full swing after two months build up. The Mini clue hunt game was finished and served as a side plot for a story explaining who Jason Moriarty was and present a few ideas for why he was so hell bent on the destruction of the town.

The residents of New Babbage loved this small game as a prelude to the final chapter and end of the story which this year entailed a ritual, race against time hunt amongst the clouds to stop the Dark Aether from falling. 

Everything was automated this year making it easier for me to do talking parts between NPC's while the machinery clanked away behind me revealing the final monster. This was all thanks to my continued efforts in grasping SL scripting by communicating with brilliant minds on the SL scripting forums.


































The story that unfolded was everything i hoped for with the Cloud angels, Moriarty, the Van Creed, the canisters all converging for a climatic end with a building collapsing around the players in a panic. Everything went to plan except as hard as i tried to kill off the main character the players refused to let him die :). So as i close this chapter of my creative story it has been taken out of my hands by those who are so involved with the cannon created that they can't bare to let it die.

The feed back from the residents of New babbage has been phenomenal and extremely positive and although i have said i will not be returning next year with an rp on that scale, I'm sure i will will have something because what i learnt this year is that creating an RP story for a small group is very different and sometimes more rewarding than making a game experience for a mass of people.



The Dark Aether Continues
So what happens when 80 people an hour arrive to play your gaming experience? Let me take another step back to explain how its possible to end up having 80 people an hour arriving at your region.

When i first announced the Dark Aether Falls mini game at the start of december i had only just submitted my game to Destination Guide. Linden Realms was being promoted on the main login screen and all over the front of the Destination guide. I thought at first as you do that they were just using their godly powers to be ahead of everyone else. I now believe it was necessary for them to understand how the destination guide herds n00bs to places en mass and to gage how regions cope with the strain.

I myself enjoyed being placed in the Destination guide at a position that saw low but manageable levels of interest from people who were experienced in SL.

What happens when 80 people an hour arrive at your region?
Then came boxing day and suddenly New Babbage was seeing thousands of people a day arriving to play the Dark Aether Falls mini game. It was soon discovered that the Dark Aether had been placed on the number one slot of the login screen and New babbage was suffering. The SIM crawled to a halt as people continued to arrive at the HUD shop making it impossible to do anything. Not only does movement become impossible but script also start being delayed and so the game HUDS stopped working.

And this is where i am today, overwhelmed by the interest caused by the Login Screen Destination guide, trying to help those i can who have managed to get through the lag to play the game they purchased in SL. For many this is their first experience of SL after going through the orientation and i so wish it wasn't. I feel helpless to do anything. 

I requested the destination guide editor to remove the Dark Aether from the number one slot to try and lower the number of visitors which they did and New Babbage is once again playable. Thanks to the LL editor being quick :).


'Be careful what you wish for'
yes i wished for lots of people to be able to experience what i make, and why shouldn't i? I haven't been put off by whats happened in New Babbage, instead i view it as highlighting a very important area in which the Lab NEEDS to be aware of and strive to fix. 

The lab has avoided this issue with their Linden Realms game as they created twelve regions. Im not sure how many people can afford £3500 a month tier costs (not including VAT) to run a game in a similar fashion, but the drop off from destination guide will kill you out right. I would like to know how many are still playing Linden Realms now it has dropped off the number one slot. 

Linden Lab want us to use new gaming tools to build games in order to bring value back into owning land and encourage new and current users to stick around longer. Combine that with the current destination guide, all you will get is bad experiences like i'm currently going through :).


Egnog shows a fragmented future.
Dark Aether aside, i did one final gaming experience before the end of the year. Egnog the christmas Troll is a character i created for my SL friends. He is not of any faith and simply gives you a present if you want it. Originally created 4 years ago he was made crudely with 24 sculpt prims and this year i decided to recreate him and his winter grotto in MESH. He is now only 10 prims and more detailed.



The grotto is perfect example of all that i have learnt this year in SL. From Mesh modelling and texturing to automated scripted machines and gaming HUDS. Unfortunately the free Egnog game HUD does not work so well, but again i have learnt a lot from making it. 

It has highlighted an issue that will plague me and those working in Mesh to make detailed, efficient builds throughout 2012. That is the issue of fragmentation between viewers.

Part of the decision to make Egnog in mesh was because the Phoenix viewer now has mesh support, but the feed back i was getting was that many could not see Egnog because they had changed back to the old phoenix simply because it's a faster viewer. If you remove the ability to render objects, textures sounds and lighting, then yeh your viewer is going to be faster of course, but then you can't complain when you don't see things.

We should be embracing mesh viewers and demanding that LL make it work better.

Anyway Egnogs winter grotto is open to who ever visits Escapades Island or shares between friends and will be around until New Year.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Dark Aether falls Mini Game of Clue Hunting and Bug Zapping #SL


This weekend will hopefully see my latest attempt at a game added to SL destination guide (fingers crossed). 




Part of a much BIGGER story.
Part of the fifth New Babbage Chronicles Roleplay game in Second Life is is designed as a simple clue hunt game to uncover a small part of the overall story The Dark Aether falls. The Roleplay has already been unfolding for almost two months and is nearing its end dead line and while the residents of New Babbage have been writing lots and lots about their reactions to the story and contributing their own spin off encounters i have been working on this mini game.

The aim of the game is to uncover the truth about why a man is found hanging in the Red Dragon Opium Den. Following Clues and solving riddles while watching machinima cut scenes that explain the story. It is a way for people to get into the spirit of New Babbage who's motto is 'what could possibly go wrong'.

The end is somewhat open ended allowing those who are interested to stick around, talk to other residents of New Babbage and perhaps become addicted as i have to the steam filled smoggy city of Steampunk.


Building on experience.
The game itself is a combination of what i have learnt from past games such as the evil zombie worms and last years The Black Heart. It uses a HUD to allow the user to play the game. It holds all the parts of the story and you basically search the town for the clues which when you click activate the necessary part of the HUD.  The HUD also comes with the Dapper Zapper with which you can dispatch annoying evil Aether Bugs that run around in the sewers.

The Dapper Zapper and HUD together cost just L$100 which is about  USD$0.50 and i hope people will feel the experience is worth it.





Shared Media woes continue a year later.
It is a shame the new LL gaming tools have not been released yet as they might have helped make the initial start of the game easier for those with little SL Skill. Also i found it really hard to get the Shared Media to work across all versions of SL viewer and on windows.

For some reason on my Mac using Viewer V3 the machinima cut scenes worked perfectly in world. But on windows on Viewer V3 the Videos appeared just grey. Wether this is a Flash plug in issue, or a windows Webkit issue i do not know as I'm not a software engineer. 

The shared media video does not work at all on the popular out dated Phoenix viewer so an external video version of the HUD was included allowing people to click a button to pop the video outside into a web browser.


image from Nat's record of battling Aether Crabs

The Writer who's writing a story backwards

Monday, December 05, 2011

Goonys visit the Linden Realms #SL #Slgames


So i finally got round to visiting the Linden Realms game and wow. 
Straight away I'm hit with 'HOW DID THEY DO THAT!???"

Over the last year i have battled with the limitations of second life when making basic gaming experiences that are familiar to those from proper games. Other than the basic cause and effect scripting and the 100% health level of a damage enabled sim, there isn't anything else.


Here is a break down of what Linden Realms does and how the tools could improve games I've already built.

Instant Teleport
In Linden Realms: 
The Goonys walked to the Linden Realms Portal which automatically teleported you to the game region. This is the first 'WTF?' moment . 
What i have thats similar: 
The closest i got to an auto teleport is for people to voluntarily click a board that teleports to the game location. Such as in the secret Underground base i have a hole you have to click to go down into.
Effect on my Games: 
You would be able to just walk on the hole and automatically be teleported down the hole.

Will be interesting to see how this can't be used to grief people



Auto Attachments
In Linden Realms: 
Next we all automatically had a crystals HUD attached out of no where. I searched high and low for a scripting mechanism that might auto ad a HUD. This was because i wanted news on basic viewer to be able to wear my Bashables HUD so they could operate the bashing sticks.
What i have thats similar: 
The Bashables system on Escapades allows you to activate a stick to bash things on the island with one click. Unfortunately once you have been given the HUD and stick you have to find it in your inventory to then wear it.
Effect on my Games: 
The New tools could allow for the Bashable HUD's to auto attach making it easier for new people to quickly have fun on Escapades




Deadly Scenery
In Linden Realms: 
Then the Goonies went searching for Crystals upon which i Stumbled into a green swamp and promptly drowned and teleported to a respawn point rather than my designated home point.
What i have thats similar: 
I tried once in a goony adventure to have a room fill with custard. Those goonies unfortunate enough to get out the room before the door closed ended up growing in custard. With the help of my friend we created a script that would request to teleport them to a location on the island when the custard prim rose high enough to touch them. The drawback of course was it only teleported one at a time and had to wait for each to accept the teleport.
Effect on my Games: 
I can drown Goonies on mass!




NPCs
In Linden Realms: 
We suddenly became aware of big rock monsters chasing us, and it was really fun as they moved and followed at just the right speed that you could only JUST get away :) If they touched you then you died and teleported to respawn point.
What i have thats similar: 
Evil Zombie Worms. They use a basic base script package that i can drop into any monsters making them follow people. These follow in jerky movements as the detect script hurts every second or so to locate nearest resident. Also they do no damage because you need land to be set to damage enabled in order for objects to kill you and send you to your home point.
Effect on my Games: 
I could make goblins, worms, and other nasty things a threat to my visitors, not just a nuisance.

Loki faces off a Rock Monster with paper


Im only speculating how the new tools might be able to enhance my own games. As yet LL have not told us exactly what these new gaming feature tools are so some of what i said might not work, it all depends how much is scripting and how much is region level permissions.

Regarding Linden Realms itself, my friend Jesper pointed out that it was not very social game. The Hud gave us tasks to do and places to go, and after dying and re-spawning the group quickly got split up. For anybody thinking of making games in SL my friends and i personally think that group activity is a very important piece of what makes Second Life special and should be considered in the games created from here on.

The Mesh modelling used for the scenery is a good
example of how mesh can produce stylish yet
efficient content. Some might think it to simple.


Goony Adventures In Second Life #SL

It has been a while since i last posted a Goonies Adventure on my blog, 
so here is a quick run down of the places we have visited in Second Life in the past view months before i write a special post about Linden Realms….

One of the hardest things i'm having to deal with on Escapades Island is how to organise the Groups. First there was the Goonies group, then came the homestead called Goony island, then came the Full Sim Escapades witch welcomed everyone not just Kid Avatars, then came the MyEscapades group. 

Now the Goonies is a separate group of adventure and its closely tide to Nemo Beach which is part of Escapades. But it's a kid avatar only group essentially and not suitable for everyday stuff regarding escapades island.

The only solution is to start treating MyEscapades as the main group for notifications etc, which means getting rid of surplus members of the gooneys group and getting everyone to join MyEscapades for updates on escapades activities. This could end up being mildly disruptive but needs to be done.

Anyways on with the adventures starting with….


COCOON-Hope - July
Very odd place this, a real arty place to explore starting at an old school bus. We discovered elephants, strange TV screens and a giant walking… thing… A dreamscape.




Folkvang - August
This was a PROPER adventure and i recommend EVERYONE go here to play Frejas Quest. You have to follow the clues and unlock the treasure chests. This was brilliant as not only dd you get free viking armour and jewellery you also were taken to the mythical land of the ice giants via a boat tour. All the Goonies were VERY impressed with this place which at the start did not seem all that much. Great example of how BIG adventures can be had in small places.







Haunted Hotel in Bay City? - October
As is tradition the Goonies went on a mission to photograph ghosts as part of the october season. We first visited a Haunted hotel, i can't remember the name of. It was full of ghosts or at least spooky goings on. I even got a free tricycle!
After the hotel was swept for ghosts, the Goonies then headed over to a haunted castle where i found a rather awesome spiral slide WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!





Some sort of Library & Bonifacio - November
The first place i can't remember the name of, It was an interesting arty place similar to Cacoon Hope but this place had a great big library with waterfall inside. 

We then ventured to a place called Bonifacio where the tall buildings with light reminded me of the film Tron. We finished the adventure by getting on my Airship and looking for my brother who was somehow stuck int he floor .. again..... then we crashed and the adventure was over LOL.




My little brother Gemini loves to get melded with ground.



So now we are up to date on the Adventures of the Goonies. We next visited Linden Realms but ill blog about that in my next post!. Soon it will snow on Escapades and with it more tom foolery from the SL Goonies gang of misfits!