UGCFTW5!

Well, the news has somehow leaked out that today is my fifth rezday; it’s been five years since I joined Second Life (presumably on 22 November, 2006).

I remember some time back (must have been quite awhile) I was lucky enough to attend a Fifth Rezday Party for Washu Zebrastripe (the inventor of prim hair!), and we were all astounded that anyone could have a Fifth Rezday Party. Of course, as I recall, this was shortly before SL5B, and for a Resident to be older than the world itself is pretty amazing.

I can’t claim that distinction. :) But I do have a last name (or a dot in my name, depending how you look at it), and I remember when the Grid used to go down like every Wednesday (at the very least), and when we had real lag, not these tiny slowdowns that youngsters complain about these days. (We didn’t have none o’ these “sculpties”, either; flexi-prims were new and shiny enough for us!)

I thought I would take a few minutes’ break from the fireworks and parades in my honor and so on to say how great I still find SL, and scribble down my thoughts on some of the reasons why.

It’s very significant, I would say, that I’ve just starting taking a serious look at PvE combat and combat scripting in the last couple of weeks. And similarly that I just started breeding my first breedables in the last few months. Two things, each of which have been around for a long time, each of which are The Big Thing about Second Life to a significant number of people, and yet it’s taken me Five Years to get around to them. And there are still more things waiting for me that I haven’t tried at all yet; probably haven’t even heard of yet.

On the other hand I haven’t played World of Warcraft in weeks (months, maybe); because I’ve done everything that I want to (one 85 DPS, one 85 healer, one 85 tank, all the raiding experience I felt like getting). I may get lured back in for awhile to play a Pandaren, and to get my main toons up to level 90, but then I will probably get bored again.

And dearly as I love Glitch for its humor and quirkiness and art, I haven’t been doing any more recently than poking my head in, tending my little garden, squeezing my chicken and milking my butterfly, maybe gathering a few beans from the nearest bean-trees, and leaving again. There’s a complete encyclopedia of everything there is to do there, and I’ve either done, or decided not to bother doing, just about all of it. I know the devs will be adding stuff, eventually, and then maybe I’ll come back to look at it.

I occasionally get messages from other virtual worlds I’ve tried, like Blue Mars and Twinity and all, about how a new shopping mall has been added, or how they’ve added a new beach where there’s a vehicle you can drive around. And these make me laugh, because they’re so trivial. Can you imagine getting a piece of mail every time someone made a new model of car or motorcycle in SL, or opened up a new shopping mall or public beach? Talk about information overload!

The reason, the only reason that Second Life has been able to hold my interest for five years, is that users can create stuff.

(The people I’ve met there also hold my interest, but that’s interest in the people, which could have been maintained via Skype or email or even (gasp) actual visits, even without SL.)

So this is going to be another post like my original UGC FTW post (three years ago, I see!), only somewhat less organized. :)

User-generated content instantly gives Linden Lab a huge staff of unpayed (and for that matter of paying) content developers, who produce the content that keeps people coming back to the world, and keeps them wanting to live there, and keeps there being brand-new stuff all the time, driven by the Invisible Hand of the Market to cater to users’ wants. User-generated content isn’t just about the creators; in fact it’s not even primarily about the creators. It’s primarily about the people who see or get or buy or otherwise experience the work of the creators, and thereby find the world an interesting and enjoyable place.

(I say it’s “primarily” about the content consumers rather than the content creators because, with a few exceptions, we all consume more content than we create; we all enjoy more stuff that other people make than we make ourselves. I create lots of content that I like and that I hope other people like, but I experience orders of magnitude more content created by others.)

I think this is the key thing that most of the people tossing around the weird little milkshake analogy lately are missing. (The original article, headlined as it is “Why Second Life Failed”, of course seems to me to be coming from some Zone of Deep Cluelessness, since as far as I’m concerned SL is doing just fine thank you.)

All of this “milkshake” thing seems to boil down to saying that you can figure out which products are going to succeed by figuring out what they are for, and then seeing if that is something that people want. (Deep, eh? I wish I could think of deep stuff like that and then write books about it and all.)

I think this is actually wrong and/or stupid in many cases; I would argue that most innovations have been potentially able to do lots of different things, and the reason they succeeded is that their owners were able to figure out pretty quickly which of those things people actually wanted, and bend them in those directions. (In fact even the original milkshake example shows that, if you consider the product to be the store and its services as a whole, rather than just the milkshake line.)

And that’s exactly the right way to think about Second Life. It’s not designed to provide one specific thing; it’s designed to let people create and provide to each other whatever it is they want (within the capabilities of the platform). That general approach can’t lose. The platform has to have good enough affordances for people to actually use it, it has to have good mindshare and stability and so on, it has to be sufficiently funded to survive dry times, and so on; but the general principle is just pure win.

From this point of view, it would be exactly wrong to try to figure out what Second Life is, or should be, designed to do, except for the very high level “to enable people to create and experience stuff that they want to create and experience”. As we (and the Lab) notice some kinds of things that people are using it to create and experience right now, we can definitely make sure that the world is, and stays, good at those things. But that doesn’t mean we can decide that those are The Things, and focus only on those. Enabling User-Generated Content in general, and keeping the world good at that, in general, is in my very strong and pronounced opinion the right way forward. If Linden Lab doesn’t do that, someone else will; and whoever does do it will win.

(And that will eventually mean lots of money, as I’ve observed before.)

So anyway. :) Those are my Fifth Rezday Thoughts on why it is that I’m having a fifth rezday at all, and why and how Second Life has held my interest for all this time, and how it can keep doing that, for the Good of All.

Now, back to the cake!

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Battling Bots

The Sinister Inventor contemplates his latest Evil Creation.

Contemplating improvements

“I believe the lower edge is dragging on the ground; perhaps if I boosted the hoverheight a bit…”

Well, that worked

“Well, that worked.”

Removing the combat HUD leads to instant resurrection.

Dale's Killbots

“Ah, my faithful lethal servants! What shall I call you? Dale’s Killbots, perhaps. ‘Daleks’ for short!

“Nah, that’s a silly name…”

(The combat scripting proceeds apace; the shooting robots there can be damaged and ultimately destroyed using anything that shoots projectiles, pretty much, although new ones get rezzed as long as the system is on. The combat HUD tosses one rudely to the ground after a certain number of hits by any projectile. I also made a full-auto infinite-ammo version of the standard Linden popgun, which is pretty awesome, but probably banned in most RP sims. I am vaguely thinking of doing a series of weblog posts, tutorial-style, on how it all works. Unless I do something else instead…)

Interesting Thing Alert: TODAY: Wed, 11/16, 5:30 pm SLT: Conflict Transformation

Friend Candice Alderton and Trip Tremmor are offering a discussion on Conflict Transformation today at 5:30pm SLT; details below. She says it’s sure to be a lively discussion filled with useful information and some new skills you can easily adapt.

Please feel free to share with friends you think may be interested. The discussion will be held in voice and text.

From Rockcliffe University:

Today 16 Nov 5:30 PM Pacific – Forum on Conflict Transformation
Wednesday, 16 Nov 2011 16:44:20 GMT

Today 5:30 PM SLT Wed 16 Nov
Rockcliffe Forum at RUC IM/IT Conference Center
“Intro to Compassionate Coummunication” with guest speakers.

Find out simple changes you can make in yourself to shift your personal and business relationships. Interact with some first-hand roleplays for some quick practice.

Candice has studied more than two years, completed a year-long immersion program, and participated in many workshops as she pursues her graduate degree in Conflict Transformation. Trip has completed 7 workshops with multiple trainers as well as individual training. Join these two Peacemakers as they talk about Non-violent Communication and how they live it every day.

Should be a good time! And remember to check your weapons at the door. :)

Battling undead at Point of Derivation

I got to Point of Derivation not because it’s in the Destination Guide (the Destination Guide being one of those New Things that I can never remember exists), but because it was a stop on the Sinister Steampunk Hunt (the last stop, in fact; the memorably named “Swine and Roses”).

But when I got there I noticed some rather clued-looking PvE combat stuff set out, so later on I went over to check out the combat.

(For the non-gamers in the audience, “PvE” means “player versus environment”, where you fight monsters and other stuff in the game world, as opposed to “PvP”, which is “Player versus Player”, where you fight other players, most of whom are much better than you are.)

So I put on my favorite Gruff helmet for decoration, and got out some weapons. Here I am considering the Long Sword that comes free at the entrance (and again there are larger-scale versions of these pictures, if you click through to flickr):

PointOfDerivation001

and here I am with my Taltech Range Bow (or something like that), crouching martially:

PointOfDerivation002

I charge off into the desert, shooting skeletons of all kinds until they fall down and explode!

PointOfDerivation003

And now into the swamp, with the sword out for close-in melee!

PointOfDerivation004

One battles one’s way to the ancient necropolis, turning to kill the last few undead attackers on the way up the stairs, and wishing there was some way to take good action-shots of mouselook-mode combat.

PointOfDerivation005

Then vaulting heriocally over railings and onto mossy rooftops.

PointOfDerivation006

Cowabunga!

PointOfDerivation007

(I love the jump animations in my AO.)

Slicing my way to the door to the catacombs, turning to make sure nothing is following me…

PointOfDerivation008

Through subterranean passages rife with murderous skeletons and the occasional power-up, to the final door!

PointOfDerivation009

There to leap onto the teleporter and TP out quick before something else spawns and kills me (note amusing expression on face due to being axed a bit by newborn skeleton while TPing).

PointOfDerivation010

Definitely a good time! I did the basic routes several times, for fun and to get better at it; I died several times, too, which just involves not being able to move until you click on the “revive” thing and get TPd back to a starting point. Somehow I don’t have any pictures of that. :)

I also IMd considerable with the owner of the sim (one of the owners? dunno), who was around (and who was the only name above mine on the day’s leaderboard woo woo), and it sounds like they will be adding more stuff beyond the basic (but fun) stuff that they have there now.

This is really the first time I’ve done PvE combat in SL, and I’m enjoying it. So now of course I am thinking of (A) trying it in other places, and (B) making some of my own. In the meantime, see you in Mouselook! :)

Is Frogger More of a Virtual World Than Second Life?

This morning in the tub when I was trying to think of some more headlines that would make Second Life sound bad without being too obvious about it, I decided it was again time to make some subtly negative comparison of SL to something else. And the perfect example was right there on the bathroom wall, on my poster of old arcade games: I would make a post saying that Frogger is more of a virtual world than Second Life!

Now this might seem weird at first glance, since people don’t usually consider arcade games to be virtual worlds, but the thing is, there’s no one agreed upon definition of “virtual world”, so really I can write anything that pops into my head, and no one can say that I’m wrong. So nyah-nyah in advance to all you negative commentors!

In order to make Second Life look as bad as possible, I think it’s useful to think about all the ways Frogger is more or at least as much of a virtual world than Second Life, and not think about any of the things that suggest the opposite. Here’s at least eight:

  • Frogger is geographically contiguous – Second Life is not. Long ago, it was possible to walk from one end of Second Life to another. Now, SL is dominated by thousands of private islands, many of which are artificially inaccessible. By contrast, you can hop from one end of Frogger to the other, if you don’t get run over, just like it’s possible to walk from New York to Australia in the real world.
  • Frogger has an internally consistent, universal physics — Second Life does not. In some areas of SL you can fly; in others, you cannot. You can even change the position of the sun, and soon, the very way light is filtered. And so on.
  • Frogger has a pre-existing ecosystem of flora and fauna — Second Life does not. Alligators and speeding trucks thrive in Frogger. Outside of virtual pets and the rare virtual ecosystem, SL is mainly bereft of animal species, and has none that exist independent of their human creators and owners.
  • Frogger is self-contained and relatively separate from the the wider Internet — Second Life is much more integrated with the web, and therefore, arguably less “worldly”.
  • Frogger doesn’t have much dynamic user-generated content — but Second Life doesn’t have “natural” dynamic user-generated content either. In Second Life, user-created objects artificially instantiate out of thin air; also, Minecraft is better than Second Life, too.
  • Frogger is a single unified experience of a world — Second Life contains multitudes of very different world-like experiences. A “world” that contains, for example, space marine shooters, fantasy MMOs, urban roleplay, furries, Goreans, real life educators, metaverse artists, and so on and on, seems less like a world, than a platform for multiple worlds. The real world, after all, contains only one kind of thing, not many different ones!
  • Frogger has not stubbornly continued to be successful despite my constant sniping — Second Life has. Not that I’m bitter or anything. But someday SL will finally fail, and then people will stop snickering at me behind my back, pointing and giggling about Blue Mars! Someday they’ll all pay!!11!1!

Ehem. Sorry.

Of course, none of this suggests Frogger is superior to SL, oh no not at all, didn’t mean to suggest anything like that, any more than I did in my “Why call it Second Life when it has a low retention rate?” story, or my “Coffee and Power can succeed unlike SL which is a pathetic failure” story, or my “Second Life has failed due to poor execution and market timing” story, or my “Second Life is doomed because I am not in charge of it” story (parts 1-27). But I will say this: If you’re interested in widening the market for virtual worlds (and I am), it’s a good idea to widen the definition of the category, preferably enough so that it includes some CEO that will reliably return my calls.

More Pictures!

Okay, so the vehicle that I mentioned needs pictures.

(Some of the below don’t seem to have compressed wonderfully well; click through to flickr and press “L” or look at the larger sizes for perhaps better renders.)

Carmageddon Tank 1

That’s the Carmageddon Tank from L+N Signature Designs; I am standing smugly by it in the Hunt outfit from Cosmic Stream Designs and the Deconstructor part of The Machine from Radeon Automatic.

And then inside…

Carmageddon Tank 2, aboard

… and showing off the cannon, boom!

Carmageddon Tank 3, cannon

… and the machine guns (in the dark) pocketa-pocketa!

Carmageddon Tank 4, machine guns in the dark

Of course it also flies…

Carmageddon Tank 5, aloft

… and rises up on its mechanical haunches for driving over lesser things in the twilight.

Carmageddon Tank 6, raised

It also leaps up into the air (all of this controlled by buttons on a not overly huge HUD), but I’m not up to a video.

Okay, enough of that. :) Here are a couple of things from NS6 Engineering:

Cursed Tower and Cloudrider airship, from NS6

A cursed tower and a Cloudrider airship, both nice and free, and if they are a bit old-SL in style well that’s nice and nostalgic.

Relaxing in one of the plusher venues of the Hunt:

Civilized Relaxation in the Royal Thai Gallery

This one the Royal Thai Gallery (a lovely build, although I had some trouble figuring out just what they were selling, or displaying, where), but in general a delight of this hunt is the wide variety of places, all vaguely tied together by some variously fictionalized notions of Victoriana and technology and adventure.

Compare and contrast with, for instance, the Undertaker’s Parlor from Noctis:

Undertaker's Parlor

(All 88 prims worth, not including the simple floor and wall prims that I threw up for photographing.)

Lots of things not directly in the Hunt, but still good finds. I’m always looking for more (cheap) bookcases in SL, and this Bookcase Loft from S&S Clockworks was a mere 4L!

Bookcase Loft (4L!)

(I don’t think I’ve opened the actual Hunt prize from there yet.)

Eventually I actually finished the Hunt! Still far from finishing opening all the packages, though…

Shortly after that, as I was vaguely considering trying to get back to the Rise cross-country from wherever I ended up, I noticed it was time for the Pre-release Party for 1000+ Avatars, Volume 2.

So I went and did that. :)

Pre-release party for 1000 Avatars, Volume 2

And a good time was had by all…

Sinister Steampunk

So hunts are Good Things because:

  • It’s fun to hunt around for stuff,
  • You find new stores to shop at,
  • Some of the builds of the stores are really nice,
  • Once in awhile you find some wonderful new thing that you’re actually going to wear, or use, or whatever, constantly for weeks.
  • They are good for the SL economy.

And of course hunts are Bad Things because:

  • You get tons and tons of stuff cluttering up inventory, sometimes unopened for weeks or years,
  • You spend time when you could have been doing something more creative, and of course
  • They are bad for the SL economy.

Because of this ambivalence :) I only occasionally weblogify about hunts that I hunt, but I thought I would weblogify about this one just because (a) I felt like it, (b) I’m a bit short on Lindenbucks, so I am probably not buying as much as usual as I hunt, so maybe I can contribute some publicity :) and (c) it’s a good hunt.

(Note: the reader may interpret the above remark about Lindenbucks as an opportunity to buy me expensive gifts, only if said reader has not bought me any expensive gifts in the last thirty (30) days.)

The hunt in question is The Sinister Steampunk Hunt, themed around stuff that your retrofuture villain, evil genius, etc, might be wearing or carrying or inventing or driving or using.

Here I am, for instance, with the Ether Rifle of the evil Dr. Calamari or something, as obtained by our hero Parrish Ahsbourne (#8):

Aether Rifle and other Sinister Steampunk Hunt items

The elvish green leather armor and cloak are from Destiny’s Designs (but come to think of it from a Lucky Chair rather than the hunt, oops!), and the monocle is from way back.)

The weblog has a list of shops, and hints for each one, which is useful.

(Back in my day, we didn’t have lists or hints! By dag, you started with #1, and the only way to know where #2 was was to find the landmark inside the prize in #1! Kids these days!)

Don’t get discouraged, by the way, if you can’t find the prize in #2; it’s hard for me to imagine anyone ever finding it without some sort of cheating. My own hint: it’s inside a box which as far as I can tell there is no way to open.

But anyway. :) I am up around shop #17 now, of 29, and have lots of very fun stuff. Here’s another shot:

Various items from the Sinister Steampunk Hunt

The impressive telescopic monocle is from Sculptify (#3), and the backpack sprouting formidable medical / torture attachments is one of three equally impressive backpacks in the prize from Radeon Automatic (#15). The clothing is that elvish green leather armor again :) and the cigar I think I picked up in a bunker in the Wastelands the other year (so yeah, not directly relevant, but doesn’t it look appropriate?).

L+N Signature Designs (#7) has truly astounding stuff which is pretty much always out of my price range, but for this hunt they have a really quite astounding combat vehicle, which is right in my pricerange ’cause of it is free. No pictures of that, but I had fun driving it around in a combat sandbox shooting the canon and machine guns.

Pictures of the combat car, and various other prizes that I may or may not have found and/or unpacked yet, can be found in the hunt weblog too.

(Hunts didn’t have their own weblogs in my day, either! If you wanted to see what you might have gotten, you had to actually open the prizes. Kids these days don’t know how easy they’ got it.)

Anyway again! :) So that is being fun, and I will probably follow the hunt more in coming days. Unless I get distracted. Like I always do…