Friday, July 31, 2009

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Second Life Needs Acheivements! (And Other Highlights From My Metaplace Appearance)

Olando7 Decosta of MixedRealities has a very nice summary of highlights from my appearance in Metaplace yesterday, with topics ranging all over the virtual worlds landscape. Here's one specifically related to SL:

“The lack of badges and awards has hurt SL’s growth rate in my opinion. There’s no recognition and incentive for staying in-world other than the social networks you form in there and content creation, which many people can’t do well. You don’t need big invasive leveling systems like WoW, but how about awards for number of sims visited?”

Who else wants a grid-driven achievement system in SL, which in my opinion, is a major contributor to the high retention rates of the largest virtual worlds? In any case, read more here.

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Maggie Darwin

No, it doesn't. Why try to substitute artificial rewards for real ones?

Charles2 McCaw

I think you are right, even though I personally think those things suck. I recently attended “State of Play” at the New York Law School and there was lots of buz about badges and such. And people from start up companies who were basing their entire business model on getting people to compete for points, badges, and lots of, to me, gimmicky stuff. It’s like the hype of the day. But if I were the Lindens I would jump on it, even though, personally, I still think it’s a huge time burner.

Hunts, in a way, are the next best thing to achievement systems in SL. It’s amazing to me how many people come to my shops looking for “freebies” in these “hunts.”
Personally, I never go on a hunt, but as a vendor I sign up for as many as I can, so that New York Couture is continuously in one sort of hunt or another.

This suggests that someone could organize an “achievement system” based on the hunt model. Like most other things it could be done entirely in world without Linden involvement. Somebody might even be able to figure out how to monetize this.


Chestnut

You only have to look at all the "karma" plurking to believe there is some validity to this argument.

Toxic Menges

I made my own personal list...I think there is an epiphany point within SL that not everyone reaches, where they realise they can do anything, and that's where the fun starts. Also, I think the group tags to a certain extent are our badges - and that's why you see CEO of this and COO of that - aren't they our status symbols?

As with most other things in SL, I think we made it ourselves.

Doreen Garrigus

I don't know about awards, but I'm going to start a scrapbook of the places I've visited. You know those little HUD books? Thinc books or Bjorn's (FREE!!) Scrapbook. I'm going to take snapshots of the places I visit and lay them out scrapbook style, with notes about the interesting things I saw there.

Not everyone is going to be able to get good pictures or edit them effectively, though, and I imagine that my little book is going to wind up being fairly pricey, once I total up the cost of uploading all those textures.

So what would be really cool is if the sim owners were to make (full perm or the books won't take them) pictures of their gorgeous builds, with a little write-up integrated into the texture, available for visitors to pick up and drop into their scrapbooks. A lot of sim owners have something like that already made. It would be one little upload per owner and then your name would be on everyone's coffee table.

Crap Mariner

"But how about awards for number of sims visited?"

Landbots win.

Next dumb idea, please?

-ls/cm

Ann Otoole

If you rack up any sort of achievement in Second Life at all then you get the Something Awful treatment.

Smart people already know the achievemnt badges in SL are measured in RL Dollars cashed out. Second Life needs nothing more than that because, as Mr. Rosedale has frequently pointed out, Second Life is not a game.

My view is that Second Life is entertainment. However, I do not call it a game. I call Second Life the largest theatrical stage on planet Earth and all the residents are actors on that stage playing the roles they choose.

If you want game with "points" then there is always Bloodlines. And that is an important point. Second Life is the platform. It is up to people who want points, merit badges, or awards to make the awards system and manage it themselves.

Sioban McMahon

Our badge of success is continued good attendance at events and the healthy monthly check we mail to the charity.

Hamlet Au

Crap, achievments are only meaningful if they are recognized by other members of the community. Since bots aren't part of the community, how would people even be aware of their acheivements?

Tymmerie Thorne

I have to say that the idea of rewards is IMHO crap. I do not want rewards. At least, I do not care about the rewards beyond the ones that I get from my social interactions - friendship, experiences, connections, etc. I do understand what Chestnut says about Plurk -- but what keeps people Plurking long after they have hit the 100 point limit? I froze my karma at 69 and do not care about it at all. Rewards for using SL are BS. Creative people will find their own rewards in their activities.

rikomatic

I do agree that achievement levels (BTW check your spelling, Ham) are highly motivating to me in the other VWs I'm in. Leveling up is highly addictive and can turn 10 minute "check-ins" into 2 hour questing. People enjoy playing games, and to play requires knowing if you are "winning" or "losing," advancing or regressing, in comparison to other people.

For young people in particular, having visible badges and awards does motivate quite a bit their commitment to an experience. We've used this to run our "Media Masters" program, and it was an easy way to incentive their participation.

It's hard to imagine SL integrating this grid wide. But I could see doing this on a specialized grid focused on education.

Ann Otoole

@rikomatic: Nothing stopping educational efforts in SL from creating an awwards and points system. All you need is the hud. The visible aspects can be displayed via titlers as is already done all over second life. No seperate grid is needed.

What I am trying to point out is that one community's system of recognition may not be the same as needed by a different community. This is community based because awards and recognition are social. This is not something that needs to be grid based. If it were it would instantly be hacked and gamed and certain people already known to be allowed to run large traffic bot operations and who appear to be exempt from the policies, community standards, and terms of service would be at the top of that ladder overnight and using it for business advantage with accolades from Linden Lab who could tell they cheated.

No. This is not something Linden Lab is equipped to implement or govern. This is something communities within Second Life need to maintain ownership and control of.

Erbo Evans

Achievements only make sense if you believe Second Life is a "game." It's not really a "game."

And I don't much feel like getting into the whole Xbox Live-style e-peen comparison game when I go in-world.

Dedric Mauriac

I like the achievement idea. i've tried working on it a few times myself, but keep getting sidetracked. OSGrid offers such a system, but it seems pretty limited at the moment. Achievements give people things to work towards, but could end up being taxing on the systems.

M Cvercko.

Grid-wide achievement systems are a bad idea.

You might lose a core user base instead. Why should a builder have to be concerned about visiting more sims?

Maybe a 'builder badge' then that is only relevant to a builder - let him work his way toward being a Master Builder, but then how do we quantify that? Some people build small amounts of great things just for fun at their own pace and leisure. We don't need people judging them for being novice builders by hours spent or prims sold.

Isn't the noob look and duck walk a divide huge enough to put noobs off ever returning to SL that we need to add their lack of badges against a Level 200 Sharpshooter badge to make them feel more disenfranchised?

SL works thus far because it has been liberating. We don't need to put in place another elitist system to make someone else feel inferior- like rampant avatar age-ism isn't bad enough.

Badges are a turn-off for me because it supports an unhealthy hierarchy biased to newcomers. If I had to win a novice badge in sailing before the other sailors in my club would talk to me or let me try out a boat, I'd probably just leave. Ditto for hockey etc. Maybe it's the people you say, but honestly, we don't need a system to promote that.

Neither do we need meaningless badges like 'Talked to 10 People of Other Nationalities' that people probably wouldn't bat an eyelid at anyways.

Like others pointed out, the system is already in place if you choose to want to subscribe to it- like ranks in RolePlaying and Bloodlines.

I particularly enjoy how I might be treated like a newb in an RP but the moment I TP home, I can talk to my neighbour a top ranked Admiral from the same RP as equals and friends because we are citizens of SL. Do we really want that kind of connections to go away?

We really don't need this to be consistent throughout. Adding badges would be missing out the entire point of Second Life which is about choice in choosing what you want to be involved in.

YP

I've been logging on everyday for the past 4 years or so, achievements won't make any difference to me.

Bit daft now if they started them, with everyone on an even playing field unless they give so many points or whatever for veterans.

I used to enjoy the old rating system, if I liked a build or whatever I could rate it, but they soon got rid of that.

Tristin Mikazuki

SL already has achievements just like RL has.
Why would someone feel the need to have a badge that says "I did this X number of times!"

O ya we HAD them.. the rateings that were in the profiles... along time ago and LL took them out because they caused lag???

Tinsel Silvera

IMHO achievement systems are nothing more than a way for you to tell everyone else how you are better, stronger, faster. Bragging rights are great when you are a kid playing a game. I'm not a kid and SL is not a game.

Hamlet Au

There's at least two questions related to achievements in Second Life: "Are they something *I'm* interested in?", and "Are they something that will grow SL's userbase"? Those are two valid but very different concerns. It's entirely possible and easy to make such a system opt-out, which it should, so that takes care of the first question. As to the second question, I can only point out that the largest virtual worlds have achievement systems, not just the MMORPGs like WoW, but non-game virtual worlds. YoVille (about 14 million monthly users) has an achievement system. Habbo (12 million monthly users) has an achievement system. Gaia Online (7 million monthly users) has an achievement system. And so on.

When the Lindens discontinued the rating system, one of the rationales for doing so was that the user base was already growing fast enough on its own. And besides, Resides could create HUDs and implement their own achievement systems. Trouble is, the growth rate has slowed, and few if any HUD systems have gained anything more than a few hundred users.

Doreen Garrigus

Hamlet, I've done a little bit of thinking about this, and I posted my thoughts over on my (otherwise mostly neglected) blog.

http://originaldetail.blogspot.com/2009/08/hunts-achievements-and-failure-in.html

Thanks for posting this. It needs attention.

Net Antwerp

I'm quite sure that pro-Achievements Avatars could make their own Sim/HUD etc. Specifically, the RPG fans.

Exponential Growth (like late 2006) can't really happen until the 'Linden' side of things are taken out, accompanied by the use of current-gen technologies such as Multithreading, GPGPU, High quality Real-time visual effects etc.

--------

If Linden were to implement a ridiculous 'achievement' system, it'd have to be opt-in rather than forcing everyone to have a go. Second Life isn't all about gaming; it's a remote simulation/real-life Virtualization Platform.

Arcadia Codesmith

Make one of the badges the "I Don't Care About Badges" badge, have it disable all others, and give it to anybody who wants it. Done.

But for those who do care, the interface should be grid-wide and built into the client. Seperate tabs should exist for player-created badges of various types.

Achiever archetypes will love it. It'll provide some initial goals for people who have difficulty setting their own, maybe helping with resident retention. And it would have zero impact on the folks who are above it all, since, well, they're above it all. I don't see it shaking their "more egalitarian than thou" ethos.

Crap Mariner

"Trouble is, the growth rate has slowed, and few if any HUD systems have gained anything more than a few hundred users."

Perhaps that's a sign that there's not much demand for giving or receiving ratings?

-ls/cm

Hamlet Au

Probably not, because most users quit without leaving the orientation island, or very shortly afterward, long before they're even aware of what a HUD is. Why? Most common complaint: "There's nothing to do." I.E., There's no achievement system to gently nudge them toward various activities.

Dr. Curiosity

It's an interesting question really, and in many ways it prompts the further question of what people want to do - and be recognised for doing - in their virtual world.

Having an official, tightly-coupled achievement systeme for everyone to use sounds like a bad idea, in my humble opinion. While having achievements in various games gives people visible goals to work towards, they also give you a sense of having "finished" an activity. In a persistent world, that may not be the best model of engaging people, even if it does increase your initial exposure.

It's essentially a casual experience-and-discard model. As an example, look at the game portal Kongregate: they have an achievements system that spans a wide variety of games, where points are gained not just from rating people's games but perfoming skill challenges with achievement badges. However, the way the system's set up people will typically play as long as they need to in order to get the badges they want, then go on to another place with other, unawarded badges.

It encourages more browsing and short-term focused experiences in favour of the longer-term community building and unguided exploration aspects. It may get a few more people in-world and give them some ideas of what to do, but throwing a meta-game on top of the virtual world will have knock-on effects in terms of new demographics and the engagement styles they favour.

That's not to say that a system can't work, though. Certainly in the microcosm of a sim or a number of related/loosely-affiliated sims, there could be mutual agreement to form some kind of achievement-based way of engaging newcomers, just as some of the roleplaying sims already have status/rank attributes and so forth.

One of the strengths and weaknesses of SL for the new user is that "nothing to do" is in actuality *everything* to do, but the vast majority of your choices are not obvious. It's a bit like moving to a new town where you don't know anyone, versus socialising with your friends in all your favourite haunts. Objectively there may be the same number of things to do, but you haven't made the necessary connections to find them, yet.

If you're thinking specifically about the first experiences of people on Orientation/Help Islands, you can certainly tie into that achievement model. There are already officially-sponsored events and region spotlights available on blogs. If work were done on developing some activity achievements related to these, or even special areas with an achievement-focused purpose, it might assist in people getting familiar with SL before moving into the world proper. In a similar fashion, some games start out with a tightly-constrained plot and play style for the new player, and move on to unlock more "sandbox-style" content later in the experience. Couldn't we - both the Lindens and the community at large - provide something similar in terms of the initial experience, for those who want it?

Just Some Guy

I have to disagree. It's a good idea, but it would not have the desired effect.

Having been a fanatical Second Life resident for almost 5 years now, I can tell you that time and again I've seen that *every* time Linden Lab starts some initiative to help promote the works of residents, it inevitably devolves into insider political positioning at best, and an outright total publicity fiasco at worst.

Honestly, knowing 'the lab', by the time they were done with any sort of 'award', it would be a joke to both the public and residents, or just ignored.

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