Sunday, August 14, 2011

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Linden to Add Game Mechanics to SL's New User Experience

Michael Gesner on SL Game Mechanics

Linden Lab will introduce game mechanics to the new user experience, it was revealed during a keynote panel at today's SLCC with the company's lead product developers. People who create a new SL account will start seeing these game-esque features after the next couple months, Michael "Gez Linden" Gesner (an Executive Producer at Linden Lab), told me after the panel. Additional game-type features will be added over the year. This includes interactions that will resemble achievements and quests, he told me, though they may not use these specific metaphors.

This announcement was easily the most important of the panel, because the lack of a game-like structure is a key part of the confusion that causes almost all new SL users to feel frustrated and aimless, and subsequently, quit shortly after installing the client. Gesner, a veteran game developer, is one of many Lindens who've been pushing for reward systems that are proven to work in games.

"Second Life is not a game," as he said during the panel. "However... you can use game mechanics and game systems to help people become more comfortable in Second Life... we're trying to get people over that initial hurdle."  This could mean, he said by example, feedback rewards such as audio cues and web profile notifications, etc. for performing basic SL interactions, like using inventory and picking up objects.

A lot of these ideas evolved during a 2.5 week period in which the Lindens built a fun-looking prototype gaming experience, which they showed off during the panel, where the user has to accomplish tasks and solve puzzles in a castle beset by lava pits, ravenous cube monsters, and automated gun turrets. While that particular game won't be part of the new user experience (though I kinda wish it would), we should see what they learned during the process make its way into SL soon.

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Jay Kaufmat

They should totally release that castle game. I'd buy it.

Ghosty Kips

Back when I was one of the people that hung out at HIP, we'd tell new Residents this was where they could level up their avatars. Just to draw an illustration, the new Residents at that time got the joke. I'm making the assumption the new users we're seeing now, wouldn't.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

They'll be able to turn those audio cues off eventually, right?

Arcadia Codesmith

I'm in favor, if the new controls are exposed for our coding pleasure.

Orca Flotta

In my eyes it's all moot. Some people "get" SL, others just don't. Of course LL wants to keep as many noobs as possible by making them happy. THey are a commercial enterprise and need to generate some profit. Okay.
On the other hand I don't see any benefits for us older residents. I personally couldn't give a rat's ass about the first hour impression SL makes on new users. All those efforst are only dumbing SL down even more and will bring a new generation of residents into our world I wouldn't wanna interact with.
What became of the old credo "your world, your imagination"? If a new user doesn't bring the imagination and will to help create a new virtual world what use is he or for the further development of SL? Little to none.
SL is transforming slowly but steadily from a world of creators to a world of consumers. I find that sad, very sad.
PLease don't think I'm a computer or science geek, or an artist or a builder. I am neither.

But when Rod says in his keynote they are losing 2/3 of the people who are trying SL because those people are not able to finish the registration process, I really start to wonder if we want those people in SL and need to take measures to keep them in world. I'd rather not.

Tateru Nino

"Linden to Add Game Mechanics to SL's New User Experience" .... again.

Bacon Hellershanks

A game is being developed at the Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) Avatar Games sim that could be easily adapted to a new purpose. Longtime residents could shoot Grand Walloper guns at noob avatars while the new residents try to traverse an obstacle course.

http://slurl.com/secondlife/LEA3/246/128/31

Metacam Oh

Its great to see them focusing on stuff that will take SL to the next level. They didn't show off anything extremely amazing but from the SLCC I have seen Rodvik gets it and is moving the troops in the right direction. Now it is about how quickly they move.

Laro

i want a cookie as reward!

Canoro Philipp

@Orca
of course the features FOR NEW RESIDENTS are not focused in bringing benefits FOR OLD RESIDENTS, and if you don't care about it, cool, the ones for it is designed for will care.

maybe you would want to be in a position to review who is worthy to use Second Life and who is not.

DixonHill Hawker

I like the idea of "games" for new Residents, "quests", etc.
But, in my opinion, one fundamental problem with new user experience is, that they do not get to know what second life is (all about) well enough before they download and log in.
People just have false expectations, because there is really nothing to compare, but if one must, nowadays he compares SL to a MMO. Its a virtual world, you see the shiny pictures on the website, the destination guide showing of shiny places...if that is all info you have, you could think its kind of a MMO. But of course it is not.
Sure, LL does not market SL with pics from some of the ...ugly places. But it has to be clear that "user created" does not mean "made by proffesional artists", yeah.

Hitomi Tiponi

There were many other interesting things mentioned at that talk - but Hamlet just chose to latch on to the one he particularly likes (hey - it's his blog after all!).

Other things that were mentioned included:

- making it easier for residents to get into building

- the use of NPCs (non-player characters)

- an improved way of allowing new residents to start with a basic viewer and then become more advanced (the current basic/advanced being just an interim).

I suggest you see the full vid at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16647937 - including the demo of the game.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

The game idea might be a useful introduction to the economy, too. Couldn't LL mint a few Linden dollars to reward those who complete some of the levels in an orientation game?

They'd have to be wary of gold-farmers, of course, but it would be the one thing every prior OI experience lacked. So many noobs leave because they are wary of putting down money.

Even better: contestants could win goods such as premium hair, shoes, clothing, or a vehicle instead of $$? It would promote some of SL's best content creators in the process.

Jeroentje Jansma

Hello all :)

If they want to introduce some game/levels/achiefment system, why don't they promote what is already available in SL?

When I came to SL, I got into skydiving. The simple chute is free, when you like it, you can buy a pro chute and your jumps, points, etc are registered inworld, but also on a website to compaire and compete with other skydivers.

Lately I'm more into sailing. Also like skydiving, free sailboats and when you like it, you can move to the more pro stuff. Sailing competitions and races: there you have your "achiefment level system".

I know there are RP sims, with combat systems and ranking and what more.. (sorry, I peronaly don't have experience with that)

Why not guide the new people, who are looking for achiefment awards/levels/ranking, into that direction?

Regards,
Jeroen

bongo

Just pay em off for clicking the right buttons. call it bribes.. not "game mechanics"..stupid trendoids.

Ehrman Digfoot

What about a right click rez option for NPC's? Like a prim cube, you could rez a blank avatar, drag clothing on it---drag a script into it. The whole thing could be designed in such a way that the NPC would consume less resources than the current makeshift options available now and each NPC would have a PE prim equivalency that would be based on it's Avatar Rendering Cost, or some other factor. Possible?

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Every little thing helps, but, to be honest, I believe that Second Life has reached market saturation long ago. There simply aren't more people in the world interested in this kind of environment. It's not a mainstream product, period.

Once Linden Lab realises that this is the central issue, hopefully they will understand that they have a solid product and a good user base which makes them profitable. That's all to it. They have reached maximum growth in terms of user base. It's like Adobe trying to get more and more people to buy Photoshop: there is a limit to the number of people in the world willing to buy their product for the prices they pay, and that number doesn't grow exponentially — new users are graduated designers and artists, which will replace the natural erosion over time, etc.

SL is the same thing. We lose a few people, and a few new ones are old enough to join SL, and so it sort of balances out, with little, marginal growth.

So, like Adobe and other companies that have reached all their potential users, LL ought to start thinking on what to do next: upselling. This means designing a strategy where existing users are willing to spend more with SL, and that requires a completely different mindset than attracting new users.

I have just heard something quite interesting, and which actually happened to my meagre in-world sales as well. While concurrency is going down once more, the economy is growing: people are buying more and more content. This was rather a surprising result, but it definitely also happened to me as well (I sort of ignored it, since there are always fluctuations). Why? I have no idea, but I suspect that the main reason is that there has been a *ton* of innovations in the past few months. Oh, sure, everybody is waiting for meshes and the SL 3.0 viewer, but the truth is that LL has been rolling out a lot of improvements, fixes, and small new things here and there. Put them all together, and all these things are encouraging people to stay around and shop more.

I might be completely wrong, but the in-world economy tends to get better when a bit of innovation and higher stability allows content creators to launch new products that were previously impossible. This doesn't mean more content creators or more shoppers; it means upselling higher-quality content to the existing user base, just because it's possible to do so.

That's what LL ought to be doing. They should be thinking hard on how to get more people to pay more money for using SL — but doing that in a "nice" way. :)

Attracting new users, well... unless they have done an intensive market analysis to see *why* those users leave SL so quickly, just trying to *think* about a reason ("SL is not a game and I feel lost") and developing a solution to a problem that might not exist is simply wasting resources...

On the other hand, I surely hope to be completely wrong on this :)

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