Last month I mentioned that SL land baron Desmond Shang has a Minecraft server which he offers free to people who rent space on his steampunk-themed estate of Caledon, and here's an interesting follow-up: Minecraft is helping him keep his estate in Second Life thriving.
"I don't keep 'hard stats' on this yet," Shang acknowledges up front, noting it's just several dozen of his renters who play on his Minecraft server. "But it's quite clear already that some people are hanging onto their Caledon estate land, or have rented new land, simply because they want to support the Caledon Minecraft server experience.
"It's a modest boost," he adds, "nothing that is going to make or break an estate. It may ultimately save a Second Life region or two, but certainly not ten or 100." But the reason this works points to the problems with Second Life's land revenue model, and why people rent virtual land in the first place. And as SL sims continue to disappear due to heavy tier costs and natural attrition, his strategy is definitely worth considering. As Desmond puts it to me:
I'll admit to being a very late-starter when it comes to Minecraft. I tried it a year or so ago but it didn't really hook me until I tried it again last week. I'm not sure what changed in the interim, but now I just can't get enough of its sandbox survivalism. But of course no matter what game I'm playing I always have to have the most chic and adorable avatar possible, so I've been searching for the cutest Minecraft skins out there to share.
The first is this ultra vibrant Kokeshi doll skin by the_soup which you can download here. Space is very limited on the Minecraft skin template, which is why the pattern and design of this avatar's kimono really stands out to me. They've made excellent use of every pixel to perfectly convey a floral printed fabric with a bit of an ombre effect, not to mention the obi detail around the waist. The downside of this skin is that the detailed kimono looks quite odd when it's half-covered by armor, but if you don't mind living a little dangerously without any armor you're guaranteed to stand out.
This is an early and impressive look at Starforge, an indie game in development by two dudes named Steve and Will who have created a kind of Minecraft-meets-Halo game, meaning: a sandbox survival game world with procedural graphics and dynamic content creation, just not blocky like Minecraft, but full of high res graphics and physics in a beautiful but deadly alien world, a la Halo. Even if you're not into FPS action, be sure to watch until 1:50, when the 3D content creation comes:
"How Facebook Killed the Virtual World" is a new editorial on Wired by my colleague Mark Wallace, who co-wrote a couple books about Second Life, edited the Second Life Herald blog, and worked for a short time at Linden Lab itself. Despite (or because) of that background, Mark Wallace now argues that Mark Zuckerberg's social network has eclipsed the once shining and buzzworthy idea of virtual worlds:
Facebook’s near-universal appeal — and virtual worlds’ near-universal failure — has as much to do with presentation as anything else. The very concept of a virtual world works against its acceptance. If I’m your great-aunt and I need a place to post pictures of your cousin’s bat mitzvah, I don’t necessarily mind joining a network in order to do so. But do I really want to join another world?
There's some truth to this, but saying "failure" seems to me a stretch. Because if we're to define "virtual worlds" as graphically simulated spaces in which users interact in real time through avatars (a definition that includes MMOs), that category is in aggregate still quite large; not only that, usage has been growing, not retracting, with the rise of Facebook:
Linden Lab recently trademarked "dio" for a product that's "computer game software", Tateru Nino reveals, which seems to refer to a new (and closed) Linden Lab site, Inara Pey blogs, which says “Dio allows you to create and play user-created stories", and thus sounds for all the world like the text adventure game Emily Short is making for Linden Lab. Which doesn't necessarily tells us anything beyond the upcoming game's apparent name; but then, that's a good excuse as any (and when it comes to Dio, do you really need a reason?) to post this video:
So I wondered last week how many people are actually using my.secondlife.com, the internal SL social network, on a regular basis, and here's a pretty good estimate: According to Google Ad Planner, the site gets about 84K monthly visitors, with 32K of those from the US. Yes yes, a site user is not the same as a registered user with their own profile and such, and so the number of people actually using the social network to post updates and such is likely less than 84K. (Significantly less, I'd wager.) That said, traffic approaching 100K is pretty good, especially if you assume the active, meaningful Second Life userbase is probably 400K monthly uniques. So overall, it's not a bad idea to create a my.secondlife.com profile of your own, especially if you're an SL content creator. In which case, follow Cajsa's advice.
Then again, if you take Google's numbers to be reliable, you probably don't want to spend too much time doing so:
Sunglass, a "Google Docs for 3D objects" startup which came out of beta at TechCrunch Disrupt last week, has a couple well-known backers who know quite a lot about 3D content creation: Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, and founding SL investor Mitch Kapor. Running on HTML5 and WebGL, as TechCrunch's Kim-Mai Cutler explains, "Sunglass users can simultaneously access a single 3D model and suggest tweaks through chat or voice chat. There’s also a sketch tool for marking suggestions." Virtual world content creator DanielRavenNest Noe noticed Philip and Mitch are listed as "Supporters" on the Sunglass site, and I just confirmed with both of them that this means they're also financial backers:
"I love what they are doing," Philip tells me by e-mail, "and I am a small investor!" When I asked him, Mitch affirmed his backing (through his venture firm Kapor Capital) specifically in relationship to Second Life:
"I would definitely search through Second Life for ANY of your interests in RL (or even fantasy!) - if you enjoy roleplaying or medieval themes, there is tons out there for that... I find SL search often times sucks so sometimes if you search Google for those terms+Second Life you might get better results." (Emphasis mine. Redditor: Pipiru)
"[I]f you are mistreated or feel unwelcome anywhere you visit; just move on. There are loads of places to visit, you will not run out." (Redditor: fosdagger)
"You can search for events to find clubs or different events that might be interesting to you. I started in a vampire clan to make friends (but way too much drama). These days I hang out doing 7seas fishing." (Redditor: curiousGirlie)