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Want to Save Your Second Life Estate? Do What Desmond Did, and Offer Your Renters a Minecraft Server

Desmond and Emilly Orr in Minecraft

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:

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3 Fabulously Feminine Fan-Made Minecraft Skins

Minecraft Kokeshi

Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of virtual world and MMO fashion

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.

Img_kokeshidollThe 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.

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See StarForge: Minecraft Meets Halo in Infinite, Procedural 3D World With Dynamic Content Creation

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:

And you can check it out for yourself right now -- there's download links for the Alpha client at the video site here, though at the moment, massive gamer buzz seems to be hosing the servers. Check out this Reddit thread where the developers discuss their future plans.

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Facebook Didn't "Kill" Virtual Worlds, But It Did Show Their Shortcomings (Then Again, the Opposite's Also True)

Virtual worlds versus facebook

"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:

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Dio: Name of Heavy Metal God Also Linden Lab's Apparent Name of Upcoming Platform for Creating Adventure Games

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 it's unclear as yet how users will be able to create and share stories on Dio, but I sure as hell hope some of them are like this video by Dio. (Broadswords! Rats! Big hair blowing in the heavy metal wind!) Botgirl Questi has some tongue-in-cheek parody on this tip.

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SL Social Network: Less Than 100K Users, Says Google

Second Life social network

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:

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SL Founders Philip Rosedale & Mitch Kapor Invest in Sunglass, "Google Docs for 3D Objects" Startup

Sunglass Philip Rosedale Mitch Kapor

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:

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Annotated 9 Year Timeline of Social Controversies in SL

SL blogger Botgirl Questi recently created this annotated, interactive timeline of controversies in Second Life, going back to 2003, and it's pretty damn cool:

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Outerra 3D World Engine Displays 400K Blades of Grass

Here's the latest tech demo to the Outerra 3D virtual world engine (which I wrote about in March), showing how it displays 400K individual leaves of grass all at once. Suck it, Walt Whitman:

Read much more about it here, on Outerra's blog. Go here to try an earlier build of the Outerra tech demo for yourself.

Hat tip: Kotaku.

SL Redditors Advise SL Newbie on Reddit

SL Subreddit

There's a good discussion thread on Reddit in the site's Second Life subreddit group, started by a new SL user asking for advice on how to start. Favorite advice/observations so far:

  • "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)

Go here to offer/get more advice and insights. And if you haven't already, consider joining Reddit's SL subreddit. Lots of fun and useful content... but a lot less useless drama.

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