Two advanced Second Life creator tools are launching today, enabling you to teleport agents and create temporary attachments -- watch Torley Linden's demo video above. The execution still seems a bit less user-friendly than I'd have hoped for, but it's a good start, especially for store owners and game makers. So here's a forum for SL content creators -- please tell me what you're creating with these tools, or plan to create. And SL content consumers -- tell me and them what you'd love to see done with these tools.
Old Republic Admits New Reality, Becomes Free-to-Play -- So Yes, This is the End of New Subscription-Only MMOs
Basically to no one's surprise who's been following the game industry closely, the developers of the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO finally announced it's going free-to-play and freemium, with subscriptions becoming an optional option for full content access:
“Players want flexibility and choice. The subscription-only model presented a major barrier for a lot of people who wanted to become part of The Old Republic universe,” said Matthew Bromberg, GM of BioWare Austin.
No kidding. This solidifies my sense that the Old Republic is the end of subscription-based MMOs. I'm willing to predict World of Warcraft introduces a freemium option in the next year or two, with the only hold-outs being legacy, niche MMOs like Eve Online (though I wouldn't bet on that one either). The wonder is it took EA and Bioware so long to admit that freemium was the new reality -- Lum the Mad was talking about what a bad idea subscriptions were last year.
"When Strangers Click", last year's HBO documentary about online romance featuring a couple who met in Second Life and a lot of SL machinima, was recently nominated for an Emmy award, under the category "New Approaches to News and Documentary Programming". (Emmy listings here.) The rest of the documentary, by Robert Kenner, while good, was pretty standard, so I strongly think the machinima footage was a major part of the Emmy nomination. (My friend Douglas Gayeton, who created the "Molotov Alva" machinima that HBO also picked up, helped Kenner a lot on that front.) I hope this encourages other documentary filmmakers to experiment with machinima, and to look for great stories to tell in worlds like SL. (I can guarantee you they're teeming with them.)
News of this comes to me from NWN alum Rik Riel, who was a consultant on the project, so thanks and congrats are in order. See a clip from the documentary after the break:
The New York Times has an interesting story on Facebook bots, those fake social network/Spam/malware accounts you probably get friend requests from every now and then, like Ms. Claire Hart, bisexual graduate of Western Kentucky UniversityLives and Avatar fan who wanted to be friends with me recently and who I totally can't believe doesn't actually exist. According to Facebook, these Facebook bots are more prevalent than you might think:
Facebook has said that 5 to 6 percent of its nearly one billion users could be fake, and it scours the site regularly to get rid of them.
In other words, around 50 million Facebook users are probably fake. That's more fake people than the entire population of South Korea, or the populations of Greece, Cuba, Portugal, Sweden, and Israel combined. So, lots and lots of bots. This is, by the way, some important added context for SL users who worry that Facebook accounts named after SL avatars are being purged -- while some have definitely been caught in sweeps, it's highly unlikely Facebook is devoting any particular attention to Second Life avatars on Facebook (probably less than 100,000), when the company has to contend with tens of millions of genuinely fake (if you know what I mean) accounts. As I often advise people worried about their avatar-named Facebook accounts:
"What Went Wrong With the WELL & Why It Matters" is my new essay for Internet Evolution, about how the pioneering virtual community suddenly finds itself struggling for survival, and the reasons it's gone from being a media darling to that desperate state. As I note there, I see some uncanny similarities between the trajectory of the WELL and what Second Life currently faces:
[A]fter years of slow but seemingly stable activity, the WELL's corporate owner, Salon Media Group, suddenly announced it was up for sale... In the end, the fact that the WELL maintained enough subscribers to support itself for years gave the userbase a false sense of security... I see eerie (if inexact) parallels to another virtual community I came to be involved with after the WELL: Second Life, which also once attracted hype and celebrity attention but now struggles to find a new revenue model. Its dedicated but largely insular user community shows little interest in substantial change.
More here. A founding member of Linden Lab, by the way, is the first person I heard make the SL/WELL comparison, back in 2005 or so, when he (or she) worried that the community would also resist changes to make Second Life more sustainable. The fate of both, in any case, is following a similar pattern:
As promised earlier, here's Duran Duran performing at the Olympics with Second Life avatars in the background to an audience of 4 billion (give or take, well, maybe 3.99 billion). Video gets avatar-ish around 3:15:
The live concert video was shot by the UK guy known as JJ Coronet in Second Life, who also shot the machinima, and as you can hear in the video, is pretty stoked to see it onstage. The show was part of a concert in Hyde Park connected to the Olympics opening, so while it wasn't part of the main opening events (which would have been seen by billions, alongside the Queen apparently parachuting from a helicopter with James Bond), the live audience is pretty large -- over 70,000, by one estimate. (And it likely showed up in lots of news coverage footage around the world.) The machinima footage was shot by JJ on Duran Duran's island in SL, featuring avatars of the band's fans, which the supergroup has been using in their live stage shows. According to Coronet, the SL footage was displayed for a few minutes during the show (for "Reflex", looks like). He says it's also featured in Duran Duran's latest DVD, Diamonds in the Mind, and may herald even more SL-related content from the group coming soon:
Artist and filmmaker Chris Marker died over the weekend at the age of 91, I'm sad to say, though his long and accomplished career included making the classic short film La jetée (basis for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys), and toward the end of his life, regular visits to Second Life, where he went by the avatar name Sergei Murasaki, and experimented with SL as a new art medium. "I’m looking for new ways to use the avatars," Chris Marker once said during an in-world appearance. "Imagine that we manage to program them with all our memories and that once they may go by themselves, even when we’re not here." Chris Marker is no longer here with us, but as it happens, the traces of his presence in Second Life still exist -- click here to visit Chris Marker's SL office, which appropriately, is built to look like a jetty.
- Myst Co-Creator Rand Miller Thinks Worlds Like Second Life & Uru Live Have a Future on Tablets
- Rod Humble Asking Hardcore SL Users How to Create More Hardcore Users (Which is Probably the Wrong People to Ask)
- Second Life Etiquette Tips on Love, Learning & Linden Dollars for New Users -- and Oldbies Who Deal With Them
- Edward Hopper Work Recreated in SL With Dynamic Shadow
- Cloud Party Usage and Growth Seems to Plateau
- Guild Wars 2's Sylvari Race is a Pleasant Twist on the Elf Archetype... But it May Not be Twisted Enough
- Dayz Gets Its Own Embedded Journalist/War Photographer
- Koinup Adds Printed Screenshot Service for Buying & Selling RL Copies of Virtual World Screenshots
The London Olympics is opening today, and if all goes well, the broadcast may include a glimpse of Duran Duran's live stage act, which includes Second Life footage in the background.
So that's SL in the Olympics (maybe). Far as the Olympics in SL (sort of), there's at least two sites where that's going on:
- The London City sim has an Olympics-themed installation and events going on right now! (Image and link via Kara Trapdoor, who's thankfully back blogging about SL.)
- Click here to visit Duran Duran island, where Olympics-themed SL footage for the supergroup's Olympic show was staged, and more her-name-is-Rio-flavored sporting antics still seem be going on.
Know of more Olympics events happening in SL this weekend? Please post in Comments!
Guild Wars 2's Sylvari Race is a Pleasant Twist on the Elf Archetype... But it May Not be Twisted Enough
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and MMO fashion
Last week, ArenaNet revealed the two previously unavailable Guild Wars 2 races and areas in time for the most recent (and final) beta event. I'm incredibly excited for the game's August release (I've already gushed about it here) so I leaped at the chance to play around with them.
The Asura are pint-sized technological prodigies (with occasionally questionable ethics) which will no doubt satisfy almost anyone who likes playing dwarven or gnome-like races in their fantasy MMOs. As for me, I'm much more interested in the Sylvari, who are the closest things to elves in Guild Wars 2. I love the race's lore and their aesthetic (including the brilliantly bio-luminescent details on their bodies), which is miles away from anything I've seen in a playable race for an MMO before.
As cool as I think sylvari are, I'm still not entirely convinced that I want to play one myself. Here's why: