Monday, October 01, 2012

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Masami Kuramoto: Forget Land Barons, Linden Lab, Zone Second Life by Roleplay Themes! (Comment of the Week)

Skills_hak

Last week's guest post by steampunk land baron Desmond Shang is generating a lot of interesting comments, among the best being this one by Masami Kuramoto. (Lightly edited for context by me.) While I don't agree with it all, I think the basic idea of RPG-themed land zoning is a great one. - Hamlet/WJA

"As an RPG platform [Second Life] beats everything else hands down. This is what Linden Lab marketing should focus on, in my opinion. There should be themed mainland areas. 'If you're into Victorian era roleplay, settle here. If you're into cyberpunk, settle over there.'

"SL has the largest map of all games, but the content is messed up. Imagine entire continents of adjacent regions featuring the same theme. Sort of like the Linden Home areas, but without the prefab buildings. Imagine Nexus Prime, Suffugium, S.I.C., The Next Day, Insilico and Hangar Liquides side by side and The Wastelands somewhere nearby.

"Of course this would require a new set of rules and new ways of enforcement...

"If you built out-of-theme, you would find your parcel relocated to a more appropriate area. If you don't want to be restrained, settle on the anything-goes continent. I think most people would accept those rules because the benefits would be obvious.

"Right now the mainland is ugly to pretty much everyone, and the only way to escape its ugliness is to get a private region or rent from a land baron. The former is too expensive, the latter is too risky.

"There are quite a few roleplay communities that emerged around a single themed sim. The problem with these communities is that they vanish as soon as the sim owner runs out of time or money.

"Themed mainland would achieve two things: It would allow these communities to merge and grow much larger (and shrink gracefully if people leave), and it would remove the sim owner as a single point of failure.

"The burden of land ownership would rest on many shoulders. If I were the CEO of Linden Lab, Second Life would now be a society of Rip Van Winkles that pay their rent straight to the Lab's pockets rather than through a land baron. And folks like Desmond would be out of business rather than in control of my company. What we got instead is a company that is too scared to stop the decline of its first and most successful product, because it depends on the good will of its shrinking number of VIP customers. Land barons will be the nails in Second Life's coffin. Mark my words."

As I said, I don't entirely agree with Masami -- for instance, I don't think this suggestion would preclude land barons like Desmond (who runs an RPG themed area himself). But with SL soon to launch on Steam, a roleplay focus seems to be an ideal solution to a lot of Second Life's problems. Full context in this discussion thread.

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Indigo Mertel

What Masami suggests is what the East River Community has been doing for years. East River is a federation of groups which cooperate on the same premises and the shared goal of preserving the part of Mainland where we are located. As a matter of fact I cringe any time I read people commenting about Mainland being a dump, because this is not always the case, and certainly not in our case.

This is a matter that comes out from time to time. While I agree that LL should encourage users to form communities, I don't agree on the zoning. Can you imagine how complex it would be to relocate the many communities of people located all over the grid? And what about those communities which are not based on RP, as is our case? How would we fit in? There was a thread in the SL's Mainland Forum on this topic back in March where I suggested a different approach ( http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Mainland/Mainland-Revamp/m-p/1431579#M2583 ) and using the model we use for our community. This is what I wrote back then: "Linden Lab should only set some basic rules (land preservation being one) and offer incentives to encourage people to aggregate (say, a discount on land tier, better land management tools, etc.). Communities such as ERC offer a good environment, better land value and automatic zoning. They are autonomous, self-regulated and run by enthusiast people who invest work and money into the community. Committed people who take the wealth of the community at heart."

There is no need to impose zoning. All LL needs to do is to encourage people to form self-regulated communities which will expand by themselves by attracting people with common interests. Communities such as East River, Chilbo, Luskwood, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators, etc, can be a solution, but zoning is overkill, a burden for LL and a possible source of conflicts and dissatisfaction.

Shug Maitland

OMG!! "Of course this would require a new set of rules and new ways of enforcement...
The Lindens can not effectively govern what we have, nor should they have to! The entire premise is that we do what we want, however innovative or boring that may be.
This is not a bad idea for private estate owners to take on, but please, not the Lindens!

Masami Kuramoto

Indigo Mertel wrote:

zoning is overkill, a burden for LL and a possible source of conflicts and dissatisfaction.

Linden Lab already imposes zoning for Linden Homes, and the separation of PG vs. adult content (Zindra) could also be considered zoning. These things don't seem to be a major burden for the Lab. In fact Linden Homes would be a good start if they were a little less restrictive.

How do communities such as ERC deal with out-of-theme builds if there is no authority to resolve these conflicts?

Masami Kuramoto

Shug Maitland wrote:

The Lindens can not effectively govern what we have, nor should they have to! The entire premise is that we do what we want, however innovative or boring that may be.

How do restrictions at location #2 affect your freedom to do what you want at location #1? If a group of people wants to seclude and abide by a set of rules, aren't you taking their freedom away by imposing anarchy on them?

Desmond Shang

I think this is a great opportunity for Masami to state his case. Best of luck!

Indigo Mertel

@Masami, we want the same thing but implemented in different ways. True, LL already imposes zoning but for special cases, with specific reasons and limited areas. Quite different is to impose zoning grid-wide. How do you deal with existing communities which are not set on specific themes or role playing? How do you deal with the many themes people may want? How do you deal with themes which become so popular that they may no longer fit into their zoning area? Should communities in nearby zoning areas move to make room? And what about existing communities? How would their relocation work? There are tens of communities in SL, should they relocate en masse? In the case of Zindra people had to claim and buy parcels. The East River Community is 6 regions wide, some of them heavily developed. How do you relocate that? Communities have their own geography and history, do you realize how disruptive that would be? Multiply that for all the communities which would have to relocate and you have a management nightmare.

Indigo Mertel

Sorry, I missed your question. The ERC is a federation of groups and land owners, we have a steering committee and a charter. All groups and land owners are represented in the committee and have an equal voting right despite of the amount of land owned. In order to be admitted candidates must abide to our charter.

We don't have an unique theme, though most of our members do their best to match the style of the larger and more developed area, but there are variations. What we require is that members maintain a cohesive and pleasant environment, all buildings must be pleasant and cohesive to the environment and must be built in a plausible, realistic way. Huge buildings such as skyscrapers are not allowed, skyboxes are not allowed below 300 m, terraforming must be pleasant and have a graceful transition.

Our system is made so to have as little red tape as possible. As a matter of fact, we probably vote 3 or 4 times a year. The committee can vote to suspend or exclude members who don't comply to the charter, but so far it has never happened in the 4 years the community exists. You can find more information here: http://eastrivercommunity.posterous.com/pages/community-charter

Our model works because is self-regulatory. There is no need to impose and policing zoning, or relocate lots of people and all their properties to match zoning rules. Our model is based on collaboration and common goals and many agree that our community is well maintained and pleasant. f course, it is not perfect but it's working pretty well for us. All LL has to do is to encourage such a model.

cube republic

They already do this, blake sea etc. Thus suggestion makes sense, it would create more community.

Saffia Widdershins

I think Inigo states the case why the Lab won't get involved in zoning. They are stepping back as far as possible to become platform providers and leave residents to ... reside. Leaving aside the HUGE problems of relocating people into zoned areas where they would like EXACTLY that corner of a sim with a mountain to the north and ... well, their old neighbour (despite the fact he was a vampire and they're steampunks) had such a NICE waterfall that it really enhanced their property and they miss it ...

And there's the fragmentation of communities. For example, New Babbage is a steampunk community where magic doesn't really happen (with that many mad scientists, it doesn't need too). Steelhead is a steampunk community where it can (it is, after all, partly governed by a Moon Elf). Does zoning take account of these subtle gradations? Or is there one simple "Steampunk" area? And don't get me started on Vampires or Goreans flavours.

These people are building successful communities of their own kind. But, like the Protestant sects, their broader own kind are subtly sub-divided in ways invisible to outsiders, and those are the fault lines where arguments would occur.

You'd need detailed questionnaires to make sure people landed in just the right sweet spot. And, of course, very often people move in without realising where their right sweet spot will be ...

Do you want to live in a steampunk community that allows magic/forbids magic?
Do you want to live in a steampunk community that allows vampiric activity/forbids vampiric activity?
Do you want to live in a steampunk community that allows architectural survivals from an earlier age/allows architectural survivals from an earlier age if suitably updated/forbids architectural survivals from an earlier age/

These things tend to be or become important to people.

Leaving aside all that ... do the Lindens REALLY want to get involved in the kind of minutiae that Guvnor Shang and his estate managers have to deal with? That someone has put up a medieval castle in a Victorian themed sim? Do they really have the personnel (let alone the inclination) to get involved in this kind of dispute day after day - indeed, hour after hour.

Had we but world and time enough, they might sigh.

Masami Kuramoto

Indigo, I agree that communities should not be relocated unless they request it. I am not suggesting to impose zoning grid-wide but on a voluntary basis. If a group of mainland owners agree to maintain a particular theme and impose building restrictions upon themselves for the sake of consistency, then it is in Linden Lab's best interest to support this by implementing a zone for that community and protect it from disruption. Within that zone, Linden Lab should not make the rules but help enforce the rules that the community makes for itself in a democratic fashion. LL would basically become the executive branch of that zone, merely enforcing the will of the majority either by manual intervention or by providing voting tools and coupling them with land management functions.

The rest of the mainland would remain entirely unaffected by this; it would still be the area of SL where pretty much anything goes. I don't see why these two models cannot exist side by side. There must be more in Second Life than the choice between anarchy and feudalism.

The committee can vote to suspend or exclude members who don't comply to the charter, but so far it has never happened in the 4 years the community exists.

How does exclusion cure the problem of non-compliance? No one has ever grabbed a vacant parcel in your area and rezzed an eyesore in everyone's view? Your community was never surrounded by land squatters and kept from expanding? How did you manage to prevent these things?

roblem hogarth

Daft. Not everyone does RP. There would have to be hundreds of "zones" for all the RP variants and mashups. (oh wait, that's what we have now)

Archangel Mortenwold

Wishful thinking isn't going to save Second Life, and having a link on Steam isn't going to do it either as long as land tier prices remain unaffordable to most users. This point cannot be stressed enough. Second Life does not have the tools to become anything like what Steam users are accustomed to, so the chances of an influx of users flocking to an overpriced, buggy grid that is woefully inadequate to 3D gaming are remote.

Currently monthly tier for a private region is nearly three hundred U.S. dollars, and for a brand new region the initial setup fee is one thousand dollars. That's an outrageous price tag fewer and fewer people are willing and able to pay. If the initial setup fee were, say, one hundred dollars and the monthly tier returned to $195.00, then it might become economically feasible. (Note: there are groups that allow members to sell private regions to others at far less than Linden Lab's initial setup fee — I've used one in the past to acquire a full region transfer for only three hundred dollars, although the tier on it was due soon after, something buyers have to take into account.) But with the current pricing model RPGers becoming the Thing That Saves Linden Lab...er, Second Life...just isn't realistic. The most likely scenario is that there will be some kind of exodus of hardcore gamers from SL to Steam, where they can play games that have the tools necessary for the genre. How large or small such an emigration is remains to be seen, and it may not even be significant enough to worry over. But what should be obvious to everyone is that there will be no mass migration from Steam to Second Life — not when Linden Lab hasn't done the work to make it into something RPGers would get into.

And that's the crux of the problem. For all people keep touting Second Life as a gaming platform, the tools for developing it toward that end were never created. With the hideously complicated scripting system that is constantly undermined by Linden Lab's often unstable changes, RPG developers have to create HUDs, floating text attachments, and items such as weapons, and that has the problem of generating higher lag depending on the number of scripts associated with all these items. And because there are so many different RPG systems (i.e. DCS and SGS), players and roleplay developers alike have to compensate for incompatibility issues, leaving less time for actually playing the games.

In the virtual world games Steam carries, tools such as weapons, potions, gadgets, and other necessities have already been created and provided. The only problem is the limited range of customization options inherent to most RPGs, which is the only area SL could potentially be better in offering to users. But the high prices make coming to the grid prohibitively expensive.

With SL losing an estimated 8.3 regions every day to the ridiculously high prices, literally thousands of sims a year, at some point something's got to give, and it's going to have to be land prices. Baby steps toward making SL more affordable, as Desmond Shang has suggested, simply aren't going to do the trick. Land prices are going to have to come down to a reasonable level, because if they don't then Linden Lab is looking at financial bankruptcy within one or two years.

Jo yardley

I like the idea but see not how this would work.
I am the builder and owner of the 1920s Berlin sim, a roleplay region I could not imagine being linked or connected to any other rp sim I know.
Even other 1920s sims would be so different and work in such another manner and look that it would clash.

I do feel that Roleplay is one of the strongest pro's of SL and that LL would be smart if she gave it more attention.
The biggest non-sl games available are RP games, RP is uge.
Make a big advertisement about that, not about shopping, turning your avatar into a barbie or chatting and dancing all night.
Explain to people that SL is amazing for RP, simply telling someone that they can build their own world, their own setting and their own roleplay game, will excite plenty of people who now think SL is just about virtual hanky panky.

Tier must change, it should not automatically always be lowered but LL should change tier according to what brings in more people.
For instance, a 1000$ start up fee is ridiculous, everyone buys them from much cheaper from ex sim owners.
And how about lowering tier for sims that are new, make tier low the first year and then raise it.
Giving people time to build a community, develop the sim, etc.
And how about a reward?
Lower tier for sims that manage to hold on for a few years.
A reward system that keeps tier the same prize for most sims but lowers it for educational sims, sims that survive, sims during their first year, etc.

The only part of this idea I really like is by creating an area with a certain atmosphere.
For instance a large set of regions with a woods theme where people get a region for cheap as long as they promise not to build modern buildings, cities, strange flying UFO's, etc.
This way you know that when you build your little cottage there in the LL created forest, you won't wake up next to a skyscraper.
People could buy a region in this zone and start a Medieval RP sim there and random neighbours their houses would not be a problem because they all abide to the theme.

We can think of plenty of themes that can take care of a big mainland problem; annoying neighbours who build ugly stuff.
You can rent some land or buy a region in the Desert zone but remember that only Arab themed builds are allowed, for instance.
You can rent some 'land' or an entire region in 'Seaworld', as long as you remember only to build floating objects such as ships, small islands, etc.
Come rent in Airworld, but remember, only airships, planes and space ships allowed.

That sort of thing.

Ajax Manatiso

What happens when you want to leave SL but are in a themed area and can't find a buyer who wants to go with the theme? Answer: abandoned land. And also grouping land by theme is pretty silly in a world where transportation is done by teleport. All you really need to do to link a community is create themed tp totems with tp links to various themed areas -- grouping the land in unnecessary and impractical and, bet you 10,000 lindens -- will never ever happen.

Masami Kuramoto

roblem hogarth wrote:

Daft. Not everyone does RP.

For the record, my suggestion was to introduce themed mainland areas and focus marketing on roleplay. Somehow that turned into: "Zone Second Life by Roleplay Themes!" It becomes clearer if you read past the headline.

There would have to be hundreds of "zones" for all the RP variants and mashups.

The idea is not to create one zone per resident but one per community. How large a group of like-minded residents must grow to be called a community is something I'd leave for someone else to decide. However, SL becoming host to "hundreds" of vibrant RP communities would not exactly be a bad thing.

Arcadia Codesmith

Given the Lab's recklessly lackluster treatment of community relations and customer service, I'd say there's something less than a snowball's chance that they'd step up to the plate to effectively enforce themed areas.

So it's either voluntary compliance or "he who has the gold makes the rules".

If you really want to shake things up on the mainland, ask for system support for democracy, with a provision for the exercise of eminent domain. That would get you contiguous and cohesive communities in no time flat. One owner, one vote -- because I said "democracy", not "plutocracy".

Masami Kuramoto

Ajax Manatiso wrote:

What happens when you want to leave SL but are in a themed area and can't find a buyer who wants to go with the theme? Answer: abandoned land.

What happens if you are in an unthemed area and can't find a buyer who wants to go with all the ugly crap in your neighborhood?

What happens if you and a dozen roleplay buddies are on a themed private estate and your land baron wants to leave?

And also grouping land by theme is pretty silly in a world where transportation is done by teleport.

Sure, if your theme is Star Trek.

Desmond Shang

Think the irony might be that even if such a setup were done, there would arise people who had sufficient influence over various areas to control them. It might not end up all that different from the land barons we have now.

Social forces are pretty strong on the grid; it's entirely possible to see cliques and clans 'take over' an area, or at least make it very difficult for anyone not within that particular social structure to operate. It's possible such areas would be completely leaderless, but... I've yet to see that work anywhere. Gets into the 'some are more equal than others' issue... very sticky.

Money's a horrible motivation, true... but there are worse. Such as a desire for dominion over others, just for the pure sake of it. I'd prefer a capitalist over a queen bee any day. That's just me, though.

Orca Flotta

Ajax wrote:
And also grouping land by theme is pretty silly in a world where transportation is done by teleport.

Masami answered:
Sure, if your theme is Star Trek.

I guess Ajax may have a point here. The typical SL resident these days doesn't know and neither do they care about where they are exactly. They are TPing even inside their homes, from lounge to bedroom. The other day a friend fell from my docks into the water, so she was like 3 meters below me ... but she asked for a TP back :)

Terrible, yes, I know. But that's the sad reality. So I guess most people wouldn't mind having their community lands spread out all over the grid. It doesn't work for the sailing community or other communities depending on continous land but for most it won't make a difference since they just TP. Not only star wars fans and cyberpunks, but steampunks, vamps, goreans, fashionistas (are they even community?), post-apocalyptics and all the other communities we have in SL.

foneco zuzu

All i can say, is what i've been doing on last months, don't use tlp if you can ride!
Yes, LL can't keep screwing cross sims (one week amazing, then 1 day it does not work for some,teh its all back to normal, again?!)
LL should know, that now if you cross sims as easly as we (me and my loved one) are doing, we can travel on mainland, found a lovely spot (we just got another piece of land on Sansara, Prok's regions, really amazing and not hypervaluated as some on Sansara!).
So LL needs to make sure all users can travel without the need to tlp, that Sl is more then that and more important, SL having mainland and travel in betweeen without tlp is the only thing that makes it different from a lot of other grids that are becoming really competitive, much cheaper, better organized and leaded, better supported, with safer rules regarding content creation and so on!
LL can't loose much more time to solve the cross sims problems and advertising its last jewel!
Soon other grids will have physics and then this last advantage is gone and for sure no path finding tools will save SL from slow decay!
NOW its time to listen to some users, Lab, both Desmond and Masami points are open doors to regain clients but the biggest 1 will be makeing the grid stable and simple things like crossing sims easy as they where not along ago, as they are now, but not as they become suddenly without no reason!

foneco zuzu

But in the end we all need to ask, if SL is our world our imagination, we really can't start enforcing rules, communities will gather, does who want to tlp always will do so and We all should be able to decide how wee want to be in world!
Just makes sure that you really care about what you promised, solving grid stability it was your goal!

Indigo Mertel

>> How does exclusion cure the problem of non-compliance?

It never happened so far, so I don't have an answer for that. People who join our community are motivated by our same goals and before accepting a new candidate we make sure they understand what it means to comply to our charter. We also check their building style and skills and we provide support if needed. So, it is unlikely that they mess around.

>> No one has ever grabbed a vacant parcel in your area and rezzed an eyesore in everyone's view?

We deal with visual pollution pretty well. We screen ugly builds in different ways and we have buffer zones we keep as green areas / forests. That said, we are not exent of problems but in general we fare pretty well. I dare say that for 90% of our community a visitor would not see any visual pollution.

>> Your community was never surrounded by land squatters and kept from expanding? How did you manage to prevent these things?

Community building is a slow long process, Masami, and we are patient. We are there to stay and we have the motivation to do it, the same can't be said by most of our neighbors. We have never had any serious conflict with neighbors. It's not unusual for neighbors to offer their land for sale to us because they appreciate what we do. Sometimes we have a positive impact, we had one neighbor who appreciated changes one of our members in the region of Pippen that he changed the buildings on his parcel to match our style. An area that has been an eyesore for years now looks good.

Bottom line is, if new policies are introduced so to encourage a virtous behaviour a lot can be accomplished. In my opinion, what LL needs to do is to define a set of simple rules (land preservation being a key factor) to encourage community building with incentives and create a community registry where applicants must comply to LL rules (say, have a charter that defines the purpose of the community and its goals). Low maintenance, self-regulatory, less red tape, no relocation necessary, less problems: simplicity is key to get the best results.

Polish faruri

the idea is awsome, to bad the Second Life didnt grown as much i expected.

Haney Armstrong

Zoning! Now there's an idea I like.

Iggy

Now I *love me* some of this idea. Even though I find Gor not to my taste, imagine John Norman's world as a contiguous set of sims, more or less in the shape of his maps.

The same could go for Middle Earth or...well, there is that copyright thing.

But then at the same time, putting the Cyberpunks together in one land, the fantasy RPers in another, pirates in others with lots of sea to sail, sorting by those using a common combat system, etc. would provide some amazing synergy.

It would make SL a bit more of a world again, too. The RPers would have to work out sim rules, how to deal with interlopers, and so on, but each RP continent could have its own welcome area with mentors. YES.

Arcadia Codesmith

"Think the irony might be that even if such a setup were done, there would arise people who had sufficient influence over various areas to control them. It might not end up all that different from the land barons we have now."

I'd bank on it. Leadership is a specific and useful skill set. I'd rather see it recognized by majority vote rather than investment, at least on the mainland. There are much more civic-minded aspirations than making a buck.

We'd of course preserve generous anarchy regions for people unable to bear the thought of community-based decision making.

Adeon Writer

Some of Mainland is zoned. The region Brown for example requires a suburban town theme.

shockwave yareach

No matter what you do, mainland will NOT become more desirable than private estates!

* You can't adjust the land to suit your needs except for 5m or so.
* You can't do anything about neighbors build purple and green p*nis farms.
* You can't do anything about greifers throwing up lag generators unless they are foolishly on your own land.
* You can't restart a hung or crashy sim.
* Simcrossing on mainland for some reason are much more crashprone.

My group owned land in Pockwock. After a few months, we had a sexpose store open next door. Then someone had a hundred prism lagcubes on his parcel but nobody could do anything about it. Just walking to the next sim could crash you out. We left mainland for all these reasons. And while we've lost 3/4 of our private islands, we are NOT moving back to the mainland under any circumstances.

Price us out of existence, and we'll just go out of existence. In SL, anyways.

foneco zuzu


Yesterday's roll out of Le Tigre, show that Users are being used as beta testers !
How could i keep saying that SL have still a great advantage, mainland and continents, when a simple roll out turns into a nightmare for so many?

Kim Anubis

There are a lot of things the Lab could to in order to seed and/or facilitate user-run themed (and unthemed) communities. They've pursued some of them, experimented with a few other things, but there's a lot more they could do, and at minimal expense. This is a community management solution, not a technical one, and I never understood why they shy from it. They favor automated solutions instead, but code doesn't build community; it only helps to maintain and police. I offered to help with this in the past, for free, having a successful track record of having done it for one of their competitors, and was turned down. Different people were in charge then, though, and Rodvik and co. are pretty sharp, so maybe things will change. The new roads and other content the Moles have added to the mainland will help.

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