Here's a seriously useful (and short!) video tutorial valuable for both SL mesh builders and land owners from Brookston Holiday of NWN's Metaverse ProTips. If you want to skip ahead, there's a place you should definitely not miss:
Specular maps are the part of the Second Life materials system which allow us to create “shiny” objects. They determine how rough or smooth the reflections on a surface appear. In the photo above, the red ball has a high speculartity, with a small, focused specular reflection; the green ball has a low specularity, the surface appears to be a more matte, or satin like finish.
Creating the balls above was easy: I just applied a blank texture to the specular texture slot and adjusted the glossiness parameter. However, as you try to get more complicated looking effects using specular maps, you are likely to run into some complications that have given Second Life’s materials system a bad rap. I think the confusion stems from important settings being hidden away. Today we will take a look at these “secret” parts of the materials system.
Let’s start with some simple white tiles and add some realism using specularity:
If you followed my advice about branding your new SL business, you’re already well ahead of most beginners. On the other hand, you still have some disadvantages. You don’t have an established customer base, you have no name recognition, and you probably don’t have the cash flow for advertising. But being small can also be an advantage.
The Advantages of a SmallBusiness : The Personal Touch
When Airbnb was starting out, they had relatively few hosts. The hosts they did have were posting lousy camera phone photos to the site. In an effort to grow their business, the company sent out professional photographers to each and every host’s home. The photographers took glamour shots of the homes to put up on the site. They also would go door-to-door, recruiting new hosts. While the company could never afford to do this now that they have millions of hosts; at the time, it was an effective way to grow their business. Thus, the Airbnb founders were following Paul Graham’s advice: Do things that don’t scale.
One way I’ve tried to adopt this philosophy was when I was starting my 3D textures business. I would take time twice a week to go through my list of sales and thank every one of my customers individually. I would ask if they were happy about the purchase, and if they needed any help.
Most people just ignored my IM’s, a few people said they appreciated it, but every so often someone was confused and needed help. For whatever reason, a lot of people were too shy to ask, but once I contacted them they were more than willing to explain the problems they were having. It was almost always something we could figure out together, and the few times it wasn’t, I simply refunded their purchase.
This habit of thanking my customers helped me to avoid negative reviews on the marketplace, and when I helped a customer fix a problem, I had no compunction about asking them to take a minute to write a positive review. As the business grew, it became less practical to contact everyone individually, but at the time, it was a quick way to get good reviews and create a good customer service reputation.
Creating things in Second Life is a fun and rewarding experience. At the same time, marketing those creations can be tedious and frustrating. Unfortunately, you have to be good at both in order to have a successful business. I’d like to share with you some tips, from practical steps to take before your first sale, to ways of thinking about running a small business, that will make starting out easier and pain-free.
Creating Your Brand - the Nitty Gritty Guide
Branding is important. Which of these stores below would you feel more confident buying from?
It may be completely wrong, but my gut is telling me one of these stores is selling quality products. (The other makes me feel, oh, so very sad.)
Graphic design is hard. No seriously, it’s really hard. My job was once getting small businesses’ crappy marketing material ready to be printed professionally. (I realize you’ve been “in the business” for 20 years sir, I’m just wondering if we could re-think 8 of your 9 fonts. Also, why does literally everything have a drop shadow?) Nothing will make you appreciate good design like bad design, and though I am far from being a graphic designer, I do have a few tips:
In April of 2013 the materials project allowed Second Life builders to import custom normal maps for the first time. Fast forward to three years later and few builders are taking advantage of it, even though, as you can see in the above picture, normal maps impart a level of realism that a flat texture can’t. However, with some great free software, I’ll show you how you can create your own custom normal maps for your favorite textures:
Custom Normal Maps - de-boring-ing the bricks
If you’ve been building within Second Life for any amount of time you’ve probably collected a fair number of textures like this one:
It’s tileable, and looks great on the patio outside of the Italian Villa you’re building, but it comes from an era before normal maps could be imported. So let’s bring it up to date by creating one. Here's how: