Why Second Life's Prim-Based Era Was Its Golden Age of Creation (Comment of the Week)


"Lost Gardens of Apollo" - a classic from SL's prim era

Veteran Second Life builder P. Gibbs wrote a really interesting rant on the state of Second Life creation today in comparison to Minecraft now and SL in its pre-mesh era which is worth excerpting here, because it expresses some key challenges Project Sansar faces now: 

Just let me get some things out of the way. I love SL, you really gotta like something to spend 8 years of your life logging in daily on it, learning to create, perfecting your modeling, learning a new programming language and everything else that comes along with it to be a successful builder. I am a user and I create content, I love to visit other people’s sims, check out their own creations and pretty much the whole experience with "be what you want, do what you want".

But as it helped me grow as a creator (it drove me to study 3D Studio Max, Blender, Photoshop, Gimp and a bunch of other softwares for years) it didn't follow along the growth rate, and every minute studying just helped me to notice how harder it was to make something nice for SL than anywhere else. If you ever work with UDK, Unreal 4, even Unity, you will know that it's much easier to get something there to look and behave as you intended than it is in SL, and that is hell to content creation.

PG goes on to compare this to creation in Minecraft:

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It's Now Possible to Make Video Calls from Minecraft

Yes, this was sponsored by Verizon as a marketing gimmick, but that just means it's one of the few (only?) cool things Verizon has been involved with:

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Streaming About a Virtual World While His Real House Burns

"Japanese streamer Daasuke took a break from playing Minecraft to show off his new oil-match lighter," reports Kotaku. "That’s when things got bad. Real bad." Specifically, at about 4:45 min -- after which, it rapidly goes from bad to worse:

The child-like digital voice you hear, by the way, is connected to the IM text stream on this guy's video feed, which someone on Reddit helpfully translated:

  • "Behind you. Behind you. Look Behind you."
  • "The fire extinguisher. Use the fire extinguisher."
  • "Call 119" (Japanese 911)
  • "Don't you have a futon (thin Japanese mattress) you can put on it?"

According to translations of early Japan news reports, the Minecraft streamer and his family (he lived with his parents) are injured but fortunately alive, though their house is now largely gone. Two thoughts jump out at me, watching this:

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John Carmack: "Crass Commercialization", Not High-Mindedness, Will Lead to the Metaverse

Joyce Bettencourt is a longtime metaverse developer (and Rhiannon Chatnoir in Second Life), and she got a chance to grab OculusVR CTO John Carmack at the company's recent developer conference to talk Second Life, Minecraft, and the Metaverse in general-- so let's watch:

"[H]e leans more towards platforms like Minecraft, which is coming to Oculus and GearVR as having potential to lead towards a metaverse than say Second Life." Joyce summarizes. "He mentions that the lack of implicit 'what do I do and gameplay' as downsides to SL."

That's a very valid point, something I've discussed at length here and with Second Life's co-founders -- both Philip Rosedale and Cory Ondrejka, who expressed a desire to see Second Life add a gaming system after leaving Linden Lab, and then went on to lead Facebook's acquisition of Oculus VR.

Anyway, more from Rhiannon, who provokes a good point from Carmack on how the metaverse will come about:

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Educators Discuss Minecraft for Education in Second Life

Somehow this feels like an endpoint of a years-old evolution, but here's a group of educators who once advocated Second Life as a great education tool now gathering in Second Life to discuss best practices of Minecraft as a great education tool. SL is pretty excellent for group voice chats in 3D where Minecraft isn't, so maybe this is the best marriage of the two virtual worlds as education tools. (And there's lots useful advice and case studies discussed throughout).

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Compare Minecraft Player Personality With Players of SL, Europa Universalis IV, Candy Crush & Crash Bandicoot

Minecraft player personality Nick Yee

Here's Quantic Foundry's latest blog post summarizing the gaming personality of over 100,000 people. On Wedesday, I shared the results related to Second Life, now you compare that profile to players of not just Minecraft, but Europa Universalis IV, Candy Crush & Crash Bandicoot. Notably, Minecraft players put significantly less value on Design (i.e. generated content) than SLers: 53% versus 77%.

"We had about 1600 gamers who wrote down Minecraft as one of their favorite games," Nick Yee tells me. "We actually weren't planning to analyze the data like this. We included the 'favorite games' question as a way to potentially debug problems with the Gamer Motivation Profile.... But as we started to poke around with favorite games for each motivation and dug deeper, we realized how clear the profiles were. And that we had enough data not just for all the popular games, but for many niche/less well-known games as well."

Another notable finding with Minecraft: The survey respondents are actually more male than Google data suggests:

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"Kinda Like Minecraft But Not Really" - How to Introduce Second Life to a New Generation Ready to Embrace It

Hey Linden Lab and SL enthusiasts, if you really want to grow Second Life's userbase, forget about Dr. Phil or any other old school media like that, and push to get more people making videos like this;

A fun if rambling "Let's Play" video from YouTube gaming personality "everythingdigital1" who recently discovered and fell in love with Second Life (his SL name is "Dtpk"), this is exactly the kind of video that really would grow Second Life's userbase, because it's aimed at the precise demographic who are ideally suited to embrace SL. Here's why:

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The New Yorker Finally Features Virtual World on Its Cover

Minecraft New Yorker education

The New Yorker is arguably the Western world's most important magazine, while the cover of the magazine is one of the most important cultural barometers for the concerns and obsessions of its target readership (affluent, educated, influential), so it's noteworthy that its current cover carries a depiction of a virtual world for the very first time.

The accompanying article, by Chris Ware, who also illustrated the cover, captures a lot of what we were just discussing last week, or for that matter, what Julian Dibbell told me about his own daughter's experience with Minecraft:

Clara has spent hours, days, weeks of the past two years building and making navigable block worlds fuelled from the spun-off fizz of her accreting consciousness: giant ice-cream-layered auditoriums linked to narrow fifty-foot-high hallways over glass-covered lava streams, stairs that descend to underground classrooms, frozen floating wingless airplanes, and my favorite, the tasteful redwood-and-glass “writer’s retreat.” (It has a small pool.) She made a meadow of beds for my wife—a high-school teacher who craves unconsciousness—and a roller coaster to take her there.

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Why a Virtual World Educator Jumped to Minecraft

Minecraft for Education

The open forum on the success of Minecraft versus SL has attracted some really interesting reader comments, one of my favorites being this one from Jo Kay, an educator deeply involved with Second Life and OpenSim as a teaching tool:

One of the key factors IMHO is Minecraft's simplicity AND its complexity. A small child can quickly learn how to negotiate the space (without lengthy tutorials or clunky viewer software to learn) and get almost instant satisfaction from exploring and socializing, monster slaying and/or building a little house, castle, secret base etc.

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, Minecraft allows for complex modding which has seen developers from around and world and across a huge age range creating their own versions and flavors of the game - from themed servers (Hunger Mines, Harry Potter etc) to Factions, Feed the Beast and PVP).

Additionally the extensive "metagame" that exists around the game is compelling - from YouTube stars to kids writing epic Minecraft theme stories and beyond, the eco-system of fan created media is endless and amazing and operates from beginner to elite. Kids are able to join that community easily via Twitch, Youtube, fan sites and Forums, and via coding communities like Bukkit.

... all of which leads to several advantages of Minecraft as a pedagogical platform:

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Open Forum: Why Has Minecraft Captured a Mass Market and the Education Space Where Second Life Has Not?

Desmond and Emilly Orr in Minecraft

Mimi Ito has a really interesting Boing Boing post on the rising popularity of Minecraft as an educational tool, which emerged very soon after Minecraft becoming extremely popular -- over 100 million players, in recent estimates. Then she makes this point:

Minecraft isn't the first virtual world to value player creativity. Remember Second Life? But, what makes the DNA of Minecraft fundamentally different from Second Life or WoW is that any player can set up and administer their own server. This makes the Minecraft scene a breeding ground not only for digital creativity, but social innovation. Players are building their own server-based communities in Minecraft governed by the values and rules that they develop and enforce. No corporate overlord dictating the rules of property and play here. The mod world in Minecraft is teeming with social engineering tools, ranging from chat moderation add-ons to systems that assign plots and different privileges to players to minimize griefing. Lessons in digital citizenship anyone?

OpenSim, the open source spinoff of Second Life, also enables player-owned servers, so that doesn't make Minecraft unique. Also, Minecraft player-owned servers did not exist for some time after the game launched - it was originally a single-player experience.

All that to one side, what remains true is that Minecraft has captured both the mass consumer market and the education space where Second Life and OpenSim tried and failed. So let me put the question to readers (especially virtual world educators and those who play both): Why?

Please discuss in Comments. I plan on featuring the best insights in a future post.

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