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Friday, December 11, 2009


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Arcadia Codesmith

Embrace the fact that the mainstream ADORES escapism, and remove the barriers that prevent them from effectively finding escapism in Second Life.

While thin-client apps may be a portion of that, for other purposes the client should be beefier. Gaming sims, for example, could be made more compelling if designers could precache a full render of a zone on the client, along with NPC/mob models (and how cool would it be if you could instance the sim in response to peaks in demand?)

We could also use compilers for standard programming languages, greater control over sim-wide process priorities (my combat system is more important than your bling), a more robust I/O system than notecards and chat, and the ability to create native databases.

That's the short wish list - there's a lot more. If and when developers can deliver on the SL platform a more seamless, smooth and lag-free experience than a title like Free Realms, then perhaps we'll see the sorts of numbers that freemium MMOs enjoy.

Frankly, I don't think Linden Labs is up to it. To be blunt, they haven't the vision, talent or resources at present to pull it off.

Go ahead, LL. Prove me wrong.

Doreen Garrigus

Hey! Some of us *did* use the internet of 1993...Some of us used it even earlier.

Thanks for posting this, Hamlet, and thanks, Wiz, for writing it. The only real dissent I have is to the notion that we won't need a download. I see the world converting from Web to Grid, and a 3D viewer as the equivalent of a 2D browser. Someday, it will come bundled with your operating system.

Michael Sitarzewski

The main reason (based on my research of course) is the experience. It has little to do with interface and everything to do with experiential expectations. If a virtual world existed with the experience of the upcoming film Avatar, including the liquid smooth animation, and highly detailed polygons, VWs would take over the mainstream. What we have pales in comparison to that.


People think SL being "hard" is a barrier. Right.

It has been a year since I logged in to EQII. There was a huge learning curve just to get in there and you don't really progress well unless you have a senior player mentoring you real time all the way through.

Sony is letting inactive EQII accounts have 3 weeks free play time. So I endure the hours of updating files and the interface skin updates and map updates. I log in. What do I find?

The entire game has been changed. Complete restart. My character is still at the same level but the "spells" and stuff are different, some new, some gone. The UI is different. The factions were erased and you have to basically try to remember how to start over. All friends wiped out, etc. I moved the character around a little bit and saw there was nothing around but NPC units. Without any friends or mentors it is a lost cause.

Second Life is simple compared to the popular MMORPG games out there.

As for acceptance? Yes it is escapism. And it always will be escapism. Escapism is what going to clubs and drinking and going to nice restaurants is all about. Role playing a wealthy person. And what exactly do you think going to movies is all about? For 2 hours you get an escape.

People don't like to admit their lives are not perfect. Therefore there is resistance.

The problem facing Second Life right now is Linden Lab does not want SL to be escapism. LL does not understand the product. LL is forcing people out if they do not wish to conform. Second Life's remaining life expectancy shortens with every decision to force out escapism.

I.e.; The people that would come into SL are looking for escapism. It is simply not marketed as what it's strength is. Let an entertainment company manage SL and you would see a huge difference. Because SL is and always will be entertainment and nothing more. Why is it good for education? Because entertained students learn more. Same applies to stuffy corporate meetings. Entertained employees produce more. Disney has that art down pat.

Wiz Nordberg

Ann, I think you are completely right about focusing on entertainment. There is something that entertainment companies understand much better than tech companies, and that is how to unabashedly put entertainment directly in front of people as the prime benefit with no excuses and no pretense of higher purpose.

Tech companies have a hard time doing this. They feel they need to engage people with products that have utility and that people will measure the value by a bullet list of benefits. If there is entertainment present in a tech product, it is portrayed as a passive artifact of the product's design.

Yet you are completely right that education works best in Second Life because of entertainment. Marshall McLuhan said that anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either. Anybody that sees Second Life as having utility in business or education needs to read that quote until it finally sinks in.

Also, Arcadia.... I don't think the mainstream adores escapism, per se. Escapism has a negative connotation to most people because they feel that, for one reason or another, life should be lived and problems should be confronted. Running away from life and its challenges is rarely seen as a positive, even if people secretly are doing it all the time.

Going to see a new Star Trek movie isn't escapism, it's entertainment, and it is the "safe way" to ignore life for a moment, and people do crave such experiences. But the moment you go out and buy a pair of pointy Vulcan ears and attend weekly Star Trek meetings and travel to conferences, you have crossed the line into escapism and there is a lot of resistance by mainstream audiences to crossing such lines.

Second Life is a lot more like a Trek convention than a theatre matinee. It isn't merely the UI and the learning curve, but also the "culture curve". To enjoy Second Life, you need to learn how to smile and laugh at an inworld animation without focusing on the fact that the person's hair is sticking through their bicep. You need to know when to type and when to use voice, and how to read people's profiles make sure they see what they expect in yours. You need to learn where to shop and what makes a good skin, bad skin, and what will label you as a noob or a respected resident.

In other words, right now, you still need to put on your pointy Vulcan ears.

Arcadia Codesmith

Here's the thing about EQII -- if you start (or restart) at level 20 or level 40, yes, it's incredibly complex. You're confronted by a paralysis of choice. But... if you roll a new character and start at level one, the game holds your hand. You learn to move. You learn to interact with objects. You learn how to manage your inventory. You learn how to fight a single enemy one-on-one. You level up, gain new abilities and practice them before you're presented with yet more. And all those steps are in the context of quests that focus you on a goal, provide you a motivation to complete the goal, and start to sketch out the nature of the world you've entered and your place within it.

SL's tutorial accomplishes some of that. But it's laggy, unresponsive, and devoid of context. Further, once you complete it, there are no further 'quests'; you're dumped into the world to do whatever you like, even if you have no earthly idea what the world is about or what it is that you might like to do in it.

Long story short: not good enough.

My favorite solution in this regard comes from Eve Online, a game of such daunting complexity that the learning curve is more like a learning cliff. While the tutorial is lukewarm, what they've done very, very right is to have a newbie help channel. A staffer can answer open questions that help menus can't, like, "So what do I do now?" It's also a good place to chat up fellow newbies without needed to be in the same physical location in the game (good thing, because Eve Online is almost as vast as SL and considerably more treacherous).

Arcadia Codesmith

And I think the distinction you're trying to draw between entertainment and escapism is, in essence, between "stuff I do" and "stuff weird people do". It's the people at the sci-fi rack snickering at the people in the fantasy aisle. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go press my dress uniform for the convention.

Graham Mills

While SL may be escapism for some, for others it is also where they work. Both educators and students come into SL with specific objectives in mind. While I admire the work of Treet.tv, gross generalisations can be distinctly unhelpful in reinforcing stereotypical views in the minds of sceptics. That said, I agree with Arcadia that the platform needs to keep developing and appreciate that education often piggybacks on the dollars and creativity of the residents.

Paisley Beebe

In my real life world, no one knows what Second Life is, sure some have heard of it, a minority, they may have seen something on 60 minutes or on 4 Corners, or even picked up a mag where there is an article about it. But they don't know what it is, they all think its a game. The majority of people I know in Australia real life, never even get to the log in stage of Second Life to be put off by its difficult interface. They just don't know about it, or why they should be interested in it. The negative press about Second Life here in Australia usually is blogged about or written in Newspapers and is very rare and not well read. The mainstream in Australia have no idea what Second Life is. Second Life is developed and owned by an American Company who do not advertise, and certainly do not advertise or do any P.R in Australia.

Yes ok I do think the UI is tricky and there's the "what do I do now?" aspect, but come on, its no more tricky just to get around and explore than any other game, (I'd never played a video game other than space invaders before I logged into SL) and Australians are huge gamers, with 90 percent of households in Australia having some sort of gaming device. (figures just released) I just think even gamers in Aust either don't know about it, or know why they should try it. Second life doesn't behave much like a game..there are some things the same, but on a game you can start off at a beginner level...baby steps that option isn't offered in Second Life.

I don't know how well known Second Life is in other countries, but in Australia its so obscure, that a documentary or an article about second Life is so rare to be seen that the tone it takes informs anyone that sees it that the views put forward must be accurate and informed, and as so few people use Second Life in Australia (less than 15 thousand at last count) and therefor there is no counter point, very few informed views.

Its a bit like when Aussies travel overseas and they read an article about Australia in an overseas paper..its always about some Kangaroo going rampant, a shark attack, or some other strange story about Australian culture or wildlife, it gives the impression that we live in a totally dangerous country with kangaroos jumping down the street, and getting into the elevators in our cities...who would know?

If Linden Labs want to attract more to the platform they need to let the rest of the world know what Second Life really is, and what it is for. AND make it easier to use with a beginner level entry. And look after your clients when they do come in!

Connie Sec

To my mind, SL or any other virtual world will NEVER become "mainstream". Who has the time or interest to invest in something like this to truly reap the "rewards"? Most have jobs, families..what some like to call a "Real Life". SL and other virtual communities require an investment in time and patience, which is available only to stay at home moms. students, retirees and those who have a specific work related need to be in SL.
So, just get over it, and try to make the experience in SL better cater to those that have a need to be in SL.


I can't reconcile this:

"SL is mired in the technology of the past, requiring enormous downloads and suffering from varied experiences based upon what kind of graphics card you have and how facile you are at navigating the dozens of settings which affect how well things are rendered and how they look"

with this:

"As rich as SL seems, it is not rich enough"

I wonder how many SL users play video games. Go play uncharted 2. And now tell me how realistic SL looks. And then tell me how you're going to (with current technology) get a more realistic SL without a large download of some kind, whether it's a standalone client or (please Lord, no) a browser plug-in.

And if anyone suggests a flash plug-in, I cheerfully invite you to a lovely train wreck.

Sure, SL needs to become easier. It needs more focus on the world and less and manipulating things in the interface (something the open source viewer people can't comprehend). But it also needs more realism and more up to date 3d technology, and I don't care how you slice it, that's always going to mean good hardware.

If you can't accept that, there's always etch-a-sketch, I suppose.


"Second Life is a lot more like a Trek convention than a theatre matinee. It isn't merely the UI and the learning curve, but also the "culture curve"."

"In other words, right now, you still need to put on your pointy Vulcan ears."

But that's just part of joining any culture, be it online, offline or online and offline. You have to learn the history if you want any context, you have to figure out the social norms and expectations, and then you eventually decide if you're going to stick around or move on.

Can't see this part changing much, or ever. It's just part of being human. Or even animal, for that matter.

world Travel France

To my manage, SL or any remaining virtual experience testament NEVER metamorphose "mainstream". Who has the indication or stake to adorn in something similar this to really derive the "rewards"? Most bed jobs, families..what whatsoever similar to birdsong a "Concrete Time". SL and different realistic communities say an promotion in abstraction and patience, which is easy exclusive to continue at habitation moms. students, retirees and those who bang a proper acquisition corresponding status to be in SL.
So, righteous get over it, and try to play the live in SL finer cater to those that make a pauperization to be in SL.

World Travel France

Renee Jones

Ick. I guess the consensus is that SecondLife needs to be dumbed-down and turned into a thin consumer broth to be spoon-fed to mindless consumer zombies.

Well, that's pretty much what happened to the Internet, and I guess you are right. Too bad, once you dumb-down the service and try to spoon feed my your worthless, mindless product, well that's when I leave.

Why do corporations have to ruin everything by limiting it solely to the interests of the dumbest people in society?

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