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Sunday, February 28, 2010


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Doubledown Tandino

Although I think Raph Koster is a brilliant man (he's proven it time and time again with his programming inventions), his perceptions are askew because Metaplace did not take off and he gave up on it.

The opposite of the word "mainstream" is not "dead" ... The only people pushing for virtual worlds to become mainstream are the ones either trying to make money or the ones that can't understand the concept 'different strokes for different folks'

The point of virtual worlds is not for it to become mainstream. The point is that these new technologies exist, and that those that have discovered it are using em to their full potentials.

Csteph Submariner

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of time for Raph and pay attention to what he says, but in terms of actual track record; ok Ultima Online - ground breaking, game changing, mind blowing. But then SWG was a little meh from what I understand and, with the best will in the world Metaplace wasn't going to shift any paradigms. So, I guess what I'm saying is that, the article is interesting and well worth a read, but I lace the conclusions with a little seasoning.

Hitomi Tiponi

Hold on Wagner - are we really supposed to listen to the guy behind Metaplace. I joined that world and was amazed at the 'boring' factor of it before it went 'belly up'.

Where he is right is that people these days want instant gratification (so to speak). Just had a look at my friends applications on Facebook - and FishVille, Pet Society and Mafia Wars featured strongly. Also there was 'Scrabble (excluding US and Canada)' which also amused me slightly.

All these 'worlds' are very easy to get to grips with and their basic concepts can be grasped in an instant. And also they don't have a restriction of 25 groups!

We do need a simpler way into sl - I have been alternating between 2.0 Beta and 1.23 when logging in and can tell you now that 2.0 Beta is not the answer. To be honest sl needs two viewers - a basic start up one, and a more advanced version once you learn how to fly and tp. Sadly 2.0 doesn't satisfy either audience well.

Rodion Resistance

@ Hitomi Tiponi
"sl needs two viewers - a basic start up one, and a more advanced version once you learn how to fly and tp"

I think what an ideal SL viewer simply needs is a new welcome screen that has three choices: "1. Player, 2. Player/Creator. 3. Player/Creator/Entrepeneur"...One viewer that caters to three types of user. UI changes based on the type of user that wants to use SL.


Ignatius Onomatopoeia

I have considerable respect for Raph. Before the immersionists jump on him, consider that nearly every student I have taught to use SL considers it "creepy" precisely because of the immersive nature of the world. Millennials are augmentationists to the core. That has always boded ill for 3D virtual worlds. Several of my students, however, love Farmville or Yoville: pretending to be a farmer is okay, I guess, if it's linked to your RL Facebook profile.

Educators tend toward being immersionists because we want that experience in our simulations (and classrooms). Most educators did not find Metaplace immersive enough for good simulations...myself included, and I spent a lot of time there. I did, unlike Hitomi, find MP to be GREAT fun.

It's that "placeness" Raph mentions that keeps me coming back to SL...but perhaps he's correct. As I just told a talented (and Gen X) builder-friend who works in several 3D worlds, "I hope this is not your generation's personal jetpack."

In the late 60s I got promised one of those, along with a vacation on the moon by the late 90s :)

Adric Antfarm

If predictions that turn out to be wrong are a curse, this site is in trouble. Having said that, DJ LL DD COOL somehow stumbled across a valid point in that those calling for mainstream often care less about the baby and more about the money to be made from it.

I do thank you all for the idea of three viewers or a 100mb viewer with options for all. I was needing something to help me do a spit take like the late John Ritter and you gave it to me. Thanks.

Now cue the fanboys to attack this poor man still clearly in mourning for his dead world lashing out at one that will not die. Ever.

Mark Thomspon

I have to say that this constant push for mainstream by certain people will be the death of the kind of virtual worlds that appeals to people like me.

I only got a facebook account last year in order to keep in touch with a group I went on a training programme with. Since then, although I have tried to make it as private as possible I've been friended by people who I don't necessarily want to be friends with.

I am not mainstream because I do not want to have lots of friends, and I do not want people to know how I am feeling or what I am doing.

My life is very compartmentalized because of my profession and my private life and the things that I am interested in. I already have more than one identity, because this is the only way that I can pursue my diverse interests without creating conflicts between my personal and professional lives.

I do not wish these different interests to connect. That is why I no longer use Facebook regularly. People who can access my Facebook account already know more about me than I am comfortable with.

The day that Second Life becomes mainstream and integrated with things like Facebook, is the day that I will leave it, and return to only dreaming and reading sci-fi to escape my reality in the ways when I need to.

This is the real market need that SL is filling, and for which I am paying thousands of US dollars per year, and which has made the company profitable, because people like me are willing to pay big bucks for that. Facebook can go to hell! Long live fantasy!

Two Worlds

Ahahaha, you all are gonna throw poor Raph under the bus so freakin' fast....dude is my Facebook friend, he's a pretty stand-up guy.

Mark Thomspon

To further strengthen my point about the need to keep SL and reality separate, and to highlight an issue that the writer for this blog has not considered.

As a personal experiment, I've found that once people in SL found out my "racial" category and the country in which I live, the nature of our friendship changed, and became strained and more awkward,especially if we had expressed more intimate emotions before the revelation of "race".

Integration of fantasy and reality in a virtual world setting can only work within the same "racial" groups, no matter how much we would like to deny this. Hence, this push for Facebook integration with SL will increase separateness in SL, because racial prejudices are alive and well, as they are deep within our subconscious.

Two Worlds

Carepost: Metaplace was the exact genre of online game that is being wildly popularized via Yoville, Petville, Mafia Wars, etc, and if Raph just would've found some way to capitalize on that kind of link and expand on it Metaplace would've never been shut down. He really should've taken a page from Zynga's playbook, and just expanded their smaller games to fit his bigger 2-D virtual world idea. It REALLY had potential, mad amounts of it.

Okay, done with this effortpost, already I feel like an idiot.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

@Two Worlds, Raph can take the beating we knew he'd get over this. He's a really nice man, though, and I hate to see that happen.

There are much meaner folks to toss under buses!

I got run over by a bus a year ago on the SLED list, when I complained about SL's learning curve...one assumption was "SL is not supposed to be a mainstream app."

So it seems!

Sasara Klaar

I'm always fascinated by the oft repeated assertion that such-and-such technology or trend or fashion or what have you is "dead". Poodle skirts and Commodore 64s may no longer command the public attention as once they did, but there is still active interest in both, and yes, even money to be made, heaven forfend we should do something for its own sake. I think "placeful" virtual worlds are far from that sort of small enthusiast niche scenario, and may yet expand their base of participants significantly, but I don't think they'll ever prove to be as common as television, and honestly I doubt they'll ever be truly dead.

Immer/Aug dichotomies aside, creating an identity from essentially scratch or even from augmentation requires effort, and that's a barrier many won't cross. So be it. There are other choices, as the article describes. Those who wish to dive into the waters of a second or third or fourth existence will support an industry that will eventually settle into a relatively stable population. There's my prediction.

I also don't fully buy the argument that younger folk will not eventually grow up and desire something more immersive than Mafia Wars et al. The age group now dominating Second Life is made up of people who were once younger and less possessed of attention span. We'll soon enough pass on and the next generation will discover that sometimes more effort leads to richer rewards. I've seen it already, actually, though I'll admit having no empirical evidence, merely anecdotes.

Virtual worlds will change, but die? I'd be shocked. Not to mention disappointed.

Two Worlds

>>Virtual worlds will change, but die? I'd be shocked. Not to mention disappointed.


Sasara Klaar

@Two Worlds:

Of course, individual worlds will cease operation. Others will take their places. And some will persist beyond any reasonable expectation.

Two Worlds

Second Life isn't an individual world? Apparently I didn't get the nature of the multi-cosmic nature of Second Life...

Two Worlds

As reluctant as I am to indulge my nerd cyberpunk fantasies with my fellow nerds here, I really DO like the idea of years from now Second Life being a shriveled shell of what it once was, then in some kind of cyberpunk fantasy having a final incarnation after it's co-opted by some kind of weird fringe group, like Al-Qaeda on the Internet or something, as an online launching base. Like...a post-collapse Second Life...avatars e-killing each other for prims or whoring themselves out for hyperinflated Lindens...vigilante and survivalist groups roaming the previously populated infohubs...malnourished bots huddling for warmth in dilapidated former strip club malls...

Basically picture Cormac McCarthy's The Road in Second Life. THAT would be cool.

Sidney Smalls

I've pointed this out before, but there is some truth to what he's saying about full-on virtual worlds and AAA game worlds. It seems that the Internet has shortened people's attention spans. And where there is a tradeoff to made as to quality/depth versus convenience/ease of use, the latter wins out.

The most popular console now is the Wii, which is far behind the others technically, but features a lot of easy-to-play casual games. Casual games are in fact by the hottest gaming category overall, while AAA titles struggle to make back their development costs. Blue-Ray disks are a market disappointment -- most people would rather stream low-quality videos from Hulu, Netflix or Youtube. Super Audio CD's are going nowhere; people would rather download MP3's, which aren't even up to the audio standards of the original CD's.

We've become nibblers. We want digital fast food, not four-course meals that you have to dress up for. It shouldn't be surprising - McDonalds has always outsold any fancy restaurant.

Sasara Klaar

@Two Worlds:
>>Second Life isn't an individual world? Apparently I didn't get the nature of the multi-cosmic nature of Second Life...

I certainly didn't exempt Second Life. In fact, I don't believe I even mentioned Second Life. I fully expect SL as we know it to cease at some point. My idea is that some form of immersive virtual world will be available to those of us interested in them. I actually agree with much of the editorial we're discussing, although I find the tone of it more depressing than need be. I think the folks who expected SL to become the "next way to become an internet billionaire" were fooling themselves.

Two Worlds

>>We've become nibblers. We want digital fast food, not four-course meals that you have to dress up for. It shouldn't be surprising - McDonalds has always outsold any fancy restaurant.

Free < high-quality, high-price.

Two Worlds

Having said that, that's not the reason for SL's lack of popularity. My grandma can probably fire up Hulu on her own. She doesn't have a Blu-Ray player. My grandma knows what mp3s are. She has no idea what a SuperCD is. My grandma freakin' loves the Wii. The X-box 360 scares the hell outta her. Seeing a pattern here? If someone's Grandma can't grasp it and adapt it, it's not worth investing in its potential.

Nexus Burbclave

I agree with DoubleDown's main point. I've seen a lot of intelligent people speculating on how to turn virtual worlds mainstream, but I've yet to read an article tackling the topic of whether that is a goal we should be pursuing in the first place.

Two Worlds

So...what you're saying is keep the riff-raff out, we don't want THOSE PEOPLE in OUR GAME (you know the kind I'm talking about...non-nerds)

Nexus Burbclave

@two worlds, This has nothing to do with excluding anybody, and particularly not for the sake of exclusion. I merely think it would behoove us to examine our basic assumptions before we accept them as given and use them as starting points.

All I am asking for is a thoughtful explanation of what about virtual world's would actually suit them to mass appeal. Not every hobby achieves mass adoption, and there isn't necessarily anything wrong with this. Obscure musical acts may not attract as many fans as American Idol, but that doesn't mean that they intrinsically have no value. My point is that mass adoption is no GUARANTEE of quality, but that does not mean that I don't want to see growth. It merely means that I am cautious, and would like to see some thoughts on how virtual worlds might benefit from mass adoption before I embrace it as a goal.

Richard Bartle, another person I have a lot of respect for, had a response to Raph's article that is IMO every bit as must read as the article itself (and I do agree that the article is a must read).


I agree with a lot of what he said. Especially where he says that he wouldn't bet on virtual worlds that rely on a fantasy identity. Although I do think that online games that feature fantasy identities will live on because the focus is on the game and not the people. Whereas in virtual worlds the focus is more on people and friendship, and yet friendship and anonymity just don't blend very well.

I'm thinking webcams may hold the key to a prosperous future for virtual worlds. People like to know who they're interacting with. Once they're sure that they know who somebody is then they're more likely to be at ease when interacting with each other via avatars.

So maybe there'll be webcam based group chat rooms for people with an interest in certain virtual worlds. Folks will visit the webcam rooms, get to know each other and then go hang out in the virtual world where there's a little more stuff to chat about.

Perhaps Linden Lab could even create their own video chat site?

What ya think, M? :)

Arcadia Codesmith

Raph is one of my favorite designers. UO was a breakthrough, and the original design for SWG was nothing short of genius (but sadly was born premature due to the boneheads in Marketing).

That said, I think in this particular instance he's fallen victim to a confusion of cause and effect. Browser-based virtual worlds, at least in my view, have succeeded not because of their limitations but despite them.

YoVille pulls in the numbers it does because it's accessible and ubiquitous in the Facebook framework, NOT because it's the ideal structure for a virtual world (it's actually pretty awful).

That it dispenses with anonymity isn't a feature so much as an unavoidable consequence of going through Facebook.

It's 2D and cartoony because of the technical limitation of Flash, not because virtual worlds should be 2D and cartoony.

Browser-based world are where MMOs and other VW projects were ten years ago. Embedding the world in the web makes it much more accessible, thus user numbers soar, but those users will become increasingly frustrated with limitations of the platform in short order.

At that point, either Flash will have to expand until it has all the capabilities of a AAA client, or it will be supplanted by a technology that does (and there is a LOT of rough-and-tumble going on right now over what that technology might be).

And designers are going to have to come with grips that if they want a mass audience, they can't toss them in the deep end -- there has to be a curve where casual users can ease in and participate on the level they're comfortable with, while retaining sophisticated systems for experienced users.

It's not either/or. You need both.


I have facebook, mixi, myspace, twitter, tumbler, daily booth, flickr, yahoo, skype, and two blogs. And then I also have second life. Second Life has nothing to do with all the other things, for me. Second Life is my escape from being constantly connected and everyone knowing everything about me. Second Life is where I go when I don't want to be only "the japanese girl". Or even just "the girl".

I have friends in second life, I build, dance, play, pretend and sometimes I even mix in real life with very certain people. But I think we should have a right to play our game without being viewed as a kook, when we don't want to be in SL and the real world at the same time. Lately though, I keep running into people who harass you if you don't join them in their mixing of the worlds. They can't understand that this is my cave, my place to get away from connective-ness.

I read a report recently that went into the differences of people in my generation. How they are too impatient to build their world, they want it ready made and they want to be connected to as many people as possible. Maybe I am different because I grew up with so many friends who were older than me. Or maybe, I am not that different at all, I have just discovered that I can use SL to make a temporary shelter from the constant bombardment of being connected to the world.

Maybe we need two separate SL's. One for augmenters, one for immersionists. But I sometimes cross both lines. So maybe we just need two viewers, 2.0 for communicators and 1.23 for creators and people who are escaping real world. It really worries me that people my age are so concerned with communicating constantly. I see so many of them in SL that do not enjoy SL for what it is. They stand around and talk, mostly complaining that SL is so bad. I really think they would be happier on stickcam or something. Then maybe lindens would spend time improving our world, instead of trying to make it something it is not. But then, I believe the lindens in charge now, do not really understand what Sl is to those of us who immerse there. They should make a new company for facebookSL and leave this one the game many of us love and happily pay for.

Suzanne Aurilio

Interesting perspectives. I agree with Ralph and a few others about the general trend toward casual, (and mobile), asynchronous interactions. There's a pragmatism underpinning that and the preference for single-identity digital footprints. I don't see the general public using anything but easy tools and toys.

Mark's point about all the non-mainstreamness of SL is important too. I happen to have a similar orientation--as soon as something goes mainstream, I'm done with it.

I'm curious if anyone thinks that in the future we'll have more time to sit and become immersed in vw's than we have now. I see the opposite trend, at least for the working-age population. I see people having less leisure time, and what little they have, will be splintered throughout the day. I can also imagine a kind of social/health movement away from technology for leisure, with so many of us sitting in front of a computer all day.

Connie Sec

Umm webcam Virtual worlds?..if people REALLY wanted non anonymity..or non fantasy for that matter,.they would have pasted their RL pic onto a prim and attached that to their nose by now.

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