Today we had some very exciting company in our dirty old Keller Tanzlokal in 1920s Berlin.
You can read more about the short visit here on the 1920s Berlin Project Blog.
Today we had some very exciting company in our dirty old Keller Tanzlokal in 1920s Berlin.
You can read more about the short visit here on the 1920s Berlin Project Blog.
As you may (or perhaps even should) know, the Oculus Rift is coming to Second Life.
This is very exciting because the OR will change the way we play computer games, work with all kinds of software and experience virtual surroundings for ever.
But with some technical smart stuff added (you may by now realise I am not a very technical person), it makes what you see on your computer screen link up and match your head movements, thus giving you a virtual reality experience like you’ve never seen before.
I tried some massive and heavy VR headset decades ago and remember being in awe with that experience but somehow it never caught on.
Together with other ‘gadgets’ we will soon be able to really feel as if we are inside our games or virtual worlds.
It truly is a game changer, 3D will never be the same again.
And just in case you don’t take my word for it, check out some of the game websites and magazines who, for the last month or so have been writing articles with titles like “Believe the hype.”.
Make sure you also have a look at Youtube, it is full of very entertaining videos of people trying the OR for the very first time.
It is very hard not to get extremely exited when you watch their enthusiasm.
Have a look at this 90 year old granny traveling to Tuscany… while never leaving her chair.
If you’re still not convinced, read this article about why Second Life is a killer app for Oculus VR by someone who knows technical stuff a lot more then I do.
As someone who has been working on trying to create an immersive location in Second Life for years, this is of course very interesting for me.
I build 1920s Berlin in great detail, trying to give visitors the experience of really going there, actually traveling back in time.
But no matter how realistic I can make this sim, watching it on a screen and walking around by pushing keys on a keyboard sort of makes it very hard to forget you’re not really there.
Oculus Rift can bring a much more immersive and realistic experience a LOT closer.
I can already imagine myself walking around those dark narrow streets, looking up, down, around me.
Finally being able to see my city trough my eyes in stead of the eyes of my avatar.
Now, if you understand what the Oculus Rift is and how it works and if you’re an avid Second Life user, you will now realise how big these two could be for each other.
At the moment the OR is mostly seen as something we could use for playing games, while SL is seen by many as a virtual world with a bad reputation, forgotten by many.
Now imagine what could happen if Second Life will become compatible with the Oculus Rift!
People only using the OR for gaming will want to come to SL because there is only one thing more fun them playing someone else’s game and that is playing your own game, exploring your own world, enjoying a virtual reality YOU build.
It could give SL an enormous boost, put it back in the view of those who might have forgotten about it, and it could show off a whole new side of the OC.
Anyway, I am a huge believer in this and have tried very hard to make it happen.
I am just another SL builder but somehow I managed to get connected via the magic of the internet with both the founder of OR Palmer Luckey and the CEO of Linden Lab Rod Humble.
And I ‘abused’ this contact to try very hard to get these two to get together and see if they could bring the OR to SL and visa versa.
To my own surprise I seem to have done it.
By bringing them into a chat I was having about this subject I got them introduced to each other.
It was a very exciting chat, as we were there typing Rod and Palmer were agreeing to exchange IM’s about the subject.
And not much later Linden Lab spokesman Peter Gray confirmed that they are planning to strongly support the Oculus Rift!
As you may understand, I was getting very excited about all this.
It would of course have been a matter of time before Second Life and Oculus Rift got together but it is a great feeling to think that I may have been responsible for pushing them a bit in each others direction like that shy couple at prom night.
To keep this memento going and to give users of Second Life and/or Oculus Rift a place to stay up to date with progress, I started this facebook page with the imaginative title “Oculus Rift and Second Life“.
And of course I keep pestering Palmer and Rod!
Last night Rod replied to my facebook question if there was any news with this reply;
Engineers working on it. Scoop? Sure! It is up and running right now within SL but we want to make it excellent. The new work is on integrating the mouse/cursor/UI support within the Rift, this is important because real VR requires rethinking the way you interact with the world and UI to take advantage of head tracking. Hopefully we will be sharing some vids within a few weeks then get into testing after that. I dont want to overhype this BUT SL+OR is like having dinner with Stefan Zweig and Peter Altenberg.
The OR is already in SL and there will be videos in a matter of weeks!
I can’t wait to get my hands on the OR and explore 1920s Berlin a lot sooner then I expected.
See you on the other side of the looking glass folks!
Tier has been a big issue in Second Life almost since day one.
Owning land is not cheap and Linden Lab makes plenty of money renting it out to us.
But now land ownership is going down, fewer people come to SL and even less stay around for a while.
Of course there are still a LOT of people in SL who do own land and pay their tier, but their number is dwindling.
So what can we do about this?
Almost everyone automatically shouts; “Bring the tier down!”.
And yes, that is a good idea, less tier will mean more people renting land and thus LL will make more money.
But of course it is also scary because at first LL’s income will go down a lot and there is no guarantee that more people will actually rent enough land to make up for the loss.
So, Linden Lab is not too keen on lowering Tier but most people in SL are.
But lowering or not lowering tier are not the only options LL has.
How about creating several different types of land ownership?
For instance, LL could decide to give NEW sims a 50% tier discount for the first 2 months.
This would make it a lot easier for people to start new projects, give them a go, see if their sim actually works, attracts people, is fun to manage, without taking a big financial risk.
It would also make things more interesting for those who want to organise a big, one time event like a fair.
There are so many people who dream of owning a sim, who have great plans and ideas but who are afraid of losing lots of money when it doesn’t work.
When I look at how I started the 1920s Berlin Project sim, I remember being terrified of actually starting something that would end up costing me a lot of money.
So I started small, renting a skybox on the mainland.
It took many months of slow growth, building a community, organising fundraising events, etc, etc.
I had to be talked into buying a full region!
Had regions cost only half the tier, things would have gone faster, I would have dared to take that step sooner.
Another option LL could offer are “part time regions”.
A full region that is only online in the weekends and thus the owner only has to pay tier for 2 days in the week in stead of 7.
This could be especially attractive for people who run big clubs.
For instance the infamous Eldorado club in 1920s Berlin is only open on saturdays and I know many clubs that only have events on one or two days in the week, yet they have to pay tier for the entire month.
A sim that is only used two days a week could be shut down 5 days a week and won’t be a burden on the servers 5 days a week.
I bet there would be quite a few people interested in renting a part time region.
One idea that would cost LL a little money but would also motivate people, is lowering tier for sims that are doing well, that have been around for, say 5 years or more.
Sims that manage to survive for such a long time are doing something right and are apparently entertaining lots of people in SL, making sure users keep coming back to SL.
LL could give old sims a discount on their tier.
By lowering the tier of a sim that has been around for a while, you make it interesting for them to perhaps spread out, add another region, expand.
In the end it is simple; people will spend as much money in SL as they want to or can afford to.
They will not suddenly out of nowhere start spending a lot more.
So here they are, with money in their pocket, but it is not enough for them to decide to rent an entire region.
Linden Lab must find a way to get these people to do that anyway.
Well the only way you can do that is by lowering your price, even if it is just temporarily.
If tier was half of what it is now, even if that was just for 6 months or so before going back to 100% tier again, I would have already bought another region.
Right now it will take many months before I am willing to take a risk on another region with the tier as it is at the moment.
Lower tier, if you don’t want to, at least think about many different kinds of tier just like there are different kinds of cable tv options, package deals and mobile phone subscriptions.
Offer more choice, more interesting deals.
This does not automatically mean that you’ll lose a lot of income, it could have the opposite effect.
I do know that you shouldn’t use too many textures, honest I do.
I know that using textures that are 1024 by 1024 pixels (the maximum size in SL) take for ever to load for people with old computers and slow connections.
But unfortunately textures start degrading so badly as soon as you make them smaller.
And in a historical sim like 1920s Berlin where people expect and love to see lots of little authentic details, it is just very important to have sharp textures that look good.
And when I create the facade of a building, with writing on the wall, old tattered advertisement posters, cracks in the plaster and lots of other tiny details, you just have to use a big texture or somehow cut the picture in smaller bits and make sure they all connect perfectly.
I remember hearing about some plan that allowed textures in SL to be downloaded to our personal computer cache.
This would make them load almost instantly regardless of your internet speed.
I would LOVE that, especially as I spend 99% of my SL time in the same sim.
And in todays world, space on a hard drive is a lot cheaper and easier to get then a faster computer or better internet connection.
Soon SL will become available trough Steam, the online game shop/community and will thus reach millions of people who may not have heard about SL or may have thought it died long time ago.
Some people are worried because they feel that the gamers community might not be interested in the virtual online world or because they feel it is not a game, it does not belong anywhere near steam.
But Steam won’t be ‘selling’ SL as a game, they will be offering it to their members as software, or at least, that is the idea.
Today Steam has added a new section to its website where they are offering Software.
Quite interesting and it already offers some nice goodies such as free Machinima software.
I expect Second Life to be offered there shortly.
Personally I am quite excited about this.
After all I am an avid gamer, I am active on steam but also on SL and think the two mix together very well.
And even if Steam won’t bring millions of new users to SL, this move has at least let the gamer community and press know we’re still here.
I thought it was time to find out if the experience of new visitors to SL had improved a little since last time.
Unfortunately it had not.
I tried to recreate the new experience and wiped as much SL knowledge from my brain as possible before I signed up.
Things go wrong from the very beginning, if I had not known what SL has to offer, I would have given up many times already.
I need to think of a name for my avatar, the one I want has already been taken, of course.
I end up with an avatar who’s name has a number in it, I hate that.
It makes me feel like an email address, not a virtual person.
And of course I have no idea that if I discover the full potential of SL, become hooked and decide to stay, that I will be known by this name for years.
A problem I have with my regular account, I named myself Jo Yardley, later I learned that very short names (like Jo) sometimes cause issues when you’re searching for them and I got very much involved with a German roleplay sim, so my rather English last name is not one I would have picked.
I get to pick an avatar, I don’t like any of them but luckily I am informed that I can change my appearance at a later stage.
After joining up I stare at a blank screen for several minutes, no idea if anything is loading, if my account was created, nothing.
I decide to cheat and just go ahead and sign in with my new avatar in the viewer, the ‘select an account’ screen finally loads when I’m already in SL… but the buttons don’t work.
I assume this was some sort of temporary glitch…
The entire SL site is laggy, things don’t load, pages take for ever, etc.
Finally I end up in SL.
If I was really new, I still would have no idea what on earth is going on.
I find myself in a portal, some sort of Roman arches show me a few hints of the things going on in SL.
But because I am sort of new, I have no idea what to do.
I am yet to find out how to move around, nobody tells me that.
And because the standard settings of the SL viewer are so odd, I get a screen full of buttons and options and a rather slow experience with low graphical settings.
It is expected of me to randomly try out all the buttons in my viewer and learn as I go along?
Fine by me but many users will not like this and will not have the patience.
Compare it with almost every game out there, they all have tutorials, they all are easier to navigate.
So here I am, no idea what to do or where to go next.
I decide to click on a portal that says ‘Roleplay’ and woosh, I get teleported to some sort of Science Fiction roleplay sim.
Not my cup of tea but now I am stuck.
As nobody has bothered to explain to me that I need to use ‘Search’ to explore SL, I have no idea what to do next.
I take a few steps, fall into this roleplay sim in my noob clothes, not fitting in.
If this sim has security or managers online I may find myself in trouble.
Especially because if they decide to confront me in IM… I have no idea how IM’s work, I don’t know someone is talking to me and I may find myself banned before I even know what is happening.
Or worse, I may end up surrounded by angry roleplayers who start being mean and rude to me for ignoring the sims rules.
Not a good start…
I pretend I have found the search button… the search system is horrendous.
It is extremely slow, if your computer isn’t super duper, the loading of the search screen takes a while.
More patience needed.
Finally I’ve made it to a sim I want to see, but I am stuck with a bad viewer, bad camera settings, etc.
I need to open the ‘move avatar’ button and ‘camera’ button all the time, just to be able to walk and look around properly.
Mouselook does not work either because you lose all your buttons and options.
As a noob I am already very tired and frustrated and my SL adventure has only just begun.
I want to change my avatar, wear clothes I’ve been told to wear at the sim I found.
I look around and after clicking the tab ‘avatar’ and choose ‘appearance’, I get stuck.
I see a window with “my outfits” and “wearing”.
Basics for veteran SL users, confusing for new users.
What am I supposed to do next?
I ‘buy’ some freebie clothes, they get send to me but I forget to click ‘wear now’ and they are lost somewhere in my inventory.
I look at my appearance window again, the new clothes don’t show up.
With some luck (!) I find my inventory button.
The library folder is opened so it is easy to make the mistake that the library is my actual inventory, I could spend hours there looking for the clothes I just got.
I then try my inventory folder, I check clothes but there is nothing there.
The new freebie clothes have been send to the general folder and I am lucky to find it at all.
Again, it is all about luck!
Not to mention that thanks to my basic settings, lots of mesh does not rezz or suddenly disappears after a while.
Try and explain a noob that they have to open the debug menu and temper with the MeshMaxConcurrentRequests, just so they see things properly…
So few things in SL come natural, even to a seasoned gamer like myself.
If you don’t find the right sim or the right people to get you excited about SL, it is quite understandable that you give up soon.
By this time, I’ve sort of given up.
Pretending not to know how everything works makes it all just too frustrating.
Time for solutions.
I’ve brainstormed about improving the SL noob experience before on this blog but want to try and summarize it all here again, simply because I feel that this is such an important part of the SL experience.
If you can’t get people excited and running around SL in a easy way shortly after they arrive, they will not return.
It is as simple as that.
Most people NEED instructions.
Most people NEED some help finding their way.
Create an online game on the SL website that allows new users to learn the basics before they even enter the virtual world.
For instance, you are an avatar on an small island and need to get off.
Walk, explore, use stuff, wear stuff and finally use ‘search’ to not only start SL but to teleport to a place you choose.
This can be a very basic, simple flash game that rewards you with knowledge and perhaps even a few freebies.
No more need for inworld portals, instructions, etc.
New players will be ready when they enter SL and understand the basics they need to know to get around and start their adventure.
Let new players create and tweak their avatar also on the website.
Look at games like ‘The Sims’ for inspiration, there it is very easy (and fun) to make your avatar and dress them.
This way you’re not only ready to go once you teleport into SL, but you have already bonded with your avatar and other people won’t immediately spot you as a noob.
And finally…. create a web page that helps people tweak their settings…
Right now you don’t know about raising your mesh and sculpt settings till you buy something that comes with that famous sculpt setting notecard!
New people are not seeing mesh and sculpts the way they should, simply because they don’t know that they can tweak this.
Or even better, set the basic settings in viewers high enough for mesh and sculpts to properly work…
I know that most of this topic is almost the same as my previous topic on the matter, but having just tried signing up as a new avatar again I felt so frustrated, I wanted to write my idea down again.
I’d love to hear what you think, what Lindens think and most importantly; what do noobs think?
When mesh first came to Second Life, I got excited.
When I tried my hand at Blender and Zbrush, I got depressed.
I have build and managed a sim for over 3 years, I have been messing with computers since the 1980s, but mesh software makes my brain implode.
I knew I had to one day master mesh but I was not looking forward to it at all.
Then I found ‘Mesh Studio’, some SL gadget that allowed you to build mesh inworld, no need for crazy software.
I tried it and was blown away, it works perfectly and fast.
But now I am addicted.
I have been rebuilding everything, yes everything, into a mesh object.
As I have created an entire city neighbourhood, that is a lot.
I finally have the feeling I can build stuff to look the way I want it to look without it costing a trillion prims.
80 prim houses are turned into 14 prim palaces!
I am crazy about details, so I am excited that now I can add tiny architectural ‘sticky out bits’ to my houses, making them a little more realistic.
Mind you, I know I still don’t understand mesh completely and half the time I am guessing things and now and then I make big mistakes.
I might still have to redo everything at a later time, but that is just how I work, I am annoying and stubborn like that.
I don’t pay attention in class, I don’t understand instructions and won’t learn till I’ve tried it myself.
Not the most practical way of learning…
Anyway, mesh is awesome, it makes things look better, uses less prims and if I’m not mistaken it even makes the servers work less hard.
The only scary thing is that I use a pretty good computer for SL and I fear that those who visit Berlin with a less able computer may see things differently, so I have to keep checking if other people see the buildings the way I want them to?
Sometimes mesh doesn’t rezz at all, that is bad if your city is made with mesh!
And building a physic model can be a pain… not to mention that SL very very very often gets stuck while trying to upload mesh.
On the other hand, the good things outweigh the bad and it feels like we’re still at the pioneering phase.
And I am amazed that simply by getting this inworld mesh builder, I can now start making and selling mesh stuff that nobody else has made yet.
The most basic items that are easy to make with mesh are still unavailable .
So even some mesh noob like me can conquer marketplace by making something simple from mesh and still be one of the first to offer it.
I don’t know about everyone else, but every time I look for something on marketplace these days, I use mesh as part of the search and only buy sculpt if it is no longer available as mesh.
I guess I am now a real mesh addict.
People come to SL for all sorts of reasons but we all use the same viewer.
If you are someone just curious to come take a look or if you are here to build a city and make complicated machinima with fancy light settings, we all have to first figure out the rather complicated viewer and struggle trough the very steep learning curve.
One of the reasons new visitors don’t stay is that they find SL too difficult to figure out.
The viewer has a lot of buttons and no matter what LL tries, the viewer will always remain too complicated for new people because they give us so many options.
The only option you have is to show the “advanced” tab or not.
I think it might be a good idea to make a really really basic viewer.
New people only want a few things; change their look, explore, interact and chat.
It is only after a while that they want to tweak some of the countless settings, try building and creating and make some stunning snapshots.
And countless don’t even need that, they are quite happy using SL just for chatting, shopping and exploring.
I’ve been in SL for over 3 years and still find the countless settings, different viewers and general usability of SL far from easy and smooth.
I think that it might be a good idea to create 3 different viewers or give the current viewer 3 different settings;
The Basic viewer is perfect for the first time visitor to SL, it allows you to modify your avatar, walk around, chat, shop, etc.
Nothing fancy, very few options, just the things you really need to get around in SL.
For most people this will be more then enough during their first explorations of SL and to many it will more then they’ll ever need anyway.
No building tools, no dozens of tabs, no millions of options.
All wrapped in a simple, game like package that is easy to figure out.
When you have been in SL for a while and decide that you are ready for more settings, play with windlight, add gestures, tweak your camera settings, of just explore the countless options, you ‘upgrade’ to the Advanced viewer.
Perhaps it is just a button in the basic viewer that simply adds some of the many buttons.
Finally, when you are ready to become creative and want to start building something, you move on to the Advanced viewer, this adds the building tools.
Because remember, all these things are now available to people who enter SL for the very first time, who have no idea where they are or what they are doing.
They need to find out how to just go from A to B but are confronted with lag analyzing tools, prim builders, rez permissions, etc.
One of the main problems SL has had since the early days is keeping new visitors.
Most people who try SL do not come back, I think the complicated viewer is one of the reasons.
Have a look at some of the games out there that also use virtual surroundings such as GTA, Mafia, Assasin’s Creed, etc.
They have a very simple ‘viewer’ that enables you to walk around, use a car, shoot someone, etc.
If SL’s first experience is more like that, people would be less intimidated.
Look at “the Sims”, lots of complicated options (including building and creating) but all compacted in a nice easy to understand navigation bar with big shiny buttons.
SL does not want to be a game, but to keep those new visitors staying a bit longer, it may be a good idea to make it feel more like a game.
If you want more, the viewer can be upgraded and you can join the rest, if just the basics will do, you don’t want to be showered with options you’ll never use.
As I run a roleplay community SL groups are very important to me, but it isn’t always easy to use them.
Let’s start with the titles.
Every group has roles besides being able to wear a nice title like “1920s Berlin rules” under the name floating above your head they also give people certain powers and identify them as being someone with a certain role.
For instance, in our community we have people who maintain order who we call Polizei (police) and we have people who live in the many apartments, they are called Tenants.
The police need their title so people can see they are official sim police and not some joker pretending to be.
These officers also need the title because it comes with very important and special powers that include ejecting and banning someone.
Our tenants want the title so they can show they are part of the community, they need the title so they can rez objects and decorate their homes.
But because we are a roleplay community, we sometimes also need or just want more titles, just to show what group of people someone belongs to or so that we can communicate with just a certain section of our people in stead of everyone.
We sometimes want to remind all the children that school is about to begin without having to tell all the 1000+ other members of our main group.
For our 1920s Berlin group alone we use about 13 groups in total, out of the maximum of 42 we are allowed to have.
You can imagine what will happen if I create another sim like Berlin or if I join a roleplay sim as diverse as ours…
I would soon run out of groups I could join.
So, SL groups could do with some improvements.
One of the first things is that groups need more space for roles, at the moment a group can have just 10 roles, a few of those don’t count because those go to owners, everyone, etc.
That is not a lot of roles for a roleplay sim.
If we had more, we wouldn’t need to create more groups… except for communication.
We even have to use a pay per month service from Hippo to create another 20 groups just to be sure we can communicate with them as well.
So the next improvement would be a very simple one; let us send messages to members inside a group who have a certain role.
For instance, our group could have tenants and police as a role, all within our main group.
When we want to announce a rent decrease we can use the very same main group and send the message or note to JUST the people with the tenant role.
Or when some criminal is wandering around town clearly being planning some evil deed, we could send a note JUST to the people with a police role… to make things even nicer, we could perhaps even start a chat with JUST these people.
A little dropdown menu next to the “chat” or “send notice” buttons is always set to “everyone” but by clicking it you can choose the people who have the role you want to talk to.
All this would cut back on the amount of groups dramatically, it would would make search a lot easier and would give people less groups to manage.
Most of all it would allow people who manage large communities to keep things a little clearer and also save some money by quitting those paid services.
Group lag has been reduced a bit a while back but it is still rather bad at times.
Another important thing that groups REALLY need is the option to ban someone from joining the group.
Right now it is a bit of a hassle, you need to take away someones ability to take part in a group chat if you want to chat them up.
A manual and complicated task.
And even if you remove their group chat ability they will still receive group notices and be able to listen in.
It is odd that as a sim owner and group owner I do not have the power to simply ban someone from a group!
I also think many of our SL group options should be useable trough the SL website so we can send messages and even start a group chat without having to go into SL.
More about that in this other blog post.
As someone who manages a sim with a decent amount of traffic I often have to pop into SL just to tweak a few small things, send a few messages, etc.
But unfortunately I also have a rather busy RL and don’t always have the time to do these things.
Also simply communicating with people in SL from RL is not always easy, it has to go trough IM to email, their online profile, etc.
LL could make all this a lot easier for us by creating more fluent interaction between SL and RL.
Let’s start with communication.
Someone send me an IM in SL, if I have “send IM to email” set, I get the IM as an email, reply to it and thus am able to sort of chat with someone inworld.
That is very handy but it would be even better if we could just “open a chat window” via the SL site, just like we would if we were in SL.
Same look, same options, same chat log, option to see profile, etc, etc… except you don’t have to visit SL for it.
If your friend is online you should be able to chat with them trough the SL site.
But there are more options.
I would LOVE to manage my groups and some of the region settings via the SL website.
Imagine the situation, an event is cancelled, a griefer has struck or the sim is suffering from some extreme lag.
People start sending me IM’s about it, I have to log into SL, open the group window and start sending a message.
This may not always be possible.
Because SL does not give us enough group options we, like many sims, use the Hippogroups services, they DO allow us to send messages to inworld from the Hippo site.
Great, but not perfect and it costs money.
It would be awesome if I could simply visit the SL site, open the group window (again with the exact same look as the group windows inworld) and use it just like I would if I was inside SL.
Change permissions (need to remove that rez permission from a griefer fast or don’t want a new tenant to have to wait till I get out of work!), send messages to the group so they know what is going on or to announce a new event, etc, etc.
All the group options accessible from the SL website.
Another great option for sim owners would be the possibility to manage their regions from the SL website.
Again I have to use a third party (paid) service just to see who is visiting my region without me actually going into the region myself.
I would love to be able to do this from the SL site but also manage some of the other options like quickly closing the region when there is trouble, sending a message to the region, restarting it or something as simple as turning the sim to day or night (as LL won’t let us set a 24 hour light schedule).
All those pesky little things that just need a few moments to take care off, jobs that you could do in seconds trough the SL website… now take minutes (especially if your computer takes a while to start SL up and fight the lag) or even hours if you have to wait till you get home.
Little things that you could even take care off with mobile devices because you just need to be able to load the SL website.
But even if you do not own a region, it can be useful to have more interaction trough the SL website with people inside SL.
Imagine being able to start and take part in a group chat from that site, a fun communication tool but also important when you quickly need to know if that event is starting at 2 or 3 and if evening dress is required.