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?
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Caliburn Susanto said:
Good post. My response started getting too long and convoluted and leading to other thoughts (some touching on elitism), so I decided it was more of a blog post than a comment.
However, I agree that the new user experience should be astronomically better now than it was back when I began (six years ago), but it isn’t. In fact, I think two goals need to be made top priority for the benefit of both Newbies and long-time Residents: (1) the new user experience needs a complete upgrade (your suggestions are great!) and (b) the “look-and-feel” of SL public space needs a complete overhaul — totally possible with the current platform and user interface technology without getting into all that “SL v.2.0” discussion, as so well-illustrated in Penny Patton’s blog post, “Beautiful Second Life, Part 2.” [http://pennycow.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/beautiful-second-life-part-2.html]
Both are issues I would enthusiastically participate in, but the question remains what can I do? What can WE do? Mr. Humble needs to chime in, methinks.
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