Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 10 Mar 08 13:45
James, for someone like me who doesn't recognize most of the terms and systems being mentioned here, could you give a brief description of what Second Life is, exactly, what there is to do there, why someone might be interested in going there, and what it's like once you're there. Does everybody arrive in the same place every time they log on? How do they communicate with each other? How do they find compatible groups to hang out with? I've seen mentions of buying and selling, but what is available for sale? How are these things created and how are they paid for? Are they SL credits or actual dollars? Please educate a newbie who might be interested in joining but has no experience.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Mon 10 Mar 08 13:48
Thanks, (bumbaugh)! Yeah, I agree with you. My Second Life writing was definitely inspired by Katie Hafner's Wired article (then book) about the WELL, along with Julian's stuff. "Could you define your 'social gamer' for me?" An MMO for whom socialization per se-- forming relationships, starting romances, going to parties, etc.-- is the object of being in Second Life. "I'm trying to wrap my head around the differences between someone who logs into SL a couple times a week versus someone who logs into Eve Online or WoW, or more popular lightweight social/gaming spaces like Habbo Hotel." I don't think there's profound differences, they're on a continuum. Generally speaking, the people who joined SL from other MMOs were dissatisfied or frustrated by the options the game provided, or lack thereof. There's also very large roleplaying communities in SL based in the universe of Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, BSG, etc. etc. One of the top mini-MMOs, City of Lost Angels, was created by a woman who was a top guild leader in Star Wars Galaxies, who left after the game got twinked. COLA: http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2007/04/onders_game_cit.html
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Mon 10 Mar 08 13:59
Good questions, Linda. I have to get to some deadlines and SXSW stuff before posting again. Fellow SLers, can you help with answers in the interim?
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 10 Mar 08 14:04
I don't know as much as James does, but I know that people in-game sell both objects and experiences, anything they want to in fact. In-game money is called Linden dollars, and those dollars are directly convertible to US dollars. You can buy Linden dollars, or sell them back if you earn them in-game. People who own land pay for the privilege. They'll often run shops and sell clothes or furnishings, for examples. Or they may run dances or bars or brothels. The L$ they collect can be turned into US dollars. The items are created via a scripting language. I've only studied that language a little bit, making things like cubes and circles, but you can of course combine shapes and colors into quite intricate items if you're patient enough. Items can be interactive as well, or animated. I am not a programmer, but the language seemed somewhat clunky to me. Not sure what someone more skilled would think of it.
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 10 Mar 08 14:34
is there a way that someone can go try it out without making a financial commitment? How much does it cost?
Public persona (jmcarlin) Mon 10 Mar 08 14:37
Yes, you can sign up with SL without paying any real dollars. If it still holds true, you get 100L$ when you sign up and you can do lots and still have your "money".
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 10 Mar 08 14:51
You only have to pay cash if you rent land, or if you opt to purchase Linden dollars to use in-world.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 11 Mar 08 06:58
All of the economic side of SL is very interesting to me. Are there any SLers that make enough L$ to convert to US$ as a full time money making job/business?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 11 Mar 08 07:40
Yes, according to Linden's data, about 1000 users are clearing over $1000 a month in Linden Dollar earnings; 155 of them are making over $5000 a month. Those figures don't count the thousands of people who make a living developing content and projects for major companies, universities, organizations, etc. in Second Life, but are paid in real cash. (For that matter, it doesn't include me, or the several dozen people who've written a book about Second Life and got paid by a publisher.)
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 11 Mar 08 10:19
James, would you say a bit more about MONO and Havok 4? What are they, and how will this change affect the average person in-world? To what degree is SL trying to position itself as a gaming platform, or a world for people who want to write games?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 11 Mar 08 13:05
Programmers can explain MONO in way better detail than I could, but basically, it's a commonly used, open source web-friendly coding language that is soon supposed to replace Linden Script Language, a very rudimentary native scripting system. Havok 4 is one of the latest versions of the game industry standard "physics engine", i.e. software that depicts realistic gravity, collisions, etc. in 3D. Not only is Havok 4 important for making full-featured 3D games, it'll also fix a lot of the lag problems that SL has, especially when more than a couple dozen avatars are in the same space. I doubt the company is trying to position itself as a game platform per se, though I imagine they'll emphasize that kind of application a lot more. So far, the most successful SL-made games are casual social ones like Tringo (Tetris meets Bingo), or slower paced MMOs.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 11 Mar 08 13:57
Thanks to everyone who helped talked (castellani)'s questions, by the way. To return to her core query, "what there is to do there, why someone might be interested in going there, and what it's like once you're there?", that's really what the bulk of my book talks about. A lot of people just enjoy it as a social game space like IMVU, for going to parties and dancing and so on; far more than that, people enjoy creating content, whether that's building or clothing, or just playing around with different avatar identities. Still more are using it primarily as a professional/vocational development platform to create and promote art, prototype architecture and software, etc. etc.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 11 Mar 08 14:48
Thanks!! It sounds a lot like IMVU in that case.
Rick Moffat (rickmoffat) Tue 11 Mar 08 17:47
<castle>, and back at <wjamesau>, what really struck me in one of <wjamesau>'s earlier replies was his reference to a "Burning Man Leap". I don't know if people unfamiliar with Burning Man would get the reference, and how it applies to Second Life. Basically, the core SL population is somewhat tribe-like, similar to the Burning Man festival crowd (or Dead shows, or Ren Faires, or any fan-based community). The tribe isn't necessarily going to seek out new members. For a new person in SL (this holds true in other mmorpg's as well), you really do have to make a virtual leap of faith and open yourself to social interaction, and usually make the first move. Avatar-based communication can be awkward, but once you make a connection with someone (usually based more on what you type than on what your avatar is doing), entry into the tribe is easier. I've played a lot of mmorpg's and run around quite a few virtual worlds. There are very few that manage to create a community where interaction is a natural outgrowth of their game world, or virtual world. Most of the interaction needs to be initiated by the people who play the game. If you're new to the game/world, you'll have to approach people and seek out like-minded companions. If you have an outgoing personality, and you're persistent, you can certainly meet people in Second Life. The tribe (for lack of a better term, <wjamesau> may be cringing to hear me describe the SL community that way) isn't exclusionary, but they do require effort on the part of new folks to break into the community. It's no different than moving to a new town, really. If you can find out where people congregate, and you can strike up conversations, you'll find out where things are happening, and make friends in the process.
Ian Betteridge (ianb) Wed 12 Mar 08 00:57
I think that's slightly simplistic, <rickmoffat>, in that SL really consists of a multiplicity of tribes, lots of which rarely come into contact with each other. The key thing in SL is finding your tribe :)
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 12 Mar 08 01:59
How did you do it?
Rick Moffat (rickmoffat) Wed 12 Mar 08 07:29
I agree, Ian, and thank you for pointing it out. "A" tribe, instead of "The" tribe, is much more accurate. And I still don't like the term tribe, but I guess it works to describe a small community with common interests. As far as the "how do you do it" part, I'm bad at it :) Well, that may not be entirely true. I might have been more successful meeting people and connecting with a social group or small community if my tolerance for the technical shortcomings of Second Life was higher. I get frustrated by the interface and the sluggish performance. That said, if I had the patience to overcome my frustration and I wanted to meet people, I'd try the following things. Hmm, thinking about what <jmcarlin> said earlier, about how he already has a well-developed community here on the Well without needing an avatar, you might have some success trying to find an out-of-SL forum where you can introduce yourself and ask some of these questions. You might get good advice from people who have successfully integrated themselves into a SL community. In-game, I'd find sandboxes. They're areas where people can practice building objects, and I'd think you're likely to meet people who have spent enough time in SL that they're interested in building something for themselves. Introduce yourself, ask them what they're building, show interest in what they're doing, then tell them you're new and ask if they have any suggestions for places to go, things to see, spots where other people congregate. And speaking of where people congregate, <wjamesau> mentions in his book that a way of tracking how many people are around a given area is to watch the green dots in your minimap in the SL client. The density of green dots lets you know when you've found a popular area. That phenomenon can be gamed, to a certain extent (property owners paying other players small amounts of Lindens to sit afk in a chair to give a property the illusion of being more crowded, but if you combine that technique with suggestions from either SL forums or people you meet in-game, you might start to get a sense of where to find people to talk with in SL. I'm curious if <ianb> or others have better tips on how to find your tribe in SL?
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Wed 12 Mar 08 13:04
I think a lot of the Burning Man connection to the history of SL, as James describes it, really passes me by, because it's not something I've done or really been interested in, other than reading about the experiences of people on the Well.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Wed 12 Mar 08 13:09
Rick, one trick is checking avatar profiles. When you see someone with a cool avatar that fits your tribe (steampunk, fantasy, whatever), click on their profile and check their Picks. Chances are they'll have selected several places and/or groups that you'll dig. With a handy Teleport button right there!
streaming irreverent commentary (pauli) Wed 12 Mar 08 21:23
A friend of mine at Case Western taught a course on culture and computers taht met in Second Life. She gave a paper on it at the Society for the History of Technology meeting in Washington last October. It was very interesting in discussing the good and bad of the experience. While there were a lot of frustrations in trying to operate a class in that environment, she also thought that their experiences in Second Life and the discussions about avatars and multiple identities helped to frame student critiques of topics such as online dating, artificial intelligence, social networking, and online gaming. She also thought it helped them think more productively about the digital divide because the students who were very familiar with computers nonetheless had to learn how to operate in this digital world.
Ian Betteridge (ianb) Thu 13 Mar 08 05:11
I'd second What <wjamesau> said - profiles, shops and search are a good place to start. But the key thing is don't be afraid to talk to people - the normal rules of social etiquette are more loose than in real life :)
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 13 Mar 08 11:39
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Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 14 Mar 08 08:47
Above, <rickmoffat> mentions that some people get involved in "gaming" the system by intentionally manipulating the environment to create, for example, the appearance of more activity than would be there naturally. This makes me wonder about the whole "troll" thing -- people who come into an online environment to intentionally disrupt. In the world of MMORPGs, I understand that these people are called griefers. Does Second Life have to contend with griefers? Did the tech developers of this world try to find ways to build it so that this kind of game-playing was hard to pull off? Is it possible to develop an online world where griefers can't engage in disruptive activities?
Lisp Hax in SL (bwsmith) Fri 14 Mar 08 08:55
I've been "in" Second Life for about a year now... What helped me the most for getting an idea of what it was about and what it was capable of was to going into it for a conference sponsored by CMP/Dr Dobbs. It was hosted with speakers and presentations ranging from the economics of SL, SL in education, and how SL is being used by corporations to showing cool tools for building things. Presentations and roundtable discussions were scheduled 9:00-4:00PST for the best part of a week. But the best part of it was actually the "after hours" activities. Those were: Road trips to the Sun, IBM, Toyota and other sims. Tours to shopping areas that the "old-timers" knew about. A trip to a "damage enable" sim to play with weapons(you don't die, your just ejected to the edge of the sim and have to find you way back.) A tour of the various "libraries" maintained within SL. One for prims and building techniques, one for scripting, and one for particle effects. And then a visit to interesting places, some just beautiful and others educational goals like the simulation of a tsunami. And finally, just listening to music "dancing" and most important chatting with other folks interested in and knowledgeable about the environment. That gave me a good foundation to go out exploring on my own. From a trip to a sailing community, I found out about simulated winds and sailing and racing in SL. There are actually quite competitive sailboat races daily in multiple locations. That also introduced me to the non-Linden, non-mainland, private estates. Wanting to build and store my "stuff," I first rented an apartment, then wanting more scope, rented a house, and finally purchased a portion of one of the private (non-Linden owned) sims where I could build my own house. This was in one of the "themed" sets of sims. (All building and landscaping is monitored and approved to be in the style of "A coastal New England sailing community.) So, after a year, I own land in SL, have two houses, found out that I was good at it building and scripting and have sold several more, just started a shop where I also sell reproductions of museum quality oriental rugs and shaker furniture, attend live music performances streamed into SL on a regular basis, have sailboats ranging in size from a racing dinghy to a blue-water schooner, attend presentations and discussions about virtual worlds once o twice a week, and find I don't have enough time all of the things that I'd like to do... So, thats why someone would go into SL. (Also the "Life 2.0 Spring '08, March 15-21" starts tomorrow. You can get information about it and this years speakers at: http://www.life20.net)
Ian Betteridge (ianb) Fri 14 Mar 08 12:21
Oh yes, there are griefers in SL - some quite organised groups. But they can generally be avoided.
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