You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2006.

SvargaSerendipity is a wonderful thing, and Second Life is a constant source of serendipitous surprises. I don’t now recall what I was actually looking for, but somehow I found myself on the island of Svarga.

Svarga is one of the wonders of Second Life. It is gorgeous to look at, with architecture that blends with the more natural scenery that surrounds it, and all of it beautiful and detailed.

But there’s more, because Svarga is a fully-functioning ecology. Driven by the Second Life wind, there are clouds that bring rain, there are bees that
pollinate the plants — there is a whole life-cycle here.

Watch the fish, feed the birds (yes, really, there are bird-seed vendors
around the island — buy some seed, scatter it on the ground, and wait for the
birds).

For more details, Hamlet Au has an interview with Svarga’s creator, Laukosargas Svarog.

I only discovered Svarga a couple of days ago, and I have since found that,
in a disquieting echo of real-life, the island’s ecology is under threat.
Laukosargas has been caught up in other projects outside Second Life, and has decided that the expense of maintaining an island that she no longer has the time to work on is not justified, so she is going to sell it.

There are moves afoot to try and preserve Svarga, but at the moment its future in uncertain, so visit it while you still can.

In one of my previous posts (The Dream And The Reality) I remonstrated against camping chairs. Whilst I’m not quite going to retract that, I am perhaps going to soften my attitude towards it.

Let me explain.

Pyter Morgridge is my second character (an alt, to use the usual term) in Second Life. My other character is under a premium account (and owns land), so gets a weekly stipend.

With Pyter, I only have a basic account, so…no stipend. No money. At first, I
transferred some money over from my other account, but since then I’ve decided that I will treat Pyter as if he were a completely new user. Second Life grants L$1000 to new accounts, so I restricted Pyter to that amount — once that was gone he needed to find some way of making money for himself.

You can see where this is heading, can’t you?

If you are creative, you can try to create and sell items, though you have the
handicap of where to sell them — obtaining a location in a mall usually means renting one, and you don’t want to do that until you have a steady income… but without a place to sell, you won’t make any money…catch-22.

You can work for somebody else, though the jobs that are available strike me
as decidedly uninviting — if you are female you try your chances as an …ahem… escort. Do you really want to do that? Or you can be a salesperson, selling things that someone else has made. Not my idea of an entertaining time. In fact, all too close to real life to appeal to me.

So what are you left with, if you want to get some money?

Camping chairs.

What can I say? Personally, I’m going to see if I can make some money from
creating and selling items. I’ve already had a few people admire the cape that I created for Pyter, so maybe…

I’ll let you know.

The first in an occasional series. In the end I hope to build this up to a guide to all the places in Second Life. Like painting the Forth Bridge, it is a task that will never end, because by the time I get to the end I will have to go back and start again, to cover all the things that have changed in the meantime…

I thought I’d start right up in the north-west corner of Second Life, and make my way down and across from there.

So, here at almost the remotest part of Second Life, is Misfit’s Hideaway. An island of two halves, and a rather odd combination they make. One half is the Lover’s Lagoon (this is a mature area, folks), complete with a teleport link to a cosy love-nest high above where you can share a candle-lit dinner with your amor.

The other half is a store which predominantly sells children’s play equipment (swings, climbing-frames, that sort of thing).

Is the combination of a love-nest and a kiddies store trying to make some sort of point? There is, after all, a noticeable lack of condom vendors in Second Life…

When I visited it, there was no-one there (though I paid a visit back later and found a couple of other visitors). Maybe it’s so remote that no-one notices it. Alternatively, maybe I just picked the wrong time of day.

Pyter says: Cute, but probably better with a friend. A close friend…
Check out the map, and visit the Hideaway.

Misfit's Hideaway

Pyter relaxes by the lagoon, and wonders where all the women are.

Reclaiming Second Life…

Here’s the dream.

Imagine a new world, a world where creative people can make things that could never exist in the real world, where you can find new friends and share new experiences with them. A world where you can build or buy your own home, tailored to your own tastes, however extravagant they might be. A home that floats in the sky? No problem. A home in the middle of a peaceful forest? Easy. A home that is a reproduction of the starship Enterprise? Of course.

Imagine a world of creativity and community. This is the Second Life dream. This is what Linden Lab set out to create (or so they assure us…it’s possible they didn’t think through all the ramifications of how they were going to go about it.)

Here’s the reality.

Second Life has what amounts to a laissez-faire capitalist economy, bereft of almost any control. Greed and criminality not only exist, but are tolerated and, in some ways, encouraged (especially greed).

For example…

(If you are an long-time resident of Second Life, you can skip the next bit. I’m going to talk about camping chairs.)

Imagine that you are new to Second Life, or that, like me, you are coming back to Second Life after a prolonged absence. You are wandering round, taking a look at the world, and you notice a cluster of green dots on the mini-map, indicating a gathering of other residents. Hey, that looks interesting, you think, and you go over to take a look. You find a bunch of people sat around on chairs. This looks promising — a group of friends hanging out together, maybe. With luck they’ll be friendly, and let you join. As you get closer, though, you notice something odd. They don’t seem to be talking. A lot of them seem to be AFK (away from keyboard). And floating above them are dollar amounts.

Congratulations. You’ve come across the infamous camping chairs.

Let me explain. Residents can purchase parcels of land, on which they can build homes, shops, or indeed anything that takes their fancy. Second Life keeps track of ‘traffic’ — in other words, how many people visit your parcel, and how long they stay. If you have good traffic, you earn in-game money from it.

It’s a good idea. It’s designed to reward people for producing creative stuff that lots of other people come to see, or for setting up community centres where on-line friends can hang out together. But like all good ideas, there are ways to subvert it. Camping chairs are just such a way. Sit on a camping chair, and you are (slowly!) rewarded with a pay-out. Because you are on the parcel of land belonging to the chair’s owner, you are ‘traffic’, and add to the earnings they get.

Beautiful. Everybody wins…except for Second Life itself, and its dreams of creativity and community.

As for criminality, well, my previous post dealt with that. Linden Lab are at least beginning to realise that something has to be done, but at the moment their response is confused, incoherent and, if the recent attacks are anything to go by, completely inadequate.

The criminality we can do nothing about, apart from get together and clamour to have something done about it. The solution, assuming there is a solution, is in the hands of Linden Lab.

The greed, though, is in the hands of the residents. Did you come to Second Life because you were attracted by the creativity and the community? Then don’t squander it by spending your time sitting round on camping chairs (or the only marginally less obnoxious camping dance-floors). Hunt down the places where people are genuinely getting involved. Talk to people. Make new friends. Find projects that you can help with — and regardless of what your particular talents are, there are bound to be projects out there in Second Life that are looking for you. If you are a newcomer, pay a visit to the Shelter. If you are an old hand…well, I’m sure that in that case I don’t need to tell you the places to go to, because you already know them.

Reclaim Second Life.

I really wanted to open with something positive, a few glowing words about the myriad possibilities, some thoughts about how exciting it was when I first stumbled across it…

This is Second Life I’m talking about, and perhaps I should step back a moment and explain what it is. Second Life is an on-line virtual worlds, currently inhabited by thousands of residents. What makes it distinctive – in fact unique, at least at present – is that the residents can build and script their own additions to the world. Walk (or fly!) round Second Life, and one of the immediate things that strike your virtual eyes are the countless shops selling vast (and vastly varied) numbers of items — furniture, clothes, even complete houses (or castles, if you have grandiose tastes).

For anyone with a shred of creativity, the whole thing just gleams with potential.

But there’s a catch, and it’s growing to be a big one. An overwhelming one. Because, you see, if you can build and script objects, you can, with a little perverted ingenuity, make them do bad things. You can create the Second Life equivalent of a computer virus. Over the past few weeks Second Life has been struck down multiple times by such things. They have aggressively (and ill-advisedly) banned entire groups of people from the world, but still the attacks come. They’ve tried tweaking the security and restricting some of the things that can be done. And still the attacks come.

Just before starting this blog I decided to log on and perhaps collect some snapshots to go with it (yes, that’s something else you can do — talke a look at Snapzilla).

Second Life was closed, thanks to yet another attack.

There’s much discussion about what can be done – the camps are mainly divided into those who want to see a technical solution, and those who want to see Linden Lab (the creators and owners of Second Life) police the world more effectively.

I am undecided on the matter. I’m not sure that a technical solution is achievable without crippling the scripting abilities that are such an important part of Second Life in the first place. As for better policing of the world…that would be a rant in its own right, but let’s just say that Linden Lab have not exactly had a good record in administering justice.

Second Life is beginning to become a frustrating experience. Even more frustrating because the potential of it is so great and so obvious.

So why don’t existing residents just give up and go somewhere else? Well, there’s the rub. There is nowhere else. No other virtual world lets you build and script like Second Life. They have us over a barrel. It’s a bad experience, and getting worse, but we stay with it because there is no alternative.

Problem is, if Second Life can’t sort out these problems, the whole ‘build and script’ idea might become a poisoned chalice, and no-one else will want to try to emulate it (it’s worrying that no-one else has so far, in fact).