I made a little video of my home in Second Life today. More to capture the memory of it for myself, than for any other reason. But I thought I would share it with you as well.
Inara Pey recently blogged on the state of Second Life, and her comments on ‘Engagement’ and general malaise struck a real chord with me.
In the 5½ years I have been in SL, I’ve experienced the usual ebb and flow of interest that I think most long-timers do, but I’ve found myself in a particularly long ebb lately, to the extent that I felt I was mainly logging on in order to be with my SL hubby. He had been feeling much the same, and sadly a few weeks ago announced to me that a number of factors, including increased workload, RL, and this same lack of engagement, meant he did not know when he would next be logging into SL again. We’d been together well over a year, which is a long time in Second Life terms. We still email each other every day (he never fails to leave an email for me when he goes to bed so that it is waiting for me when I wake up), but I have no idea when I will see him again in SL.
Since then I have gone from logging in every day to rarely logging in, and when I do log in it’s been for a specific reason such as a music event (usually the wonderful Gina Gracemount or the amazing Tukso Okey) or to spend time with my friend Bunny. But most of the time, I find that other things are holding my interest more. My own RL has got a little busier and is filling my evenings more, such that I don’t have as much time available to spend on SL. But the fact is that if I was bursting to go on SL, like I once was, then I know I would find the time. So this really corroborates what Inara is saying.
Perhaps I should be trying to find new things in SL to experience, maybe increase my circle of friends, perhaps try to re-ignite my love of SL photography. But I just find myself without any real motivation to do so. My SL photography is particularly depressing, because I can take ages (hours, even) over a SL picture and then find myself lucky to get 200 views in a month, yet with my RL photography I can post a picture of me in a nice dress and get 200 views in a day. I’m not saying that in a self-aggrandising way, but to illustrate how soul-destroying that is for the SL photography. I have a very similar experience with blogging.
So where does this leave me, where does it leave my SL, my SL photography and also this blog? I don’t know. Certainly this is the first time since August 2012 where I’ve felt I have had anything I wanted to say and I don’t know when I next will either.
Well, perhaps not quite. But Linden Lab has made an announcement that Second Life will be expanding to Steam ‘in the next month or so’.
The announcement reads:
“As some sharp-eyed developers have speculated, we’re going to make Second Life available on Steam in the next month or so.
Many of us have friends who are avid Steam gamers, but if you’re not familiar, Steam is a very popular online game platform that offers a wide range of titles (and will soon also offer other software as well).
What does this news mean for Second Life? You’ll still be able to access Second Life just as you can today; there won’t be any change to that. But, the more than 40 million people who use Steam will also be able to get Second Life as easily as they can get games like Portal.
We’ll make an announcement on the blog when Second Life is actually available on Steam, but in the meantime, if you have friends who are Steam gamers, let ‘em know it’s coming!”
This is a very interesting announcement, given that Valve have recently announced that they will soon be allowing non-games applications to join Steam. This does give an ambiguity as to whether Linden Lab are continuing to move Second Life towards a games platform or whether this is simply a case of them taking advantage of Valve’s more relaxed policy on what applications can join Steam.
Certainly there is a strong case that Steam has a high density of the kind of people who have the computer hardware necessary to run Second Life at its most graphically-intense settings, so raising awareness of the Second Life platform on Steam may have benefits.
However, I see a less positive side to it too. As anyone who has read my previous articles will know, I have a strong sense of wanting to live my ‘second’ life unencumbered by the trappings of my first. And I view this (hopefully optional!) integration with Steam as being yet more example of the lines between SL and RL being blurred. Steam is a real life service, with your real identity (although ‘handles’ / nicknames are allowed). And it strengthens the concept that SL is just yet another service that you create a username and password for.
Having said that, as someone who has played Skyrim a lot (which is a Steam game), I didn’t feel that it was RL ‘me’ playing it – I created a character and advanced her though the game. So perhaps I am unduly concerned here. Perhaps all will work out ok. But I do still have this nagging feeling that entering SL via Steam will make people think it is just another game, or MMPORG and I feel that would miss the point of Second Life being a Virtual World and not a game. Or, certainly how it started out anyway. I’m not so sure what it is now or where it is going.
(All in my opinion, of course)
[With thanks to Inara Pey for her blog article that alerted me to this]
Some interesting (and long) articles that give further insight into the ramifications of this move. Really worth reading if you have the time:
- Fleep Tuque – Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later
- Gwyneth Llewelyn – Full steam ahead for new horizons!
Some really interesting points raised by Qarl here. I have to concur with his comments about the new TPV policy and how it stifles innovation; it can’t do otherwise.
It’s funny that he should comment that Linden Lab didn’t see Mesh clothing coming because I was having the same discussion with a friend just recently. The Lab’s response has been very much “but why would you want to do that?” and then bury their head in the sand about it. The fact that pretty much every major clothing Designer is offering Rigged Mesh clothing now is surely a pretty bloody strong indication that sorting the Mesh issue is of prime importance, yet their support of Qarl and the Parametric Deformer project seems lukewarm at best.
I’m still unswayed in my opinion that this is make-or-break for SL.
Mesh seems to be all the rage at the moment, despite the fact that Rigged Mesh for clothes simply doesn’t work for many of us. With many designers throwing themselves headlong into Mesh and the awful “standard sizes” to the exclusion of all else, options feel like they are getting limited for those of us who don’t get on with it.
Why doesn’t Rigged Mesh clothing work for me? Well, the primary reason is that I can rarely get it to fit me. I’m a slim, petite avatar of just over 5ft in height, with a ‘real world’ body shape (ie. curves, hips and boobs) and none of the “standard sizes” are anywhere near similar to my body shape and I don’t want to change. I also find that many Rigged Mesh clothes suffer from an issue of being “invisible inside”. If you cam up your skirt or down your top, either you are invisible due to the alpha mask you need to wear, or the clothing itself is invisible due to the designer saving some prim equivalence by making it transparent on the inside. It’s particularly evident on long gowns where you can see it even without camming.
The Parametric Deformer that Qarl Fizz is working on (and that I mentioned in my article “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life”) promises to solve many of these issues and I’m following it with interest, but in the meantime what else is on offer?
I was shopping at GothiCatz today, a store I like very much, and I’m heartened to see that the designer Looloo Beck has adopted a different approach to her use of Mesh. She uses non-rigged Mesh attachments just like in the past she would have used sculpted prims. This has the advantage of being able to resize and move them to get a good fit and can be scripted with traditional resize scripts too. This really works for me and I wish more designers would make use of this hybrid approach rather than using Rigged Mesh. To me it seems like the best of both worlds, or certainly a good compromise.
One area that I am finding Rigged Mesh works well is on boots. I find that boots are much more likely to fit me than clothes, and you are also less likely to suffer from the problems I mentioned earlier. Boots seem to lend themselves better to the strengths of Mesh, bending naturally at joints. Certainly they render non-Mesh overknee boots instantly obsolete. I think one of the reasons they work better is that there is less movement with legs and in less directions. On the torso you get twisting, shearing and bending that cause all sorts of deformations. In contrast, boots experience very little of this. The knee is a very simple joint and even the ankle has limited movement, so the Mesh is subjected to way less deformation.
Guns similarly gain an advantage by being Mesh. I have a number of guns from Breach by Eata Kitty which I buy because they are so beautifully detailed. However, I’m quite petite and it’s often hard to get these guns to look right on me. Their MP7, for example, looks like an Assault Rifle on me despite the fact that in Real Life it is a machine pistol. But their new Mesh pistol “Raven” is fantastic because the Mesh allows it to have a resize script that can scale the entire gun down to fit my small hands. This is simply brilliant and I so wish they would re-do the MP7 the same way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Breach bring out next.
So, as we suspected, designers are starting to find their feet with Mesh and are starting to innovate as we knew they would. Likewise, we as customers are beginning to understand what works for us and what doesn’t. Personally, I still consider the “standard sizes” to be a dead end and until Qarl’s Parametric Deformer becomes widely adopted I doubt I will be buying much Rigged Mesh clothing (despite regularly trying demos – I haven’t completely given up on it) and I think it will be interesting to see where things go.
There’s been some chat in the blogosphere recently that the Marketplace is killing actual in-world stores; that reduced footfall means that satellite stores (or even main stores) are less commercially viable than they were, and that this will have knock-on effects for malls, clubs and RP sims as they struggle to fill the vendor booths whose income helps pay their tier. I can see the argument for this and it is pretty compelling.
However, the counter-argument is that malls are a bit of a blight anyway and that the Marketplace is just so much more convenient, quick and efficient. And, again, that has some validity too.
My own opinion is somewhere in between. Personally, I absolutely adore shopping in-world if the store is interesting, well laid out, and gives me a positive ‘experience’. By contrast, there are few things more soul-destroying than wandering round a huge faceless store that has all the visual interest of a level of Wolfenstein 3D and where you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Here’s a case in point…
Could this shop be any more boring and uninspiring? This kind of shop, where the Designer clearly does not give a flying fig about the store, is the kind of thing the Marketplace was made for. They just want to sell their stuff and no more. May as well put it up on Marketplace and save yourself the tier.
By contrast, other Designers clearly love to build as well as make clothes, and pour a great deal of love into the whole shopping experience.
My greatest concern with Marketplace is that it will cause all in-world shops to become unviable and we will lose the experience of shopping at beautiful sims like this. Likewise, wonderful themed and/or RP sims where it is a delight to explore will also start to struggle to pay their tier to the point where they can’t continue. And I think Second Life would be a much poorer place for it.
It was absolutely awful yesterday. I had a bit of a shopping spree on Marketplace yesterday morning (UK time) and 33% of my items failed to be delivered. Then in the afternoon I crashed and couldn’t get back on for ages and it said that logins had been disabled and to check the grid status page – which hadn’t been updated in 2 days.
And then today I got hit by a rolling restart on two different sims, both of which gave 5 mins notice to get out. 5 mins! What kind of notice is that?
Also, SCHEDULED maintenance is maintenance you know about beforehand. So how about publicising it with a little more notice, Linden Lab?
I was at a concert for the wonderful Lisa Brune last night, and the sim was absolutely packed – my Firestorm ‘People’ list told me there were 66 people on the sim and it certainly felt like it – people were grey, the lag was insane like the air had turned to wallpaper paste, and people were crashing all over the place. In fact Lisa herself crashed and couldn’t get back in but valiantly carried on with the concert anyway. I myself gave up trying to get back in after the 3rd crash and was listening to the stream with an external media player.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about the perennial issue of what we think of as ‘crowded’ when we’re in Second Life. It seems to me that a concert in real life where the performer only had 66 attendees would be considered ‘intimate’, ‘tiny’ or ‘woefully under-attended’ depending on the size of venue and the expectations of the performer or their management. Yet in Second Life it’s considered a massively popular attendance.
Back in the early days of Second Life, much was made of the educational and media event possibilities, and many people dipped their toes in the water with such things as Virtual Embassies, learning centres, corporate presences and the now famous Suzanne Vega concert, but interest very quickly waned as it became abundantly clear that the Second Life platform just simply cannot cope with a decent attendance.
My understanding is that the fundamental limitation is that each full sim in Second Life is hosted on a single core of a multi-core processor (for Homestead sims it is 4 to a core) and it’s simply not possible to throw more processing power at a sim. The nearest that can be achieved is to use two or more adjacent sims playing the same stream so that people can get some sense of “being there”, but even then that’s not really ideal.
I am sure that this issue has had Linden Lab scratching their collective heads for years, and I would like to think that they have it on their roadmap to address it, but we’re in 2012 now. I joined SL in 2007 and we had the issue even then and we still have it now.
What Second Life needs is to somehow break free from these limitations and for the servers to be truly scalable. Once that is achieved, it could be monetarised with perhaps a graded tier for sim capability or a dynamic billing model not dissimilar to webserver bandwidth. I am sure that the owners of popular sims would be happy to pay for the ability to have a decent number of attendees to an event without the whole thing falling over in a horrible mess. At the moment there is simply no choice, no option; it’s a hard limit.
Second Life is a wonderful place to be, but this limitation is fundamental and if it isn’t addressed I can’t see how Second Life is ever going to progress beyond where it is today.
After a little googling, it turns out the Suzanne Vega concert was in 2006 and in order to get 80 attendees people had to have not a single prim attachment on themselves, not even hair. So really not a lot has changed in 6 years.
As I mentioned in my article “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life” I consider Qarl’s Parametric Deformer project to be immensely important to Second Life.
I notice an update in the JIRA that is tracking this that Oz Linden has accepted Qarl’s latest v0.3 submission and committed it to the Official Viewer.
There seems to be a bit of friction between Oz and Qarl, but I think it’s encouraging news that, far from seeking to quash the Parametric Deformer, Linden Lab appear to be working with Qarl to bring us this important update.
Graphics in Second Life Viewers just keep getting better and better. The trouble is, as things improve and we get new technologies, it’s inevitable that older technology is going to work less well or even break.
Several older technologies are currently showing issues – such as system skirts casting an incorrect shadow, likewise invisiprims not working properly any more on the highest graphics settings.
The one that affects me the most, though, are people wearing insanely bright facelights.