Friday, October 31, 2008

The OSS debacle: turning loyal customers into detractors

I've often said that Linden Lab don't appreciate the vast reservoir of goodwill which they have in their residents of Second Life (TM copyright all that stuff). Maybe because they are at the sharp end of a lot of criticism from residents all the time: in a complex virtual world there's a lot to go wrong, and in a successful virtual world there are a lot of people to complain about anything and everything that may have gone wrong.

But sometimes I just want to knock heads together! Some days ago Linden Lab announced on their blog that OpenSpace Sims (OSS) were taking up too many resources and costing them more money than they expected as a result, and so they were raising the tier fee (the monthly maintenance fee which landowners must pay) from $75 US to $125 US with effect from January 1.

Now, no one likes to hear that their bills are going to go up, but in the case of these sims, many people had bought them because they couldn't afford to buy a full island ($1000 purchase and $295 a month tier fee). For many of them the OSS was the fulfilment of a dream to own an island in Second Life. There are 199 pages of replies on the thread started on the SL forums and many more responses on other threads.

OpenSpace Sims were originally offered to people who already had a full island, as a way to offer extra open space (hence the name) to beautify the areas around full sims. On full private island sims, there is water all around an island, but it isn't usable outside the border of the sim. If you add an openspace sim with water you can sail or swim in it. At that stage landowners had to buy four OSS and had to have a full island to attach them to.

Originally you got a small prim - or object - allowance with the sims of 1875, which was certainly more than enough to put out a few trees and rocks to fill in the open space. Of course, people being people, they started to put houses, shops and clubs on OSS. Now the Lindens claim that they didn't foresee this, and it wasn't allowed by the rules of OSSs, but it is clear that a number of landowners had checked whether it was allowed beore they bought... Garth Fairchang for example has posted in the forum that he checked with Jack Linden (now forever known as "Price" Jack in the SL Herald) that this was allowed and he OKd it.

In any case, it seemed likely that the Lindens were pragmatic about the uses that people were putting the OSSs to, as they raised the prim allowance to 3750 and the rule that you should buy 4 was dropped. The price went down at some stage. Of course there was an explosion of interest. Many people were able to just afford the OSS and made sacrifices to do so.

I am infuriated with Linden Lab once again for handling things so badly. It seems to me that as they have given two months notice of the price increases, they could instead have flagged up the fact that there were problems, and that they were looking at them. They could have explained the problems and asked for help and ideas from the residents in dealing with them.

The residents would have made a lot of noise, but the difference in this approach is that they would have had notice that there *was* a problem - which came out of the blue for them. It would not have devalued their asset or made them feel that they had to abandon their sims. The difference is that they would have asked for information, would have wanted to know how they could avoid causing problems, which would have required LL to know the answer to that question.

Maybe they do know, maybe they don't. If they don't, it would be sensible of them to say that they are looking at it, evaluating it, trying to work it out. Well maybe not now... because instead of putting the residents on warning that there were problems with OSS, they simply announced the price increase.

The effect of this anouncment was to devalue, instantly, the asset that so many people had bought. You can't give away OSSs now, and people are abandoning them to avoid having to pay any more tier fee on something that they are going to have to abandon on January 1 anyway, when the new tier price goes into effect.

In an instant LL turned all those OSS owners who had felt at home in SL, and were making financial sacrifices to pay for their precious OSS, into people with no stake in the world, and a big grudge. Instead of carrying the renters and owners of OSS with them, they kicked them out to a place where quite frankly my dear they don't give a damn about SL or LL. What a waste!

Instead of carrying the residents with them, explaining the problem, asking for solutions - and the SL community is vast and intelligent and full of creativity- they seem to have taken a cynical decision to drop those people. Either that or they simply didn't understand the impact that their announcement would have. Both seem ludicrously reckless to me.

I love SL. I build there, have friendships and relationships there, I love the people I know there, I love building and being there. I love the fact that people there are kinder and more generous than people in real life appear to be. I love the chance that SL gave me to experiment and try things I would never have done in real life - the people I have met that I would never have had a chance to meet in real life.

I love the well of affection that we all have for the world and for our second lives. I just wish Linden Lab would learn to harness that for their own good, and not lay waste to it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ajax arena for sale

My SL partner, Oclee Hornet, has put the Ajax Arena sim up for sale. Originally built for streaming the Dutch football league to fans, the sim is a detailed replica of the Ajax Arena in Amsterdam.

The build has attracted a lot of interest over the past few months, and I am sure it would make a striking backdrop to all kinds of events. There are screens above the pitch and in the sky box, and the sim is suitable for a wide range of events.

He has posted the sale to the SL forums with a few good pictures of the Arena, which you can find here. It's a full sim, which means $295 US tier fee.

There is no way that pictures can adequately convey how big and well made the Arena is, so go there, using this SLURL.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shopping: LeeZu Baxter

I'm feeling a bit guilty about posting this, because I fear for the linden balances of all who read it. I hate the current buzzword reporting about the financial chaos which is afflicting the markets around the world, not least because it gives the impression that some alien being is in charge of our economic destiny, instead of ourselves... but it is a hard fact that the number of islands for sale reflects the pressure that people are currently experiencing. Do not go to this shop if you need to conserve your lindens!

I went to the Wall performance and after-show party last night, and while there saw an avatar who had the most extraordinary clothes on - better than anything I have seen before. Being an experienced avatar I knew how to right click the person and choose more and then inspect, to find out who made the outfit (so much easier than real life lol!) and after I had taken a few dozen pictures of the party and the particle effects, I looked in search for the avatar named as creator of the clothes, and teleported away to To The Nines, LeeZu Baxter's island.

Reader, I am someone who enjoys creating things, but also buying things in SL. I have shopped in all the well-known shops, I have clicked on avatars all over SL to find out what they were wearing and gone to the shops to look at the items myself. I was bowled over by this shop, the detail, the beauty of the clothes, and the way that they made use of the things which SL does well.

Most of the outfits are a combination of clothing that is worn by the avatar and flexi attachments, so it is layered and possible to wear in a variety of ways. I combined items from a number of outfits to make what you see me wearing in the picture. I had SUCH fun, and found it difficult to choose what to buy and what to wear.

Much of the time, I find that what I wear in SL is a compromise between what I can imagine and what I can make or buy. This isn't like that. If it isn't overstating it, I feel that I have moved into haute couture, buying the things here. I must remember to go back to the shop and put it into my picks. It's that good.

The Wall

Elfod Nemeth, builder and scripter of the Wall which forms the focus of the performance of The Wall in Second Life, sent word that there was to be a special, last-ever performance, a... um... well, it's hard to know how to describe the event without inventing a new word... an experience put together by the Cybernetic Art Research Project (CARP).

I've been to a lot of art performances and events in four years of Second Life, but this was the first time that I felt I was watching something that literally couldn't have been made anywhere else. It was something which had been designed around the things that can be done in Second Life, and it was certainly an experience.

The performance mixed audio, music, voiceover and clips of sound, with visual, particle effects, building tools, slideshow, performing avatars and performing puppets, lighting effects and scripted objects, to shocking and moving effect. I crashed out a couple of times (until I stopped trying to take photographs and started taking screenshots instead) but fortunately managed to get straight back in again. I'm very glad to have seen the performance.

It was very professionally produced and directed, and although they apologized for a couple of SL glitches during the performance, I had actually noticed nothing except my own crashing, which is something I expect with a popular event anyway. The whole production was planned and executed extremely well, co-ordinating audio, visual, performance and effects brilliantly to make a whole.

At the end of the performance, the audience joined the players in a fantastic after-show party, with the incomparable DJ Doubledown Tandino. I can honestly say that it has been ages since I enjoyed a party so much.

The music choices were good, and someone made free with the particle effects, and people were still dancing enthusiastically when I teleported away to look at some clothes I had seen at the party... about which more anon.

The whole event was being streamed to a museum in Florence as part of a live art performance. I only hope the viewers there enjoyed it half as much as I did in Second Life, where I felt I was living the performance, not simply observing it. I look forward to future CARP productions eagerly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Nautilus sims discovered

A new set of sims with Nautilus in the title has been discovered, and is now open for exploration. I have had a few problems getting there myself, so teleported to a nearby sim and flew across. It seems quite mysterious that other people have had no problems at all. The SLURL for the Nautilus - Baal sim is here.

Half the pleasure of new places is exploring, so I don't plan to put more pictures here for a while... but I hear tell that Magellan Linden had something to do with the sudden arrival, and that more is likely to be revealed about that story as the week goes by....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Nameless Isle

I noticed that Sanctum Sanctorum had moved a few weeks ago, and saw that Relic had moved to a sim called the Nameless Isle, so I went to check it out. Relic Store is now laid out inside a dark place some seven hundred metres above the island.

In case you haven't seen the work of Baron Grayson, I recommend that you get there as soon as possible and explore the shop and the sim. You may well find things suitable for Halloween decorations, and there are always interesting places to explore on Baron's sims.

In his profile, I found a link to Templum ex Obscurum and explored there too. For atmospheric builds, Baron is simply in a class of his own.

I learned a lot from watching Baron build in my first year in SL, and he offers people the chance to watch the progress on the Nameless Isle. You'll also find some bargains in the shop... some of them at a fraction of the price they were originally, and some unique freebies too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Virtual Worlds Forum postponement

I couldn't afford the prices for the Virtual Worlds forum, and so it wasn't until this morning that I googled to see what had happened there yesterday.

What I found was an announcement that due to a shooting at the venue, the meeting had been postponed... rather more excitement than I expected. I can only feel for the organisers of the event: many of the speakers must have been booked many months ago and will be very difficult to gather again in the near future. While I expect they will all do their best to reconvene, it is likely that many of the people will be unavailable... there will people wanting their money back... they may have travelled from Europe to attend... it must be a bureaucratic nightmare.

Now had they planned the event in a virtual world, it would be easy to pick up and transfer to another venue at short notice. It's a pity that they didn't plan it in the metaverse instead. Apart from anything else, I could have afforded to attend!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Burning Life

Went to see Elfod Nemeth's fantastic Burning Life exhibit last night, a magical mystery lava clock with a tricksy striking of the hour which happens...well, on the hour of course.

Once it rezzes it's a striking build... as I discovered, it looks brilliant at midnight, too. It's a shame that Burning Life produces a lot of clutter in the background, but you can see what I mean in the shot above.

The lava effect is one of the best I have seen in SL, and it's well scripted, the idea being that the cylinders for the hour fill with lava over the course of the hour. Thus cylinders 1-4 fill to produce an effect at 4 o'clock, and cylinders 1-6 fill to produce an effect at 6 o'clock. Shan't say any more - you really need to go see it for yourself. SLURL: Burning Life (Babel) 15, 163, 24.