Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Localization in SL

As the world continues to expand it has been predicted that at some point we'll start to see a pattern of locality begin to emerge. The idea is that the world will become too big to inhabit as a single place which would result in avatars that roam a selected number of sims. Essentially we'd see SL breaking off from being one place to being many places distinct from eachother in some way.

Considering some of the cultural trends and the growing sense of isolation I feel in-world already, I'm curious to know if this has happened already. Have pockets begun to form in the fabric of SL society? Are there indicators available to test?

If anyone would like to join me, I'd like to start a group/thinktank to find ways to analyze and test these observations in more scientific detail (or pseudo-scientific at any rate). Contrary points of view are warmly welcomed as well as I am a fan of practical dialectic. I also have resources to commit to this project if there is any interest.

(icon.serpentine) nospam! gmail [dot] c0m

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

1.10.0: New Features - Useless Fluff

This morning a new version of Second Life was released, and with it a traditional slew of new features. As is the case with every "milestone" (if they can be called that) release, this new version is not without a lot of whizz-bang. We now have flexible prims, assignable left-click behaviours, and a revamped lighting system. There are other updates as well but these seem to be the major shifts.

My absolute favorite is flexible prims. These prims are non-physical phantom prims that are rendered on the client side. They react and wave with the virtual wind, but other than that, have no effect "in-world." The only really practical uses I can see for this feature are hair pieces, clothing attachments, and... curtains? Flags maybe?

What I want to know is simply this: why put the development time into client-side features when we've been waiting so long for better server-side features like.. oh I don't know... a better physics engine? Faster texture compression? Better avatar models?

I can think of dozens of "features" that in my opinion, would've been a better investment of time and resources. Having wavy hair is neat and all, but is testament to superficiality. I would be more impressed by better vehicles or even something as simple as replacing lists with arrays in LSL.

Next we have assignable left-click behaviours. Really. Need. To complicate. Things. Instead of the left-click being assigned a behaviour in the script or setting off triggers when physical, we can assign pre-determined behaviours like "buy" or "sit."

Despite the intuitiveness this feature was aiming for, it is not intuitive at all. Clearly interface usage data hasn't been used in the design decisions around the UI in SL. Firsly, there is already an intuitive way to sit that the +100k users are comfortable with. There is a whole accepted paradigm around the right-click in realms of computing that go beyond SL -- why break that? Why go through the trouble of adding horrible mouse-over icons? Secondly, what's with that new icon that floats above the prim if there is a sit-controller script in it? It sorta pops up there and disappears... and pops up... and looks bad to begin with. What is it for and why does it matter? Is it adding any value to my experience or making it more confusing by presenting unnecessary information? I don't know about you... but I believe the latter is more true.

Cruft! Cruft I tell you!

Finally we have the revamped lighting system. It's a client-side lighting system and therefor everyone may view the light differently. It is much faster in terms of render time than the server-side lighting that we residents have come to know and love/hate. It also takes advantage of the GPUs in our computers... something SL has been reluctant to take much advantage of.

I actually think client-side lighting is a great feature. We can finally have decent lighting in world that won't bring our SL experience to a grind. Fabulous. I'll just have to hold on this one and wait for the day when we can move it back to the server's side.

One day... one day.

So are SL's newest features valuable? I don't think so. I think they're mainly useless bloat and cruft. Except possibly the addition of client-side lighting -- there are too many things to pick about. More menu items. Horrible floating icons and mouse-over icons. More tabs. More confusion.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

SL-Inspired Works of Art?

I've been ruminating on an idea for quite some time now. Long before even my hiatus from the world. It's been sitting in my mind, and bits of it scattered on my hard-drives waiting...

Many months ago in a sleepless fit of creativity and driven frustration, I made a series of spoken-word poetry recordings. I did this while logged into Second Life and searching for some perspective. I don't know if I found it or not, but they ended up being some very interesting little bits to me so I kept them around. Soon after I had the idea to give the recordings more meaning by adding a visual element... recorded from SL.

Of course the idea went off like rockets in my head. To this day, like many projects in the last couple years, have been put in the stack of things to do. Shuffled away with the other visionary ideas and do-dads.

This idea though has stuck around nagging me every so often for attention. Its persistence is starting to make me want to take some action. If only so I can put it to rest in my mind... so hopefully we'll see some things popping up soon.

For now though, I wonder if SL has inspired the works of any other artists out there in meat-space...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Product Lifecycle

Second Life has been in out for a good while now. If you count beta, it's been around three years now. In the online world, that is a very long time. Especially in entertainment/gaming.

With all the data that must have been collected over these years, I'm curious to know what the average product lifecycle of Second Life looks like. Is there a high conversion from free accounts? How long does the average subscription last? Is there a trackable pattern to how people consume the product?

I myself have noticed some patterns. I notice that the first 6 - 8 months is a kind of "obsession period" for newcomers. After logging in for at least 3 hour sessions around at least 4 times a week, most people tend to drop down to 3 sessions a week and 2 - 3 extended sessions a month. In what I've seen, this continues from 2 - 4 months after the initial obsession period... it's sort of a cool down. It can extend for some time longer than four months, but the extended sessions become less frequent and are often replaced with extended breaks. After around 24 months and for an indefinite period, I've seen that most people tend to take breaks lasting longer than 7 days; often these breaks can extend to 1 - 3 months at a time.

Of course, my observations are not scientific or empirical in any sense. That is why I am curious to see if LL has been able to pinpoint a lifecycle for their product. If not, has anyone else attempted to track usage patterns and such? I'd be interested to discuss the results...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Welcome to This Virtual Life

A little about me...

In SecondLife I am known as Icon Serpentine. I joined back in November 2003 and was a highly active member of the community up until about December 2005. I took a brief hiatus from Second Life to concentrate on other passions and am starting to get back into the swing of things.

One thing that has really kicked me in the pants during my little sabbatical was something I had always knew. Like many people, I was aware but not active. This is my attempt to be active -- to challenge ideas and influence change by participating in the discussion.

What I hope this blog will be is a discussion of ideas surrounding key points of life in virtual worlds. Most notably, I refer to SecondLife. However, from time to time I will refer to other virtual worlds such as LambdaMOO -- a text MOO that I participate in.

Anyway, I look forward to the future. What will SecondLife do next?