Seven years invested in Second Life

It was my 7th Rez Day yesterday and i waited all day for my special email from the Lab wishing me happy rez day.

But as the clock struck 12am the next day i went o bed a little disappointed. Strangely though i woke this morning to find in my inbox a message from the lab with a link to a birthday cake. Technically it was still my rez day in SLtime :-p

So 7 years i’ve been invested in SL. I think i’ve seen it all when it comes to Second Life. From Shrinking in world economies to a growing marketplace, being buried under the hype of virtual worlds then watched it burst like a big puss filled zit. Saw the corporate world come make a fuss then leave. Saw Linden Lab grow try to go down corporate conference route, then pop.

I’ve seen my friends get excited, build things, invest lots of money, then get burned by price hikes, product reshuffles , then get bored and drop out or dream of the old days.

Saw an entire community backlash to a User Interface apparently created with the user base in mind, leading to the rise in Third Party Viewers that fragmented what people see and do.

Worst of all i’ve seen people who were great friends suddenly turn on each other forcing each other out of SL because of misunderstanding, intolerance, disrespect.

But Second Life is still here, even when the biggest doomsayers are saying its all about to collapse, thats just their version of SL has simply changed to one they don’t recognise anymore. As far as i can tell SL is still expanding, maybe not in virtual land mass, or new users, but in ideas created by it’s users and the Lab.

I think sometimes because the Lab is SOOOOOO SLOOOOOWWWWWWW at releasing new features we kind of take them for granted before they are officially finished (some might argue no Linden Lab feature is finished.).

Anyway thanks everyone who sent me Rez Day messages on SL feed. I wonder what i will look like this time next year?

The Last year brought a whole new dimension to clothing thanx to MESH. Along with actual TOES and a new haircut, i think my avatar is looking better than ever!

 

Work In Progress

Just to give my friends a run down of what i’m currently working on that might interest them.

We are halfway through my Mesh Crash Course and so far no ones come to me with any issues yet. After the course is complete , i’ll get some feed back formt he students and then look into releasing it as an iBooks textbook with interactive gubbins. A few students have been busy with other projects thanks to Burn2 which is always conveniently times to collide with halloween.

Speaking of Halloween, i’m also  well into building my ‘scary’ experience. After visiting some haunted house where ghosts faded in an out (ahhhh scary!), i decided to see if it was actually possible to strike feel into SL Users. Using my experience with HUD design and Mesh environments i will try to make something that will scare people or make them jump. I think a key area to exploit will be sound FX as well as some visual tricks using HUDS.

You can enjoy (or not enjoy) the fruits of my experiments hopefully middle of next week. Obviously i don’t want to leave it to late if im going to submit it to Destination Guide.

What would a mobile Second Life be?

I like playing the guessing game with Second Life’s future. A lot of people do.  

When LL bought Avatars United, i tried to guess how they might use the tech with SL. Yeh didn’t work out how i thought, but still we got SLfeed and i can’t live without that now.

SLfeed, Planned or an accident? 

SLfeed is an interesting addition for Second Life, i don’t know wether they intended for SLfeed to be how it is or not. The implementation of snapshots I’m pretty sure came about from someone saying ‘Hey LL, why not make it so we can haz snapshots in our feedz’. Now it’s likely one of the most used and popular features. I use it to promote new shops, i use it to document adventures, i use it to announce events, i use it to share things i find interesting and i use it to show how much fun I’m having with friends. I’m pretty Sure Linden Lab did not expect that. It would be interesting to see how many snapshots a day are posted to SLfeed. I do miss the fun statistics of SL.

Some people still do not use SLfeed or worst don’t even know it exists. (Some people only know SL feed and are oblivious of the actual 3D world of Second life).

When first released, i had reservations on how useful it would be. It’s basically a web service disconnected from the 3D spaces of SL but all that changed as soon as Snapshots became publishable from in SL. For me it truly changed things for the better, but why it’s stopped at snapshot’s i don’t know.

To me it would make sense to tie other Sl related activity into SLfeed. For example why can i only comment on Destination guide using Facebook account (WTF!?),  that should be linked to SLfeed. Why is there no SLfeed button on Marketplace products?

When Avatars United was bought by LL, Second Life users rushed to create group pages which in the end got deleted when AU was removed from existence. This showed how much the user base wanted better group options, Avatars United was a breath of fresh group air. Unfortunately everyone had to go back to the old groups which haven’t changed in years.

My Suggestion

SLfeed gives an opportunity to breath fresh options into groups. I’ve discussed with friends how simply having an SLfeed Group Page could breath life back into group activities. An idea to add an option to tag a snapshot or post with a group you are in. You could then pool your snapshots to Group Pages. So i could look at all the posts related to My Escapades Group, then go to the New Babbage SL Feed Group Page and see all the snapshots and messages related to that group. Add to this the ability for notifications to appear in the SLfeed group pages and suddenly you have a much easier way to keep up to speed with whats going on in groups.

Without realising it, we have a section of Second Life that could be classed as mobile. SLfeed gives users the ability to communicate, buy and organise their second lives on the go. It just all seems terribly untidy at the moment. May be the Marketplace team arn’t in the same room as the destination guide people or the SLfeed people and thats why integration between them all seems elusive.

If LL were ever to evolve a synergy between SLfeed and the other features in SL, then it would only be a small stretch to expect a native mobile App dedicated to organising your second life. Instead of a page for destination guide, page for SLfeed, page for marketplace (and a page maybe for groups) it could all be incorporated into a mobile app.

But Why Bother?

Lots has been said about making the actual Grid of Second Life mobile, and some have even started to achieve it in some degrees. But it is generally believed that achieving the Second Life Grid on a mobile device impossible especially when its difficult to get it running even on high end Computers.

If LL were going to make SL for the mobile market it’s probably more likely they would have to create a new grid specifically designed to be on mobile. Is this such a bad idea? The first thought that came to my mind was the reluctance of having to make a new Virtual identity for a totally new mobile 3D world. But we might not have to do that seeing as our Second Life identity is pretty much separated from SL main grid now. It could be possible for our SL identities to share Virtual Spaces, and in a way we already do this when we organise to help Linden Lab on the Beta Grid.

Could Slfeed become the SL communication HUB between new virtual spaces?

I must point out at this stage that all that i have written is speculation and thoughts i’ve had. I want just as much as every positive thinking SL user for Second Life and Linden Lab to keep evolving and growing.

Patterns, a game Isambard Kingdom Brunel would find addictive.

Im one of the people who signed up to the Genesis version of Patterns, the new venture from Linden Lab. Im not gonna review it, I’m not gonna blog about the things that stood out as being frustrating since it’s not properly released until next year so anything can change.

Instead ill try and write this as a sneak peek preview of sorts.

i really like this start image, looks like a lil cute pyramid head from Silent Hill.

First as long time Second Life user, it was kinda kool seeing the Linden lab logo on something entirely new, and it appears HUGE as you first login to Patterns.

The first thing that strikes you is the visual simplicity. Its kinda psychedelic, Primitive and back to basics. It reminds me of retro 32bit games of the 90’s when 3D was finally reaching consoles. In fact if i was to describe the look of Patterns to my friends id find no better example than Green Hill Zone from Sonic.

Patterns will be a game of exploring through thoughtful engineering. To continue exploring and collecting shapes you have to create in order to reach other platforms, but also consider the materials and how you place them. Gravity has actual effects here so if you build a bridge you better make sure it’s architectural design can withstand the effects of gravity otherwise it will collapse (with you on it as i learnt).

This reminded me of being in science class where we had to build bridges from sticks and then test to see who’s design withstood the most weight.

Brunel would not be impressed

You end up spending more time building a bridge than you normally would in a game because you are having to consider it’s structure. The reward being that you built an awesome strong structure that allowed you to cross and continue looking for new stuff. The punishment being you fall to oblivion or get shattered into pieces and re-spawn back at the start.

A lot of people tried, and a lot of people died

This pre release version is called Genesis and Im not sure how similar the final release will be to what I’m playing. More features could be added  after feedback from us ‘Founders’ running amok. It could be that there is more features and options yet to unlock as i make my way through, so i better get to work finding all those shapes!

Anyway ill leave you with a song about a famous engineer who if alive now would probably find Patterns rather addictive.

New tools & Cheese Fairies

We’ve seen Linden Realms with it’s auto teleporting abilities, it’s auto attaching temp HUDs that remember your last score. We’ve been crushed by giant rocks that wandered around then chased us and caused us to be auto teleported to a re-spawn point….

Almost a year later i still can’t reproduce this on own island. But I’ve been trying.

The free auto attaching temp HUD is available at Nemo Beach from this Sign.

The Cheese Fairy

I decided to use what i had learnt from SL9B using HUDS to tell a story and create a small adventure quest that would use new tools that had arrived this year.

Someone has eaten all the cheese and you need to find the culprit. The story is uncovered by clicking things which trigger the HUD to show encounter bubbles similar to what you find in RPG games and can include music and gifts all in the HUD. The potential is for an entire RPG story being stored in a HUD.

The HUD sits neatly at the bottom and only needs just one click to kick of the story

Most of this was just refining what i had learnt before with New Babbage Mystery and SL9B. But this time i learnt an extra trick to do with ‘lists’. Thanks to the kind people on the SL forums i learnt how to make a lists database so when someone clicks and object to get a message, if they click a second time it remembers the user and shows a different message. This can be seen if you click the Cheese fairy a second time.

Along with learning ‘Lists’ i also wanted to try some new stuff such as the Creator tools & Pathfinding.

 

The Grail Tools

The new Tools were originally referred to as the ‘Gaming’ tools when first announced by Rodvik, since then they changed to ‘Experience’ Tools and then to ‘creator’ Tools. I’ve started to refer to them as the ‘The Grail’ tools. I know they are coming, they will be released when its right. Linden Lab did release two parts of the Grail Tools, ‘AttachAvatarTemp’ and ‘TeleportAgent’.

AttachAvatarTemp This allows you to touch an object and have it auto attach itself to your avatar and because it is ‘Temp’ it will not be added to your inventory. It’s quite kool actually and really reduces the amount of faffing about needed to play some games. Usually you have to Click something, receive it, open inventory, find it in inventory then right click and wear it. With this new tool you click, it rezzes item and you click and it’s attached.

Only issue is with permissions, they really are a pain in the ass and ill get back to that later. You also can’t use TeleportAgent with a TempAttached object.

I used AttachAvatarTemp with there Cheese Fairy HUD, so its simple to attach and get on with the adventure. Then after you remove the HUD and it’s added nothing to your inventory.

TeleportAgent This allows you to click an object, or collide with an object and get instantly teleported ZOOOP!. AMAZING i hear you not cry, well it would be amazing if i could use it how i wanted. I tried to get it so the Quest HUD teleported you to a starting point when you clicked ‘START’. But due to permissions restrictions only the owner of the object can be teleported. Thats fine, because when you TempAttach the HUD you become the owner of the HUD. Well Linden Lab must have thought about it because the’ve made it so you can’t request Teleport permissions from a Temp Attached item. MEH.

With the help of my friend David we did try some work arounds where the hud rezzed temp objects inside the avatar which on collision sent a teleport request before deleting itself. This does work but causes a dialogue box to appear every time requesting permissions. I found this to be really annoying so decided to drop the TeleportAgent feature from the HUD.

When it comes to a fun experience the mechanism, the part that does all the work telling the story and pushing the user further into the experience needs to be as simple as possible. it needs to almost not be there. The user must not have to stop and work out a technical issue before returning to the experience and they should not have to click ‘request permissions’ boxes all the time.

The biggest of the Grail Tools yet to be released, or even mentioned in more detail is the fabled ‘universal permissions’. This is a set of permission you give a region owner allowing any item that calls for them to have permission to use you on the region you accepted them on. This would allow you to be teleported instantly, or have objects attached to you. It might even allow the region to animate you, or to control you. Used by the right sort of people these sorts of perms could lead to some truly amazing experiences in SL like nothing we’ve seen yet.. on the grid. Used by the wrong people and you could end up having a giant penis attached to your forehead. So with concerns like that i can imagine they would want make real sure the ‘Universal Permission’ system can’t be abused.

It would be nice to hear something about ‘Universal Permission’ some time to remind me i didn’t just dream them.

 

Pathfinding.

A feature switched on by scripting a character into an object. The script can give the object abilities such as pursuing, wandering, and evading. To accomplish this Linden Lab had to program a completely new way for land to be constructed, but you won’t see it because it’s invisible to normal users.

Seeing as i would be making a little Cheese Fairy character i decided to try and make it Pathfinding so it would be walking around when you found it. People who saw the Fairy waddling about said it was really cute. They found themselves connecting to it more as a character rather than a static statue which is a really important thing when trying to get users immersed in a story.

I used the same Alpha frame flipping technique as i used on the goblins and rats on Escapades but this time i added multiple states. So for example when walking it would show walking set of animations, then when it stopped, it would show a standing set of animations. This further gives the illusion of character.

Unfortunately there was some sort of bug that causes the alpha flipping to not work as it should. I filed a bug report and Linden Lab are looking into it. Also every Pathfinding character is automatically 15 land impact even if it was originally 1 land impact. I guess thats just how much resources a pathfinder objects takes. Also you can’t touch activate a pathfinder object, but this can be worked around by linking another object to it which CAN be touched. All this did not stop me from continuing with trying to script the Cheese fairy. What did stop me was my lack of scripting skill.

I could script the Fairy to trigger all the story elements of the quest HUD and i could script the multi-state pathfinding. But when it came to merging the two together so he wandered about then stopped when clicked to talk to the user, this i just could not work out and as yet there is no working references online to research from. I’ve not given up, its something ill have to learn at a later date. So for now the Cheese Fairy just nods his head while sat on a wall.

Pathfinding is an extremely complex feature added to SL, i think it’ll be a while before we see it’s true potential, but its something i think will add some really exciting new ideas.

 

Opening Doors.

Making this small Quest game has helped me learn a few things while confirming better ways of using HUDs. It has shown me the current limitations of of some new features and the possible future if Universal Permissions ever appear.

The Cheese Fairy Game is available AT NEMO BEACH. If you play the game you can then wonder like i am how well it might work with a story that goes beyond ‘who stole the cheese’.

This isn’t really a game, but an experiment to see how simple i can make a story telling experience.