Aug 202014
 

An odd article has appeared in The Economic Times Of India : A Tumkur start-up VentureNext earns Rs 10 lakh a month by creating virtual creatures. The article is odd because it starts with a headline about how a startup has been selling virtual creatures in Second Life and making a living at it, diverts in the middle to a discussion about online gaming and ends by suggesting that Second Life is dwindling and that business people are turning to new ventures, such as Bitcoin.

The virtual creatures in question are Fennux, which are a breedable creature within Second Life. I’m not sure how popular these have been but they have been around for quite some time. Indeed I can recall that back in 2013 their adverts managed to find their way to the Second Life forum :

An image should be here

Fennux Advert

However Sathvik Vishwanath. the name behind Fennux is taking his company in a new direction , they are moving into bitcoin territory :

“I’m not able to constantly develop new things for Fennux because of my new startup. I’ll keep it running though, When one door shuts, others open, That’s just how the Internet is.”

According to the article, his new startup UnoCoin, raised $250,000 (Rs 1.5 crore) from Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. That’s an interesting change of direction.

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Aug 172014
 

Facebook has never been a good fit for Second Life users, whereas other social networks such as Twitter and now Google + have no objection to people having accounts with their Second Life names, Facebook has stuck rigidly to it’s real name policy. Obviously this policy is somewhat flawed in as much as there’s no real authentication of those real names, but it remains a poor fit.

Yes there are plenty of people who are happy to use their real name Facebook accounts and link them to their Second Life accounts, but it remains a Second Life unfriendly domain. Now comes news that Facebook have donated $10,000 to a politician who is fighting gay marriage.

Facebook made the donation in May to Utah attorney general Sean Reyes and have defended their decision, in a statement to the Huffington Post they said :

Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue — because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.

There is some merit in that statement, many of us will vote for political parties with whom we disagree with on certain issues. However gay marriage is quite a big ticket item to be overlooking in favour of a so called open internet. Facebook’s defence of their support is extremely mealy mouthed and does them very little credit.

However the wider point is that Linden Lab should be promoting Second Life on networks that are more Second Life friendly than Facebook. Indeed Linden Lab have their own outlets such as the blog and Second Life profiles in which they should be communicating with Second Life users.

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Aug 162014
 

Inara Pey brings news of some improvements to the SL Go Viewer from OnLive. The improvements include SL share for Flickr and Twitter now working as well as a fix that means fitted mesh now works properly via the SL Go viewer. SL Share for Facebook should also work but Inara doesn’t have a Facebook account to test that with.

SL Go offers the potential for people using mobile devices to use Second Life as well as offering the opportunity for people running older hardware to get a better experience. This is because you run the Second Life viewer via Onlive’s hardware and therefore you can have higher graphics settings without bringing your machine or mobile device to its knees and feel like you’re walking through treacle. This of course comes at a cost, which is currently comes with the following options :

  • $9.95 (£6.95) per month for unlimited access. Starts with a 7 Day Free Trial.
  • Pay as you go for only $1.00 (£0.70) per hour.

I’m not associated with SL Go in any shape or form, nor am I on their list of bloggers, but I will say that this is not a bad deal at all for those who want to explore Second Life. The system does have some drawbacks, one of which Inara explains in her post :

There is still no capability to save snapshots locally. This isn’t surprising, given SL Go is a streamed service, rather than something running locally with access to the local hard / flash drive, and so is likely going to take a lot more banging on things before it works – if it can be made to work.

As I said earlier, you use SL Go via their hardware and therefore the local disk drive is going to be their hardware. This should not be insurmountable. There are security issues with allowing people access to the SL Go local hard drives, but with some care this could be worked around. Another option would be for a SL Go viewer only email texture option, although this would be rather clunky for end users, it would work.

Inara also posted an very interesting blog about the fitted mesh improvements as well as information regarding paid contract work for viewer developers : SL Go: viewer update fixes fitted mesh issue.

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Aug 142014
 

Earlier this year Mitch Wagner had an article published in Information Week about High Fidelity : Second Life Founder Pursues Second Chance. The article talked of how Second Life had not reached mainstream appeal and pondered whether High Fidelity can. Mitch wasn’t convinced because of the time investment, but he did acknowledge that Second Life got a lot right. However for the real reason Second Life hasn’t reached mass appeal we need to go to the comments on the article and consider the issue of Orcs :

Second Life would have fared better if it had appealed to MMORPG fans, the primary proven market for such activities. Philip Rosedale, you need orcs.

This comment misses the point of Second Life somewhat and yet in doing so, highlights one of the issues for Second Life and any other virtual world. People see Second Life as a singular place, it’s not, but the architecture of the platform can make it appear so, which brings us to another comment on Orcs :

I think the Orcs comment is spot on. It’s one thing to fix the technological elements, but Second Life never appealed to me because it was so open and amorphous. Part of the fun of an immersive experience is having an objective and a set of limitations to work within (or against). An open world where you can do anything sounds great, but then you run up against the limits of your own imagination.

This comment hits the nail firmly on the head. Second Life needs to deliver experiences as well as offering open creativity, people want something to do. This also goes back to the points Mitch made about time investment, people want to pop into a virtual world, experience something and logout. They don’t want to build, they want to be guided. The problem here isn’t Second Life itself, it’s the way people view Second Life as .. well, Second Life. I’ve said something along these lines before, but for Second Life to reach mainstream appeal it requires people to stop talking about Second Life. This may sound somewhat odd but my point is that Second Life should be viewed as the technology. The experiences the places people visit, the places people learn at, the places people role-play, they should be at the forefront of the major discussion, Second Life should be consigned to the geeky conversation about technology.

Now of course virtual worlds offer a sandbox experience and the concept is absolutely brilliant. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, Kitely, Inworldz, OpenSim etc. offer authors, creators, designers the opportunity to build their very own stage and bring their own visions to life. This really is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to get creative, to do so. However there are many many people who want to be guided through an experience, they want to teleport right in to the end product. Virtual worlds do indeed offer great potential but to some, a blank canvas is very difficult to grapple with.

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Aug 132014
 

The Skill Gaming applications for Second Life seem to be involved in some sort of skill game of themselves as operators try and seek approval for their game. At this stage I wouldn’t be surprised if the deadline is pushed back again because this is turning into a challenging experience for applicants and Linden Lab.

Let’s just rewind a little, Inara Pey recently covered the Second Life Bar Association discussion on the new TOS and the skill gaming policy. I’ve looked at the TOS discussion but not the skill gaming discussion, so let’s take a look at the skill gaming discussion.

The presentation was headed once again byAgenda Faromet. The discussion is a little bit muddied at times due to the fact that gaming and gambling seem to intermingle, but they do get to the differences about gaming and gambling early on :

  • Gambling - betting, wagering something of value, money, on a contest, sporting event, game of chance.
  • Gaming - playing skilled games that require skill or a player’s control of the game.

There are some areas of the discussion that border on being a little bit wrong, for example :

So gachas, breakables, stuff like that? They’re not gambling. I’ve answered so many questions about that. Not affected by the policy because they don’t have a pay-out in Linden dollars. If it doesn’t have a pay-out in Linden dollars, not gambling.

It doesn’t matter what the rick versus reward is, it doesn’t matter that you can sell your rare breakables for a gazillion dollars; they’re not [gambling].

Stock exchange: not gambling. Contest boards … depends on how they’re set-up, but if it costs Linden dollars to play, and it has a pay-out in Linden dollars, it’s gambling. If it doesn’t, not gambling.

The part about not having a pay-out in Linden Dollars meaning it’s not gambling isn’t actually 100% correct. The wagering policy actually states that the pay-out can’t be Linden Dollars or any real world currency or thing of value. The thing of value issue is where people ponder whether certain activities fall foul of the wagering policy, it’s a vague statement. However I suspect it applies to real world things of value, rather than inworld things of value, but I wouldn’t bet on that!

Then there’s a discussion on where attorneys are required to be licensed to practice law :

Comment – If you are from Europe It is rather difficult to hire an attorney who is licensed both in your country and the USA.

Reply – You don’t need an attorney that is licensed in the USA. You need an attorney who can write a letter that says what you are doing is permitted in your country.

However the FAQ does indeed state that the reasoned legal opinion should be provided by an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States. Initially that wasn’t mentioned as a requirement, the goalposts have been moving on these applications.

However it’s interesting that the presentation viewed stock exchanges as not gambling because SL Capex, who bill themselves as the number one stock market simulation in Second Life, are currently in the middle of a skill gaming application and they seem to be having a few difficulties in completing the process.

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Aug 112014
 

Kagami Entrance

Kagami advertises itself as a Japanese horror event in Second Life and I have to say it’s pretty bloody funky, but it’s only here for the month of August. Wait, what is Kagami?

“Hey, you know what? At midnight, put two mirrors facing each other. Then you can see your future spouse in the mirror! “

Everything started from these words from my friend.

Of course I didn’t buy that story, but I thought of giving it a try anyway. I’d waited till midnight…. and well, nothing had happened as I expected.

No special reflection on the mirror.

“It’s silly. I should’ve known that from the beginning… better go to bed now.”

A 15-year-old girl shouldn’t have believed it.

But―, I couldn’t have imagined, what was happening to my old friend Kasumi then.

Ok yes yes yes you do indeed play the role of a 15 year old Japanese schoolgirl but you should be big enough to look beyond that, it’s not as if you actually wear such an avatar …. well I didn’t anyway. One of the first things you’ll notice with Kagami is the impressive use of cut scenes that automatically appear on your screen when you wear the HUD.

This is a point and click adventure in many ways, which is something a platform such as Second Life can very much pull off. Initially you’re going in search of your friend Kasumi, who has disappeared, did she try the two mirror trick?

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Aug 082014
 

NecronomVi Landing Point

Over at SLUniverse Wildefire Walcott brings us the sad news that the space station Necronom VI is in grave danger and will need to close its doors.

NecronomVi Reactor

There is confusion as to exactly when the engines will cease working, initial reports suggested it may be this weekend but later reports suggest that an engineer, who is obviously not called Scotty, as that would infringe way too much IP, may have managed to get an extra week out of the space station.

NecronomVi Danger

Necronom VI is a rare beast, it’s a science fiction roleplay sim. I’m surprised there aren’t more science fiction ventures in Second Life but now we’re likely to be minus one. So, you may be asking, what exactly is Necronom VI? Well the sim does come with a bit of history, but first let’s talk about space colonisation :

–Project Necronom – Space Colonization–

It is an ancient human dream to colonize vast space itself.

Humanity has expended over the galaxy for centuries, terraforming planets and creating equals to its former home. In order to reach the next step of existence however, the final move into space itself needs to be achieved.

It is estimated that over a mere timeframe of five genrations, humanity can reach the next step of evolution.

In an effort to bring forth this crucial development, the Necronom project has been initiated by a combined effort of the whole human race, even beyond the reaches of the UCE (United Colonies of Earth).

Twelve space colonies, spread throughout the galaxy, were constructed to house humanities biggest hope.

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Aug 082014
 

When Linden Lab announced changes to the controversial section 2.3 of their TOS a lot of people cheered, until they read it properly, then a lot of people groaned and finally they scratched their heads trying to work out what it all means.

To this end the Second Life Bar association held a presentation last weekend and the legend that is Inara Pey has audio and transcripts of not one, but two presentations surrounding the TOS. Inara has broken the presentation down into a part about the changes to section 2.3 and a a part about the changes relating to the new skill gaming section of the TOS.

Now first of all, we’re a week away from the anniversary of the first controversial change to the TOS, August 15th 2013 was the fateful day.  Then in July 2014 Linden Lab tried to address this issue and made some changes, what exactly changed? Well the presentation regarding section 2.3 explains that as best as it can :

The words on the list of the rights that you grant Linden Lab changed order. That’s really the most important thing that changed. And also a parenthetical limitation was added.

And this is really important to understand, and when I say it’s important to understand, it’s because I don’t understand it, and I don’t think anybody that I know, that I’ve talked to, really understands it. I write Terms of Service for a living, and I don’t understand what they did here. And I think this is where we need to talk about what they did and why they did it.

So there in a nutshell comes the first major issue with the change to the TOS, someone who writes terms of service for a living doesn’t understand what Linden Lab have done. Now at this point I should pause and point out that attorneys, judges, lawyers, solicitors and the whole legal profession make a living of not agreeing with each other over what something means, but in this case, there’s really no excuse for it to be such a confusing matter.

This isn’t to say that the TOS change in July is a waste of time, it might be more positive than people think, the problem is, nobody is really sure. The problem lies with the parenthetical limitation, so let’s take a look at that in action from the Second Life TOS :

Except as otherwise described in any Additional Terms (such as a contest’s official rules) which will govern the submission of your User Content, you hereby grant to Linden Lab, and you agree to grant to Linden Lab, the non-exclusive, unrestricted, unconditional, unlimited, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, and cost-free right and license to use, copy, record, distribute, reproduce, disclose, modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and sell, re-sell or sublicense (through multiple levels)(with respect to Second Life, Inworld or otherwise on the Service as permitted by you through your interactions with the Service)

The end part is the confusing area, does it apply to sublicense? Does it apply to sell, re-sell? Does it apply to everything that goes before it? Nobody knows! Now this is a game changer depending upon what it applies to, the SLBA presentation said that this could be brilliant :

This limitation limits their power to … it limits their power to activities on the service, which is something we were asking for, and it limits their ability to use your content to the creator’s permissions.

So if you have done something that indicates to Linden Lab that they can’t use your content. for instance, you have deleted it, or you have put restrictions on it; no copy or no transfer, this indicates what the permissions should be.

So this is a great limitation; it’s beautiful. But there’s a problem. And here’s the problem. Let’s go back. They changed the words in this list of rights; they changed the order.

The permissions system is not the only limitation placed on content, so that could come across as misleading. For example texture sellers will sell their textures full perms because that’s the permissions level that textures need to have applied to them in order for textures to be useful to an end user, but textures will come with a EULA specifying limitations above and beyond the Second Life permissions system. Linden Lab do recognise this in their terms of service section 2.7 to be fair.

The problem here is one of application. One really has to wonder if this is a deliberate move so that Linden Lab still have these overreaching rights but give the appearance that they have addressed concerns. I would like to think that they would not do that but I’m left wondering why they’ve produced such unclear terms, to get this into context let’s go back to pre-August 2013.

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Aug 072014
 

Second Life doesn’t have an equivalent of the wayback machine, however the Second Life Origins section of the destination guide allows us to step back in time and experience Second Life in its former glory in parts. The section has replicas of old experiences as well as having the old places that are still really there!

Let’s start by going back to 2002, before Second Life was officially even born. This is the pre-release world and a visit to the first Second Life region, we’re going to Da Boom!

Da Boom Linden Playground

Alas I did not find the disco that I’ve seen pictured in Governor Linden’s mansion. However I did find a part of mainland that has a special area, the Linden playground! This is protected land, it sits near the middle of the sim and it has an arch built by Alberto Linden, whose age is quite eye catching.

Da Boom Stores

This isn’t a replica, this is a real sim, there are stores here owned by existing residents, there’s the amusingly titled Primternet cafe too. This is where it all began and it’s quite a nice location, people aren’t arguing about access here because of that special piece of protected land giving everyone a pleasant experience.


Da Boom

Visit Da Boom, the very first region in Second Life, founded in 2002. It’s named after the real-life “De Boom” street in San Francisco, and Residents have speculated it’s also a reference to the “Big Bang” of our virtual world’s conception.

Visit in Second Life

However the section of the destination guide isn’t just about pointing us in the direction of old sims, it also points us in the direction of Linden Lab giving thanks to their old residents.

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Aug 062014
 

Quite a few big stories around, the biggest obviously being that Villa Park will be in Fifa 15. Then there’s the news that Blizzard have announced the release date of the release date of the next World Of Warcraft expansion, Warlords Of Draenor. There will be an event on August 14th to announce the release date of the expansion.

Then there’s High Fidelity who are explaining their animation techniques. Inara Pey and Hamlet Au have already blogged on this but I’m going to go there too. High Fidelity have not only hired their very own version of Oz in the form of former Pixar employee Ozan Serim, they’ve also teamed Ozan (on guitar) up with another employee, Mary Poppins Emily Donald (lead vocals), to make a bold bid to win this year’s virtual world idol and based on this performance, they have to be the bookies favourite to win!

Ok ok what am I talking about you may be wondering, I wonder this often too. The issue is trying to make avatars in High Fidelity look as impressive as the do in animated movies made by the likes of Pixar, without having an animator such as Ozan Serim, who used to work at Pixar. We’re only on Wednesday and this has seemed like a very long week already, but we’ll get there, in fact we’ll just get to Ozan’s words :

One of the things I am trying to do here at HF is make live avatars look really amazing – as close to what we see in animated films today. This is a big challenge – we have to do everything in a fraction of a second without the benefits of an animator (like me!) being able to ‘post-process’ the results of what is motion captured. So I’ve been working on the ‘rigging’: how a live 3D camera and a motion capture package like Faceshift is able to ‘puppeteer’ an avatar.

The challenge of course is that in a virtual world, you’re looking at this live, whereas we all know from the outtakes from films such as Toy Story, they have more time and opportunity to put it right. Now as an example we can see Emily sing.

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