Apr 212016

Me at Tinker's Hollow

My bags were packed days ago, but after making an arduous journey I found the gates locked. Fluttering my eyelashes, offers of much mead or rather menacing frowns would not tempt the guardians at the gates to let me in early, but as of just over an hour ago the day finally arrived when Fantasy Faire 2016 in Second Life open!


Between today and May 1st a wonderful celebration of many things fantasy in the Second Life virtual world will be taking place and I’ll be there to capture moments, as time permits! Pesky thing time, I think the Sci-Fi community should help us out a bit.

The event is also for a good cause as it’s part of the Relay For Life fundraising effort within Second Life, which raises money for The American Cancer Society. Last year Fantasy Faire raised US$ 31,642 as part of that effort, this year, US$5,927 has already been raised as the gates open.


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Apr 182016

Inara Pey recently reported that participation applications for Second Life’s 13th birthday are now open. A thirteenth birthday for Second Life is an extremely impressive milestone, especially when you consider how many people are still surprised that Second Life is still around.

Meanwhile, Fantasy Faire 2016 in Second Life is on the horizon and they will once again be holding a literary festival (Litfest) which will include readings, poetry, discussions and on April 23rd, Shakespeare Day. More details will appear on that page soon.

I’m a fan of storytelling, as I’ve said many times, I’m also a massive fan of Fantasy Faire in Second Life and I always like to delve a little bit into Second Life’s history as Second Life’s birthday approaches. I’ll combine history, storytelling and fantasy to look at an event that took place in Second Life back in 2007, an event that I didn’t know anything about until I read an article by Michael Calia and Mike Ayers : How ‘Game of Thrones’ Became the Most Viral Show on Television. The link to Second Life comes at the start of the article :

In May 2007, a few months after HBO optioned the rights to a book series by George R.R. Martin, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss joined the author for a surprise appearance in the virtual community Second Life.

“Game of Thrones” wouldn’t hit the screen until four years later, but Second Life was a vital hangout for gamers, fantasy role-players and fans of Mr. Martin’s novels. The two producers appeared on screen as digital avatars in a forum moderated by one Beelzebubba Rasmuson and reassured fans that they would remain respectful of the beloved books.

Second Life was of course a lot more popular in terms of media coverage back in 2007.

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Apr 132016

Due to ongoing personal commitments I’m not finding as much time to explore virtual worlds as I would like. This is a great shame, but can’t be helped. This is particularly a shame when it comes to High Fidelity because they are making some great strides and they are being highlighted in an excellent fashion by Caitlyn Meeks, who made the move from the Unity Asset store to High Fidelity in February.

Caitlyn brought us the news that Content Team members Eric Levin & Jazmin Cano won best VR scene at the San Francisco VR Hackathon at  Microsoft’s Reactor Space in March.

Caitlyn has also been talking us through the concepts of creating Mini-Golf in High Fidelity :

This is aimed more at content creators than consumers, but you can see Mini Golf in action here.

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Apr 132016

At the Game Developer’s Conference 2016 Professor Bob De Schutter of Applied Game Design at Miami University, gave an excellent presentation : Beyond Ageism: Designing Meaningful Games for an Older Audience.

Now you may be thinking that virtual worlds are not games, they aren’t, but they contain games and the mechanics of accessing virtual worlds are game like. The presentation Professor Bob De Schutter makes has themes that apply to virtual worlds too and platform providers as well as content creators would do well to pay heed to what he says.

That’s before we get to the sort of games older people play. Professor Bob De Schutter presented research from Quantic Foundry regarding the games people over 50 play. The top three, by gender :

Women over 50

  1. FarmVille
  2. Glitch
  3. Second Life

Men over 50

  1. Railroad Tycoon
  2. Second Life
  3. Microsoft Solitaire

This tells us that a certain virtual world that many of us are familiar with is popular amongst over 50’s. Many of us already knew that Second Life was popular amongst a more mature audience. Plenty of over 50’s also inhabit the likes of OpenSim, High Fidelity and more.

Now, as virtual worlds have an older crowd, the rest of the presentation makes for interesting viewing, it covers issues such as accessibility, ageism and the fact that older gamers want to be challenged, not patronised.

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Apr 062016

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes published an article regarding SH//FT : VR Industry Leaders Launch Pro-Diversity Non-Profit SHIIFT.

This prompted me to take a closer look at SH//FT, where I discovered that SH//FT is :

a non-profit organization that partners with industry leaders in emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality to sponsor and create opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Helen Situ, who is behind this also has a Medium Post about this in which she explains more :

But I’ve noticed something unsettling. There are very few women in virtual reality.

To whoever is reading this, I’m sure that wherever you work, it’s true that the majority of your coworkers are male. In the tech industry, women only represent less than 20% of the workforce. We need to change this.

I’m really a fan of “Whomever” for some bizarre reason, but that’s not important right now! More women in tech and VR is important. I have taken a look at this subject before : Women Probably Don’t Want To Feel All Alone On A Crowded VR Island.

There is, without any shadow of a doubt, a shocking lack of women in tech and we really need to address the reasons why as we move boldly on to the brave new world of VR. I’ve worked in tech for many moons, I’ve worked in tech for many moons in an education environment too and there you see the shocking lack of women in the classroom too.

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Apr 062016

Tyche “Statto” Shepherd has published her first private estate survey for over two years and it makes for very interesting reading. Tyche’s last private estate survey was published in November 2013. This survey covers Second Life only.

The methodology for these surveys is, to quote Tyche :

these results are based on a sample of 5000 randomly selected private estate regions designed to estimate full/ Homestead/ Openspace penetration.

So with that said let’s get straight to comparisons.

November 2013 

  • Full Regions : 2,368
  • Homestead Regions : 2,005
  • Openspace : 29
  • Closed to Public : 598

March 2016

  • Full Regions : 2,266
  • Homestead Regions : 1,921
  • Openspace : 21
  • Closed to Public : 792

Now remember that this is a survey, not a comparison of the overall number of regions, the above comparisons designed to gauge an idea of how the land lies regarding the type of regions in terms of the percentage of the grid they occupy.

November 2013 Accessible Regions (4,402)

  • Full Regions : 53.8%
  • Homestead Regions : 45.5%
  • Openspace : 0.7%

March 2016 Accessible Regions (4,208)

  • Full Regions : 53.9%
  • Homestead Regions : 45.6%
  • Openspace : 0.5%

Tyche comments further on the methodology for this survey :

The Margins of Error are +/-1.30% , +/- 1.29% and +/-0.21% respectively for the three figures figure at the 95% confidence level.

Remember the above is part of a survey, not an overall comparison of the number of regions on the grid. Tyche does comment on the numbers overall in her commentary, but we’ll come to that later.

As we can see from the comparisons, the shape of the grid in terms of the percentage of Full, Homestead and Openspace regions has changed very little in the period between November 2013 and March 2016.

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Apr 042016

Protest Gnomes

Linden Lab appear to be unleashing evil plans to make some of the protest gnomes redundant with a new announcement regarding a way of reducing tier payments. The reduction does come at a cost, but let’s look at the blog post : Want Lower Tier? Now You Can Get Grandfathered Land Rates!

In November, we lowered the set-up fees for land purchases by 40%. Today, we’re introducing a limited-time offer that will make land even cheaper by allowing you to lower your monthly tier payments (aka land maintenance fees).

From today until October 4th, 2016, you can “buy-down” your Full Islands and/or Homesteads to the grandfathered maintenance rates. By paying a one-time fee up front, you’ll be entitled to lower tier rates on your land for as long as you hold it (and remember, we now also allow transferring grandfathered land).

The pricing for this offer is as follows:

  • Full Island:
  • One-time buy-down fee: $600
  • Grandfathered maintenance fee: $195/month (regularly $295/month)
  • Homestead:
  • One-time buy-down fee: $180
  • Grandfathered maintenance fee: $95/month (regularly $125/month)

Note: This offer cannot be combined with our Education and Non-Profit discount program, and cannot be applied to Skill Gaming Regions.

If you plan to hold onto your land for longer than 6 months, this is a great deal for you!

To take advantage of this offer, you’ll need to submit a Support Case using the Land & Region -> Region Buy Down case type. In that case you can provide us with the names of the regions you would like to buy down, and we will assess the appropriate buy-down fee per region.

This is certainly a good deal if you have the upfront money and plan to hold your region for the next six months. The overall cost for the next six months would be the same as if you were still paying your current tier rate, but you’ll pay the one off fee and then see $100 knocked of your tier bill (for a full region). After that six months, you will start making savings.

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Apr 042016

The Terms of Service (TOS) that accompany the Oculus Rift have raised concerns from users and potential users. UploadVR report; Oculus ‘Always On’ Services and Privacy Policy May Be a Cause for Concern. Gizmodo report; There Are Some Super Shady Things in Oculus Rift’s Terms of Service. techdirt report; Oculus Users Freak Out Over VR Headset’s TOS, Though Most Of It Is Boilerplate.

The concerns raised will sound rather familiar in parts for Second Life content creators. This is especially the case for parts of the TOS such as this :

Unless otherwise agreed to, we do not claim any ownership rights in or to your User Content. By submitting User Content through the Services, you grant Oculus a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual (i.e. lasting forever), non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free and fully sublicensable (i.e. we can grant this right to others) right to use, copy, display, store, adapt, publicly perform and distribute such User Content in connection with the Services.

Sections of a TOS such as this can sound worse than they actually are. A lot of those rights are required for companies to carry your content and transmit it to other users. The article over at Gizmodo suggest that the result of the above is :

If you create something using Oculus’ services, the Terms of Service say that you surrender all rights to that work and that Oculus can use it whenever it wants, for whatever purposes

I’m not convinced that’s quite true but it’s not hard to see why people come to that conclusion. techdirt point out :

The problem with getting hysterical over the TOS is that this language is essentially boilerplate, and attached to the terms of service for pretty much every service in existence so they can make a sharing technology work without being sued over copyright. While certainly worded poorly there’s no real nefarious intent; it’s CYA lawyer language.

The UploadVR article takes a closer look at the privacy angle and the privacy policy that is incorporated into the TOS.

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Apr 012016

The US government have been inviting comments regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how it works. The comment period has been extended until 11:59pm Eastern Time today, you can see more here.

The main document describing the reasons for comments is Requests for Public Comments: Digital Millennium Copyright Act Safe Harbor Provisions. Comments are closed there, but as I said the commenting period has been extended, so follow the first link if you want to comment. The main document however is summarised as :

The United States Copyright Office is undertaking a public study to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the DMCA safe harbor provisions contained in 17 U.S.C. 512. Among other issues, the Office will consider the costs and burdens of the notice-and-takedown process on large- and small-scale copyright owners, online service providers, and the general public. The Office will also review how successfully section 512 addresses online infringement and protects against improper takedown notices. To aid in this effort, and to provide thorough assistance to Congress, the Office is seeking public input on a number of key questions.

This should be of interest to Second Life and other virtual world content creators, although I suspect it’s intended for an American audience, being an American law being discussed on an Amercian Government website. The results of this discussion however, are going to be of interest to content creators worldwide.

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Mar 312016

Pakistani comedian Sami Shah has been featured more than once by Hamlet Au over at New World Notes. Almost a year ago Hamlet posted : Comedian Who Got His Start Performing Live in Second Life from Pakistan Gets His Own Show on the BBC.

More recently Sami has been talking to John Bailey of The Sydney Morning Herald : Sami Shah’s second life as a comedian. The reason Sami is talking to the Australian press is because he has been performing in Australia and will be performing, I MIGRANT & Other Stories by Sami Shah at The Cooper’s Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne April 5th – 17th as part of a comedy festival.

The reason “Second Life” is in the title of The Sydney Morning Herald article is of course because Sami used to perform in Second Life at a comedy club :

It was just people coming on and reading joke books, so I started performing there two or three times per week. The audience was all from America and England, so I’d wake up just to be there when they logged in, and in Pakistan that was six in the morning. I ended up earning a few hundred dollars doing comedy in Second Life in Pakistan for at least a year or two.

What this really exemplifies is how Virtual Worlds such as Second Life can give an artist worldwide reach. There’s no two hour drive to the venue involved and if you bomb in a virtual world, well, you have another advantage, you can reinvent yourself.

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