Jan 142015
 

Linden Lab have explained the mystery of the Skrill payment option news in a blog post : Additional Payment Options for Second Life. The post explains :

As you may have seen, a company called Skrill recently announced that we’re working together to provide additional payment options for Second Life users. Our relationship with Skrill allows Linden Lab to offer Second Life Residents many more options for their payment activity (like buying L$ or paying account fees), including additional local currency options for Residents outside the US.

The post goes on to explain that some Second Life residents are already using Skrill, as it was soft launched a few weeks ago. However now other Second Life residents can add a billing option of using Skrill for Second Life, instructions are in the LL blog post I linked to above.

However there is a discrepancy between the two announcements regarding processing credits and I think it’s safe to say that Linden Lab’s announcement carries all the weight.

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Jan 122015
 

This is an odd one. Skrill, an online payment company, released a press release last week :  Skrill Connects with Linden Lab to Expand Payment Options for Second Life:

New York, NY – 8 January 2015: Leading digital payments company, Skrill, today announces a collaboration with Linden Lab to integrate the Skrill Digital Wallet as a payment option for users of Second Life, the Internet’s largest user-created virtual world.

I’m not going to copy the whole of the press release, follow the link for the full information, but it does contain a quote from Linden Lab’s CFO, Malcolm Dunne :

At Linden Lab we are constantly looking for new ways to provide exceptional service to our customers. By integrating with Skrill, we’ve expanded the options for Second Life users to process their online payments, which is a critical piece of our product. We’re excited to offer this new functionality, giving our customers anothersecure, quick, and convenient way to participate in the Second Life economy.

The reason this is all a bit odd is that there is no announcement from Linden Lab about this. There may well be many reasons for this, such as Linden Lab haven’t decided on how to intergrate this or that they are waiting for technical solutions to deliver the service.

At this point, some of you may well be wondering what the bloody hell Skrill is? Skrill is an Online payment system and from their about page they tell us :

Our worldwide payment network lets businesses extend their reach globally with over 100 local payment options. We already meet the needs of over 156,000 businesses with everything from a simple one-step integration to a fully-tailored payment solution.

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Jan 102015
 

Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris in Second Life is quite an impressive location, spanning four sims and two centuries it portrays the French capital in a very good light. There are a number of visitor attractions and they include : Theatre Sarah Bernhardt, Moulin Rouge, Eiffel Tower, Maison Victor Hugo, Carousel 1900, Grand Roue Ferris Wheel, Moulin de la Galette windmill, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Champs Elysees, Arc De Triomphe, The Louvre and The Gallery Of Machines.

Art And Attractions

Most of the sims have an early 1900’s feel to them with vintage cars and people wearing Edwardian era style clothing, the people in this case being models rather than bots but they do help to add to the ambience.

There’s quite a lot to see and do. Shopping, Art galleries, theatres and tourist attractions being some of the main activities. Part of the income to pay for these sims comes from renting out shop and room spaces.

Taxi

Four sims means there’s a lot of legwork to do to see it all, however there are options on your mode of transport. Taxis, which are populated at various points being one means of transport that can take the weight off your virtual feet.

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Jan 092015
 

Virtual Paris

I’ll be doing a more in depth post on Paris in Second Life in the near future, at the moment, not at all surprisingly, it has a theme related to real life events about it and even in virtual worlds there’s a sense of mood. However it is a rather stunning build and contains a historical 1900’s theme in parts.


Eiffel Tower

Visit the Eiffel Tower and other famous Paris tourist spots in France.

Visit in Second Life

Obviously The Eiffel Tower is a central focus point and here you’ll find people gathering around, some with placards, some with Mesh avatars I can’t see due to the AMD drivers not playing nicely with Second Life. However there’s much more to this location than the Eiffel Tower.

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Jan 082015
 

There’s a lot of excitement around about the future of Virtual Reality (VR from now on). There are a lot of gadgets, devices and potential. However there’s also going to be the inevitable battle to win the war on standards and protocols.

We’ve been here before in many ways, Blu-Ray v HD-DVD. Those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth can remember VHS v Betamax. There will be lots of other examples. Arguments will always rage about which format was the better one and why the better one doesn’t always win, but generally one format wins and the same surely has to be true for VR.

Initially we’ll probably find experiences optimised for the Oculus Rift, or optimised for a rival headset. Eventually, for the sake of consumers, that optimisation for a brand will need to be replaced by optimisation for a standard. For example consumers won’t want a headset for Second Life, a headset for Linden Lab’s next gen Virtual World, a headset for OpenSim, a headset for a game or MMO and so forth. Consumers will want a choice of headsets that work pretty much across the board. Obviously some headsets will be better than others but they should all work to a set of standards and protocols that mean software developers optimise their product for those standards and protocols.

At CES 2014 the BBC reported that Valve were making steps in this direction :

Valve designer Brian Coomer says the company is “days away” from releasing a VR software development kit that will give game makers a standard way to provide an interface for VR controllers.

I’m not quite sure what happened there because I haven’t heard much about this since. However at CES2015 noises are being made in this direction by Razer with their Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) Hacker Dev Kit.

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Jan 072015
 

Science Exploratorium

I’ve mentioned before that there’s a lack of Science Fiction in Second Life. There’s also a lack of Science Fact. However both genres do exist in Second Life, just not to the degree I’d have expected.

When it comes to real science, as I’ve mentioned before, The Exploratorium is a good place to go. The Exploratorium is also the home of the podcast Virtually Speaking Science. The latest edition is going to be all about humour : Science + Humor = A Winning Formula for Laughing and Thinking. The show will be hosted by Alan Boyle of NBC News and will feature Marc Abrahams of Improbable Research reviewing some of weirdest tales of Science from 2014 and furthermore, you can watch the show live in Second Life :

Marc Abrahams will review the past year’s weirdest scientific tales with NBC News’ Alan Boyle during Wednesday’s installment of “Virtually Speaking Science,” an hourlong talk show airing at 8 p.m. ET via BlogTalkRadio. You can also watch the show as part of a live virtual audience in the Exploratorium’s Second Life auditorium

By Wednesday they mean today, unless you live in a timezone whereby 8pm ET is tomorrow of course, which would be the very early hours of the morning in Europe alas. I also think Alan Boyle needs to embrace SLT as a timezone to assist us all!

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Jan 062015
 

As we enter 2015 an awful lot of people seem to be getting very excited about the forthcoming VR boom. I do anticipate a VR boom, I just don’t see it really happening this year. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, OpenSim, Kitely, Inworldz are more likely to keep hold of their communities in the short term because, that’s where the communities currently are and the brave new worlds aren’t ready yet.

However some people feel that 2015 will be the year where VR goes big, I’m more in the camp of 2015 being a year of tease and talk rather than mass adoption. However there are new and interesting things on the horizon that will get people interested in VR and they’re not just in games and virtual worlds. Storytelling is a big potential market here as is live music and theatre performances.

Peter Diamindis over at the singularity hub is, not surprisingly, excited about the future of VR : These 11 Technologies Will Go Big in 2015 :

Expect a lot more action on the virtual and augmented reality front. 2014 saw the $2B acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook. In 2015, we’ll see action from companies like Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity (the successor to Second Life), immersive 3D 360-degree cameras from companies like Immersive Media (the company behind Google’s Streetview), Jaunt, and Giroptic. Then there are game changers like Magic Leap (in which Google just led a $542 million investment round) that are developing technology to “generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world.” Oculus, the darling of CES for the past few years, will be showing its latest Crescent Bay prototype and hopefully providing a taste of how its headset will interact with Nimble VR’s hand- and finger-tracking inputs. Nine new VR experiences will be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year, spanning from artistic, powerful journalistic experiences like Project Syria to full “flying” simulations where you get to “feel” what it would be like for a human to fly.

I’m certainly a big fan of the direction High Fidelity are heading in and with the platform being so open, there’s a lot of potential for people to grasp hold of it, but I think High Fidelity is also a good example of how much ground work has to be done before people adopt. I’m excited about the future of High Fidelity and I certainly expect to see a lot more people experiencing and talking about High Fidelity in 2015 but I don’t see many thousands of people leaving Second Life for High Fidelity just yet.

Over at AD Week Christopher Heing is talking about marketing creativity with VR : How Oculus Rift Is About to Reshape Marketing Creativity Brands are enamored with the potential of 360-degree storytelling. The storytelling angle sold this to me, but the article also talks about Second Life :

Nancy Bennett is a virtual-reality marketing veteran. (Yes, such people actually exist and are about to become hot commodities among talent recruiters.) In the mid-2000s, Bennett had her avatar boots on the Internet-code-built ground of Second Life, constructing cyber experiences for her employer at the time, MTV Networks.

Of course, Second Life never really took off. So with her been there, done that perspective several years later as chief content officer at Two Bit Circus, she does not deal in hyperbole when it comes to the impact the much-hyped virtual reality headset Oculus Rift will have on marketing. Rather, Bennett leans on data. One-third of her agency’s new business in 2014 was powered by the Oculus Rift developer’s kit, helping grow her 2-year-old Los Angeles digital shop from 15 to 35 employees.

When people talk about Second Life never really taking off they’re really talking in terms of mass adoption by the mainstream and that’s something that can’t really be argued with. However the point people miss so often when they talk about brave new worlds is that they recognise that there’s something in virtual communities and communications but they can’t quite figure out what that is. The Oculus Rift may well answer some of the questions, or it may be that the answer is that virtual worlds are simply a niche product. Time will tell.

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Jan 062015
 

2014 was a year when the Second Life grid shrunk in terms of private regions and yet, the number of adult private regions rose. However there were signs of encouragement in terms of the rate of losses during 2014, especially when you compare the rate to 2013 and 2012.

The person to turn to for more information is of course, Tyche “Statto” Shepherd. The big blow for Linden Lab during the year was an expected one, at the end of July, Tyche Shepherd reported :

As slow as this years losses have been it still means that this weeks changes bring Private Estates below 19,000 for the first time since 15th June 2008. Net Private Estate losses for the year to date amount to 285 regions which is a 1.5% loss.

Tyche Shepherd’s grid survey report for the week ending 28/12/14 gives us the chance to look at the figures for the year as a whole and what we see is a very dramatic slow down in the number of net losses in terms of private region losses, during the year as a whole, although there were more net losses in the second half of the year than the first half.

A note on the charts in this post, they are published here due to the kind permission of Tyche Shepherd, they are Tyche’s work so please respect that. We’ll start with a chart showing the big picture .. well it might look small in this post!

Chart Should Be Here

Net Change In Private Estates

Now if you having trouble reading that the scores on the door are a net loss of 673 regions during the course of the year, or 3.5%. At the end of December private regions stood at 18,600. This is still around the levels of June 2008, the reason for this is because June 2008 was a time of unbelievable boom for Second Life, for example Tyche’s report of 8th June 2008 told us that 613 private regions had been added to the grid during that week. At this time Linden Lab were also still able to auction off new mainland sims and were building new mainland continents. Therefore don’t expect the number of private regions to drop to April or early May 2008 levels any time soon.

Ok, back to comparing this year’s private region net losses with the previous two years, If we look at last year’s stats we see :

A Chart Should Be Here

Net region losses 2013

A total net loss of 1,719 private regions, or 8.2%. That’s a net loss of 1,046 more private regions during 2013 than 2014. This is demonstrated well in the above chart because you see far more weeks last year where weekly losses were over 40.

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Jan 032015
 

Lightbridge Stables

Lightbridge in Second Life is a medieval roleplaying sim set in the year 1529 in a part of English controlled France. Now before you think, you’ve seen this all before, this isn’t a place for Elves, Dwarves, Orcs (seriously, no Orcs!) etc. This is a sim that prides itself on a degree of histrorical accuracy and encourages free form human character roleplay without the use of a meter.

On the Lightbridge website description we are told :

Set in the fictional city of Pont de Lumière in English-controlled France, the town is a secondary trading port and a garrison supporting the defense of Calais. Get to know the city by reading our lore. Come January 1, it will be the year 1529 in our roleplay. If you enjoy the Tudor Era, this might be for you!

What makes us special? We’ve done a good bit of research into English-Controlled Calais and we’ve picked a time and space that are unlike anything else in the SL rp community. RL events of the time will affect our roleplay, including the many RL feast days scattered throughout the year. And although our focus isn’t on physical combat, our combat dice bonus system is also designed to reduce the absurdities of dice play.

What makes this interesting to me is the work done on Lore and trying to make this a historical rather than fantasy sim. Their lore page makes for some very interesting reading :

Like Calais, Pont de Lumière is an important nexus of trade between England and the European continent. Its harbor is not as suitable for larger trading ships, as the continental shelf is higher here and the water is shallower. Still, smaller ships make the journey between Dover and Pont de Lumière, facilitating trade of important commodities, food, and materials. Pont de Lumière actually predates Calais, having been settled in the 7th century and given a charter in the 10th Century. The town fell and was captured just before Edward III laid siege to Calais in 1346, after the Battle of Crécy, to stop French interference with English trade to the markets in the neighboring low country (Flanders, modern day Belgium).

As foreign territories, Calais and Pont de Lumière are expensive protectorates. They are heavily fortified garrisons, as the French continually have their eyes on reclaiming the land. From time to time, the French will test the town’s mettle. When Calais eventually falls back into French control in 1558 under Queen Mary I, Pont de Lumière will likewise fall before it.

There’s more, a lot more covering economy, politics government etc.

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Dec 312014
 

After Dark

Episode 25 Of The Drax Files : World Makers takes us into the seedy underbelly of rock music in Second Life! Ooooh! Well actually it’s not seedy … nor is it an underbelly, and it might not even rock music, however let’s move on, the star of the show is an artist known as Oblee.

Oblee explains how he plays gigs in Second Life two or three times a week, pointing out that there are many venues to play at. There has been talk about music being a good use case for the forthcoming VR boom and yet, there are already ample opportunities for musicians to play on a digital stage. Obviously one of the issues with the current virtual worlds is that they support a relatively small audience, as anyone who has been in a sim with 40 avatars knows. However that shouldn’t mean that the opportunities of current virtual worlds are overlooked.

The Pen

Oblee is self made in Second Life and in an impressive twist, his earnings in Second Life have allowed him to earn enough money to finance his debut album outside the virtual world. These virtual worlds aren’t as distant from reality as some may think.

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