Jul 222014
 

Oz Linden’s recent blog post on Tips for Reducing Viewer Crashes urged people to upgrade their operating systems :

Upgrade your Operating System

There is a very clear pattern in our statistics – the more up to date your operating system is, the less likely your Viewer is to crash. This applies on both Windows and Macintosh (Linux is a little harder to judge, since “up to date” has a more fluid meaning there, and the sample sizes are small). Some examples:

  • Windows 8.1 reports crashes only half as often as Windows 8.0

Those of you who stuck with Windows 7 (roughly 40% of users of our Viewer right now) rather than upgrade to 8.0 made a good choice at the time; version 7 still has a much better crash rate than 8.0, but not quite as good as 8.1 (now about 15% of users), so waiting is no longer the best approach.

  • Mac OSX 10.9.3 reports crashes a third less than 10.7.5

OSX rates do not have as much variation as Windows versions do, but newer is still better, and there are other non-crash reasons to be on the up to date version, including rendering improvements.

Upgrading will probably also better protect you from security problems, so it’s a good idea even aside from allowing you to spend more time in Second Life.

However there’s a massive elephant in the room here and it’s the cost of upgrading Windows. OSX is a different kettle of fish and the recent Mavericks OS was even free. Microsoft Windows is different and this highlights an issue for developers as well as end users.

Here in the UK, Windows 8 upgrade for Vista and XP users is £99.99. The upgrade to Windows 8.1 after that is free.

Windows 8.1 itself, which is the path Windows 7 users will likely want to tread, is also £99.99.  These are hefty fees in all reality and a lot of people would rather wait until their computer reaches the end of its life before upgrading.

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Jul 212014
 

Book Island Landing Zone

Book Island isn’t new to Second Life, it has been around since 2007 and claims to be the oldest dedicated literary sim in Second Life. They’ve recently welcomed back a renter by the name of V.L. Dreyer who is the author of The Survivors series of books.

The sim exemplifies what virtual worlds do well, community, it’s clear that there’s community work here with events advertised for a 500 word writing challenge, Open Mic where you or one of the regulars can read in voice, live literature where one of Second Life’s regular live performers reads.

Then there are events aimed at writers, such as an Improv writers challenge and writers chat. There’s also something called Promptly Erotic, which you will have to ask Freda Frostbite about!

I’ve seen communities such as this inside and outside of Second Life. Earlier in the year I took a trip to Opensim to look at the Hypergrid Stories Project. Indeed this community were so nice that even though Second Life isn’t part of the Hypergrid, it was included in the Hypergrid stories project!

One of the reasons for that is of course related to Second Life having an audience that it worth engaging with. This point arose recently in my blog post about Seanchai’s discussion of Second Life and Kitely. The discussion in the comments is quite interesting as we see that authors in particular are not happy with Linden Lab’s TOS but they still want to engage with Second Life.

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Jul 192014
 

There’s an odd forum announcement over on the Inworldz forums :

Over the course of the last couple of months or so, it has become apparent that Linden Labs has been tightening the cash outs, or taking longer, etc., thus forcing people to make accounts over here to attempt to cash their L’s out.

For clarification: InWorldz economy stands on it’s own, we are not tied to Linden Lab, nor any other grid for that matter. When you attempt to cash out against our merchants and residents who are growing this economy, while not being a part of it, we will remove the cashout.

From a business standpoint, we are not about to start absorbing a loss for Linden Lab and their cash outs. This would be very foolhardy on our part to even try to absorb those. If you wish to cash out in our world, then you need to be a part of it, otherwise expect us to put a hold on those monies and not cash them out (as this also sets off my fraud flags when I look over the accounts).

If you are encouraging people to bring their cash outs over here, please stop. This is not helpful to our merchants or residents who do normal business daily in our grid. If you know someone who is encouraging others to do this, please let them know to stop or send them to this thread :)

Thanks everyone!

The odd part about this is that I’m not sure how anyone is exchanging money from Second Life to Inworldz or vice versa, as far I was aware this sort of exchange ended long ago. In their TOS update thread, an October 2012 announcement stated :

Unfortunately, at this time, our losses due to Fraud have become too high to sustain and we are effectively shutting down any ATM business. Owners that we are aware of have been notified, and we will no longer allow intergrid currency exchanging.

Furthermore the InworldZ TOS states :

InWorldz, LLC further establishes that any service designed to transfer I’z into or out of it’s service may result in account termination. This includes, but not limited to: ATM machines designed to transfer I’z out of InWorldz into other currency, people or accounts created to transfer I’z out of InWorldz into other currency, or any other system deemed by InWorldz staff to be accommodating such transfers.

So I am somewhat bemused as to how anyone is using Inworldz for cashing out, rather than cashing out via Second Life.

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Jul 182014
 

Best Old Person?

You don’t need to be a premium member of Second Life to enter a best old person competition. However if you do go as a Dwarf beware that old people sometimes don’t have 20/20 vision, to this end you may be labelled a Gnome! A Gnome! Oh my, the shame of it! Gnomes don’t have beards like this! Anyway, on with the show.

After somewhat berating Linden Lab over the terms of service wiggle they performed, it’s only fair to point out some of the positives coming out of the hard work of the Linden Lab team, including their ongoing improved communications. To this end I will take a look at their blog posts detailing Limited Time Offer: Save 50% on Premium Membership and Get the New Premium Gift Airship! and Upcoming Improvements to Second Life. Yes this blog post comes complete with a two for one offer.

Let’s start with the premium membership offer, it’s the traditional 50% off a quarterly membership, it’s always a quarterly membership for these offers, I’m not quite sure why that is. Here is the important part :

*TERMS & CONDITIONS FOR 50% DISCOUNT
This limited-time discount offer is available only for memberships on the Quarterly billing plan. Discount will be applied to the first quarterly billing cycle only, and all future charges will be at the regular Premium price. To qualify, Second Life members must have an active Basic account or create a new Second Life account. Discount offer begins on Friday the 18th of July at 8:00 am Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) and expires on Monday the 4th of August 2014 at 08:00 am Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

The one thing that disappoints me slightly, hey I have to be disappointed in all my posts, even slightly, where was I? Oh yes the one slight disappointment is that the blog post states :

As a Premium member, you’ll enjoy rewards like exclusive Resident-created gifts, access to special Premium Sandboxes, as well as Live Chat support. Plus, you’ll get your own inworld home, a L$1000 sign-up bonus, and weekly L$ rewards to spend on whatever you like. You can read more details about Premium benefits here.

Now where this disappoints me (slightly) is that it sells Linden Homes, as in you can get a home, but makes no mention of the fact that you can forego a Linden Home and buy a 512M parcel of mainland instead. I mean I appreciate that a Linden Home is easier to obtain, but it would be nice in many ways if LL tried to point out the alternative option, this is not a big gripe!

The question that comes up often about premium membership is, is it worth it? The answer is, it depends. Premium Membership is ok if you want mainland or a Linden Home, you don’t need to be a Premium Member to own a private region, but of course a private region costs more in one month than a Premium Membership does for a year. The weekly stipend comes in handy and if you think you’re going to stay in Second Life, can actually go a long way to offsetting your premium membership costs.

On the other hand, if you’re not looking for mainland or a Linden Home and don’t care about the stipend, it’s not a feature rich solution, you do get better support. I’ve long said Linden Lab should get more creative with Premium Memberships and offer alternative options, but they seem to work in their current form for Linden Lab. One thing to note is that Premium Members get gifts, the blog post informs us about the new one :

jump behind the helm of your new interactive pirate airship, the Linden Marauder. Enjoy fast-action, high flying fun-near-the-sun, or menace the airways with your armament of cannons.

They had me at pirate! Yarr!

The improvements to Second Life blog post builds upon the discussion with Oz Linden and Gray Of The Lab from San Francisco at the Firestorm Q&A about the future of Second Life.

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Jul 172014
 

Yesterday’s Linden Lab blog post about the new TOS has unsurprisingly generated a fair amount of discussion. I’ve looked again to see if I feel any different about the changes in the cold light of day and the answer is no. I still feel the TOS goes too far and asks for too much.

Over at Insert Funny Name Here, Second Life user and real life attorney Vaki Zenovka posts on the issue and summarises :

They moved “sell, re-sell, or sublicense (through multiple levels)” from the beginning of the list to the end of the list. And then they added a totally unclear parenthetical: “(with respect to Second Life, Inworld or otherwise on the Service as permitted by you through your interactions with the Service)”.

That is all.

Vaki also pokes Linden Lab about their use of parenthesis in the new terms of service and points out that it’s unclear whether “(with respect to Second Life, Inworld or otherwise on the Service as permitted by you through your interactions with the Service)” applies to sublicense, re-sell and sublicense or everything before the phrase “(with respect to Second Life, Inworld or otherwise on the Service as permitted by you through your interactions with the Service)

In their blog post Linden Lab state :

First, the modified version limits our rights with respect to user-created content in Second Life by restricting our use “inworld or otherwise on the Service.” Additionally, it limits our right to “sell, re-sell or sublicense (through multiple levels)” your Second Life creations by requiring some affirmative action on your part in order for us to do so. This language mirrors the corresponding User Content License currently in Section 2.4, which has been part of the Terms of Service for years.  

This is all still very muddy. However have the changes convinced the likes of CG Textures to reconsider their decision to forbid new uploads of their content to Second Life or any other Linden Lab product? Jo Yardley asked CG Textures whether their stance had changed in light of the new TOS and the answer was still a no :

I’m afraid this does not change the situation for us. The new ToS still contains the words:

.. and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. ..

I can’t say I’m surprised about this as CG Textures are an outside of Second Life venture and therefore not as tied to the platform as many Second Life content creators.

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Jul 162014
 

Linden Lab today blogged : Updates to Section 2.3 of the Terms of Service. I’ll come to the changes shortly. The terms of service also include changes to section 3.3 of the terms of service. Previously this dealt with age verification for adult and mature content. They’ve now merged Skill Gaming terms in there too, which is sensible to be fair.

However I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure what has changed with regards to section 2.3 in reality. I can see some words have changed and there’s mention of Second Life but when it’s read as a whole it still looks very unfriendly to content creators.

Old 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, sell, re-sell, sublicense (through multiple levels), modify, display, publicly perform, transmit, publish, broadcast, translate, make derivative works of, and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.”

New 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), and otherwise exploit in any manner whatsoever, all or any portion of your User Content (and derivative works thereof), for any purpose whatsoever in all formats, on or through any media, software, formula, or medium now known or hereafter developed, and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed, and to advertise, market, and promote the same. You agree that the license includes the right to copy, analyze and use any of your Content as Linden Lab may deem necessary or desirable for purposes of debugging, testing, or providing support or development services in connection with the Service and future improvements to the Service. The license granted in this Section 2.3 is referred to as the “Service Content License.”

The part I’ve bolded under the new TOS is the change, that appears to be it. This also only seems to apply to the terms prior to the statement about this being with respect to Second Life. The part after that still seems to give Linden Lab permission to do anything they like with user generated content and seems to contradict the limitation.

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Jul 162014
 

Cornfield In Second Life

I took a look at the new experience tools for Second Life in a recent blog post, there I explained some changes and how they make some experiences far more seamless. In this post I’m going to look at the game these tools are being demonstrated in. Now before I go any further I should point people to the blog post about experience keys by Linden Lab and highlight that to fully appreciate this game you will need to download and install the experience keys project viewer. The game will work in other viewers, but you won’t get a full appreciate of the new experience keys.

The game features The Return Of The Cornfield to Second Life, a place with a history of being a resting place for some of the more naughty virtual world residents. Created by Linden Lab and their trusty sidekicks, The Moles, it’s a hack and slash collection game where corn bucks mean prizes. I’ll let the creators set the scene :

The Cornfield:

For many years, the Cornfield was a region of mythological status, where once naughty avatars were sent to think about what they had done. Rumor had it that “The Cornfield” was a vast star-lit field of corn and was cut off from communication with the rest of the world. Over the years, rumors spread across the grid of this infamous region that everyone at one time had heard about, but hardly anyone had ever seen. It was thought to be nothing but a tale…that is until now…
Present day

A group of young explorers set out one day to explore. They teleported to the farthest reaches of the grid, when suddenly their screens went blank and their shoes went where they should never humanly ever go. All of a sudden, their screens flashed bright, and they found themselves dazed and confused inside an old creepy barn.

The barn seemed abandoned. Creaks and strange noises startled them. They could not find a way out back to humanity. They saw some baskets laying on the floor, so they picked them up, and dared to venture outside. The air was thick, and everything to be seen was enveloped in a strange, eerie mist. A huge cornfield spread out wide in front of them. The corn rustled as if something was out there…something not quite human.

As darkness approached, the strange noises grew louder, and the rustling increased. They looked at each other, faces pale in the moonlight. One of them grabbed a plank for she knew something bad was about to happen. They looked at each other once more, knowing what had to be done, and one by one, they entered the Cornfield…

Cornfield Start Here

The starting location is a barn, you will find yourself armed with a wooden plank and carrying a basket, which is for the collection of corn. This corn can be found, not surprisingly, in the cornfield outside the barn however beware The Griefers because they will send you packing, rather quickly.

Cornfield Griefers

 

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Jul 152014
 

A recent Linden Lab blog post invited us to Check Out Experience Keys in… The Cornfield! which is tempting but before you go rushing in remember to download the Experience Keys Beta Viewer, otherwise you won’t benefit from the full experience, nor will you really experience experience keys! Once you’re armed with your beta viewer you need to head to portal park :

SLURL : http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/LR%20Portal%20Park1/127/122/24/

Portal park has been revamped and is the portal to lots of different Linden Lab games, however the one you’re looking for is of course, The Cornfield.

Cornfield Portal Park

Whilst walking down the path you may want to check out the Me menu in the beta viewer, this is where you will see one of the extremely important changes, the experiences link, but at this stage it’s going to be a pretty lonely link as you haven’t accepted any experiences yet.

Experiences Menu

Once you walk along the path and into a barn you will see a portal tempting you to walk into it, but just before you get there you will see a message on your screen asking if you want to participate in this experience. The message isn’t on screen for long but fear not, it just goes to the same place as your other notifications. In my screenshot below, if the message disappears I can get it back by clicking the notification icon, which has 2 notifications on it at this stage, one of those was from a group message.

The message is worth reading because it describes which experiences you are opting into. In this case the experience will

  • Act On Your Control Inputs
  • Animate Your Avatar
  • Attach To Your Avatar
  • Track Your Camera
  • Control Your Camera
  • Teleport You

Cornfield Experience Request

Cornfield in green writing is clickable and takes you to the profile of the experience. More on that later.

Now this is the beauty of experience keys. Generally you would be asked to grant the above permissions and the next time you went back to this place, you’d be asked all over again. Experience keys makes this is a one click choice, by clicking Yes all of the permissions for the above are granted and they will remain that way until I revoke those permissions.

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Jul 112014
 

Around the 25th July 2007 parts of Second Life were rocked to their foundations when Robin Linden blogged - Wagering In Second Life: New Policy. This was pretty much the end of gambling in Second Life as we knew it, although skill games would still be allowed. The blog post stated :

While Linden Lab does not offer an online gambling service, Linden Lab and Second Life Residents must comply with state and federal laws applicable to regulated online gambling, even when both operators and players of the games reside outside of the US. And, because there are a variety of conflicting gambling regulations around the world we have chosen to restrict gambling in Second Life.

This ban did unleash some pain for Linden Lab themselves, but they took a business decision knowing that would happen. The issue for Linden Lab was user to user transactions, as explained in a blog post by Zee Linden entitled Second Life Economy Grows 15% from Q4 to Q1 :

User to User Transactions. Total user to user transactions, a measure of the gross domestic product in Second Life, grew from an annualized rate of $261 million in Q4 to just over $300 million in Q1. The economy has grown 33.6% since the low point after the gambling ban.

There’s a graph in that post that demonstrates how stark the drop was in user to user transactions. Happier times didn’t arrive until Q3 2008 when Zee again blogged, this time in a post entitled Q3 closed on a high note with an unusually strong September :

Resident-to-Resident Transactions Top $100 Million. Total Resident-to-Resident transactions, a measure of the gross domestic product in Second Life, grew 21% from the prior quarter to $102M – or just under $1.00 per user hour. The Q3 total translates to an annualized rate of $408 million. By breaking $100M for the first time since Q2 2007, the Second Life economy has now fully recovered from the restriction placed on games of chance in Second Life in mid-2007.

Personally I always felt that gambling money largely stayed in gambling circles, that’s why the rest of the Second Life economy didn’t experience great pain during this period. However Linden Lab would definitely have felt the pain. However the other issue with the gambling ban was in terms of people trying to circumvent the rules with cunning plans :

ok so u have a “free” casino, but to use the machines you have to put in special prims instead of L$, but to get these “special prims” you have to buy them, eg L$5 a peice then play with those, you either win/lose depending on the game, then if you win you can give these “special prims” to someone in exchange for some lindens - A sneaky way around the gambling ban

There were plenty of these sort of ideas around and none of them really worked because people wanted to gamble for Linden Dollars, not prims in an elaborate scheme that were likely to be deemed as against the wagering policy. The horse had bolted, although some horses kicked a lot more than others as they left.

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Jul 112014
 

Greedy Greedy has long been one of the most popular games in Second Life. One of the features of Greedy Greedy is a pay to play option whereby users can play for the combined pot. This feature had led to people asking whether the game would now run foul of Linden Lab’s new skill gaming policy.

The answer would be appear to be yes, as KR Engineering posted an update to their Facebook Page regarding the new policy. In their post they said :

GOOD NEWS HERE: So what does this mean for all of you? Surprisingly, not much! Before the end of the month, I will be issuing updates to all of my games that remove all money and payout functions from them. With no payout option on the game (no buy-ins and no betting), the games will no longer be subject to the Skilled Gaming Regions policy. You will be able to rez and play them wherever and whenever you like as usual. The new policy ONLY applies to games that have an option to pay the winner of the game a L$ prize. To be in compliance with the new policy, all you will need to do is update your games (which is FREE, as always) before the end of the month, or realistically, whenever you next pull them out. You won’t get in trouble for having them in your inventory, whether they’re in compliance or not.

On the further issue of whether there will ever be a pay to play version of the game in the future, the answer is a little less clear :

According to Gaming.SL, only 1.6% of games played to completion this year involved money of some kind. At the moment, I’m sorry if you’re in that 1.6%, but I will likely not be pursuing becoming a creator of approved gambling games, as it will cost me at least $2000 USD per year to do so, and that’s not counting the up-front costs of hiring an attorney, and paying the application fees and review fees.

So it looks as if KR Engineering will not be entering the skill game creator market, although they do leave that door open.

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