This is my LAST Second Life Post

mystery9

Linden Lab has done a lot of dumb things over the years, but their latest move is quite possibly the dumbest!  So dumb in fact, that I am basically calling it quits on Second Life.

Over the last few months, the “Terms Of Service Gestapo” has been banning a lot of long time players, with no explanation, the only reasons they give for the bans is to quote the TOS terms they apparently violated, with no evidence or incident examples for players to defend themselves.

For the average “freemium” player, a ban is nothing, just roll a new alt, but when it is a prominent business person who makes their living in Second Life merchandise, it becomes an attack on their livelihoods. That’s what happened to LisaWarmAnimations, a merchant that sells toys and animations in Second Life, as the person behind the business depends on the income to house and feed a family.

Some detective work on players part seems to indicate that she was swept up in a ban raid relating to “bestiality play”, where players have pretend sex with pretend animals. Apparently this is frowned upon in certain countries where Linden Lab wants to do business, so a bunch of merchants that sell that kind of stuff got the ban hammer with no warning or explanation.  LisaWarmAnimations was innocent in this sweep as she only rents to a vendor of this material, and has since been able to get her account and store back.

Personally, I have a problem with the whole thing. I have zero interest in virtual kink, but as long as it is kept in “Adult” regions, I don’t have a problem with it. People like to live out their fantasies virtually that they would never do for real. That is the whole point of “video games” in general: do stuff you would never do in real life. Better to do it virtually in a safe environment, than for real. And it does make a real difference.

So the whole idea of banning for this stuff screams “censorship”, so I am already hot over what seem to be random bannings over random crap people find offensive.

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Skills Hak and INSILICO

But, here is the incident that has me boiling over with hatred.  Another prominent Second Lifer Skills Hak got banned. The thing is, this SLer is the owner and creator of the best sim in Second Life: INSILICO, a dark cyberpunk urban world that is a sight to behold.

Or at least it was. It is now closed, possibly for good. Skills Hak got her ban overturned for a few days then reinstated apparently permanently, and no one can figure out why, including Skills herself.

Here is the official statement:

It has come to our attention that you have engaged in activities in violation of the Linden Lab Terms of Service (the “Terms”) and Second Life Community Standards, including but not limited to:

· Section 6.1 of the Terms, which states that “[y]ou will not post or transmit prohibited Content, including any Content that is illegal, harassing or violates any person’s rights”;

· Section 6.1(iv) of the Terms, which states that you agree you will not “[p]ost, display, or transmit Content (including any communication(s) with employees of Linden Lab) that is harmful, threatening or harassing, defamatory, libelous, false, inaccurate, misleading, or invades another person’s privacy”; and

· Section 4 (Disclosure) of the Community Standards, which states that “[r]esidents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Life experience. Sharing personal information about your fellow Residents without their consent — including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, alternate account names, and real-world location beyond what is provided by them in their Resident profile — is not allowed. Remotely monitoring conversations in Second Life, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants’ consent are all prohibited.”

Pursuant to Section 5.2 of the Terms, “Linden Lab may suspend or terminate your Account if you violate this Agreement, along with any or all other Accounts held by you or otherwise related to you. . . . Upon termination of your Accounts, this Agreement between us will be automatically terminated and you may not re-subscribe or return to the Service through other or future Accounts you or others may set up.”

Due to your severe and repeated violations of the Terms and Community Standards, Linden Lab has terminated your access to the Second Life virtual world. This termination applies to all Second Life accounts associated with you, including your primary, alternate, and household accounts. To reiterate, you may not return to Second Life on any account, new or existing.

Sincerely,
Linden Lab
source

No actual incidents were named, no due process is possible. All we have is a vague letter to parse that basically tells us nothing.

In Skills words:

So basically LL seized my accounts, several of which are premium members that had inventory worth thousands of USD, the money in my account, my creations and my regions i paid 200k USD for in tier over the years. I tried to appeal the ban once but only got the usual “Thanks for your feedback. You’re still banned, asshole.” response. The whole appeal thing is a joke anyways, how am i supposed to appeal if i don’t even know the reason for my ban, they are not interested in my side of the story that could potentially clear up the situation.

I’ve always tried to make SL better for the people, be it through making the software better or by designing experiences the way SL should look and feel like, even on my alts i somehow always ended up being a sim owner, providing themed space to people and building communities.
source

She has more to say in this Tumblr post: http://skills.tumblr.com/post/141699124267/byeeee

Now it should be noted that Skills has not been an angel during her 8 year tenure in SL, There are some ugly moments in SL past in which she was an accomplice, and Skills has been banned before because of them.

That’s all ancient history though. Is Linden Lab petty enough to ban someone for events that happened years ago?  Considering the other people who also got recently banned, they might be.

Unlike the bans mentioned above, this has nothing to do with virtual sex or censorship, nor does it have anything to do with unpaid bills.  The mystery mixed with the prominence of this ban has a lot of players worried.

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INSILICO was a work of art, a showplace for Second Life that even appeared on the back of business cards of Linden Lab employees. It inspired the creation of large online communities and groups with thousands of members, and rent paying virtual apartment dwellers and shop keepers, now who have no place to call home.

My take on all this

This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard LL do in my 13 years of following the Second Life community. It simply does not make sense on any level.

Why would any business ban one of its biggest customers with no explanation? Why would you shut down one of the most popular and prominent regions in the community, one that even has its own sub communities?

No business in their right mind would ban a customer who has made them hundreds of thousands of dollars and tons of free promotion without a very good reason and without explanation.

To treat someone as prominent as Skills like dog shit is the kind of incident that should be damning of the entire company.

And why this sudden interest in banning players? Are they trying to appease some big pocket VC who wants them to “clean up” Second Life before they invest more money? Are they being blocked from doing business in some countries (maybe China?) because of their reputation that they are trying to clean up?

The explanation for LL’s lack of candor is obvious: They don’t want a multi million dollar class action lawsuit.

But such draconian actions by LL NEED to have consequences. I want this to serve as an object lesson to ANYONE who is considering investing in Project Sansar or Second Life that Linden Lab cannot be trusted to play fair.

I really don’t give a damn if I only know one side of the story. I would love to hear the other side, the Linden Lab side. It is either a very good explanation that deserves to be heard, or it is a story of complete incompetence on their part that deserves to be heard even more.

Screw it, I’m done!

As an early premium adapter, I make enough L-bucks that I can have my tiny 512m land for free until Second Life finally closes its doors, so I won’t be giving that up, but I won’t be investing in it or blogging about it anymore. I’m removing the link from my home page.

The truth is I haven’t done much there since 2011 anyways, and recently got rid of most of my Second Life travelogues from this blog. One of them featured INSILICO, but like most of my favorite places, it’s gone now.

UPDATE October 2016:

Ownership of Insilico was moved to new owners to keep it going, but that plan failed to keep it up very long. It will disappear in November.

Linden Labs announces Second Life Reboot — All of Second Life PANICS!

slforum

The official word came this week from Linden Labs CEO:

“Linden Lab is working on a next generation virtual world that will be in the spirit of Second Life, an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king. This is a significant focus for Linden Lab, and we are actively hiring to help with this ambitious effort. We believe that there is a massive opportunity ahead to carry on the spirit of Second Life while leveraging the significant technological advancements that have occurred since its creation, as well as our unparalleled experience as the provider of the most successful user-created virtual world ever.

“The next generation virtual world will go far beyond what is possible with Second Life, and we don’t want to constrain our development by setting backward compatibility with Second Life as an absolute requirement from the start. That doesn’t mean you necessarily won’t be able to bring parts of your Second Life over, just that our priority in building the next generation platform is to create an incredible experience and enable stunningly high-quality creativity, rather than ensuring that everything could work seamlessly with everything created over Second Life’s 11 year history.” (source)

This has of course sent the Second Life community into a major panic attack. “All my hard work for naught?”  For your reading enjoyment, there is this thread over at SL Universe.

This has nothing to do with High Fidelity, the alpha product being created by SL original mastermind Philip Rosedale, which also hopes to be the next gen of virtual worlds.

As someone who has been involved with virtual worlds now for 11 years, I kind of know my way around. Some observations from the big picture:

1. Not one of the 19 or so virtual worlds are showing any growth these days. They have all flatlined. Some, including SL are still profitable due to continued dues paid by current membership. Linden Labs cannot sustain itself with an old product that is not growing in usage or membership.

2. If current SL were to close tomorrow, OSGrid would be there to pick up the slack. If Linden Labs builds a new world and everyone hates it, OSGrid would be there to pick up the slack.  There are no plans for this though.  According to an interview with Linden Lab spokesman Peter Gray:  “It is thanks to the Second Life community that our virtual world today is without question the best there is, and after 11 years we certainly have no intention of abandoning our users nor the virtual world they continually fill with their astounding creativity. […] we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life.”

3. There are many design flaws in the initial concept that have created many problems. There.com and Second Life came out about the same time with two different approaches with the same social virtual world concept in mind. The fact that there is a lot you can do in There.com that you can’t in Second Life and vice versa — even today 11 years later — is proof that it is necessary to start over at some point. Reverse many of the mistakes in the initial concept, add new features you never could in the past. Simplify the whole convoluted mess of prims vs. sculpties vs. mesh. Above all make the avatars pretty.

4. If you want to know why all virtual worlds have either flatlined or collapsed, it is not because virtual worlds is a flawed concept for a program, it is because MMORPGs are doing it a lot better. MMORPGs are now doing everything that 3D Virtual worlds can do, except user created content. An MMORPG with user created content is likely going to be a much better and more interesting environment, than anything SL can currently offer. No one has done it before, but all the pieces exist to do it, and do it right.  Not sure if this is what Linden Lab is working on, but I believe this is what they should be aiming for.

Personally, I am kind of tired of the current state of Second Life. I’m looking forward to something new.  I hope they take the promise that was Linden Realms and run with it.

Memo’s from the Metaverse

My new place in Zindra

Today marks the 10th anniversary of joining Second Life.  I thought about trying to update my avatar, in game, maybe with one of the new mesh avatars, but didn’t. My avatar in Second Life hasn’t changed in 3 years, mostly because I haven’t played much in 3 years.  I basically log in at least once a year, sell $72 worth of linden dollars to pay for my premium account for another year, and that’s about it.

When I logged in three days ago, my beautiful river view was trashed with someones scripted garbage.  I submitted a ticket and when I logged in today, the garbage is still there. The last time something like this happened, it took months to resolve.  Yes, I have been in SL long enough to have experienced every kind of griefing there is.

stripchair1

Date Ariane Update Update

Another reason my Second Life avatar has not changed is because I spend a lot more time playing with my Poser avatar.  It’s a bit more expensive hobby than Second Life, but the resulting screenshots are much more interesting.

I just finished updating the “Live Cabaret” pictures in the update.  If you want to follow the updating process, I am posting stuff at arianeb.tumblr.com.

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Big Guild Wars 2 Update

For me Second Life got replaced by Guild Wars 2.  For years my moods have drifted between, being creative and having fun.  Second Life was sort of the bridge between the two as I could do both, and be social with other players.  Between being creative in Poser and having fun in Guild Wars 2, and the social side of GW2, Second Life got squeezed out of the cycle.

I bring up Guild Wars 2 because the recent upgrade has drastically improved the game for me and most other players. The most talked about changes was the way outfits work, which among other things allows me to wear sunglasses in combat.

But the biggest game changing update was something they call “Megaservers”.

You know how when most MMORPGs start to decline they start combining smaller servers together causing a lot of grief?   GW2 has reengineered the process which results in a lot more players in any given zone at any given time.  Having lots of players in a zone is a lot more fun than having just a few (I often found myself the sole player in certain zones).

Every zone has group events that require multiple players to do. If you are by yourself, they don’t get done. Now Megaservers dramatically improve traffic enough that these events can be done again.

Speaking of group events, they actually made a schedule of major boss fight events in the game.  Every 15 minutes there’s a new Boss fight, and if you want to follow the schedule, you can go from boss fight to boss fight, for a chance at a big reward at the end of each event.

Between “Megaservers” and World Boss schedules, Guild Wars 2 is once again a social game, and still one of the best MMORPGs out there.

More Virtual Worlds

I recently made some sojourns into other virtual worlds like Nuvera Online and There.com.  Didn’t stay long enough for a full scouting report, but I may go visit these and other small yet persevering worlds soon and file a report.

3D Virtual Worlds Are In Decline

Catching up with the news on 3D Virtual Worlds, has been getting a little depressing lately.  Bottom line: they are all down in traffic.

Lets start with some news on the LL/SL front:  Linden Lab announced two weeks ago that they bought an interactive fiction company called LittleTextPeople. The small company develops 2D interactive fiction for play on mobile phones from what I can tell.  The group will develop new products under the Linden Lab roof, but they will not be associated with Second Life.  In other words, Linden Lab is finally diversifying its gaming line up.  This is what happens when you hire a game developer as your CEO, you start to develop new games.  Not reported anywhere is that one of the 3 developers at LittleTextPeople is Richard Evans, lead AI programmer for The Sims 3 who no doubt worked with LL CEO Rod Humble when he was in charge at EA/Maxis.  The other two are Emily Short, writer/programmer of text adventure Galatea, and Andrew Stern co-creator of a really cool experimental 3D interactive game called Façade.  Both are available for free.

So from the sounds of it, Linden Lab is looking to get into the mobile app market with interactive fiction.  Based on my minimal level of research, the project(s) that LittleTextPeople are working on are pseudo menu driven graphic interactive fiction. (since typing things on a phone/tablet is an annoyance to begin with).  Looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

But that is not all from the Linden Lab front. It seems LL has stopped publication of statistics for Second Life. The unanimous consensus is that the reason for no publication is that the numbers are way down.

Lets put these two items into perspective.  Linden Lab is diversifying their product line towards mobile apps, while Second Life is dropping in traffic, land sales, etc.  Linden Lab is looking to a future without its signature product.  I said before that I believe SL will close its doors when it stops being profitable, and we seem to be close to that point it sounds like.

I decided to take a look at other 3DVWs and see how they are doing.  IMVU is seeing lower numbers these days too.  There Inc is not seeing the huge influx of returning customers it was hoping for when it reopened its doors. It seems that maybe the age of the 3DVW is about up.

Some of the smaller ones are doing OK: NuVera is finally out of beta, and it seems a lot more stable. Avination says they fixed the sim crossing problem for vehicles in OpenSim.  InWorldz is now big enough to start holding a conference in Las Vegas. Onverse is still expanding with new lands and content. Despite some small time success, I am not hearing about any new ones lately, not even new OS grids.

What’s driving people away from the big 3D Virtual Worlds? Probably boredom, social networking, and the influx of “free to play” MMORPGs which are learning to incorporate the social aspects that used to be exclusive to 3DVWs.

I’m not expecting a lot of closures though, just the usual 3 or 4 a year. These things have long tails, and can get by for quite a while with loyal fan bases.  But the “golden age” is behind us.

 

Seven Years in Second Life

A thread at Second Life Universe put up a challenge to show the evolution of your avatar.  I decided to participate.   Even though I first did this three years ago on my 4th anniversary, I thought it was worth updating.

2004: Creepy system avatar.  Some would call this a “classic” SL avatar.   For me it looked ugly, which is why I spent most of 2004 playing There and City of Heroes instead.

By 2005, we could really customize out avatars with attachments and custom skin.  Unfortunately, this made us look like we had too much makeup on.  On the bright side, we could also use custom animations, like he sitting pose I have here.

2006: Vast improvements in skin and hair. there was now full prim hair available.  The world started to look normal by now.

2007: Yet another upgrade to skin and hair, and also eyes. Hair was flexible now so it moved in response to your movements.

2008: Windlight environments, reflecting and distorting water effects added much needed realism to the world.

2009: Sculptie prims made for better looking hair, and hats!

2010: Wide screen monitor, even better sculptie hair.  And cleavage with bouncing boobs. 🙂

2011:  While shadows have been around for a couple of years, the code is now stable enough to leave on all the time without crashing, making the world even more beautiful.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a picture of a mesh built SL and an improved mesh avatar for 2012.

The State of the Metaverse

So with a lot of State of the Union, and State of the Nation, and State of the State speeches the last week or so, how about a quick view at the state of the Metaverse?

Growth: None

Second Life has seen no real growth at all in the last calendar year.  This according to their last quarterly reportIMVU seems to still be growing but not at the pace they were a year ago.  Other promising 3DVWs like Twinity and Blue Mars are still barely populated, despite massive increases in real estate to explore.

Open Sim News

The past few months have seen a bit of new stuff in Open Sim.  Version 0.7 was released, proving to be a major improvement.   Open Sim will probably support mesh within days of SL’s support of mesh (whenever that happens).  Some new branch projects are being developed, primarily to work on physics.  Then there is the NASA education project that decided Open Sim was better than SL.

Client News

The push is on to get rid of clients that still run on version 1.  Linden Lab is doing their part by blocking search on version 1 clients.  Open Sim is doing their part by implementing the 2.0 client features like web on a prim.  The Third Party Viewer community is doing their part by making 2.0 compatible viewers that have significantly more features than either version 1 or the official viewer.  See this video demo for the latest Phoenix viewer.

Second Life Given Back to the Role Players

The Tesla Room in the soon to close France3D futuna sim

So I spent a  fair amount of posts devoted to what seems to be a battle of “visions” going on in Second Life.  A string of posts starting with this one I wrote a year ago.  I have written so many I just decided to create a new sl visions tag. Click to see all the related posts.

So here is the story in a paragraph.  There have been three competing “visions” of what SL should be: The role-player vision, the merchant vision, and the 3D Facebook vision.  Since the resignation of the last CEO Mark Kingdon, the temporary CEO Philip Rosedale has systematically disassembled the 3D Facebook vision, largely because it is unworkable (as I predicted).  Because of the resources spent, changes requested by the merchants have not only not happened, but actually they are worse now.  Merchants continue to quit with profits way down.  That leaves us role players basically in charge, and if you have seen the latest re-design of the main Second Life page, you will see, that SL has recognized it as well.  We are back to “Your World, Your Imagination” again (though not in those exact words).

Now a lot has happened under the brief Rosedale administration:

  • Second Life Enterprise Grid – Gone
  • Basic account support – Gone
  • Premium support – once 24 hours, now limited hours
  • Non-Profit/Educational Sim discounts – Gone (or soon will be)
  • Avatars United – Gone
  • X-Street, soon to be integrated into game, currency exchange Gone
  • Teen Grid – Gone (or soon will be)
  • Community Gateways – Gone

Now many of these I am sad to see are disappearing, while others I say good riddance.  What they are doing is simplifying the whole thing.  Simplifying, always a good thing.  The general philosophy is now a “hands off” policy, meaning they are giving us players more autonomy.

Meanwhile, check out where their current development efforts are focused:

  • Mesh
  • Display Names
  • Voice Morphing
  • Wearable Avatar Physics
  • Havok 7 support

Here is what they all have in common:  They are all good for us role players.  If you are in SL because you enjoy pretending you are someone else, whether that is a formal role player in a community, or an informal role player pretending to be someone you are not, then SL seems to be catering to you again, after a couple of years where they weren’t.

Here’s the cloud to go along with that silver lining.  Philip Rosedale has stepped down, and Linden Lab is once again looking for a new CEO.  Furthermore, there is good evidence that the remaining employees don’t really seem to “get” the whole RP vision thing.  Here is hoping they hire someone who does.  Unfortunately, I am not that hopeful.

Wither the Merchant Vision

So there are now two different visions left about what Second Life is, or should be. What vision you are apart of is largely based on what motivates you to play. I call these visions “role play” and “merchant” as a short hand way of understanding them.

There are builders who build for fun, they are part of the role play vision. There are builders who build for profit, they are part of the merchant vision. There is a lot of mixing and gray area obviously.

We can all see that SL has plateaued, and will likely decline soon. This is very bad for the Merchants. It is possible that Mesh could revitalize the market, but I am leaning to the idea that it will radically change the market so much that it is unlikely to help the current merchants.

Most of us Role Players have accounts in other places, especially many open sim grids. When SL closes, we’ll probably spend a little time mourning, then we’ll be elsewhere.  Us non-merchant types will likely move on to Open Sim and start building there. Heck, a lot of them already are. Similarly the various role play communities would move and rebuild as well.

The Merchants don’t have many other places to go.  With no currency, no theft protection, no one to file a DMCA complaint to, the merchants have no desire to move to Open Sim, even if there were no SL.  The market place in SL is one of a kind, the closest is IMVU, and it is about a tenth of the size of SL.

The RPers may have built SL, but it is the merchants that made SL popular, they provide most of the content we RPers enjoy.  We non-merchant RPers are better off with the merchants around, which means we are better off with SL around.

I believe that when SL eventually closes, there will be a new virtual goods market somewhere, innovation abhors a vacuum.  Maybe not of the same nature as SL, but I see other virtual good markets, like Renderosity and various app markets, succeeding in other similar venues, so it is only a matter of time before there is another virtual goods market where creative people can make a few bucks.  This is another topic I have already written about.