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Land’s End

March 30th, 2012 by Marianne McCann

No Land Needed

So I noticed the above on the ad for the Direct Delivery Linden Bear as well as other Direct Delivery items (including those – to plug shamelessly – in my own store). The highlight is mine.

The somewhat more paranoid side of me looks at this, looks as the premium sandboxes, looks at Linden Homes, and looks at The Wilderness premium hangout spot, and wonders if the end goal here is to make a world where personal landownership is deemed unnecessary (outside of the homogenized Linden Home style experience). I’m sure, though, that such a notion is silly, given that land has long been king in Second Life.

Nevertheless, I often find myself unable to make sense of why land – particularly the mainland – feels so often ignored or, at the least, put second to estates. Why isn’t more being done to make land ownership be even more attractive to Second Life users, versus working on things that seem to push people away from owning their own little corner of the grid?

Anyway, while I personally don’t “get” Linden Homes, I know they’ve been popular enough to clone the Nascera continent a time or two, to increase the offerings of popular styles, and all that. For some, they seem to be all that and a bag of prim chips. That’s cool.

Also, I like the Premium Sandboxes. They seem rather underutilized, but that gives me a bit more space to spread out on those rare occasions I need to rez something out that can’t be easily accommodated in my workshop.

I have been enjoying exploring the Premium WIlderness area, too. Certainly, I’ve never been much to criticize the public spaces of Second Life (just read this blog a bit!), and I feel no need to now. Sure, some things could be better there. The animals are a bit… cartoonish, especially compared to the detail of the ferry boat, the shacks, and other details, but the overall experience ain’t bad. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed going through the Wilderness, finding people who actually do want to hang out and talk, and who are also enjoying their time there. It’s nice, compared to a lot of other spaces inworld.

Yet I wish more were being done to encourage people to create places like this on their own, and do whatever can be done to make land ownership – particularly Mainland land ownership – attractive. After all, we need places for those direct delivered couches, and lamps, and garden benches, and stuff!

Into The Wilderness

March 20th, 2012 by Marianne McCann

So today, we who are premium accounts finally got to visit the Wilderness!

Waterfall

I’d kinda known about this for some time: I happened upon this block of six regions on the map, and was able to string together a few ideas about the space. I’m happy to report that I was mostly right about it!  Anyway, here’s a few piccies from today, as I explored the area.

Inlet

These were shot under the default Windlight settings for the estate, and using reflections, shadows, and so on. No depth of field, which may have been a good addition in some cases — but it tends to crash me. You can click these images to see them larger, by the way.

Thick landscape

The landscaping is very dense and thick, much more than I’ve seen in most places. I really liked that! The whole thing was really quite beautifully put together. Kudos to the Linden Department of Public Works and their moles, and the Lindens staff members who also helped bring this to the Grid.

Bar

From what I gather, the initial build was largely completed some time ago, perhaps even before the first of the year. Then, when the pathfinding project heated up, this build became a bit of a test bed and showcase for the technology. So some of that does feel like it was a bit “layered on” here — but it works. There’s a number of watering holes and little places to socialize all over the area, a great deal of room to explore, and a few games and things that highlight pathfinding.

I do find myself wondering what, after the initial interest dies off a bit, will be the “goal” of this area, or how it fits into the lab’s plans. Maybe that’s a post for another time.

Signs of home

I gotta admit, I smiled when I saw a postcard wall, including a couple big signs of home. A Bay City Airport sign and a map of my local area on the Mainland! Let’s hear it for the tri-city area!

Wreck

I was not too surprised to see a wreck on these shores, particularly after seeing so many watering holes. I could only assume that the Lab’s intrepid explorer, Magellan Linden was also involved with bringing this space to the grid in his usual style.

Raft

It wasn’t long before I spied this raft, owned by Magellan himself. I hope he did not run afoul of the hippos in the water near it, or some of the other nasties here. Pathfinding has brought a lot of wildlife to the area, from hippos to piranhas, rats to spiders. There’s other critters too, like a leopard you can play “fetch” with and an alligator you can wrestle. And snakes. Why does it always hafta be snakes?

And on that note… I gotta run. Literally!

Gotta run!

Back on the mainland.

March 19th, 2012 by Marianne McCann

Nascera

Some of the most successful parts of the mainland — and I am basing success on “retained higher than average land costs and low amounts of for sale/abandoned land” — have been the city regions. The double prim allotment has been huge for these regions, as has the theming by the Linden Department of Public Works’ “Moles” (or dedicated Linden staff in the case of Nova Albion). Having a strong community group like the Bay City Alliance of the City Slickers has helped these areas as well, creating events and other things that build awareness of the area, providing a space for residents to meet and discuss their area, etc.

As an aside, it was even better when a Linden often attended these meetings. It gave us someone who could help us with the Linden owned spaces, help us focus our needs, and also give us a sense of where the lab might be going from time to time.

Beyond these are other spaces that have done a great job of building successful, popular Mainland communities on their own. The East River community, Chibo, and the Luskwood come to mind. Beyond them are smaller individual or group-owned builds that are shining examples of what one can do on the mainland, such as Cowell, the Lost Forest, the Bhaga ironworks, Lakeville, etc.

But for each Bay City or East River, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of examples where mainland has not turned out well. As many long term resident of the mainland knows, all it takes it one person to cause an otherwise beautiful region to become an eyesore. Lately, there’s been issues with people covering parcels with large, sometimes brightly colored and glowing blocks in a misguided attempt to drive others off. Beyond these, you have other blights: Skyboxes set too low to the ground, ban lines, lost cars, squatters, and random junk left on no auto return lands, “breedable farms,” ‘bot farms, gambling dens, and other sim resource gobblers, and so on.

The Mainland, by its very nature, encourages this. There are no rules (beyond the TOS and CS), no covenants, no zoning (aside from a few early examples, a’la Boardman). You are welcome to build your tropical paradise in the Snowlands, your winter wonderland in the Volcano Island regions, and put your spaceport up in the middle of Nautilus City. As one person put it to me, after building something wildly out of theme in Bay City, “well, there’s nothing that says I can’t.” They’re absolutely right, too!

Indeed, the only thing one really can do is wait them out. Speaking as one who has faced having a bestiality stable go up behind my home, and a ‘crash a plane into a building every two minutes” in front of my store, I have developed a lot of patience. Yet where in Second Life to have fun, not grit our teeth!

Meanwhile, the Linden Homes are almost the exact opposite experience. With a strict covenant and public lands that really can’t be fully utilized, the Linden Homes are the virtual equivalent of a modern, HOA-driven community. They’re off on their own continent – Nascera – which further isolates them. There’s little attempt at personalization, and much self-expression is quashed. The Linden Homes are not “Your World, Your Imagination” nor are they “The Weirder The Better.” They’re also not the “Frontier” Rodvik is seeking. If anything, they’re the “Anti-Frontier.”

So what to do? I’d hate to suggest blowing up all those Linden Homes but… blow them up. Replace them with City-style (double primmed, themed) regions, for example Future City, Fantasy City, Anime City, Cyberpunk City, Bayou City, Old World City, Farm City (a contradiction in terms!). And heck, make some attempt at positively enforcing the theme in these places while you’re at it.

Oh, and sure, why not also include a handful of regions in each of these that do work as the current crop of Linden Homes. But rather than put them in their separate safe place, integrate them with the world as a whole. let them be part of their communities, not just some place far away from the action, tucked off in some private corner. Bring them all together.

One more thing on integration: one of the great features of the Mainland is the ability to cover large distances. You can drive the roads all day — or sail, or take a train, or boat. Not so much with Linden Homes. If there was some attempt at integration, Imagine the possibilities! The best features of the Mainland combined with the best features of the Linden Homes. It’s just that much better.

The old frontier feel

March 4th, 2012 by Marianne McCann

Signs of renewal

Rodvik Humble kicked off March with the announcement that last names would not be returning to Second Life, at least not in the form they exist now. While I don’t think the solution may have been the best, I can agree with him that there’s not much of a way to make a policy that would have satisfied everyone. For what it’s worth, there’s not a lot of things the lab can do with Second Life that would have universal approval.

It wasn’t the discussion of last names in the post that piqued my interest, however. About half way down, he said the following:

“Conversations with many old Lindens and Residents have led me to conclude that we have lost something of the old frontier feel.  Like we were exploring the world together, you knew people, you would bump into them more. I have some ideas on how we can bring this back more (something along the lines of a new mainland like region or making mainland better or rethinking the whole way Linden Homes works.) This will be the subject of the next little roundtable, which will follow this one.”

He also added, “I will be kicking off another monthly roundtable (probably Monday) to chat about getting that family/frontier feel back with an eye to some area-like project.”

First off, I’m a fan of the mainland. I like the possibilities. I like the scale of it all. I like being able to sail off for kilometers at a time, and I like being able to call a small part of it “mine.” I feel more hometown pride being involved with Bay City and the surrounding area than I do with my first life community. It’s a vibrant place with all sorts of strong, amazing people.

I know that Bay City is not alone, either. The East River community, Cowell, The Luskwood, and many other mainland communities populate the grid, making it better and stronger.

So I have to be a bit concerned to hear about changes to it. Perhaps no more so than the notion of a “Mainland Like” area. The Mainland was already split apart by the Linden Homes, why must we further move people away from the mainland into yet more regions, yet more servers, and end up even more isolated on this grid of ours?

Second Life has always had “mainland like regions” with that “old frontier feel.” It started with the “can’t get more frontier sounding” Newbie Corral in Natoma, then the Ahern Welcome Area and the various telehubs, then the Infohubs of today. They’re the places people (and more than a few ‘bots) get routed to when a region is offline, the place that some new Residents get routed to, they’re the home of toughened regulars, and a regular source of griefing. In fact, as I write this, Violet infohub is spewing “Joker” and “Goldeen” particles while a collection of prims shouted about the “owning” of the region.  This would seem to be no solution to Rodvik’s desires.

Now, rethinking the Linden Homes? I’m with you on that. Perhaps it was expected that these would foster micro communities. Certainly these have formed similar structured settings in SL’s past. Yet the Linden Homes ended up becoming more of a modern housing tract than a vibrant community place: many may not know their neighbors, or care to. There’s no unique personality on display, no sense of place in a sea of similar structures. So yes, maybe Linden Homes do indeed need to be rethought. They’re not the frontier.

I would first look at the communities already in existence on the mainland, finding out what works, and what doesn’t for them. Look, too, at the successful island estate communities.  The steamlands, Raglan Shire, and others may have answers for you.

Speaking as one heavily involved in Bay City, I’d say this: It is remarkably hard to foster and maintain a community on the mainland. Here’s five things that come to mind, each of which I think any mainlander can understand.

• We have a themed Linden area that has no way to manage the theme. Bay City was designed by LL as a mid-century styled urban area, yet there is nothing to stop someone from, say, butting out an oversized, anime snowman, or a medieval castle, or anything else. There’s not even a covenant that simply states what the theme is to the area. This is an even bigger issue elsewhere on the mainland, where some have set out to make their land as undesirable as possible, to cause a high dollar sale just to get them to leave, to force neighbors to sell low, or even just because they want to be annoying to others.

• In Bay City, we’re at the mercy of our Linden overlords. Who is to say I might log in one day to find the area fundamentally changed — or even removed? I faced this very issue two weeks ago, when a busy infohub region within Bay City was suddenly not an infohub. An accident, it seemed, but still a wake-up call. it’s hard to keep a footing when you the ground can shift under your feet at any time.

• Related: a long time Resident of my corner of the grid awoke to find the majority of his legacy build just… gone. A glitch or a griefing had wiped all but a fraction of the region. In spite of his time in SL, his regular tier payments, and a general sense of what is right, the Lab was unwilling to rollback the area or even try to set up a second instance to recover the lost items. It’s a basically and potentially show-stopping issue that rollbacks are available to islands, but are impossible on mainland — even when a whole region has a single established owner.

• Last summer, we faced a chronic series of griefings as two infohub regulars decided to throw lolcubes at each other every other night or so. We required a lot of Linden involvement to try and manage this situation — and there wasn’t a lot of involvement to be had. Other areas have had it even worse: I can’t imagine living in the shadow of Waterhead, for example.

• From 2008 to early 2011, we had a Community Manager who worked closely with Bay City and other mainland communities, helping to facilities our community, land, and support/governance needs. This was a huge help for our community, and helped us to grow. While we have managed to continue to thrive on our own, there are still times where it’s clear we lack that voice and involvement. Much of the rest of the mainland didn’t even have the benefit of this level of involvement from the lab.

So yes, I would love to talk about getting that “family/frontier back,” but I hope it can be done without sacrificing what we have in the LDPW, in the existing mainland, and in our communities. Let’s not reinvent the wheel nor take away from what we have now – instead, let’s make things better and add value.

Now, enough from me for now. :-)

Compare & Contrast

March 4th, 2012 by Marianne McCann

More on the second quote in a moment. A lot to write about on it!

“The pioneer era in Second Life is beginning to draw to a close. It has been five years and we are at the beginning of a transition and I think it is an irrevocable transition.”Linden Lab board member Mitch Kapor, 2008

“Conversations with many old Lindens and Residents have led me to conclude that we have lost something of the old frontier feel…. I have some ideas on how we can bring this back more.”Linden Lab CEO Rodvik Humble, 2012

It’s hard to pull a short quote from Kapor’s piece. I recommend reading the whole thing, or re-reading it. It gives a good glimpse into where SL was way back when — and in retrospect, a lot of where we may be facing troubles today. I often ponder that “pioneer versus settlers” notion in there.

Still, are we at a reversal, a moving back to pioneer days — or is it “irrevocable,” as Kapor suggests?