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It may be just a game, but it's serious business.
January 5, 2007 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Running the numbers on Second Life. With Linden Labs' virtual world being taken seriously by journalists and even banks, it's clear that businesses see profits in virtual worlds. But with over US$800,000 in value changing hands in 24 hours it's becoming hard for even skeptics to deny the profit potential of Second Life. After all it's not just flying penis attacks. Not everyone agrees, however. How many of those residents just log in once, shrug then stay away?
posted by clevershark (52 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Count me as one who tried it once, never to log in again (at least until I get a faster computer...)
posted by pwb503 at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2007


Its fun and all, but it has issues.
1. Limit of users per sim.
2. Limit of objects per sim.
3. Still slow on faster hardware.
4. Developers tools are in-game only, and not feature rich.


Not being to able to hold a 10,000 user sim concert is its mistake, its a virtual world with way too many limitations. Still fun to chat with friends and play a game of Tringo...
posted by IronWolve at 8:17 PM on January 5, 2007


I don't know much about this, but from what I've read, it feels very Snow Crash to me.
posted by Holy foxy moxie batman! at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2007


It hates my video card, which was good enough for WoW, so I'm one of the ones who tried it once & never logged in again. Pity, because I like the idea.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:40 PM on January 5, 2007


[raises hand]

I didn't find it at all compelling. I can have a better time communicating with others on MeFi or IRL. I can play better games of all sorts. I do not have the time or inclination to learn Yet Another Scripting Language, especially when I've so many interesting things to do with the Python and Django and stuff I already know.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:53 PM on January 5, 2007


I was a major mark for SL when I first tried it, about 3 months ago. I wanted to learn the scripting language and make cool stuff, and the social aspect seemed fun.

Two big problems:

1. IronWolve is right. The in-game scripting language is absurdly clunky, especially on my aging iBook. An editor that uses standard OS protocols would be a huge improvement.

2. Too overrun with teenagers and teenager-like adults. Where in SL does real discussion take place? I've traveled all over the map, and everyone seems more interested in the silly make-out nodes than in anything resembling human interaction.

Have I just not found the right places? Maybe we should start a MeFite group.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:02 PM on January 5, 2007


Here's another good article about the statistic-inflation taking place in the media.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:07 PM on January 5, 2007


I've logged in a couple of times. I modelled my character after a bum, and hung around places asking for a dollar for the bus. No-one was impressed.

And I wasn't that impressed with Second Life, either; I think it's that commercial aspect of it that makes it so unappealing to me. It feels...well, full of ads, and porn, and gambling, and scams. Not some modern virtual utopia as much as a digital red light district, and a fairly mean and unwelcoming one at that. There's not that much fun to be had exploring when so much of the space seems to be privately owned. And it's slow as hell.

I don't know, maybe that commercial aspect is a necessity; by making space rare, and placing a value on things and creating a market for things, I guess they aim to encourage entrepreneurial creativity. But it actually encourages scam artists and profit-motivated douches.

So when's someone going to create the fast, efficient, free as in speech open-source virtual world?
posted by Jimbob at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


every minute you spend in second life is subtracted from the available minutes in your first life, which, in case you've forgotten, are not infinite.
posted by bruce at 9:25 PM on January 5, 2007 [7 favorites]


Exactly bruce. And when Second Life is actually kinda shitty compared to first life, what's the deal, except to prove some kinda uber-geek point about virtual worlds, or to make a quick buck?

On second thought, maybe it only appeals to those for whom Second Life is better than first life...
posted by Jimbob at 9:28 PM on January 5, 2007


Every privately-held MMO-whatever inflates their reported userbase; it's not just Second Life. World of Warcraft, for example, is thought to have as few as one million current paying users, despite Blizzard's claims of 7.5 million players worldwide.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2007


TVO's The Agenda discussed Second Life recently.

Page here. Video of the entire show in the side menu, including an interesting report on The Hidden One's in Japan.
posted by juiceCake at 10:04 PM on January 5, 2007


every minute you spend playing tennis is subtracted from the available minutes in your first life, which, in case you've forgotten, are not infinite.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:14 PM on January 5, 2007


I have an account. I've logged in a few times, but the Mac client is dirt slow. It's like Everquest graphics.. but.. worse.

I gave my avatar a kickin' mullet and a wife beater tanktop. Otherwise, the entire thing seems really lame.
posted by drstein at 10:27 PM on January 5, 2007


"So when's someone going to create the fast, efficient, free as in speech open-source virtual world?"

For some reason, I don't think it's too far away. You mentioned it, and I've been thinking about it, so somebody else out there must be doing the same.

I don't even get cable TV because I'm so burned out on commercialism, and I am tired of the childishness I see in so many places on the net.
posted by rougy at 11:06 PM on January 5, 2007


"So when's someone going to create the fast, efficient, free as in speech open-source virtual world?"

For some reason, I don't think it's too far away. You mentioned it, and I've been thinking about it, so somebody else out there must be doing the same.


This would be great, but who would put enough money behind it? The funding for that much server space and bandwidth is far more than most open-source ventures have.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:12 PM on January 5, 2007


i played tennis only once in my (first) life against a comely young lass, when she swung her racket her little tennis dress rode up and i paid no attention whatsoever to the ball. does second life have this?
posted by bruce at 11:21 PM on January 5, 2007


Bruce, do anthropomorphic wolves count?
posted by maxwelton at 12:15 AM on January 6, 2007


Anthropomorphic wolves most certainly count! how do you play?
posted by longsleeves at 12:30 AM on January 6, 2007


You know they do!
posted by Jimbob at 12:31 AM on January 6, 2007


RE: Open Source MMO

It wouldn't have to be centralized, any more than the web, with html and http, etc. are centralized. You just have to have agreed upon underlying protocols, and the equivalent of a web browser, which is the 3D rendering software, and you could host your own space like the web is. It just requires a different way of thinking about it.

VRML tried, kinda sorta, to do this in the most half assed primitive way, and mostly sucked.

To Open Source a virtual universe, you just have to open it up, share resources a la bittorrent.

Right now they are all top down heirarchies. This would be about building from the ground up, with everyone sharing the burden.
posted by MythMaker at 12:34 AM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Back once upon a time, SL was a remarkably friendly, interesting place, full of fascinating people.

Sadly, it's grown very quickly, and the original creative ethos has been almost completely swallowed with crap. It's rare to see an interesting event anymore. There used to be lots of great stuff. Trivia in various forms was very popular, but there were building events and funny little games of all descriptions. Mostly, the people were just great, and hanging out in SL was like a giant visual chatroom with the neatest folks ever.

There's still echoes of that first community... DJ Miggy streams on Friday nights, and that crowd is usually pretty friendly. (It's usually listed as "DJ Miggy at the Sky Club".) Yummie Olsen runs Primtionary on Wednesday nights, and possibly Sundays. (I don't play much anymore, so I'm not sure.) There will probably be other good events, but remember that you'll have to sift through a lot of crap to get to it. In my own recent browsing, maybe 1 event in 20 looked interesting. Used to be almost 100%. :( There's been a rise in live music events lately, those might be worth a try.

When you're looking for events, there's a 'Show Mature' checkbox. If you uncheck that, the quality of the listings will be much better, although still not that great. It's unusual to see an M event that has any value whatsoever.

The chances of running into an interesting group just flying around is virtually nil... it's a huge place that doesn't support much population density. Events are essentially the only way to run into a good crowd. If you find one you like, stay in touch and come back, as it's easy to get lost in the noise.
posted by Malor at 12:36 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


There is a semi open source mmo (I forget the name). Unfortunately, their bastardized open/closed licenses scare away most serious developers.
posted by IronLizard at 12:38 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I played for a week or so, saw the few things that were kind of neat, build a few useless objects, and then realized that I really didn't care to chat with the kind of people who religiously spend time and money in Second Life. And really, that's all there was after the neat things...chatting. If I wanted inane chatter, i could get it on a MUD or in any of a thousand forums or on IRC. Life is too short for that.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:24 AM on January 6, 2007


It wouldn't have to be centralized, any more than the web, with html and http, etc. are centralized. You just have to have agreed upon underlying protocols, and the equivalent of a web browser, which is the 3D rendering software, and you could host your own space like the web is.

The internet does not work the way you think it does.
posted by flaterik at 1:55 AM on January 6, 2007


Second Life never grabbed me at all - the only revolutionary thing about it seemed to be that you could do all these disparate things in one seamless world, but the price is that you can only do them really, really badly. Yes, in SL I can walk from an art gallery to a 'live' concert to a shooterish game, but I'd rather view the art in high resolution without the constraints of a clumsy 3D engine, I'd rather watch a video broadcast of the show than broken-legged, plasticine-skinned SL avatars of the band and I'd much rather adjourn from my chat program to an actual online FPS than watch Second Life's engine give itself a hernia trying to replicate one.

I may be missing the point, but it's always struck me as convergence for the sake of convergence - we already have a seamless medium in which one can share user-made content, and it's the Internet. I'm not sure there's much value in one that arguably doesn't have the imagination to remain abstract, and instead insists on couching everything in a recreation of the real world.
posted by terpsichoria at 2:07 AM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


I gave a very brief glance at 2nd life legal disclaimer and, as fa r as I understood, the owners can basically do anything with what you create (even if they give you some kind of IP right) and sell, even the money isn't necessarily convertible.

Why should one invest in a world in which both the goods and the currency are unstable and depend on an handful of servers that are controlled very stricly by one company that can still fail in the "real" world for a zillion other causes ?

It's another time-sink like other online world..I personally see meta , forums and webcams as a lot better opportunities to meet...even blogs to an extent can become a presentation.
posted by elpapacito at 2:31 AM on January 6, 2007


Indeed, terpsichoria, one of the complaints that can be levelled at the way cyberpunk fiction like Snow Crash deals with "cyberspace" is that we've found it's actually unnecessary and inefficient to use a 3D "real space" paradigm for dealing with our information.

You know the deal. All these stories involve someone grabbing some electrodes and "jacking in" to some 3D world where they hack into systems by manipulating a landscape of data, or they meet contacts in the virtual world by walking up to them.

We've discovered it's easier to just click on a hyperlink.
posted by Jimbob at 3:34 AM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bring back The Palace.
posted by hal9k at 4:23 AM on January 6, 2007


Number of total user accounts claimed: 2.3 million
Number of people with non-free accounts: 40,000
Number of people actually online at any given time: 15,000-20,000

Yeah, I'd say this is a lot of commotion over nothing. It's not like they are even remotely close to breaking even or making a profit. Compare those numbers to WoW and it's like an order of magnitude difference.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:40 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


bruce : "i played tennis only once in my (first) life against a comely young lass, when she swung her racket her little tennis dress rode up and i paid no attention whatsoever to the ball. does second life have this?"

From what I've heard, that's about 60% of Second Life right there.
posted by Bugbread at 5:09 AM on January 6, 2007


How many of those residents just log in once, shrug then stay away?

I was among them. My G4 iBook couldn't render the place decently, even with the lowest graphics settings selected.
posted by sindark at 5:54 AM on January 6, 2007


From what I've heard, that's about 60% of Second Life right there.

Albeit with low-res pixels in place of real flesh, but if that's what floats your boat...

FWIW, until today, the only funny thing I've ever seen on Something Awful was lowtax's original post about the robots pushing people down the stairs, but those Second Life Safari articles (from the flying penis link in the OP) were absolutely wonderful.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:20 AM on January 6, 2007


...Open Source MMO

Something like the Croquest Project mebbie? A multi-platform, decentralised, p2p, 3D VR metaverse and all that rhythm.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:44 AM on January 6, 2007


How many of those residents just log in once, shrug then stay away?
Me.
Wanted to see what the fuss was about, so I installed the client, built a character, did the "training", and then went in to find...nothing much.

It just seemed terribly pointless and extremely boring.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on January 6, 2007


All of these virtual worlds, including WoW, are the most ridiculous time wasters our sad humanity has ever invented. I feel sorry for the pathetic losers who play them -- it seems they can think of no better to spend their lives.

*clicks over to porn collection, resumes wanking*
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:35 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, I actually enjoy playing with my kids' Webkinz pets much more than I did stumbling around Second Life.
posted by Biblio at 7:40 AM on January 6, 2007


PeterMcDermott : "Albeit with low-res pixels in place of real flesh, but if that's what floats your boat..."

Not mine, personally. And I don't play SL, either. But the "waste of your free time" argument, against pretty much anything, usually seems to boil down to "it's a waste of time for you to enjoy your free time the way you like to enjoy it, a better use of your time would be enjoying it the way I like to enjoy it". In this case, it's "remember that every second you spend getting a hard-on with what gives you a hard-on is subtracted from the available time you have for getting a hard-on with what gives me a hard-on, and that time isn't infinite".
posted by Bugbread at 8:02 AM on January 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


This particular point is buried in some of the earlier references, but it's worth pulling out for headline effect -- noted in New World Numbers.

---

It's unknown how many new residents we're retaining. A range of guesses from volunteers average a little under 1 in 50. As you may expect this is a highly subjective number, as every resident has a very partial and personal view of the world of Second Life.

Philip Rosedale, when presented with this consensus, gave something a little firmer to work with.

“Actually, it is much higher than that,” he said. “Although Second Life is still challenging to get used to, about 10% of newly created residents are still logging into Second Life weekly, 3 months later. 10% is pretty good given the computer requirements and steep learning curve”

Surprisingly, he added, “That percentage hasn't changed much with the much higher rate of new users."

--

Now, there may be goods and services out there with a 90% attrition rate (tho I can't think of any!) but they sure don't have marketers streaming to hock goods in them, and they're not on the cover of Businessweek.

Second Life is Second Life -- a few like it, many don't. But it's some of the shoddiest journalism possible, and proof of the power and efficacy of PR.
posted by cloudscratcher at 8:28 AM on January 6, 2007


bugbread: "Not mine, personally. And I don't play SL, either."

I wasn't assuming that you did as you wouldn't have said it was what you'd heard. My 'you' there was a rhetorical one.

I also wholly agree with your arguments on the scarcity of the erection time-space continuum. Please sign me up to your newsletter on the subject.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2007


I understand the disappointment folks have with Second Life, but I've played for almost a year now and have really created a tight group of friends that I look forward to seeing and exchanging ideas with. It's not that I'm some shut in, but between work and school, Second Life is a convenient way for me to meet other people and at least have something more than a chat log to experience it with. If you only stuck around for a month or so what did you expect?
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2007


I tried it. It wasn't the clunky graphics or the obvious dull ness that turned me off, it was the little Dane (in RL) who offered to get me started. His avatar was a little bald angel with a fuck hole right in the middle of her forehead. He made no secret of its purpose, and I exited. Now happily watching my son drive himself to the brink on WoW.
posted by fcummins at 11:17 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


My personal beef with SL is that frankly it's a lot like the real world. Too much in fact. When it comes right down to it I have a choice between spending a lot of time on SL, learn the scripting language, and build a virtual business, or stepping away from the computer, networking, learning new real-life skills and build a real business, if I were so inclined -- and when it's put in those terms the real-life option seems more productive.

Of course if I were someone who's literally not comfortable in my own skin -- if I were a furry, to pick an obvious example -- then SL would have a certain advantage over reality. But I'm not, so it doesn't.

Also I think it quite funny that in SL if I want to have sex -- a pretty mind-boggling idea but one which seems to be a fairly big part of the SL experience -- I first have to buy a penis.
posted by clevershark at 11:24 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tried it once, never returned.
posted by sveskemus at 11:25 AM on January 6, 2007


"Right now they are all top down heirarchies. This would be about building from the ground up, with everyone sharing the burden."

I pretty much agree that we can't use current protocols to evaluate what the future might bring. A lot of things have to be just sitting around before somebody out there puts two and two together and gives us five.

I also think that the 3D angle is an inevitability - what we haven't really figured out is the best way to interface with it using a keyboard and mouse.
posted by rougy at 12:18 PM on January 6, 2007


PeterMcDermott : "I wasn't assuming that you did as you wouldn't have said it was what you'd heard. My 'you' there was a rhetorical one."

Yeah, no, I understood that. I think we both just carefulled across eachother's comments.
posted by Bugbread at 12:46 PM on January 6, 2007


Oh, so people in non-real worlds are earning real money? This doesn't make sense. The only conclusion is that "real money" is actually not real at all, and does not represent real wealth.

And I don't mean "money doesn't buy happiness" or garbage like that. I mean the system that awards and accepts real money does not reflect reality. I seriously don't think it can be made any more obvious than this.
posted by Laugh_track at 3:59 PM on January 6, 2007


Good point, Laugh_track.

But the real benchmark is when people can spend their SL bucks at the local titty bar.
posted by rougy at 5:07 PM on January 6, 2007


Also I think it quite funny that in SL if I want to have sex -- a pretty mind-boggling idea but one which seems to be a fairly big part of the SL experience -- I first have to buy a penis.

And IRL, you have to buy a pussy! [pa-dum-pum, thank you folks, I'll be here all week, try the chef's special tonight!]
posted by five fresh fish at 7:04 PM on January 6, 2007


> So when's someone going to create the fast, efficient, free as in speech open-source virtual world?

The reason this hasn't happened yet isn't technical or financial; both of those problems are solvable, I think. It's just that creating 3d spaces that you have to walk/drive/fly around in at "normal speeds" without any real point to the experience besides "being there" just isn't very compelling. It's a novelty, and it wears off immediately. This has been proven over and over again. It seems one of the big lessons learned from the first N years of the web and internet is that cyberspace isn't going to look like Snow Crash with its inherently euclidean 3D spatial representation, it's going to look like a bunch of information and relationships and communication that takes the shortest and easiest path, which is often just a text page, an email, or an IM, sometimes a picture or audio file, and very rarely a video. 3D will be even more rare, because it just isn't necessary most of the time, and the spatiality actually gets in the way of the communication. Interactivity will be important, but not necessarily 3D.

3D games are subject to different rules, because they're about experiencing something that's not possible in the real world, and when you play them you have a sense of purpose (good ones, at least). You need to save the princess, or level up, or whatever.

It's a UNIX system! I know this!
posted by checker at 1:32 AM on January 7, 2007


As an SL user who logs on almost daily, I think I can safely say three things:

1) Yes, I have well-rounded real life, too.
2) And yes, SL is a far from prefect virtual world, however, until something better comes along - it's the virtually (er, sorry!) the only game in town.
3) Word. Just like real life - Second Life is largely what you make of it.

I would submit there are compelling real life uses for Second Life. For example - if I were an architect - I would jump at the change to contruct my next building out of prims. I could "walk through" it before any real footings were poured. I could put it in use before the final blue prints were drawn, and discover real world issues one might not see in a CAD program.

One of my pursuits in the game is skating SL. I'm constantly skating around and checking out the place. I do come across a fair amount of gawdiness, porn and advertising. (Just like RL.) But I've also been treated to works of art, beautiful gardens and interesting ideas left for the passerby. For me, anyway, that's worth the price of admission.
posted by Mattydread at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2007


Why wouldn't you use, say, Sketchup 3D? It'd be about a zillion times quicker to create your creation, it would show far more realism (or far more sketchism, if that's desirable [sketches are seen as "changeable" by clients, while realistic renderings are typically seen as "a done deal"], and you'd still get the walkthroughs. Plus all the other goodies S3D brings to the table.

Or IOW, it seems a bit of a stretch to me to say that 2ndLife is a good way to accomplish the task you describe.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:05 PM on January 10, 2007


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