Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How Embrace Second Life's Inner Niche? Ask the Crawl-Space Dude

Location: Study-Break From Grading Finals, Butt in Chair

The numbers are trending back down for the number of private regions in Second Life. I cannot speculate about the temporary rebound we were seeing for a few weeks, but soon SL's region count will be lower than its ebb in February 2014.

Let's assume, for a moment, that the venture with OnLive's SL Go client, the coming of the Savior called Occulus Rift (praised be His Holy Name), other improvements by Linden Lab, and other efforts by the newly hired CEO do not stem the ebbing tide.  What then?

I agree with a remark made at New World Notes by CronoCloud Creeggan:
Nothing wrong with being a niche. We live in a finite world, the myth that growth is infinite and can continue forever and that triple digit yearly growth is required for 'success' has got to go. There's nothing wrong with finding a niche market and making steady money off of it, year in and out.
Other than the limited-population OpenSim Grids or walled gardens like InWorldz and Avination, who DOES what Second Life does? Activeworlds? PC Only. IMVU? Just a chat room with avatars. Cloud Party? Gone. High Fidelity? Still mostly a gleam in Philip Rosedale's eye. Unity 3D? Beyond the scope of most faculty and hobbyist developers.

Garry's Mod? Exactly how much technical knowledge does one need to run that thing?

Let me know what else does what SL does: a sandbox for user-generated content that purports to be a metaverse. I'm waiting.

That's the brilliance of finding a niche. If only Linden Lab would exploit that. Others do.

In renovating a house currently, I found myself completely unwilling to undertake needed work in the crawl space. I have done such work before personally, raking out ruts, putting in a vapor barrier, sealing around wires and pipes, installing subfloor insulation. Most HVAC and plumbing companies--mainstream all--would not touch my latest crawl space for a price I can afford.

Enter a local firm called CrawlSpace Ace, whose owner told me that they found a profitable niche, dirty work to be sure, and cornered the market. They do not want for business. Read this thread for contractors to see why, but read it during the daylight hours. You won't sleep well otherwise.

So what would Linden Lab have to do to think like a crawl-space contractor? The improvements  listed early in this post would help. Then they must retain the loyalists. Eventually, they have to lower tier. 

All that has been said. Yet if a crawl-space contractor can make a go of it, an IT firm in The Bay Area certainly can. We are still waiting.

Friday, March 7, 2014

SL Go Road Trip: A "Five-Star Flight to Somalia"

Location: OnLive with SL Go

I didn't even get photos with it, so my Firestorm shots will have to suffice.  Today I thought I'd do a comparison test with Linden Lab's OnLive-based client, SL Go and my regular Firestorm client.

Iris Ophelia had great luck walking around and taking photos with SL Go. Iggy, however, wants to drive a CAR and cross sims, not be a fashionista. That should work in a driving game, so in this newly gamified SL, why the heck not?

First I logged in with Firestorm and tried, twice, to get my car across some sims. Here's the first attempt:
Yes, readers, that was fun. And familiar.

I relogged and went back to the rezz spot by Linden Highway 7A to try try again. This time, things worked rather nicely! I had some rubber-banding when crossing sims, but no outright failures or crashes. I even got a few glam shots with draw-distance set to 256 meters on my viewer.

Not bad for third gear in the GTO, which would have been almost racing velocity back in the olden days. I figured "if it's THIS good with Firestorm, I need to try SL GO and burn through my free 20 minutes."

Fumbling along after installing OnLive, I found SL Go with some difficulty in the "My Games" section and logged in. More fumbling, all of my own doing, ensued as I navigated the client.

Then I tried to rezz the car and "jump in" as the pie menu commands.

I was standing in space, high above SL, unable to teleport. My friend Grizzla IMed to ask if I'd tried SL Go. My reply, about the client and Linden Lab, remains unprintable.

This new experience would lure me at 99 cents an hour for a bit of gaming-style driving across SL's increasingly empty mainland, when and if SL Go works on my favored rig. Right now, $3 an hour is too steep though it could be an important new revenue stream for Linden Lab. I will try again on my Macbook Pro (their highest end model) and later with iOS when they release that client. But color me dubious, if not gone.

In the end, on both log ins I saw scads of abandoned mainland and a few green dots. Linden Lab has needed something like SL Go for a long time. But the time for it may have passed. SL Go did deliver nice graphics during the three minutes before I crashed. 

But the core technologies of Second Life are antique. As a commenter at New World Notes so aptly put it, SL Go reminds him of taking a five-star flight to Somalia.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Private Estates Climb in Second Life

Location: Thinking about a new SL Road Trip

I admit that I have had a morbid interest in watching the slow decline in the number of private estates in Second Life, using Grid Survey as my point of reference.

For the first time in a LONG time, the number of private estates has risen.  One week does not a trend make, but a net gain of 16 regions sticks right out.

Have a few folks who hold land in the virtual world, sensing a new direction by Linden Lab's newly annointed CEO, decided to expand their considerable investment? Or is this mere chance?

If we do see an upward trend in region numbers, then many prognosticators, myself included will have to revise a few ideas.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cloud Party, We Barely Knew You

Location: Prognosticator's Chair

I never spent much time in Cloud Party, though Cyn Skyberg did reach out for a phone interview about the potential of the virtual world for education.

I was my usual glum self about the future of user-generated virtual worlds: I told Cyn that if CP didn't run on mobile devices well, my students would roll their eyes and say "oh please. More busy work." If they could, however, explore the richness of a virtual world between texts and status updates (he says with a smirk) they might not savage me in class evaluations.

Despite my glumness, I still think the technology has a future, and Cloud Party impressed me. Now Yahoo has bought the company and will shut it down.

My glumness about virtual worlds also has a note of regret: I liked Cloud Party's browser-based world and freedom, as in Second Life, for normal humans without skills with Maya or Blender to make content.

What Yahoo does with the Cloud Party team remains to be seen. Yahoo is trying to survive in a hostile environment dominated by Facebook, Google, and Twitter as places where users spend lots of time finding or sharing content.  Perhaps Yahoo will launch games through its portal as Facebook has done well (including Cloud Party).

What an interesting week in the otherwise moribund world of user-generated virtual worlds. With Rod Humble leaving Linden Lab as CEO and Cloud Party running down the curtain, we'll see what comes next. Philip Rosedale has not, apparently, given up on the technology. His High Fidelity project looks like a reboot of SL's utopian promise.

So accuse me of wanting to believe. I don't need virtual worlds to socialize, but they rock for building simulations and DIY roleplaying. Here's to someone getting it right and making it a popular way to spend time!