Two Anniversaries

This weekend, for most, marks one year since the MO:UL@Gametap shutdown. The past week I’ve been drawn more to this same (Easter) weekend two years ago.

That was the first time that I did a successful village takeover in Travian (this was on a server before the Gold system – or even a US server – existed). Wandering back to that game, I realize I still have good memories of Travian too, despite my problem with playing any type of MMO. I earned another new group of friends, and also had a chance to show to myself that I again can step up and lead (first within the local alliance, and then within the meta-alliance at endgame level). I just wish I can participate more in such things without getting so overboard about it; Not just in money, but in time…

Still, despite that, I did have fun. I got to see the Eder D’Uru project in SL for the first time, and am very impressed how far they’ve gotten. In particular, the heek table; I remember the original, which was coded in Telador and was functional shortly before the island was shutdown for other uses. One great quote on CyanChat regarding the project – can’t remember who at this point, sorry – mentioned how much respect they had for Cyan’s work, after having to use SL’s scripting system (a ‘joy’ that I experienced quite a bit myself ;-).

The meeting in There was mostly to chat; I didn’t mind, since it was still a chance to relax and meet folks I’ve not spoken to as far back as Mysterium 08. Plus, I was desperately in need of sleep by that point.

In all, a good weekend. And one where we, as a community, were able to come together despite how scattered we are right now. To repeat my toast earlier in CC:

*raises mug* To the Community.

[*One* community, I may now add – ‘fah uru’ I believe, which if so is fitting…]

/salute
–TSK

OK, What’s Next?

Anyone who’s been a die-hard fan of ‘West Wing’ should recognize that quote: It’s from President Bartlett, of course, said an uncountable number of times.

I bring it up because it’s what I’ve been thinking all weekend. What, really, is next for us all?

Cyan has not said anything yet, that I’ve seen as of now anyway. Most feel that this to them is the end, and perhaps also a beginning. I don’t know; I’m personally not fond of speculation when there’s no information at all to speculate on. It’s something I learned the hard way during my busier time in SL, and has helped me keep my head in times of stress at work.

The community as a whole is en-route to another diaspora, a course to what I’ll term Interregnum II (like SuperGram, I just won’t say its the end either; I’ve invested and even sacrificed too much – far, far too much – to just think that its been for naught). A large portion of the group are looking at the two virtual worlds, Second Life and There. I still intend to help with that (a welcome guide tailored for the community), as the writing exercise will do me good in more ways than one. Another portion is looking at the more traditional MMOs – of those, Guild Wars and Eve Online appear to be at the top. I can’t comment on either as I’m not interested in spending any more money right now; That’s going to RL endeavors now, such as my health, and the health of my mother.

For my own plans, they have not changed. I’ve had my final fun at the Parade. I spent time yesterday finishing Prime for what may be the last time, and I now have every spark except two: K’Veer and Myst. Other than some final, quiet meanderings, I’d like to quietly fade out. I’ve been retired from virtual worlds and other Massive environments, and have no intent of getting back into them now (though I still like to poke my head in from time to time). For me, there’s still new things ahead of me in the Real World, challenges that I know I can meet now.

All because of the power of community. Because its not just about one person changing many; It’s also about many inspiring one. :)

Shorah B’shemtee, and best of luck of all of you.
/salute
–TSK

SL embracing a ‘Pay’ model like There – Part 2

Over [here][sl-t1], I mentioned that LindeX has generated quite a bit of income for Linden Lab. The current update as of last night is 3.6 Mil L$ at an average of about 265L$/1US$ (this rate has held now for the past week). Over the weekend the volume was over 4.2 Mil L$.

That’s coming out to about US$475-550 take to LL a day now (before ‘# transaction fees,’ still no word on that), about a 20-40% jump in one month. That’s coming out to about US$180K/year if the spike occurs every weekend. Not bad.

Now, yesterday, its been announced that the Developer’s Incentive is to be phased out. As [some in the forums][forum] have mentioned, this is another US$120K/year that will be available for LL’s internal use as well.

That will be US$300K (minimum) each year that will now be available for other things – like, say, another five well-paid developers (or another 8-10 beginning ones). Or an expansion to the data/asset system and/or how the whole mess is backed up.

The forum thread has arguments going several ways, all of them possibly valid to some degree. It is to some extent a belt-tightening move; They really could use the money for more people in such an enormously growing userbase. I’ve stated multiple times that LL needs to re-focus outwardly from a development standpoint to a stability, customer service, and automation standpoint. They’re on that road, I can see the signs (from personal experience), but they *do* need the money. The idea of them milking SL for all its worth before its cancellation is a bit premature right now, since I think we all need to wait on what LL has in mind – and also to discuss even if the DI can be salvaged as something else that’s not gamable.

One of the biggest things they’re going to need to do short- to mid-term is get more subscription payments, such as the Premium account or some similar method to ensure a more stable income base. I’ve heard a few suggestions by *residents* now that sound, at its core, a lot like There’s ‘pay US$ for our currency’ model; Talk about full circle (see my first link, aka the earlier post). Admittedly its in smaller doses, but that will be more dangerous to the impulse buyer – and better off to LL in the long run by as much L$ running through LindeX as possible. That could work, but it begins to make me wonder just what the hell I’m doing in SL in the first place, as – originally – an Uru-fugee who was looking for a new home.

I don’t have an answer as of yet (none that I have enough details to put forward anyway). I need to think about it, see what the Lindens say and do in the next couple days, and send another followup as we all learn more.

And, I wonder, where the influx of Therians to SL are these days (most of them joined around the time I did) – and if they’re laughing their asses off right now.

[sl-t1]: http://sungak.net/weblog/archives/23
[forum]: http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=78329

Does SL now embrace part of There’s money model?

An interesting thing I’ve noticed over time, in particular on the [#secondlife][IRC] IRC channel, is the vehement tone I sometimes get from those who have used There.com and are now firm SL converts. Reasons are as varied as the individual, but one very intriguing argument is that There is specifically oriented to making US$ money off their subscriber base.

Quick primer: There has its own currency called the Therebuck (T-buck or T) that are only purchasable from There at a fixed rate (normally 1800T == US$1). This currency is used to buy and sell items from both There themselves (web store) or from others (web auction), as well as for submission of new items and textures (for sale or not). Initial sales are charged a base commission to There in T, which tends to create a set starting cost for items (for those keeping score, a rather complex pricing chart is available at their Developer’s site). This is also on top of the fact that all submissions are 1) screened for approval due to it being a ‘Rated PG’ meta world, and 2) explicitly taking all [IP][I_P] rights from you – There owns it now.

Now, ignoring the last note (since IP rights is a big difference between the two), how close is Second Life getting to this type of money-making model? Current observations:

– LindeX (SL’s ‘in-world’ currency exchange) charges $0.30 each buy transaction, as well as a 3.5% commission for each sale. Given the current volume of 3Mil L$ daily at about 260L/US$1, that’s approximately US$400 a day or US$146K a year – *before* the transaction fees are ground in (we don’t have # transactions a day available yet). Quite a bit of money, and can eventually go higher as more residents (in particular Basic accounts) get money for their micropayments.

– Other than Dwell/Traffic, external sources of ‘free’ L$ beyond the weekly stipend no longer exist. Even the stipend itself is not free per se, unless you only have Basic accounts – and the stipend value for the Yearly Premium is still _way_ better then LindeX will get you today. This forces the newcomer (including the Basic account) to spend US$ on L$ transactions inworld, or start to learn the building tools rather quick.

– The current ‘money sinks’ that are paid to SL services in L$ – not US$ – as of today are 1) Classifieds (L$250 for two weeks), 2) uploads (L$10 each for any allowed type), 3) ratings (L$25 each point given). The average new product will likely involve about L$100-L$1000+ in uploads depending on the complexity, even for a simple outfit; Actual items like vehicles are a whole other matter…

Though differing in style, the need for Linden Lab to make more money from their ever growing userbase is taking them towards the same US$-centric format that There uses. The upside for SL has been a more stable and thriving economy however, so the changes have been well worth it.

–Alan

[IRC]: irc://efnet/secondlife
[I_P]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property

There.com – Investigating New Options

I have spent the past few days now playing in the There.com meta world. It is the main competitor to Second Life, and has some vastly different philosophies that are making me take a hard look at my remaining a hard-core SL player.

First off, it does not cater to Mature content. Most would be turned off by this, but as an Until Uru player who is trying to find a way for the entire family to meet online, SL will not allow me to meet with my younger neices and nephews. They would end up on the Teen Grid, away from me (and rightly so – the content has gone from the standard R-rated stuff you’d find in everyday RL today, to near or beyond X in some cases). In There, everything is pre-screened before its allowed in, period. And they won’t allow Mature content until they can find a way to keep it to restricted areas.

Second, they have working physics, in particular for vehicles. I’ve never had so much fun on a vehicle in *any* game until I hopped on a hoverboard in There, or running full tilt boost on a buggy. An absolute thrill, and something I’ve never been able to experience with SL.

Third, an _opt-in_ combat/collision system. Called a ‘Forcefield,’ you have to turn it off to be pushed or attacked. Something that SL residents have been downright screaming for, There has already.

Fourth, system stability. I’m very forgiving of the SL system, I know they’re trying to do a lot. But between the 1.6 and 1.7 releases, plus the horrid growing pains they are still experiencing, makes certain parts of the world rather unstable. It’s not helping that stability is a fleeting thing, and not quite able to pin down the source of the latest set of server-side bugs causing this. The user community helps (I’ve seen that firsthand in the IRC channel), but even they feel stifled at times — since it appears that Linden Labs (the company running SL) is not certain what’s going on either.

Fifth, a well-defined economy. Everything revolves around the Therebuck (T), which you have to purchase from There at about 1800T/1$US. Those taking advantage of the current Basic/Premium package pair can add up to 40$US in T at discounted rate (about 2100/1) with the one-time upgrade to Premium; They specify the $40 level as ‘have everything,’ and those being even partially careful can in fact go a long way with that. Everything is bought, sold, and even re-sold from within the embedded interface so its easy to find things. You can even submit your own things that can be sold (for fees of course, but appears to be worth it from what I can see so far).

Second Life is hard to find new things to buy, and its economy has been rattled back and forth to some measure of uncertainty (I’m not alarmist, just having a partial lack of confidence regarding SL’s economy – like many others have).

And last (but certainly not least), a much larger portion of the Uru community is in There than in SL. Enough so in fact, that they appear to be helping to steer the metaworld into another form of Uru Live. That was the original goal I was heading toward when approaching SL so long ago, and its fallen a bit short of the mark (though not as much SL’s fault, as it is the downright hostility of its cummunity base sometimes).

Now don’t count me as a Therian Fanatic just yet. There has its own shortcomings, the biggest of which is that you do not have any rights to what content you submit to there.com – it becomes theirs legally. A proper comparison of the two will be forthcoming in a page post. I’m just willing to live with these for now, and as things progress I will see how things end up.

So here I am, pondering of all things a full-scale defection to There. Because it would be a rather poingant thing to do: Approaching the in-world equivalent of the Linden Labs offices like Martin Luther, leaving a prim paper of some sort on its ‘front door,’ and cancelling the Alan Kiesler account. Fitting too, since I’m a Protestant. :) I’ve definately made enough of a decision to add There to my musings at this point, and changed the subtitle of this weblog appropriately as well.

The moment this post heads up and other SL residents take notice, I’m sure to gain some interesting comments on the matter (on both sides). But remember, my reason for SL was always as a place for the Uru folks to gather. I’ve seen that both There and the Until Uru environments are much more active in that regard than Second Live would ever appear to be. Therefore, I have my two environments to hedge my bets, and SL can well fall by the wayside.

–Alan