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Virtual Real Estate Boom Draws Real Dollars 285

An anonymous reader writes "According to a USAToday story, Second Life from Linden Labs is seeing a boom in virtual land trading. The article quotes a player as saying: 'My vision is to buy real estate in Second Life with one or two other investors and make it available to new players as a business', and it seems that 'Large swathes of undeveloped online property, some bearing an uncanny resemblance to a palm-studded West Coast beachfront idyll, are selling for up to $550 an acre.' Second Life uses OpenGL and Ogg-Vorbis running on a Linux grid." S!: We've previously covered Second Life on several occasions over at Slashdot Games.
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Virtual Real Estate Boom Draws Real Dollars

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  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:45PM (#9328860) Homepage
    I ask my fellow /.-ers, why? Why waste your money on "virtual real estate"? Are we all really this stupid?....

    Or is this spam gone wrong?
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ziggy_zero ( 462010 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:47PM (#9328885)
      A fool and his money....
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SpiffyMarc ( 590301 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:48PM (#9328891)
      Are we all really this stupid?

      Only our customers? Just kidding... :)

      Seriously, I play Second Life also, and when I found out you have to trade real money for in-game items, and you have to do this frequently, and sometimes on a recurring basis, I kindof lost interest... I'm all for trading real money for in-game money, at least that's clear-cut. Just don't let me trade real money for in-game money, and then require me to use both in-game money AND real money in game.

      Reminds me of Itchy and Scratchy Land...
      • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:13PM (#9329167)
        I think you're confusing Second Life with "There". There requires you to pay real money for virtual money.

        You do have the option to trade real money and virtual money through third parties, such as, but it's not necessary since you get free money every week, and you can earn money by making neat stuff that other people will buy.
      • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @05:19PM (#9329805) Homepage Journal
        The article linked to has a few flaws in it, unfortunately. One of which is the claim that there's a $9.95 a month fee to join SecondLife. I'm sure others will have pointed this out long before I did. There are two "tiers" of membership, the one-time lifetime registration fee of $9.95 or a monthly $9.95 price to become a premium member with a few extra services, primary of which is the ability to own up to 512 square meters of land parcel as long as you're a premium member.

        There, the recently-abandoned social VR site that I found out about before SecondLife, tended to have a real problem with RL$ and VR$ exchanges. You really did have to shell out RL cash for VR buckage, and on a pretty significant range of expenses. Articles of clothing are insanely pricy "There". In contrast with There, the management at Linden Labs (SecondLife's developers) has provided a great deal of control over the economy. They permit - but don't promote - sites such as the gaming open market, and have very few different reasons to try and get real money from you. Primarily, the income for Linden Labs is created by monthly fees to own land. This makes sense, as each chunk of land is essentially a pretty significant chunk of server load. I own roughly 1/16th of the resources of an entire 2.8Ghz server machine, and pay $25 a month for the priviledge. This allows me over a thousand objects with which I can create my own buildings, art objects, whatever. That's the only money Linden Labs gets from me on an ongoing basis.

        For in-world money, Linden Dollars (L$) the exchange rate in real money is completely dwarfed by what you can actually make in world by simply being an amiable individual and putting together a few fun events. I've got around L$7000 in world right now, thanks in part to my managing an in-world streaming radio station called Radio SLive [] which broadcasts an average of 4-5 nights per week of personalized music and banter using Live365's crummy (but legal) alternatives. Offhand, anyone knowing an alternative to L365 that allows for no-login, no-required-webpage referral licensed music streaming - sorry, no independent-only options, we need the RIAA stuff. It's what people want.) please let me know.

        If I were to convert the money I've made into real dollars, I'd probably be able to pull around $30 out of SecondLife. Do I really intend to do that? Not a chance. In-world, that money really has a great amount of value. Simply by earning bonuses based on my social interaction with people (you earn positive and negative ratings based on actions, appearance, and build quality) you I made upwards of L$500 a week - enough to buy some cars with, and half-price for many aircraft, some of the most expensive non-land related expenses in the world. I wheeled, dealed, and pleaded to pay the in-world expense to buy my land from other players, and now only need to spend $25 a month to maintan the server space to hold it. It really isn't so bad - I could have almost as much fun with 512 square meters of land, if I weren't hosting occasional events and presenting an in-world frontage for the radio station. Clothing can be made for free - no fees beyond a L$10 upload fee for graphics and 9 second sound clips - and objects (primitives - prims) can be made in-world for attachment to a person's avatar at no costs. The only cost to create items in world is to do so on private land - there are a number of sandbox regions where people can create larger objects without much restriction. A great place to play with building a home before you get land to put it on. Coding in-world is free, and there are even many scripts written and released with a GPL-style license. Some even with the GPL itself.

        The real-world to L$ economy is not nearly as bad as it is in other places, simply due to the fact that a great time can be had for literally peanuts. You don't need to own land to have a good time, though it can help. Land is continually being offered at low, low prices to landless peopl
        • I've been checking out SecondLife for awhile, and it seems to be a lot more about toys and things then it does about social interaction.

          You own land, you buy toys and houses for it for other people to look at..

          SecondLife is glitchy, the controls are awkward, and the graphics are buggy. There is a noticable lag between when you move and when you actually move on the screen.

          The scripting functionality is neat, but your average player doesn't want to write them or even bother with ones other people have w
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angry Toad ( 314562 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:49PM (#9328897)
      I thought the whole deal with real estate was that "they stopped making it". Here they can make more ad infinitum. Perpendicularly if necessary.
      • Actually, no. (Score:3, Interesting)

        In "real" life, you can always

        a) use land fill to create new waterfront properties (e.g. Hong Kong)
        b) drain swamp land (e.g. Florida)
        c) level mountains to make an area buildable (various areas)
        d) build in theoretically undesirable areas and make them desirable (e.g. Las Vegas)

        It just requires less effort in the virtual world. And less environmental review processes.

        • A, C, and D are very very expensive to create and/or maintain. B is against EPA regulations (for good reason).

          Value is created by scarcity. There's a limited ammount of good land, so it costs a lot of money.

          • The SL player base is growing at an insane rate, and the demand for land vastly surpasses the offer. Linden Labs is always adding new servers, because they are always getting new players. Without land, you cant have any permanent content in the world.
            It's just like buying a piece of space on a web server... SL is just like the web, but in a beautiful 3D world. People go there to create content, and other people go there to interact with it.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mz6 ( 741941 ) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:49PM (#9328912) Journal
      All I know is that I have Boardwalk AND Park Place.. oh sorry.. wrong game.
    • Im sure there are dumber things to do like buy land on other planets or the least the "virtual realestate" is here on earth on some server.for the record I think this is stupid.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:54PM (#9328959)
      Why waste your money on a web server?

      Oh you want to present content to the rest of the people who browse the web? Sounds like you might need to pay for hosting.

      If you join SL on the basic plan, you don't have to pay anything other than the $10 to activate the account. It's free after that; but then you own no land.

      SL real estate is divided into a grid of servers. The land is sold so that the monthly subscriptions pays to keep the hardware going. The more land you own, the more server resources you're using, so the more you pay. You can even get your own dedicated servers, as islands off the mainland.

      It's more or less like buying web hosting.
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:05PM (#9329089) Homepage
        Hmm... interesting concept. Because it *is* kind of like web hosting, can you picture an internet in which you browse like this? A sort of unified 3d content-presentation avatar-rich interface (everyone who is browsing is virtually "there", etc). Your URL is your "island".

        Sure, it wouldn't be suitable for all tasks... but it still might be nice in some cases to justify a browser plugin.
        • can you picture an internet in which you browse like this?

          Sounds a lot like what William Gibson described in his book "Neuromancer" - It was called "the Matrix".
          • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

            by OddRob ( 711254 )
            Actually it's more like the Metaverse in Snowcrash.

            The thing about virtual real estate: you can totally manipulate the "market" by having total control over the "physical" reality of the world. In Snowcrash the main way to get around was the monorail. Real estate close to it was prime, because of advestising potential and safety.

            SL is much the same, though obviously somewhat less technically advanced.
    • I guess, as all of the 'REAL' Real Estate, is devoured or available at astronomical prices, 'normal' people can no longer afford the real thing and are now paying for the synthetic, in an effort to fantasize on some level.

      I do think it is silly though

      • I have my well worn and pages folded book of estate right here in my pocket :-)

        in an effort to fantasize on some level

        I think this really is the main point and what I would tend to believe. It is the same logic as Flight Simulators where I can not go buy or even rent an F-16 or A-10 but I can play on the game level and get a really big kick out of it. Obviously the difference is that I would not pay (other than for the software perhaps) to fly said airplane.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      There's also these two mind-boggling phenomena:

      Why play a FPS game, when you can play Paintball?

      Why run on a threadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle, when you can run or bike outside?

      IMO, as a species, we humans do the darnedest shiat.
      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Funny)

        by hoggoth ( 414195 )
        > Why run on a threadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle, when you can run or bike outside?

        So I can watch Buffy, Babylon5, and X-Files reruns on my Tivo while I am exercising.

      • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

        Why play a FPS game, when you can play Paintball?

        Why not do both? At least for me, it is quite a bit easier to jump into a game of UT for 10 minutes or so before work or organize a COD game with some friends at 2 AM. Paintball generally requires more planning. They are different, its like comparing Pepsi to beer.
      • Why play a FPS game, when you can play Paintball?

        Because I can take 30 minutes and plop down in front of my computer and blow stuff up for the cost of the game, as many times as I wish. Compared to taking 30 minutes to drive to a paintball place, pay about as much as the game release cost to buy time, rent a gun, and buy ammo, and play for a couple of hours and drive back. Granted, it's more fun to play paintball, but you can't just plop down and play for a half an hour after the kids go to bed.

        Why run on

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Funny)

        by rjelks ( 635588 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:13PM (#9329173) Homepage
        "Why play a FPS game, when you can play Paintball?
        Um.....we'd have to go outside..
        "Why run on a threadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle, when you can run or bike outside?
        Again, the whole outside thing. Maybe someday, when we have better WiFi mesh networks out there....
        No offense, but you do know you're posting on /., right?
      • Because Paintball hurts? Because you can't play it for 8 hours without being utterly exhausted?

        Because the weather might suck if you're biking or running outside, or maybe the sun is too hot for you?

        I'm not saying these are all good reasons. But there are reasons, and people do have reasons like those and other reasons too I'm sure.
      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kenja ( 541830 )
        "Why play a FPS game, when you can play Paintball?"

        The police frown on doing this in an urban environment.

        "Why run on a threadmill or pedal on a stationary bicycle, when you can run or bike outside?"

        Once again, not everyone has access to the type of space needed for these activities. While playing "dodge bus" on a bike through downtown may be a good workout, it has some nasty side effects.

    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zonk ( 12082 )

      There are currently over 400,000 players registered to the Everquest service. FFXI broke that number since the beginning of the year and is rapidly heading towards the half a million mark.

      Upcoming games with mass market appeal like Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft could do even better than that.

      A stretch of land in a game with a population that large is a giant captive audience. Any message, commercial, political, moral, or otherwise, that you want to get out can be shoved down the meme-holes of peo
      • I have issues with paying for the game then paying for a subscription to play Everquest or whatever.

        Obviously I am in the minority but if they want me to pay for a subscription, they have better give me the software for free.
        • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pluvius ( 734915 )
          I don't think you're in the minority. There are far more people who don't play MMORPGs than people who do. I expect most of the former to dislike the pricing systems of most MMORPGs.

    • Simple, something has value if people are willing to pay for it. Common sense has no place in this basic rule of economics.

      The funny thing about economics in games like this is that no matter what is being 'sold' it all behaves based on the ecomonics of currency. Virtual real-estate can be created without limit. This is obviously not true of actual real estate as eventually we run out of space.

      Currency on the other hand can be created from nothing, but if you double the amount of currency in circulation y
  • ...that I wish I was stupid enough to have thought up first.
    • Such games need not cost money; in theory, P2P massively multiplayer online games are possible. I've been torturing my brain, however, on how to validate against compromised servers that "cheat" (which, depending on the game context, can mean many things, but basically do things that make the game "no fun").

      Most ideas I've thought about hinge on having each client connected to at least two (preferably more) nodes at once, talking to them equally, and verifying that they are given equivalent responses from
      • Neat idea (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Otto ( 17870 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:53PM (#9329546) Homepage Journal
        What I'm thinking would be to make it a lot like the internet.. That is, a network for networks.

        Do it in stages. First off, we define our game. Assume it's simple for now, something similar to Second Life but smaller. A group of people running clients define their local world. You can take it down a notch and let every computer define it's own local building if you like. This would make the most sense.. if you're not connected, your building isn't there. It's just a blank spot of land. If you want to support more users or more complex buildings, update your hardware to be faster or throw more PC's at the problem. We can use a public key authentication mechanism of some type to verify who owns what land. This key mechanism will come in handy for the next bit.

        Next, we step it up and make communities possible. Areas owned by a group of people, probably in the same geographic real-life area. They can all collaborate to build this space, and all their machines are in a P2P network to handle its existance. If somebody in the network starts cheating, its up to the community to throw the guy off their communal space. This could be done by several methods, but the most obvious of which would be to revoke his key to the space. See, in order to go in and change the community space, you have to have your key signed by others in that community. If we have a revocation mechanism, they can revoke that signature and suddenly he can't access that space anymore. We can go a step further and ban him from that space if we choose. For bigger spaces or something, we simply throw more computing power at the problem. Each community is sharing the load already, so more power in the community makes for more power to throw at the group spaces. Somebody will have to have power in this community to control access, but it'll likely be a small group of like minded individuals anyway, so they can work out their own leadership issues.

        Next, we link these all together into a city or even into a world. Two ways to do this...
        The P2P way is to let communities form larger communities, providing links between them. Essentially, two communities agree to link to each other in some way, and then users can wander from one community to another via some shared community space. Think of it like a road that both communities agree to build between themselves. No need to limit it to two per road though, the road can go anywhere you like, it can branch three ways if three communities want to deal with it. That sort of thing. The more computing power the community has, the more shared community spaces they can support, obviously. It scales up from there.. Anywhere in the world that isn't connected is an island. Anywhere that is connected is on the same continent (or if you prefer, has a road between their islands.. same thing, really.. depends on if they want to make land between them or a bridge ;-) ).

        The other way to do it requires a central server system. Somebody hosting the world and controlling who owns what. Much like the Metaverse in Snow Crash, you have the main people who created the world and host the road around it. Those who want space on the world have to buy or otherwise obtain it, but at that point what's actually on that space is entirely controlled by the processor power you throw at that space. Each person carries their own load.

        Cheating in this sort of thing is really a non-issue. Each person is hosting their own mess. If you want to screw up your mess, feel free to do so, but nobody will link to your space and you'll just be an island. Let small groups band together on their own to form community spaces and enforce whatever rules they see fit. Let communities connect to each other if they want to do so. It's all up to them at that point.

        Practical matters: For a user wandering this space, he has to drop into the world somewhere by connecting to some community. This is all a matter of the protocol, really. Just standardize the protocol and let the guy hop from system to system a
        • That would be fine if nothing from your region carries over into other regions; however, in *most* games, this wouldn't work. In most games, a cheater could, say (lets choose a fantasy-realm game for the sake of discussion), clone the Sword Of Utter Annihilation in their cheating-space and then carry it over to the Great Dragon's lair (being processed on some random node on the P2P network) and kill it with ease.

          Your suggestion might work for a completely regionalized game like Second Life, although a che
  • by Cold Winter Days ( 772398 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:47PM (#9328882)
    They might as well post to Slashdot.
  • by Tebriel ( 192168 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:48PM (#9328887)
    It's good to see a company that's finally willing to work _with_ players and what they want. With the other games, especially EQ, the company claims you have no right to sell your virtual creations. If that's what players want to do, then let them.
  • by ricky-road-flats ( 770129 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:48PM (#9328893)
    If this thing really takes off (reading up on it now), and if it's not been done yet, the Black Sun (as in the coolest online hangout in 'Snow Crash') might be a cool idea...
    • Someone has done a very nice Black Sun build in SL.

      However, SL is not the Metaverse. SL is cool, and it is probably the closest thing we have right now to the Metaverse, but it still too much like a game, especially when you look at the "dwell incentives" and "rating parties" which people are using the work the system.
  • exchange rate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stanmann ( 602645 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:49PM (#9328901) Journal
    According to this article $100US=$10Linden which appears to indicate that its really hard to make money in this game. KInda scary really when the fake money is worth more than the real thing.
    • Re:exchange rate (Score:5, Informative)

      by xTown ( 94562 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:55PM (#9328975)
      I don't think that article is correct; here's the Second Life exchange [] on GOM, and it lists blocks of 250 Linden for about a buck. Unless I'm reading it wrong, which may well be the case.
    • The funny thing with exchange rates is that when they're stable they might balance out so that it doesn't matter that there isn't 1:1 parity. If USD$10 = Linden$1, but a loaf of bread in America costs USD$1 and in the virtual world it costs Linden$0.1 then the Linden$ isn't really worth more.

      The British pound has always been worth more than the American dollar, but the cost of living is generally higher and salaries generally lower in both numeric and real terms... so what does it mean to have a more expe
  • So... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by protoshoggoth ( 588994 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:50PM (#9328920)
    Are there any 'safeguards' against company insiders giving themselves land? What if a game change 'devalues' certain land (by blocking the view, for instance). I can see lots of potential for RL legal proceedings based on this.
    • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:59PM (#9329025)
      Land can't be added without adding hardware.

      65536 square meters of land equals one server.

      If they tried to double-sell a server, it would be obvious, since the client provides tons of debug information about the server processes that are running, in real time.

      If a group of new servers are added to the grid with 1/2 the normal performance of the existing ones, we'd know something is up.
      • Land can't be added without adding hardware.

        With respect, that's nonsense.

        Maybe you meant Land can't be added without changing the specification or Land can't be added because one feasible modern server can only handle 65536 units today or Land can't be added because the current protocol has hard-coded an assumption of 65536 square meters of land per server... ... but there isn't a single restriction in that list, nor in any other list, that isn't overcomable with enough effort.

        And if the monetary stake
        • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

          by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:22PM (#9329245)
          Changing the specification is practically impossible. Too much content has already been made which relies on a simulator being 256m x 256m in size.

          They have stated that it's possible for them to run more than one simulator on a server; but like I said earlier, if they did this without disclosing the fact, it would be obvious.

          "65536 square meters per server" is hardly a universal physical constant!

          In the hypothetical set of all possible virtual world designs, you are correct. In SL however (which *was* the topic of my message), it is a universal constant.
          • Yeah, I guess you're right. Too much code was written that depended on 16-bit registers, so we never did make it to 32 bits.

            And that nonsense about 64 bits from AMD is right out.

            Are you a programmer? Sure, this sort of thing is tricky, but it's not as if we've never seen so-called "fundamental" limits lifted before, and you're talking a game. If mission-critical software could be upgraded to prepare for Y2K or 32-bitness, I think a simple game could work out a compatibility mode. Frankly, if it breaks a b
            • It's not as easy to change as you think. SL has an economy that includes selling content that you've made, including scripted objects.

              All of the code that residents have written which works with the existing physics engine to move objects between regions would be broke. This would involve vehicles, data networks, objects which deliver other objects, etc.

              I have at least a couple humble scripts that I wrote myself which would need updating. This would indeed be easy for me to do, especially since I never
      • so, google [] that's a little more than 16 acres/server. multiply that by $550 and you've got an $8,800 server... what the hell are they running this game on? or does this go into some sort of annuity to pay for the lifetime maintenance of this machine? what guarantee does one have that this "[not]real estate" will be around in 10 years?
  • by cryms0n ( 52620 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:50PM (#9328921)
    I'd be all over some main street real estate, but those giant walking, talking penises are gonna make prices dip.
  • by maxbang ( 598632 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:50PM (#9328923) Journal

    I'm typing this from my 30-foot yacht whilst surrounded by a dozen models in skimpy bikinis. You, too, can have this success with my easy way of buying virtual real estate with zero money down. Bad credit, no credit, no problem! With my proven plan, you can make your entire yearly salary five hundred times over in just one second by following a few easy steps. Soon you will become a master of MMORPG real estate!

    A testimony from Ralph:
    My first deal, a nice lake front property on Dagobah in Star Wars: Galaxies, netted me five hundred million dollars!

    Sign up now! Just email me at for your free seminar schedule!

    • You can generate hundreds of dollars in just your first day. My system will show you how to cross- post to HUNDREDS of forums. It is SO easy and you can do it from your living room. You don't even have to quit your job. You can do it in your spare time and put in as much or as little effort as you want....


    • You laugh, but this is what Second Life is actually like! I don't know if yachts have been coded yet, but there are people who have attained wealthy baron status in SL, mainly - as far as I could tell - through pyramid schemes! Unlike power characters in EQ, which come from optimizing skill choices and time put in - it seemed as if SL more resembled real life in that people setup money making schemes where they barely had to do anything, outside of organization.

      There are several sociology PhD studies in s
  • You are quite right. Second Life is expanding 20% each week! New land masses are added all the time. 11 New Sims (Servers) were added just a day or so ago.

    If you want to try out Second Life on a trial basis, click here []
  • by yecrom2 ( 461240 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:52PM (#9328950)
    "Ocean Front Property in a server farm running in a datacenter in Arizona"

    At some point this week I'll sleep and these thoughts will quit plaguing me.

  • Saw this earlier (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ANY5546 ( 454547 )
    Society has finally reached so low that it has forced us to created an alternative virtual world to live in. People are so depressed about their own lifes and desire material wealth, so they go out and buy this game, pay $10 a month to play it, and then pay what is essencially real money as a 'tax' on their *virtual* property?

    At least EQ and UO and the breed somewhat hide the fact that it's an escapist environment by calling it a 'mmorpg'. This 'game' is called 'second life'??? I would imagine that people
    • Society has finally reached so low that it has forced us to created an alternative virtual world to live in.

      You could say that about all forms of escapism. Religion, drugs, video games...

    • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:42PM (#9329438) Homepage Journal
      Society has finally reached so low that it has forced us to created an alternative virtual world to live in.

      Actually, its nice people can have an outlet to do things that they cant do in real life. This is why you see so many Marijuana art in the game, Goth looking people. Our society won't permit or allow people to be totaly free, sometimes you have to go online to make a little digital freedom.

      Some peoples just cant show up as the bank teller dressed on Goth in RL, so SL has to do. The USA wont allow gay's to marry, or legalize drugs, online you can be and do what you want. (Well, mostly, but thats another topic...)

      I would imagine that people with these second lives could better spend the time improving their first ones.

      If they live a full healthy productive lifes, whats a few hours a night online with friends having fun? Really annoying people think they know whats best for you. Its the same as going to the bar after work, or going on nature walks, or sitting and playing a guitar...

      Amazing how many Slashdot readers are Conservatives. People should be free from moral censorship, as in (They should... comments) just shows how far from a open democracy we really are.

  • advice (Score:5, Funny)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:53PM (#9328957) Homepage
    buy low, sell high, get out before the crash.
  • Two problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:54PM (#9328961) Journal
    Since the "real estate" is virtual, how do you:

    a) Know that you are getting what you pay for? $550/acre, how do I confirm that I'm getting a whole acre? This becomes more of an issue with bigger chunks - what if my 100-acre plot is really only 80 acres?

    and in a similar vein

    b) What does it mean to own an "acre" of "land" that doesn't actually exist? If it's purely virtual, how can there be a shortage of land? Can something with a literally infinate supply be a commodity like REAL land is?

    I suppose (b) sorta cancels (a) out to some degree, but it's stupid to pay for something that you cannot verify what you're actually buying, is in infinate supply (at least in theory) and otherwise holds no intrinsic value...
    • Re:Two problems (Score:5, Informative)

      by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:01PM (#9329047) Homepage
      The idea in Second Life is that what you are paying for are resources of their servers (RAM, disk space, CPU cycles) which are permanently assigned to your account. In Second Life, unlike other MMORPGs, even when you're not logged in your possessions and property are being interacted with by other players and consuming computer time.

      How much you are paying (there's a tiered subscription model, as well as a single-fee "visitor" plan which doesn't let you own property) determines how much of Linden's capacity you are allowed to use up. The fact that it appears for interaction as "land" isn't really important, any more than real-life real estate cares to exactly what purpose you put the area you own (within zoning laws).
      • Fair enough.

        So there is some way to combine server resources into a "unit resource" that can be called an "acre".

        But the question still remains: How can you be sure that you are receiving all you are paying for? You and me both buy one "acre" of virtual land, how can I be assured that you aren't getting some of the resources I'm paying for? (It is understood that any resources I don't use are not your problem. If I don't use then then it's money wasted on my part). That was question A. Thinking about it i
    • It's based on scarcity of land NEAR A PARTICULAR LOCATION.

      Even though land is finite, you can still get very cheap land in many places on the planet. What you can't get cheaply is land in the middle of manhattan.

      So the question is, can you verify that your virtual land is near some other virtual point of interest?
      • "So the question is, can you verify that your virtual land is near some other virtual point of interest?"

        In a virtual reality, in order to go from point A to point C, I don't have to pass through point B. So in a virtual land, what exactly does it mean to "near" some other virtual point?
        • As it is right now, you can't teleport to any arbitrary location in SL. You can only teleport to specific destinations, or be pulled to another person's location by that person.

          In theory, the land around these "telehub" destinations should be higher in value. I haven't looked to see if this has indeed worked out in practice.
  • Send me a dollar (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Walrusss ( 750700 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:54PM (#9328965)
    It's like those people who sent some one dollar bills to a remote adress just because the guy was asking people on his website to do so.

    See that bridge, why don't you go on it and jump off ?

    yeah, right...

  • Just try SecondLife (Score:4, Informative)

    by LilMikey ( 615759 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:00PM (#9329043) Homepage
    I don't spend much time in SecondLife any more as my real life keeps getting in the way but anyone that hasn't should really give it a try. Keep in mind it's not necessarily a game but more a really advanced social tool. You get a free trial and if the whole land-owning idea doesn't appeal to you, you can pay a one time $10 fee and hang out all you want. The in-game tools are very capable and getting more advanced all of the time. Some of the things people have come up with in SecondLife are extremely creative and your time would not be wasted there if you were just to spend it wandering around seeing what others have done.

    For the Linuxites, it runs under winex as indicated *shameless plug*here []*/shameless plug*.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:02PM (#9329064)
    I "played" Second life for awhile. Began looking at the code for the bumper cars, wanted to make a virtual Nurburgring for cars to drive. I was simply fascinated by the fact the game loaded nothing on your drive beyond primitives. Everything was sent to you over the wire.

    The graphics are obviously not on par with even EQ1, much less EQ2 - and the entire model doesn't lend itself to that.

    When I went looking sometimes for where everyone was at, I found kind of an unseemly side of SL. Everyone had bondage outfits on and was hanging out at the virtual techno club, trying to pick each other up. There was some weird stuff going on the in "back rooms". Use your imagination. I ignored that side of the world, was more interested in things that were a little more accessible to kids.

    Ultimately I found the tools were not as interesting as doing what I am doing now, working with web technologies to do my own game, and working on virtual tracks with tools designed for that purpose. (Google for Project Wildfire for N2003 if interested).

    Anyhow, one of the immediate obstacles in doing a huge track like the Ring, is there was no way i was going to get the land I needed to do it. I asked a few people, sent a few emails. After all, they could just make the landmass bigger, right? It was all surrounded by one endless ocean. Well, I got some emails from other people saying essentially, no they couldn't do that. I guess there is some limit to the engine and how much land there is. I don't really know, I never got a response from anyone from Linden Lab.

    Anyhow, when people ask me what could be done with fiber into everyone's homes anyhow, why do people need more bandwidth than they have - I show them second life. To have a fully Gibson like cyberspace means going down the development road of SL, where no "maps" exist on your hard drive.

    I think it's flat out ridiculous that SL has a makeshift real estate market. Everyone was hogging the "coasts" to build gaudy beach homes - kind of like real life. And like real life, very few people had any taste - lots of cheap spiral staircases and stupid fountains on the "lawn" with tigerstripe bedspreads. Bunch of Hugh Hefners.

    Oh, and one of the most popular clans were a bunch of bikers, guys with huge arms and denim vests with biker bitches on virtual hogs they rode around. Classy. Strange how the first things that popped up were sex clubs and biker gangs.
    • Hate to respond to myself, but I need to ward off the flame I know is coming. I know now that you can "buy" land for real money, using more of SL's server resources. I could have paid Linden Labs to "buy" an island, and then put the Nurburgring on it - and anything else I wanted.

      I didn't know that at the time, I didn't really RTFM or get into the community properly, I just found it all kind of weird and then left. So, it's my own fault and I don't want to make it seem like the guys who run Second Life ar
    • When I went looking sometimes for where everyone was at, I found kind of an unseemly side of SL. Everyone had bondage outfits on and was hanging out at the virtual techno club, trying to pick each other up. There was some weird stuff going on the in "back rooms". Use your imagination.

      Well damn, you sold me on it.
  • eh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nizo ( 81281 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:09PM (#9329128) Homepage Journal
    My first life is already too expensive to afford a second life, you insensitive clod!
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:23PM (#9329264) Homepage Journal
    I ask my fellow /.-ers, why? Why waste your money on "virtual real estate"? Are we all really this stupid?....

    I've been tinkering around with second life. You have to own land to have more objects. The more objects you build the more land you must own. If you own a store, you must own enough land to support all the objects you have on display.

    Also, land is where you can build your virtual house/store/castle/etc. And people can charge to use it or buy things from you when you are no there.

    I have not spent any real money other than the monthly service contract. I was lucky enough to get a good piece of land when someone sold a nice plot next to water.

    BTW, lots of people tinker around in Second life due to the programmer, 3d artist features. While you can just go around and chat, you can also build and sell, or a nice combination of both.

    I'm glad they are building up ingame communications, like radio, and instant messaging. Think of a VR world with its own Internet, with its own websites for services.

    While the GFX is not on par with Unreal2004, it is the best looking VR world (besides sims online, which isnt a true VR world)

    I guess people dont remember MOO's and all the building people did on those, with text only objects.

    Maybe Visual IRC is a close description, where you can build scripts or theme the look of everything.

    BTW, just like IRC, there are #hottub channels. ;)
  • Maybe if people spent this kind of energy/money on their first lives they'd be a lot happier. You'd be smarter to just give me your money. In fact...
  • by YetAnotherName ( 168064 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:31PM (#9329346) Homepage
    BondageQueen: Nice place you've got here.

    OutlawBiker: Thanks. All the chairs talk dirty when you sit on them, too.

    BondageQueen: So clever of you. So, can I get the tour?

    OutlawBiker: Not right now; most of the house is on another server that's overloaded.

    BondageQueen: I'm outta here.

    OutlawBiker: Wait! The laundry room still works! Honest!
  • by Malor ( 3658 ) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:31PM (#9329350) Journal
    I've been playing Second Life since shortly before the 1.2 release shipped, (last December), so I've been there for the whole land crunch/boom process. This newspaper article, like most, only scratches the surface... it vaguely describes the scenario, but gives no history and no clear understanding.

    Second Life completely changed its economic system in 1.2. In the 1.1 and prior days, object creation and maintenance cost in-game money. Objects are made of 'primitives' or 'prims': spheres, rectangles, cones, toruses (torii??) and probably 1 or two more. For a long time, every object you created cost you 10 Linden Dollars to 'rez', or create. When you destroyed the object, you were refunded your money. Further, if you wanted to create permanent objects, you were taxed a maintenance fee on a daily basis, which you did not get back. Your weekly stipend was roughly $500, so it was critical to come up with goods and services to sell if you wanted to maintain any kind of large permanent structure in SL. This meant that everything was very secretive and hardly ANYTHING was for free, because giving away anything damaged your own ability to build things. Land was very cheap, often the minimum price of $1/square meter, simply because few people could afford to fill much space... only a few very successful people and groups could build really large structures. There was also a 'height tax'... an object high above the ground cost more than an object near the ground. This also discouraged large structures and tended to keep everyone low and small. (heck, at one time there was even a 'teleport tax'.... you had to pay to be teleported somewhere instead of flying. Abolished long before I got there.)

    The entire economic model shifted when 1.2 came out. Suddenly, object creation was free. There was no maintenance on anything you built. Instead, you were allocated a certain number of prims to put on land...each land parcel is able to support a certain number of prims. (A starting player is allowed to buy 512m2, which will support about 115 prims: they can buy more land if they want to pay more each month.) The second really large change was that you could own as much land as you wanted, as long as you were willing to pay for it in RL $. You mostly still had to buy it with in-game currency, but you paid for the right to own extra land in real dollars. As an example, someone who wants to own 4,096m2, which is a pretty comfortable size, will have to pay around $25/mo to support it.

    So, suddenly, land was very desirable, and almost instantly scarce. Apparently, Linden Labs also went back through their records, figured out every dollar of object tax that had ever been paid by residents, and refunded it. So a whole lot of Linden Dollars were injected into the system all at once. To make things worse, a whole new class of parasite arose, whose sole purpose was land speculation. They drove land prices into the stratosphere. At the same time, a new service, Gaming Open Market, was launched, which allows trading RL $ for L$. This meant that people who really wanted to own property or otherwise do something could throw a lot of real-life money at it. At about this same time, word seemed to get into the mass market about Second Life, and with the population explosion, speculation, and Gaming Open Market, prices went to really crazy levels. I believe some of the speculators, as well as a number of the early players who suddenly had large wads of virtual cash, made thousands of real dollars. In the case of the speculators, I despise them for doing this, because they provided nothing of benefit in exchange. They DETRACTED from the Second Life world, made it much harder for new people to get started, simply to line their own pockets. I think it's great when people get rich foom MAKING things, and am perfectly content with the tax refund, but I consider the speculators to be nothing more than by-the-rules thieves.

    SL has grown WILDLY over the last four or five months. There continues to b
  • by respite ( 320388 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:40PM (#9329426)
    I can see this becoming even more of a draw to people for whom Everquest and the likes just don't hold any appeal. The addiction will remain the same, but the lure of a virtual world where chatting to individuals rather than fighting is the focus brings in a completely new crowd, females, younger kids and older adults. These people could care less about RPG's but there is a lot of potential for spending too much time here, especially if things like voice chat start being introduced, replacing "normal" RL interactions.
  • So if the folks who run this decide it isn't worthwhile anymore and they pull the plug your "investment" disappears? Great, a virtual investment for virtual land using REAL money.
  • this is really crazy.

  • Are any sociologists and economists studying this phenomenon? I mean, here we are, applying *real* human resources, feelings, thoughts, time, and money to an A-Life. Instead of building "ants" and "bots" for a simulation, we *are* the ants and bots in this one. IMHO, this could get interesting real quick.
  • I totally wanna join this game just so I can be a virtual drunk and homeless person.... perhaps people will give me real money? Ehh, if not I'll just run around naked shouting out things that make no sense...

    Oh crap, do I have to pay for virtual booze too?? Damn it!
  • in any MMO game developer whose own web server is susceptible to the /. effect...
  • by Cubicle_Dweller ( 785354 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:06PM (#9330181)

    I've had a Second Life account for several months now, and had people call me nuts for paying for virtual land. Oddly enough, I got the same type of comments back in 1995, when I told people that I paid for space on a web server.

    The analogy is a good one. Second Life is very much oriented towards scripters and modellers -- you can build anything you like and then write a script in C-like language that describes its behaviour. When you buy land, you're really paying for space on their servers where you can show off your latest creations.

    Unlike Everquest, it's absolutely not a roleplaying game. It's a showcase, a meeting place, and a game-within-a-game. It's an online environment that comes remarkably close to Neal Stephenson's "Snowcrash".

    And if you're good at building or scripting, you can sell your stuff to other players for play money -- Linden dollars. You don't need to pay real money for anything except land -- space on their server. If you don't want space, don't buy it. Ten bucks will let you play and build whatever you like forever.

    For those players who are too impatient to earn money in-world, like every other MMOG the Linden dollar can be bought and sold online at sites like I personally have never needed to buy Linden dollars, and in fact, I've earned enough money from selling scripted objects in the game to cover the cost of land.

    So... why pay money for something that isn't even real? Ask yourself why you have a website. The answer is probably the same.

  • by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:48PM (#9331795) Journal

    Is it legal to pk in this game?

    If so, then I'd be more inclined to move onto some property that I didn't own, and "buy" it by killing everyone that came upon it. I mean, are they going to throw me in virtual jail or something? Would I have to pay a $$ fine to get out?

    If there is no pk'ing, I still don't see why you can't just stand there and pretend it's yours. People would have to figure out how to move you... which might not be possible.

    Virtual property is lame. You'd have to be a real dope to pay real money for it. Of course, I'd have a ton of fun making life difficult for the dopes that "own" the bits that are streaming into my computer.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus