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The Game Developer's Guide to Pwning Second Life 39

wjamesau writes "How do you create a game in Second Life that earns you thousands of dollars and scores you development deals with outside publishers? One SL user did just that last year with a casual game called Tringo (sort of multiplayer Tetris with gambling). The game became so popular in Second Life that he sold the rights for a Web version, a GBA port from Crave, and coming up, a TV game show. While there's dozens of other games in Second Life, from FPS to RTS to a mini-MMORPG, none of them have come close to Tringo's success. Kotaku is running an article I've written, based on three years helping Linden Lab organize and run the annual Second Life game developer contest: a how-to guide for creating the next Tringo-big hit."
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The Game Developer's Guide to Pwning Second Life

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  • gambling (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WinEveryGame ( 978424 ) * on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:48PM (#15528353) Homepage
    It appears that gambling is becoming a key component here in order for getting any real $$$ from selling this stuff..
    • Gambling, or maybe just attention to game play. Tetris doesn't invovle gambling, but was and still is hella fun to play. It's almost as if that should be part of the focus when developing. Naaaaaaaah, just throw some more eye candy out there, the players won't even care. Give some fool the chance to make money . . . I'm not saying it's right, I'm actually saying it's lame.
    • That's because gambling games are easy to make, attractive to players, and a constant revenue stream for coders.
      • No, it's because Second Life is even more consumerist than The Sims.
    • Re:gambling (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PaganRitual ( 551879 )
      That's because if you're going to do something that has been done to death already a million times over, the only way you'll get people interested is paying for it is if they have a chance of winning money in return. I wouldn't pay for a version of Tetris in a fit (cue people linking Tetris DS saying 'ITS TOTALLY WORTH IT D00D!!!11) yet if I had the chance to win money back, well then maybe I'd be convinced. Cause, you know, I totally saw the space shuttle in the Gameboy version. Looked wicked cool, and mea
    • by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @09:44PM (#15529158)
      Tringo's business model in SecondLife is that you buy a copy of the object and run it as a franchise, paying $60 upfront and some percentage of your rake from the machine. As an operator, you only make money by convincing people to play. The only way to convince them to pay for marginal playing opportunities is to give them a reward, i.e. money. And that implies gambling. Second Life is not a good environment for creating games which are actually fun -- if you wanted primarily fun games you'd be in WoW or Puzzle Pirates (whose puzzle games absolutely smoke the poor Tetris clones that infest Second Life).

      Now, if I were really out to make a buck, I'd come up with some form of multi-level marketing for an object in SecondLife. Take anything with intrinsic value -- say, a hat. Now let anyone who has that hat spawn a new copy of the hat for less money than it takes to buy a hat from you (picking numbers out of thin air, $5 for a hat original and $3 for a hat copy). Then you essentially deputize folks to sell your hat to fashion-conscious folks AND folks desperate to make a virtual buck by hawking hats (LOOK! You only have to sell 3 hats to make your investment back!). Now, taking the idea one step farther, instead of actually selling the hat you should sell the *script* that makes the hat into a money machine. "Hiya, Mr. Content creator. Have I got a business proposition for you -- you take that new school girl uniform* and use my Money Machine script on it, and it will virally populate itself around the world. The script only costs $100 and $.50 a copy. You could make hundreds of dollars!"

      * Yeah, somebody sells them. *shudder* There's two "killer apps" in Second Life, and one of them is not gambling.

    • It appears that gambling is becoming a key component here in order for getting any real $$$ from selling this stuff..

      You may have not heard about and [] Futures [] (kind of Derivatives []) but they can very well used like gambling. It would be interesting to know if these Derivatives are being traded in the Second Life game.

      On another more or less relating thing, I tried to run second life on my notebook (3Ghz, ATI-9100 [128MB], 1.5 GB ram) and it was very very slow, anyone knows if it is possible (any tip or some
  • Sorry, but trying to write a game above the level of tetris in SL is more pain than writing AJAX. I'm told that both the client and the servers are migrating towards open source, so maybe one day we'll have the freedom to mod the client and programmers will work on it instead of writing Yet Another Graphics Engine.
  • by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @06:54PM (#15528390) Journal
    The game is extremely poor for FPS and RTS type of games. Heck someone built tetris there and runs like ass.
    I think you're better off producing quality elsewhere and shopping it around. A single success doesn't really set any kind of precedent.
    • The germane bit is that Second Life is an open market. It's also extremely lucrative. One of the two founders gave a talk at E3 this year, and among his tidbits was that there was a real estate agent who had moved to speculation in Second Life; she was dumping more than $40k into the game monthly, and was cash positive by almost triple.

      Sure, it might run like ass. All the way to your wallet.

      I think you're better off producing quality elsewhere and shopping it around

      Yeah, the shopping it around part is a
      • The problem with all this hype about profits in SL is that the money has to come from somewhere.. wherever there is gain, there must be equal loss to balance the equation. For every SL hundredaire, there's got to be a dozen virtual street bums and crackwhores. It's even worse that you can use real money to purchase virtual goods, that directly ties SL's economy to real-world stresses and constraints.

        I can't say I'm not curious, but I am extremely skeptical. SL was created first and foremost to produce p
        • Er. The money doesn't come from your competition. It comes from your customers. Once you realize that, you can be less worried about the other people failing all around you and focus more on figuring out what the people pulling down a hundred thousand every two months did.
        • Actually, because you can get 'virtual' money in exchange for 'real' money, its not anywhere near that simple. Do you feel bad making money in the 'real' world for the same reasons? Of course we all feel that in the world around us people deserve some basic standard of living, and that's one thing, but we all know there's enough excess around that its okay to actually make a little bit of money.
  • Make firefly the mmorpg and take in more money in a week than WoW does in a year.
    • Apparently you haven't taken the time to figure out what WoW makes in a year (6.2m active players * $14.95/mo * 12mo/y = one point one two billion dollars annually.)
    • Firefly didn't make Fox enough money to stay on the air. Firefly didn't make enough money in the box office to guarantee a sequel, or even make one likely. If a fucking Star Wars license cannot compel droves of people to play an MMO, Firefly sure as hell isn't.

      Dislaimer: this is coming from a person who absolutely loves Firefly
  • by cryptomancer ( 158526 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @07:38PM (#15528620)
    How can a guide be written for creating "big hits" based on a single instance? Contrapositively, it'd be like writing a postmortem for Daikatana and hoping that there'd never be another Duke Nukem Forever. (Ok the timeline might make that a bad example, but you get the idea).

    And as others have mentioned, it's not like SL is a model environment for demo game development. I'm sure plenty of others have gotten into the industry by starting with a Free* graphics engine. So, how does this relate to SL anyway? Mmmm Slashvertisement perhaps?

    But of course, the real story behind it would have been the development of the game, spreading word of the game, and pitching one's self to developers to get hired. How about a writeup of that? That seems the be the overlooked, but relevant part of this story that at least I'd like to hear.
    • Right-o.

      Those who can do, those who can't write useless articles that once in a while get green-lit on /. where half the comments posted to it are more insightful and poignant than the original article.

      I actually have a guide on how to make a huge amount of money in Second Life. It cost $19.95.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...despite the fact that few are still playing it, and even less are still interested in it.

    I check this game section every once in a while to see who here is playing it (and is therefore responsible for the related posts), and none of the slashdotters are playing it, im not playing it, none of my friends are playing it... zonk! explain!
    • SL makes headlines because it gives its users so much freedom to do whatever they want that it's where most of the interesting stuff happens. If you want to do someting totally off of the wall in an MMO type environment, SL is just about the only place you can do that. Nobody wants to read a story about how you were able to slay 20 Kobalds, but if you make thousands of dollars of real money legitmately out of what is noramally just a money sink, well that's newsworthy.

      Oh, and I totally agree that SL ne
  • by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @08:44PM (#15528933) Homepage
    I have another guide to make a bunch of money off Second Life, but since I'm a nice guy, I'm just gonna tell you for free. The secret is - write a guide on how to make a successful Second Life game and watch the suckers pile up to hand you money.

    Is there anything more pointless than making a guide on how to make lightning strike twice?
  • by imunfair ( 877689 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @10:36PM (#15529373) Homepage
    From the article I'd guess you aren't going to get anything close to rich even if you make a 'hit' game on SL:

    "The final word for pwning game development should go to Eckhart Dillon, lead creator of Tech War, winner of this year's SL Game Developer Contest, which took in the L$ equivalent of nearly $2500 during the two months of its run."

    The ones making the real cash are buying games, running contests with them, that sort of thing:

    "One resident named Games Prototype, for example, created and runs a franchise of hugely popular SL casinos and by his estimate, clears $2,000-3,000 monthly for about ten hours of weekly work."

    Note that even if the guy in the second example actually created his own games, that isn't what is making him the money. It's using the games to run a casino. It's similar to an article I saw a while ago about the "prostitutes" on SL - the ones giving the virtual sex make a fairly small amount, but the people who run the brothels are really raking in the cash.

  • by presearch ( 214913 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @11:27PM (#15529535)
    I built one of the winning games in last year's SL contest, and several other moderately complex things as well.

    The scripting language is interesting, fun, and somewhat well thought out. If you could use it to write someting that ran locally, you might be able to have something semi decent. but... After it goes thru the server system and out over the net intermixed with all that SL data using Linden Lab's lazy update protocol, you feel lucky to get things to work at all, ending up with everything a primitive compromise.

    It's irritatingly flaky. The API calls are at best 80% reliable, terribly documented, and they come and go at the whim of Linden Labs with no standards a developer can rely on. Maybe object messages will work, maybe not. Maybe when a player shows up, all the parts will rez, maybe not. Maybe physics will work, usually not.

    In 3 years, there's been no significant improvement in the graphics. It looks very dated, especially the avatars and what passes for a skybox. Everyone walks around like stiff zombies. It's still buggy as hell, especially if you have less than a 1MB line and a $4K PC. Get more than 10 people in the same place and it slows to a crawl for everyone. Can't complain though... Second Life zealots will tell you it's your fault because you don't have everything turned down to minimum settings.

    The idea has potential, and Linden Lab has indeed solved some of the harder problems of implementing the Metaverse, but at this point, they just can't scale any further without it collapsing under it's own weight. Time to take what's been learned, pull the plug on Second Life, and build something with modern graphics, open standards, and distributed servers that anyone can run.

    Although it's neat to move from sim to sim in the mainland , most "serious" players opt for a seperate island. That costs >$1200 startup and $200 a month.
    I'd much rather be able to host my own sim, with a coordinated method of sharing comm channels, directory service, and inventory items with other hosts and players.

    Again, so much potential, but at the rate they are going, it'll be dead in less than 2 years, a blip in computer history. I think the real goal of the game, and it *is* a game, is to pump up the number of user accounts, and squeeze in a couple thousand more users "in-world" to make it look attractive for some company to buy them up so Philip "Linden" and the verture guys can cash out.

  • Real life (Score:3, Funny)

    by owlman17 ( 871857 ) on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @11:40PM (#15529579)
    How about a guide to pwning the first one? That would be useful.
  • Wouldn't mini negate massively and make it simply MORPG?

"Plastic gun. Ingenious. More coffee, please." -- The Phantom comics