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Is Second Life the Paris Hilton of Virtual Worlds? 105

An anonymous reader writes "Second Life appears to be suffering a bit of a backlash from its PR efforts. Matt Mihaly over at The Forge, newly-returned muckracker Peter Ludlow at the Second Life Herald and Tony Walsh at Clickable Culture have all recently taken Linden Labs to task for their non-stop, arguably deceitful, PR machine and frequent downtime. Further, over on Terranova a veritable cornucopia of long-time, experienced virtual world developers, including Raph Koster, Mike Sellers, Randy Farmer, the aforementioned Matt Mihaly, and Daniel James, have piled on, calling into question the fundamental utility of Second Life. Does Second Life have real utility, or is it simply an endless exercise in unsubstantiated public relations? What do Slashdot readers think?"
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Is Second Life the Paris Hilton of Virtual Worlds?

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  • by Morphine007 ( 207082 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:35PM (#16520299)

    Does Second Life have real utility, or is it simply an endless exercise in unsubstantiated public relations?

    Yes

    • by Channard ( 693317 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:43PM (#16520395) Journal
      The Spoiled Whore 3D Playset. Actually, I wouldn't say it's like Paris Hilton really, more like P.T. Barnum or that guy who sold deeds to land on the moon. You pay money for something that has no real actual worth.
      • by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:11PM (#16520779) Homepage Journal
        You pay money for something that has no real actual worth.

        What does worth mean exactly?

        Who gets to decide what has real worth?

        Isn't it the case that the market decides what something is worth, and that you don't decide?

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          Except the market is subject to forces that can cause illegitimate changes to an object's worth. You can define worth by market price or by it's true value (how to calculate that is beyond me). And, buyers don't always set the market price, such as in cases of collusion. What about Walmart undercutting pharmacies (and selling drugs at a loss)? That's definitely a case where worth and value are (were?) different. There are so many cases that blow the idealistic free market value system out of the water.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Aladrin ( 926209 )
            "by it's true value (how to calculate that is beyond me)"

            You know why you can't figure out how to calculate that? Because it's impossible. Nothing has inherent value. All value is decided by the buyer and seller.

            Even in 'collusion' and 'monopoly', the value is set by the buyer and seller. You don't HAVE to buy gas for your car. You could find a closer job and just walk. Or take a bus. Or... Whatever.

            Walmart is undercutting other pharmacies and selling at a loss to attract business to themselves. Th
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by srmalloy ( 263556 )

              You know why you can't figure out how to calculate that? Because it's impossible. Nothing has inherent value. All value is decided by the buyer and seller.

              Certainly there is a 'true value' for everything; it's the cost to produce it, both in actual outlay for supplies and in production time -- but measuring the value of production time can be slippery. This value is useful, however, only for the producer determining how many to make; the subsequent market value may bear no relationship to the true value

              • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
                I see you got modded troll for that, and I feel bad about it. But that's because you're wrong, not because you're trolling. I think you honestly believe what you said.

                Production cost certainly helps the seller decide what the 'value' is to them. It means absolutely nothing to the buyer. That's why you've "seen products that sold for prices that, given the production time, equated to no more than $1.00 per hour as a wage, far below the 'minimum wage' set by law." Intrinsic value doesn't truly exist. It
                • by smchris ( 464899 )
                  Wait until the next depression. I bet I can buy Second Life real estate for a bag of non-virtual potatoes. Will there still be added value? Sure. You could turn the bag of potatoes into vodka.

                  But the value of Second Life is mighty rarified.

        • No real worth? What is Slashdot worth? What is any website worth? A plot of land or a business in Second Life has as much value as as anything on the internet. Everything on the internet is nothing more than a bunch of data, being on the internet or being in a Virtual World is nearly one in the same. How many people do you know that sit there and chat all day, or troll forums and never actually do anything? There are plenty of them out there. I will admit, I have been in Second Life for over 2 years now, an
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by objwiz ( 166131 )
        Yes, you may have to pay real money to get into SL (there are free accounts). However I argue that it does actually have worth.

        Two points:

        1) Lindens (currency in SL) can be converted to IRL currency. A small subset of the players that run shops and islands actually turn a RL profit every month. So, for these people there is a monetary worth.

        2) Its a world where friendships can be made, creativity expressed and other forms of joy experienced. This can have value to people. Such value cannot be measured
      • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:30PM (#16521035)
        If people want something, by definition, it has value. If people don't, it could be made out of the rarest material in the universe and it still wouldn't have value. Nothing has an inherent value. And as long as people are willing to trade goods/services for a piece of virtual property, it has as much value as a piece of real property.
      • Frankly, I think the guys at Southpark had the right of it on Paris Hilton. Still, you have to hand it to her. She's turned being a jobless, skill-less, looser into a paycheck. And a nice hefty pay check at that... which means she's probably not as dumb as you think.

        2 cents,

        QueenB.
  • Which? (Score:2, Funny)

    by otacon ( 445694 )
    Do you want my opinion or my second life's?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:39PM (#16520341)
    ... before you can have a second one?
  • by Anomolous Cowturd ( 190524 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:43PM (#16520389)
    Seriously, three second-life articles a day is a bit much, isn't it? Isn't it time to fork off secondlife.slashdot.org and leave the games section to deal with, you know, actual games.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DrEldarion ( 114072 )
      Oh, yeah, I'm sure they'd pay Slashdot to run an article saying "Is Second Life actually useful at all?"
    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      ... leave the games section to deal with, you know, actual games.

      Yeah, we need to get back to why the Nintendo Wii will rock the house!
      • And we need to know why the PS3 will totally suck! And why everything from Microsoft is evil, except Xbox!
        • And why everything from Microsoft is evil, except Xbox!

          Don't let Slashdot fool you -- the Xbox is evil too.

  • Utility? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:43PM (#16520397)
    Does Second Life have real utility

    If by "utility" you mean does it provide enough enterainment to warrant thousands of people paying a monthly fee to engage in it, then the answer would be yes. If by utility you mean, "does it serve a bigger good", then I'd say, how many of the other MMORPG serve any more utility than what I first mentioned?
    • by misleb ( 129952 )
      If by "utility" you mean does it provide enough enterainment to warrant thousands of people paying a monthly fee to engage in it,


      Small nit to pick.. Second Life doesn't charge a monthly fee. You pay for "Linden Dollars" to spend on things in the game.

      -matthew
    • In an economics sense, yes Second Life does have real utility (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility [wikipedia.org]). However much utility is up to debate of course since utils are an unquantifiable measure. However the more proper question is: Does Second Life matter enough to be getting all the press especially from slashdot?

      I believe my personal value judgement on that would be no.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by eggstasy ( 458692 )
      Screw entertainment, Second Life makes it exceedingly easy to create elaborate 3D online multimedia projects, machinima, games, you name it. I've been developing large projects on it since the damn thing opened, and I now run a 12-person company that focuses exclusively on Second Life development. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people living off Second Life already. How's that for utility?
      Check out a list of all the profitable businesses developing stuff for SL:
      http://secondlife.com/developers/ [secondlife.com]
      Now,
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:45PM (#16520423) Homepage Journal
    unlike the real Paris Hilton, you cannot get an STD from second life....
  • i really don't get the point right now. it's too early

    the idea obviously is to spark a virtual world extension of reality, a common ground for people to engage in social exchange in groups

    but what it requires to do this is wide adaptation, for a lot of people to think "second life" when it comes to doing these things online in social groups

    and thus the pr machine: they are chasing that goal

    it's the network problem: the telephone network is only important if there are a lot of telephones attached to it. q: how important is second life? a: how many people are using it?

    so we shall see if second life reaches that critical mass, that spark, to become what it already pretends it is in its pr... or if some other online universe becomes that de facto standard of social group exchange online... or if the real world doesn't need a second life

    because a lot of really cool ideas never pan out just because people don't find utility for them. second life could be such a high minded stab in the dark that goes nowhere. or i could be wrong and it will be bigger than google. who knows? i don't know, and i don't pretend to... but don't let second life pr tell you they do know, they don't know either

    another avenue is that second life will try a few other things besides its much vaunted currency exchange. if it keeps fumbling around with a few ideas, it may suddenly hit that spark, and be something big, something big that was not what it was intended for, but something big nonetheless, if second life allows some experimentation with its reason for being

    • the idea obviously is to spark a virtual world extension of reality, a common ground for people to engage in social exchange in groups but what it requires to do this is wide adaptation, for a lot of people to think "second life" when it comes to doing these things online in social groups

      Actually, what it requires to do this is to have a decentralized system in which you run your own servers for your own properties, and no central server is required at all. Just like the WWW.

      We all pictured this when the nice people at Epic were announcing that the Unreal engine was getting portals to other servers, but then it was degraded back to portals between chunks of map and it wasn't exciting any more.

      VRML has links to other VRMLs but VRML is poop. I mean, what it does, it does okay, but it doesn't do nearly enough. What we need is something more like cube/sauerbrauten with inter-server portals. It would be okay if these were teleporters or something so that you couldn't look into the other server's map, which is a hard thing to do, unlike the teleporter thing which should be really, really easy! I mean, I'm not a good enough programmer to approach the project at all right now so I should probably just shut my piehole, but the games already tend to have teleporter entities so all that is needed is a little bit of code to check to see if servers are up when you get near or step on a portal, and then to tell your client to jump to another server/map if it is.

      And, if you used sauerbraten, then you would get in-game editing; it would be the closest thing to a graphical MUD that we've had yet, since it would allow building.

      The only other piece that we'd need to support this properly is user-uploadable player models/skins.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Skins are big business in SL. All of them were created by players and uploaded.
        I've even made my own in Adobe Photoshop, using the freely supplied templates, and using model pictures from the web.

        Because of this ability to photoreference you will not find better looking avatars in any video game at this point in time (oct. 2006). Only 3d modelling software betters them.
    • by misleb ( 129952 )

      but what it requires to do this is wide adaptation, for a lot of people to think "second life" when it comes to doing these things online in social groups

      I don't think usage needs to be too high. It really depends on the scope of the world (size and features) vs. the number of people online at any given time. I mean, you could have a successful world with 100 users as long as they are not spread out too thinnly. Nobody wants to walk through Second Life and see a ghost town.

      I was only on SL for a weekend.

    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:07PM (#16522493)
      >> it's too early

      It's not too early to understand Second Life's implementation and to call it a disaster, because that is not changing. And it won't change. We've explained the problem to them repeatedly, to no avail.

      I've been on Second Life a couple of years, and I still am, because the concept of Second Life is fantastic and I would love to see them succeed. But it won't, it can't possibly, because it's designed like a toy instead of for growth.

      The problem is simple: SL's servers are mapped physically and logically into a static grid, where each server implements a fixed number of zones (called "sims"), usually just 1. This server does all the processing for everything in that zone (excluding database), and that includes all objects, all land-related storage, all scripting, and all handling of people in that zone.

      Now early on in SL's life, some incompetent designer convinced the CEO that this is scalable, simply because you can extend the grid north-south and east-west as much as you like. Unfortunately, he or she failed to see that this is only scalable as long as all people and all objects stay in their home zones. Needless to say, that kills any prospects the world may have had stone dead. No crowds, no major sporting events, no well-populated pop concerts, no nothing beyond nightclub size, because 1 machine per zone (no matter how powerful) simply cannot scale that way.

      Replacing each sim server by a cluster can't help, because SL zones can't be processed in a distributed manner. Huge multi-core SMP machines operating on a single server image might work, but then their entire business model of "one cheap machine per zone" would break down. And they can't put just a few big-iron machines in and restrict the large events to those zones, because anyone can hold an event on their own land, and that would discriminate between zones.

      Another way of explaining the problem: processing people takes up most of a zone server's CPU in Second Life, but when people move from their home zone to another, the CPU power of their home zone does not follow them. So the server at an event is massively oversubscribed, while the one at home is now idle. It's inherently non-scalable for events and for objects that move between zones.

      I've told their CEO and lots of other people there about this many times (and given them dynamically scalable solutions too), but it's bad news so the message is accepted politely and then ignored.

      And yes, it *is* very bad news, because not only does it mean that Second Life has no future as it stands, it also means that there will be a revolution should they try to retrofix it. Because you see their business model is based on people paying for computing resources, and the economics of a dynamically allocated design are radically different. 400K+ landlords will suddenly find that their "investment" is now worthless, because land acreage is merely inactive storage in a dynamic architecture, and will cost almost nothing.

      Which is almost certainly why Linden Labs haven't bitten the bullet and replaced their static design. It will be too painful. And now it may be too late.

      Still, I wish them luck. The concept of Second Life has huge potential. It was just let down by a system architect who didn't understand scalability in a living virtual world, where people actually leave home and want to gather in events.
      • by vadim_t ( 324782 )
        While you bring up good points, 400K landlords?! You're kidding, right?

        Most people in SL buy land to have a place of their own, not to get into the land business. The vast majority of the population wouldn't mind at all if land suddenly got a lot cheaper.

        The ones that would care would be a select very few, like Anshe Chung, for instance.
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          You're right in that sense, a landlord is not just a property owner.

          But given that acreage prices plummetting will have exactly the same effect on the ordinary single-property holders (they'll have to sell at a fraction of their purchase price too), it impacts on all land owners, not just the land barons.

          While house owners are not businesses strictly speaking, they'll make a loss too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sstamps ( 39313 )
        Actually, each simulation/region is running on one CPU of a multi-cpu server box (of which most of their servers are now "Class IVs" which are quad-processor boxen). So you have four sims sharing everything else in a single server, but having a single CPU dedicated to each one.

        As for the rest of SL, the concept is wonderful; the problem is they are trying to turn it into something silly which is not only unsupported by their core design, it goes against the whole point of being in SL. It's a social game. Th
  • by kclittle ( 625128 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:49PM (#16520491)
    You mean, Paris Hilton is for real? Nah, I don't believe it. On any real human with a head that empty, the skull would simply implode from the 1 atm pressure.
    • by jpardey ( 569633 )
      Actually, in Paris Hilton's head, there is thermodynamic equilibrium between the system and its surroundings.
  • by curecollector ( 957211 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:50PM (#16520505)
    Is Second Life the Paris Hilton of Virtual Worlds?

    I dunno, how easy is Second Life?

    (The summary already states that it's ubiquitous, apparently useless and is subject to frequent downtime...)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argStyopa ( 232550 )
      It's so cheap as to be free (I got a perma-account back when they were giving them away, dunno if they still do that)
      It frequently doesn't work.
      It's pretty farking ugly.
      Constantly going down on just about everyone.
      Meaningless, worthless except to narcissists.
      Frequently seen in odd sexual practices.
      No visible means of support; somehow able to make money despite not actually DOING anything, and doing that poorly, if you can believe it.
      Doesn't like guys who play World War 2 Online.

      I'd say that's a pretty solid
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lordfly ( 590616 )
        1) Free is good; isn't slashdot all about the open source movement, blah blah blah?
        2) Working for me right now.
        3) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, the world is made by amateurs, not professionals. Sturgeon's Law.
        4) If people stopped grey-gooing the grid, this wouldn't be an issue.
        5) All games and chatrooms are meaningless.
        6) Because Lord knows, there aren't any deviant sexual people in real life...
        7) The act of creating isn't doing anything? Awesome, I'll be sure to send that memo over to Da Vinci
        • I know your response was as tongue-in-cheek as mine was meant to be, but the last couple of notes had enough 'hint of bitterness' that they're worth responding to:
          7) The act of creating isn't doing anything? Awesome, I'll be sure to send that memo over to Da Vinci.
          Relativism, ahoy!

          I'm not sure the it logically follows that "since DaVinci created masterpieces, that all acts of creation are therefore valuable"?

          8) Because the contingent there were racist homophobes who shot their neighbors?
          Funny, I thought it
  • by FlipperPA ( 456193 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:52PM (#16520527) Homepage
    As a fairly well-known Second Lifer, I think it's got plenty of good applications. The most obvious is clearly entertainment: the ability to attend live music acts several times a week now that I'm in my married 30s instead of my single 20s has a huge appeal to me. My real-life company also uses it to train our field technicians on the under-the-asphault workings of gas stations. For some reason, the community has a really cool feel to it, and I've made quite a few friends who have transitioned to become real-life friends, and mingle with my real life friend crowd. I don't understand the haters at Slashdot: I'm not a gamer, never have been, and Second Life is the only 3-D application I really use these days. Second Life is not a game, it's a far more complex application and network (everything is streamed), so comparisons to MMOGs that store 99% of the content on the hard drive and have professional content creators really isn't fair.

    I never got a good feeling of community at Active Worlds, which Second Life has in spades. There's a huge academic community within Second Life as well who seem fairly convinced that the educational possibilities of Second Life are immense. When I first joined Second Life after reading about content creators retaining IP rights to their creations on Slashdot in 2003, I thought I'd check it out for the free one-week trial. Here I am three years later, running real-life conventions for Second Life enthusiasts with keynote speakers like Mitch Kapor! Try it, it might surprise you.
    • Second Life is not a game
      Websense would beg to differ.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Selanit ( 192811 )

      I never got a good feeling of community at Active Worlds, which Second Life has in spades. There's a huge academic community within Second Life as well who seem fairly convinced that the educational possibilities of Second Life are immense.

      I joined Active Worlds [activeworlds.com] years ago -- 1998, God, has it really been that long? -- and I got a terrific feeling of community. There were teachers to help you learn to build, storytelling groups, role-players, assorted card/board game worlds. There were thousands of users o

    • by cHALiTO ( 101461 )
      the ability to attend live music acts


      "Live"??
      • Hey guys, thanks for responding. Websense doesn't know how to categorize a lot of things correctly, heh.

        As for live music acts, yes, a lot of local musicians and bands from around the world actually perform live on Second Life. Sometimes it's just a feed from practice, other times a solo artist, but always a lot of fun.

        I was in ActiveWorlds at the same time you were, and yes, it really did get screwed. Going through several iterations of ownership and basically never being updated really didn't help; SL is
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coaxial ( 28297 )
      As a fairly well-known Second Lifer, I think it's got plenty of good applications. The most obvious is clearly entertainment: the ability to attend live music acts several times a week now that I'm in my married 30s instead of my single 20s has a huge appeal to me

      I have to point out you're not actually attending anything. You're sitting at home on your computer watching hyper-polygoned facimilies of people move around arhythmicly while an mp3 is streamed to you. You're no more "attending a concert" than "
      • While it's not quite the same as being there, it's closer than just watching on TV. The music might be streamed via mp3, but there's a path of communication back that doesn't exist for television.

        SL occupies a space between TV and "actually being there". Of course it's not the same, but it lets this guy get closer to the real thing than he would otherwise. And he appreciates that. So what's the problem?
        • Hey, Jay-Z isn't going to yell out at the computer screen "Hey Jalestra!" when I walk in the room...but Mel Cheeky does! So yeah, it's live, she sees me enter the room, says hi, asks about my classes or my most recent build and we hear great music in real time in a much more intimate kind of way than watching MTV or going to the nearest concert hall.
  • by SketchOfNight ( 1010207 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:01PM (#16520647)
    You know, the thing about Second Life is that it has so much potential. It really does. Unless you've been in there, you're the creative sort and you've experienced the way it can allow you to build, share and interact with people online you'll have a hard time understanding what the big deal is. It's a wonderful toy and an interesting social construct. Do I believe that Second Life is really anything more than a toy? No, not really. It's fun to play around in for a while. For some people, it becomes quite literally a second life (I know it did for me) with social obligations, friends, events, and planned projects. Hell, I know how absorbing it can be and how detailed you can get, I (as Alan Beckett) won the 2005 Game Development contest with Jeffrey Gomez. That was where I really began to lose faith in Second Life for a variety of reasons. The technical limitations on Second Life are pretty nasty in some regards. Scripting can only go so far when your engine is struggling with the load of the basic client. Jeff had to work up a lot of work arounds in his script, created a lovely simple collision detection system, whipped up a random terrain generator, and allow for multiple users to participate on the same level at the same time. This is no small achievement within Second Life and what we built was most definately a game different and unique in and of itself. It was never perfect, though. We had to keep things as low "primcount" as possible (Prims are basic geometric shapes that make up all models. You build with them in Second Life.) to keep the game from choking outright, were constantly juggling what the sim itself could handle with what we wanted, and when all was said and done they released a patch that outright killed the game. Jeff just could not make it work again, the Lindens (those who act as administrative staff withing Second Life) talked of helping and never did and we had to badger them repeatedly before we ever even saw the promised reward money for the contest. Their staff are, in general, useless, unhelpful and irritating to deal with. Ask most long-time residents involved in the creative side of things and you'll generally find that the story is the same for any big project, assuming it ever even gets as far as completion. Second Life is a wonderful idea, but the client is aging, the staff are not helping, and the direction it's taking is an act of desperation to keep the whole raft afloat. I haven't logged on but once or twice in the past several months and haven't really felt the desire to, either. When someone creates a better alternative I'll move over there in a heartbeat, but for now, it's the best option we've got.
    • I entirely agree. There are a whole lot of technical issues that are really holding SL back, and the devs seem to have the common problem of being more interested in adding new features than fixing all the existing stuff that doesn't work well. It certainly has not scaled well as its grown in population, nor can the servers cope with the increasing skill levels of creators, and the complexity of the types of projects that experienced players are attempting.

      The scripting language, and the relative ease with
      • Well said! Beautiful idea going horribly horribly wrong currently. And I just don't see how they are going to attract and keep FL businesses with this model at all...and that's gonna send us all down the tubes.
  • Ho hum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:08PM (#16520727)
    These objections seem to rest on three claims:

    1) Second Life has over-stated its number of active users by counting every registered account as an active user.

    2) Second Life suffers from reliability problems.

    3) "... there is no actual utility in Second Life for anyone who isn't there for the sake of feeling as if they're on some sort of cutting edge (or who are among the 10 people or so who manage to make some decent money via the virtual world by selling custom dildos and virtual prostitution services." (Emphasis added.)

    As for the first claim, big deal. So there are roughly a million "registered users" and roughly 10,000 users online at any given time. That's a difference of a hundred-fold. But it's not worth getting worked up about; it's just a standard PR tactic. See also: hard drive manufacturers whose advertised hard drive capacities are slightly higher than the actual capacity of the drive, due to counting a "Gigabyte" as 1,000 MB instead of 1,024 MB.

    For the second, outages are pretty common in most services. This, too, is pretty much par for the course. Nothing to get worked up about.

    The third objection is the most interesting, since the blogger seems to think that "actual utility" means "everybody makes money." Which is just silly. Second Life was never intended to make money for anyone but 1) the company, and 2) a small number of exceptionally diligent users, maybe, if they're lucky. Most of the users -- particularly the active ones -- seem to be more interested in using Second Life for social activities (e.g. chat), and building their own dream-environments, lovingly decked out with elaborate houses, swimming pools, trees, etc. That's a "utility" that has nothing to do with making money for yourself.

    If the Rah Rah Second Life rhetoric irritates the blogger, there's a simple solution: stop reading it.
    • All i have to say, and feel free to disagree with me all you want because it doesn't make any difference to me, is that there is a pretty fucking big difference between ten-thousand and a million. We're talking the difference between planets and suns, electrons and protons. Maybe not that big, but the difference is on the order of a small city versus a state(or province). I'm not saying that this makes it inheriently bad or good as a service, but 3 orders of magnitude is a pretty gross overstatement. On EVE
  • Does Myspace? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:08PM (#16520739)
    Because seriously, aside from the graphical angle and the constant downtime issues, the two services are extremely similar. Neither are particularly well policed, both allow for truly godawful site/plot designs, and both are increasingly heavily occupied by corporate PR interfaces.

    The whole reason for the existence of both is social networking. Making money is clearly a big deal for some SL users, but without other users to actually buy their virtual goods or rent space to build upon, the creators/sellers wouldn't have a market.

    Personally, having been in SL off and on for over a year, I think it's a product with limited shelf-life. The developers have been promising big things, like better physics, rendering and interface tools for next to forever, but between community resistance to change and their own middling competencies (not to mention popular interactive items that depend on bugs and bad scripting to function), their efforts have dwindled to very basic bug-fixing and quality of life tweaks, while doggedly chasing after investment capital. Major changes risk forcing the users to re-learn or rebuild their projects, but at the same time other outfits are developing similar applications that leave SL in the virtual dust.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jandrese ( 485 )
      Yeah, how long have they been promising to update the engine now? It seems to have gotten to the point where the developers look at the engine and throw up their hands in despair. There have been some improvements, but they tend to be pretty incremental, although the change to the lighting system was a nice and sorely needed.
    • but at the same time other outfits are developing similar applications that leave SL in the virtual dust.

      Such as?
  • by rbanzai ( 596355 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:11PM (#16520767)
    No matter how many times I've checked out SL it leaves the same impression: crap

    Considering how powerful video cards and PCs have become it's unforgivable for a product like this to have such ugly graphics and such poor performance. The flexibility is really interesting but to what end? People blundering with choppy video about in an empty looking 3d world with as much visual depth as a Mario game?

    Second Life is a test bed, that's it. It is far too crappy to be significant.
    • by misleb ( 129952 )
      I think the probem is that it is an aging program and a lot of the world content is entrenched in outdated methods and technologies. From what I understand, the SL developers WANT to improve the graphics and physics and all that, but to do it right would require breaking a lot of things. And long time users don't want that. Perhaps Linden Labs should consider starting a whole new world (Second Life 2? Third Life?) with a new client and new servers that would run parallel to Second Life until it could gain e
    • Considering how powerful video cards and PCs have become it's unforgivable for a product like this to have such ugly graphics and such poor performance. The flexibility is really interesting but to what end? People blundering with choppy video about in an empty looking 3d world with as much visual depth as a Mario game?

      You summed up my feelings quite nicely.

      I haven't been frustrated by an online game since Anarchy Online. The performance is god-awful. Moving was a bear since it was done via keyboard and t
  • by Banner ( 17158 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:19PM (#16520855) Journal
    Second life (to me at least) just seems like another MUD/MUCK, only with a lot less creativity. Almost all the icons are made by a small group of people and you have to buy one (because most of us don't have that much artistic talent to make something that looks good), a lot of the actions you do are programs that you or someone else probably bought (because too many people don't want to learn another language, or programming).

    I've watched people play with Second Life, and I see them always clicking on lots of actions, and clicking on lots of poses, etc etc etc. It seems to me that a large percentage of interaction and behavior in Second Life is made up of canned actions and behaviors. Which is to say: not very creative. Yes you have a pretty interface and we all know how a lot of people can't resist pretty pictures on a screen, but content-wise I think it tends to be pretty vapid.

    Except of course for the people who make a lot of money off of it, (and I know more than one bringing home several hundred dollars of real cash per month from sales to the other users). To them I'm sure it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I guess from their point of view they're right. But I just don't find it to be very interesting or entertaining.
  • by andy_fish ( 557104 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:26PM (#16520949)
    Yeah I have to vote for "unsubstantiated public relations".

    Whenever I read any of the SL articles, I always have to wonder, have any of these people actually played the game?

    Here is my experience from having tried it a few times:

    1) I log in, there's a ton of people sitting around in crazy costumes chatting. Lots of typing sound effects. So far so good.

    2) I try to find something cool. It took me a while before I figured out how to use the map, or bring up the list of popular destinations, but I can get that far now. By the way, the GUI moves like molasses. It's painful to use.

    3) I warp in to a new area. At first I don't see anything but terrain. Gradually, distant shapes begin to stream in. I try to fly around as things are streaming in, but I keep hitting invisible walls. It takes about a minute of streaming before I can actually see the walls I'm running in to.

    4) After about 2 minutes of waiting, the area finishes streaming in. 99% of the time, it's a store. And 90% of the time, it's specifically a clothing store, either selling a) clever t-shirts, or b) sexy female models.

    5) Repeat at step 2

    SL is great in concept, but right now the execution of that concept just isn't there. And I can forgive some stuff. I can forgive the fact that most of the user-created content is crap. But I can't get past the horribly slow GUI, and the horribly slow streaming of new content. They are show-stoppers for me.
    • The single most frustrating thing in SL is that running into invisible walls. If there's collision detection, then the client must know there's something there. Why it can't show some default textured shape is just a huge mystery to me. It seems so simple and obvious, yet it's still an amazingly annoying problem.
  • No (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:31PM (#16521043) Homepage Journal
    I've never seen Second Life's bush.

    LK
  • in that TerraNova thread, but rather on the whole thought of the 3d Web. In fact, that's what most of the discussion was about, not SL in specific.

    -Raph
  • by DaveJay ( 133437 )
    Unlike every other online service I'm aware of, Second Life exists only to...exist. The players determine what they do with it, and so without a built-in "purpose" per se, Second Life will live or die by things like Public Relations efforts.

    I have to imagine that other online services must be a bit jealous, however; I mean, with WoW, you couldn't really make a press release out of activities in the game in the way you can with Second Life, because (using a recent example) companies aren't going to host a pr
  • So, the first time I ever logged into WoW, I ran around a lot, and tried to figure out what to do. After a while, I stumbled into various NPCs that gave me quests to fulfill, and in attempting to do so figured out how the weaponry and such worked.

    Now, the first time I ever logged into Second Life, I ran around a lot, and tried to figure out what to do. After a while, I stumbled across various people (not NPCs) learning how to script, or testing something, or playing with things other people had scripted. Th
  • Im currently working as Art Director/Builder on what from my knowledge is the most ambitious project on the Second Life platform to date. I have always been a huge skeptic when it comes to much of the hype about SL. It is just beginning to show signs of being what it promotes itself as.

    Decentralized education and social networking are its two main potentials right now so far as sustainable business models are concerned. The platform is still clunkier than serious investors in its uses would prefer, but it
  • I think the Paris Hilton analogy fits more with the current residents than with the game world itself... And yeah, the residents that I've seen have mainly been what PR has shown me. So that's probably not an accurate stereotype (ha!) for all SL players.

    Second Life is an environment whose main purpose is social. It gives people a place to express their artistic creativity, and take advantage of freedoms that they can't find in their real lives. They take the concept of player created content to a whole
  • That's hot.

    *ducks*
  • Well.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lordfly ( 590616 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @05:46PM (#16522195) Homepage Journal
    I suppose that's one way of looking at it.

    People use SL for primarily three things now.

    The first is socializing. People love logging into SL and chatting in a 3d environment. Why? It's expressive. Why do Slashdot users hang around in programming IRC rooms, or post on Slashdot? Community. Participation. Chatting. Whatever. SL users do that all the time. Except now they can have a visual interpretation to their words; humans are a visual creature, after all.

    The second is creativity. I've run into so many creative people using SL as a creative release (myself included). If you have a creative drive of any sort, SL is a huge sink of that. Houses, motorcycles, characters, machinima, whatever.

    The third, becoming more prevalent now, is moneymaking. People make money in SL in two ways: producing compelling content (avatars, clothing) and selling a boatload of it, or by doing promotional work for companies wanting to get their foot in the door (companies like Millions of Us and the Electric Sheep Company do this). The former is less lucrative than the latter, currently, but is also less likely to be affected by the obvious bubble this is causing.

    In short, SL is what you make of it. Sex house? Sure. Creative playground? Yep. Marketing gimmick? You bet.

    So's real life.
  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:17PM (#16523401) Homepage Journal
    The thing that puts me off second life is the registration process. I want to look around the place right? Thinking of buying some virtual real estate for wife, that sort of thing.

    So I went to register: first they want an email address; then they want the marketing data; then they want your credit card number. Not that they're ever going to charge it, you understand. They just want to hold it on their database where it gives them a warm and cozy feeling.

    It's classic sleazeball technique. Get as much resalable data from the mark as possible, starting with the least intrusive, and working up to something that could actually be used to defraud. I don't trust them, based purely on their methodology.

    Needless to say, I didn't sign up. The next great step forward in computer aided interactions can happen without me, thank you very much.

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