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Second Life Hype vs. Anti-Hype 67

Posted by Zonk
from the in-a-duel-to-the-death dept.
The new GigaGamez site, part of the OM network, has a look today at the hype fight over Second Life. It's the new darling of media companies, but is increasingly attracting negative feedback by people who know a thing or two about the industry. James Wagner Au tries to sort out who is saying what, and provide a little context for the discussion. From the article: "Can they really build a fully streamed world comprised of tens of thousands of servers? That's way above my paygrade, but I'll guess that task fits under the rubric of Fricking Hard. Can they fix a profoundly unfriendly user interface and thoroughly disorienting first hour user experience, which are aggressively, almost intentionally unwelcoming to the vast majority of interested users? Both shortcomings are at the heart of Second Life's poor retention rates, but neither have significantly changed in the three years since its commercial release. You have to wonder, whatever their stated intentions, if Linden's tech-centric corporate culture simply puts their improvement at a low priority."
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Second Life Hype vs. Anti-Hype

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  • Clicking on the Article I get "Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn't here." Guess that means that one of the sides gave up eh?

    (Watch, someone will tell me to RTA)
  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Monday December 18, 2006 @02:19PM (#17289244) Journal
    Don't we wail about Newbies everywhere else? There could be a side benefit that only certain people "get it" and stay. Anyone who doesn't ... "doesn't deserve to be there".

    External world communities are rampant with unspoken restrictions. Some call you a Greenhorn for five years after you move there.
    • by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Monday December 18, 2006 @02:39PM (#17289562)
      Don't we wail about Newbies everywhere else? There could be a side benefit that only certain people "get it" and stay. Anyone who doesn't ... "doesn't deserve to be there".

      And the benefit is that you have a Massively Multiplayer Game that lacks the Massively Multiplayer part ...

      I could be wrong, but from my understanding Second Life was a game that was largely based around user generated content; the game gets better as you attract more people to develop interesting content within your game. If you actively discourage people from playing a game like this you will probably scare away a lot of people who could bring a lot of value to it; consider that a lot of "artistic" people have a great deal of difficulty just "getting" a user interface that makes sense to technical people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lordfly (590616)
        That's the way it should work, yes. But any sort of "professional" or "artistic" content gets pushed aside by the free market. People in SL who are the consumers just want to, generally, get their fetishes on, hire hookers, dance at clubs, and gamble at casinos. That's it.

        Art museums, discussions, roleplaying, etc. all still happen, but they are, as a rule, harder to find.
      • by misleb (129952) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:46PM (#17290520)
        I could be wrong, but from my understanding Second Life was a game that was largely based around user generated content; the game gets better as you attract more people to develop interesting content within your game. If you actively discourage people from playing a game like this you will probably scare away a lot of people who could bring a lot of value to it; consider that a lot of "artistic" people have a great deal of difficulty just "getting" a user interface that makes sense to technical people.


        I haven't played SL much. Just a few days as a n00b. But from what I gather, building objects (the confusing part) is a technical AND artistic. Designing objects is one thing, but then you have to script them to make them do interesting things. Scripting is technical. There is really no way to get around that. One might liken it to designing a website with Javascript and server side scripting. Doing it well is not easy. And it isn't for everyone.

        -matthew

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Don't we wail about Newbies everywhere else? There could be a side benefit that only certain people "get it" and stay.

      A benefit to you, perhaps, but a benefit to Linden Labs, who would like to make some $$$ off these people? A benefit to companies who might want to set up a "virtual presence" in Second Life somewhere? Maybe, but probably not.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by @madeus (24818)
      Don't we wail about Newbies everywhere else? There could be a side benefit that only certain people "get it" and stay. Anyone who doesn't ... "doesn't deserve to be there".

      In this case, I think the problem is the interface is terrible and clearly designed by someone who doesn't 'get it' - personally I find it easier to create my own objects in OpenGL in my own code than using their interface to do the same thing, it really is that clunky. Even moving around is painful thanks to floaty controls and because t
  • by ivan256 (17499) on Monday December 18, 2006 @02:22PM (#17289284)
    Can they really build a fully streamed world comprised of tens of thousands of servers? That's way above my paygrade, but I'll guess that task fits under the rubric of Fricking Hard.

    I don't want this to sound like a blanket indictment, because some studios get this right, but a lot of the unreliability, and failure to execute on difficult tasks in the gaming industry is due to the moronic staffing decisions of many game development companies. I haven't played Second Life, so for all I know (and from the sounds of it) maybe they got it right. A fully streamed world comprised of thens of thousands of servers? Sounds like some work, but it sounds completely feasible. When you're only willing to hire people who want to work in games so badly that they're drooling all over themselves at the opportunity and thus are willing to work at well below industry average pay level, what do you think you are going to get?

    There are people out there who have built massive clusters and have decades of experience solving these problems... But they usually don't work in games, because they can make five times as much in other industries. When a company comes along and runs a game studio like a real software company, people who are stuck in the more traditional 'you should thank your lucky stars you are working in games' mindset shouldn't be too surprised when that company actually succeeds at problems that were considered too hard in the past.
    • There's a video [google.com] up on Google Video of the Second Life guys giving a talk about how their system works. Yeah, it is a fully streamed world. They actually stream vertices.
    • by AugstWest (79042)
      To me, and possibly to the writers, it isn't "hard" as in "difficult," it's "hard" as in "figuring out how to have fun."

      I've made 3 attempts now over the years to get into it, and it just doesn't grab me at all. The UI doesn't lend itself to exploring fun things, it's more like "how the hell do I... Nope, that doesn't work."

      The tutorial in Eve Online has been revamped 4 or 5 times now, and it is a great game for tthe new player now, despite the depth the game has. As of a couple of weeks ago, new players st
  • I tried second life (Score:4, Informative)

    by sam_paris (919837) on Monday December 18, 2006 @02:32PM (#17289470)
    Sorry to any big fans here but my experience sucked. The user interface is incredibly unfriendly and unresponsive, the graphics are appalling, the animation shocking and the sound lamentable.

    After playing WoW for a few months and seeing how fluid, beautiful and easy to use a virtual world can be, Second Life was a shocking kick in the nether regions. It reminded me of very early 3D games with no collision detection and collosal clipping issues.

    Yes I know it's streamed and if that's the primary cause of it's issues then it shouldn't be.

    Additionally, for my first hour I wandered around trying to find something to do but was profoundly ignored by my fellow "2nd lifers", presumably because I looked like a newb.

    If the developers could at least sort out the shocking camera and other control issues I may consider retrying it. I spend about 10 minutes of my first hour working out how to unzoom the camera which was permanently stuck 50 yards behind my guy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by foolish (46697)
      As someone who has tried three or four times now to "get it" I have to concur with your assessment. Either you have to know and incredibly active social network of people already in, so that you can be guided and have shit explained to you, or you're stuck with the non-intuitive nature of the UI, world and environments.

      Not to mention the furries, the sex clubs and the walking dildos. Or the assholes who setup content bombs that pop you.

      Second Life is user created, but it has all the unattractive qualities
      • Agreed. Entirely. Linden Labs might be wise to take note that actually creating a quality product still does matter, no matter how much of your content can ultimately be blamed on "well, it's a USER-GENERATED world, so..."
    • by Kris_J (10111) *
      After playing WoW for a few months and seeing how fluid, beautiful and easy to use a virtual world can be, Second Life was a shocking kick in the nether regions. It reminded me of very early 3D games with no collision detection and collosal clipping issues.
      Uh, WoW has "no collision detection and collosal clipping issues" too. What WoW doesn't have is the ability for people to create their own stuff -- in fact, even for a MMORPG it's on rails.
      • by sam_paris (919837)
        What are you talking about? I was saying that second life had clipping and collision detection issues, not that WoW has them.
        • by Kris_J (10111) *
          I'm talking about the fact that while I'll readily admit that Second Life looks like a cruise ship threw up on it, WoW does in fact have far worse clipping and collision issues than SL. Ironically, in WoW, a game where one might like to use tactics, players and mobs can pass straight through each other, preventing any sort of defensive line from being created. It's SL, which is basically just one big 3D chat room with a bit of macro stuff, where you can't just pass through other players.
          • Mobs and players passing through each other is intentional. Creating defensive lines just isn't part of the gameplay. I'm assuming that the clipping and and collission issues in SL really are issues, and not intentional design choices.
            • by Kris_J (10111) *
              Uh-huh. Look up the video of a female Tauren trying to jump through the window that gives access to Molten Core.
            • by sam_paris (919837)
              Exactly. WoW is designed so that players and mobs cant pass through each other and it works fine like that. However, with the scenery I have noticed no clipping problems. Considering the huge size of the WoW world and its complexity, there are remarkably few technical issues. However, in SL just walking down the street is difficult, the control is like iceskating whilst having two bricks strapped to your feet and the flying mechanics are terrible too.
    • by alexgieg (948359)
      WoW isn't perfect, but the one thing it has that 2nd Life should copy NOW, is the way you control your character.

      No, seriously: walking in 2L is slow. Running is bizarre. WoW's way of handling this is so much better! Left-click: select. Right-click: use/sit/go there. Both-buttons: walk/run (it doesn't matter if you're in 1st or 3rd-person). Space: jump. Scroll button: camera distance (including entering and exiting 1st person mode). Mouse-movement: select direction (up, down, left, right) of movement/camera
      • by Kris_J (10111) *
        The best way to move around in SL is:
        • When walking/running, use the WASD keys (with chat closed), hold the left mouse button down on your character and steer with the mouse. In this mode, the A and D buttons change from turn to strafe.
        • When flying, it's basically the same as above, except you should zoom all the way into mouse look rather than using the left mouse button.
        • by alexgieg (948359)
          Yep, I know. And it's precisely this way of moving that I find cumbersome and unintuitive. WASD is very imprecise: either too slow or too fast. Having to click on my avatar is something that makes no sense, and thus I always forget to do it.

          Alas, this clicking is not only idiotic, but also prone to error. If I don't click in the precise spot of my avatar that 2nd Life understands to mean the avatar as a whole, it'll think I'm clicking some piece of cloth or some appendage, with unpredictable results. I've l
          • by Kris_J (10111) *
            Left-click, not right-click.

            If fine control was necessary in SL, I'd agree with you, but it's just a glorified chat room. As long as you can get close enough to a chair to right-click and select Sit, does it really matter? That said, navigating with WASD and the mouse in the manner I've described is pretty much the same degree of control has you have in, say, World of Warcraft. It may not be up to FPS standards, but for pottering around it's plenty good enough.

    • by vaporland (713337)
      the fun part for me about second life is going where few people are and enjoying the scenery. it is amazing what people come up with - some of it is tacky and some is ugly, but some of it is downright amazing.

      i've chatted with a few people, but mostly i wander around and don't make trouble - i find it somewhat hypnotic.

      it is worth spending time to figure out . . .
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kionel (600472)
      I've tried Second Life twice. It was dreadful both times.

      1. The User Interface: Yes, it's really as bad as you've heard. Here I am, an ex-IT, lifelong computer-using guy, and I couldn't figure out how to do squat.

      Fix it, Linden.

      2. The Graphics: The very best that 1999 has to offer.

      Of course, this is probably due to number four below.

      3. The "Content": User-created content? Intruiging. Pity it turns out to be mostly empty buildings, shops pushing expensive and difficult-to-use items (se
  • by Lordfly (590616) on Monday December 18, 2006 @02:36PM (#17289532) Homepage Journal
    ...(3.5 years and counting), I've seen it explode from scarcely 50 people online at a time to now more than 20,000.

    Since it began it's always had a hard time keeping new users. I think the way it's setup (completely user-created content, so there's less of a "wow" factor to people who just want to consume) means that you either "get it" and stay there, or you don't and leave immediately. The 10% churn rate cited in the article soudns about right; I've introduced something like two dozen people to SL, only one (my gf) stayed on, and that's probably only because I'm such a big fan of it.

    SL needs a more compelling new user experience (professionally done content, some sort of direction, quests, whatever) if they want to keep people there for more than five minutes. PRoblem is, no matter how much professional content you throw at the newbie, once the newbie experience is done, you're still thrown in the middle of the content quagmire of SL; cube houses, poorly textured sex clubs, and rigged casinos.

    For someone who just wants to experience things, unless you're incredibly social, you won't last in SL. For the creative types there's more of a stick.

    Generally speaking, though, if you have to ask "what's the point of this place", you dont' get it. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      For someone who just wants to experience things, unless you're incredibly social, you won't last in SL. For the creative types there's more of a stick.
      The real question isn't whether or not a Second Life user "gets it", it's a question of whether those who "get it" are numerous and interesting enough for real-world companies to consider a Second Life presence... or for Linden Labs will be able to remain financially solvent. I have more doubts about these issues.
      • by Lordfly (590616)

        The real question isn't whether or not a Second Life user "gets it", it's a question of whether those who "get it" are numerous and interesting enough for real-world companies to consider a Second Life presence... or for Linden Labs will be able to remain financially solvent. I have more doubts about these issues.

        Yeah... the thing is, further, that the folks who "get it" and make the content tend to not want to be bothered by real corporations coming in -- indeed, they become direct competition.

        Li

    • ...(3.5 years and counting),

      After all that time, you still have your eyesight?

      I tried it for about an hour and I had a headache... and it nearly made my eyes bleed.

      I have never, not since the very early days of 3d games, seen such poor graphics or poor performance.

      Or is there some trick to getting decent quality out of it? If so, please tell because I'd gladly give secondlife a secondchance!

      I mean, looking at the "screen shots" from secondlife that I see in magazines and on websites I wonder how on earth th
      • by Lordfly (590616)
        You're looking at the general landscape of SL and going "zomg it's not as pretty as WoW."

        This is because SL is created by amateur hobbyists, and WoW is produced by a 100+ member team of paid professionals.

        It's like comparing the works of Da Vinci to your seven year old's crayon scribblings.

        If you go to places where care, thought, and professionalism were done in SL, you can find graphics that can easily rival most MMORPGs on the market. Nakema, Millions of Us Island, Reuters Island, Numbakalla, etc. are all
        • Ok well you know what?

          If its *capable* of decent graphics, why don't they make the start area -- everyones first impression of the game -- a showcase of what its capable of?

          Given the poor performance of even that, very simple area, I dread to think what a high-end area would do to the game engine; it has a hard enough time rendering simple textures and simple models.
      • by mwvdlee (775178)
        The screenshots are real. A good graphics card and all preferences at maximum, will produce that quality.

        The 3D performance of SL is largely due to the fact that it has user created content. This is not so much because users create lousy content, but rather due to the constant streaming you have to do. Second Life can't just cache everything forever. Objects in WoW won't change shape every few seconds, in Second Life they can and they need to be synchronized to all clients, so the servers will have to proce
        • Partly this probably has to do with the idea that every client should get kind of the same user experience, so you can't aim for high-end, partly it's because they don't seem to handle graphics hardware all that well.

          I guess that consistency really confuses people.

          I tried it on a Mac G4 and on a high-end PC and the performance and appearance was *exactly* the same which was a little disconcerting for some reason.

        • by jandrese (485)
          The biggest problem I saw was that while the vertexes are streamed from each one of the several thousand "region" servers, the textures are all stuck coming from one severely overloaded texture server. Apparently distributing this load is very technically challenging (although I'm not sure why) so they're stuck with that pile of molten metal that is the texture server.
          • by mwvdlee (775178)
            That does sound wierd.

            Are you sure they're not load-balancing behind the scenes?

            Seems to me it would be trivial to balance based on the GUID of textures. E.g. every odd one from server 1, ever even one on server 2. Or any simplistic balancing method, for that matter.
  • I tried Second Life. I guess I didn't make my character "beautiful" enough, because I got constant "yells" of "How dare you sign on looking like that" etc. Must've been the pot belly. As far as I could tell it was just a bunch of sex rooms with pixelated choppy (but meticulously dressed) characters awkwardly flirting and touching each other. It was rather entertaining when I told my character to "disco dance" over to them naked, and they ran away. The interface is horrible too, as many people have noted. Re
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Must've been the pot belly... It was rather entertaining when I told my character to "disco dance" over to them naked, and they ran away... Real Life is much better, to be honest.

      Please compile a list of any real life clubs you visit (if any) so that us fellow persons may avoid such eye bleeding activities you partake in.

    • You've not gone in as a furry *!* in most rooms. (Even the default ringtail will get you virtua-laid, and the detail that goes into that.. well, I'll let you discover the surprise for yourself!) *!* I am a furry. Just as an FYI.
  • What's the feeling out there about There [there.com]? I've been in on it since it was in beta in 2003 and I've had a lot of fun with it. Some things work better than others as far as what the designers intended.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lordfly (590616)
      There hasn't updated it's technology significantly since early 2004 (with the exception of MTV's Laguna Beach). They've lost most of their developers since almost going under, and haven't really grown much.

      Their main impetus to growth is the insistence of screening all custom content before approving it, and then taking a commission for each sale. It tends to limit growth as most people are interested in sex stuff (look at SL).
      • by aicrules (819392)
        I think There.com was either a sibling or even a predecessor to Second Life. I tried There.com a long while back and I seem to recall it shifting to Second Life somehow...
      • I'd been playing VLB for a while and decided to give There a go.

        I don't think I'll be going back to There in a hurry;

        Performance of There wasn't as good as VLB. VLB has its freezes and lag and repeat animation sequences but in over a month I'd not seen anything as bad as I experienced in There in my first hour. Not even when VLB servers were being rebooted...

        There is far more commercialised than VLB; I'd taken the compass and summoning for granted only to find that in There I had to pay for these... you onl
  • From TFA:

    What's more, we've reached the point where the world's content creators now bypass Linden Lab entirely, to hold their own press conferences. Clay mentions recent news of Anshe Chung, the Second Life avatar putatively worth a million dollars, and he's smart to be skeptical about that figure, as was I. (When asked about it, Philip Rosedale pointed out to me that Anshe's assets are not as "illiquid" as Clay seems to think, since she can put up her virtual land holdings on the auction market immediatel

    • by ClamIAm (926466)
      I think you miss the point entirely: there is no "market" in Second Life. The TOS states that Linden Labs can terminate your account whenever they please, taking your "assets" with it. So even if the game economy was in such a state where your million dollars of "land" could be moved quickly, you're still screwed. Of course, EULAs are kind of a Wild West area of law (read: unsettled), but the language is pretty clear: if you agree to the contract, they own you.

      Of course, such draconian private contracts
  • I tried it, it was boring so I ran around and and bothered people because there was NOTHING to do. I actually made the police blotter on the second life page. THAT was an accomplishment.
  • by Ingolfke (515826) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:48PM (#17290552) Journal
    was that it is a magnet for every sick and twisted loser the trolls around on the Internet. This article [somethingawful.com], and the articles it links to, should be enough for anyone to understand exactly what kind of person likes second life.
    • was that it is a magnet for every sick and twisted loser the trolls around on the Internet. This article, and the articles it links to, should be enough for anyone to understand exactly what kind of person likes second life

      Wow, because I thought that the main 'magnet for every sick and twisted loser the trolls around on the Internet' was actually somethingawful.com, the site you link to. Hows that for ironic?

    • Some of us get on SecondLife to learn the technology, and the felxibility it offers us. (Live, on-demand music from a user's webcam and line-input on their soundcard? Live concert, WHAT?!?!? Yes, I've done it.)

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