Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Sad Emptiness

Last night my wife and I sat for an interview with Ever Dreamscape, editor of the Bay City Post, and one of the topics prompted me to mention that the Premium Wilderness sims (Web) are at most any given time devoid of people. This holds true for wide swaths of Our World but it is especially sad that the Wilderness is empty since it is so beautifully executed.

The Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) provides many wonderful spaces (Web) for Residents to  use, free, and yet they are seldom used. I guess it is true that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Unless it is an Infohub, those places that new Residents are often dropped at when leaving what now passes for orientation after sign-up. Those locations are often filled with bots hawking groups and venues and with trolls who like to simply mess with new Residents. Essentially, the Infohubs have become 3-D "AOL chatrooms" instead of being truly useful. A shame as many are actually entertaining. There is only a modest effort by The Lab to direct those leaving Infohubs to better experiences or to help them answer the most frequent question: "How do I play this game?"

Maybe the release of temporarily attached HUDs/objects (Web) could help, should The Lab choose. A simple tutorial and and guide attaching to each new Resident could help answer that question. At least better than the pop-up Avatar Picker that is now the first thing to appear (you'd think that the How-to pane would be the first pop-up). And the coming addition of Pathfinding tools to create more lifelike animals and maybe Non-Player Characters (NPCs) across The Grid could make life more interesting. I say "could" because The Lab is simply releasing the tools. It is up to the Residents to use them.

What Second Life's 9th Birthday party (Web) taught us, is that Community is the heart of the Second Life experience. That's what makes Bay City (Web) successful. These loosely-themed regions have a loyal following of dedicated Residents and if the Role Play plans currently being discussed by the most active residents happens, then I suspect that the Bay City regions will become even more popular.

This is the sort of thing that The Lab needs to implement if they want Second Life is to grow and thus increase corporate revenue – a focused activity. A "game," if you will. The Premium Wilderness was a good effort at being that, but once folks wandered around a bit and caught some fish, pretty much they didn't think that there anything else to do despite the area being ripe with possibility.

Second Life Residents, in my experience after some six-years on the Main Grid, like to be led. They come from games with a defined set of objectives that lead to a goal, whether that be like Skyrim (a game that made many of my friends spend less time in SL when it debuted) with it's 3-D world of activities or even something like Farmville. Just look at breedable pets in Second Life. The associated community is so huge that The Lab has even featured it on the log-in pages and other "soft promotion" spots. It is a game.

There will always be a core community of Residents that don't need to be led. Indeed, many are leaders – unpaid by The Lab – to make areas like Bay City and many "private" communities thrive. What we need to reduce the problem of the sad emptiness that the Premium Wildnerness has become is such leadership from The Lab.

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