Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Virtual Economy, Part II

A few days back, I said that Second Life's virtual economy...the tradeable, exchangeable Linden Dollar...was Linden Lab's second most brilliant idea, after SL itself.  After a shopping expedition in OSGrid, I am even more convinced of this.

In SL, almost every region you visit has at least one store, or a club, or a Zyngo palace.  Something that offers goods or services in exchange for $L.  Enter "shopping" or "shoes" or "hair" or anything of the sort in OSGrid's Search, and you get maybe six to ten hits, if you are lucky.  Remember, this is on a grid that has almost 10,000 regions, a third the size of SL!

If I want to landscape a parcel in Second Life, there are a plethora of nurseries selling trees and plants.  In OSgrid, I "tree branches" texture pack.  One.  If I want landscaping, I have to fire up Photoshop and get busy making some tree and bush textures.  Sigh...the one time I tried this, I was a miserable failure at it and wound up buying some of Lilith Heart's beautiful creations instead.

You see this at every turn.  Want to hug a friend?  SL has maybe twenty or thirty different hugger gadgets.  OSGrid has...none that I saw for sale, although I was given one by another resident.  Sexy shoes?  I found ONE style of sculpty pumps, in three colors, and ONE set of ankle boots.  For anything you want to do or have, you are faced with the Time Traveler's Problem:  you have to make the tools to make the tools to make the thing.  The infrastructure just is not there.

The residents of OSGrid look on this as an advantage -- many of them are ex-Second Lifers who left because of the all-pervasive commercialism of SL.  I can understand that, but the lack of a monetary system is also strangling the potential growth of the place.

This phenomenon happened in Real Life too.  Read Neal Stephenson's massive tour de force, The System of the World for a description of how the concept of "banking" revolutionized commerce and industry and allowed the pace of progress to take off. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sleep Deprivation

One of the problems of living an active Second Life is that it really sucks up time, of which we all have a fixed and limited supply of 24 hours per day.  This is all well and good if you have the time to spare, but a lot of us have a Real Life that occasionally needs some attention, too.  Many of us had full, active lives before Second Life came along.  So the question becomes, where does the time for SL come from?

For a lot of us, some or all of it comes out of our sleeping time.

Since starting SL, my average night's sleep has gone down by about two hours.  Many nights, I'll squeak by on four hours of sleep.  Not to mention neglecting all the chores and projects around the house that are put-offable.  I've always been a procrastinator, but SL has raised me up to the World Champion class.

So far, it's seemed to be an acceptable tradeoff to me, but my recent foray into OpenSim grids has rather focused my attention on it, because living TWO second lives is even MORE time consuming.  Especially when one of them is a situation where you're starting from scratch, with no inventory, no handy tools...not even a cute pair of shoes or a hugger!

None of us can create more time, all we can do is use the time we have as best we can.  So today I am wondering, is life in a virtual world the best use of my time?  My grainy eyes are telling me, "maybe not".

Monday, November 28, 2011

OpenSim Adventures, Part VI

This series of news snippets is starting to get a bit long!  I hope you're enjoying this look at what's involved with emigrating to a new (and experimental) virtual world.  I promise to get back to reporting Second Life material Real Soon Now!

The problems I reported last time have been resolved!  It turns out that the Resident Geek was a little too clever for our own good.  He had installed drivers for a "Microsoft loopback adapter" on the advice of another OpenSim user who thought our problems were "loopback" issues.  It turned out that the loopback adapter was causing the strange problems, and they went away when the Geek uninstalled it.

Now I have four regions running on OSGrid, and I spent last night applying terrain files and tweaking them with the terraforming tools (See Digging in the Digital Dirt).  I had my first visitor, too, a girl who flew up to me while I was moving ground around.  We had a nice chat, and she gave me some of her clothing creations.

But what about the world itself, Lin?  Well, all the people I've met so far, both in world and on the OSGrid forums, are very nice and extremely helpful!  There aren't all that many of them, and it's apparently a pretty close community.  At any one time, concurrency on OSGrid is around 100-150 people!  There's shopping -- most of the stores are freebie stores, because OSGrid does not have an internal economy.  I'm told that some people do sell things there, using PayPal for payment, but I haven't found those places yet.  There is Search, but no Marketplace on the website.

The builds are mostly good quality, but I haven't run across any of the really polished, breathtaking places you sometimes see in SL.  I think a lot of this is a lack of really high quality textures, and possibly because the focus of a lot of people is just getting the world running smoothly rather than creating top-quality content.  And also, I have only been to a very few places yet!

The stability and smoothness isn't as good as SL, on one of SL's good days.  However, it's not all that much worse than SL on one of SL's bad days, of which there have been far too many lately.  Also, the performance varies a LOT from region to region.  "Official" places, running on high speed servers with big fat data connections run really, really well...better than SL.  Lots of other places are like my regions; they are hosted on users' own machines at home, and may have no more than a standard DSL connection to the internet.  Performance in these places is noticeably poorer, as you might expect.

The biggest difference is content.  SL has had hundreds of thousands of people creating all manner of things for over eight years.  A place that's only been around for a couple of years and has a couple of thousand folks just seems...well, it's the difference between Clyde's Corners and New York City, you know?

But if you fancy a break from the hustle and bustle of SL, and want to spend a few hours vacationing in a quiet rural area, make an OSGrid account, install the Imprudence viewer, and come visit St Alda, St Bridget, St Clare, and St Dymphna.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

OpenSim Adventures, Part V

It's a good news/bad news type of day.  The good news was, I got my region running on OSGrid.  In fact, I have FOUR regions running!  I managed to upgrade the backend database software from SQLlite to the more robust MySQL all by myself, too.

The bad news is, I'm still having problems, and so far even an OSGrid admin hasn't been able to suggest any really concrete ideas.  I can log in to any of my regions...but I can't move FROM the region I log in to, or even see the region next door.  If I log in to one of the "always maintained" infohub regions of OSGrid, like LBSA Plaza, I can teleport to one of my own regions...once.  Once there, I'm stranded.  Worse, the regions don't show me as the owner, and a lot of the About Land settings are grayed out, as if I were a visitor on my own land.

Ah, the joys of using Alpha software.  On the other hand, four regions in Second Life are WAY out of my price range, so I think I will be grateful that this stuff works at all, despite the frustrations.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OpenSim Adventures, Part IV

Blessings on the Resident Geek!  He found the router settings we needed and I have a region on OSGrid!

It's not up all the time, and I'm still working some issues with it.  But here I am, a curious stranger in a new virtual world...

Friday, November 25, 2011

OpenSim Adventures, Part III

World building is harder than it looks!  The Resident Geek and I have spent some hours now, bouncing between settings menus, user manuals, forum posts, and trying and re-trying to get a region connected to OSGrid.  It runs OK, and we can see it on the map, but it's not accessible.

It seems to be some sort of port forwarding the FIOS router, the LAN router, the software firewall, or the OpenSim .ini  settings.  Or possibly something called a "loopback" issue.  Whatever it is, we have not yet hit the magic combination of buttons to fix it.  When the Geek started opening Advanced settings windows with the warning, "changing stuff here could cause your computer to stop working and render Iowa uninhabitable," I called a halt.

I must make a bit of a correction to some earlier posts about OSGrid...I've been saying they have between 6,000 and 7,000 regions.  Yesterday, they had about 9,500!  Wow, such explosive growth, I thought.  But the OSGrid website explained that because the regions of the grid are user-hosted, they come and go with great abandon.  The "regions on the grid" number is a lot more like Second Life's "residents online now" changes a LOT.  In fact, it changes so fast that OSGrid says even the published number can be off by 50%.  Certainly my poor little region of St Alda was on again, off again all day yesterday!  Talk about a world in flux.

Whew.  What we need here is a geeky high school student.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

OpenSim Adventures, Part II

Today I actually visited OSGrid!  My first try was with my favorite viewer, Firestorm Mesh Beta.  I just changed the grid on the startup page from Second Life to OSGrid, and used my OSGrid password.

I got logged in OK, but appeared as an unrezzed cloud to myself.  There were other people around, who told me they could see me fine.  I tried several "cloud fixes" with no luck, so I logged off, and downloaded the viewer that OSGrid recommends...Imprudence.

This viewer worked great, and my login performance was snappier than I've ever had when logging into Second Life.  I arrived in the OSGrid equivalent of an Infohub.  There were several other avatars around, chatting.  I used some handy signs to grab a freebie avatar, and a list of other landmarks (including some free shopping areas).  A nice lady gave me some green eyes and a landmark to her sim.

All in all, it was a very pleasant experience.  Gosh, this is a little like when I was just starting Second Life...there is so much to do, I'm not sure what to do first!  Work on my avatar?  Go shopping? (My inventory consists of a whole 26 items!)  Or create my own region?

Decisions, decisions.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my friends and readers out there:

Thanksgiving is a national holiday here in the United States.  But even though it's a "local" celebration, it's a great opportunity to reflect on all the things we have to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for many health, my home, my family...but since this is a blog, and it's about virtual life, I'll say that I'm especially thankful for the freedom of expression and the worldwide reach of the Internet, for the chance to live and grow as an online citizen, and for all my friends in Second Life and throughout cyber-space.

Blessings on you all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dipping a Toe into the OpenSim Waters

Second Life is the Big Kid On The Block when it comes to virtual worlds.  More regions, more content, more users, more functionality, an economy...but it's not the only game in town, as I pointed out in an earlier post some months back.

A number of people I respect have actually left SL and "emigrated" to one or another of the OpenSim based grids.  The last time I tried another grid was a very brief look around InWorldz a couple years ago, so I decided that maybe it was time for another look.  I had run across a post on OpenSim grid statistics in Tateru Nino's great blog, Dwell On It -- Tateru reported that the largest of these was OSGrid, with over 6,000 regions.  So I decided to take a look at it.

OSGrid is a strange sort of animal to a visitor from Second Life.  Its organization is...well, almost nonexistent, compared to SL.  They do have a website (which loads a heck of a lot faster than LL's!).  It's easy to find the to join, a set of forums, a Wiki with information, a Map, basic statistics on how many people are members, or on line.  The Downloads page has just two items, really:  a copy of the OpenSim simulator software, customized for OSGrid use, and their recommended viewer (Imprudence). 

The simulator software was what I was really interested in.

Second Life, or any virtual world based on it, consists of two major pieces of software:  The viewer, which you run on your computer, and the simulator, or server software.  This latter piece is what creates the region(s) your avatar exists in, handles your inventory, and provides the means to communicate with others.  One can think, somewhat inaccurately, of the viewer software being associated with your avatar, and the server software as being associated with the virtual world itself.

The OpenSim software was developed beginning in 2007,  following LL's release of the client (the viewer) software as Open Source code*.  Since then, lots of independent developers have worked on OpenSim to (it is to be hoped) improve it.

Anyway, with OpenSim on your computer, you can create your own private island, right on your desktop.  No need to pay tier to LL, or worry about friends or groups interrupting you while you're creating marvels.  Very inexpensive, very private...but lonely.  No one else can join you in your private paradise.  Unless...

Unless you connect it to a grid.  This is where OSGrid comes in.  You can link your region, hosted on your own computer, to the larger OSGrid.  For free, yet!  (If you want more stability and better performance out of your region(s), you can also sign up with any of several hosting companies to put your region on their servers, with better uptime and faster internet connections.  This does cost money, but at least you are paying the hosting company directly, not a middleman like LL).

But, even hosted on your home PC, your OSGrid region can be visited by anyone signed up to the OSgrid.

This is not a project for the PC illiterate.  I'm getting some help from the Resident Geek ("Honey?  Can you come here a minute?  I can't figure this out...")  Just getting the OpenSim software properly downloaded and installed called for a deal of research and troubleshooting.  For example, who would have thought that you can't put the OpenSim files in the C:\Programs(x86) directory, where every other 32 bit application I own resides?  But it won't work if you do.  It needs its own directory.

When you DO get it working, it runs in a DOS window.  You know, those old fashioned windows with a black background and white text?  A LOT of text.  When you start the program, hundreds of lines of obscure computerese go scrolling up the screen.  Then it starts asking you some questions, like your avatar name, and the name you want to give your region.

The program is pre-configured to run in "grid" mode and connect to the OSGrid.  I wasn't ready for that yet; I want to try it in "stand alone" mode first.  So that is where I stopped for the evening.  And that is where I'll stop this post too -- but I'll let you know about further adventures as they happen.

*Edited in response to Dahlia's comment below

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Virtual Economy - Boon or Bane?

Second Life, as we all know, has a working virtual economy.  Thousands of stores sell virtual goods; land is bought, sold, and rented.  Millions of linden dollars change hands every month.  A small percentage of residents play the business game so well that they show a profit, and a few even manage to make a full time, Real World living by their activities in this on line "game".

I've always been in favor of this.  The Linden Dollar is a de facto micro-currency (if not de jure), because unlike most game token systems, $L can be both bought and sold, in exchange for "real" money.  In my opinion, the implementation of this virtual economy is Linden Lab's most brilliant invention, after the Second Life world itself.

The prospect of making a profit drives the creative engines of SL.  Artists and programmers spend hundreds or thousands of hours in creating exciting, beautiful things for us to enjoy.  Whether it's in the real world or the virtual one, it has always seemed to me that it is only right and fair that we should compensate people for their labors.  The SL economy, and its permissions system, provides a way to do this.

But there is a downside to this, too.  Because content has value, some people steal it.  Because it has value, some people cannot afford it, and envy those who can.  Creators compete for market fact, they sometimes squabble violently over it.  By placing a monetary value on virtual goods, we also create the incessant atmosphere of advertising that pervades SL.  One resident of OSGrid (a free, open source virtual world consisting of thousands of interconnected user-owned and supported servers) stated he'd left SL precisely because of the endless exhortations to spend $L on this, that, and everything else in sight.

What it comes down to is the old adage, "Money is the root of all evil".  By introducing a monetary incentive into SL, we also open the door to all the evils money carries with it -- greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, and anger.

User-owned, open grids like OSgrid avoid this.  Their content creators are much more likely to give away their creations.  They create for the pleasure of it, and for the pleasure that they get from others recognizing their talent.  I'm delighted for them, and I'm very glad that the creative urge is so strong in some people that they will create content with no expectation of monetary reward.  (I confess to this myself; I've given away a number of things I've made to friends.)

As I see it, the problem is that not all content creators are satisfied with that, and of the ones that are, most will probably not put as much effort into content creation as they would if they were paid for it.  The enormously popular writer, Robert A. Heinlein, stoutly maintained that the only reason he wrote was for money.

Alternative grids are growing in popularity.  OSGrid, in particular, has almost 7,000 regions.  That's far fewer than SL, and the number of users is miniscule compared to Second Life.  But the sense of shared community, of building a world together, exists in these places as it has not in SL for several years now.   That's a good incentive.  I like that feeling, and I miss it in SL.

But I don't think that it's enough.  Second Life's economy may seem crass, commercial, and money-grubbing -- but it's an immensely powerful force to drive the engines of creation.  As Liza Minelli sang, "Money Makes the World Go Around".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fangs a Lot

Vampires...they're everywhere!

Of course, the whole thing started back with Bram Stoker's novel, "Dracula".  Or with Bela Lugosi, maybe.  That suave, dangerous, dark thing is so shiveringly attractive, isn't it?  Or maybe you like those sexy Anita Blake novels.

Or of course, maybe your thing is the Twilight saga, with its teenaged angst and its sparkling vampires.  Hmpf, sparkling, indeed!  As far as I'm concerned, a vampire is, by definition, a sociopath and a serial killer.  He cares so little for others that he's willing to kill an endless succession of them in order to prolong his own existence.

Vampires have been around in SL since the (excuse me) Dark Ages.  About three years or so back, the Bloodlines roleplaying game (or pyramid scheme, depending on who you talk to) came along to provide rules and scorekeeping to what had previously been a fairly freewheeling and open roleplaying activity.

Bloodlines also created "spampires".  These people hang around newbie areas and send bite requests to everyone in sight.  If an unwary newbie accepts the request, they are "bitten" and their "soul is in limbo".  This upsets a lot of newbies.

Rest assured, if this happens to you, it will have ZERO effect on your Second Life or your Real Life.  As far as Linden Lab is concerned, you have no soul, only a credit card.  As far as RL is concerned, you may or may not have a soul (pick your religion of choice and decide for yourself) but it's certainly not affected by an animation request in Second Life.  The only effect being "bitten" has is if you decide to play Bloodlines yourself.  If you do, you begin at a disadvantage.

But if you're concerned about vampires and Bloodlines, you can get a free Garlic Necklace.  Wear it and touch the garlic bulb to activate it, and all Bloodlines players will be informed you're immune to biting.  You can take off the necklace once it's activated.  Problem solved.

If you do choose to join a Bloodlines clan, be warned:  These groups are full of petty politics, jealousies, and Drama of the worst sort.  Be prepared for a lot of Soap Opera along with your glass of Type O.

But the real reason for today's post is a minor gripe.  Linden Lab has provided some new starter avatars...a whole group of Vampire and Werewolf characters, pretty obviously intended to cash in on the popularity of the Twilight saga.  Come on, LL!  Fix the darn login and rezzing problems.  Fix the laaaaag.  Fix the region crossing crashes.  Vampire avatars?  Phooey!

They don't even sparkle. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Phishing Scam Alert!

I am not in the habit of doing this, but a thread in the SL Answers forum compels me to post this warning about another resident, Nix: Sam's child (lllfilipolll).

This person is directing people to a phishing web page that looks just like the SL website login page, stealing their account information, changing their password, and then extorting money from them to get their account back.

Phishing scams aren't too common in SL (yet, anyway) and most people don't think much of clicking web links that other residents give them.  This is a good reminder that not all residents are friendly, and any link you get from a stranger could be a harmful one.  Be sure to check the URL of links people give you and if they look odd or suspicious, don't follow them!

For more information about this incident, see this thread.

EDIT:  November 21 update!  The phishing website has been disabled, thanks to a timely notification to the phisher's ISP by another concerned Resident.  This is a nice example of Second Life people going the extra mile to help others.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flash! Found Another Helpful Blog

If my wonderful posts just aren't enough for you, here's another SL blog to check out, by Inara Pey.

Inara is a builder and a dominatrix, and has some interesting takes on Second Life and its many foibles.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Land Glut

Second Life is too big.

Newcomers are always complaining about how empty SL seems to be.  And it's true...most regions have zero, or only one or two avatars in them at any given time.  In one way, this is good.  A region can only support 50 avatars, and long before that number is reached, the lag becomes almost unbearable.  Keeping the crowds down makes SL perform a lot more smoothly.

How "packed" SL is depends on two factors:  concurrency, the number of people who are on line at a given moment; and total land area -- how many regions make up the Grid.  For a long time, the numbers worked out to about 3 to 1...on average, three avatars per sim.  That's not true any more.

Concurrency has been slowly dropping over the last year or two.  Where once it was routine to see concurrency figures near 70,000 on a weekend, now we are lucky to see numbers in the low 50,000s.  With over 30,000 regions on the grid, this means we are edging down closer to 1 to avatar per sim on average.

And there are fewer people paying for those regions.  I heard recently that one large Estate owner closed 120 of her regions.  The Mainland is particularly hard can find parcels for sale almost everywhere, and a huge number of parcels are simply Abandoned, and being carried by Linden Lab.  The asking price of flat green land is down around $L1 to $L2 per square meter.  Shug's blog stated that around 40% of the Mainland was now owned by Governor Linden.  I'm not sure the figure is that high...but it's far higher than it ought to be.

Estates can respond to shrinking demand by closing regions.  Linden Lab can't do that so easily with the Mainland, because the Abandoned areas are mixed in among the occupied parcels.  They're going to have to do something pretty soon, though...and given past performance, I suspect that whatever it is, it's going to make an awful lot of residents unhappy. 

My guess?  Expect some scheme similar to the forced relocation of Adult activities to the Zindra continent.  LL may create a new and much smaller Mainland, and relocate everyone to new "equivalent" (ha!) parcels there.

But what they SHOULD do is reduce tier, for both Mainland and private estates.  The success of the recent "no startup fee" two day sale of private regions shows that SL residents want land, if the price is more affordable.  They should also reduce the number of Linden Homes available.  There should be a waiting list for them, and the neighborhoods should be full to bursting, creating pressure to get out and buy some "real" land.  Linden Homes are supposed to be a stepping stone, a way to introduce people to virtual land ownership...not competition for resident landlords.

Or here's a wild idea...close the Mainland entirely.  That thought horrifies me personally; I live on the Mainland, and I love its freewheeling atmosphere and the open feeling of having so many adjacent regions.  But with the grid entirely in the hands of Free Enterprise, perhaps SL will be more easily able to respond to market forces.

Or another, not quite so wild idea...reinstate educational discounts.  LL lost a lot of paying customers when they dropped this program.  Most residents don't go to the walled-off, student-access-only regions sponsored by RL institutions, but those regions help pay LL's bills.  And having the academic community as active users of SL is great public relations; it helps to counteract our reputation as an unruly mob of sexual deviants.

In any event, unless large numbers of new users can be induced to come to Second Life and stay, we have to get smaller.  Linden Lab cut 30% of their own employees last year to economize.  It's only a matter of time before the same thing happens to the Grid.

Hey, Rod! It's Not A Game!

Lately I've been getting the impression that Linden Lab's CEO, Rodvik Humble, wants Second Life to be a game, or at least to appeal more to the MMORPG crowd.  I guess I can see that...after all, World of Warcraft has a much larger user base.  SL-as-game could mean more cash customers.

But why do I think LL's vision has changed (yet again)?  Several things...

1.  LL has announced that non player characters (NPCs) will soon be implemented.  Of course, we've always had bots...avatars that are controlled by a software program instead of a live human being.  But they have always been third party products.  We have never had "official" bots in Second Life, except for the Performance Tester avatars you sometimes see around, used by LL to test simulator performance.  On the one hand, I can see that NPCs might add a fun dimension to Second Life.  Often, interesting builds and roleplaying areas are completely empty.  Exploring them would be more fun if there was someone to interact with...and a programmed "person" can be on duty 24/7.  On the other hand, I've always been rather proud of the fact that SL's population is almost exclusively "real people".  The introduction of NPCs could, sadly, add real meaning to the question of the perplexed newbie who asks me, "are you real, or a program?'

2.  LL is pushing Second Life games.  The other day, I saw an official LL promotion on the Dashboard screen for Bloodlines, the vampire roleplaying game.  "Be a Vampire!  Bite People!" it exhorted newcomers.  There's a whole series of new Vampire forums on the website, too.  Apparently, Linden Lab has chosen to ignore the majority of its residents who don't play Bloodlines, don't want to play Bloodlines, and find those who do play Bloodlines to be annoying as hell.

3.  LL is experimenting with creating its own games.  There was a recent thread in the Mainland forum about a new "game" that LL appears to be prototyping in the Premium-only sandboxes.

This is one more example of Linden Lab trying to define Second Life in a nutshell, so people will understand it and (hopefully) try it out.  The problem is that Second Life is much more complex than that.  It can't be described in a sound bite or a catchphrase.  The closest that anyone's come is, I think, LL's old motto:  "Your World, Your Imagination".

That's what SL is.  It's a world.  It has enough flexibility that it can be many things to many different people.  It's a social, it's a creation, it's a communications, it's a roleplaying game...nuh uh, it's a business're all wrong, it's an online dating, you dummies, it's a sociological experiment.  Educational platform.  Escapism.  Personal fulfillment.

LL needs to stop trying to compartmentalize and limit their own multidimensional creation.  It's so much more.

And, oh yeah...there are games here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Does Babby Grow?

It seems odd to me, but one question that I'm often asked by newcomers is, "How do you have a baby on here?"  I suspect that the girls asking this are young, and deeply curious about this aspect of their womanhood.  I, and most of my SL friends, have had our children and don't have much interest in this activity in SL.  I don't know about you, but I think that anyone who wants to roleplay the agony of childbirth and the way your children totally take over your life once they arrive is either masochistic or has very starry-eyed notions about the whole "baby" thing.  I love my kids, and I wouldn't have missed the ride for anything...but I don't have the slightest inclination to do it again, either.

Be that as it may, you CAN roleplay motherhood in Second Life.  But, like shoes, this is one area where it's actually a lot easier in Real Life.  So pay attention, prospective pixelmoms, and let's get started.  I'm going to lay out all the steps required to fully roleplay this, but you can skip any of them that seem like too much trouble.

The Preliminaries.  Oh, come now.  I've already covered the basics of SL sex in an earlier post.  Anyway, it's a good idea to have a partner in this project.  Every baby needs a father.  Or a second mother...I have nothing against parthenogenesis.  If you're going to do this whole hog, you should actually choose someone you can live with as a partner for a long time, not just any avatar off the street.  Officially Partner with them, and have a wedding.  The whole "making it legal" thing, right?  (I'm writing this in a sardonic frame of mind, but to be truthful, most women who get to this point really are in love with their partner.  The wedding is the couple's way of showing their love and commitment.   At this point, for most people, the line between "game" and "reality" becomes very blurry indeed.  You Have Been Warned!)

Getting Pregnant. There's a HUD system that lets you simulate your ovulation cycle, and having sex with your partner on the optimum days greatly increases your chances of "becoming pregnant."

Being Pregnant.  Once you've caught, you need to buy another package.  A number of merchants sell "pregnancy kits."  Or you can assemble the parts yourself from different sources.  Your basic Second Life Build A Baby Kit consists of the following:

  • A series of increasingly pregnant shapes.  You change from one to the next at any speed you want, depending on how long you want your SL pregnancy to last.  I should think a month would be about right.
  • A "tummy talker".  This is a device you wear that says excessively mawkish things in local chat, like "Lindal's baby turns over restlessly in her womb."  Please be aware that not everyone around you wants to participate in your roleplay.  Tummy talkers in crowded areas are highly annoying to almost everyone but you.  
  • A prim doll that you can carry around after you "give birth."
Of course, you can add all the additional props you want.  Maternity fashions, a special AO with pregnancy poses, a stroller, a crib, a house in the suburbs...

Giving Birth.  The actual act of giving birth is done, like SL sex, via roleplay.  There are several hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers in SL that cater to this type of roleplay.  I've listed a few at the bottom of this entry, and you can find others in Search.

Baby Grows Up.  Once you get tired of carrying your infant around, you may decide it's time for him or her to become a toddler.  At this point, you and your partner go to an SL adoption center or use some other method to find a child avatar...another resident, whose preference is to play a little kid.  Now the three of you become a "family."

This can actually be a very satisfying way to live your Second Life...provided you pick the right people for your partner and your "kids".  I know of a couple of families that have been together for years.  However, the more usual outcome is the "father" runs off with the stripper next door, leaving you broke, out of work, and pregnant.  You Have Been Warned!

Tantra Total Woman HUD - Conception simulator
Pooterbilt Marketplace store - pregnancy kit and other accessories
Having a Baby in Second Life - free guidebook with more information
Visiting Angels Maternity Clinic - Pregnancy roleplay
Rock a Bye Babies Maternity Clinic and Birthing Center - Pregnancy Roleplay

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Online vs. In-World Shopping

These days, more and more of us are doing our shopping on line.  The Resident Geek buys computer components that way.  I just bought new towels for our bathrooms on line.  We both shop for books at Amazon.  It's convenient, saves gas, saves time, and saves money.

As more and more people adopt this way of shopping, traditional "brick and mortar" stores are feeling the pinch.  Some retaliate by opening their own shopping websites.  Some, like Borders, fold up their tents and vanish.  Either way, the shopping landscape is in the midst of some very profound changes, as "real" stores find it harder and harder to stay in business in the face of the new on line competition.

What does this have to do with Second Life?  Well, guess what?  The same thing is happening in our virtual world.  Shopping in world has many of the same characteristics as Real Life have to find the store, travel to the store (well, teleporting is faster than taking the family SUV, but still.)  You have to browse around the store, and finally buy the item.  Or you have to visit three or four stores until you find the thing you want.  It's fun, and a lot easier than shopping in Real Life...but searching a website catalog is still easier and quicker.

More and more merchants are finding that the place shoppers are going isn't their in world's their web site store on the Second Life Marketplace.  And they're responding by closing their stores.  Last night, a friend announced that he was doing just that, and I've been to three other "going out of business" sales in the last three weeks.

Now, Linden Lab makes a lot of money from in world stores, in the form of monthly tier payments.  They make some money from Marketplace listings too, but not nearly so much.  And so LL has, by promoting the Marketplace so heavily, once again shot themselves in the financial foot.

I've been an occasional user of the Marketplace almost since I first came to Second Life, back when it was an independent third party web site (SLExchange).  I'll be the first to admit it's often an easier way to find something than flitting from one in world store to another.

But SL is "a nation of shopkeepers".  In world merchants are THE major users of land, THE major source of LL's tier revenue.  If merchants leave SL, it will diminish the virtual world experience enormously.

It would make things less convenient, but if I were whispering in LL's ear, I'd tell them to keep the Marketplace as a way to display goods, but remove the purchase function and require all shoppers to visit the merchant's in world store to buy the item.  They won't do that, of course...but at least you and I can do our part by doing our shopping in world.  Support your in world merchants!  They are the foundation of our virtual world.