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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Linden Realms

Sigh.  Another day, another controversy.

I’m very much undecided about the new Linden Realms game within Second Life.  Public opinion is divided, too.

First of all, what is it?  Linden Realms is a treasure hunt type game that you can access from within the Second Life virtual world.  You can’t get there by an ordinary teleport – you go to one of several “Linden Realms portals,” walk through an archway that is reminiscent of a “Stargate” type teleport, and find yourself in Linden Realms.  Or maybe not…I tried the portal that’s located at Welcome Island Public and nothing happened when I walked through it.  Possibly it wasn’t live, or perhaps the game area was full and the entry was temporarily disabled.  I don’t know, because it didn’t give me any sort of error message at all.
A Non-Working Portal at Welcome Island

In Linden Realms.  Note Score HUD at the top
Anyway, when and if you get there, a HUD automatically attaches to your screen.  This HUD is used to keep score.  The object of the game is to collect crystals, while avoiding being killed by Rock Monsters and other hazards.  A lot of people think this is fun, at least as a short term amusement.  Others think that it’s a game aimed at about a 12-year old level…and point out that there are no 12 year olds in Second Life. 

Well, yes…the game is cute.  And yes, compared to other games out there, it’s very simplistic.  We are not talking World of Warcraft here, or even Myst.  There are several possible reasons for this, and depending on your level of cynicism, you can take your pick:
  • The CEO of Linden Lab also made The Sims – another rather simplistic game.  Linden Realms is a reflection of the top management’s vision, or lack of it.
  • The game was conceived as a development platform for new scripting tools that LL says will soon be made available to Residents to design their own games.
  •  LL only intends the game to be used as an introduction to Second Life, a sort of orientation/training exercise.
  •  Another epic fail by LL at attempting to develop content.

Some people complain that LL is, once again, competing with its own residents.  Why not just develop the darn tools and let the residents get on with making GOOD games with them?  Instead, LL is pushing Linden Realms hard in the blogs, the Destination Guide, and even putting portals at the Welcome Islands.

The thing is, Linden Realms IS a pretty good introduction to Second Life.  This is an answer to all the people who ask me, “How do you play this game?”  Let’s set aside, for a moment, all the scope and possibility of an open-ended virtual world, and just GIVE them a game to play.  In doing so, they can learn the basics of movement, clicking objects, getting things, and communicating.  Of course, you wouldn’t want people to think that Linden Realms is ALL there is to Second Life, but it can serve as an introductory exercise, instead of simply tossing the newcomer into the wide world and saying, “go forth and use your imagination”.

There is even an incentive.  You can exchange the crystals you collect for $L.  A perennial question from newcomers is “How do I get money on here?”  With the demise of most camping, money trees, and gambling, there really haven’t been all that many ways for new residents to get money other than taking the plunge and buying some $L with their credit card.  Linden Realms gives newcomers the chance to accumulate enough $L to begin to enjoy the delights of shopping and purchasing virtual goods.

What nobody really knows, and what’s causing a lot of us to feel uneasy, is what the Lab is REALLY thinking.  If LR is intended as a newcomer experience, a training exercise…well then, that’s great.  On the other hand, if LL is thinking that Second Life should be more “like a game”, or that it is important for LL to provide content for SL, then they are (once again) going off down a blind alley, failing to see what Second Life really is, and failing to understand their own proper role. 

At least they are probably not thinking of themselves as competing with the residents financially this time, or not directly.  After all, they are giving $L away!  That’s very unusual.  Someone seems to have been farsighted enough to guess that giving newcomers a little virtual money could attract more people to SL, and get them to stick around longer. 

It’s this last point that gives me hope.  On the whole, I think I have to say Linden Realms is a good idea.  Kudos, LL!

Now…get busy and fix the lag!

Here's a Portal location for you!


Edited to add:  Couldn't they have made the darn trees phantom?  Ouch!
Edited:  As of December 22, the portal at Welcome Island Public is live.

2 comments:

  1. No lag, All rezzes really fast, lovely place to take pics or just hanging around.
    A really sweet way to introduce newbies to Sl, but after, when going to a concert and crashing 2 times in less then 4min, to not even see all rezzed, i have to wonder if Sl will be sooner only Linden realms?

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  2. I can't say my experience was the same, ZZ. I experienced a lot of lag in Linden Realms, including rubber banding and loss of control when crossing region borders.

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