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US trawls Second Life funny money

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Which brings us nicely to Second Life and its funny money economics.

"Linden Dollars are not money, they are neither funds nor credit for funds. Linden Dollars represent a limited license right to use a feature of the simulated environment. Linden Lab does not offer any right of redemption for any sum of money, or any other guarantee of monetary value, for Linden Dollars." Second Life's "virtual economy" with "real money" has yet to be visited by the Feds. If it is, then Linden Lab will reserve the right to say that Second Life is only a game." Superb article on the fake "economy" model that's been so much applaused recently, and that ... doesn't exist. Thanks ! As you stated, how can a world (call it RL) base its business on rules (accounting, property, laws), while having a bi-directionnal bridge of its currency (Euro, USD) to another currency (Linden Dollar) which exist on a totally unlawed virtual world with unruled business ??? Can't work. Linden Dollars are virtual, and converting them back to USD is abuse. USD to Linden is just a right to play, while the reverse is meaningless. The funny thing is also you can't build laws in SL either, less enforce them, because of meta-gaming, which comes from the fact one player can have multiple avatars, sharing the brain ... So, at the end, since economy is based on rules and laws, and no such things are possible in a virtual world, no RL economy is possible in SL. - Herve

From recent Second Life story: "In other words, this economy has a population about the size of Ilkeston, Derbyshire" If Second Life was anything like the Ilkeston I remember travelling down to see moms family every 8th Sunday or so, it'd clear out in a hurry. - Paul Clark

I've been there to see what all the fuss was about. It's dismal experience. The graphics, to use popular vernaculum, suck balls, there is no immediately obvious interesting content and some people's sexual fantasies are... tiresome at best. In a few years' time, this kind of environment will become something people use to create a virtual reality in which content created by users or interaction models with the real world drive a new kind of economy. There is inherent value in being able to directly communicate with someone who may be at the other side of the planet. It will cut travel costs, save on greenhouse gases [yay for saving the world] and it has the potential of bringing people closer together. Better communication breeds better understanding breeds deeper respect. Having said that, all the 419'ers, the porn purveyors and illegal drug hawkers will spill into this world and try to adjust it to their needs. It's a given. Maybe if we do it right, we can create a new world, albeit virtual, and have it live up to an ideal. It would be a first but cynicism is a bad way to live a life. We have to keep trying. Whoever will win this standards race, it won't be Linden Lab's Second Life. It's a broken world the way it is now, without much in the way of decent content, with a lousy user experience and excruciating graphics, really -awful- graphics. Someone with taste, superior skill and an unrelenting drive to make the world they create the very best it can be will design an experience that is worthy of further exploration. If you want to offer users a second life, you absolutely have to make sure that it's better than their first one. Second Life is a scruffy backyard in the projects. I want the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman hotel or the Burj Al Arab. Why would I want to live in an ugly world? There's enough ugliness already. - Jorge

Excellent story. Top notch journalism and a great read. - John Bendel

Now, this one is looooooong, but there's a pint for those who make it to the end. Ready? GO.

Hi Shaun, I read most Second Life articles with great interest, except those 'embedded whore' articles which appear to aim only to discourage people from visiting Second Life.

I myself signed up just over a year ago. I did 3D Art and Design at college and since, like many, I've barely used my skills in the real world. I've always been fascinated by three-dimensional worlds and signed up for a free account. Shortly after this, the urge to build and show off was too great. I signed up for another account, but this time a premium one and kept the other because it earned me a little extra stipend, which in truth is worth nothing, but now I trade on that name so I keep it around.

In that year I've not exactly made a lot of friends, partially because I actually like to keep to myself, but also because the constant drivel of a world full of idiots who can't spell or even string a remotely English sentence together makes my head want to explode. I'm sick of seeing LOL and ROFL as a reply to a perfectly reasonable English question or statement.

Yet I’m still humouring the population of Second Life. I have met some very intelligent people, and you know what? They’re not the ones sat around fountains or walking around with strap-on penises, they’re the ones that do the work trying to build Second Life into a reputable and interesting world. Even the people who make these strap-on penises and the scant clothing that the idiots wear are doing something constructive themselves; they’re making money from the masses and building an economy.

I myself run a small business. It makes me very little money but I take great satisfaction from the fact that someone out there thinks that my product is good enough for them to spend their money on. The people who then proceed to take hours of my life because they can’t read instructions however make me wonder why I charge around US$1 per item when my day job pockets me over sixteen times that an hour.

But the people who use Second Life just to meet new people aren’t destroying Second Life. They get it a bad name, but these are the people who buy my products and also recommend them to friends. These are the people who spend the money in Second Life generating the economy. I pay my monthly bill and transfer the rest out into my bank account; not exactly contributing to the economy eh?

So, what is the problem with Second Life? Who is it that is seeking to destroy the very fabric of the world that I hold so dear? Isn’t it obvious? The one and only Linden Labs. Yes, they use hardware that is so terribly optimised that we’re often limited to only forty users per region. Thankfully we have hundreds of regions to choose from, but when the load is too high we can’t move between regions. Items we buy or place in world disappear, maybe to reappear and maybe not. When we enter another region we often appear to continue walking/flying/driving forward out of control or fall through the floor. And have you looked at screen shots? The level of detail is pathetic. The tools we’re given to work with are so poor. The scripting language is complex and inefficient, and yet the whole world relies on it. And most infuriating for a builder like me is that we can only build based around very primitive shapes with maximum dimensions of 10x10x10m.

My PC has a GeForce 7900GS video card. Hardly ground breaking I know, yet with the resolution set to 1600x1200 and all detail levels set to maximum, I still run around with no slow down on my end. I’m losing packets however since Second Life can’t keep up with what I’m doing. My desktop PC is fine, yet the ridiculous architecture that the whole world relies on (hundreds of servers) cannot cope with a couple of users per region.

I imagine when Second Life was envisioned a network architect had a eureka moment. “Lets lay out the regions in grids. Each one can be a single server, or maybe a group of four in a square, yeah, and then we’ll hardwire that into the region next door, so the shortest route for data to take is from one region to the next, which is how people will walk around; brilliant! Then somewhere along the lines we’ll tag on a central server which has to balance every thing out and another one that holds a database of EVERYTHING, that would work brill!”

Yeah, that was probably brilliant when there were four servers running. Now however you’re left in a position where a large number of regions are sat dormant while they have no users in them, and others are bursting at the seams with a whopping forty users. Can the power be distributed? No, because this is no super-computing cluster with latest generation interconnects, no; this is a network of PCs, no different to the ones on your desks at work. Poor form Linden Labs, POOR FORM!

Not only that though, oh no, that’s the beginning of the problems. You see, Linden Labs decided last year that they were no longer going to tie accounts to credit cards or Pay Pal accounts. No, now we’re going to just allow anyone to log in and we have no way to verify who they are or where they’re from. That’s when the population started to spike. That’s also when we started to have serious problems. Now you do as you please as a free account. When you’re banned (or should I say suspended; people log into your account and steal your money and they get a couple of weeks suspended) you just create a new account. Really, it’s that easy to get away with anything? Yep.

Not only that, but those of us stupid enough to pay for our accounts don’t get any kind of preferential treatment with the exception of the land we’re allowed to buy (free accounts can still rent however, often cheaper than buying). We don’t get to jump the login queue or get more CPU cycles allocated to try to speed up the experience. We don’t get anything else at all. And what’s even weirder is that if we don’t pay our fees for a couple of months, our inventory is flushed to make room on the asset server (that huge database of everything). Yet if you have a free account, you can log back in months later still and there is your full and complete inventory. Absolutely bloody brilliant Linden Labs. I think you Americans call that a home run don’t you?

It’s about time that Linden Labs show loyalty to those of us who pay their wages and can actually be held responsible for our actions. It’s also about time they update the physics engine to a version of Havok that doesn’t start with 1. We need support for nicer visual effects, and shader model support would be nice too. I’d like to see convincing grass like other games can do. I want to see directional light sources and different mapping techniques. Ooh, lighting effects, that would be a revelation in graphics (what do you mean it was 15 years ago?).

I want to see a better looking Second Life. I also want to see some kind of council and police force. Have you seen all the rotating adverts in the sky? Particle effects filling space, or buildings that are just as ugly as you can imagine? People learn how to build a cube and they think they’re Frank Lloyd bloody Wright. No, I’m sorry, you have the design skills of a poodle, and look at the poodles bloody hair. If you can’t design or build anything that actually looks nice (to anyone but you) just don’t do it. And if you can’t, why isn’t someone coming around, deleting it and locking you up for crimes against all that is good and holy?

Ah, I feel better now.

Seriously though, if anyone is thinking of playing Second Life, I have a warning for you; it’s not a game, there’s no objective, you do as you please and pretty much get away with anything so you can’t play, you live. Do not create an account if you think otherwise, you’ll just be making Linden Labs look better because they got another sign up when in actual fact the only work they’ve done to get those sign ups is signing a contract with a PR company and removing any kind of verification during sign up.


And something short and sweet to finish on:

Second life = LOSERS - [another] Jorge

That's all folks. Enjoy a solution-free weekend. ®

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