I’m on the plane now between Chicago and Tucson, heading for the InformationWeek 500 Conference. Travel has gone very well so far, with no glitches. Evidently the guy sitting behind me on the plane was arrested recently on a Driving-While-Intoxicated charge. To hear him speak, the problem was that he got caught, not that he had been drinking and driving. Ah, ethics.
My plane book for this trip is Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture by T.L. Taylor. Since my initial introduction to Second Life at the end of 2006 and my more recent time in World of Warcraft, I’ve become more and more interested in exploring the state of the art and the range of experiences in 3D environments. These include general purpose virtual worlds as well as more advanced MMORPGs. That said, I only have a limited amount of time to check these out, and they can be addicting.
Last May I decided to sell all my Second Life land and take a break from that virtual world for a period. There were several reasons why I did this. The first was that I had spent tens of hours in the environment and felt I understood it pretty well technically. That doesn’t mean I knew how to do everything, but I knew enough to know what I didn’t know, and knew where to find that out if I subsequently need to know it. (Got that?)
Next up was the investment. In addition to the small monthly membership charge, I was paying $75 per month in charges to Linden for the land I owned. That adds up but was worth it for the experimentation I was doing and the time I was willing to spend. I still believe that in the future I will want to have my own virtual world space on my own computer and then I will connect that in to one or more individual virtual worlds or clusters of such. When I’m just operating by myself, I won’t pay anything to anyone, but when I’m connected to a “commercial virtual world cluster,” I might be willing to “pay as I go” for time, property transfer, currency exchange, and so forth. If I just want to connect to a friend’s virtual world, I don’t expect to pay anything.
The next reason why I stepped away was that I got fed up with the neighborhood in which my land was placed. Simply put, I didn’t want to live next door to the “night club of the week” or the perpetual ads that litter the Second Life mainland. I’ve gone back several times since I sold the land and probably two-thirds of the tenants and buildings have changed. The beautiful castle next door is gone and that seemed to vanish soon after I got rid of my beautiful castle. The casino on the other side of the property is for sale, and a bunch of random looking buildings fill in the rest of the space. There are more of the 16 square-meter ad plots near the road and the ones that bothered me in May are still there, owned by absentee avatars who just care about advertising. Some even seemed to pride themselves in “spoiling the views.” I fully accept that they have a right to do it within the rules of land ownership. I just didn’t want to live there any more. Furthermore, I knew that I could move somewhere else, possibly to a private island, but I didn’t want to go that route.
I was getting antsy about the land for another reason: prices were dropping as Linden added more and more regions. If I was going to get out with a good portion of my investment intact, I needed to do it soon. I had done well in buying and selling various plots as I consolidated the main property area, so I didn’t make out so badly.
Another minor issue with the land was that it was in a snowy region. That seemed like a great idea last January but was less appealing as the Spring came. Besides, there was no place to put my SL speed boat.
Finally, I found that although SL was a great place for socializing, I was paying a lot of money every month to isolate myself in my building projects. Friends would occasionally drop by and I would wander about here and there, but I was not taking advantage of the environment. It got boring without aims for human (albeit virtual) interaction or new in-world goals. I was in a rut, that is.
So I decided to take a break. I sold my land and converted the resulting Linden $ back to US $. The money I got for selling the land I used to buy a real-life banjo. That’s a project for this winter.
After that, I focused on World of Warcraft with my son and, to a lesser extent, my daughter. We have two accounts, so my kids can do quests together or I can run quests or dungeons with William. I’m more of the solo, long distance kind of fighter, while he prefers to group and be right in the middle of the melee action. In a duel, he beats me in about 5 seconds, even though I am several levels above him. I’ll be writing more about this in future entries since I think the game/environment deserves some analysis in this space. There are already hundreds if not thousands of websites and blogs devoted to WoW, but I’ll try to make it relevant to my usual topics. I may even throw in some tips and lessons learned.
Getting back to Second Life, I still have the IBM island to develop around open source and standards. I was waiting for spatial voice in SL to go mainstream and it has now, so that is no longer an excuse. I wanted to let the island sit a bit so I could think about the design and I’m about ready to get going. (Note that I’ve been known to think about building a real-life bookcase for six months before construction began.) If I could approach just some of the terraforming and landscaping beauty of WoW, I would be very satisfied.
There will be private inside-IBM spaces as well as public visitor spaces. There won’t be any snow. There probably won’t be any castles. It will include things that I don’t know how to construct yet. If I’m successful, it will be dynamic in content and experience.
In the meanwhile, I bought some new land in SL but much, much less that I had before. It is ocean-front. Actually, it is ocean-all-around, except above. I’ll be detailing that and the construction of the new IBM island in a new series about SL that will start up here within a few days.