*sigh* They’re at it again…

Brett Linden posts about spring break, encouraging people to:

Share your favorites [in-world destinations] with us here OR ON our Facebook page [emphasis mine]

And then extolling people to:

Show off your freshest “Spring Break” look … by submitting your head-to-toe avatar shots to our Facebook page.

Now, I’ve recently posted on having no problem with some aspects of LL pointing at Facebook, particularly with regards to the web Profile pages. As I’ve said, there are SL users who use both FB and SL and who may well have no problem in establishing links should they wish. Granted, the system should be opt-in, but it shouldn’t simply be chucked out because Facebook=evil in many minds.

BUT…openly pushing people at FB, as Brett is doing here, is not in the same class of acceptability. It is openly pushing people to sign-up with Facebook in order to participate in what is ostensibly a Second Life activity. As such it stinks almost as badly as last year’s Valentine’s Day Hunt, when LL offered a cash prize – but only to those hooking up with their Facebook page.

The vast majority of responses to Brett’s post have challenged this latest push – and Brett has responded. But his reply is rather disingenuous, claiming people have a choice as to whether they post to the blog or to the SL Facebook page. But this is only true to a point: while people’s favourite SL destinations have the either / or choice over where they are posted – full avatar shots are being directed solely to the Facebook page.

As Gavin Hird points out, this exercise smacks of a cynical attempt on LL’s part to promote SL as a vibrant, exciting place to Facebook users in the (dare I say) forlorn hope of gaining new users.

In this, it yet an further continuance of the same failed philosophy that has marked most of LL’s attempts at “growing” the user base over the last 2 or 3 years. A philosophy that continues to annoy and upset the very hand that feeds Linden Lab.

And if LL claim that trying to generate such an image on FB was not their intent – why have they not given people a choice of venues in which to post, as they have with destinations? What is wrong with having people post pictures (in accordance with the ToS) directly in response to the blog post? Doing so would have avoided the largely negative feedback Brett has received and it would have potentially encouraged more people to join in the fun and ensured the pictures are more likely to be seen by an audience who actually care – other SL users.

It’s been said time and again: Second Life is not Facebook. It’s also not, in and of itself, a social networking tool per se. But that doesn’t meant that it cannot embrace such functions and activities – providing it embraces them in and of itself. Repeatedly shunting people out of SL sends entirely the wrong message, as it runs the risk of people slipping into a feeling that they are not actually wanted in SL, and so why should they even bother logging in?

And the feeling of not being wanted, when it comes down to it, is something that is already very prevalent among many users as it is, thanks to LL itself. The company is doing itself no favours by adding to it.

Getting Kinect-ed

Hamlet over an New World Notes carries an interesting article on using Kinect to connect to Second Life (and potentially other virtual worlds in the future).

The system is far from perfect, as it’s creator admits, but it would seem to offer a new means of interacting with SL for those so-minded. I have to admit to being somewhere between sceptical and amused.

At the moment, one cannot enter any electronics  / computer store in the UK without coming across someone standing in front of a 53-inch TV screen frantically gesticulating, waving, hopping, crouching, jumping and shuffling like they’re either having some form of fit, have inadvertently sat on a termite hill or have the most bizarre case of cramp on record – and sometimes a mix of all three. As such, quite how the rest of an otherwise sane household will react to mother or father doing a Superman/girl impersonation in front of their computer screen (and yes, it would seem that a lot of people engage in SL in the same room where other family members are doing other things) or suddenly hugging empty air and puckering their lips seemingly an nothing, could lead to some “interesting” times / explanations.

More interestingly, Leigh Alexander over at Gamasutra, questions the validity of gesture-based “ease of use” (among other things in a far broader article):

Getting your average person — one not particularly versed in gaming, for example — to understand that a hand wave translates to an in-game behavior might be easier than asking them to learn a controller button combination that has the same effect. But while literal simulation may be more immediately comprehensible, the idea that it’s more efficient in terms of interface is largely fallacious.

On the other hand, for those that like to RP in SL – sword fighting and other combat – and providing the gestures can be learned by the system, this might offer a new layer to SL interaction. Although, as one commentator on Hamlet’s NWNs observes – if the system gets to full body movement replication, things could start getting embarrassing at clubs and dances. “Dad dancing at my wedding” could become as much a SL nightmare for brides as it can be in RL….

Mocking aside, if this actually turns out to be going somewhere – the work continues to enhance the system and people actually take it up and encourage more work to be done – where it might lead may remain limited in outcome, but could also be quite fascinating. I’d be interested to see how this is picked up by other sectors of the technology industry for more bespoke virtual environments.

Properly prim(med)

Tateru Nino speculates on the future of the megaprim on her blog, in an entry that is ironically amusing in its timing.

The megaprim has been around in various forms for years. Early megas (prims bigger than the 10x10x10 SL limit) were highly questionable, having come about through an exploit that meant their dimensions were so tortured as to be highly suspect and / or that actually played games with the physics engine. A 50×50 (x,y) mega, for example, may have looked like it was 50×50 in size, but it actually registered with the sim as either a 50x50x? or 100x100x? mega, depending on how the original had been tortured and where the “centre point” lay (either along one edge of the prim or in one corner). Push such a prim up against a sim boundary, and you risked destabilising the sim as you had a physical object effectively crossing the sim boundary. Such megas also massively increased the number of collisions on a sim as avatars walked on them (or more usually – again due to the nature of the beasts – through them as far as the physics engine was concerned.

LL, as Tateru reports, itself was split into two groups: those that wanted to ban megas period, and those that wanted to let them in to a greater or lesser degree. With the coming of Bay City and Nautilus, the latter group partially got their way: a “legal” exploit was used to create megas that could be tortured without the issues surrounding earlier attempts. Thus was born the plethora of “legal” megas we all know and use today. They are not perfect: you cannot resize them without them “snapping back” to 10×10(x10); but they can be cut, sliced, tapered, etc., like any other prim.

Now, Tateru speculates, the era of these megas might even be coming to an end. AS I’ve noted myself, the “legal” prim size is due to be increased to 64x64x64 with the introduction of Mesh (although I thought it was 60x60x60 when I blogged on the matter). Further, LL are implementing a new toolset that will enable people to return prims that encroach upon their land.

Had I read Tateru’s blog in isolation, I’d have dismissed it; it is hard to image LL wiping all mega prims from the grid, given the chaos it would cause. And yet…

Last night (my time), mega prims – and anything they were linked to – started vanishing from the grid (I was actually one of those affected when the main section of my house vanished out from under myself and a friend). While the situation was apparently stopped by Maggie Linden, it was nevertheless perplexing, and afterwards, theories started appearing on various blogs as to what happened. These seem to have comprised the following:

  • It was because LL had banned the prims belonging to one “Crowley Avro” (or “Auro”), and that these were being systematically wiped from the grid, OR
  • That “Crowley Avro/Auro” had been banned with the result that all megas made by them were being blacklisted, OR
  • That LL were wiping out all 50x50x?? prims our larger, OR
  • That is was restricted to a specific size of prims around the 50x??x?? size.

LL are, unsurprisingly, remaining quiet on the subject. Personally, I have issues with these theories, because:

  1. All of the megas I used in the section of my house that poofed (which I later recovered via a re-rez from my backup rezzer) were created by Research Project not Crowley Whoever
  2. The section of the house that vanished didn’t contain any 50xanything megaprims in it: indeed, the single 50x50x1 prim I’ve used in the build was untouched

Thus, it would seem all these theories floating around as little more than guesswork; as are these two alternatives:

  • Someone at LL simply boobed (although why they should be focusing on megaprims is itself an interesting question) OR
  • Someone boobed inasmuch as they pushed the button to early – that is, there are plans to remove megas at some point down the road – someone at LL just accidentally jumped the gun – and as such, Tateru is correct.

On the one hand, it is hard to conceive of LL “banning” all current megas. Not only would it piss off a lot of people, it would create a heck of a lot of work for them – or rather their moles – given both Bay City and Nautilus use rather a lot of megas. But this doesn’t necessarily rule out such a move – there might even be valid performance reasons for doing so; and even if not, LL seem to have a habit of upsetting users, even when they don’t intend to.

Addendum 3rd Feb

While the exact cause of the issue remain unclear, LL posted the following on the Grid status page, which actually hadn’t shown up on my Dashboard when I posted the above:

We are aware that some megaprims were removed from the grid which have affected builds that contained the megaprims. While mega prims are not supported, we understand their value in builds.  The issue has been resolved and the object can be re-rezzed from your inventories at this time.

It’s interesting to note LL understand their value in builds but also reinforce the fact that mega prims are not supported. So I’d say the jury is out on the subject of eventual removal, but possibly swaying towards not banning them. Even so, I’ll still be reworking my builds when the time comes…