July MoM – whither the theme?

The theme for July’s Month of Machinima is “Games in SL”.

Or at least, that’s the theory; and tbh I’d been looking forward to seeing a set of films showcasing the magic of games and role play in Second Life, and perhaps even learning about elements of rp or other games in SL I’ve not previously encountered. As the very least, I was anticipating seeing glimpses of stories involving fantasy, science-fiction and the rest. Sadly, this was not to be.

Don’t get me wrong, the entries on show this month at the LEA Theatre are visually impressive, and demonstrate skill and artistry I probably couldn’t hope to master; it just that – well, almost none of the have anything to do with Games in SL.

In The Red Shoes we have a superb demonstration of Second Life as an outstanding medium for storytelling, as we do with Someone Called – but to my mind, storytelling isn’t really related to games in SL. Similarly, Travelling presents an excellent travelogue to Second Life – but travelling through SL, seeing the sights and the means of transport isn’t directly related to games in SL. I’m honestly not at all sure what to make of bRaiNwasHer, but it’s hard to frame it in the conext of games. The Wavey Sea is a great music video, but  – well, you can guess where I’m going.

Dedication gets somewhat nearer the mark, insamuch as it tells a story that might be said to be framed in a role-play environment, and again, it is a fabulous piece of work in itself, but I still cannot help but feel something is missing…

To me, games in SL offers up an opportunity to highlight the deep, immersive richness of game playing within SL: role-play, steampunk, combat – dare I say, even Gorean. There are many other forms of games in SL – Tiny Empires and the like – which could, with a little imagination, form the foundations for revealing and entertaining films. Arcade Boy and When Warriors Gather go some way towards this, but there still seems to be something missing.

Again, I’m not blaming the film-makers for this lack of game-related depth: as I’ve stated, every film in this month’s entrants is skillfully executed and worth watching. I’m also not necessarily pointing the finger at the LEA judges; MoM is an excellent idea and worth pursuing; and truth be told, it’s hard to guarantee that what will work theme-wise. Even so, it’s a little disappointing that more did not rise to the challenge and present films more directly related to this month’s theme – I’ve certainly seen a fair few films on subjects such as combat games and RP in SL elsewhere, so it’s not for lack of potential content.

In the meantime, here’s Dedication, by CadenceDVE, which I really like as a story and which comes close to the ideal of the theme in a visually impressive manner. You can see all the entries above on the MOM YouTube channel.

LL move to monthly blog updates?

(Copyright Linden Lab)

Given recent losses within the Lab – Amanda, Courtney, Blondin – it’s not surprising that the communications team are perhaps a little short-handed, even if news and announcements coming out of Linden Lab have been in short supply for a good while now.

So it is interesting to see that Featured News on the official blog appears to have moved to a monthly round-up / announcement, as exemplified by the “July Update” which popped up earlier today.

It is a fairly comprehensive piece, covering the implementation of new default avatar types – something Rodvik alluded to last month on Twitter; progress on fixing Group chat and the upcoming changes to web profiles I’ve given something of an overview to here, as well as news on changes to promotional e-mail and an update on the new Search system.

The new default avatars cover animals, robots and vehicles – all of which LL have received criticism for having previously “ignored”, and which will hopefully prove to be welcome additions.

I’m not entirely sure the comments on Group chat lag being a thing of the past are not going to come back and haunt LL; I’ve been in Group chats as recently as yesterday and witnessed the kind of issues referred to in the piece, and I’ve seen similar comments from others on the subject. So while things have undoubtedly improved, I’m not entirely sure its a matter of “case closed” just yet.

As to the web profiles, it is interesting to read the formal announcement of what is coming and see what appears to be the “smaller more integrated” in-viewer web profile window (see below).

New Web profile window? (with thanks to Linden Lab)

While the window does appear smaller and less intrusive, I’m not sure that “more integrated” is the right description. As I’ve said elsewhere, “integration”, to me, suggests something that blends-in with the rest of the Viewer in terms of layout, skin, etc. This isn’t really the case with the in-viewer web profile view.

Possibly the most controversial item reported on in the update is the SL Marketplace, which has seen a series of on-going changes that have been met with frustration in some quarters and concern in others. Of these, the upcoming Direct Delivery system, which is currently in its “Alpha phase” and which will eventually replace magic boxes, is perhaps the focus of the majority of concern when it comes to the Marketplace. As I’m not participating in the Alpha phase of this system, I’m not in a position to comment (and probably wouldn’t be able to comment even if I were, given the NDA requirements around the project); suffice it to say others have passed comment on the new system, and their concerns do seem justified.

Stepping back from the details of the post, I have to say that I hope that this “monthly update” approach is not going to become the trend for all of LL’s blog posts. We get little enough communication from them through “official channels” as it is, and I’d personally rather get fed the news “as it happens” rather than getting it almost in retrospect (as is the case with some of the content of this update – the new avatars have been reported on elsewhere already, and the updates to web profiles have been the subject to a lot of chatter for over a week now).

It’s also a shame that LL are (again) pushing people out to Twitter in order to discuss news. For crying out loud, Rodvik et al – you’ve clearly spent time and money developing and rolling-out a “community communications platform” so why the hell are you guys not using it effectively?

OK, so fair enough, you also point people to the Technology Forum – but the fact is, this is also hardly ideal unless you start specific topic threads for each update that comes out – and even then, it’s hardly convenient. If you really want feedback and comments on what is happening, then give us the means to do so in as quick and convenient manner as possible.

By that I mean letting us us comment on your blog posts directly. It’s the way almost every other blog in the world operates when comments and feedback are allowed – so why not you? You used to at one time, but then you moved away from this approach, almost as if you were either afraid of what we might say, or didn’t want to hear what we were saying.

But the fact is, if you really want our feedback, you really should consider making it as easy as possible for us to do so, even if it does mean opening up your blog entries for comment once more.

I mean honestly, are we really that bad?