Home improvements…again

Yep, I’ve re-worked my home…again. I can’t go six months without doing something. This time I’ve retained the basic sky platform, but with some differences, and have added a new house.

The last time I played with things, I had no idea what I really wanted to do. This time it was easy: I wanted to get rid of the clutter and go for something clean and more suited to my in-world time. It’s great having things like a swimming pool and jacuzzi in-world, especially when they’re impractical in real life – but unless they’re used, they simply become fluff. Well, to me at least.

There were things in the old build I wanted to keep – the gazebo, which receives a lot of use, especially when friends visit or I’m parked in-world, writing or working out-world; the planters and trees – although I wanted to improve on them and the greenery in general. I also knew which house design I wanted to use as well.

So away I went, and here are the results.

An aerial view

The gazebo, as mentioned, remains, but the pool area that was to the left as you look at the picture has gone, as has the dance stage to the right, leaving me with two lawn / grass areas and room to plant some impressive new trees. The walls / rails around the platform have also gone, replaced by sculpted hedgerows.

Through the trees

The house itself is a variation on my Canaveral 2 design, which I recently re-worked using the new prim size limit of 64m. I’ve wanted to use it for a while, if I’m honest, as I really like the look and lines.

The lounge (click to enlarge)

The lounge hasn’t changed in terms of furnishings, but the house design has meant I can bring my piano back into the lounge area, rather than having it out in the hall; I missed having it as a focal-point for visits.

As per usual, I’ve opted for scripted lights (‘cos I’m lousy with textures), and as the photo shows, have hopefully got something warm and inviting in terms of tone around the fireplace and the indirect lighting.

Bedroom

The bedroom is above the living room, and reached by a stairway and suspended landing I’m rather pleased with. Again, I kept to a central fireplace, as with the lounge, as this nicely divides the room in two as well as giving it something of a focal-point & extra picture-hanging space when I need it!

I didn’t bother with making the windows tintable – haven’t for a while now; being up in the sky, it’s not like I’m overlooked, and hopefully Firestorm will soon be able to access the new land privacy options should I ever need to go that far.

Entrance hall at dusk

All-in-all I’m pretty happy with the way the place has worked out; it still sprawls a littleon account of the scale, and I’m seriously considering taking up a suggestion from a friend and re-scaling this and some of my commercial builds to suit more “real life” avatar heights now things like Penny Patton’s camera adjustments and other ideas for a more immersive experience at catching on. Certainly, this house feels overly large given I have been using one of Penny’s camera positions for about six months now (even though I’m technically over 6ft tall in-world!). I guess time will tell on and further changes. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy the new house :).

The new house at sunset
Another view from the lawn
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SLCC: The Future of SL – Highlights

On Sunday 14th August, as a part of SLCC 2011, members of Linden Lab gave a presentation “The Future of Second Life” as a part of four keynote addresses at the convention.

The panel itself comprised John Laurence (Durian Linden), who has only recently joined Linden Lab, but has worked previously with both Rod Humble and Jeff Peterson (Bagman Linden); Sarah Kuehnle (Esbee Linden), who recently made a popular return to Linden Lab (and who brought a prim with her to the presentation!); and Michael Gesner (Gez Linden).

After introductions, Esbee recapped on some of LL’s recent user-facing activities over the last six months, including:

  • The arrival of new avatar selections as a part of the sign-up process, stating more are to be added
  • The new log-in screen for Viewer 2 (/3), which will be further iterated in the future
  • The new Search, described as being faster and with better relevance

She also made mention of the Basic mode of the Viewer, the new region & estate settings, dynamic shadows & deferred rendering … and mesh.

Learning Experience

The core of the presentation revolved around demonstrating a new game developed within Second Life by Lab employees as a learning experience because, Durian Linden explained:

“As Rod was a newbie and certainly I was new to Second Life as well, one of the first things we wanted to do was to make something in the world…We wanted to try and challenge ourselves as Lindens, to use our toolset to make an experience…basically for new users to be able to have fun using the Basic Viewer without a lot of the advanced functions and with just a very simple style of UI.

“So we gave ourselves about two weeks to pull this together, working with a team of in-world builders. We wanted to see really first-hand what the limitations are and then how we can try to overcome those limitations.”

The Linden-developed game…

The game uses the Basic Viewer’s point-and-click approach (although it may be re-visited to make use of click-and-drag as well) to guide an avatar through a setting, collecting and placing various objects, which avoiding hazards and traps. It is specifically designed to see what can be achieved within Second Life while avoiding the need to have to navigate inventory or gain familiarity with both the concept and use of things like HUDs – or indeed without having to rely on on-screen pop-ups or delivered notecards for assistance.

Using point-and-click to achieve goals

During the process of building the game, the team encountered a number of problems not found in “traditional” game development: their monsters would chase them through the sim while they were building, and guns sitting on build platforms overhead waiting to be placed within the game would also open fire on those below!

Gez viewed the development and construction of the experience as being valuable to understanding the power of Second Life as well as some of the limitations and issues. He also, later in the presentation, emphasised that the game is not intended to replace the new user experience – or even be released in its current state; it is a prototype for learning within Linden Lab. However, he did acknowledge the wider potential value such an approach may have for users:

“I do think that there is some value in creating an experience which is simpler, it’s more guided, it gives you prompts, it gives you almost quests or achievements, things that tell you what you need to do next to learn how to use Second Life, but I will completely agree with the fact that Second Life itself is not a game.  However, you can make some great games inside of Second Life, and you can use game mechanics, and game tutorials, and game systems to help people become more engaged and comfortable in Second Life.”

Some have angry birds. The Lindens have angry boxes!

Product Team

Following the presentation, Durian expended on the role of the product team, stating things had been broadly divided into two main areas:

  • Usability, designed to answer such questions as is SL the kind of product a reasonably-intelligent person can come along and start to use; can they operate an avatar or the camera, can they use the basic functions in order to meet others, have fun, etc. As a part of addressing this the team have been, and are, looking at:
    • Avatar rezzing time and rezzing priorities (i.e. giving avatars a higher rezzing priority)
    • Improved access to the Viewer’s avatar customisation tools
    • Basic / advanced Viewer integration to bring together tools from both and ease the transition for new users from the basic tools to the more advanced tools (interestingly, as a part of this, the team are looking at the issue of what to do with the Sidebar in terms of improving / changing it)
    • Developing Direct Delivery from the Marketplace (due to go live in a couple of months)
    • Improving overall inventory management, especially for making inventory easier to understand from a new user perspective
  • Engagement, defined as answering the question of how do people find the things they want to do & how can LL provide better tools to content creators, both of which are aimed at keeping users engaged with SL. As parts of this element he pointed to:
    • The new Viewer 2 log-in screen with the destination guide options
    • Mesh as a means of encouraging new content and content developers
    • Prims themselves, as a “directed experience” and means of getting people engaged with building within Second Life and the collaborative aspects of content creation, both  for pleasure and for profit
    • Scripted non-player characters that can be used to populate areas and enhance the experience of visiting such areas

As the focal point for all development, working with the rest of Linden Lab, the product team has divided itself into specific Subject Matter Experts in order to fully understand various aspects of SL use:

  • Durian – art
  • Gez – gaming and breedables
  • Esbee – role-play
  • Charlar Linden- Adult
  • Geo Linden – Education
  • Nya Linden – Music
  •  Cassandra Linden – Fashion

These roles will not replace the normal community relations channels, but will accept input from the user community.  Hamlet Au suggests means of contacting the team.