SL Premium memberships get an overhaul

During SLCC 2011 Rod Humble mentioned that Premium accounts would be improving during the current months in terms of the benefits afforded to those taking out such memberships, and at “no extra cost”. Also during the convention, Vogt Linden indicated the Linden Homes may well be up for an overhaul as they weren’t perhaps performing as expected.

Quite what the changes to Premium memberships were to be, or whether changes to Linden Homes would be an immediate part and parcel of the changes or something separate, wasn’t made clear during the convention. It also sounded like the changes might be a little way down the road.

Well, in the latter regard, it appears that we didn’t have long to wait for things to start changing.

Today, Linden Lab have formally announced changes to Premium accounts, “starting with exclusive gifts and sandboxes”. Here’s a couple of extracts from the announcement:

“Premium members will regularly receive exclusive virtual items that you won’t find anywhere else. The very first gift is a stylish set of furniture crafted by Colleen Desmoulins of The Loft. The set features a sofa, tables, plants and lamps to enhance your home’s cozy factor. You can change the look of most of the furniture to fit your home’s unique style and decor — whether you live in a Linden Home or elsewhere.”

And:

“Explore your creative side or just get down to the business of creating without the distractions of a more public space in one of the many Premium-only Sandboxes in Second Life. There are four new, exclusive Premium-only Sandbox Islands you can access right now to give you more room than ever to bring your creations to life. Members can visit right now.”

I’m actually all in favour of seeing Premium accounts overhauled and improved – but I’m curious as to how the gifts such as the furniture mentioned above are selected. The words “exculsive” and “won’t find anywhere else” suggest the items have been especially commissioned by Linden Lab. If this is so, it’s probably going to raise eyebrows (and questions) as to how the content creators making the gifts are being selected, and whether they are being renumerated by LL, etc. This in turn could easily lead to some negativity and claims of preferential treatment / the creation of yet another FIC.

The idea of gifts needs to be carefully balanced in other ways as well: while they may encourage newcomers to sign-up for Premium, but give away too many practical gifts and there is a risk of being accused of “strangling” commerce. Take this initial offering: furniture. As the announcement states, the items could be used within a newcomer’s Linden home – so at a stroke, LL appear to have “prevented” any need for newcomers taking up Premium membership for having any need to go shopping for basic SL “needs”.

So while a welcome idea, this is going to need some consideration and thought as it rolls forward, lest it results in upset elsewhere.

Premium sandboxes are liable to prove popular among those that cannot afford to set aside prims / space for their building work, and as such are liable to be less potentially fractious.

As a long-term SL “resident”, these two aren’t enough to encourage me beck into the realm of Premium membership – not for the concerns raised above, but simply because I already have so many things in my inventory, it is hard to conceive of a “must have” gift I don’t already have, or would be willing to buy from a fellow content creator anyway. Similarly (and while I may be in a minority), I have all the private build space I need, so exclusive sandboxes aren’t an attraction.

Which is not to say I dismiss what LL are trying to achieve. Far from it.

Rather, this initial benefits seem aimed towards the “newer” user within in SL, rather than the “established” user base (where Premium accounts are in the minority). Ergo, if the hope is to encourage more “oldbies” to revert back to Premium / take out Premiums for the first time, it is probable that LL are going to have to offer different incentives to those of us who have been around the block a few times.

Nevertheless, beefing-up Premiums is a good idea, and a lot of people are sure to be watching what develops in this area in the coming months.

Addendum 1st Sept 4:17 PDT

Linden Lab updated their blog post to include a video extolling Premium membership, which I’ve embedded below.

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Inworldz: Homes and Residences exhibition

Running throughout September, the Inworldz Homes and Residences exhibition covers four sims within InWorldz and provides some 42 exhibits to explore on foot or in the air. The exhibition offers InWorldz residents the chance to take a look as homes, pools, garden items and furniture  from some of the grid’s top creators.

The Homes and Residences sims

The setting is somewhat rural in styling, with exhibitor plots neatly laid out in plenty of greenery, while the central area where the four sims meet incorporates a grid system of roads and foot paths.

Each exhibition plot has a large sign out front for displaying the creator’s logo / image, and which includes a giver for both the creator’s notecard and a landmark to their main store / sim.

A typical display

You can wander around the sims, or fly on your own or – in a marvellously refined option – take a hot air balloon around each of the sims, with up to three fellow passengers. The balloons can be flown, rather than running on a scripted route, with PAGE UP / DOWN controlling height, and the ARROW keys controlling direction. You can even get a glass of champers to enjoy during your flight. When you’re done, simply STAND UP and the balloon with auto-return to its start-point, leaving you free to roam on foot.

Drifting over the exhibition

There is a slight caveat to taking a balloon, however, Currently, InWorldz doesn’t support scripted objects crossing sim boundaries Twhich might or might not still apply when you visit. During my preview visit (September 1st,) the balloons were scripted to stop at sim boundaries. An explanatory notecard stated this was to do with issues with scripted objects crossing sim boundaries. As you can see from the comments at the end of this piece, this is apparently no longer the case, but the balloons within the exhibition sims had not be updated with revised scripts, etc. Hopefully, this will be corrected now it has been noted.

There are a few “special” landmarks to visit as well, including a live events stage and dance area, and the Bates Motel of Psycho fame (once a common find within Second Life many years ago, and thus something of a memory-jogger).

Sim crossing may be an issue with scripted objects, but they don’t present any problem when on foot. InWorldz has some of the smoothest sim crossings I’ve encountered, and this was certainly true wandering around the exhibition.

The exhibits themselves demonstrate a range of styles and approaches, from “traditional”  house designs through to the more esoteric – tree houses, etc., – and the futuristic.

A more futuristic build

Overall the exhibition presents a good opportunity for InWorldz content creators to showcase their wares, and for residents to take a look at what is on offer and gain landmarks to stores to check-out more. The balloon rides are a pleasant experience, and there are some well thought-out plots in the sims that encourage exploration.

Why not take time out and go see for yourself?

Sim Landmarks

A personal favourite