Of the occult, laced with a little arsenic

Halloween draws nigh, and with it, another round of ghostly tales of dark deeds laced with a little arsenic on the side, brought to you courtesy of the storytellers at Seanchai Library SL.

The full list of activities are as follows. All times SLT, and the in-world location, unless otherwise stated, will be at Seanchai Library’s SL home region of Imagination Island.

Sunday October 14th:

  • 14:00 – Tea Time at Baker Street: join Caledonia Skytower as she tells the strange story of The Copper Beeches. The Great Detective’s assistance is called upon when, after accepting a post as Governess with a quite considerable salary (£100 per annum!), Violet Hunter, finds her conditions of employment by Jephro Rucastle, subject to unusual conditions… This marks the end of this year’s Tea Time at Baker Street readings.
  • 18:00 – Ghosthunters & The Incredibly Revolting Ghost: Caledonia Skytower brings this tale of ghostly happenings to Magicland.

Monday October 15th:

  • 19:00 – A Night in the Lonesome October: Seanchai Library’s adaptation of Roger Zelazy’s satirical novel continues, featuring the voice artistry of Shandon Loring, Gyro Muggins, Caledonia Skytower and special guests. Once more, Snuff the dog and other animal familiars observe the goings-on of their masters and mistresses, all Players in the Game, as some seek to use occult powers to open the doors between this world and the realm of the Great Old Ones and bring about the destruction or enslavement of the human race, while others seek to hold the doors closed. Through the eyes of the familiars we see alliances formed, betrayals played out as the game moves inexorably towards the night of October 31st, and the time when the fate of the world will be decided for another few decades (part 3 of 4).
Which Witch

Tuesday October 16th:

  • 19:00 – Arsenic and Old Lace: Joseph Kesselring’s black comedy and most successful focuses on drama critic Mortimer Brewster, as he debates whether to go through with his recent promise to marry the woman he loves while dealing with his crazy, homicidal family and local police

Wednesday October 17th:

  • 19:00 – Which Witch? with Faerie Maven. The final installment of Eva Ibbotson’s delightful adventure of wizards, witches, spells, conjures, and the profound need to prove one’s self in the eyes of others.

Thursday October 18th:

  • 19:00 – Nocturnes from Ireland: Dark, daring, utterly haunting tales of lost lovers, predatory demons, and vengeful ghosts from the pen of John Connolly, as told by Shandon Loring.

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Rod Humble talks-up new products, creativity and Second Life

Lelani Carver pointed me towards a further interview with Rod Humble on the subject of new products which appeared in the Gamesbeat pages of VentureBeat on October 12th. The interview is pretty much what has been said elsewhere insofar as the new products are concerned, but there are some very interesting nuggets of information sitting within it.

Pride of the father: Rod Humble shows-off Creatorverse (images coutesy of VentureBeat)

Patterns and Creatorverse are primarily mentioned in the piece, with Humble again commenting on the company’s new-found philosophy established out of Second Life:

“At Linden Lab, we believe that creativity is within all people and that it empowers them like nothing else,” said Humble. “We make digital spaces where people can have fun while exploring and sharing their creativity with others. Millions of people around the world have enjoyed that in Second Life, and we look forward to inspiring even more creativity.”

Some people have already taken issue with the use of the past tense (“have enjoyed”) when used in reference to Second Life on the Lab’s corporate website, and they are liable to feel the same way seeing Humble use the same phrasing here. While I don’t necessarily support such views, I would say that when commenting on Second Life to the wider community, media or otherwise, use of the present tense might underline the fact that SL is still out there and people are enjoying it and what it has to offer. Hope you’re reading this, Rod! ;-).

The feature is light on details for both Dio (which gets a throwaway mention) and Versu (which gets no mention at all); whether this is down to the interviewer missing them, or Humble not being in a position to speak about them at the time of the interview, is unclear. However, what he does say in reference to all three which do get a mention (Patterns, Creatorverse and Dio) is that people will be able to monetize them.

Patterns: users to be able to monetize it in the future?

This is something he lightly touched upon in his interview with Giant Bomb, specifically with reference to Creatorverse, and I mused in passing on his comment and whether it would be applicable to all of LL’s new products. Well, it would seem so.

For those curious about Linden Research itself, the article contains some interesting elements:

Today, Second Life survives with 1 million monthly active users. The world generated $75 million in revenues last year and it is operating profitably. That has allowed Humble to expand his team to 175 employees and go after the markets beyond the virtual world.

There is also mention of the 2010 lay-offs, although these are again referred to slightly out-of-context, failing to mention that during his tenure, Mark Kingdon actually recruited some 125 people into LL, expanding it by as much as 50% in order to fuel (for the most part) the company’s failed (some would say misguided) attempt to enter the enterprise market. As such, while the lay-offs did hurt, at the time they actually returned the company to more-or-less the “pre-Kingdon” expansion, a move in line with the company also dropping all aspiratiosn of entering the enterprise applications market.

However (and ignoring the perjorative “survives” in the Gamesbeat comment), the reference to “expanding” the team to 175 is an eye-opener; it suggests that the continuing run of those departing the company / being asked to leave has been cutting somewhat deeper than may have previously been appreciated given that 200-220 employees has tended to be the considered figure for the number of people employed by the Lab.

Nor does the article ignore Second Life. In referring to SL, Humble tells Gamesbeat that it is also getting a major upgrade this year, and that Linden Lab is “still investing in 3D virtual worlds.” This is liable to lead to some speculation as to what the “major upgrade” may be. For my part, and given that this week sees some shuffling of regions onto new hardware together with the recent network optimisation tests, I’m thinking Humble is talking more in terms of the company’s much-touted hardware and infrastructure investment, rather than a mega new in-world feature.

Also quoted in the article, LL board member Will Wright makes mention to SL in a maner which may draw frowns from some:

Rod has a great sense of player communities and the forces that drive them. At Linden Labs [sic] I know he’s focused on trying to evolve a very established community into something much broader and more inviting.

While this probably refers to opening-out Second Life to Steam and potentially generating a wider appeal for the platform than is currently the case, that Wright refers to Humble trying to make the existing SL community “more inviting” might easily be taken the wrong way. Many within SL are already feeling increasingly alienated as a result of some of LL’s actions under Humble’s tenure as CEO; so the idea that some at board level are still of the opinion that the existing SL user community is somehow less-than-inviting isn’t going to do much to dispel these feelings or that there is perhaps something of an adversarial attitude within the Lab towards its existing users.

Issue might also be taken with Humble’s own closing statement in the interview, in which he says, in part:

“We are still investing in 3D virtual worlds,” he said. “But shared creative spaces is what we do. There is an opportunity to embrace the new way of developing things. A lot of this could be done inside Second Life. But you get more creativity in the hands of more people by building on new platforms”

This could be seen as something of a dismissal of Second Life; however, I’d hesitate in seeing it that way. The sentiment behind the comment could just as easily be born out of an acknowledgement that from a business perspective, 3D immersive environments are still a niche market and are liable to remain so for some time to come. Thus, it is actually easier for the company to rapidly grow a new user base (and revenue streams) and leverage new platforms through the development of new products. As such, when looking at Humble’s words from the persepctive of SL, perhaps the the key phrase to focus upon is, “We are still investing in 3D virtual worlds.”

You can read the full article here.

Marketplace: it’s not only the tempo, Rod, it’s time for practical steps

The SL Marketplace has appeared in these pages a few times these past couple of weeks, and not in a good way. First was my coverage of the latest errors relating to listing enhancements, to be followed by the news that LL’s Commerce Team had apparently seen the error and taken steps to correct it and refund people. Only as it turned out, they’d only fixed half the problem, which resulted in people again being incorrectly billed.

Marketplace: a dispiriting place?

Some Good News

On the 8th October the Commerce Team issued the following update:

Merchants,

There has been quite a bit of discussion on Product Listing Enhancements and stuck orders over the past few days on this Forum. Here is an update on these issues.

Product Listing Enhancements:
Last week, we deployed a fix for Product Listing Enhancements to allow them to start billing again. We refunded all PLEs for the prior two months.

After we refunded merchants, billing for Product Listing Enhancements started again. Not all of the billed enhancements correctly updated their renewal date, so we stopped billing. We have updated the PLEs that had an incorrect date and will be releasing a fix this week before we start billing again.

We are aware that there are some Merchants who have Product Listing Enhancements stuck in the “Charging, cannot edit” state. We are continuing to look into this and investigate what we can do to get those PLEs unstuck.

Stuck Orders:
Late Friday night through early Saturday morning, many orders got stuck in the being_delivered state. This morning we were able to force those orders to a completed state (allowing payments to Merchants to complete) and are working to prevent this from happening again.

If you are seeing anything different than [sic] the behavior described above (or have an additional problem), please contact support or file a JIRA. Please include order numbers or listing information as needed.

The Commerce Team

On the whole, this is welcome news, regardless as to how the problems originated.

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