Become your avatar. Again.

secondlifeThey say there is no such thing as an original idea.

In the Lab’s case, there appears to be no such thing as an original marketing campaign.

Three years ago, they ran a campaign “Become Your Avatar“, asking people to “star” in ads which put them up with their avatar in an attempt to draw-in new users.

It was a campaign which was – both within and without SL – somewhat ridiculed. The message itself, to the uninitiated, appeared confusing and ultimately and the whole thing appeared to be something of a flop in most people’s eyes.

The original campaign
The original campaign

Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the Lab trying it again in late 2011 – and it received about as much “positive” feedback from observers at the time as the original.

Now in fairness, we don’t really have any way of gauging how well either campaign actually did; they could actually have done remarkably well, despite the jaundiced eye many of us (myself included) cast over them.

be your avatarWell, guess what? The Lab are looking to run it a third time, and are calling for people willing to “star” alongside their avatar in a new campaign to be launched in the near future.

The announcement reads in part:

We are now casting both humans and their avatars for a new promotional campaign that will be featured on and across the web.

For this campaign, we’re looking for people who are comfortable revealing their “human side” alongside their avatars in Second Life, like in the image above. Specifically, we are looking for those whose avatars do not physically resemble their owners.

This promotion aims to spotlight the diverse and creative communities in Second Life, so please apply if you’d like to share your passion for Second Life with the world!

To be considered, please fill out this application form by 11:59 PM Pacific on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. All submissions will be reviewed by the creative production team for the campaign, but no personal information provided will be disclosed publicly unless you are selected and specifically consent to participate.

We look forward to hearing from you!

I’m not sure what to make of this – other than the fact I won’t be applying. As noted above, just how well the original and follow-up campaigns did is hard to say; we just don’t get enough data on sign-ups and retained users nowadays to make a realistic assessment. This means it is easy to err on the “not very” side of the success equation.

For my part, however, I just wish that someone at the Lab would put more thought into finding something that is fresh and original and which might find broad-range appeal rather than constantly re-running the same ideas. The talent pool within SL is as deep as it is broad, and there would seem to be plenty of opportunities for the Lab to work more collaboratively with users to promote the platform than this approach, as I’ve mentioned myself in the past and also more recently.

While “tried and trusted” may appear to be the safe / easy / assured option for the Lab, it does tend to come with a problem beyond its perceived success. A problem I would hope the Lab take time to note.

Many out in the world – gamers, pundits, et al, already regard Second Life as one of “dead”, “dying” or “past it and not worth the effort. In constantly re-treading the same ol’, same ol’ by way of marketing efforts, the Lab is actually doing very little to dispel such views.

Still, if you feel like having a go – don’t forget the application form and the closing date of 23:59 SLT on Wednesday, May 1st.

A Noble isle and Beatrix Potter

Isle of Myrth is the home of The Noble Storybook, an homage to the tales of Beatrix Potter and the work of members of the Noble Family group in Second Life.

The Noble Storybook
The Noble Storybook

Now, while it may draw its share of hisses and boos my way, I have to confess that the tales of Beatrix Potter are not – and never were – a favourite read; either as a child or in reading bedtime stories to my godchildren. However, when it comes to The Noble Storybook, such a lack doesn’t really matter; this is quite simply a stunning and beautiful build from which nothing is lost if you’re unfamiliar with Peter Rabbit et al, and which richly rewards the Second Life explorer.

Superlatives tend to get used a lot when it comes to SL builds – but this really is one which is deserving of them; everything has been put together with an eye for detail and placement, making the entire region a delight to explore and photograph. Just be aware that the house atop the hill is a private residence and home to the Noble Family – so please respect their privacy.

The Noble Storybook
The Noble Storybook

The rest of the region, however, is open to meandering explorers and camera-happy snappers, and there is more than enough here to keep the most addicted snapper clicking away contentedly for hours.

The initial arrival point for visitors is some way up in the air. Here you get a hint of the region’s theme before teleporting down to the ground itself. There are no greeters passing out notecards, so it’s best to read the description in the Destination Guide if you want to get a feel for the place – not that it really takes much; as I’ve said, this is a beautiful sim which will enchant right from the time you pop-up outside the lighthouse above the beach.

The Noble Storybook
The Noble Storybook

Wooden steps lead down from the cozy lighthouse to the bach and the more “public” areas of the region – the Noble Cafe, a little quay and boat, shops and deck chairs. Footpaths and wooden bridges also lead around, over and along the hillside, offering shaded walks under trees and across open fields.

As you wander, you may well come across characters and creations from Potter’s books; you’ll also come across some stunning scenery. I’m not always a fan of sim surrounds – or at least my GPU isn’t; a combination of sim surround and active shadows tends to send it into paroxysms of flashing and stern NOT RESPONDING messages. However, I have to say that the surrounds used here are used to great effect and add enormous ambience to the region.

The Noble Storybook
The Noble Storybook

The real problem with a region of this kind is that words aren’t enough. There is only one way to really appreciate it – and that’s to go visit it for yourself.

So don’t let me keep you – go! 🙂

SLurl Details

NWS: licensed version due to launch; tutorials start being released

My Fallingwater OAR file loaded into New World Studio on my PC as a part of a Host you own region / megaregion at home using NWS: my own initial set-up featuring 16 regions and using an OAR of my Fallingwater build
Host you own region / megaregion at home using NWS: my own initial set-up featuring 16 regions and using an OAR of my Fallingwater build

I recently reviewed the free version of Olivier Battini’s New World Studio, which allows anyone to to run their own single or multiple-region OpenSim environment on their own computer at home.

Currently, the free – or Community – version is very much as standalone version, although Olivier has indicated that connectivity will be possible in the future as a part of the manual configuration capability. This capability, which requires the editing of an .INI file, already allows users to define the number of regions their NWS installation supports, whether or not these are to be treated as a megaregion, the default starting OAR file (and avatar IAR file, if applicable), specify a preferred viewer rather than the default Imprudence viewr, and so on.

The Community edition of NWS is fully configurable - but requires editing an INI file (original shown left, and my own updated version, right)
The Community edition of NWS is fully configurable – but requires editing an INI file (original shown left, and my own updated version, right)

Due to be released later this week, the licensed version of NWS (currently starting at a 50% off 15 Euros / $20 for a home licence) does, among other things, take away the need to edit the INI file by allowing access to simple selection panel which can be accessed via the Access Advanced Features button on the NWS Launcher.

This panel allows users to configure NWS quickly and easily through a series of option fields and drop-downs. Using it, you can set your avatar name and default look, define the number of regions you wish to run (1, 4, 9, or 16), the default region name and whether or not the regions are to be treated as a megaregion, and set the default OAR file.

The licensed version of NWS includes a configuration panel for easy-of-set-up (image courtesy of Olivier Battini by way of Hypergrid Business)
The licensed version of NWS includes a configuration panel for easy-of-set-up (image courtesy of Olivier Battini by way of Hypergrid Business)

Currently, the control panel doesn’t include an option to select your own preferred viewer. However, this is coming with future updates, together with a number of other options, such as automatically network and firewall configuration for public access, public 3D worlds searches, and so on, as defined on the NWS Features page for the website. In terms of functionality and features, these will take time to develop, which is why licensed versions are being discounted and there is an active Early Adopter Programme, as Olivier explained when we discussed NWS recently.

“People must know and should understand that all will not be functional right now. This project requires a huge amount of work, especially as it’s multi-platform (Win, Mac, Linux),” he said, emphasising the effort involved in putting it all together before highlighting the benefits, “People can experience how easy to use NWS is, and they may not realize the cost of simplicity. This is why there’s an Early Adopter Programme that will allow people to, not only get lower prices, but also be able to vote for the features they want to see implemented first.”

In preparation for the wider availability of NWS options, Olivier has also been working on documentation and tutorials, the latter starting with an introductory video to NWS 2.1 Community Edition.

Again, if you’re looking for a “home studio” OpenSim capability for design / building work, whether your products are for use on OpenSim or Second Life, New World Studio – with a few caveats in the case of use with SL – might be just what you’re looking for as a fast, clean, easy-to-install option.

Related Links

With thanks to Maria Korolov at Hypergrid Business and to Olivier Battini.

Fantasy Faire: another sneak peek

Magnificat – The Relay Royales kindly invite you to their summer palace and gardens for a week of diversions, plays, games and leisure to celebrate life and magnify our souls.

Alia Baroque’s magnificent build will open along with the rest of Fantasy Faire 2013, all in aid of Relay for Life, on April 20th. More details to follow soon!

Related Links

Video by Draxtor Despres, used with thanks, as always.

SL projects update 16 (2): Server releases; region crossings

Second Life Server (Main) Channel Week 16 Deployment

On Tuesday April 16th, the SLS Main channel received Monty Linden’s HTTP updates, which were deployed to BlueSteel and LeTigre in week 15, after having previously been on Magnum for testing.  These updates can be briefly summarised as:

  • More complete and more correct headers on texture and mesh fetches – these should ensure the viewer is better able to handle objects as they are downloaded to it
  • Keepalive connections for some HTTP-based services

For more details on the project, please refer to both the deployment release notes and to my overview of Monty’s work.

 Second Life Release Candidate Week 16 Deployment

On Wednesday 17th April, all three RC channels should receive the same update package. This comprises the server-side LSL Animiation Override capabilities, this time complete with a fix for BUG 2164, wherein the new capabilities could conflict with built-in animation poses in chairs, etc., as discussed in my week 15 updates.  This deployment additionally includes the slight region performance improvement when there are no pathfinding characters present. Release notes are available

Originally, a separate package had been in preparation for deployment to BlueSteel  / LeTigre, but this has had to be postponed due to “last minute scheduling issues”, according to Simon Linden when speaking at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday April 16th. While attempts were apparently being made to get an alternative project into RC, it was “down to the wire to complete testing” at the time of the Simulator UG meeting, and an announcement confirming BlueSteel and LeTigre would receive the same package as Magnum was posted to the deployment thread not long after the meeting finished.

Object Return from Region Edge

A further update which should reach all three RC channels on Wednesday April 17th is the fix for (estate tools do not return objects between 255 and 256m ) / (Auto-return not affecting objects at 256m), which see objects right on the region edge sometimes slipping into a “limbo” which prevented them from being returned either under Auto-return or when using estate tools.

There is some concern that the fix, once deployed, may not correct all issues. However, until it is deployed, there’s no actual way of knowing – so further updates may well be following.

Region Crossings

Since the deployment of the fix for BUG-1814 making region crossings in vehicles has been seen as noticeably better by many people. However, some have noted problems which appeared to be linked to crossings between regions running on different simulator versions, and this was discussed at length at a recent Simulator User Group meeting.

Kitto Flora suggested the problem was not so much with different simulator versions, but due to network traffic, commenting, “It’s directly related to your Net traffic rate when you cross. If its 500k – fail maybe 20% of time … If its 50k it rarely fails.”

While I have been flying extensively over the past week, particularly over Blake Sea and the south-lying regions and over parts of Nautilus, I’ve not been monitoring net traffic during my flights – although I do reduce Draw Distance when flying and tend to shunt graphics quality down to medium-low – so cannot comment on Kitto’s observations. I can however state that when I did encounter problems beyond the expected temporary loss-of-control  / rubber-banding – such as my camera skewing off to once side of my aircraft as shown below – it always coincided with a move between one simulator version and another, and never between regions on the same simulator version. So I guess more test and observations are due on my part after this week’s deployments!

Flight testing region crossings: when moving between regions running on different simulator versions, I invariably encountered greater issues (such as the camera being shunt, as shown above) than when crossing between regions on the same simulator (note the chat console reports, lower left and notifications. top right).
Flight testing region crossings: when moving between regions running on different simulator versions, I invariably encountered greater issues (such as the camera being shunt, as shown above) than when crossing between regions on the same simulator (note the chat console reports, lower left and notifications. top right).

The discussion on region crossings raised additional questions. One of these was whether or not the speed one crosses between regions made any difference. Simon Linden replied:

Your speed in-world shouldn’t have any effect on actually making it or not, but faster crossings will show the errors in predicting where objects will be more. Such as the rubber band effect when crossing … your viewer sees you going a certain speed, and keeps moving you that way, while you hit the crossing, get some lag as the data is transferred to the new region, and you’re stuck into the world, then sling-shot back to the new position. 

Questions / comments were also raised around the subject of region crossings and idle regions: specifically whether crossing into an idle region was subject to additional delay as the region “woke up” and that some have experienced issues with regions which are apparently idling being unresponsive to new child avies, and people “bounce” off the border prior to being able to cross. Responding to both the question and the comments, Simon said:

You actually shouldn’t ever be able to do that. It won’t be idling if you can see into it … Also, remember idle regions are not dead, they [are] just are running at a slower frame rate, just like loaded down regions do.

Missing Prims

There are currently no updates on the “missing prims” situation which has been previously reported in this blog, and which has grown markedly more apparent since the last set of interest list updates.

Andrew Linden was not at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday April 16th to discuss either, but is almost certain to be asked at the Beta Server meeting on Thursday 18th April, if he attends.

Related Links