The Lab has announced the latest round of the Premium Membership promotions – this one with a decidedly Halloween feel.
As usual, the offer is 50% off of membership for those upgrading, but only if they opt for the Quarterly billing plan, and the discount is applied only to the first quarter billing period. The offer begins on Wednesday the 15th of October at 08:00 am Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) and expires on Monday the 3rd of November 2014 at 08:00 am Pacific Standard Time (PST).
Alongside of the membership discount, comes the Premium gift offer, which this time has a Halloween theme, which includes “jack o’lanterns, witches’ brooms and more – including a bone-shaking skeleton avatar”. The gift pack can be obtained through the Premium Gift kiosks.
I admit I’ve not picked-up my gift, as it doesn’t really appeal. This being the case, I’ll also avoid my usual grumblings about the way Premium membership is pitched, and instead say that whether or not you feel upgrading to Premium is worthwhile is purely a matter of individual choice. However, I would say that if you’re considering on the basis of “exclusive gifts” or “more privacy”, then you’re probably better off sitting down and thinking again.
Launched alongside the Premium Membership offer, and included in the same blog post as the Premium offer stuff, is news about the Haunted Halloween Tour, the latest offering from the Lab to feature Experience Keys. This can be accessed via the Lab’s Portal Park, and I’ve covered it in a companion article to this one.
On Friday July 18th, the Lab launched the latest off of its Premium Membership discount offers, together with a new Premium Membership gift.
These seem to be run around July / August each year, and also in November. As usual, the offer is 50% off of membership for those upgrading, but only if they opt for the Quarterly billing plan, and the discount is applied only to the first quarter billing period. The offer runs from 08:00 SLT / PDT on Friday July 18th 2014 through until 08:00 SLT / PDT on Monday August 4th, 2014. The usual Premium Benefits are part-and-parcel of the offer.
I’m a Premium Member; I re-upped several years ago after having been basic, and I find it moderately useful – for I time I lived exclusively in my Linden Home and didn’t find it that bad; admittedly, I managed to land on my feet with the one I had, but I did spend a fair amount of time mulling things over and settled on the exact style I wanted ahead of time and then dallied until it came around on the booking page (not all variants of the various styles are available all of the time). I was then very lucky that the first one I saw was in a location I liked – however, moving between Linden Homes is relatively simple, providing you follow some simple rules. So if the first one you are assigned doesn’t fit the bill, location-wise, it’s easy to hop around.
Even so, I’m still (as always) irked by some of the stated benefits that come with Premium, and wish the Lab would clean-up some of the wording – “More Land and Privacy?” – how, exactly? Basic members get to enjoy both of these as well; not as cheaply, perhaps, but they can have them. I’d also like to see more thought given to the benefits in general. some of the gifts are fun … but none of them are that inspirational.
Which brings me to the latest Premium gift itself. The gift on offer this time is a “new interactive pirate airship, the Linden Marauder.”
Pirate, eh? All I can say is avast … land impact goes into this vessel; 502 in fact (although the physics weight is admittedly only 18-ish), so it’s not something you’ve going to want to keep rezzed out somewhere. It’ll sit a number of people – Captain (owner) at the helm, who must board first, then the “First Mate” and then passengers (or “scurvy crew”, if you prefer and keeping to the piratical theme. Flight controls are the usual : PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN to ascend / descend, LEFT ARROW and RIGHT ARROW to turn. UP ARROW and DOWN ARROW to accelerate / slow down. A nice touch is SHIFT LEFT ARROW or SHIFT RIGHT ARROW to run-out the port or starboard cannon on the gun decks and fire a broadside.
Handling-wise the airship is OK, firing the guns at another passing airship can be a bit of a giggle – the first time. Other than that, I don’t have anything to say on it, other than when it comes to the idea of Premium gifts and offering something of value and which is likely to be of real benefit, this kind of offering leaves two words floating inside my head: “missed” and “opportunity”
LL have just launched their latest Premium gift today, Thursday 14th November. That something was due today wasn’t a surprise, as they’d slipped out advanced word last month by accident. However, at the time, I thought it might be something else other than the next Premium gift.
Turns out – it is, so ho-hum on my part.
I will say, with hand-on-heart, however, that I’m not actually surprised by the nature of the gift – a biplane. I say not surprised, as the prediction curve was pretty clear over the last three gifts: boat, railcar, car (dune buggy) – so an aeroplane rounds-out the set. So what is the latest like?
Well, it looks like something out of the great days of barnstorming in the 1920s, when surplus WWI aircraft received a second lease of life. In fact, from what cursory research I did via the web, it looks like a cross between a Spad (beloved of American pilots) and the British SE5. Sort-of. Well, to me, at least.
As with all premium gift vehicles, this one follows the usual standard – get in and use it, with touching it bringing up a menu to adjust things like the colour scheme, the flight sensitivity, the controls, etc. When you up in, instructions are displayed in chat, and follow the normal layout – PAGE UP/ DOWN for throttle increase / decrease, arrow keys for nose up / down, left / right (or you can use WASD and E & C for the throttle).
Handling-wise, and to be brutally honest, I have to admit that I found the plane something of a mess. As there is no HUD, decreasing or increasing the throttle produces a spew of channel spam in the viewer’s chat console, which is both annoying and distracting. Further, and while this may be down to the fact I use my own camera defaults (although I don’t know why if so, as I use the same defaults to fly my other aircraft), I found it impossible to achieve stable, level flight in this plane even with the throttle reasonably set: I was either constantly climbing or descending (generally the latter – it’s as if the plane is terribly nose-heavy). Obviously, some adjustment to trim is going to be required in an old kite, but this actually grated on me in both basic and advanced sensitivity settings.
The plane is a single-seater, but that doesn’t prevent friends coming along for the ride – providing they are willing to hang on. Aerobatically, the plane is OK – I threw a couple of loops and rolled it a few times, although the aforementioned habit of it constantly wanting to get back on the ground meant that it was easy to over-compensate.
As with the dune buggy offering, the plane “includes” the use of a premium-only airstrip at Orville. This has been stuck on the south side of the premium sandbox group which includes Formonsa, Amoena, and others, and which appear to have gained two additional region splitting them: Limia and Arowana. As such, there should be a lot of flying space here – but for the fact that the runway is west- east facing, with no regions either to the left or right, which makes taking off and landing something of a pain, as there is no real opportunity for a lined-up descent on the latter or decent climb-out in the former. This was reflected in the fact that on my visit, there were a number of biplanes bouncing along the region edge…
The lack of flying space to the east and west may also reflect the fact that there were a fair few at the strip who were not flying their new LL gift plane, but were enjoying themselves dogfighting in Warbugs (one of which I just have to get – talk about cute!). These tiny little planes had no issue with the confined space.
While at Orville, I confess I took time out not to fly the new plane, but to take the Stingray out on the water once more – I tell you, I’m hooked on this vehicle!
Overall, the latest premium gift is pretty predictable; transportation appears to have been the theme for 2012’s gifts as mentioned above. It’ll be somewhat interesting to see what the theme will be for 2013. As to the biplane itself – well, like the buggy before it, it’s OK, but hardly on a par with offerings which can be had for free on the Marketplace; however, if it serves to get people who have no previously tried flying to give it a go, then it can be said to have served a decent purpose.
For my part, however, I’ll stick with my Stingray. And go get me a little Warbug. Those things look FUN!
Oh, and of course, this gift comes complete with the usual “50% (on your first quarter’s payment) discount” offer. For those who are curious as to general thoughts on premium, please feel free to check out my thoughts on the matter for those considering an upgrade.
The latest Premium gift arrived yesterday, together with yet another push for people to up to Premium. In keeping with the transportation / vehicle theme that has marked the majority of the gifts to date (the last two being a sailboat and a railcar respectively), this quarter sees a dune buggy as the offering – so no-one can accuse LL of not trying to get people out and around SL in order to use their gifts.
As with previous gifts, the buggy is mesh, with a total LI of 58. The level of detail on it is OK, if a little basic texture-wise. It seats two, and the promotional blog post makes a big point about taking friends along for the ride, although the buggy is restricted to owner-only driving.
Driving-wise, it uses the usual controls either the WASD keys or the arrow keys. It has a “turbo” feature – doubling-clicking the W/up arrow accelerates the buggy and produces a green glow under it, and you can use this to pull wheelies. Use the SHIFT key in combination with the A or D / left or right arrow keys, and you can produce tight hand-brake turns. The front wheels don’t turn when turning the buggy, but a particle dirty / dust effect is given off from the rear wheels when in motion.
Once seated in the vehicle, you can call-up a menu allowing you to change the colour for various parts of it: frame, seats, wheels, etc., allowing a degree of customisation. A help card can be accessed from the menu, although the vehicle really is simple enough to get to grips with without it.
As with the railcar gift from May, the notecard includes a number of places where people can go drive their new toy, although one of these is on a time-limited basis and “may disappear after the promotion period for the buggy”.
Personally, I’d actually suggest this 4-region, Premium-only area potentially represents more fun / value than the buggy itself. It offers plenty of space for people to race vehicles, fly aircraft and generally socialise. If you’re listening, LL, consider expanding it by a couple more regions rather than packing it up in the future, it’s a place where users can do what they do best – make their own fun.
Of the three vehicle-related gifts supplied by LL to date, this is potentially the weakest in terms of appealing to established users. Anyone with any interest in vehicles is liable to have at least one sitting in their inventory already. However, for the curious / those new to SL who signed-up to Premium, then the buggy may well have appeal. Certainly, there were a fair few trying their gifts out in the 4-region driving zone. How long the appeal lasts, however, is questionable.
It’s a shame LL opted to restrict the buggy to owner driving only. Giving at least an option to set it to group access / driving would have offered the potential for people to have far more fun with friends, Premium and non-Premium alike, at any of the major race tracks and driving zones around SL.
For my part, and being a bit grouchy, the buggy is another “meh” gift; I have a beautiful car in the form of a Classic 43S GT which, while not as efficient as the buggy in terms of resource use, is actually a lot better looking and far more fun to drive – and I can share it with friends, as it has the option for “guests” to drive. It’s also available for free on the Marketplace).
The major issue with this gift, again, is it’s hardly an incentive to take-up (or even maintain) Premium membership. And in that respect, if LL really do want to get more people to jump the fence from Basic to Premium, they would probably have more success overhauling the entire Premium package. Although quite how they do this without upsetting something, somewhere (and doubtless a lot of a people in the process), is something of a L$64,000 question…