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May 25, 2006

Selenitic Second Life

Selenitic_01 M

Understandably, a number of people didn't exactly appreciate my comments about Second Life in a previous post. I'd like to respond.

The core concept, a population of people, empowered to create their own physical (virtual) space, is exceptional. Second Life is undoubtedly the best thing of it's kind out there. My frustrations lie in the fact that it doesn't live up to it's full potentional. What attracts me most about Second Life is the community (at an affordable price), so I'm not so interested in the islands. But community is what I feel is most poorly implemented. In short, it attracts me much less than my own real world and I'm left wondering why the Lindens (the Second Life staff) did not try to attract people like me with the most basic city planning. Why isn't the megapolis divided into small towns, each with a limited population of around 3000? Why aren't market areas seperated from the living area? Why aren't there town centers, with town squares? And what about a central public park and large public building that one can see from almost any part of town? All of these things are just the first steps toward beginning a community... then there's government, voting, virtual laws. And above all else, the town settings must be designed and inviting – like a town set on a high mesa or clustered on the side of a steep hill, where every dwelling has a view to the river below. And some of these settings could even border on the fantastic... an escape from the real world rather than a sensory near oppressive sensory overload.

The Second Life concept is great. It's just poorly implemented. So who will make it work? The Lindens? I hope.

In the meantime, it's refreshing to witness the hundreds (thousands?) of people who, though they may have never developed any software at all, find themselves in Second Life, creating mini-worlds of their own!

~aDen, a Second Life inhabitant, just sent me images of a the Myst rocket ship that he/she made. Wow! You gotta love this! (I've included the corresponding images from Myst, along with ~aDen's images... click to enlarge.)

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Reader Comment: Torley Linden from Linden Labs left an excellent reply to this post. Below is an excerpt but I encourage you to read her entire comment (and thanks Torley!)...

Some say "First Land" (512 m2 parcels, each for a first-time landowner) are like ghettos, with each person imposing their vision into a compact space. Over time, people move out, wanting more land, and from the chaos comes some degree of stability--like a fine wine--with age.

I don't think the Lindens can "make this world" insularly--it's a Resident-created world! It's up to the Lindens to provide tools, yes, but it's this constant exchange with the community. As a former Resi who frequently made feature suggestions, I've experienced this trueness multiple times. (LA, KEEP AN EYE ON CALEDONICS. :O)

But for now, here's a blunt generalization: think of sci-fi cliches with "the galactic core" and alien homeworlds. Homeworlds are more orderly and uniform because they stock a single (or in some cases, several cooperative and/or not-so-cooperative) species. But the galactic core, like Trantor, or Coruscant, have such a kaleidoscopic mishmash of STUFF that it causes exponential, intergalactic culture shock.

Think of the islands as homeworlds, and the mainland as the galactic core.

Reader Comment: Also, from Second Life resident Maxx Monde...

You're right, of course Robyn. SL is a free-for-all that doesn't result in aesthetic coherence, but there is some excellent things there, if you can look in the right places.

Having Myst recreated (in part) inside of SL is very cool, just like the URU players did with their island when the service shut down. SL is the only place to even attempt such a thing.

It can only get better, over time, as pure design talent gets poured into the arena. I certainly try to do my part :)

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» The Mysts of Second Life from 3pointD.com
Second Life resident aDen Ennui has built a faithful and impressive recreation of some of the artifacts from Robyn Millers ground-breaking video game, Myst. [Via Torley.] aDen posts from screens of his (her?) creations on a bit of a browser-cho... [Read More]

Tracked on May 29, 2006 9:20:53 AM

Comments

Good points there, and a great post (as ever).

Myst! Now that was something. It made you dream. That's what fantasy worlds are supposed to do, not copy the mess of your real life using Otherworld Wooden Dollars or whatever it is they use there.

Posted by: Napfisk | May 25, 2006 2:28:48 PM

Now how's that for flattery!

Posted by: Hana | May 25, 2006 6:19:33 PM

I think Napfisk has a good point here. It's something that I have wondered about for quite some time, about the "real life"-ness of games. It was kind of an inevitable step resulting from improved technology. Whether or not this "real life"-ness is/was a good thing is a very good question.

To go for the flattery end of things, I think that Myst was exceptional at finding the proper balance, and was way ahead of its time in 1993. It was very realistic, but yet was still otherworldly and profound. In my opinion, a proper use of improved technology.

I think that since that the more advanced technology has become more commonplace, it has been "banalized" a great deal. One could make the analogy that it's almost like Atrus creating the various ages and his progeny destroying them.

Back on topic, it looks like ~aDen did a very convincing replica of that rocketship. I always did like that puzzle with the organ . . . it helps having absolute pitch!

Posted by: Alex | May 25, 2006 9:34:14 PM

For what it's worth, I agree with Tinselman.

The problem with second life is the problem with myspace is the problem with digg: When the customer is in complete control of the world, this doesn't always lend itself to the most awe-inspiring environments.

The reason many people sought after Myst was its immersive environments. The reason they kept playing was the crafting of a story that kept you intrigued...curious. But the devil's in the details.

Not everyone thinks graphically. Compare hp's bling bling pc look to Apple's minimalist hip pc. Design is the core element of aesthetics. Not everyone is able to take a thought and make it a reality. And not everyone is willing to take the time required to make it happen.

My two cents, anyway.

Posted by: Lance | May 26, 2006 6:08:07 AM

So remarkable. Thirteen years from the launch of Myst, Myst, its essence and reality, continue to live on. Whatever the technology that continues to emerge, the multitude of essential elements that are in Myst that came together and made it such a success are essential today in truly satisfying game play. As the saying goes, Myst was more then a game, as we see by this recreation of an element of Myst, and is why I think it continues to live and find life and expression outside of the Myst world such as ~aDen has demonstrated.

Posted by: rw | May 26, 2006 6:08:18 AM

(Hello! This is BookBug from the Cyan Worlds forums, though I'm sure that doesn't ring much of a bell.)

I think that the guys who made Second Life were inspired more by a desire to make a blend between The Sims and an MMO game than by any real experience with city planning, though I wouldn't know for sure, having never actually played Second Life.

But maybe it's just me.

Posted by: KwadDamyj | May 26, 2006 10:10:54 AM

You're right, of course Robyn. SL is a free-for-all that doesn't result in aesthetic coherence, but there is some excellent things there, if you can look in the right places.

Having Myst recreated (in part) inside of SL is very cool, just like the URU players did with their island when the service shut down. SL is the only place to even attempt such a thing.

It can only get better, over time, as pure design talent gets poured into the arena. I certainly try to do my part :)

Posted by: Maxx Monde | May 27, 2006 5:09:14 PM

Whoa! Look who's here!

Disclaimer: I work for Linden Lab; the following opinions are my own.

There are funny treasures to be observed, scattered around the mainland. "Pockets" of community are rare--and indeed, hard to find if you don't know how. Especially ones that go... and keep on going! Endurance is key.

I'll cite Luskwood "since 2003" because they have been active and vital. There are some others which haven't been so fortunate, as key founding members turned to other interests. "Themed Communities" were early Resident projects--more info at the SL History Wiki @ http://history.secondserver.net/

As I'm sure the Luskians will bring up--I know Michi Lumin has said so many times--the current lack of land control tools on the mainland, in contrast with private islands, are limited, and to some, deplorably frustrating! For example, if you've got what I call a "greefer kin" (rank amateur troublemaker) bombing away, it's much more effective to do an estate ban from an island, than the impotent "You can still hover 40 m above my land and drop bombs on me" on the mainland.

Also, expansion: some communities grew bigger and bigger and couldn't purchase adjacent land on the mainland, so they moved to--ya got it!--islands.

Some of the islands are growing to resemble continents all their own, which isn't a bad thing. And the "mainland" itself has become several continents.

Let me touch on my admiration of Myst (and Cyan) for a moment: I grew up with Myst, having purchased it with my prize winnings after winning a musical competition back in '94 or so. It was on my Mac, a Quadra 660AV, that I was inspired by its simplicity but ingenuity of exploration.

I came across aDen Ennui in a sandbox and found him to be creating these Myst facsimiles. In true respectable form, he wanted to get in touch with... *dun dun dun!* THE SOURCE. And I'm glad this has come together, and we now have Robyn Miller to thank.

I always wanted to see a town full of Maxx Monde buildings. I remember seeing him work on things in the sandbox, and on occasion, rezzing a YUGE arch (holy moly!). Oftentimes, it's like that: I see a brilliant content creator (as Maxx is) or team of them, and say... "What would a whole city of your stuff be like?" but often, there is a limit like, "I don't have enough time" or "I don't have enough money to buy more land and haven't found someone who's willing". Of course, there are exceptions to this--and being exceptions, they are exceptional.

A fascinating thing are the big cities in SL that *do* exist, but are *unpopulated* as avatars do not *require* shelter, nor sleep, nor things which might tether them to a certain place. A good example are the "Korea" regions (Korea1, Korea2, etc.), which infact were crafted by Brian Linden--almost singlehandedly I think! They are cohesive, they are nice to stroll around in... but, they are quiet and not bustling.

What I'm interested in, in addition to these conventional spaces, are "trips that make sense" but aren't so linear. In this, I touch on Cosmic Osmo perhaps, or The Manhole, for their utilization of space. And GOSH I'd want to play them again in a modern environment--despite them not being the same, sentimentality-wise. There's a dearth in SL--for now, we'll see what comes next 'round the bend--of original texture creators (and more) and those who really have not just the ability, but the resources to canvas themselves across numerous regions. I know some artistics who are wonderful working on comparatively small sculptures, but haven't ever made more than a few houses together--what a treat that'd be!

Some say "First Land" (512 m2 parcels, each for a first-time landowner) are like ghettos, with each person imposing their vision into a compact space. Over time, people move out, wanting more land, and from the chaos comes some degree of stability--like a fine wine--with age.

I don't think the Lindens can "make this word" insularly--it's a Resident-created world! It's up to the Lindens to provide tools, yes, but it's this constant exchange with the community. As a former Resi who frequently made feature suggestions, I've experienced this trueness multiple times. (LA, KEEP AN EYE ON CALEDONICS. :O)

But for now, here's a blunt generalization: think of sci-fi cliches with "the galactic core" and alien homeworlds. Homeworlds are more orderly and uniform because they stock a single (or in some cases, several cooperative and/or not-so-cooperative) species. But the galactic core, like Trantor, or Coruscant, have such a kaleidoscopic mishmash of STUFF that it causes exponential, intergalactic culture shock.

Think of the islands as homeworlds, and the mainland as the galactic core.

And those galaxy-wide conferences a la Star Trek IV? I wouldn't rule them out either. =]


P.S. aDen d00d you did such a kickass job recreating that Myst book--magical to see you following up on getting in touch with Robyn. *waves, with much respect*

Posted by: Torley Linden | May 27, 2006 6:58:46 PM

Wow, what a timely and universe of a topic,
serves me right for being away from here too long! Yes I found Second Life to be chaotic in the ways you say, R, and I think in many ways it reflects the anarchy that underlies real human societies too. Design arises from Nature, and also from human desire for order or at least some sense of being able to impact one's time and space, if only in little ways. The traditional architectural elements arose in each society, East, West and in between from organic elements of that society or area, and then cross cultivated and pollinated each other. Now we have a global polyglot, but a rich riot it is! Patterning is continuaiton of the rythmns and ressonances of human senses and what is possible technologically and also what represents the vision of the creators, usually the elite and then it trickles down to everyone else. Sometimes the craft and ethos of building and shaping all spaces, homes, shops, streets, community flow and squares, parks etc. arises from below and from above with Japan traddionally and most village societies of the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Asia. Other times, the elite imposes an overall
and monlithic sameness, as in Mohenjedaro in the Middle East long ago, huge brick structures with an overall samness typical of water monopoly societies, or Ancient Egypt.

But the patterns are the breath of life and the shape of our times, in our time, we are inundated by some massive modern building techniques that deny pattern as an organic expression, i.e. the steel girder, huge glass walls, massive urban grids, but that is not to say that they cannot be living patterns too. Organic and meandering is fun.

Underneath, i think a certain randomness instills mystery and adventure and newness, in some cities I have lived, such as Venice, Paris, small villages in England, Greece, and Portugal, the randomness of the streets is refreshing and new each time you wander, even after long acquaintence, and so it refreshes and makes it seem like one is having a new day each day.

I think for game design and for art and aesthetics, a balance of order and chaos is important, for each are in integral part of living and being alive and being creative and free.

Second Life is a very interesting example of the potential horizons of CGI and the digitial age, and I watch it with interest but some dismay as well, for the chaos seems to smother some essential needs, even tho as one poster said, avatars dont need to eat or sleep, yet, we the creators do, and it is very very important I think to remind our creations, even our avatars to retain the patterns of their parents, for if we allow the technological creations that we craft to become too far from our real lives, we endanger ourselves in the Nemo Gap, so named for Captain Nemo
whose vast powers arose in a timem that he had no equal and hterfore no limit to his personal actions, and indeed no balance or check or way of integrating himself with his age.

Perhaps Second Life needs to remember to soften and gently direct the efforts of its citizens and denizens, for every society real or virtual has in the end to make a choice between unlimited expression of any desire and the good of all, including all life and all possiblities. We in our real world face a terrible gap in modern compassion and understanding of these questions, I have taken some ten years or more to consider these questions and have no real answers, but this was a great topic and posting.

Myst and the wonders therin are a treasure of our times, and one of the High creations of our century plus one. In the Myst worlds lies not an alternative reality, but an actual self realizing and
self generating archality, an over-arching
ethos and vista of a really new horizon that is a precious resource in our times of increasingly trapped and limited possiblity and vision.

In most modern living and working spaces, pattern become tyranny of the least common denominator, and vast clinical spaces rise like mauseleums, yet how important it can be to have the simple and essential balance of pattern of the right kind with the potential of freedom and space.

Very interesting and wonderful indeed, thanks for ths sharing Robyn. and good luck to Second life and those therin.

Posted by: ChrisG | May 28, 2006 11:01:02 AM

I agree with the OP that some overarching, non-coercive, voluntary themes could have been articulated by the Lindens at no cost to their rigid technolibertarianism that substitutes the other guy's licentiousness -- paralyzing my ability to enjoy the view or create myself -- for the value of "creative freedom for all".

They could roll out sims with just a designation, like "residential" if the sim is waterfront, or "commercial" if the sim is roadside or flat, or "entertainment/club" if the sim is flat interior, or "experimental/artist" if the sim is mountains, etc. etc. Just a sketch like that would avoid enormous amounts of unhappiness, devaluation of land, and clutter. If a sim were auctioned with the label "club," then the clubs could take that club-designated sim, perhaps with an incentive like extra prims, and wouldn't clog up a waterfront they never look at anyway as they spend their time in their black boxes.

I do think the OP's views of SL were too cursory to form an opionion, given that there are those of us working really hard to make "villages" have more coherence, with town squares, sandboxes for building practice, events spaces, residential areas, shops, etc. On the mainland, this involves a huge expenditure -- 4 sims is a minimum (at least $4000 purchase and then $600 maintenance) and 16 isn't even enough -- and people flee to the islands to try to do the things described in terms of community and controlled spaces because they don't have to deal with the rampant "I can do whatever the !@@#$ I feel like doing on my land" attitude.

Re: "In most modern living and working spaces, pattern become tyranny of the least common denominator, and vast clinical spaces rise like mauseleums, yet how important it can be to have the simple and essential balance of pattern of the right kind with the potential of freedom and space."

Chris is right to an extent -- if we can add to that the notion that the highest common denominator is a tyranny, too, because not all of us wish to make the sacrifices to live in that fashion. We have a chance in Second Life to recreate and make something new. It doesn't have to be inhuman and inhabitable, however, and it's ok to reiterate the conversations of the millenia in architecture! What we do know is that people can't bear a huge vanity tower like a sculpture that dwarfs the avatar scale and scars the horizon -- if it has no point and is unusable -- and for technical reasons having to do with capacity for viewing video, hearing music, and having privacy, such skyscrapers are unusable.

In fact, if you take a closer look at SL, the Myst style of architecture, which you might call Medieval MMORPG, or magic surrealism, is if anything over-represented in SL. Builds like the Lost Gardens of Apollo or Orwood or Lusk in fact exemplify it. While beautiful, these builds tend to be over-influenced by the Mysts of the gaming world, and derivative.

Posted by: Prokofy Neva | May 29, 2006 1:08:37 PM

I've only just been pointed to this blog by a post by Ben Linden....

Indirectly, I am in Second Life because of Riven; I'd always hated computer games before a friend showed my Riven, and that led to participation in the closed beta on Uru. When Uru Live closed, I migrated to SL.

I love Cyan games, but what I have found in Second Life is an opportunity to make my own vision; the world is messy and there is a lot of junk, but there is a lot of good stuff too. What I loved about Riven was that I felt inspired to go make my own game, and it is only through the medium of Second Life that was possible for me. Numbakulla is the result.

The beauty of Second Life for me is that it takes the concept of being yourself which I found in Cyan games, forward to the point where being yourself involves making your own world. It is a shame that often this is contingent on being able to pay a lot o money for land and tier: I would like to see more projects like the Numbakulla one, built with donated/public land, supported by the people who love it.

It does disappoint me sometimes when I see companies that pride themselves on innovation coming into SL and making the same old conference facilities and offices, but I think that will change as people gain confidence in the medium. I think the future of the platform could be very exciting, if only they can get the handle on the bugs and scaling problems.

Posted by: Caliandris | Jul 27, 2006 11:13:25 PM

This seems like a very old Blog post. Some things that have changed since the last comment on this blog are as follows:
URU is back up and running, sort of, I think.

Second Life has had a lot of media attention, a media blitz if you will. So much so that the last article I read was titled "Second Life, So Popular no one goes there anymore" about how empty it is.

Sony has announced and is almost releasing HOME their Second Life type (at least visually) Online Game Service for the PS3.

Bungie has announced Halo 3 will have Online 4-player co-op via XBOX LIVE.

______Why do I get the feeling that what you are looking for (Online community, Online Multiplayer appreciation of panoramic views) will be more likely achieved through Halo 3 then ever will be achieved through SL or even URU(no offense)_____

Posted by: Arnaldo | Aug 12, 2007 12:34:46 AM

I guess in a way creativity is being thrown like darts at Second Life, and like the Game of Life from 1960s, interactions between creative projects will cause some spinoffs, some die-offs, and some stable forms. The main question to me is when things will coalesce into some sort of mutant status quo and give people at least a ballpark figure of what the median SL building attitude is. Will the population need to reach a certain figure, or attain a certain overall skill level? That's part of the fun of trying to ascertain what exactly is optimum in SL... or simply may be.

Posted by: Virtual Merchants | Oct 16, 2008 3:30:10 PM

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