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Opinions and views regarding diverse topics and happenings in Second Life and its community of netizens, bystanders and passersby

Winter Window

Cranky ’14

What a year, 2014! And I say that sarcastically. For the most part, I spent the time complaining about people in SL rather than posting about what I was doing. Really. Some things must change for 2015 or this blog will become a hate-driven zine nobody will like to visit. You don’t believe me? Here’s 2014 in abstracts.

Morton

In January I was writing about people’s stupidity, going to SL events fully attired with thousands of attachments, as if events were a fashion parade or a pageantry freak show. Later, I wrote about yard sales, and the hidden agendas of “gachers”, both creators and resellers, in making lots of money out of their victims’ addictions. I also recounted my close encounters with a strange fan that was too inspired with my modest attempts at creating homey environments, that she made an exact copy of my Bay City plot.

Transition

In February, I was telling you how boring I am, doing minimal changes in my rented parcel. Following that discussion, I told you how tired I was of hearing creators accusing each other of intellectual property infringement and stealing, and of a similar atmosphere clouding the camaraderie in SL sailing groups. It’s actually incredible that 11 months later, nothing has changed in that regard. People… I guess.

March and April were kind of quiet, since I only whined, in a very quick way, about some creators’ lack of “responsibility” for joining in too many events and then not showing for half of them. In May I calmed down a little bit and answered silently one of Strawberry Singh’s blog challenges. But tranquility didn’t last long, because before month’s end I was complaining about suspicions of “cheating” in the LL’s auction house after losing some bids to real estate mongers in several attempts at buying parcels in Mainland during that month. Of course, I never tried the thing again and declared it a waste of time.

I returned to the SL map to search for land for sale during June, and told you of how shallow-brained are people using banlines and other security tools to pester their neighbors and everyone else alike.

July

Finally, something good happened in July, after I found a nice parcel by accident. Of course I bought it and built my countryside hideout. What I didn’t tell you is that eventually, even that idyllic property got surrounded by banlines and an out-of-place gorean castle erected on a 512 sq.m. parcel in front of mine. How sweet! I guess that’s why, for the rest of the month I spent my time arguing against gacha excesses in all kinds of SL events. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one with such claims, as some other people, including well-known creators, were equally lamenting the loss of quality in SL production because the over-abundance of SL events.

In August I did practically nothing. I only wrote about what I though should be fair pricings for SL land after LL announced the company was already working on SL’s successor. September wasn’t that “positive” either, and during the Home & Garden expo I reproached the use of a blogger application to call for promotional exposure for an event that, due to its nature and purpose, would benefit more from all kinds of advertising, from the all-inclusive blogging community, rather than filtering out the little people. For me it was a snobbish move that should only be reserved for purely commercial ventures, not for a fundraising one. Of course, that’s only my opinion, me that knows nothing about organizing anything in SL (that’s a disclaimer, kind of).

The rest of the year went pretty quiet, until the posts this week, that you should go and read in full instead of expecting a compendium (me, roll eyes).

That in essence was my 2014. All in all, I must confess I did have a lot of fun this year, as usual, despite my apparent hate phase. I even fully enjoyed writing about all those frustrations because it made me think a lot about what drives SL, in terms of it as a social medium, going through the mechanics that make this world go round –in its own fashion–, and the magnificent ménage of sentient beings that gives life to this collective illusion.

Autumn 2014

Tweaks

First of all, this isn’t a regular post. It’s actually a post-it note with useful information related to SL viewer settings that I want to keep handy for quick reference.

Even though a lot of people are happy with SL’s official viewer, I’m among those who have one particular reason to hate it: It crashes constantly, period. I don’t know why, but that’s been my experience, even with different computer setups. Everything else works fine, but I can’t stand having to log back in every 5 minutes.

Crashes have been a thing of the past for all third party viewers (TPVs) I’ve used and liked over the years, but sometimes those projects, some of which depend on a lonely soul, fall out of updates, either because the developer is not interested in continuing with the burden, for example, or because other RL or SL endeavors keep their attention away from development or from matching the pace of official releases, among other reasons. When that happens, I tend to hop to another TPV and move on.

Besides the SL official viewers (stable, betas or release candidates alike), I currently use the following two regularly: Kokua Viewer and Firestorm Viewer. Both of them are closely related since, if I’m not mistaken, the first one is based on the second one; sometimes Kokua updates also take more time to come around. And of course, both of them are more feature-rich than their official counterpart.

To get to the point, the raison d’être of this text is to keep track of the camera settings I use on both of these viewers. Since I tend to “hang out” with one of them for a time and then shift to the other as features are updated (or a new annoying bug is accidentally introduced), with some frequency I’ve had to do a search for “camera settings” when switching sides… because I’m so lazy that I forget to write them down, yep. So this is my way to keep the notes handy. By the way, Firestorm has an exquisite tool that helps you backup and restore all viewer settings (found under Preferences), but there’s always something to tweak after a fresh install anyway.

Backup utility in Firestorm

So these are the camera settings of my preference, in case readers find them of any use. They can be tweaked by going to the Advanced menu > Show Debug Settings.

In Firestorm, the viewer I’m using right now, you get this warning when attempting to access the Debug Settings. That’s their way of scaring the hell out of you, but there’s nothing to be afraid of; the settings we’re modifying are quite safe and harmless.

Warning

Once “inside,” the Debug Settings window looks like this:

Debug

From the list, we’re scrolling down to CameraOffsetFrontView, CameraOffsetGroupView, CameraOffsetRearView, CameraOffsetScale, and a little bit down the list to FocusOffsetFrontView, FocusOffsetGroupView, and FocusOffsetRearView. GroupView affects the Side View in the default Camera Controls window (the little eye button usually present in the toolbar).

To know the nitty-gritty of the settings, please refer to these excellent posts by other SLifers; I won’t explain them better than they already do.

The values I use are as follows:

CameraOffsetFrontView:

X  2.300    Y  0.000

Z  -0.900

CameraOffsetGroupView:

X  -1.500    Y  0.700

Z  0.100

CameraOffsetRearView:

X  -1.900    Y  -0.350

Z  -0.300

CameraOffsetScale:

value  1.000

FocusOffsetFrontView:

X  1.000    Y  0.000

Z  0.100

FocusOffsetGroupView:

X  1.500    Y  0.700

Z  1.100

FocusOffsetRearView:

X  2.000    Y  0.000

Z  0.200

Of these settings, the only ones overly important for me (stressed in bold) are the two that control the rear view and the offset scale (though right now I’m keeping the default value for the last one). They really make a HUGE difference in the way we visually perceive the SL world. Everbody should change those, that must be mandatory. I rarely (if ever) use the other two modes, front view and group/side view, but some of you might do. I also tweak these values a little bit more depending on the situation.

 

Picture: No, I didn’t return to autumn after last post. It’s an old picture I came across that never got posted, and since this rambling is not about home and garden, it doesn’t actually matter what season of the year I stick to (nor that it matter in SL anyway). Stuff in the picture from 3D Trees, Botanical, and Studio Skye.

work in progress

Of land and wishful thinking

I recently came back to a MMORPG I abandoned –that’s to say, I used to play– about two years ago. During my prolonged vacation, a lot of new features and content were implemented. Several of them were worth the dimes, while some others were kind of pointless (imho), but all in all they brought a lot of changes and things to explore, especially for someone that’s been away for that long. As a result, I’ve been having fun… temporarily (I know I’ll get bored quite soon). One of the introductions is a loyalty rewards program that grants bonuses to addicted –sorry, I mean loyal– players. The longer you stay, the better the compensations. The game is f2p now (free to play, for those that are not familiar with the jargon, meaning you don’t have to pay a subscription anymore), but if your… fervor extends far beyond the Moon’s orbit, you can still pay the sub, which entitles you to a patron status for even more extra prizes and discounts on the cash shop –the thingy that replaced the ancient subscribo system and is, with all probability, generating a lot more income that the old subs did. The game is still doing quite well judging by, first, the number of players still around (though that may be due to a recent update); second, the number of servers still online, and third, by the loyal players with patron status that seem to be happy with what they get in return.

In a way, we should think the SL premium membership is on par with that MMORPG’s subscription plan. Generally, most SLifers agree the weekly stipend is a nice “reward”, while the yearly payment plan is considered as the best deal of the three available (the other two being monthly or quarterly subs). Some even find the Linden home a wonderful choice in land acquisition, probably because the neighborhoods are surely less of a mess compared to the classic fuglyness of mainland. The rest of the benefits are less appealing, though. For instance, I’ve never visited or had any need for the exclusive sandboxes since becoming a premium member a year ago, nor have I found the live chat with customer support that useful –because the guy at the other end of the communication channel usually knows less than you do about SL mechanics anyway. Maybe for someone running a business they are great, let’s be fair.

From another side, SL rewards are static. While prizes in said MMORPG are more exciting, of increasing quality or value according to the player’s progression, in SL you win nothing for being a longtime loyal member. Actually, oftentimes it’s just the opposite: people start feeling the world is crumbling down, and shortly thereafter are of the opinion that they’ve been paying too much for what they’re getting, in practical terms. That is, in one word, discouraging.

Aside from the weekly stipend, the most notable “benefit” premium membership brings is the right to own land on the so-called mainland. To its favor, I have to highlight that Linden’s continents are the largest continuous landmass in SL, making that a big plus for adventurers of the air, land and sea. No private estate can compare to that. Ok, what else? Well, if you opt to buy land in the mainland, you can skip the administration fee applied to privately owned regions, and pay the rent directly to the Lab. That translates in a few –sometimes insignificant– savings (if any at all, actually), but the drawback on that deal –and one of the reasons behind private estates’ success– is the eternal state of disarray of Linden-managed lands. My guess is that the Lab’s work force consist purely of coders and a few business administrators that know –and care– nothing about public policy planning. Consequently, “their world” is such a melancholic mess that most people with a pinch of aesthetics avoid those regions at any cost. I even heard one time that “eyesore” and “indigestion” were coined in Second Life, but to be honest I’m not sure about that assumption. Yet, while experts elucidate if that’s true or not, the expansiveness of abandoned land keeps growing and chaos dominates mostly everything that remains occupied. When it’s not a kingdom of aberrant privacy screens, it’s the abusive barricade tape-like ban lines, or any other atrocity some masterminds erect –I guess– to a priori honor those that collapse of fright at their unavoidable sight.

Well, I digress… The point is, I think land ownership is one of the key factors to go premium (at least it was for me). On the other hand, a lot of Linden land gets abandoned because the neighborhoods don’t stand to even average community standards and hence they can’t keep or attract residents due to the colossal oddities around them.

For the great majority of SL residents, keeping land in SL gets too costly in both the short and long runs. Nevertheless, the consensus dictates LL can’t lower the tier costs because that’s where the money keeping the company afloat comes from (paying the bills, the employment roster, and some execs’ vacation plans). To that I add: it simply can’t because it needs that income to actually subsidize all that inhospitable abandoned land wasting resources. I mean, how can the Lab justify a desert that generates no income? Why doesn’t it look for more practical ways to repopulate all that emptiness or put it to good use?

Personally, I would be quite happy if a land bonus were implemented on regular accounts, maybe adorning it with a loyalty twist. I say “regular accounts” because there has always been a 10% land bonus for groups. Yes: if a person deeds his or her tier rights or buys land to a group, that group is entitled to an extra 10% over the total amount of land it holds. How does it work? In practical terms, if I’m paying a land use fee of US$25.00 a month, I can own up to 4096 sq.m. of mainland over the 512 sq.m. every premium account gets for free by default. That is, my land ownership limit is 4608 sq.m. Yet, if I deed all that land to a group, for the same US$25.00 a month the group can own 5069 sq.m. instead (4608 sq.m. plus the 10% bonus). Yep, I pay, but I don’t receive the credit, so to speak.

For years, people have “exploited” that advantage to get more for their money, with LL’s unofficial consent (and silly me has refrained from benefiting from it– roll eyes). What they do is create several alts, make them all premium, create a group, deed their land quota to that group, and get 10% more land –and yes, plus the weekly stipend of each account. Maybe it sounds too expensive, paying subscriptions for the alts and all, but it actually amounts to some significant savings. Do the math and see for yourself.

In summary, the more alts you have, the better the benefits (?). Strange, but it seems that’s the way things has been working since forever. And my question is: Why? Why can’t regular –single– accounts get similar benefits and savings? Of course, LL can track alts, no one is fooling anybody here; it allows it. So what’s the point of this group land bonus policy? To inflate the number of actual users? To what avail?

An “attractive” way to remedy that… shortcoming, from my point of view, is to emulate the loyalty plan used in some MMORPGs today and reward long-time customers with a land bonus depending on the time they have owned land, applicable to mainland holdings exclusively (that’s what I’d do if I were them). Some private estates already give similar bonuses to their customers this way. Well, they don’t give extra land, but lower your rent a little bit as time goes by (that’s another option LL could think about).

Like the tier quotas (officially known as land use fees): they have to go too. If I pay US$25.00 a month for 4096 sq.m. of land and I want or need some extra 512 sq.m. (that may be some US$5.00 only, using LL’s initial fee over the free 512 sq. m. as an example), why can’t I pay for that small parcel, and instead the Lab makes me pay for the next tier level in full, which is 8192 sq.m. and a whopping US$40.00 monthly? This is why people resort to alts: They pay US$72.00 a year (or $6.00 a month) for the account, and get the needed 512 sq.m. for free, plus the 300L weekly stipend –don’t forget it. Yes, this is a simplistic example, but you get the idea. If you don’t, read this [go]. This next thread also has some useful information [go].

Owning land should be made more appealing than it is now: if there’s fewer people buying Linden land, and there’s a lot of abandoned land everywhere, let’s not waste those precious resources. Put them to good use. Let people pay for any amount of land they wish: abolish the fixed land use fees. Then, impulse some kind of land ownership bonus: for X sq.m. you own, you’re entitled to X bonus of extra land depending on how long –in months or years– you have held that much land, no matter if it’s deeded to a group or not. The longer you own Linden land, the higher the bonus.

Another idea: The premium free land allotment should be increased from 512 sq.m. to 1024 sq.m. Surely that could encourage more premium subscriptions. Ok, ok. I may be asking for too much. Wishful thinking…

 

Note: In the picture, a work in progress, but in the absence of any image at all, it’ll have to do. Sorry…