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

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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…

Pablo Bravo's yellow balls

Bored neighbor’s hood

Sure it’s more than expected that you’ll find yourself bored in SL from time to time. Even events in excess can cause such repugnant feeling. If boredom strikes you, it’s more than equally expected you’ll look for some venue of entertainment to cheer your life up. But doing so at the expense of your neighbors’ peace-hood is extremely reproachable.

A week ago, I found someone have had some fun decorating my rented plot in Bay City with what initially looked like roundish dragon eggs, but in truth were –according to the name– ugly yellow volley balls. It would make no difference if they were testicles instead, considering the owner of such atrocities is a male that lives at the other side of the channel in the same sim. As he’s also a renter from the same landbaroness, there was no way to return them automatically since they were rezzed in the same group. Besides, there’s no such thing as managing parcel settings in Tower Rental land as per defined by the land owner, and there was no one from support online to help me sort this out quickly, so I had to drag each ball, one by one, to the public sidewalk where the Lindens have a 10 minute autoreturn on to get rid of the extra large confetti. It didn’t take too long to complete the task, but of course it wasn’t something in my to do list for the day.

Eventually, land owner was informed, ball owner was warned, and I wasn’t expecting that to happen again, supposing it was the product of a volley ball firing catapult sporadic malfunctioning… 39 times. Yet, exactly a week later (that is, yesterday), I found myself engulfed by 28 new yellow volley balls once again.

Now, what should I think is going on? That my Polish neighbor is losing his balls… I mean, his mind, or is he an embryonic griefer?

Dutchie

Blogger application

If I were to fill a blogger application these days, for whatever store or event that comes along regularly asking for advertising time, I think it would probably turn out to be something like this:

Your SL User Name: Xeriko Melnik

Your Blog URL: http://blog.xeriko.net/

Your Flickr Feed URL: My flickr… hmm… Sorry, I don’t have an active flickr account. I used to have one, yes –probably like most (if not all) of us, I usually open an account on any new web service I come across that requires registration to try it out, and then forget it the next day. But it happens that I don’t like Yahoo services that much anymore, so I turned my back on flickr ages ago. Now that you ask, I wonder if flickr admins delete inactive accounts or if they let them be ad perpetuam (you know, for statistics purposes, to secure their millions of “users”).  And for your information, I have no intention in finding that out, meaning I won’t reactivate that account or create a new one just to qualify for an event.

Your Pinterest Profile URL: Why do you ask for my Pinterest profile too? Why don’t you just visit my blog and check it out first? Aren’t you looking for bloggers? Then, check the blogs first, come on. (Or maybe it’s time to change the concept of blogging, and coin a new term?). If you like what you see/read, wouldn’t that be a better way to judge if I’m good at it, before asking too many questions? Ok, ok. I do have a Pinterest account, yes I do, because it’s the easiest way to follow other people’s pin boards. I rarely post in there, to tell you the truth. For me it’s just some kind of post-it note thingy, to remind me of products I would like to try out, or to keep track of pictures from other people who I think are outstanding. I don’t think I’ll be posting pictures of this event or any other event in there either (my snapshots are only good enough to appear in a B-side project such as my blog). Yes, I understand, the exposure, etc., but hell, I don’t have so much time to keep so many services up and running. I don’t need that, neither I think there’s any need of crossposting; that’s a bad practice.

Your Plurk timeline: Oh, I have one of those too, indeed, and of that one I can actually give you a working url. It’s http://www.plurk.com/xeriko, but again, I rarely use it anymore these days. I got tired of people’s increasing self-praising or attention whoring (pardon my phrasing) on that service. That’s why my karma is so squalid ( I’ve never cared if it goes up or down).

How long (in months) have you been blogging? Finally, a legitimate question. Let’s see… hmm… I started blogging in December 2008, and it’s September 2014 now… That’s like 5 years and 10 months, right? Oh, silly me: you specified “in months.” Well, 69 (the what?).  Does that prove I’m really an “active” blogger?

List the feeds your blog is on: What, feeds too? None that I remember. In the very beginning I did register the blog in a couple of feeds, but later I even changed the blog’s url and never care to update the information. So no, I don’t think my blog is on any feed.

Why do you want to blog this event? Another sound question. Well, I’ve done it in the past and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. It’s always been quite fun. Since I blog about home and garden stuff anyway (whenever I have a chance), the theme of this event matches my interests perfectly. And I’m probably blogging about stuff shown in there anyway, so why not fill in the application and make it “official”?

Comments: Please feel free to offer any pertinent information about your application. Do you now what? Filling an application to blog an event makes me feel like “professionalizing” my scarce blogging time, and that’s something not particularly attractive to me, like too much commercialism. I hate it when things turn that way, to be honest. I like blogging when I can, and about what I want to. Doing otherwise is like letting the fun go of it. Oh, wait! Now I understand: Do you expect me to lie to you and tell you I do have everything you’re asking for, no matter if I use it or not, just to be accepted? Would that make it? After all, how many people lie about their blogging just to get the free stuff?

Studio Skye

The above example is basically the blogger application form in use this year for the Relay for Life of Second Life Home & Garden Expo, an event –probably the only event– I enjoy blogging about in detail. With an outcome so short of organizers’ expectations, I  refrained from sending it out as I, by “definition,” clearly didn’t qualify to be included in the privileged official blogger roster, given that I failed in this self assessment so badly. Now I feel I’m growing a bad reputation, but whatever.

The H&G expo started several days ago, September 16th, and will run through September 28th. This season, though, it seems we will go separate ways because rescheduling this event to September (previously it was held in May) was really a bad idea –from a very personal perspective– because it’s one of my doppelgänger’s busiest times of the year. Hence, it leaves me deprived of the mandatory SL sessions I’d need to take some amateurish pics to accompany my usual stream of (un)consciousness… I mean, posts.

spargel

I do wish good luck to this honorable event and will very likely visit it more than once during its two-week period (I’ve been there thrice already). I also hope the existing surplus of SL events these days doesn’t hinder its success, as residents flock “automaton-ically” from place to place, blindingly clicking on stuff they will soon forget they ever bought, before a new round of attractions starts to unfold.

Cube Republic

Just remember: this event is all about buying from the identified donation vendors first and foremost (right?). Pictures taken in the Home & Garden Expo. From top to bottom:

  1. Dutchie’s villa with Botanical’s vineyard.
  2. Part of Studio Skye’s multiseasonal installment
  3. Spargel & Shine Home’s mini-villa
  4. Cube Republic’s über cute wooden track

To teleport to the H&G Expo, use this slurl. To read more about it, follow this url. For anything else… just fuck off.