Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So, on 11 December, I sold off all my Linden Dollars, and fell just three dollars short to cover that months' land tier cost. Close, but a few Lindens short! Today, though, the situation is different: my account now holds enough Linden Dollars to cover the monthly land tier, and I still have 11 days (or about one third of the tier period) left to earn even more. It looks like this is going to be a profitable month after all!
To be honest, there's 1200 L$ stipend money included in the current account balance. Without that, I'm still a few L$ short, but I think that will be compensated in the next ten days or so. Other than the stipend, there were no other expenses or income, so it's easy to figure out where I stand with regards to earning back the tier fee.
Still a few hours removed from 2009, I wish you all the best, in the virtual and the real. Let's hope it's going to be a good year for all of us!
Of course, the tens of thousands of experienced EVE Online pilots didn't start out like that. They all started as a rookie, piloting their first fragile frigate ship through the insecure depths of space. Yet they managed to get through the first days and weeks, they managed to acquire the necessary skills and the money to buy better ships, they found a corporation and decided to stay. These first steps are notoriously hard; EVE Online has a reputation for having a steep learning curve for newbie pilots. Especially without the help of more experienced pilots, conquering EVE can be a daunting task.
We know that the retention rate for Second Life is about one in ten, meaning that about ten percent of all newly created accounts will become active members of the SL community; the rest will not. In other words, nine out of ten people who try SL decide not to stay in world, even though it costs nothing. Linden Labs has been trying to get this percentage up, for instance by changing the welcome islands, by trying out a new welcome page. It's even one of the top 'strategic initiatives' of M Linden's End of Year blog post.
Eve Online retention
I think the retention rate for EVE Online may even be lower than one out of ten, given the steep learning curve mentioned earlier. Also a factor is that EVE Online doesn't know free accounts. There's a 14 day trial; but after that you need to pay for your game time, somewhere between 11 to 15 Euro a month depending on your subscription plan. That may be asking quite a bit. Yet, googling around for hard data, there's plenty indications that EVE has a high retention rate, and there is data from the 2003-2006 timeframe that suggests that retention amongst the first EVE pilots was quite high at the time. But, I haven't found hard data concerning the retention rate amongst trial accounts in, say, 2007 or 2008. If anyone has it, I'd appreciate it.
Making the most..
Luckily for rookie pilots, help's on the way. Massively just published a nice EVE Online newbie guide: EVE Evolved: Making the most of your EVE Online free trial. It contains some useful advice; stuff I'd like to have known when I was a rookie pilot. If you want to check out EVE Online, reading this guide would be a good start. A trial account is available by clicking on the banner to the left!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I hope the same goes for you too; I wish you all a good Christmas. Take some time off and reflect!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I've always enjoyed taking screenshots about the virtual world stuff I was doing, whether it was experimenting with the SL Windlight betas, OpenSim, Twinity or Eve Online. Most of these snapshots ended up on my Flickr page and in several Flickr groups. I wonder whether that's sufficient, though. If I want to share these with a wide audience, is it enough to keep it on Flickr, or should I create a separate blog to post these snapshots to?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Yet, for me, gaming (in the broadest sense, so ranging from Second Life to Twinity to EVE-Online and even hobbying with OpenSim) has been an active, stimulating and rewarding experience. It’s about enjoying the social aspects, about meeting new people and being part of a team. It’s also about being active on an intellectual level: exploring, learning new concepts, understanding people and processes. It’s about satisfying my curiosity at multiple levels. It's about doing things and achieving results, although that is not a big issue for me; achieving something is often a means, but it’s not usually a goal in itself. I am happy to get to a new level of missions in Eve Online, because it means new experiences, not because I have an inherent drive to reach that level. Same with my land rental business in Second Life: it’s an experience I want to have, something I want to try; I don’t need to achieve a goal with it (i.e. I don't need to make lots of money). In EVE Online, this makes me a ‘carebear’ by the way.
I rarely watch TV anymore these days. With my wife I sometimes watch series like the English detective series Frost, or stuff like CSI and Bones, because that's what she likes. A few times a month I spend some time on Discovery, NGC or (I admit it!) the Comedy Channel, but that's about it really; most TV isn't worth my time as far as I am concerned. To quote Roger Waters: "I Got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.."
So why is sitting idly in front of the television considered normal or acceptable social behaviour, while spending the same amount of time playing an MMO is regarded as slightly weird? I think that this has a lot to do with the stereotype of a gamer as a lonesome, overweight geek living in his parents' basement; who wants to be identified with that!
Yet this stereotype is far from accurate these days, according to this BBC article. One of the trends the BBC notes, is the rising numbers of female gamers; something I can confirm personally, as my thirteen year old niece, my nine year old daughter and most of her friends think it's perfectly normal to play Runescape, Habbo Hotel and the likes. The BBC says it has something to do with the social nature of the average MMO, which requires different skills and appeals to a different audience than standalone console games, and I think they're correct.
Perhaps it's time for the non gaming population to notice something's changed. The socially inept and the loners aren't MMO gaming these days; they are probably watching TV!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
OpenSim is doing fine these days, it's picking up steam as more parties begin to use it for serious stuff, as this post by Vint Falken shows.
But, the question on how the open grid will look like is not answered, and I think it won't be in quite some time.
One of the architectural directions that's being pursued, is the Open Grid Beta being done by Linden Labs with cooperation of the OpenSim dev team. The Open Grid beta is the result of the work of the Architecture Working Group, again a Linden sponsored effort. OGP has been successfully beta tested. In the Open Grid, you can teleport to any Open Grid enabled sim, provided that you know the address, but the current implementation does not support inventory yet. OGP is not only server side, there's also some client side work being done. In recent weeks it has been a bit quiet with OGP.
And then, there's this: The OpenSim HyperGrid, explained and discusses by Justincc here. It deals explicitly with inventory and looks to be server side only. One of the confusing things of Hyper Grid is, that world maps may change from region to region, as grid admins create their own grid maps. If you are in my region and you check the world map, you may see my region bordering on one from OSGrid. But if you teleport to that OSGrid region and then check the world map once you're there, you may never see mine! This allows for great flexibility but also for confusion.
Which one will it be, Hyper Grid or OGP? I'm not sure and I don't think anyone is. Perhaps we'll end up with a bit of both as they both have their strong sides. Hyper Grid has some issues to solve regarding protection of copyrights for objects in inventory, but it looks like the most 'open' solution. OGP is backed by Linden Labs and may in the future give access to Linden Labs owned grids, which is definitely interesting, but inventory hasn't been dealt with at all at this moment.
I tried to Hyper Grid enable by Open Grid Beta sim yesterday. that wouldn't work due to configuration issues, but I am certainly going to try again. Wouldn't that be interesting, a OpenSim that is both HyperGridded and OGP enabled?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Yes, this is 100% occupancy! Zena Silverstar and her team of Tropical Beach Rentals made some improvements in the way communications, business and other affairs with tenants are handled, and this has so far been a successful change. After selling my Linden Dollars on the LindEx, the December land tier was almost paid for; it's going to be interesting to see what will happen in Januari.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
This station is Zoar and Sons Factory, Ashokon XII. This is Amarr space where I don't usually stay, but I need to run some Amarr missions to get my standings with them and the Caldari up a bit.
As an upside, Amarr agents give new missions and enemies and also some new loot. And it's only four jumps to my main residence in Alentene, where most of that stuff brings in good ISK!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
For those who want to give that a try too: I have invitations for 21 day trials, a week longer than the default 14 days you get on www.eve-online.com. Email me or post a response here, then I'll send you an invite. Sign up, join the Trader's Academy Corporation and have fun out there!
Obviously, there's something in it for me too. If you sign up for a paid account after the trial, I get free game time :-)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
After a while I realised, that I was selling to the highest offered *buying* price, which is often much less as the price other eve pilots are willing to pay. I was selling stuff way under the market price, effectively spoiling the market for other pilots at my own expense. Doubly so because there are pilots who will offer ridiculously low buying prices for certain items, in the hopes that n00b pilots will sell. Yesterday for instance I had a buying offer of 150 ISK a piece for Caldari Navy rockets, which I sold for 1800 ISK a piece an hour later. The price difference can be huge!
After that, I started pricing my goods more or less in line with what others are selling for in my station, system or region. Remember, people are often lazy or in a hurry, so distance between available objects plays a role in pricing: supply and demand on the levels of station - system - region. If an item is for sale in my station, I'll sell for about the same price others are asking; a bit lower if I need cash, a bit higher if I have time. If an item is for sale in my system but not my station, I'll sell for a slightly higher price, and if an item is one or more jumps out, the price goes up a bit for every jump.
This system has brought me much more ISK than I would have had if I were to sell for the highest buying price. To be honest, I've never been much of an economic or merchant, so if other pilots have better systems for selling, please share so that we all make more profit :)
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I've got to be careful with this one. For me, as a Gallente pilot, I often get Caldari as the enemy in missions. These are their ships, owned by the Caldari state: State Nagasa's, which I engaged earlier tonight. None of them survived.. but the Eve universe is a strange and mixed up one. People from all races and creed often end up in the same corporation, so I may actually have Caldari colleagues. I'd better not say too much..
This is one of tonight's enemies, a rogue drone. It looks menacing too, especially when viewed in close up.. with their mean little red eyes. There were a lot of them and they tried to gang up on me, but in the end they were an easy prey for my own Hobgoblin drones - and my 200 mm carbide railguns of course.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
In the same vein, and launched a few months ago: Rivers Run Red's Immersive Workspaces. While we're obviously way past the 3D hype of 2006 and 2007, there's apparently enough market for these products to be funded, developed and pushed. Does this mean we're finally getting near the plateau of productivity for 3D environments?
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
This movie shows her sitting quietly in a cinema chair; yet she breathes like she completed the Berlin marathon a few seconds ago! Watch that clip again and try to breathe in the same pace as Maria; it feels really uncomfortable. Same for Metaplace, the avatar breathes at a much high pace than a normal person does. The point is that I as a player identify with the avatars, and the breathing movement of the avatar somehow impacts my breathing. Just looking at it makes me feel like I'm running out of breath myself!
So here's to both Twinity and Metaplace: I like the natural breathing effect, but please, slow it down to a more natural pace?
As an aside, this movie was made with Twinity's built in movie camera, which records .ogg and lets you convert to .avi on the fly if so desired. Neat!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Recently, another real world brand opened a virtual branch in Twinity: the German underwear company Wundervoll, which sells in the (real) Berlin shop Blush. The Twinity Wundervoll store however is at another address and has a different name; I have not yet found a connection to a real world Wundervoll store.
To the visitors however, that doesn't seem to matter much. Already, Wundervoll is one of Twinity Berlin's most popular places. I wonder why..
"Recipient may not use, copy, reproduce, modify, publicly perform or display, create derivative works of, sell, auction, loan, lease, rent, distribute, transfer or disclose all or any part of the Service (including, without limitation, any screenshots, videos, documentation or manuals relating to the Service) except as provided in this Agreement."
I can understand why one would want to keep control over what's being blogged about your new product when it's still in beta. During this phase, it's very easy to damage a products' reputation by unjustly trashing it, before it is even finished. Especially if a tester doesn't really get the 'beta' part, this is a real risk. A few weeks ago, I noticed a similar effect with regards to OpenSim too.
Perhaps Google is to blame here. They keep many of their products in perpetual beta; millions of users have gotten used to using full fledged, essentially finished services which still carry the 'beta' designation and I guess most of them don't pay attention to that label anymore.
Yet, I'm not sure that being restrictive about what publicity you allow during beta, is the best way to create a buzz about a new product. Metaplace might, after all, be able to get some free publicity out of the blogging community, and as far as I'm concerned they are missing out on part of that now.
Back to Metaplace. I think it's pretty safe to tell you that I was able to use it with Minefield, the daily Firefox 3.1 development build. I created my own place, and some new tiles which I used to dress it up a bit:
Anyway, if you want to try Metaplace, I can invite another five persons if the NWN invite codes are all used!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Sony and Twinity cooperated in a virtual launch of "A Quantum of Solace" for the German audience. At the Sony center in Twinity, the red carpet is still there! Funny, because of the German audience in Twinity the movie is titled "Ein quantum Trost". In The Netherlands, we never translate or lip sync movies, we just subtitle them; this allows for a foreign audience to capture the original language too, so you don't miss the little quips and jokes in the dialogs. On the other hand, I doubt there's many Dutch people who could explain what the movie title "A Quantum of Solace" means; most Germans don't have to think about that!
There's also a couple of Bond themed minigames to be played:
Overall, the Twinity environment is still improving. It finally begins to feel polished and well integrated, even though it's still in beta: I'm no longer dreading to start Twinity up, it will no longer crash about every couple of minutes. But incidentally, something still goes wrong.. a teleport failed and I ended up in Twinity heaven!
Friday, November 28, 2008
This means I am currently at 85% occupancy, which is quite high! Perhaps we'll grow to even higher levels, with the weekend about to start. But, I'm not sure what impact the Thanksgiving holiday has on the US market. Are people spending more or less time in world during holiday weekends like these? I don't know, but perhaps the weekend will bring the last two tenants!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I'm using the tractorbeam to pull wreckage of a defeated enemy to my ship, in order to take loot from it and salvage useful parts. Most of it gets sold; salvaging can bring in quite an income.
Speaking of income, the people running most of the day to day business of my Second Life rentals made some adjustments to their advertising and a couple of other things. The results are positive, as occupancy is way up. And so my Linden dollar balance..
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Today was a difficult day in Eve Online.. at least for me an some other members of my corporation. In Eve, you learn, complete skill trainings and gain standings, and over time you grow to new mission levels. The problem is: these are really harder than those you got used to! I lost two ships in battle today, as did one of our corp members. The value of the ships she lost was way higher than mine; I lost for about 10 million ISK, she lost over 200.. ouch!
But still, EVE Online is a special environment. I just can't get enough of the environment - the graphics are so appealing to me. For a small sampling, check out the other snapshots at my Flickr page.
Friday, November 21, 2008
When Google Lively launched earlier this year, I soon found out it wasn't really appealing or interesting to me. Lively is an enhanced 3D chatbox, but not a virtual world; I didn't pay much attention anymore after the launch. Obviously that goes for lots of others, too, as Lively is about to be shut down by Google. What this all means for virtual worlds and 3D environments remains to be seen.
One of the drawbacks, at launch, was the closed nature of Lively. As said in this interview:
"As far as 3D user-created content and textures, it’s by invite only. You send a request and we approve the request as a developer and you sign a developer TOS. We’re going to be very aggressive about that, much more so than others"
At the time, I thought that was a bit foolish. Lively could have been a nice addition to many a corporate website, if properly branded. But by creating barriers in content creation process, Google effectively blocked the creative minds, the hobbyist pioneers, the pathfinders from toying around with certain important features of the Lively environment. I didn't think that was a smart move, but we'll never know if things could have been different if Google hadn't implemented this policy.
Another contestant in pretty much the same space as Lively, is Just Leap In. It's also a room based 3D environment, but less cartoonish than Google Lively. To me, it just looks a whole lot better, really, while having many of Lively's features. It's going to be interesting to see whether JLI can pull off where Google decided to call it quits.
Yesterday I had a weird mission in Eve Online. For those of you who are not familiar with Eve: every player can request a mission from an agent, who's a non player character (NPC). One gets missions according to your levels and standings and there are lots of different missions and types. Missions bring in money and improve your standings, which in turn brings in better missions, more money etcetera.
Yesterday I had one called "Lost Records". I had to retrieve some court documents, lost when the courier ship got blown up. The documents can be found in a container that floats around in deadspace, which are areas of space where mission fights usually take place. First you warp to the first deadspace room; there's a warp gate there that brings you to the second room where the cargo is. Both the warp gate and the cargo container are protected: when you get close enough, NPC enemies suddenly appear. At that point, you either grab the goods and run, or you stand and fight in which case you earn extra money and loot.. if you survive, of course.
But yesterday, nothing happened. I warped to the first deadspace room, approached the warp gate.. nothing. No enemy fighters protected the gate. A bit suprised, I activated the gate which transported me to the second deadspace room. Cautiously I flew to the cargo container, took the lost records on board.. nothing. Not an enemy in sight. They were supposed to appear when I got close enough to the cargo container, but zip, zilch! I hung around for a while, guns locked and loaded, waiting for a brawl which never came. I checked the mission status, which indicated the mission objective had been achieved. I was done, without having to fire one single shot!
I asked around with several corp members, but no one recognized it. Must have been some sort of bug..
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
While preparing for the show, I had to listen to a lot of rock songs I usually don't listen to, and I noticed again how important the intro is. Often the intro will literally set the tone for the rest of the song; many songs are best known for or defined by their intro.
A good example is ACDC's Thunderstruck. Or, from another era, The Who's Pinball Wizard; a great intro by Pete Townshend. Similarly, the intro for Dire Straits' Money for Nothing builds up to a climax. Other intros however prefer to bring a mood instead of pure adrenaline, like GnR's November Rain or U2's With or Without you.
The examples are plenty..So what is your favorite rock song intro?
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Yesterday, an interesting discussion evolved on the OpenGrid mailing list. Participant Thomas Grimshaw brought up the subject of cross grid currency exchanges and trust between grids; how are we going to do that?
Intranet or Internet
From the discussion that followed I gather that several OpenGrid beta participants think individual grids will establish their own economies, and currencies which should perhaps be exchanged in some sort of way. It seems they expect grids to be very independent from one another; connected perhaps, but essentially standalone at the core. Connected intranets, so to speak.
Personally, I had a much more interconnected grid in mind. One grid, consisting of individual sims or gridlets (a sim hosting one or a few regions) operated by many different parties, but with a lot of shared properties like a currency. Very similar to the internet, which consists of countless web servers hosted and operated by perhaps millions of entities.
Currently, many people experimenting with OpenSim are geeks, hobbyists who run one or a few simulators, hosting a handful of regions. Gridlets, so to speak. On that scale, it does not make sense to invent your own currency. You can't normally get a meaningful economy going there. For those people, having one single currency and micropayment system to plugin to, makes much more sense.
How many currencies?
From and enduser perspective, it doesn't seem very userfriendly to create a multitude of (probably low trust) currencies either. They'd have to track ever changing exchange rates, and perhaps buy currency on each grid they want to buy stuff on. That's hardly a scalable solution, which also requires a lot of technical and procedural attention with regards to setting exchange rates and facilitating cross grid exchanges. And if you bought SeredBucks on my grid and I decide to pull the plug, where's your money then? I'd rather have an account with one reliable authority, which doesn't depend on one grid operator. Adam Frisby suggested as much when he mentioned Amazon's micropayment system in this discussion.
Whatever the grid will end up to be, it will probably be a little of both. We've got interesting times ahead of us!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
As Linden Labs struggled with a virtual revolt after their OpenSpace announcements, some of Second Life's residents decided to check out the alternatives, most notably the OpenSim based OpenLife Grid. As reported by Hamlet, their experiences weren't all that good.
As I mentioned on Hamlet's blog: it's worth remembering that OpenSim is still very young. Officially, it's in Alpha stage. "Alpha" is is software development speak for "it's a partial, incomplete build, unpolished and probably unstable, but may incidentally work." A quote from the OpenSim site:
"Please note: As OpenSim is still at an alpha code maturity stage, there is absolutely no guarantee that functionality works or is stable, even in the numbered releases. Certain features may not work either because the code is in rapid evolution, or because functionality expected by the Linden Labs Second Life viewer has simply not been implemented yet. However, constructive feedback is still welcomed."
When dealing with customers, expectation management is an important thing, which should be handled correctly. OpenSim users should not expect to find a copy of Second Life when entering OpenSim based grids, simply because the base product isn't finished yet! OpenSim will evolve, and the OpenSim based grids will too. But it will take time, patience and lots of effort from people who code OpenSim in their spare time.
I love toying around with my OpenSim simulators, building stuff with the kids, the fun of creating your own sim, to be your own Linden! But I know and accept it's still under development, and so should other users.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The current Second Life client however didn't perform well tonight. Earlier versions on 8.04 often made for a more smooth experience than Windows, but such that wasn't the case here. I don't know whether that had anything to do with Ubuntu, the SL client or Second Life itself however; I will reserve judgment on that until I have logged more user hours with it.
But, as I said, tonight it wasn't what it should be. Twice I lost an airplane while crossing a sim boundary, and I found myself alone in the dark skies, without a plane to pilot!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Today I received notice from my old hosting provider, that my account cancellation was processed and will be effective - in april 2009! Apparently there's a six month period for cancelling. So I took the opportunity to use my old server there, a brand new CentOS 5.2 32 bits install, for another go at Mono/Nant/Opensim. And it worked, very easy even! Got Mono and Nant installed with Yum using the trick described in yesterdays' post, downloaded OpenSim, compile - it all just worked, at the first go.
Apparently the problem is with the 64 bits distro. There's no official Mono for RHEL 5 64-bits, so neither is there for Centos. The most recent available official Mono, is for RHEL 4 32 bits! I need to figure out what I have installed on the CentOS 64 bits server, and see if I can fix it to run reliably.
I don't pretend to understand why RHEL and CentOS are left out at Mono, but maybe the fact that much of the Mono downloads reside on Novell owned servers is a clue. Novell is RedHat's competitor in the Linux field, now that they own Suse, and they are sponsoring the Mono project. Perhaps that's why only recent Suse/OpenSuse distros are officially supported; all other Linux distros including RHEL, CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu, are not. Well, hhat'll help if you want to turn Mono into an industry standard, right?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
[csc] /opt/opensim/OpenSim/Region/ScriptEngine/Shared/CodeTools/Compiler.cs(34,17): error CS0234: The type or namespace name `JScript' does not exist in the namespace `Microsoft'. Are you missing an assembly reference?
[csc] Compilation failed: 1 error(s), 0 warnings
BUILD FAILED - 0 non-fatal error(s), 1 warning(s)
External Program Failed: /usr/lib/mono/2.0/gmcs.exe (return code was 1)
Total time: 0.9 seconds.
After this, it's been nothing but trying to install and reinstall mono, nant and other stuff, different versions and components, only to run into missing dependencies time and time again. Missing this.so, missing lib.xyz..0.08.so, missing another.yaddayadda.so - it goes on and on, two evenings in a row.
The worst are people who suggest that you should install a certain library to fix this. How am I supposed to know what package to install to get that library?? Half of the time is lost with googling names just to find out what the heck it is I need to install. And of course, when I fin$d the right package for that library, it will fail because of a missing dependency..
Thursday, October 30, 2008
"It is clear that some Openspaces are being used as they were intended originally, so we recognise that there are different levels of usage that we need to account for."
That is exactly what I intended when I suggested some sort of 'pay per prim' tier: a way to factor in load and/or usage into the tier to be paid for a given sim. The need for something like this seems to be acknowledged in this quote; I'm curious as to what Linden Labs will come up with.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I was wondering about alternative solutions for the openspace situation. Obviously Linden Labs has a problem with certain uses of them and therefore decided to change prices and policies for all openspace sims. The problem is of course that lots of these are used just the way they were once intended (i.e. open spaces, low prim count), and these are punished as well.
Couldn't Linden Labs create a billing system for openspace sims, similar to the way billing is done in my financial transactions sytem? One of the indicators of sim usage is the number of prims: high on prims probably means higher overall system load as well.
Linden Labs obviously has ways of tracking the number of prims on a given simulator. They would have to devise a tier system for number of used prims per sim and attach a billing mechanism to it. LL could bill the 'prim tier' for the new month based on the number of prims you had on the simulator at a given date the previous month, for instance. This 'punishes' those who overuse openspace sims, but leaves room for the genuine, intended use.
Complicated? Perhaps, yes. But its certainly more honest than what's being done right now.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Two of the new rentals in Promissa, seen from the Shipwreck Island - which itself is located in Timandra. Tropical Beach Rentals did a good job again, especially these two are located perfectly. I'd say good as the parcels across the Shipwreck Island in Timandra, as a matter of fact.
After last weeks' discussions on profitability and the rental business, I've been giving it more attention over the weekend. And with some result, I might add! Now that the last parcels are up for rent, and a few other small changes, I can now break even - which wasn't even possible earlier. Whether it will happen often, remains doubtful, given that I'd need more than 90% occupancy to get there. But, as of now, it's no longer officially impossible to achieve profitability :)
In order to achieve profitability earlier, I think one needs way more land than I currently own. I've been doing some math, and it seems that with double the tier I now have, I could be profitable at around 75%-80% occupancy, perhaps a bit earlier. But even then we're talking at most double digit amounts of US Dollars that could be earned, and you'd have to invest hundreds of them to get there. I don't think I'm going to do that anytime soon.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
First Metaversum, Twinity's creators, announced the Singapore government is going to sponsor the virtual replica of the city inside Twinity. Good news of course, this is not some VC operation injecting cash in exchange for shares; this is a solid investment.
The second bit of good news is that the Twinity user base has grown to over 50.000, after only a couple of weeks in public beta. As these two bits of news became public short after another, it is not likely that this number is already affected by the Singapore announcement. This means that the userbase will probably get another injection, from Asiatic users, when that region learns of Singapore's involvement in Twinity.
As for me, I check back in Twinity every now and then. I feel it's coming together nicely, it all operates much smoother these days, even though it's clearly still beta. But glitches happen in any computer environment, beta or not, and I had a curious one in Twinity. After logging in earlier this week, I couldn't see any avatars, not even myself! After clearing the cache and reinstalling, I got hands and heads; after another relog, I got avatars once again.
Where am I?
Hands and heads:
Here we are again!
It's a nice sequence of screenshots in itself, but they show another thing: these days there are more avatars on the Berlin landing point than I have ever seen previously in Twinity. The screenshot only shows a few, there were much more! It's getting busier there, and that's a good thing. People sometimes complain about empty sites in Second Life, and I had the same feeling when wandering alone through an alpha version of Berlin, a couple of months ago. I was the only guy there! That's a lot less likely to happen these days, and Twinity could profit from that, as it adds to the positive flow and momentum. Next up: London, another city that's supposed to become available in Twinity. I'm guessing it will be 2009 before we get to see it, but who knows..
While thinking about buying the Promissa parcel I blogged about, I stumbled upon this blog item by Prokofy Neva, about the profitability of rentals in Second Life. It seems it's hard to take a decent return on investment in the rentals business, mostly due to tier fees and other, associated costs.
I know I am not making a profit off my rentals, currently. For one, I wasn't using the available space in my land tier, meaning I paid Linden Labs a monthly fee for the right to own land which I didn't have. Unused space in a land tier an investment with zero return! Right now, after buying the Promissa parcel, my tier is used for all but 363 meters, meaning I'm finally (mostly) getting what I pay for.
Occupancy is the defining factor in profitability for rentals. If I have 100% occupancy in a given month, I am a few US Dollars short of breaking even. The chances of this happening, however, are very small; usually occupancy for my parcels is somewhere between 35 and 100%, hovering around 80% on average, meaning this whole business costs me a couple of US dollars each month.
In truth, if I could keep all the proceeds of my parcels myself, I could break even at 80% occupancy. But, part of the rental fee goes to Tropical Beach Rentals, Zena Silverstar's team, who take care of my parcels. They do an excellent job, I couldn't handle this land without them; they deserve their part of the cake.
That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to break even. I'll have to take a look at the rental prices, for instance. Some of the parcels are on an excellent spot. For instance the parcels in the snapshot at the top of this post: the parcel at the bottom is the new one I bought in Promissa and my parcels in Timandra are to the left. All of these are bordering at Linden owned waterways and have a really nice view of Shipwreck Island in the middle, realised there by Tropical Beach Rentals just for this purpose. And in Fortimus, I created Fortimus Harbour specifically to guarantee tenants a good spot and access to water. Perhaps those parcels could yield more rent in the future.
Also, maybe I need to do something about publicity: get occupancy up by advertising here or there. That's something I haven't paid any attention to, so far.
So why am I effectively paying money to be in the SL land business? Well.. Second Life is a game, isn't it? Part of the fun in SL for me, is the role playing element, which I do in the land business. I am enjoying myself, tenants get a nice place to stay, while paying the biggest part of the bill. I'm fine with that.
Last week I noticed a parcel across my land in Timandra was up for sale. It's a square island on Linden owned waterways, in the Promissa region. The problem is, if I wouldn't buy that parcel, I don't know who will. You never know what a new neighbour will put up there, it might ruin the view from your parcels!
Plus, Tropical Beach Rentals created a nice 'shipwreck island' there, solely to provide tenants with a nice view - similar to the Fortimus Harbour I created for the Fortimus rentals. The parcel up for sale has a perfect view on Shipwreck Island, so it's only logical to keep it 'in the family' as it were.
Therefore I decided to buy it. Besides, it nicely used the space left in my tier; I now have only 363 meters left before growing to the next tier. Which I, to be honest, am not planning to do!
As per usual, I leave it up to Zena Silverstar and Tropical Beach Rentals to do something nice with the parcel. These should be a couple of really nice spots!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
It's not only China that rebuilds cultural heritage in a virtual world; before the Virtual Forbidden City, there were similar projects in Second Life! This is the Dom church, from the German city of Cologne (Köln). You'll never see it from this perspective in real life :-)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Rama II recounts how, after the first encounter with Rama in the 22th century, mankind turns to massive self gratification and self indulgence as a result of that event. People party like it's 1999, loaned money is recklessly spent on consumer goods, and it seems there's no end to economic growth. But there's serious flaws in the underlying economy, and soon warnings are heard to limit credit and balance budgets. These calls are not heeded and on one single day, three large global banks announce insolvency due to the huge amounts of bad loans on their balance sheets. As a result, stock markets all over the world crash, and when people attempt to dump their stocks en masse, the losses worsen to unprecedented lows. The result is a deep global recession that will, essentially, bring modern civilisation to it's knees. A period of unemployment, hunger, worldwide religious and political turmoil follows, resulting in a chaos that's essentially undoing mankinds' progress of several hundreds of years.
Sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it? When I first read this, it really hit me: we haven't seen the "turmoil and chaos" bit, and I sure hope we don't have to, but the rest fairly accurately describes what's been going on recently.
The difference between 2008 and Rama II so far, is that in Rama II politicians are unable to intervene in a meaningful way. We've obviously seen a lot of government intervention lately, but we don't know yet whether that will turn out to be successful or not. Speaking for the Dutch market, it seems that on the short term the government interventions have worked, but this crisis isn't finished yet. We'll have to wait and see. I just hope we'll be spared the turmoil-and-chaos phase that Rama II so accurately describes..
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
In the Virtual Forbidden City, information on objects (buildings, statues for instance) is available in popup windows, which can be triggered by clicking on said objects. The popup window provides written information and sometimes real world photos, but also a button that says "examine a copy". If you press it, a slowly revolving scale model of the object appears in the window. I've been using this function a couple of times to get a better view of a building or statue, and it really gives you a much better idea of the design, the layout or the proportions of it. You can also zoom in, rotate or move the camera to get a better view of a certain detail, or to view the object from any angle you want, including from below. Definitely not possible in the real Forbidden City :-)
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I've spent some time in the Virtual Forbidden City, and I really like it so far. Anyone with a general interest in history or culture should pay a visit!
More information is here: Virtual Forbidden City".
For anyone who cares to post a screenshot to Flickr, I have created a Flickr group for the Virtual Forbidden City. It can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualforbiddencity/.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
IBM's Almaden Island was one of the first places in Second Life I visited. Wandering around, I noticed a billboard apparently advertising a Second Life rebuild of the Forbidden City, China's imperial palaces in Beijing. Amazed, I tried to visit the place, but unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to. Even now, quite some time later, this sign is still up there, even though I've never heard of someone actually visiting it!
But it seems IBM is involved in more than one virtual rendering of the Forbidden City. In cooperation with The Palace Museum, the current inhabitants of the Forbidden City, they have published the Virtual Forbidden City. It is an IBM Corporate Citizenship project, intended to "provide the means for a worldwide audience to celebrate and explore Chinese culture and history."
It's a 200 MB download, and it runs in a window. You can just visit as a guest or register and become part of the community. I'm not sure what the added value of a community is for such an environment, but I registered anyway, to see what it can bring. As for visiting the city, I'm still at the gate as you can see below. Tonight I hope to explore more of the interior of the Virtual Forbidden City!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Not a world
Metaplace, by the way, isn't a virtual world, it's a platform. Their goal is to do away with separate client installs for individual, separate, disconnected virtual worlds. Instead, they envisage an infrastructure of tailor made virtual worlds, interconnected if so desired, built on Metaplace technology and accessible through the browser.
Browser based worlds
This begins to sound familiar, doesn't it? Just Leap In more or less offers the same, and Google Lively also shares some of these properties. The difference is that both Google Lively and JLI require a separate plugin installation, while Metaplace uses Flash, something most endusers already have in their browser. Another difference between Lively,JLI and Metaplace is that Metaplace does not just provide a 'room' but an infrastructure. It has developers' tools, code, APIs and the like. In this regard it is much richer than JLI and Google Lively. More like Second Life, actually.
Competing with Linden Labs, OpenSim
If Metaplace wants to become the platform of choice for virtual (social or game) worlds on the internet, they'll have to compete with Linden Labs and OpenSim. On their own, Linden Labs can't really win this battle; Second Life is just one big virtual world amongst others. But with OpenSim and, more specifically, the Open Grid beta that's going on, the Linden Labs client technology suddenly becomes a much more viable platform choice. Anyone can install or create OpenSim worlds, and use the Second Life viewer - or open source flavors of it - to access them. The technology being built and tested in the Open Grid beta ties it all together: Second Life, other Linden Labs owned sims, OpenSim based worlds, all accessible from the same rich and tested client.
I am, currently, very busy with real life stuff, so I am not done exploring Metaplace yet - not by a longshot. But I must say, the graphics and UI are, currently, still underwhelming. I haven't found a way to change the camera point of view, for instance. And running on full screen, it definitely looks like some of the PC games my kids play, like Rollercoaster Tycoon. But hey, it's beta..
Monday, September 22, 2008
If I would need more Globals, I could do two things: buy them directly from Twinity, or apply for a job. Twinity has a collection of jobs on offer: DJ, waiter, usher, photographer, stuff like that. Spend 10 hours online doing one of these, and you earn 500 Globals! To be honest, I have no idea how much that is, but it amounts to 50 Globals per hour, so that thing better be worth something :-)
Ten hours is also quite a lot of time to spend in world. But still, I like the fact that Twinity arranges jobs like these. A world like Second Life already has an established economy; Twinity obviously doesn't, and this might help to get people involved, get some currency flowing into enduser pockets.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
A good example of this mix is the Drykorn shop in Berlin - both the real and Twinity Berlin, that is! The similarities between the two are obvious.
Nicely done, I must say! Too bad one can't control the lighting in Twinity - for the European market, it means shopping in a dark store as you can see. Twinity's day/night cycle has always matched the real world cycle, and while I appreciate why that's done (remember, mixing virtual and real), the result is that I'm always stumbling around in the dark when visiting Berlin. I'd really like to have the option to influence this daylight cycle - in Twinity, I mean!
In the past, I've had a lot of crashes with Twinity. Today I adjusted the Twinity resolution to match my screen resolution (1440x900), and this seems to have a positive effect. I now can use control-alt to switch between Twinity and other applications without Twinity crashing, and the graphics look better too. So here's an advice to Twinity users: in the menu System - Display, set resolution to the same value as your display uses!
From the 'must fix' department: I'm still experiencing performance issues. Lots of harddisk and network activity, and lots of lag, even when I'm alone in a place. I use this same setup to play Eve Online, Second Life and other stuff, and Twinity doesn't look too good, compared with those. The Twinity client still feels clunky, too. From the splash screen and the startup messages, you can gather that the Twinity client is comprised of several pieces of third party software, glued together by Twinity code. That's a bit how it feels: not yet like a tight piece of software. I know it's still beta, and I acknowledge it's getting better, but this could still be a major roadblock for enduser acceptance.
In the mean time, this is a snapshot of the Open Grid region Lexania. This beta tester, Lexa Sands, actually has two adjacent regions up and running. I teleported to the first, which somehow didn't rez. The second one however did, and seen from the first region it looked like an island drifting in the void! Of course I tried to fly from the first to the second region, and region handoff between the two regions worked like a charm!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Speaking of moving the camera: this is done by rightclick - drag, just like in Eve Online. I like this very much, and miss it dearly in Second Life.
Another nice thing is the physics: stuff bounces nicely in JLI. We'll have to see how avatar movement turns out when avatars become available.
For those of you who want to share snapshots: I have created a Just Leap In Flickr group.
The installation procedure and the initial user experience remind me a lot of Google Lively; both require an install of a plugin in the browser, and both offer a range of prebuilt room templates to choose from. Both offer a host of accessories to place at your room, too. But, it seems the JLI rooms are easier to customize with your own content; apparenlty. Just Leap In features a more open approach in this regard, more open than Lively anyway. That could make JLI interesting to companies looking for branding opportunities.
Just Leap In also offers the option to embed a room in a web page. The result is this:
Stay tuned for updates!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I own some real estate in the Fortimus area; I centered a few rental houses around a water parcel; this way, every rental has open water access. Maybe I should try to create something like that, there. Too bad I'm a lousy builder :-)
Friday, September 12, 2008
One of the things I’ve noticed is, that I only very rarely see ugly or repulsive people. Even though most commuters definitely do not look like they could win the next Supermodel tv show, the majority of those travelling with me have something that touches me, makes them human, special or even beautiful, even when they look completely ordinary on first sight.
They are, often, imperfect but still beautiful people. Dignified, vulnerable, barely concealing emotions, relaxed or stressed out, playing a role or being their utter self - most of them have something redeeming, something that's disarming, that touches me. Perhaps it’s just a look in their eyes, or in the way they behave themselves; the way she reads a book or brushes her hair aside, the way he visibly enjoys being in the presence of his girlfriend, the nervousness in the young girls' voice, going to her first University week.
In a virtual world, we all can look perfect, if we want to. It's not that hard, if you can spare the cash for those extra nice clothes and bodily enhancements. And that's precisely why that beauty doesn't mean much to me; it lacks that human element which I notice daily in the crowds of commuters surrounding me. My consolation is that, beneath the pretty pixels on screen, you'll probably find those same humans again!
Perhaps a native english speaker would have found better words to convey what I'm trying to say here. I hope you get it just the same!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Recently I noticed I could upgrade the server to newer stuff. Amongst the now available distros were OpenSuse and Ubuntu server, both contemporary versions. As I have some experience with Ubuntu 8.04 on my laptop, I decided to go with that version on the server too. Yesterday, I downloaded all my own data to my local machine and, subsequently, had the machine reinstalled with the new Linux version. That didn't take too long - only 25 minutes, instead of the couple of hours Strato indicated.
Installing the necessary software went relatively smooth, googling the necessary commands for installing Nant and Mono. The latter wasn't that easy by the way, the command 'apt-get install mono' didn't work for me, even though I had enabled all the necessary sources, because my server couldn't find the package. Luckily, after installing Nant with 'apt-get install nant', Mono was installed too, so that was solved quite easily.
Running OpenSim with MySQL would not work until I installed the appropriate code page with the command "sudo apt-get install libmono-i18n2.0-cil".
Now everything is up and running, it works, it performs better and I'm feeling a bit safe again, being on an all new and up to date OS!
Now if only I could get scripts to work I'd be a happy man. Unfortunately they don't: Mono can't find the libraries because my ../opensim/bin directory isn't in it's path. I've set it in the user session and the environment, but still no dice. I'm going to use MONO_PATH I think, even though that's supposed to be a developers' tool, a kludge, and not a proper runtime tool. But hey, if it works..
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I like it. Too bad I can't get one in real life!
It even seems you can run two installs on one database. I accidentally forgot to change one database value in the OpenSim install for my kids, which caused their content to end up in the same database as my OpenGrid install. Result: I suddenly saw my sons' newly built house pop up on my Open Grid island!
I'm planning on leaving the kids' standalone OpenSim alone for a bit. It's good enough the way it is; no need to upgrade every couple of days. That's what I can use my OpenGrid install for!
My son at his new underwater villa: