Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Profit!

My land tier fees are due on the twelfth of each month. I really didn't have an idea of how much Lindens I was earning and how much the whole operation set me back, so I decided to create a baseline. I would sell off all my L$ just prior to the tier billing date, so I would start the next period with no L$ and no credit. That way I would be able to determine whether it costs me money and if so, how much!

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!

Retention in Second Life and Eve Online


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.

SL retention
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

Christmas

Today it's Christmas. In a couple of minutes we'll go to church; I'll be taking a look at the spiritual instead of the virtual. After that it's a family Christmas dinner; we all prepare something for that. We usually eat well, but not too excessive! For me, Christmas is a holiday of faith and family, which I enjoy again year after year.

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

Flickr or here?


Eve Online - Catalyst, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

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

Are you a stereotype gamer?

Something that’s been bothering me for a while now, is the way many non gaming people view gaming. My parents, wife and kids for instance didn’t get (at first) why I was in Second Life; they worried about why any sane person would want to spend time in this (as they saw it) useless, fake, oversexualized environment. Then I started playing EVE-Online and again they worried, why is a grown up man spending time playing a game? Several times I needed to justify my behaviour, especially to people not really familiar with my gaming pattern. The strange thing is that, if I had spend those hours sitting in front of the television, most people would have found that perfectly normal behaviour.

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, OpenGrid, HyperGrid

Despite all the bits and pieces of information floating around, I have not been able to build a working OpenSim environment on a 64 bits CentOS server. Luckily I still have a 32 bits Linux rental too so I just reverted back to that environment, and got both my sims (the Open Grid beta sim and the standalone OpenSim which the kids use) back online in a snap.

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.

Open Grid
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.

Hyper Grid
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

Rental update

For those of you who think I only fly around in Eve's space ships, shooting bad guys and generally enjoying the corporation's company: you are almost, but not quite entirely, correct! I am of course still a Second Life resident too, and one that owns a few parcels of land at that. My rentals are doing fine; occupancy is usually high these days. This was a fortnight ago:



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

Eve Online - A frozen corpse

Sometimes, it just doesn't end well.. a frozen corpse floats in space, a victim of the pirates I just exterminated. I came too late to rescue this one..

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eve Online - In Amarr space

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

Want to try Eve Online?

I am again having a good time in the Eve Online universe, enjoying the beautiful scenery, the company of my corporation fellows while shooting and being shot at by belt rats, rogue drones and incidentally my friends during corporation PVP, all the while earning money by destroying said drones or rats and salvaging and looting their wrecks.

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

Eve Online: how to sell your stuff

Yesterday, fellow Trade Academy pilot Zach Starcrusher and I had a discussion on trading goods. When I just started out in Eve, I used to sell everything if the highest buying offer was above regional average - in other words, if behind the price the green text " xx % above regional average" was printed, I would sell immediately.

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

Eve Online - The Enemy II


Eve Online - The Enemy II, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

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..

Eve Online - the enemy


Eve Online - the enemy, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

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

Eve Online - parked in a Minmatar station

I'm done for today, I parked by Vexor somewhere in a Minmatar station. Until the next mission!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Finally, the plateau of productivity?

IBM Lotus Connections is IBM's social software suite for behind the firewall. I've been using and testing Connections at my previous job and I liked it a lot, especially the modules that let you work together on a task (Activities) and the del.icio.us like DogEar module. And now Forterra, the company behind There, released Olive 2.2; a 3D environment that tightly integrates with Lotus Connections,Sametime and other IBM software products. I haven't had the time to watch the demo yet, but here's the news as related by Luis Benitez: Lotus Connections goes 3D ! and by Ian Hughes on the IBM Eightbar blog: Some more good news Forterra Olive and Lotus Sametime.

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

Eve Online - an earthlike planet in Alenia

A beautiful, earthlike planet in the Alenia system, near the Alentene stargate.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

beta: breathe deep..

One difference between Twinity and Metaplace on the one hand and Second Life on the other, is that avatars in both Twinity and Metaplace visibly breathe, while avatars in Second Life do not. Certainly for Twinity, this makes a lot of sense, given their strategy of mixing real and virtual. This is how it looks like (movie courtesy of my wife Maria):

video

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

Twinity: another real world brand goes virtual

One of the things I have written about before and that distinguishes Twinity from other virtual worlds, is the mix between the real and the virtual. This is clearly visible in Twinity's Berlin and, hopefully, it will be in London and Singapore as well. A strong example of this mix is the Drykorn store, which in Twinity looks exactly like the real world shop!

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..

Metaplace invites

Today, Hamlet offered 50 NWN invite codes for Raph Koster's Metaplace platform. I've been a Metaplace member for a while now, and the first and last time I blogged about it, Raph admonished me that Metaplace is still under beta NDA! I have since reviewed this agreement and he's obviously right, so I'm not really sure what I am allowed to write or show at this point. After all, the beta agreement states that ..
"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

A Quantum of Twinity

A Quantum of Twinity

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:

Twinity - 007 games

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!

Twinity heaven