Wednesday, December 31, 2008


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


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 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 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):

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Only two to go

Things are improving on the real estate front, at least as far as my rentals are concerned:

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

Eve Online - Salvaging an income

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

Eve Online - Shuttle and station

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

A few thoughts on the Google Lively demise

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.

MIA: the bad guys

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..

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eve Online - Smugglers' gate

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eve Online: activating the gate

It's time to head out back into deep space once again. I still have 30 days of Eve game time left, time to use it! Here I am activating the jump gate to a deadspace region, where a gang of Angel Cartel thugs is waiting for me. Battle!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rock intros: what's your favorite?

At my day job, they're organizing a concert for charity, and I am playing in one of the participating bands. Some seven or eight bands will perform, and it's going to be a mixed bag with all sorts of music. I've never done this before, so I'm a bit anxious, but I think we'll have a lot of fun.

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

The nature of the open grid

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

OpenSim: still under development, remember

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.

SL on Ubuntu 8.10 no improvement

I have used quite a few Second Life viewers, both release candidates and normal viewers, on Ubuntu 8.04 - and with success. I had to disable visual effects for the desktop to get it running, but it worked smoothly. Yet, after installing Ubuntu 8.10, it doesn't work that good anymore. Performance is bad, screen redraws are slow, simulator crossings become obstacles on which the client will occassionally crash, especially when flying an airplane. I know 8.10 has new versions of Gnome and Compiz on board, perhaps something changed there. Any other experiences?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No pay per prim, but close

Today, M Linden posted an announcement regarding the Openspace controversy: A Letter to Second Life Residents. In this item, he announces a new pricing strategy: openspace sims and homestead sims. It's not my pay per prim proposal, but close enough. At least there's going to be a relation between usage and pricing, which seems reasonable enough to me. But, the exact prim and load limitations to be put on 'pure' openspace sims is going to be the defining factor for this new proposals' succes, and I haven't seen those yet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cross and lose

Last night I upgraded to Ubuntu 8.10. I must say it was a smooth upgrade, with all my own programs, like Second Life and Lotus Notes 8.5 beta 2,and my ATI card (!) still working perfectly after the process finished.

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

The neverending Linux Lib chase - part two

Yesterday I blogged about my problems with getting Mono and Nant going on a CentOS 5.2 64-bits Linux server. I need those to compile and run OpenSim, and I get stuck at the compiling part - the Nant task dies with an error.

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

The neverending Linux Lib chase

I am getting *so* tired of Linux, every now and then! I had some issues with my previous hosting party, so I switched to a new one, and I am currently renting a CentOs 5.2 64-bits server there. I got my IBM Lotus Domino server installed just fine, but the fun started when I tried to build an OpenSim install. I know I need Mono and Nant for that, so I installed those with a couple of yum commands, after adding the necessary repositories (see here). Getting OpenSim is easy, running prebuild too, but the fun starts with Nant. Nant actually builds the necessary executables, and this process fails with this error:

[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, missing, missing - 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..

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ethelbert Airport

Ethelbert Airport, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An airplane passes overhead

It's a poor quality snapshot, but it was a such a fitting scene! While visiting a replica of a WWII Japanese warship, an airplane from the same era passed overhead. This could have been a real picture from those days.

"Different levels of usage.."

Today the Lindens posted an update concerning the openspace sim price hike. A quote:

"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

alternative openspace solution: pay per prim?

In my daily job, I am a systems analyst, working on a large financial transactions system. This system has a billing mechanism, that counts certain enduser actions, and creates billing information based on those. I.e. you download an account statement, you pay a small fee.

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

The new rentals at Promissa

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

Twinity update

This week was a good week for mirrorworld Twinity.

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..

(not) making money

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.


As I blogged back in june, I own a couple of parcels in Timandra and Fortimus, which are up for rent. The ever excellent Zena Silverstar and her team of Tropical Beach Rentals manage my parcels, so there's not much for me to do except check up on the parcels every now and then.

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

Virtual Dom, Cologne

Virtual Dom, Cologne, originally uploaded by seredwoollahra.

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

Clarke and the credit crunch

A while ago I mentioned reading up on Arthur C. Clarke's works, and that many of his science fiction writings are still relevant today, sometimes decades after they were first published. This weekend, while on a short holiday, I bought another one of his volumes: Rama II, the sequel to the well known book "Rendezvous with Rama". Rama II was written in cooperation with Gentry Lee and published in 1989.

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

Virtual Forbidden City: examine a copy

One of the cool things about the Virtual Forbidden City is the "examine a copy" feature, available in the information popup windows.

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 :-)

Virtual Forbidden City - Throne at the Hall of Supreme Harmony

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Virtual Forbidden City: imperial dinner

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:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Virtual Forbidden City

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

Metaplace beta

A long time ago, I applied to particpate in the Metaplace alpha. I never really heard much from it anymore, but to my suprise I received an invite to join in, a couple of days ago. Here we go again: after Twinity, Google Lively, Just Leap In and OpenSim, here's Metaplace, brought to you by Areae, a venture capital backed company, presided over by Raph Koster.

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.

Graphics, UI
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

Twinity: in world jobs

I'm trying to spend a bit more time in Twinity, to get more feel for the whole environment. To get an idea of what's possible, I'm redecorating my place, an appartment in Amsterdam. Right now it's just a bare set of rooms, with ugly wallpaper to boot; it really needs a makeover! Because I participated in a couple of beta activities, I got some Globals (Twinity's currency), which I can spend on it. New wallpaper costs 9 Globals.

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

Twinity: real and virtual mix getting better

Twinity recently went into public beta, after being in closed beta for the best part of 2008. It's nice to see it develop over time! Some parts of the Twinity vision are much better articulated these days; the mixing of real and virtual for instance is becoming much more obvious as a center piece of Twinity's offering.

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.

Open Grid developments

My Open Grid server is still humming nicely, so I've waited a while with upgrading to a next build. But it may be necessary to upgrade in a while, because the Open Grid development team is working towards implementing the third draft of the Open Grid Protocol, for which a number of Jira issues remain open.

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

An extra bonus for Kiva?

Kiva is enrolled in a competition that may yield a prize of 1.5 million US Dollars. AMEX card user? Then, please, vote!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just Leap In - update

One weird thing when logging in to JLI, is the fact that you don't have or are an avatar. You move your camera around and you can even put animated avatars there, but you yourself are not yet rezzed as an avatar. But, this will be available in an upcoming release, according to an announcement on the site.

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.

..and another one: Just Leap In

Earlier this evening I caught an item at Vint's blog, about a new browser based 3D environment: Just Leap In. New stuff is always exciting, so of course I signed up for the public beta right away. It took an hour or so to get access; not too bad, better than promised! I've been online in JLI for half an hour or so, and so far it's been interesting. There's a lot of rough edges, which is not strange given that it's early beta.

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

Underwater Archeology in Second Life?

On our OpenSim server, my kids are building underwater villas and a submerged cinema. Quite a weird thought one would say.. Yet, after seeing the results, I thought of something else: Second Life would be a great environment to recreate an underwater archeology site! Most of us never get to dive to the real thing, whether they be famous shipwrecks or lost cities in, for instance, the Mediterranean. From a promotional or educational perspective, this could be interesting!

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 :-)