Second Life

Torley’s Neon-Shaded Second Life Mystery Tour

Torley teases. Torley winks and hints. Torley leaves me feeling like I’m revisiting the 60’s or early 70’s with his glowy neon prims, and now along with an avalanche of rolling cat heads we’re offered “subtle clues” of the future in the following phantasmorgia of shadows and light:

Torley promises that his temporary banishment to the hinterlands (meaning his eye-popping blog and perfectly peppy tingly tutorials) are just a pause as the Lindens prep the showcase, with “subtle clues” in the above video and showcase changes to come.

We knew it was temporary, of course. As for subtle clues, well, we all need our trademarks - Torley has neon, and I have a constant look of bewilderment so I’ll leave it at that, though will lust for “Dynamic realtime shadows & per-pixel lighting” on a properly compiled alternate viewer.

Second Life

Resident Experience Master Torley Banned from Talking

Future changes and announcements, pending unveiling, or maybe M just got sick of Torley’s vibrant highlighter-marker yellows and pinks, but for now he’s been pushed off the Second Life site.

As Torley tells his loyal followers:

If you’re wondering why this is on my personal blog instead of the official Second Life Blog and why you haven’t seen the KB Article of the Week lately either, it’s because Linden Lab is undergoing changes in communication policy and preparing for future improvements.

As much as that doesn’t seem to make sense, I can’t go into details now, and I would’ve let you know earlier were it not for events beyond my control. Please pardon me, I promise to share more if/when I can do so. In the meantime, if you have ideas for how I can better help you by making video tutorials broadly visible in places I’ve missed, let me know!

All very hush-hush and probably connected, I’m guessing, to the pending announcements of SLim and a new ’social platform’ for Second Life to include, I’m thinking, a library of tutorials and help functions.

Stay tuned!

Virtual World Platforms

Metapatience at Metaplace

The April launch of Metaplace into Beta is, um, delayed, although perhaps Raph Koster’s move into MMOs for everyone, which got stalled on the rocks of trying to actually WORK on all clients (they ended up focusing mainly on Flash) is close to launch.

However, in the forums some dissent - and it strikes a familiar tone: “Give us information”.

In response to questions about the progress of selecting Beta applications, community manager Cuppycake (Cuppycake? Hmmm. I wonder if that’s better or worse than “M”) promises they’re working on it:

“We’re currently in the process of working our way quickly through that entire list of applicants from last Fall, so it shouldn’t be long. We’ll be opening up applications again shortly on a new revamped =)”

To which a user replies:

“First you said something open would come during the summer, now your saying you still haven’t accepted applications from last fall, that’s unacceptable.”
Read more…

Privacy and Protection, Second Life

Second Life Abuse Reporting: Grading Degradation

Linden Lab has refined its abuse reporting system but not its Community Standards (best as I can tell) which, I thought, was the point of ARs - to provide a mechanism for enforcing those same standards.

Well, now it almost feels lawyerly and constitutional, as in, “which clause and sub-clause was committed and please file only one at a time, a general “he griefed me” is no longer sufficient.”

Suzanne Baskerville points us to the new abuse categories:

Age > Age play
Age > Adult resident on Teen Second Life
Age > Underage resident on Adult Second Life
Assault > Combat sandbox / unsafe area
Assault > Safe area
Assault > Weapons testing sandbox
Copyright or intellectual property violation
Commerce > Failure to deliver product or service
Disclosure > First life information
Disclosure > Remotely monitoring chat
Disclosure > Second Life information/chat/IMs
Disturbing the peace > Unfair use of region resources
Disturbing the peace > Excessive scripted objects
Disturbing the peace > Object littering
Disturbing the peace > Repetitive spam
Disturbing the peace > Unwanted advert spam
Fraud > L$
Fraud > Land
Fraud > Pyramid scheme or chain letter
Fraud > US$
Harassment > Advert farms / visual spam
Harassment > Defaming individuals or groups
Harassment > Impeding movement
Harassment > Sexual harassment
Harassment > Soliciting/inciting others to violate ToS
Harassment > Verbal abuse
Indecency > Broadly offensive content or conduct
Indecency > Broadly visible mature content
Indecency > Inappropriate avatar name
Indecency > Mature content in PG region
Land > Abuse of sandbox resources
Land > Encroachment > Object/textures
Land > Encroachment > Particles
Land > Encroachment > Trees/plants
Trademark violation

OK, so first, well….there is no first.

Because in the absence of clear policy and enforcement residents will take the law into their own hands. If the system of reporting is cumbersome, if there’s no chance for a fair hearing (as the reportED rather than reporter) or if enforcement isn’t trusted (especially in the case of content theft), then you can expect people to bypass the system.

I’ve long advocated for clear policy coupled with appropriate enforcement. As an example of how an imbalance can occur, I recently wrote about a sim used by the child avatar community where reporting an age offense (in this case it would be “Age > Underage resident on Adult Second Life”) is enough to have the person filing the report banned from the sim.

Police all around, and no where to be seen

Their logic was this:
- The AR system is broken
- Because abuse reporting is too open for abuse itself, ARs aren’t to be trusted
- Therefore someone using this broken system should be banned from the sims on which they reported an underage minor because it’s more likely harassment
- If a kid shows up on the grid leave them be, it’s a form of ageism to exclude them in any case.

And I have to say, with these changes to the A/R system, I can’t help wondering whether it hasn’t become even more ripe for, well, for abuse, leading to the types of resident-initiated actions that seem to make so much sense from a micro perspective. I’ve argued, however, that there’s a wider global picture at stake not just for Second Life but virtual worlds in general.

Not to mention that we’ll need a whole series of Torley videos to even make sense of the new A/R reporting procedures. And can someone explain what “excessive” is when it comes to “Excessive scripted objects” please?

Applications and Tools, Business in Virtual Worlds, Virtual World Platforms, Visualization in 3D

A Mesh of Chips: Rendering Virtual Worlds and Saying Goodbye to the Second Life Prim?

I’ve been gorging on chips lately, and it feels like the time I went to the UK and discovered that the ‘crisp’ can be a meal - where I’m from you have sour cream and onion and BBQ and a few others, but over in England they pack a feast into your typical bag of crisps - think roasted chicken flavour, think beef with horseradish, or for all I know think curried goat with a side of rice and peas.

So when I got a taste of AMD’s new Radeon card, it was like getting a taste of a bigger buffet when I’ve been scarfing back little flavourless wedges. The ATI Radeon HD 4850 and more powerful ATI Radeon HD 4870 promise 3D environments that seem, well, real.

Click here for video.

NVIDIA and Virtual Worlds
So then we have the kick-off of Nvision08, the conference on all things 3D hosted by Nvidia, and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has virtual worlds in his sights, speaking from the main stage, noting that:

“There are about 100 million people who are actively playing virtual world games, known as massively multiplayer online games, around the world. At some point, social networks and MMOGs will converge and become one.”
Read more…

Second Life

Breakfast with the Lindens Part One: Mark Kingdon on Second Life

Next week the Second Life community will have a chance for breakfast with the Lindens at the SL Community Convention which kind of sounds like what you see on the political scene these days - you know, Hillary tossing back boiler makers with the steel workers or McCain gulping down German sausages or whatever, all so cozy as you get to have coffee with M and Philip, although of course there’s a bank of kleig lights just off camera and a bunch of bloggers waiting to parse your every word.

So I thought maybe I should avoid the rush and blog about what they’ve said before they say it, although I’m having trouble deciding if this is a prediction, a hope, or an expectation so I’ll leave that for you to decide. Suffice to join me in this imaginary journey into events of a week or so from now.

First up, M Linden, whose messaging is so tightly ordered and planned that, needless to say, he’ll be wearing a crisp white shirt and chinos.
Read more…

Art and Exploration, Education in Virtual Worlds, Virtual World Platforms

The Social Life of Avatars: 30 Days in Active Worlds

By way of Digital Urban a chapter by Dr. Andrew Hudson Smith on 30 days in a Active World tracing the evolution of a virtual community, condom machines and, well, a ghostly abandoned sim with a lot of spare prims lying around.

Worth a read however, described as:”a project aimed at documenting the development of a virtual environment from the beginning to end, the point where a plot of virgin land would develop into a community with a urban layout.

In a sense the project was similar to an early days ‘Big Brother’ in that the community was watched and logged 24 hours a day with webcams beamed around the world showing the latest activity.”
Read more…

Applications and Tools, Business in Virtual Worlds, Virtual World Platforms, Visualization in 3D

It It It’s Aliiiiive (evil cackle): Rendering Reality in Games and Virtual Worlds

Real-time rendering of the realistic, the promise of graphics so stunningly real that you’ll really….OK, well you get the idea, although the use of realism in virtual worlds and games cycles us back to that odd difficulty: when it seems really real, the imperfections make it feel fake.

Make sense? Well…let’s just say that the promise of the highly rendered virtual world may be just around the corner, and Blue Mars may be just a taste of things to come.

But first, not even knowing where to FIND the type of graphics chip I have, I can’t pass judgment on chip specs and don’t know what the difference is between a voxol and a pixel, so all I have to go on are video clips and commentary on other sites. But here’s how I understand this sudden spate of the realistically rendered, and it seems to combine the power of new chips with a bunch of fancy terms like cloud computing (which sounds pretty vapour-y to me, kind of like saying “lots of servers all over” in fancy terms that IT people can charge a lot of money for) and mumbo jumbo about ray-tracing.

So for those of you who are like me and just want a snapshot summary, here’s my take on some of the latest when it comes to realistically rendered games and virtual worlds.

Blue Mars WAS Ahead of the Curve
After seeing bits and pieces of Blue Mars at the virtual worlds conference in New York this past spring, I was rather taken with how beautiful their virtual world environment could be. Their promise was that they were building for standard PCs that didn’t even quite exist yet - trying to get ahead of the curve by building the world on CryEngine2 (click photos for larger).

Blue Mars is promising an early 2009 release and have partnered with content providers including a company under the direction of famed concept artist Syd Mead.

Read more…

Applications and Tools, Second Life

Render Shadows in Second Life: Compiled Viewer

Some time ago Torley posted breathlessly about the ability to render shadows in Second Life, which fed a broad discussion about the computing power needed to do this and whether its inclusion in the SL viewer would cut off those whose machines couldn’t handle it.

Regardless, I could never find a compiled viewer - I found the instructions for how to compile one but that’s beyond my pay grade.

But I stumbled across a blog with some pretty sharp looking photos showing rendered shadows, and a link to a compiled viewer.

Read more…

Applications and Tools, Virtual World Platforms

Nortel Flips the Switch on Virtual Worlds

Nortel announced a virtual worlds initiative, developed under the ominous codename Project Chainsaw, and shored up the technology through the purchase on “3D voice” company DiamondWare.

Project Chainsaw, dubbed “web.alive”, is a “3D Web networking solution that allows users to collaborate, socialize and conduct business in a virtual environment with life-like visual and audio features, within the security of their own corporate networks”, according to CNN Money.

The purchase of DiamondWare brings 3D spatial sound to their virtual world play as well as for “traditional telephony and conferencing applications, mobile unified communications or for Web 2.0 virtual world environments,” according to Keith Weiner, CEO of DiamondWare.

The Nortel virtual world initiative hopes to overcome the barriers in current technologies for meeting and collaborating. They point out that current approaches to meetings put barriers in front of natural communication styles:

“We may even use telepresence for some types of meetings; a fantastic tool when the hardware and networking bandwidth is available. And yet despite all of these different tools with all of their many features, we still find that there are gaps. Very few tools on the market can address the last two communication styles: broadcast with peer-to-peer interaction and free-flowing conversations.”

The Project Chainsaw blog gives a hint of the virtual world to come, and it looks a lot like, hmmm…Wonderland maybe, or maybe the internal IBM virtual world built on the Torque engine (Nortel is quiet on the platform on which their world ios based):

Project Wonderland
Speaking of which, the stable 0.4 version of Project Wonderland was released. A video highlighting its features can be viewed here. The binary builds are available on Java.Net.

The Argument for Web Integration
The rationale of the big switch and chip folks when it comes to developing virtual world initiatives is integration with Web and firewalled apps - if you can’t port in documents and collaboration tools, from things like Lotus Notes, for example, then it’s just a place to go rather than a place to work.

This is similar to IBM’s Project Bluegrass about which I’ve blogged previously and promised a visual 3D space integrated with Lotus.

Like Bluegrass, which went quiet since providing a peek at development, it also remains to be seen what Nortel’s development timeline is. With every major company now making a virtual world play, you start to feel like it’s on the tick list for IT:

- Social networking apps? Check
- Cloud computing? Check
- Virtual world in development? Check
- Great, let’s go for lunch.

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